LAST week's story of the history evolved from the consideration of some names of Pittsburgh streets, concerned Capts. Stobo and Van Braam. The street commemorating the latter crosses one of our great thoroughfares, Forbes street, and there was once a Stobo street in the vicinity, now the upper end of Moultrie street, the name Stobo having been recently given to part of the North Side Diamond.
Stobo street in the manual of City Councils for 1888 is given as running from Fifth avenue to Delaware alley, Fourteenth ward, formerly Spring street. Hence in about 30 years this street has had three names, one of many such.
Bouquet street, spelled in our time Boquet, runs from Alliquippa street to Frazier street in the old Fourteenth, the new Fourth ward. This crosses Forbes, hence as Forbes and Bouquet were closely associated in the events that made Pittsburgh, the stories of their lives is [sic] recalled by the familiar names of streets can be given in one issue, but not all the events—space forbids.
In Kirkpatrick's map of Pittsburgh of 1830, Forbes street is not marked. Lots run from Watson's lane (now Fifth avenue) to Locust street, and the city line is at Washington street. In McGowan's map of 1858, Forbes street begins at Boyd street and ends at what is now Brady.
Extensions of Recent Date.
The extension of this great thoroughfare to Shady avenue or lane was effected after the consolidation of the East End district in 1868, the last extension to Braddock avenue of recent years.
As to Forbes, properly a few words of biography are in order. We learn he was born in Petincrief [sic], Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1710. He was educated for a physician but preferring a military life, entered the British army, and in 1745 had advanced to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, serving in the Scot's Greys.
He served under the Duke of Cumberland as acting quartermaster general and late in 1757 came to America a brigadier-general. He had seen hard service in the continental wars.
The plans of Pitt to drive the French from their American possessions designed to capture Louisburg on Cape Breton Island, Forts Ticonderoga and Duquesne. Louisburg fell, Ticonderago [sic] was saved by the skill of Montcalm. Frontenac, however, fell also and with its fall Duquesne was untenable. Far off in the wilderness it was cut off from its base of supplies and the garrison could not live off the country. Forbes found that out later.
Dinwiddie had been superseded as governor of Virginia by Lieut. Gov. Francis Fauquier, a friend of Washington to whom Dinwiddie had taken a violent dislike and treated the future country's father with contempt.
Washington prepared to join Forbes' expedition against Fort Duquesne although his intention had been to abandon a military life. He proceeded to gather his scattered regiments at Winchester and found the assembling forces destitute of everything needful.
Washington Meets Widow.
This necessitated the journey of the youthful colonel to Williamsburg and it was on this journey that he met the fair young widow, best known in history as Martha Washington.
Washington proceeded with his force to Fort Cumberland on the Potomac, arriving there July 2, 1758, and then proceeded to open a road to Raystown, now Bedford, Pa., a distance of 30 miles, where Col. Bouquet was stationed.
April, 1758, found Forbes still in Philadelphia, as yet without an army. The provincials were yet to be enlisted and the Highlanders had not arrived.
It was about this time that the general was attacked with the painful and dangerous malady which would have disabled a less resolute man, and which ultimately caused his death.
The forces as made up for Forbes' little army consisted of provincials from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, the Highlanders, 1,200 in number, and a detachment of Royal Americans, amounting in all, says Parkman, to between 6,000 and 7,000 men. Other historians estimate the force at 8,000 men.
Parkman's estimate includes the wagoners and camp followers.
Lieut. Col. Henry Bouquet, a brave and accomplished Swiss, commanded one of the battalions of the Royal Americans, a new organization containing many Pennsylvania Germans. Early in June Bouquet, with the advance guard, encamped at Raystown, where he built Fort Bedford.
In the actual sequence of events that should be followed in chronological order following the victory of De Villiers at Fort Necessity, there should be written the account of Braddock's defeat and its horrors and consequences.
Fight at Grants Hill.
Then the ill-starred advance of Maj. James Grant and the victory of the French on Grants Hill, dear to us Pittsburghers as "The Hump."
However, these street stories are not necessarily in the order of history as events occurred. They pertain to the man commemorated in street names under consideration and much of the vast history, hinged on sometimes trivial incidents, can only be alluded to briefly.
The fate of Braddock had impressed itself deeply on the British commanders. It inspired a caution that was necessary. Washington, skilled in frontier service, at once became a valuable aid and adviser to both Bouquet and Forbes.
The delays and vexations that wearied the staunch Scotch commander have taken up pages of history. Indeed, the whole story of Forbes' expedition has had adequate treatment [by] able writers. Francis Parkman, John Fisk [sic], Justin Winsor, Isaac D. Rupp, Albert Bushnell Hart—what historian has not been impressed with the story of the "Head of Iron" and the capture of Fort Duquesne without a blow?
One thing commendable in Forbes was his method of marching—not encumbered like Braddock with immense trains in the wilderness. When finally Forbes had got under way he pushed on by slow stages and "did not hesitate," says Parkman, "to embrace heresies which would have driven Braddock to fury."
Forbes relied greatly on Bouquet. He liked Col. James Burd of Virginia. He treated Washington with consideration and respect. He expressed disgust for Sir John Sinclair, his quartermaster general, and his inefficiency. He is justly displeased with his provincial troops.
Material Is Crude.
These were crude material, unruly and recalitrant [sic] to discipline. They brought a mass of worthless stuff to the rendezvous at Carlisle. Old province muskets, the locks of many tied on with strings, fowling pieces, now known as shot guns; some carried only walking sticks, and not a few had never fired a gun in their lives.
Except a few of the officers, and these in the higher ranks, Forbes characterized the whole body of officers at Pitt as an extremely bad collection of broken innkeepers, horse jockeys and Indian traders."
Forbes was no more flattering toward the men. It was a strangely heterogeneous body that came under his command; but in the end "they got there just the same." Every man in the expedition from the standpoint of results would have been justified in takin gthe name, Eli, except James Grant.
We read with tender feeling the extracts from Forbes' letters en route. Restoring order at Carlisle, in suffering he writes:
"I have been and still am poorly, today with a cursed flux, but shall move day after tomorrow."
But he did not. It was August 9 when he wrote again:
"I am now able to write after three weeks of the most violent and tormenting distemper, which, thank God, seems now abated as to pain, but has left me as weak as a new-born infant. However, I hope to have strength enough to set out from this place on Friday next."
Forbes' malady was an inflammation of the stomach, involving other vital organs. When Forbes should have been in bed with complete repose, he was disturbed, yea, distressed, with the details and worries of an extremely arduous campaign for which he was in no wise physically competent.
Forbes on Litter.
August 11 he left Carlisle carried on a kind of a litter made of a hurdle slung between two horses. No wonder he was compelled to stop at Shippensburg complaining that the journey had raised his disorder and pains to such a degree that they became intolerable.
He lay helpless in Shippensburg until late in September writing anon of his weak state and excruciating pains and his sufferings both of body and mind. His letters are pathetic in the full sense of the word. He unjustly condemns Washington in the dispute that arose as to the route, Washington in the interest of Virginia favoring the Braddock road, necessitating the march of the army to Fort Cumberland at Mills Creek on the Potomac to make the start. Forbes, however, made his own road, which has gone into history under his name.
Neville B. Craig, commenting upon the determination of Forbes not to follow Braddock's trail, points out the fact that in the late season (November) the rivers, especially the wide Monongahela, were unfordable; the waters high, gelid and impassible, except in boats, which would require much time for construction."
It was on September 11 that Maj. Grant was detached from the main body under Bouquet at what is now Ligonier. Grant's command consisted of 37 officers and 805 privates. He reached the vicinity of the fort in three days, and his battle was fought September 14, 1758.
Forbes was then on his way to Raystown, arriving at the Loyal Hanna October 5.
Troops Under Forbes.
Craig enumerates 2,192 Pennsylvania troops under Forbes, and 263 from the three lower counties, now the state of Delaware.
There were 1,267 Highlanders and Royal Americans; 1,484 men in the two Virginia regiments; 141 in the three North Carolina companies and 270 in the Maryland battalion. Besides there were detachments on the borders as follows: 563 men from the Pennsylvania regiment and 624 from the North Carolina.
October 14, 1758, the rear division was marching on Loyal Hanna and the advance party there had been attacked two days previously by a force of 1,700 French and 200 Indians, the engagement lasting from 11 a. m. until 3 p. m., when the enemy drew off. They returned to the attack at night, but were repulsed.
Here the casualties of Forbes troops were 12 killed, 17 wounded and 31 missing. Grant had lost 270 killed, 42 wounded and some prisoners.
The founding of Pittsburgh, it will be noted, was not altogether without bloodshed.
It was not until November 18 that Forbes, with the rear division, was able to advance. He arrived at the Forks on the night of the 25th.
His feelings of joy may be imagined. His toils and his sufferings had won reward. Neither was over. There was the return to civilization, and the increase in pain with each day to be reckoned with.
The bare facts of history in the march and victory of Forbes are thrilling enough. When we include the human interest side our feelings are swayed by the grandeur of the man and the pathos of his condition.
Forbes a Hero.
Dr. Cyrus Townsend Brady esteems Forbes a hero if ever there was one. He calls attention to the fact that there is no mention of him in the Encyclopedia Brittanica [sic] and none in a monumental work entitled "The Dictionary of National Biography.
Brady says Forbes was "a man of liberal and enlightened views, courteous in his bearing, and tactful in his methods, but determined—terribly resolute. By his generous and kindly manner, he attached to himself those whom Braddock and his officers had alienated by their contempt. The general was in himself a host."
Forbes reached Philadelphia on his return January 14, 1759. His condition was pitiful in the extreme. The terrible journey of about 500 miles in winter, carried all the way, is unimaginable. Great enthusiasm greeted him in the city. He had completed his task.
He survived two months only, dying on March 9, having drawn the breath of pain and anguish for many days. No one has a better title to honor and remembrance than he. We have Forbes street in his commemoration.
The last short account we have of Forbes' expedition has been handed down to us by John Ormsby, who accompanied the expedition. Later Mr. Ormsby settled in Pittsburgh and was the ancestor of the Ormsby connection still prominent in the city.
John Ormsby was an Irishman by birth. He had served in the British army, his rank not being stated. He became a traveler through the different colonies in America and at one time was a teacher.
Ormsby With Forbes.
When Braddock came to Alexandria, Ormsby was in Philadelphia and designed to accompany him but was prevented by sickness. When Forbes was ready with his expedition Ormsby joined it and was present when the forces of the "Iron Head" stood by the smoking ruins of Duquesne.
In the building of the first Fort Pitt or the fort temporarily used the first winter of the English occupation, Forbes was prominent. Neville B. Craig describes Ormsby as an industrious enterprising man, who always bore the character of an honest, worthy citizen and in his latter days at least, was a pious man.
Ormsby is known to have kept and operated the first ferry over the Monongahela from his home, which was one door south of Ferry street, or next to Samples [sic] tavern, where Washington stopped in 1770.
Ormsby was much of a reader as readers went in those days and handed down to his descendants some of the books typical of the literature of his generation. One was entitled "A Prospect of Futurity." This pious work, we are informed, contained four dissertations on the nature and circumstances of the life to come, with a preliminary discourse on the natural and moral evidences of a future state and an appendix. The author was Thomas Broughton and the book printed in London in 1768.
Not deterred by the solemn character of this sacred volume, Ormsby undertook to incorporate within its pages his own notes moral, religious and historical. He inserts also a short sketch of his career.
Only a portion of the 60 odd pages thus interpollated [sic] were preserved but in that portion is Ormsby's account of Forbes and Ormsby's unfavorable opinion of Col. Bouquet.
Ormsby begins his narrative by stating his intentions in February, 1755, to take service under Braddock as, by reason of previous service in the British army, Ormsby had been offered a captain's commission and to act as adjutant.
"To this," says Ormsby, "I cheerfully assented as a military life best suited my intentions; but alas! man appoints but God does as he thinks fit.
"Just as I was preparing my uniform, etc., I was seized with a nervous fever and ague which I was afflicted till the year 1758, being near three years; so that all my golden hopes vanished."
With the news that Braddock had so terribly failed, no doubt Ormsby found another word to describe his hopes.
Expedition to Ohio.
Mentioning that the savages were "massacring" the frontier inhabitants of Pennsylvania, "&c" and the proposed expedition under Forbes, Ormsby is elated at the prospect of gratifying his fondness for a military life, regrets the state of his health, and speaks of his resolution to go to the frontier in some capacity and his offer of a commission by several states which he accepted.
In his own words:
Accordingly I set out for the Ohio, to act as Commissary of Provisions, which was a wretched employment, provisions being so scarce that I could scarcely supply the general's table. When the army arrived as far as Turtle Creek, a council of war was held, that it was impracticable to proceed, all the provisions and forage being exhausted.
On the general's being informed of this, he swore a furious oath that he would sleep in the fort or in h⸺l the next night.
Just here one wants to stop and admire the typography that puts a two-em dash in a word of four letters in place of the single letter omitted, and to believe it was fully understood just what place the doughty general had in mind for sleeping quarters in case of failure.
While it does not detract from the story Ormsby gives, it is necessary to be clear on this point, at the same time observing that the term "Head of Iron" had been aptly applied.
It was a matter of indifference to the old, emaciated general where he died, as he was carried on a litter the whole distance from Philadelphia and back. You may judge the situation of near 3,000 men in the wilderness, 250 miles from the inhabited country.
About midnight a tremendous explosion was heard from the westward; upon which old Forbes swore that the French magazine was blown up, either by accident or design, which revived our drooping spirits a little.
Command Not Hopeful.
It is clear that it was not a hopeful, exultant expedition that was coming to found Pittsburgh. With any other man in command than Forbes we can easily ascribe failure.
The above conjecture of the "Head of Iron" was verified by a deserter from Duquesne, who said that the Indians who watched the march of the English army declared to the French that there was as many white people coming as there were trees in the woods.
The place had a most desolate appearance, as all the improvements made by the French had been burned to the ground. You may judge our situation when I assure you we had neither flour, meat nor liquor in store.
The only relief offered was plenty of venison and bear meat which our hunters brought in and which our people devoured without bread or salt.
There were several parcels of pack horses, loadened with provisions, coming up from the inhabited country, but the savages seized most of them and murdered the drivers.
Our emaciated Gen. Forbes was carried on his litter bed to Philadelphia, where he died a short time after his arrival. He was a brave soldier, but afflicated with a complication of disorders. A few hours before his death he swore a great oath that he died contented, as he had got possession of Fort Du Quesne and made the d⸺d French rascals run away.
The pious Ormsby was not so particular in his "cuss word" quoted for this time he spelled it out. The remainder of Ormsby's notes refer to events in 1759 and continue to 1763.
Prospect Not Bright.
It was not a cheerful occasion for the founding of a great city. We can see a weary, half starved body of once hardy men; in the bleakness of that November day looking only on desolation and solitude. The inspiration of their dying chief must have been supreme. His iron will and inconquerable spirit must have strongly appealed to these men. It buoyed them up, it raised their hopes. They ust have communed with each other saying:
"If our suffering general can stand it, why not we?"
They too were brave spirits of their stormy times.
Inauspicious as the birth of our city is shown to have been, in the story of its founding we read courage, devotion, success, triumph.
Had not the French retreated what the battle the intrepid Forbes had waged? There could be no retreat. It was victory or death. No wonder in his lurid language the great leader so vehemently expressed himself. He knew the peril, the extreme peril, of his position. He must show no shadow of doubt—fear he could not. It was not in him.
We must not think ill of our to be revered founder because of his swearing. It was the custom of his day. It has come down to us and greater leaders than Forbes have gone into history famous for profanity; mere habit perhaps—but profanity for all that.
There is no picture extant of John Forbes. In 1908 at the time of the Sesqui-Centennial celebration of Pittsburgh one was greatly desired.
No Picture of Forbes.
A letter to John Ross, head of the Carnegie Foundations in Dunfermline, brought the following response, which is conclusive:
Chambers, 147 High Street,
(Royal Bank Building.)
Dunfermline, 1st Sept., 1908.
Mr. George T. Fleming,
I have received your letter of the 29th ult., and in reply I beg to say that there is no picture of General John Forbes in existence, as far as can be ascertained.
Arthur Forbes, great-great-great grand-nephew of Gen. Forbes, who was the guest of the city at our great celebration, had no picture of his great kinsman. However, we know what kind of a house Gen. Forbes lived in when he was "at home." Burd S. Patterson, Secretary of the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society, has prefaced his historical novel, "The Head of Iron," with a picture of the Forbes ancestrtal [sic] home—Petincrief [sic] House, they call it. It is a pretentious dwelling and quite the pride of Dunfermline, secondary only to the Carnegie Foundations, there.
Forbes gave our city its name; writing to Gov. Denny of Pennsylvania on November 26, the day after the capture, he says:
"I have called the place Pittsburgh."
Two weeks later Bouquet, in the minutes of a conference with the Delawares, signs them:
"At Pitts-bourgh, December 4, 1758."
Victory Above Price.
"If Forbes' achievement was not brilliant, its solid value was above price. It opened the great west to English enterprise, took from France half her savage allies and relieved the Western borders from the scourge of Indian war. The frontier population had cause to bless the memory of the steadfast and all-enduring soldier."