The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania

By Solon J. Buck; Elizabeth Hawthorn Buck et al. | Go to book overview
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V. The Indian Reservation

IN the decade that followed the fall of Fort Duquesne, western Pennsylvania was a part of the unorganized territory of the British Empire. Both Pennsylvania and Virginia had indefinite claims upon the region, and Pennsylvania made some ineffectual attempts to exercise jurisdiction, but the real source of authority was the commander-in-chief of the British forces in America, and that authority was exercised by the commanding officers at the posts and by the deputies of Sir William Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs for the northern tribes. The ownership of the land was considered to rest in the Indians, although their right to dispose of it was limited, and settlement was illegal except by military permit. The region was in effect a part of a great Indian reservation, which, after 1763, extended from the mountains to the Mississippi and included the territory around the Great Lakes.

The occupation of the forks of the Ohio was only the beginning, however, of the extension of British authority over this vast interior region, a process that was not completed until 1765. Until midsummer Of 1759 the problem of the British forces in western Pennsylvania was to hold what had been occupied. The large army that had been brought over the mountains could not be retained in the region during the winter because of the lack of housing facilities and the difficulty of getting provisions over the road. Forbes left Pittsburgh on December 3, 1758, followed by Bouquet two days later, and only 280 men were left under the command of Colonel Mercer of the Pennsylvania provincials to garrison the place. By the eighth of January Mercer was able to report that temporary works had been erected "now capable of some Defence, tho' huddled up in a very hasty manner, the Weather being Extremely Severe." Conditions were somewhat better at Ligonier, where a fort had been erected that had already withstood an

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