Expulsion of the French from Fort Duquesne

While disaster was attending the army in the North, General Joseph Forbes had gathered about six thousand men at Fort Cumberland, in Maryland, preparatory to a march against Fort Duquesne. Washington was there with about two thousand Virginians; and Colonel Bouquet had come up from the Carolinas with over a thousand Highlanders, three hundred royal Americans, and a body of Cherokee Indians. It was known that Fort Duquesne was feebly garrisoned, and Washington advised an immediate advance over Braddock's road. It was then July. In less than thirty days the fort might have been taken. But other counsels prevailed, and Forbes, who was so ill that he was carried on a litter, determined to construct a new road for his troops over the Alleghanies. It was an almost fatal mistake. When autumn came, and it was known that the capture of Frontenac by Bradstreet had discouraged the Indians and caused many of them to leave the French, the army was yet creeping slowly over the mountains. Washington was impatient and indignant; and he wrote to the Speaker of the Virginia Assembly, saying: "See how our time has been misspent! Behold how the golden opportunity has been lost, perhaps never more to be regained!"

At about that time Bouquet was sent forward, with two thousand men, to Loyal Hanna, in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, to build a fort. Bouquet, anxious to win renown, sent out Major Grant, with eight hundred Highlanders and some Virginians under Captain Bullitt, to reconnoitre Duquesne. Grant took post on a hill near the fort, and dividing his force, tried to draw the garrison out into an ambush. They made a sortie in force, for four hundred men had lately been added to the garrison. They kept the English divided and defeated them in a severe skirmish, killing and wounding many, and taking some prisoners. As in the case of Braddock's defeat, the regulars gave way on this occasion, and the little army was saved from total destruction or capture only by the gallantry of Captain Bullitt and his provincials. The French, elated with their successes, proceeded to attack Bouquet at Loyal Hanna, but after a fight of four hours, they were repulsed with considerable loss.

Washington had anxiously desired to be in the advance. He was now sent forward to Loyal Hanna, where he was placed at the head of a brigade composed of a thousand provincials, and ordered to move in front of the army. But it was November before General Forbes, with the artillery and main body, reached that point, and full fifty miles of rugged way lay between the army and Fort Duquesne. A council of war was held, when it was decided that the lateness of the season made it prudent to defer the attack upon Fort Duquesne until another season. Fortunately Washington, just at that time, heard of the desertion of the French by their Indian allies, and the weakness of the garrison at Fort Duquesne. He obtained permission to push on with his brigade. The main army followed. The provincials, inspired with the zeal of their young leader, overcame every obstacle with alacrity, and very soon they stood upon a hill overlooking the object of their destination. The garrison, only five hundred in number, alarmed at their approach, set fire to the fort that night and fled down the Ohio in boats by the light of the conflagration. The ruins were entered the next day (November 25, 1758), and over the charred remains the British standard was unfurled. In honor of the great English stateman, the name of Fort Pitt was given to Fort Duquesne, and the little village that soon grew around it was called Pittsburgh. Two Virginia regiments were left there as a garrison, and the main army returned to the borders of civilization. The great object of the war in the middle colonies was accomplished. The basin of the Ohio was secured to the English.

Washington marched the remainder of his troops to Williamsburgh, where he took leave of them with the intention of quitting military life. He had been elected a member of the Virginia Assembly, and was affianced to the charming widow of Daniel Parke Custis, who was about his own age--twenty-six years. They were wedded at the "White-House," the residence of the bride, on the 17th of January (6th, Old Style), 1759, by the Rev. David Mossom, for forty years rector of St. Peter's Church, New Kent, near by. Then Washington took his seat in the Assembly at Williamsburg; and at about the close of their honey-moon, the Speaker of the House, by its order, rising from his chair, thanked the young colonel in the name of Virginia for his public services. Washington, surprised, arose to reply, but could not summon words. His face flushed with confusion, when the Speaker relieved him by saying: "Sit down, Colonel Washington; your modesty is equal to your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language I possess." That Speaker was Mr. Robinson, father of Beverly Robinson of New York, at whose house Washington met Mary Phillipse about ten years before.

With the expulsion of the French from Fort Duquesne, the campaign of 1759 was ended. It had been a successful one for the English. They had captured three of the most important of the French posts--Louisburg, Frontenac, and Fort Duquesne. The faith of the Indians in the invincibility of the French was eclipsed; and at a great council held at Easton, on the Delaware, in the autumn of 1758, several powerful tribes were present, and joined the Six Nations in making treaties of friendship and neutrality with the English. The right arm of French power was thus paralyzed, and peace was secured to the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The people of Canada were discouraged. Their resources were almost exhausted, and they cried for peace. Montcalm wrote to Vaudreuil: "I am not discouraged, nor are my troops; we are resolved to find our graves under the ruins of the colony."

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