Topics & Collections

small text medium text large text

The Pennsylvania Department

General Forbes' Letter to William Pitt

Pittsbourgh. 27th Novemr. 1758.


I do myself the Honour of acquainting you that it has pleased God to crown His Majesty's Arms with Success over all His Enemies upon the Ohio, by my having obliged the Enemy to burn and abandon Fort Du Quesne, which they effectuated on the 25th:, and of which I took possession next day, the Enemy having made their Escape down the River towards the Mississippi in their Boats, being abandoned by their Indians, whom I had previously engaged to leave them, and who now seem all willing and ready to implore His Majesty's most Gracious Protection. So give me leave to congratulate you upon this great Event, of having totally expelled the French from this prodigious tract of Country, and of having reconciled the various tribes of Indians inhabiting it to His Majesty's Government.

It would be too tedious for a Letter to enter into the detail how this Affair has been brought to a conclusion, I have therefore thought it proper and necessary to send over to you Brigade Major Halkett whose serving with me all this Campaign, and knowing from whence Events arose will be able to give you a true & succinct Account of the whole Affair from the beginning. I beg to recommend that Gentleman to your Protection, whose Zeal and abilities in the Service have been particularly distinguished, not only in this but in every preceding Campaign from the beginning of the war in this Country, and whose Father Sr. Peter Halkett, lost his life at the Monongahela under Genl. Braddock.

I should have carried the troops up the River to the Lake Erie, and destroyed the French posts at Venango and Presque Isle, but the Season of the year, and the Scarcity of my Provisions, does by no Means admitt of it, this last inconveniance (being obliged to carry every bit of my Provisions for Man and horse for betwixt 3 & 400 Miles thro' almost impracticable roads and Mountains) renders it extreamly difficult for me to leave a sufficient Garrison here for the Protection of this Country, as all Manner of Communication with the inhabited parts of the provinces will be cut off during the Winter for at least four Months, notwithstanding that I have built Forts, and erected Posts at proper distances, to have kept the Communication open if possible.

Altho' that I have made frequent Applications not only to the Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Forces for his Orders, and instructions but likewise to the Governours of the adjacent colonies and Provinces for the Advice and Councill how I was to behave myself in case that I was so fortunate as to render myself Master of Fort Du Quesne, and the Country of the Ohio, yet I have never been favoured with any of the Sentiments upon that Subject, except in one letter from the Lieut Governr. of Virginia, wherein he tells me that his Assembly and Councill would not venture to give any opinion, but at the same time acquaints me that they had addressed him to recall their troops by the firs day of decemr., therefore having been left to act intirely from my own judgement hitherto, I must beg His Majesties Indulgence that He would be graciously pleased to attribute my faults or omissions that I may have made, to my want of greater abilities and not want of Zeal for His Majesty's Service, which I shall ever think my duty to exert to the utmost of my power. As thus you see Sir., that I am without advice or Orders, and that I very soon run a risque of being without troops if Pennsilvania recalled theirs as well as Virginia, I shall soon be greatly difficulted how to maintain our new conquest should the Enemy return, as I will have only 4 Companies of the Royal Americans and Colo. Montgomery's young Battalion to depend upon, both greatly impaired as to Numbers by their frequent skirmishes with the Enemy during the Campaign.

This far I had wrote at Fort Du Quesne upon the 27th: Novemr. since which time I have never, either been able to write, or capable to dictate a letter; but as General Amherst acquainted me that he had sent to you my letter with the Accounts of my taking the place, I was the less anxious of sending Major Halkett, but now dreading my silence may have some wrong construction put upon it when the true cause is unknown it will very well bear, I now send you the Major who must give you the best Accounts he can, untill I am able to write more circumstantially, which I hope will be by the first Packett, altho' my Physicians and all our Hospital People unanimously agree that I must go directly for England for to save my life, I must therefore beg it as the greatest favour that you will be so good as to move His Majesty to be graciously pleased to give me His leave of returning home as soon as I possibly can in order to re-establish my health, which at present renders me incapable of any service, or doing any duty whatever.

I must likewise take the boldness, to beg your Countenance & Protection with His Majesty of having me restored to my Rank which is one day antecedent to Genl: Amherst as Lieut. Colo..--Had I ever committed any fault, or been guilty of any misdeamenor in the Service, I should be now ashamed of making this Application to you, but the having so many people put over my head, without my being sensible of any faux pas committed, has made and still makes the deepest impression on my mind. If Lord Ligonier pleases to let you know the hardness of my case, I flatter myself with the protection and Service of Mr. Pitt, to restore me to Peace of mind.

I have used the freedom of giving your name to Fort Du Quesne, as I hope it was in some measure the being actuated by your spirits that now makes us Masters of the place. Nor could I help using the same freedom in the naming of two other Forts that I built (Plans of which I send you) the one Fort Ligonier & the other Bedford. I hope the name Fathers will take them under their Protection, In which case these dreary deserts will soon be the richest and most fertile of any possest by the British in No. America. I have the honour to be with great regard and Esteem Sir,

Your most obedt.. & most humble. servt.

Jo: Forbes.

Philadelphia. 21st. January 1759.

From Letters of General John Forbes relating to the Expedition Against Fort Duquesne in 1758, Compiled by Irene Stewart for the Allegheny County Committee of the Pennsylvania Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Pittsburgh: Allegheny County Committee, 1927.

* Return to How to Spell Pittsburgh.