Army and Empire: British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775

By Michael N. McConnell | Go to book overview

2
Frontier Fortresses

Fort Pitt must have been an impressive sight in 1761. Covering over seventeen acres, the fort filled the point of land between the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, and its massive size (some 66,000 cubic yards of earth were excavated to form its ramparts) emphatically underscored Britain’s claim to the Ohio Country. Yet nestled in the amphitheater-like lowlands, surrounded by ridges and forests stretching for miles, tied to the east by the single, fragile thread of Forbes’s Road, the fort might also have impressed a visitor with its isolation and vulnerability.1

But it was strength and power, not weakness, that struck those who, like Quaker merchant James Kenny, watched the fort rise over the ruins of French Fort Duquesne. A resident of the frontier boomtown of Pittsburgh that grew up next to the fort, Kenny kept detailed notes about the fort in his journal. Even though work had been going on since the summer of 1759, two years later Kenny could only record that the earthen ramparts were “very near rais’d.” These walls of solid earth, twenty feet high when complete, were protected in turn by a dry ditch that surrounded the entire perimeter. The walls formed a pentagonal work with projecting bastions at each corner. The landward side, covering the main gateway and “next to ye Inhabitants,” was faced with locally made bricks to a height of fifteen feet “and Corners of ye Angles of Hewn Stone,” while the ramparts facing the rivers were of “Earth & sodded all so that it grows thick of land Grass.” Visible through embrasures in the parapets were the fort’s armament: thirtyseven guns ranging from large twelve-pounders and eight-inch howitzers to small, squat coehorn mortars and light swivel guns.2

Within the ramparts “a Row of Barracks” stood along each wall, facing a parade ground of nearly one and one-half acres. Even more impressive was the new commanding officer’s quarters, “a large Brick House built this summer in ye South East Corner,” its roof still being laid. With “fine steps at ye door of Hewn free Stone” and a cellar, it was an appropriate symbol of Georgian elegance and royal authority. Even the barracks were imposing: three buildings, each of two stories, for enlisted men and another for offi-

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Army and Empire: British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - The British Occupation of the West 1
  • 2 - Frontier Fortresses 32
  • 3 - Military Society on the Frontier 53
  • 4 - The Material Lives of Frontier Soldiers 73
  • 5 - The World of Work 82
  • 6 - Diet and Foodways 100
  • 7 - Physical and Mental Health 114
  • Conclusion 145
  • Notes 153
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 207
  • In the Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series 212
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