Victory at Forks of the Ohio Reverberates through History

Article excerpt

This is the final article in a series presented in conjunction with this year's Ligonier 250 Celebration. The series has followed the Gen. John Forbes Campaign as it marched across Pennsylvania in 1758. The series is written by Burton Kummerow, author of a new book titled "Pennsylvania's Forbes Trail."

British Gen. John Forbes had no time to enjoy his hard-earned and surprising victory over the French at the Forks of the Ohio.

With thousands of soldiers perched far beyond the edges of civilization, supplies short and the French still nearby, he had to make sure his outpost, newly named Pittsburgh, didn't disappear in the winter weather.

Marching east with much of his army on Dec. 4, 1758, Forbes left behind a small but hardy Pennsylvania contingent. The provincials, led by Col. Hugh Mercer, would build a small stockade and hunker down for the winter near the ruins of French Fort Duquesne.

Forbes knew he was dying. Writing to his superiors, he confessed, "God knows when or if I ever reach Philadelphia."

Six long weeks later, rocked and jolted for 300 miles in his litter, he was back in the City of Brotherly Love.

The general, always focused, always competent, survived another month and a half, suffering with terrible "infirmity and distemper," but working to the end. The loss of this man who had "brought to happy issue a most extraordinary campaign" was "most sincerely and universally regretted" as he was laid to rest in the lofty Christ Church.

Col. Henry Bouquet, Forbes' Swiss deputy, continued to serve the British in Pennsylvania. Five years later, he was a respected frontier veteran lifting an Indian siege of Pittsburgh and becoming the "Hero of Bushy Run." Reassigned to Florida, the 46-year-old Bouquet was soon lost to yellow fever.

Col. George Washington quickly left the back country armed with the adulation of his fellow Virginia officers. Within a month, he was married and beginning a new life as a planter at his cherished Mt. Vernon. Washington could not know that a second military career against his former British allies would make him famous around the world. …