Material taken from “Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1753-1758” pages 79-97, by William A. Hunter, The Pennsylvania Historical And Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1960.
Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf, the second French fort in Pennsylvania stood at the site of the present Waterford, Erie County, and in the state of Pennsylvania. It took its name from that of the stream, now called LeBoeuf Creek, on which it stood.87 It was the first fort on the waters of the upper Ohio, and it and Fort de la Presqu’isle guarded the two ends of the Presqu’isle portage. Begun in July 1753, it was garrisoned until August 1759. Contemporary descriptions show it to have been a square fort with bastions at the corners, similar to the fort at Presqu’isle, but smaller Barracks and other buildings formed the four sides of the square, and a guardhouse, a chapel, an infirmary, and the commander’s storehouse occupied the bastions. This fort had only one gate, however, and the outer wall was a palisade of upright posts, in contrast to the horizontal timbers of Fort de la Presqu’isle.
Once established at Presqu’isle, the French lost little time in opening the portage from that place to the waters of the Ohio and in establishing their second post at the southern end of this portage. Besides these two tasks, they had also to build boats and to clear the Riviere au Boeuf (French Creek) for navigation; then they would have to transport a great quantity of supplies over the portage before the troops could re-embark and descend the Riviere au Boeuf and the Belle Riviere (the Allegheny or the Ohio) to Chiningue (Logstown), where they planned to build Fort Duquesne.
When Captain Marin, commander in chief of the Ohio expedition arrived at Presqu’isle about June 3, 1753, he found Captain Le Mercier making good progress with the first fort. Shortly thereafter Marin sent two men, Ensign Maray de la Chauvignerie and Francois Dubreuil, to examine the ground for the second fort; finally, not content with this, Marin himself visited the place sometime before the end of June and selected a spot more advantageously situated, he thought, in terms of wood and of arable land. Reporting all this to Governor Duquesne, Marin also recommended the construction of a storehouse midway on the portage; and he told moreover of the favorable outcome of his first formal meetings with the nearby Indian groups.88
The most significant of these Indian conferences was one with the Delaware’s from about Venango. Counted later as the occasion, on which the first of three formal Indian notices was delivered to the French, this meeting appears to have taken place at the time of Marin’s June visit to the Riviere au Boeuf. According to Stephen Coffen’s deposition,
about one hundred Indians, called by the French the Loos, came to the Fort La Riviere aux Boeuf, to see what the French were doing, that Monsieur Morang treated them very kindly, and then asked them to carry down some stores &ca. to the Belle Riviere on Horseback for Payment. …89
It is clear from the sequel that these Indians were in fact somewhat perfunctory in their inquiry concerning French motives and that they responded readily enough to Marin’s show of friendship.
By July 11, Marin was ready to begin construction of the post at Riviere au Boeuf. “I am going tomorrow,” he wrote Contrecoeur at Niagara, “to the end of the portage, to have ovens and a forge built there and to erect the stockade”; and, anticipating extended or repeated absence on this work, he asked that letters for himself and Le Mercier be addressed, “In our absence to the officer commanding at the Fort de la Presquisle.”90 Four days later these officers were back at Presqu’isle,91 but plans for the second fort were progressing, for Governor Duquesne, replying on July 22 to Marin’s letter of June 27, cautioned him about the manner of construction:
“As forts built piece upon piece take more time than those which are made with piles driven four feet into the ground, and which have ten or twelve feet above it, you will please conform to this usual way of building them in the Upper Country. …”92
As surviving descriptions show, the Governor’s advice was followed.
Actual construction came somewhat later. According to a deposition made January 10, 1754, by Stephen Coffen, who served with the French in the 1753 campaign and afterward deserted,
As soon as the [first] Fort was finished, they marched Southward, cutting a Wagon Road through a fine level Country twenty one Miles to the River aux Boeuf …they fell to Work, cutting Timber Boards &ca for another Fort, while Mr. Morang ordered Monsieur Bite 93 with Fifty Men to a Place called by the Indians Ganagarahhare, on the Banks of Belle Riviere, where the River aux Boeuf empties into it; in the meantime, Morang had Ninety large Boats or Battoes made to carry down the Baggage and Provisions &ca to the said Place.94
That this account is generally correct is shown by one of Governor Duquesne’s letters. Reporting on August 20, 1753, to the Minister de Rouille, he said:
Sieur Marin writes me on the 3rd instant, that the fort at Presqu’isle is entirely finished; that the Portage road, which is six leagues in length, is also ready for carriages; that the store which was necessary to be built half way across this Portage is in a condition to receive the supplies, and that the second fort, which is located at the entrance (entree) of the River au Boeuf, will be soon completed.95
The Ohio Iroquois leader Scarroyady, who shortly before this had met Marin in council, on his return to Logstown gave an account on August 7 to William Trent:
Scaruneate told us that the French had finished one fort [at Presqu’isle] …and that they had begun another Fort and Town on a little Lake about three or four hundred yards wide and about the same distance from the French Creek. The Fort stands between the Lake and the Creek, and that they were diging a Canal to let the Lake into the Creek, that by raising a Gate, they might come down with their canoes at any time. …Scaruneate told me. …that the Fort on the big Lake is very strong. …The other Fort is only a Pallisadoed Fort and the Town is to be Pallisaded.96
According to Coffen, “the Fort La Riviere aux Boeufs …is built of Wood Stockadoed Triangularwise, and has Two Log Houses in the inside.”97 The name Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf seems to make its first appearance in a letter, undated but apparently written in September, 1753, from Marin to Pean.98
The first officer assigned to command at this place seems to have been Lieutenant Le Gardeur de Montesson. This officer having expressed to Le Mercier his willingness to undertake the construction of pirogues, Marin wrote on August 7 accepting this offer and announcing his decision “to assign M. Dumas immediately to go and take your position and place.”99 Subsequent letters indicate that “Montesson’s dockyard” lay on French Creek above the fort. The engineer, Ensign Drouillon, had the responsibility of erecting the fort and of clearing the creek; and to lighten this burden Ensign La Chauvignerie was assigned to clear the upper stream so that Montesson’s boats could go down, and Lieutenant Charles Chaussegros de Lery was ordered by Dumas to clear the channel below the fort.100
Captain Jean-Daniel Dumas commanded at the Riviere au Boeuf less than a month. In part at least, this was because of Marin’s temper, none the better for a trying assignment and bad health. Coffen, who had served under Marin, described him as “a Man of a very peevish cholerick Disposition”; and Governor Duquesne wrote after Marin’s death of “his impetuous nature which a mere trifle could set in motion.”101 On August 26, it appears, Marin received from Dumas a letter which, among other matters, seems to have spoken of the demands on Ensign Drouillon and to have hinted at dissatisfaction on the part of some of the officers.
Marin replied the same day in a letter apparently delivered by Lieutenant Boishebert. In general the reply was routine; but Marin observed somewhat sharply that “if there are any who are not pleased continue the campaign, you can assure them, Sir, that upon any request they shall make of me I shall not hesitate to send them back immediately”; and he asserted he had received from Dumas’ post indian’s news of which Dumas himself seemed uninformed. Then, having seen a letter from Drouillon to Le Mercier, Marin added a postscript scolding Dumas for lack of co-operation.102
On the following day Dumas replied respectfully to these criticisms and then infuriated Marin by asking to be included among the officers to be sent home. On August 28, Marin ordered Dumas to turn the command over to Boishebert at once and informed him that canoes would leave next day for Niagara.103 While this action seems hasty made ill considered, it is only fair to remember that Marin was working under strain and to add that he later showed a more conciliatory attitude, assuring Captain Pean, who had intervened to make up the quarrel, that “I am writing to M. Dumas, and he will find me disposed to show him friendship; I hope that his repentance will save others.”104
Change of command did not change the problems. Montesson’s detachment continued work on the pirogues, and had to go farther afield for suitable trees; Lieutenant de Lery became sick and had to be replaced. By August 30, Marin expected to remove from Presqu’isle about ten or twelve days later.105 The move probably was made as planned; and it was from the Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf that Marin wrote to Pean, still at Niagara, to join him with the last consignments of men and supplies.l06
This took time; for these troops and goods in their turn had to be shipped to Presqu’isle and then taken over the portage. A letter written about this time again gives proof of Marin’s waspish disposition. Replying to a letter of September 14, 1753, from Presqu’isle, Marin wrote:
As you find my instructions binding, Sir, and as that is what prevented you from executing what M. Pean indicated to you, I advise you, Sir, that up to the present time he is adjutant general, and that he will indicate nothing to you except by virtue of the orders I have given him. That is why in the future I ask you to do everything he indicates to you without making any difficulty; my letter will serve you as orders.1O7
By September 29, Pean’s portaging was done, and he arrived at his destination to find Marin seriously sick-so sick that Pean wrote at once to Duquesne, who on October l4 sent orders to Captain Jacques Le Gardeur, sieur de Saint-Pierre, to replace Marin as commander if necessary.1O8 To Marin, Duquesne wrote that Saint-Pierre was “To assist you in every way until your complete convalescence.”109
Pean reported that by September 29 “the troops of the detachment were in the most miserable situation. Sickness had caused a considerable part of them to perish; several days, the soldiers had been buried four at a time.”110 Nevertheless, Pean planned to advance down the Ohio about October 10 or 12 with l80 pirogues and a force reduced to 900 men. With this force he was to establish Fort Duquesne at Chiningue and then, with 800 men, to descend the Ohio, leaving Marin -or his successor-to maintain the new forts.ll1 In theory, at least, the burden of Pean’s responsibilities were lightened somewhat by receipt of a letter of October l4 in which the Governor informed him that the proposed forts at Venango and Scioto were to be dropped from the plans.112
Then a worse blow fell: Ensign Drouillon, the engineer, reported the Riviere au Boeuf too low to float boats to the Ohio. Dismayed and half- incredulous, Marin and Pean sent Lieutenants Carqueville and Portneuf-Becancour to make further investigation; but their report confirmed that of Drouillon. Despairing of finishing the campaign this year, Marin decided to winter his fit troops at Riviere au Boeuf, Presqu’isle, and Niagara and to send Pean back with the disabled men. In a report to the Governor he presented the reasons for his decision. Suspicion that Marin had used “the lack of water in the Riviere au Boeuf as an excuse for resting his detachment”113 was allayed when the Governor reviewed the contingent sent back with Pean and saw “the pitiable state to which it has been reduced by the excessive labor of the portages and sleeping in the open for almost three months.”114
When Pean left the Riviere au Boeuf, Marin’s health had improved somewhat, but he suffered a relapse thereafter and died on October 29, 1753. He was buried in the cemetery at the fort. Saint-Pierre, designated to succeed to the command on the Ohio, had not arrived from “the Western Sea” (Lake Superior) ; so Captain Repentigny took temporary command of the army. “Present at his interment,” reports the official register, were “Monsieur Repentigny, commander of the above-mentioned army and captain of infantry; Messieurs du Muys, Lieutenant of infantry; Benois, lieutenant of infantry; de Simblim, major at the above-mentioned fort; Laforce, keeper of stores.”115
Since Repentigny seems to have been at Presqu’isle, it is uncertain what officer was in charge at the Riviere au Boeuf during November; and few incidents pertaining to the fort can be assigned to this time. George Washington’s journal reveals that a party of seven “French Indians,” who on October 26 attacked the home of Thomas Cooper on the South Branch of Potomac and carried off his eleven-year-old son, returned this way while “Capt. Riparti” was in command.l16 One of Governor Duquesne’s later letters asserts that ”as early as the month of November, 1753, Sieur de la Chauvignerie with thirty men was detached from the fort of the Riviere au Boeuf to go and establish himself at Chinengue, a village of the Cha8anons.”117 Neither of these matters is of high importance, however, since it is known that La Chauvignerie did not actually go to Chiningue until January, 1754.
Saint-Pierre, the new commander on the Ohio, arrived at Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf on December 3, 1753-and at once requested Governor Duquesne to replace him on the plea that “a trip which was as long as it was difficult” had so affected his health that he could not continue his services.118 Accordingly, Duquesne on December 25 ordered Captain Claude-Pierre Pecaudy, sieur de Contrecoeur, then at Niagara, to “leave for the Riviere au Boeuf, immediately on receiving this order, where he will take over the command not only of that fort but also the one at Presqu’isle and of the garrisons dependent on it. 119
Only a few days after Saint-Pierre’s arrival at Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf, Major George Washington appeared there on December 11 to deliver Governor Dinwiddie’s message demanding by what authority the French had established themselves on Virginia territory. Accompanying Washington and his white companions was another embassy, composed of four Ohio Iroquois (three chiefs and a younger hunter) , and an officer and three soldiers who had escorted them from Venango.
In the council held next day, Saint-Pierre was assisted by his second- in-command and by Captain Repentigny, who had been summoned from Presqu’isle and who, Washington says, “understood a little English.” Saint-Pierre treated Washington courteously and made a very favorable impression on him:
This Commander is a Knight of the military Order of St. Lewis, and named Legardeur de St. Piere. He is an elderly Gentleman, and has much the Air of a Soldier; he was sent over to take the Command, immediately upon the Death of the late General, and arrived here about seven Days before me.120
Saint-Pierre’s reply to Dinwiddie, dated December 15, was simple and direct. Any dispute over land must be settled by those who had authority to do so; as commander, Saint-Pierre would obey the orders of his general-that is, of Governor Duquesne-to whom he would forward Dinwiddie’s letter.
Saint-Pierre received the Indian embassy on December 14. The three chiefs-the Half King Tanaghrisson, Jeskakake, and Kaghswaghtaniunt -had come to break off relations with the French by returning the wampum “speech belt” which Marin had given Scarroyady in July. Saint-Pierre declined to accept this belt and, in contrast with Marin’s brusque treatment of Tanaghrisson in September, attempted to win the Indians with liquor and gifts.
Unofficially, Washington and his companions looked about the French post; and his journal supplies under date of December 13, 1753, the most detailed description of this fort:
The chief Officers retired, to hold a Council of War, which gave me an Opportunity of taking the Dimensions of the Fort, making what Observations I could. It is situated on the South, or West Fork of French Creek, near the Water, and is almost surrounded by the Creek, and a small Branch of it which forms a Kind of an lsland; four Houses compose the Sides; the Bastions are made of Piles driven into the Ground, and about 12 Feet above and sharp at Top, with Port-Holes cut for Cannon and Loop-Holes for the small Arms to fire through; there are eight 6 lb. Pieces mounted, two in each Bastion, and one Piece of four Pound before the Gate; in the Bastions are a Guard-House, Chapel, Doctor’s Lodging, and the Commander’s private Store, round which are laid Plat-Forms for the Cannon and Men to stand on: There are several Barracks without the Fort, for the Soldiers Dwelling, covered, some with Bark, and some with Boards, and made chiefly of Loggs: There are also several other Houses, such as Stables, Smiths Shop, &c.
I could get no certain Account of the Number of Men here; but according to the best Judgment I could form, there are an Hundred exclusive of Officers, of which there are many. I also gave Orders to the People that were with me, to take an ; exact Account of the Canoes that were haled up to convey 1 their Forces down in the Spring, which they did, and told 50 .1 of Birch Bark, and 170 of Pine, besides many others that were ) block’d out, in Readiness to make.121
On December 16, both delegations Washington’s and the Half King’s, left by boat for Venango on their return home. Six days later, on December 22, Saint-Pierre forwarded Dinwiddie’s letter to Governor Duquesne, who received it in the last days of January, 1754.122
Writing on January 27 to Contrecoeur, who, though named commander on the Ohio, was still at Niagara, Duquesne gave him formal orders to “enter the Belle Riviere area with the detachment he commands, to march toward Chinengue where he will have a fort built of which he shall have command as well as of all the Belle Riviere, its portage, and the forts which are dependent on it. The letter contained more detailed instructions: Contrecoeur was to enter the Ohio with a force of six hundred men, and was authorized to erect Fort Duquesne at a river [the Monongahela] six leagues this side of Chinengue” if he saw fit. In a postscript dated January 30, Duquesne commented on Dinwiddie’s letter, which he had just received. 123
Contrecoeur had to wait the opening of travel before moving from Niagara to Presqu’isle (by the beginning of March) and across the portage.124 About the middle of March he arrived at Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf and relieved Saint-Pierre.125 Le Mercier, who had led the vanguard of the troops from Montreal, joined Contrecoeur on March 20;126 by March 29 Contrecoeur had gone down the Riviere au Boeuf, and Le Mercier was about to follow with the rear guard.127 Shortly thereafter, beginning about Easter (April 14) , additional detachments under Captain Pean and others set out from Montreal to rendezvous at Chautauqua.
According to the Governor’s instructions of January 27, Contrecoeur was to leave “at Fort de la Presquisle only eighteen men, and twelve at that of Riviere au Boeuf, officers included.”128 The officer left in command at Riviere au Boeuf was Lieutenant Paul Le Borgne, who, however, like Lieutenant Courtmanche at Presqu’isle, asked to be relieved. Writing to Contrecoeur on May 22, Duquesne told him:
I inform you that it is Sieur de St. Blin du Verger who is going to command this fort [Riviere au BoeuÂ£] and Sieur Douville the one of Presquisle, both under your orders, since those two commanders urgently requested me to relieve them; and I did not hesitate to grant their request because of their lack of fitness, with which they acquainted me, for the detachments which are necessary in that place.129
However, Ensign Duverger de Saint-Blin, who received the Governor’s orders on June 16, 1754, was then with the detachments at Chautauqua;130 and orders given by Duquesne on June 29 were addressed to Le Borgne at Riviere au BoeuÂ£, who was directed to maintain the fort and the portage, to keep in touch with Courtemanche at Presqu’isle, and, if he discovered any English, to seize them.131 Filling Saint-Blin’s place temporarily, Ensign Rigauville des Bergeres left Chautauqua July 5 and appears to have taken command two days later.132 Saint-Blin himself finally left for his new post on July 22, probably arriving two or three days later.133
A description of Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf about this time is provided by Thomas Forbes, who served with a French detachment that set out from Montreal at Easter;
We were 8 days employed in unloading our Canoes here [at Presqu’isle] & carrying the Provisions to Fort Boeuff, which is about 6 Leagues from Fort Prisquille at the head of Buffaloe River.
This Fort was composed of four Houses built by way of Bastions & the intermediate Space stockaded; Lt St Blain was posted here with 20 Men; here we found three large Batteaus, & between 200 or 300 Canoes which we freighted with Provisions & proceeded down the Buffalo river, which flows into the Ohio at about 20 Leagues (as I conceive) distance from Fort au Boeuff, this River was small & at some places very shallow; so that we towed the Canoes sometimes wading, & sometimes taking ropes to the Shore a great part of the way .134
The great concern at this fort was of course the portage. On July 1 the Governor wrote Contrecoeur that ” 1 am dispatching Sieur Repentigny, who is a distinguished officer, to the aid of your nephew [Pean] at Chatakoin, and from there he will go to the Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf, where he will remain until he has sent your supplies. Upon his arrival, that officer will tell you about the orders I am giving him.”135 The assignment was in fact to build a permanent road over the portage. Pean, who had been sick at Chautauqua, wrote from that place on July II that he must go to Presqu’isle .’to have a new road built over the portage, which is completely ruined”;136 and on July 15, the day after his arrival at that place, he reported: “I am going to have the entire three leagues of bad road in this portage paved with wood. I do not believe it possible to do it otherwise without always having to do it over again. That will be a lengthy piece of work but it will be durable.”137
In preparation for this work, Pean had Lieutenant Joseph-Gaspard Chaussegros de Lery come from Chautauqua on July 19, 1754, and sent him five days later to make a survey of the route. De Lery found the Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf “very small,” and concluded that it could have been placed “41 /2 arpents less distant” (45 perches, of 18 feet each) .He computed the whole distance at 53/4 leagues (of 84 arpents each) , 1 arpent, 1 perch, 8 feet. Returning next day, it took De Lery sixteen hours to return to Presqu’isle, “so bad was the road, though I was on horseback and urged my horse. I recognized that the ground had no solid base, but by means of the bridges being built it will be passable for a time.” On July 30 De Lery left with Pean’s party for Detroit.138
Repentigny continued with the road building itself, which he seems to have completed on schedule in September. In high hopes, Duquesne wrote Contrecoeur on August 14 that “We can now bid farewell to the Chatak8en portage, if we succeed, as I hope, in making the new road permanent, as Sieurs pearl and Repentigny assured me”; and he spoke of “the road of the Riviere au Boeuf, which one can now travel along as easily as one goes from Montreal to La Prairie”! 139
In July the Governor had advised Contrecoeur to maintain garrisons of one hundred men each at the Riviere au Boeuf and Presqu’isle;140 but in his letter of August 14 he noted a change of plan:
I am ordering Sieur de Repentigny to leave 75 men at each fort and to bring the rest back to Montreal when he has finished the road. My first plan actually was to leave 200 men for their garrison, but since it is not possible that we have to fear an attack from the English during the winter, and as in case they planned one in the spring, it would be easy for me to move first, I prefer saving the food of 50 men. ., ,141
A tabulation of the garrisons that wintered on the Belle Riviere in 1754-1755 lists for Fort de la Riviere-au Boeuf one officer (no doubt Ensign Saint-Blin) , two cadets, and eighty-five militia and soldiers; so the actual strength lay between the two figures proposed by the Governor .142
As has been noted in the account of Fort de la Presqu’isle, the year 1755 was marked by the effort to reinforce Fort Duquesne to withstand the expected attack by English forces under General Braddock; and it became the chief responsibility of Lieutenant Benoist at Presqu’isle and Ensign Saint-Blin at Riviere au Boeuf to dispatch the men and supplies forwarded from Niagara by Lieutenant Boucher de Laperiere and commanded by Captain Lienard de Beaujeu, who had been designated to succeed Contrecoeur in the command of Fort Duquesne.
Following the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, a French victory in which Braddock was mortally wounded and Beaujeu was killed, the excess French troups returned toward Canada. Appended to a letter of August 14, Saint-Blin listed the detachments which then had returned to Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf:
July 27 M. de Ligneris arrived here
August 2 MM. de Courtemanche, Montigny, Longueuil arrived
â€¦â€¦..6 M. de Lery arrived
â€¦â€¦. 7 M. Raimbault arrived
â€¦â€¦..9 M. Normanville arrived 12 M. Landrieve arrived
and the 14 M. de Saint-Ours with his gentlemen143
With the construction of Fort Machault at Venango in 1756, Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf declined somewhat in relative importance. This may help account for the fact of Saint-Blin’s release from the post for part of this year. This officer himself says merely that “I left there in: the course of 1756 to go to war. At the end of the year, M. de Vaudreuil recalled me to my fort, where I continued my services, under the orders of M. de Ligneris, commander at Fort Duquesne. I remained until 1759. …”144 Who commanded in his absence is not known. Quite possibly Saint-Blin served at Fort Duquesne in 1756 with the scouting and raiding parties that were so active at that period. The nature of these operations is adequately indicated by a report made by Governor , Vaudreuil on July 12, 1757:
- Du Verger St. Blin took two scalps, and himself captured a prisoner near Fort Cumberland. A party of savages from Kanaouagen [Conewango], who were to join M. de St. Blin, took another trail to go and attack another fort; and on their return, encountered a party of English and savages. They killed one, wounded another, and took a third prisoner. These savages had taken many English and Cataba scalps, but were obliged to abandon them, as they were unable to withstand the superior force of the enemy.145
Several documents of about this time contain descriptions of this post. General Montcalm’s aide, De Bougainville, included one in his 1757 Memoire sur l’etat de la Nouvelle-France:
Fort de la Riviere-au-Baeuf. The Fort de la Riviere-au-Boeuf, a square fort, palisaded, situated thirty leagues from Fort Machault, on the river whose name it bears. This river is very navigable in spring, fall, and often even in winter; in summer the water there is very low, it is necessary to tow in many places.
This post is an essential supply post for Fort Duquesne, but it should be rebuilt and protected against attack. The commander there has a thousand francs, the garrison is more or less strong; this post is not a place of trade, especially since the establishment is new.146
In another passage De Bougainville refers to this post as “Fort de la Riviere-au-Boeuf or Fort Royal”;147 but this latter name does not appear in other documents.
A reference of a very different kind appears in the interrogation of John Hocktattler [Hochstetler] who, taken prisoner in Berks County about the end of September, 1757, was brought by his Indian captors to Venango. Escaping later, he was questioned, apparently by another, German, on May 29, 1758, about his route from Venango:
Q: How do you proceded further[?]
A: Up the French Creek 3 Days traveling on Battoes at the end of it whe came to a fort built in the same Manner as the other [Fort Machault], and Garrisond, with 25 Menn, from there the French Creek a Road to Presque Isle; wich is a Days Journey from it Distant.148
At almost the same time this captive was at French Creek, the son of Lieutenant La Chauvignerie, commandant at Fort Machault, became separated from his Indian companions on a raid east of the Susquehanna, and on October 12 he surrendered at Fort Henry in Berks County. Questioned at Philadelphia on October 26, the younger La Chauvignerie gave this description of Fort de la Riviere au BoeuÂ£:
That the next Fort to Machault is the Fort on the River O Boeufs, which is said to be forty Leagues above Machault, but having traveled it often believes it is not so much, being only two Days and an half Journey by Land and five or Six Days by Water; that the River is very shallow there, and the Country flat and pleasant; that the Fort there is very strong, pallisadoed round, has a Glacis with a dry Ditch three Foot deep; that he knows not the Number of Cannon, says they are Swivels and under a Dozen, is commanded by his Uncle Monsr Du Virge [Duverger de Saint-Blin] who is an Ensign of Foot; that there is no Captain or other Officer above an Ensign there, and the Reason of no higher Officer being there is that the Commandant of those Forts purchases a Commission for it and undertakes and has the Benefit of transporting the Provisions and other Necessaries. 149
During the summer of 1758 when the English were marching on Fort Duquesne, Saint-Blin continued his activities in the field. Details are lacking, but Governor Vaudreuil’s report of July 28 notes in general terms: “Several parties sent out by M. Duverger St. Blin, commander at the Riviere au Boeuf, were successful enough. Some took scalps, and others prisoners.”150
With the French retreat from Fort Duquesne to Fort Machault toward the end of November of this year and the establishment of an English garrison at Pittsburgh, the area about Riviere au Boeuf became more liable to annoyance by scouting parties and spies. In February, 1759, a wagoner at Fort Machault was carried off by a Pennsylvania officer and a party of Delaware Indians from Fort Augusta.151 In March a Delaware Indian came here, spying for Colonel Hugh Mercer, who commanded at Pittsburgh. Both men gave information, which may serve as examples of the data sought and given in these exchanges.
According to the wagoner (identified as “Martin Whoolly a Canadian”), “From thence [Presqu’isle] to Fort Beauf at the head of the River Beauf is about Six Leagues a good Waggon Road and well Bridged where Swampy, no Cannon mounted at this Fort-From thence to the Mouth of the River is about forty Leagues. …”152
On March 17, three days before the wagoner gave his information, the Indian spy Captain Bull had made a longer report at Pittsburgh. Having visited Presqu’isle about March 7,
Bull left that Place telling the French that he was going to Wioming to see his Father; and got to La Beef that Night, the fort is of the same Shape but very Small, The Bastions, Stockaids, and [sic] joined by Houses for the Curtains, the Logs mostly rotten; Platforms are erected in the Bastions, and Loop holes properly Cut. One Gun is Mounted on One of the Bastions and Points down the River. Only One Gate, and that fronting this Way or the Side Opposite the Creek. The Magazine is on the Right of the Gate going in, part of it Sunk in the Ground, and above is some Casks of Powder to Serve the Indians.-here are two Officers a Store Keeper a Clerk a Priest and One Hundred and Fifty Soldiers the Men not Employed, at La Beef are Twenty four Battoes, One of them Made Lately and One of them repaired lately; One Le Sambrow is the Commanding Officer; They have a Larger Stock of Provisions here than at Prisque Isle.153
Reference in this report to a priest (Captain Bull also reported a priest at Presqu’isle, but not at Fort Machault) recalls the clerical history of this post. Two Recollect priests, Friar Gabriel Anheuser and Friar Denys Baron, had accompanied Marin’s expedition in 1753; and the earliest entries in the surviving portions of the register are signed by one or both as chaplains of the party. Entries dated August 20 at “camp de la Riviere aux beufs” and of September 6 are by Friar Gabriel; but entries dated September 16 and afterward are signed by Friar Denys as chaplain of the fort. In the record of Captain Marin’s burial on October 29 appears the first reference to the fort chapel, sous le titre de St. Pierre (dedicated to Saint Peter) .In the following year Friar Denys became chaplain at Fort Duquesne and was probably succeeded by Friar Luc Collet, also a Recollect, who on July 30, 1755, signed the register as.”chaplain at Presqu’isle and Riviere aux Boeufs.” Whether Friar Luc was still officiating here in 1759 is unknown.154
In effect, the story of this fort’s last days has been told in the account of Fort de la Presqu’isle. In the spring of 1759, however, Saint-Blin (Captain Bull’s “Sambrow”) scored one of the last French successes against the English in this region. Of this incident Saint-Blin himself later wrote:
The year of the capture of Niagara, I attacked, at the head of forty Indians, a convoy escorted by two hundred English: I defeated them, forced them to abandon their wagons and pro- visions; and, the distance from any French fort not permitting me to make use of my booty, I burned it; this frustrated the English plan to take the three dependent French forts of the Belle Riviere; I was wounded in this action. ..,155
Details and corrections can be supplied from other sources. Captain Pouchot at Niagara reported that
On the 17th June, some Onondagas arrived with scalps taken by a party of the Five Nations in the direction of Loyal- Anon, from a convoy of sixteen wagons laden with provisions for the enemy, and escorted by one hundred men, of whom twenty-seven were killed, three taken prisoners, and the remainder dispersed in the woods. The wagons were burned and eighty-four horses were captured. This party was under the orders of M. St. Blin. …156
From English sources, finally, it is learned that the attack took place, on May 23 about three miles east of Fort Ligonier and was made on, a party of one hundred Virginians commanded by Captain Thomas Bullitt. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lloyd, in command at the fort, sent out two hundred men who arrived after Saint-Blin had left, but in time to extinguish the wagons and save a large part of the supplies.157
Saint-Blin’s claim, in the account previously quoted, that his blow “frustrated the English plan to take the three dependent French forts of the Belle Riviere” is unwarranted. Colonel Mercer at Pittsburgh had made an unsuccessful attempt to attack these forts in March, 158 but they were doomed by the surrender of Niagara on July 25. As Saint-Blin wrote, “I was obliged to evacuate my fort, in consequence of the capture of that of Niagara; a loss which occasioned the fall in a short time of all the posts of the Belle Riviere.”159
At Pittsburgh on August 16 a Delaware Indian who had been at Venango reported “that as soon as letters were brought to that Post of the fall of Niagara, the Garrison set fire to the fort, and upon their arrival at Le Beuff & Priscile, both these were demolished in the same, “Manner”;160 and the approximate date of this destruction is set by another report that the French had left Venango on or about August 6.161 Saint-Blin himself served afterward in the defense of Montreal, whose surrender on September 8, 1760, brought to an end the war in Canada.
Two British officers from Pittsburgh, Captain William Patterson and Lieutenant Thomas Hutchins, who in October, 1759, explored the route to Presqu’isle, reported that on October 17 .’We went thro’ a Pine Swamp two-Miles to Le Beauf Fort, where we found it in Ruins, and the Remains of 27 Battoes that had been set on fire. The Fort is Situate on a Rising Piece of Ground, the Land Poor & Gravilley.”162 Despite the destruction at Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf, Hutchins was able from the ruins to draw up a map which, surviving in manuscript, is one of the best guides to the appearance of this post.163
85. Vaudreuil to the Minister of the Marine, June 24, 1760, Wilderness Chronicles, 167; also translated in NYCD, X, 1093-94.
86. Tanguay (ed.) Dictionnaire genealogique, VII, 10: “il etait, le 13 Oct. 1759, au Detroit.”
87. The French regarded LeBoeuf Creek as the head of the stream now call French Creek, called by them Riviere au (x) Boeuf (s) The name French Creek appears under date of August 7, 1753, in William Trent’s journal (History Bouquet,25) and in John Fraser’s letter of August 27 (CR, V. 659) Washington who used the name in his journal of 1753-1754, may have learned it from Fraser .
88. Duquesne to Marin, July 10, 1753, replying to letters of June 20-27, ASQ, V-V, 5:62:6.
89. PR, M, 306; printed in CR, VI, II. The statement that the meeting took place at the fort is of course anachronistic, for the fort was not built there until later.
90. Marin to Contrecoeur, Fort de la Presqu’isle, ASQ, V-V.l: 64.
91. Id to id., Fort de la Presqu’isle, July 15, ibid., 1:65.
92. Ibid., 5:62:8.
93. Seemingly Pierre-Louis Boucher de Niverville, sieur de Montizambert, the Boucher being interpreted as bouchlfe, mouthful or bite. Coffen evidently had an imperfect knowledge of French, and his representation of names and events is imprecise.
94. PR. M, 306; printed in CR, VI, 11.
95. NYCD, X, 256; reprinted in PA2, VI, 162-63 (1877 ed.) and in Wilderness Chronicles, 51.
96. Trent’s journal, History of Bouquet, 25-27.
97. Colfen deposition, PR, M, ~O6; printed in CR,
98. ASQ, V-V, 4:~79k; copy in 5; 61:12b; “Upon your arrival I count on your coming to the Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf, so that we shall confer there.” The date is indicated also by references to the reconciliation with Dumas.
99. Ibid. 5:60:9.
100. Marin to [Montesson], ibid.; id. to Dumas, August 26, 1753, and Dumas to Marin. August 27, Papiers Contrecoeur, 42-43, 46-47. For Charles Chaussegros de Lery, see BRH, XL (19~4), 585. The editor of Papiers Contrecoeur, 46, n.3, credits the elder brother joseph-Gaspard with this work.
101. Duquesne to Contrecoeur, December 24, 1753, Papiers Contrecoeur, 86.
102. Ibid. 42-43.
103. Dumas to Marin. Camp de la Riviere au Boeuf. Ibid. 46-48; Marin to Dumas, ASQ, V-V, 4:379b (copy in 5:61:9b); id., to Boishebert, ibid., 4:379n (copy in 5:61:10b).
104. Ibid. 4:379k; copy in 5:61: 12b. Undated but evidently written in early September 1753.
105. Marin 10 (Boisheherll. AlI~lISI 30. 1753. Papiers Contrecoeur, 51 (where. how- ever, the recipient is identified as Contrecoeur)
106. ASQ. V-V. 4:379k.
107. Marin to [ ], n. d., ibid., 4:379t; copy in 5:61:13b.
108. Pean Memoir, 33.
109. 0ctober 14, 1753,Papiers Contrecoeur, 74.
110. Pean Memoir, 33.
111. Duquesne to the Minister of the Marine, November 2, 1753, Wilderness Chronicles, 58-60.
112. Pean Memoir, 34.
113. Duquesne to Saint-Pierre, December 25, 1753, Papiers Contrecoeur, 88.
114. Id. to the Minister of the Marine, November 29,1753, Wilderness Chronicles, 60.
115. Lambing (ed.), Baptismal Register of Fort Duquesne, 40-43. English translation also appears in Frank H. Severance, An Old Frontier of France, II, 23-24.
116. Journal of Major George Washington, 9, 18. For reports of the Indian attack, see Pennsylvania Gazette, December 27, 1753; February 26, 1754.
117. Duquesne to the Minister of the Marine, October 12,1754, Wilderness Chronicles, 82-83; the French text is quoted in Papiers Contrecoeur, 79, n. 4. Duquesne is attempting to represent the French “fort” at Chiningue as antedating the English post begun by Trent in March. 1754.
118. Duquesne to Saint-Pierre, December 25, 1753, Papiers Contrecoeur, 87-88.
119. Duquesne orders to Contrecoeur, ASQ, V-V, 3:179. Duquesne’s orders of the same date to Saint-Pierre are in Papiers Contrecoeur, 89.
120. Journal of Major George Washington, 16.
122. Duquesne to Saint-Pierre. January 30, 1754, Papiers Contrecoeur, 98.
123. Id. to Contrecoeur, ibid. 92-96: orders, ibid., 96-97.
124. Bigot to Contrecoeur, March 2, 1754, ASQ. V-V, 4:341.
125. Id. to id., April 15. 1754. acknowledging letter of March 15. Papiers Conttrecoeur, 113; Contrecoeur to Madame Contrecoeur. Fort de la Riviere au Boeuf, March 19, ibid. 110-11.
126. Duquesne to Contrecoeur, April 15. 1754. ibid., 114.
127. Id. to id., May 9, 1754, ibid., 123.
128. 1bid., 93.
129. 1bid., 129.
130. Dery journal, RAPQ, 1927-1928, p. 366.
131. Papiers Contrecoeur, 205-207
132. De Lery journal. RAPQ, 1927-1928, p. 372. Saint-Blin’s copy of Le Borgne’s orders was made July 7, Papiers Contrecoeur, 207. On July 10 Le Borgne was at Chatakoin.
133. De Lery journal, RAPQ, 1927-1928, pp. 383, 385.
134. Maryland Historical Magazine, IV (1909) , 274.
135. Papiers Contrecoeur, 208.
136. Pean to Contrecoeur, ibid., 210.
137. Id. to id., ibid., 215.
138. De Ury Journal, RAPQ, 1927-1928, pp. 381-87.
139. Papiers Contrecoeur, 246.
140. Letters of July 18 and 25, ibid., 219, 223.
141. Ibid., 246.
142. Wilderness Chronicles, 65.
143. Saint-Blin to Contrecoeur, Papiers Contrecoeur, 417.
144. Memoire pour le sieur Duverger de Saint-Blin …, 4.
145. Vaudreuil to the Minister of the Marine. Wilderness Chronicles, 99; there is another translation in NYCD, X, 580.84. Montcalm Journal, 201, seems to refer to the same incident as reported in a letter of April 15, 1757. Here, however, the officer’s name appears, perhaps in consequence of a misreading, as Saint.Clair Duverger.
146. RAPQ, 192J-1924, p. 48; compare the translation in PMHB, LVI (1932) , 62.
147. RAPQ, 192J-1924, p. 54.
148. Wilderness Chronicles, 120.
149. PPC; printed in PAl, Ill, 305. and in Wilderness Chronicles, 116.
150. Vaudreuil to the Minister of the Marine. ibid., 113.
151. ld. to id., March 5, 1759, ibid., 138; Pennsylvania Gazette, Apri15, 1759.
152. Amherst Papers, PRO 273, WO 34/33. f. 16 (Library of Congress copies) . “Martin Woolley” and young La Chauvignerie were later exchanged under a flag of truce of April 28, 1759. Register of Flaggs of Truce &c. in Papers of the Provincial Secretary. Public Records Division.
153. PR, Q, 442; printed in CR, VlII, 312-13. For another copy, see Coi. Bouquet Papers, Ser. 21644, Vol. I, 86; printed also in Wilderness Chronicles, 152.
154. Lambing (ed.), Baptismal Register of Fort Duquesne.
155. Memoire pour le sieur Duverger de Saint-Blin …, 4-5. ,
156. Pouchot Memoir, I. 156.
157. Thomas Lloyd to John Stanwix, May 25, 1759. Col. Bouquet Papers”., Ser. 21644. Vol. I, 149.
158. Pennsylvania Gazette, May 3. 1759. See also. Roll of the Men Killed in the Battoe 28th March, 1759. PA5, I. 275.
159. Memoire pour le sieur Duverger de Saint-Blin …, 4.
160. Hugh Mercer to Henry Bouquet, August 16, 1759, Col. Bouquet Papers, Ser. 21655, p.80
161. Intelligence enclosed with Hugh Mercer to Governor Denny, August 13, 1759, CR, VIII, 395.
162. Col. Bouquet Papers, Ser. 21644, Pt II, 168.
163. General Thomas Hutchins Papers, 1759-88, II, 52, Historical Society of Pennsylvania