A letter of a man that copes with the French and Indian War in his backyard.
I am not sure how much news is reaching you about the hardships that this war has brought unto us. What my Pennsylvania neighbors and I have been going through you will find to be most disturbing; the rumors of savages attacking my fellow frontiersmen and I are very much true. The despicable French appear to be behind these attacks, instigating the savage tribes against those of us that wish to live in peace in the wilderness. I have begun to make defensive arrangements to protect the family and our small claim in this world, and have been eagerly working with my neighbors to protect one another. This has been a difficult challenge, as those of us living in these lands are scattered and calls for help are answered in days. Our closest refuge of help is Fort Loudon, which is at least a day of hard riding away.
We have heard that this war is merely an extension of a much larger conflict in Europe, and is quickly depleting the British government of both men and currency. Despite this, all of our efforts to volunteer to fight under the King’s banner in the defense of our homes have been rebuked. It does not make sense! No one that the King can bring from England knows these lands better than we frontiersmen. None of the redcoats that are marching our way have ever fought savages such as these. The French here fight the same way as the Indians do; hiding behind trees and lurking in the shadows until the time comes to strike. This General Braddock is marching his troops to defeat if he thinks the French and Indians will “form up in center” on a treeless, shrub less, battle field. His strategy is sheer madness!
As we entered the summer months, we have continued to receive grim news. A group of militia lead by a young Colonel Washington from Virginia was surrounded by French forces from Fort Duquesne soon after they had won a brief skirmish near the French fort. Colonel Washington’s forces soon surrendered themselves and their hastily built, and aptly named, Fort Necessity, to the French. Fort Duquesne was built in late spring 1754 and occupies the lands where the Allegheny and Monohaela rivers join to form the Ohio River. The fort was built by the French after their forces arrived and destroyed the incomplete Fort Prince George when the much smaller sized British garrison located there surrendered.
Since this battle, the news about engagements with the French has trickled to almost nothing, though the Indians with which we have the occasional skirmishes with have been increasingly armed with French Tulle muskets. It would appear that the French are entrusting the war of the frontier to the Indians, and the King is entrusting his frontier defenses to us. His Majesty is not providing us with any form of supply or arms; apparently his thoughts are that our own sense of self-preservation is enough to hold the line on the frontier. The feeling of abandonment is widespread, as is the feeling that we are the forgotten subjects of the King. The few stories we do hear tell of great battles in the northeast colonies and Canada, battles such as Lake Ontario and Lake George. One has to wonder if anyone has heard of our struggles, the struggles of me and fellow frontiersmen. We continue to hang on, and form our own companies of militia to defend ourselves until help arrives hopefully soon.
As the heat of the summer set in, so did the fears and tempers of myself and my neighbors. A rider came by one July morning to tell us that the forces of General Braddock were crushed by French and Indian forces. They attacked the King’s soldiers from three sides, and when they tried to retreat, they were fired upon by the General’s own rear regiments. It is believed that close to one thousand men were killed or wounded in the fighting, including General Braddock. Although alive when the rider left his regiment, the rider did not think that the General would survive much longer.
The continued raids by the Indians have become a part of our lives; our new routine. As the months have passed, the clouds seem to be lifting. Colonel Benjamin Franklin was able to persuade the Pennsylvania Colonial legislature to give funds to support the building and arming of forts to defend the frontier against Indian attacks. The first of these, built by the McCord family in 1756, was attacked in early April, during which the female members of the McCord family were captured. I thought to myself with great fear at how easily this could happen to my wife and daughters. I begin to wonder if these forts will all be built in time.
In September, as I readied for the fall harvest, anxiously peering into the woods with every movement I make, the galloping of a horse had me leaping into the nearest bush. As I cocked the hammer of my musket back, I recognized the rider as he drew close. I stepped out of the brush, and began to chastise him for being so careless. The news he told explained his carelessness. Not more than a few nights before, a man named Colonel Armstrong led a daring raid in Kittanning and rescued the missing female members of the McCord family. Such bravery and courageousness spread rapidly, as did the word of a new fort, Fort Frederick.
We are now starting to feel a little safer, as the tide has most assuredly turned. I hope this letter finds you well, and that your prayers be with us as our prayers are with you.
Your loving brother
The Emmitsburg Area Historical Society: http://www.emmitsburg.net/archive_list/articles/history/rev_war/wild_frontier.ht...
Fort Fredrick State Park: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/fortfrederick.asp
The McCord Family Association: http://www.mccordfamilyassn.com/french.htm
“The French and Indian War 1754-1763. The Imperial Struggle for North America.” By Seymour I. Schwartz