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Guns at the Forks

Guns at the Forks

Walter O’Meara
Copyright Date: 1965
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Guns at the Forks
    Book Description:

    Guns at the Forks is a special reissue commemorating the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War. In a spirited, intelligent, and informative history, O'Meara tells the story of five successive forts, particularly Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt, and the dramatic part they played in the war between 1750 and 1760. He describes Washington's capitulation at Fort Necessity, Braddock's defeat at the Monongahela, and Forbes's successful campaign to retake Fort Duquesne. Although most of the action in the book takes place at the strategically important forks of the Ohio, where present-day Pittsburgh stands, O'Meara's narrative relates the two forts to the larger story of the French and Indian War and elucidates their roles in sparking a global conflict that altered the course of world events and decided the fate of empires.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7128-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. BOOK ONE “Drive from the Beautiful River…”
    (pp. 3-34)

    Just as Capt. Philippe-Thomas de Joncaire, the French commander at Venango, sat down to dinner on the evening of December 4, 1753, word was brought to him that a party of Englishmen had arrived. The leader was demanding to see the commandant.

    What, Captain Joncaire might have wondered, could have fetched these idiots over the mountains in the dead of winter? Into the heart of hostile country, to boot, for France and England were on terms little short of war on the Ohio River. Curious, perhaps, to learn what could be back of such insanity, he ordered the leader of...

  2. BOOK TWO The Race to the Forks
    (pp. 37-52)

    In his pink brick palace at Williamsburg, Governor Robert Dinwiddie, listening to Washington tell about Fort Le Boeuf, staring at Saint-Pierre’s letter, might well have marveled at the headlong velocity of fatal events.

    Only a year ago, in the spring of 1753, he had still clung to the hope that “these people are only French traders and they have no other view but trade.” There was, he told himself, “no great army of French among the lakes.” He had tried to discount the mounting evidence of aggression beyond the mountains: Céleron’s expedition, the attack on Pickawillany, the defecting of the...

  3. BOOK THREE Fort Duquesne of the Blessed Virgin at the Beautiful River
    (pp. 55-74)

    If you were to look at a map of North America for the 1750’s, you would find it dotted—except for the Atlantic Coast and Lower Canada—with the names, not of towns and cities, but of forts. From Louisbourg far out on Cape Breton Island, to La Jonquiere on the Upper Saskatchewan, and down to Mobile on the Gulf, the Hags of France—and, farther west, of Spain—Hew almost solely above military posts.

    A second glance at the map would tell you why each of these wilderness strongholds had been built. Aside from the forts, what would you find? Rivers...

  4. BOOK FOUR Round One: Washington
    (pp. 77-106)

    On almost the same January day that Contrecoeur started from Quebec for the Ohio, Washington and Trent received their orders to enlist a hundred men each and march them with all speed to the same spot. Thus the race to the Forks began, as it were, at the crack of a starter’s gun. But from the very first, the English were left far behind.

    The Colonials, as it turned out, were not eager to risk their scalps in the Indian country for a militiaman’s paltry pay of fifteen pounds of tobacco a day. Trent, it was thought, would have no...

  5. BOOK FIVE Round Two: Braddock
    (pp. 109-152)

    Fort Necessity’s beaten, frightened survivors had scarcely got back to Virginia before Governor Dinwiddie was calling frantically for 900 men to march back across the mountains at once and clean up the mess that Colonel Washington—as he saw it—had made of things. Fort Duquesne, he insisted, must be taken before the snow flew.

    Then the governors of Maryland and North Carolina met with Dinwiddie and concocted a plan to recapture the Forks that same fall with 1000 recruits from all three Colonies. The expedition would be led by Governor Horatio Sharpe of Maryland, an armchair general with a...

  6. BOOK SIX Blood on the Moon
    (pp. 155-180)

    After what the British Ministry described as “the unfortunate miscarriage of His Majesty’s forces in the designed attack on Fort Duquesne,” the frontiers of the Middle Provinces found themselves naked against a torrent of death and destruction pouring down from the North.

    It need not have been so. If a more determined officer than Colonel Dunbar had succeeded to command of the British troops, a defense of the frontier could have been organized—even a new offensive against Fort Duquesne mounted. But when Braddock’s terrified survivors reached his camp, Dunbar himself seems to have panicked. He promptly burned, destroyed, or...

  7. BOOK SEVEN Round Three: Forbes and Bouquet
    (pp. 183-210)

    The winter of 1757–1758 was a gay one in Montreal, now the virtual seat of the government and Canada’s social center—“a sparkling fragment of the reign of Louis XV, dropped into the American wilderness.” Grand balls, dinner parties, assemblies, “great suppers with ladies,” dancing until seven o’clock in the morning. So many victories to celebrate I Such good news from every quarterl And so many rich plums for the commissariat to pluck from the pie of a hugely successful war!

    For more than two years, now, those stuffy British generals in their red coats and laced hats—Braddock,...

  8. BOOK EIGHT Fort Pitt
    (pp. 213-244)

    General Forbes did not remain long at the dismal scene of his triumph. After providing shelter and defense of a sort for his troops, he gave the name of Pittsburgh to the desolation at the Point, and began his slow, painful journey home. At Fort Ligonier his strength gave out and he had to pause for a while; but, carried all the way in a litter, he reached Philadelphia at last. And there, in March, 1759, he died.

    “After God,” Bouquet wrote to Chief Justice Allen, of Pennsylvania, “the success of this expedition is entirely due to the General”


    (pp. 247-254)

    When a fort loses its warlike usefulness, it dies. It falls into ruin, or it is “restored” and becomes a tourist attraction, or it vanishes completely beneath city streets or some farmer’s plowed field.

    Fort Pitt did not—like Fort Duquesne—die a quick, heroic death. It lingered on for a while—not really a fort any more, but still the focus of important events and movements, including that vast and peculiarly American phenomenon known as the advancing frontier.

    After the battle of Bushy Run, the Delaware and Shawnee moved their women and children to the western side of the...