(Source: Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, Clarence M. Busch, State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1896, Jay Gilfillan Weiser, pp. 476-489, “The Frontier Forts in the Cumberland and Juniata Valleys.”)
Samuel Hazard says when this fort was erected is not certainly known, but it was probably not before 1757, as on February 22d, Colonel John Armstrong writes to Major Burd, and among other things stated some of his plans of operation, "This is all that can possibly be done, before the grass grows and proper numbers unite, except it is agreed to fortify Raystown, of which I, yet, know nothing." This fort was located on the Raystown branch of the Juniata river, at or near the town called Raystown, now Bedford, which is greatly celebrated and known, the civilized world over, for the famous mineral springs situated there.
Fort Bedford, there is no doubt, was celebrated on account of the important position which it held relative to the French and Indian wars. It was one of the earliest settlements west of the Allegheny mountains. Among these earlier settlers, who came to this locality were the traders and adventurers of the Conecocheague and Conedoguinet settlements. Mr. Jones in his history of the Juniata Valley claims that the earliest settlement made in Bedford county was on the Rays-town branch of the Juniata, by a man named Ray, in 1751, who built three cabins near where Bedford now stands. In 1755, the Province agreed to open a wagon road from Fort Loudoun in Cumberland county to the forks of the Youghiogheny river. For this purpose three hundred men were sent up, but for some cause or other the project was abandoned.
Early in April, 1757, however, Governor Denny orders Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong, then in command of a battalion of eight companies of Pennsylvania troops doing duty on the west side of the Susquehanna river, to encamp with a detachment of three hundred men near Raystown. "A well chosen situation," said the Governor in a letter to the Proprietaries, "on this side of the Allegheny Hills, between two Indian roads." As foreshadowed in the Governor's communication, Colonel Armstrong did not move forward from Raystown, the necessary supplies not having been furnished him. He was at Carlisle on the fifth of May addressing a letter to the Governor, in which he says: "The coming of the Cherokees appears to be a very favorable Providence, which should in my opinion, be speedily and properly improved, as well for the benefit for us as of others—His Majesty's colonies, and prompts me to propose to your Honour what I have long ago suggested, to the late Governor and gentlemen commissioners, that is the building a fort at Raystown without which the King's business and the country's safety can never be effected to the westward. To this place were we there encamped, or fortified, might the southern Indians be brought frequently from Fort Cumberland, provided the necessaries of life and of war, could there be given them and from it might proceed patrolling parties to spy, waylay, intercept etc., which duties should constantly, or frequently be followed by while others might carry on the building. ‘Tis true this service will require upwards of five hundred men, as no doubt they will be attacked if any power be at Fort Duquesne, because this will be a visible, large and direct stride to that place, but no doubt Colonel Stanwix will bear a part in duty and expense."
Some time during the month of June, 1757, Captain Hance Hamilton led a scouting party from the Fort at Carlisle to Raystown, but encountered no Indians. And at the same time Captain Dagworthy likewise sent out a party as far as the Great Crossing, who also failed to discover any signs of the enemy. But, notwithstanding all the warlike attitude of the English, nothing was done to impede the French in their depredations by numerous small bands of Indians, until a change of British ministers took place and Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, assumed control of matters.
On the 16th of August, 1758, Major Joseph Shippen writes from the camp at Raystown: "We have a good stockade fort here, with several convenient and large store houses. Our camps are all secured with good breastworks and a small ditch on the outside, and everything goes on well. Colonel Burd desires his compliments."
He further states: "It is very uncertain what number of Indians we shall have with us. It seems little dependence can be put on any of them. I believe there have been above one hundred and fifty Cherokees at this place since the army first formed a camp here, but they have all left us, except twenty-five of them. Besides these, we have Hambus and three Delaware warriors, who came two days ago from Fort Augusta, and two or three of the Six Nations, and Colonel Bouquet expects Captain Bullen (a Catawba Captain) with thirty of his warriors to join us very soon. I understand they are to come from Winchester by the way of Fort Cumberland. The army here consists now of about twenty-five hundred men, exclusive of about fourteen hundred employed in cutting and clearing the road between this and Loyal Hanning, a great part of which, I suppose, by this time is finished, so that I am in hopes we shall be able to move forward soon after the General comes up, who, we hear, is at Shippensburg on his way up. Colonel Montgomery, with part of his battalion, is with him. Colonel Washington and four hundred of his regiment have not yet joined us, nor has any of Colonel Byrd's of Virginia, except two companies."
As is indicated from the above, the road was completed in 1758, when the allied forces of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania marched against Fort Duquesne, under General John Forbes. About the same time the fort was built at Raystown and called Fort Bedford. Colonels Bouquet and Washington first marched to Bedford with the advance and were followed by General Forbes, who had been detained by illness, at Carlisle.
These successful troops that put to route the French, without striking a blow, amounting to seven thousand eight hundred and fifty men, were reviewed where Bedford now stands, one hundred and thirty-six years ago. Of the triumphant march and splendid victory of General Forbes and Colonels Bouquet and Washington, there is little use in speaking here more than incidentally mentioning that, profiting by the dear bought experience at Braddock's defeat, the suggestion of Washington to fight the savages after their own manner was adopted, and, after defeating them in several skirmishes, the Indians fled before them like chaff before the wind, and when they reached Fort Duquesne, the name and the fort alone remained.
Colonel Armstrong, whose name frequently appears in the dissertation on these varied Forts, served as a Captain in the expedition, under General Forbes against Fort Duquesne. It may as well be remembered that Colonel Washington, as well as the Virginians generally, jealous of the Pennsylvanians gaining a footing, in the Monongahela country, violently opposed the cutting of the road, from Raystown to the mouth of the Youghiogheny, and urged strongly upon Forbes the propriety of using the old Braddock trail. The decision of General Forbes procured for the people of Pennsylvania a wagon road over the Allegheny at least twenty years before the inhabitants would have entertained the idea of so formidable an undertaking.
Col. Armstrong wrote to Richard Peters, under date of Raystown, October 3d, 1758: "Since our Quixotic expedition, you will no doubt be greatly perplexed about our fate. God knows what it may be, but I assure you the better part of the troops are not at all dismayed. The General came here at a critical and seasonable juncture. He is weak, but his spirit is good and his head clear, firmly determined to proceed as far as force and provisions will admit, which through Divine favor, will be far enough.
"The road to be opened from our advance post is not yet fully determined and must be further reconnoitred. (sic) ‘Tis yet a query, whether the artillery will be carried forward with the army when within fifteen or thirty miles of the fort or not. The order of march and line of battle is under consideration, and there are many different opinions respecting it. Upon this the General will have a conference with the commanders of the sundry corps. About four thousand five hundred are yet fit for duty, five or six hundred of which may yet be laid to the account of keeping of different posts, sickness, accidents, etc.
"We know not the number of the enemy, but they are greatly magnified by report of sundry of the people, with Major Brandt, to what we formerly expected. The Virginians are much chagrined at the opening of the road through this government, and Colonel Washington has been a good deal sanguine and obstinate upon the occasion; but the presence of the General has been of great use on this, as well as other accounts. We hear that three hundred wagons are on the road. If this month happens to be dry weather, it will be greatly in our favor.”
"My people are in general healthy and are to be collected together immediately, except such as are posted, on the communication and the artillery. Many of them will be naked by the end of the campaign, but I dare not enter upon clothing them, not knowing who or how many of the troops may be continued. Colonel Bouquet is a very sensible and useful man, notwithstanding, had not the General come up, the consequences would have been dangerous. Please to make my compliments to Mr. Allen, and, if you please, show him this letter as I have not a moment longer to write. About the last of this month will be the critical hour. Everything is vastly dear with us and the money goes like old boots. The enemy are beginning to kill and carry off horses, and every now and then they scalp a wandering person. I leave this place today, as does Colonel Bouquet and some pieces of artillery."
We see by the above letters that Bedford was an important centre for the troops supplies and the munitions of warfare during this important period of our early Provincial history.
The best authorities, Egle and Hazard, show this fort to have been a place of rendezvous; and the following shows the various disposition of troops:
August 19, . According to the returns of Adjutant Kern, of the Second Battalion of Pennsylvania, there were here six hundred and fifty-six effective rank and file under Colonel James Burd.
August 24th. First battalion of Royal American regiment, Colonel Henry Bouquet, in camp; march three hundred and sixty-four men rank and file; also, Captains Harding, Landers, and Joycelyn's companies.
August 26th. Maryland forces encamped near Raystown, Captain Dagworthy, two hundred and seventy-six.
September 15th and 17th. Two hundred and seventy-four of same.
Sept. 11th. Also, Captain A. Beall, Josiah Beall and Ware's company, etc.
Sept. 15th. Sixty-two regular, or First Highland Battalion, commanded by Honorable Archibald Montgomery, companies: Capt. Sir Allen MacLean, Captains Cameron and detachments, total four hundred and fifty-four; John McLachlan as adjutant.
Sept. 17th. Lower county companies, commanded by Major Wells and Captains McCluggan and Gooding.
October 14th. "The rear division of the army moved from Raystown towards Loyal Hanna"
October 22d. General Forbes, being then there, says two hundred men will be required here.
August 4th, 1759. Brigadier G. Stanwix advertises for wagons to convey provisions from Carlisle to Bedford under escort.
Jany. 21st, 1760. Colonel Shippen writes to Colonel Burd that a violent general mutiny broke out in the garrison, in consequence of a rumor that they were to receive no pay after the 15th, which was happily quelled by the firmness of the Colonel.
It appears that Captain Lieutenant Lewis Oury Esquire, of the Royal American regiment of foot, and deputy quartermaster general of His Majesty's troops, was in command at this fort. And here another pertinent matter regarding the early history of this fort is appended:
"To Tobias Risenor Baker: By virtue of the power and authority unto me given, by John Stanwix Esquire, Major General and Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's forces in the southern district of North America, I do by these presents, grant unto you during his Majesty's Pleasure, the use and possession of a certain lot of ground situate near this fort, on the south side of Bedford street (meaning the old military road) in the town of Bedford, Province of Pennsylvania, thereon to build and make garden for your own private use and advantage, and for the better accommodating and supplying this garrison and other, His Majesty's troops, employed on this communication. (Having reference to the route or line of communication, leading westward to Fort Pitt.) In consideration of which grant from the Crown, you are to pay as an acknowledgment to His Majesty, one Spanish dollar per annum, ground rent. Given under my hand and seal at Fort Bedford, this twenty-sixth day of March, 1760, & in the thirty-third year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, George the Second by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., etc."
Although, as a result of Forbes expedition, the French were driven beyond the borders of the Province, many of their Indian allies continued hostile, and harrassed the frontier settlements, of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia for several years thereafter. Hence in keeping open the line of communication between Carlisle and Fort Pitt, the Forts at Shippensburg, Loudoun, Lyttleton, Juniata, Bedford, formerly called Raystown and Ligonier, were each garrisoned with a force of from one hundred to three hundred men. Besides the regularly enlisted soldiers, there also gathered at each post various camp followers, including army sutlers, Indian traders, inn-keepers, artisans, etc. A great number of them remained permanently in the vicinity of the fort named, established claims and in consequence, became the first settlers of their respective neighborhood.
Toward the close of the year 1762, a treaty between England and France was concluded, but was not proclaimed in Philadelphia until 1763. Peace with Spain having also been concluded, it left the inhabitants of Pennsylvania no enemies but the Indians. Even these had been to a certain extent pacified, and the long sufferings to which the inhabitants had been subjected, had, in a measure, happily terminated.
But it was not long until the minds of these savages began to run riot and another struggle shortly ensued, known as the Pontiac war of 1763. During that summer the savages in great numbers attacked Fort Pitt, Ligonier, Bedford and other fortified positions, but being repulsed, they broke up into small predatory bands and left naught but death and desolation over a wide region of the Province. In this same year, they murdered a number of families near Bedford. In a letter written by William Plunkett, of June 20th, addressed to Colonel Shippen, Junior, he says:
"The gentlemen at Bedford seem to be of opinion that the design of the Indians may end in dispersing some inhabitants out of their unpurchased lands. Whether their cruel rage will end there, I don't pretend to conjecture; but must take liberty to wish that the poor, scattered, defenceless inhabitants on the frontiers of this Province were put into some posture of defence, for I can safely say, from my own knowledge, that their present situation discovers them an easy prey to their enemies."
At this period Fort Bedford was the principal depot for military stores between Carlisle and Fort Pitt. In order to strengthen it, the command was given to Captain Oury and the small stockades at the Juniata Crossing and Stony Creek were abandoned, and the force concentrated at Bedford. By this means, two volunteer companies were formed to guard the fort, which, besides being a refuge for the distressed families for ten or fifteen miles around, contained vast quantities of ammunition and other government stores.
General Jeff. Amherst, then stationed at New York, being the Commander-in-Chief of the English forces in America, addressed a letter to Governor Hamilton, of which the following is important:
"As it now appears from the intelligence received from all quarters, that the Indians seem determined to push their depredations, owing, I suppose, to some advantages they have gained over struggling parties of traders, and false hope of the Detroit and upper posts being cut off, I think it my indispensable duty once more, to renew my instances with you to lose no time in calling your Assembly and pressing them to enable you to raise, with the utmost despatch a body of men to be employed in the defence and protection of the frontier.”
"Captain Ouray writes me that there are many of the inhabitants near Bedford who are ready to enter into the provincial service. Should you be enabled to issue commissions, which I hope you will, no time should be lost in sending proper orders for recruiting these men, as well as for forwarding any others that may enlist, as fast as raised, to the communication above.”
"I find Mr. Croghan has very judiciously engaged twenty-five men to garrison Fort Lyttleton and I make no doubt but the province will readily defray the expense of those men so long as it may be judged necessary to continue them."
Under this suggestion of General Amherst, Governor Hamilton directed Colonel John Armstrong to organize a battalion of frontiersmen for immediate service, and concluded his communication as follows:
"On the recommendation of Captain Ouray, at Fort Bedford, I have promised commissions to the following gentlemen, now doing duty as volunteers at Bedford: Christopher Lewis (Limes), [he it was who caused to be built and who owned the stone structure on Pitt street, now owned and occupied by Mr. Carn]; John Proctor, Captain; Philip Baltimore, Charles Rigger, Lieutenants; William Yaxley, Robert Swancey, ensigns; which commissions, with the necessary advance money, I desire you will either deliver to the said Captains, or forward to them as you shall think best, as soon as may be. I also desire you will give a commission of Captain to James Piper, at present Lieutenant to Colonel Wert's company, whose place in that company, I will supply, as soon as the vacancy is made known to me."
Under these instructions Colonel Armstrong succeeded in raising a force of three hundred volunteers from the vicinity of Bedford, Shippensburg and Carlisle, for the purpose of attacking the Indian settlements. He left with this band of soldiers in high hopes of surprising and attacking the Indians in their settlements, but when he reached their settlements many of them had gone a few days before. But pushing on in his endeavors, with great despatch (sic) and secrecy, when he overtook them, there were not any scarcely able to escape. Meanwhile, the outlying forts remained in the most hazardous condition. The Indians being constantly at work, they surrounded them, and, at times, were successful in cutting all communication. At this time almost all the efforts to raise the requisite number of the Provincial forces, proved nearly fruitless. General Amherst ordered Colonel Henry Bouquet to leave Fort Bedford in order to give support to Fort Pitt. Bouquet's forces then constituted the shattered remains of several regiments, scarcely five hundred men in all, who had lately returned from the West Indies, with several companies of Rangers from Lancaster and Cumberland counties, amounting to about two hundred men.
Fort Ligonier, at this period, was in an alarming condition, being surrounded by savages; and containing a large quantity of military stores, it was a matter of great moment to them, lest it might fall into the hands of the enemy. Apprehensive of this, Captain Oury, in command at Fort Bedford, sent twenty volunteers, good marksmen, to its aid. Learning of the perilous situation of Fort Ligonier, soon after his departure from Carlisle, and fearing the savages might capture it, and thereby be enabled from the munitions of war they would obtain there, to make a most vigorous attack on Fort Pitt, and likely demolish it before he could reach it, Col. Bouquet sent forward a party of thirty men with guides familiar with the lay of the land, who were recommended to avoid Forbes route, and thus making a skillful and forced march, succeeded in finding their way through the forests undiscovered by the wily enemy, until they came in sight of the fort, where they were intercepted by the Indians, but by their determined effort, reached the fort amidst the tumult, unhurt.
Fort Bedford at this time was also in a precarious condition and feebly garrisoned, although its force had been strengthened by the intermediate posts, being abandoned for this purpose. Many of the families for miles about collected at this fort in order to secure their safety from the enemy. Many, however, had not reached the fort when they found themselves pursued by the merciless enemy, and at whose hands some forty odd families were murdered and scalped, and many taken into captivity. The savages apparently being satisfied with this attack on the inhabitants, did not have the courage to attack the strong and defensible fort at Bedford and happily it was, too, that they did not, because there were but few inside to resist a successful attack upon it.
Colonel Bouquet now passed out of Bedford, up the Raystown Branch, with two regiments of regulars and a large convoy of military stores, to relieve the beleagured garrison at Fort Pitt. As was before stated, he found matters in a deplorable condition at Fort Bedford, and it having been reported to him that the Indians had attempted to make an attack upon this fort, he left for their protection, two companies of his army. The names of the persons killed or taken prisoners at the time above referred to, are not recorded, and we regret to say that we are unable to obtain data sufficient to establish the full particulars of this affair.
During the summer of 1764, another force for expedition purposes was organized in the settlements west of the Susquehanna and put under the command of General Bouquet, who marched by the way of Forts Bedford, Ligonier, Pitt and the Muskingum country. There he defeated the savages several times and was the means of compelling them to sue for peace. Among some of the commanders who accompanied him on this expedition were Captains James Piper, William Piper and William Proctor, gentlemen who became afterwards prominent citizens of Bedford county.
After the beginning of the peace period in 1764, after a relentless struggle with the savages for over a period of ten years, the inhabitants began to re-establish themselves, feeling secure in their new locations. They were, however, secure in the more densely inhabited places, yet at the same time, in the outlying districts were, nevertheless, subjected to the marauds of the savages. And that was not all that they had to contend with, because the line of action had brought many disreputable characters to the front who were not content to seek a livelihood by any honest means, but preferred to eke out an existence by robbing and plundering the pack trains traveling from place to place, and as an illustration of this, we have the widely known history of the "Black Boys" who infested the path from Forts Loudoun to Bedford. Much of this comes from that intrepid and daring frontiersman, James Smith, who had been captured by the Indians and carried out into the western country, returning to his native place where he assumed command of a company under Colonel Armstrong and was in Bedford, with positions of honor and trust which he held, subsequently, he living to relate an interesting narrative, of which there is much data at hand. The affairs of the "Black Boys" largely led them into the exercise of their reckless proclivities in and about Fort Bedford and much of the surrounding country. Capt. Smith later held a commission in the American army when fighting for independence. He was a daring man and served his country in the behalf of redressing wrongs upon aggrieved settlers, harrassing the British and unscrupulous Indian traders for furnishing arms to the red men. His popularity in this vicinity was attested by the fact that at his trial for alleged lawlessness, he was acquitted upon appeal of about seven hundred of the neighboring settlers. He held a colonelcy prior to his death.
The history of this fort was celebrated in this that it was honored by the presence of such distinguished military celebrities as Forbes, Washington, Bouquet, Armstrong, Burd, and an army of some six or seven thousand men, surrounded by quarters for officers, barracks and a number of shanties for the traders and other camp followers. This fort stood upon the grounds bounded north by Raystown branch, east by Richard, south by Pitt and west by Juliana streets. It embraced about seven thousand square yards and besides its five bastions—places for the use of swivel guns—it had a "Gallery with loop-holes" extending from the central bastion on its north front to the water's edge, in order to secure the water and secure the banks of the stream. The main gate was on the south side and parallel with the southern rampart, ran Forbes road or avenue, now known as Pitt street. There was also a smaller gate on the west side and a postern gate opening northward. Ample quarters for the officers and men composing the garrison were arranged inside, but the storehouse and hospital buildings were situated outside and to the southward of the front of the fort. While as already mentioned the traders houses were located about one hundred yards to the southwestward. The manner of construction of this stockade or like stockades, at that period was as follows: Around the area to be enclosed a ditch was dug, to the depth of four or five feet. In this oak logs or logs of some other kind of timber, not easily set on fire, or cut through, about eighteen feet long and pointed at the top, were placed side by side in an upright position. Two sides of the logs or stockados, as they were termed in those days, were hewn flat and the sides were brought close together and fastened securely near the top by horizontal pieces of timber, spiked or pinned upon their inner side, so as to make the whole work continuous, firm and staunch. The ditch having been filled up again, and the loose earth well rammed down about the base of the stockado, platforms were constructed all around the inner side of the enclosure, some four or five feet from the ground, and upon these, in case of an attack, the garrison stood and fired through loop-holes cut at the requisite height above the platforms. For the swivel guns, port-holes were cut on either side of the bastions. Fort Bedford was also protected on the south and west side by a moat about eight feet deep, ten feet wide at the bottom, and fifteen feet wide at the, top. The great mass of earth taken from the ditch was thrown outward and the same being graded down into an easy slope, formed the glacis.
The near proximity of the stream on the north and the peculiar formation of the original surface of the ground on the east front of the fort precluded as well as rendered unnecessary the construction of a fosse or moat on those sides. In a word, the site of Fort Bedford was an admirable one and the fort itself was strongly and very regularly constructed. Built by the vanguard of Forbes army in the summer of 1758, it had become a ruin before the beginning of the Revolutionary struggle and was never rebuilt.
As first related, that Ray was the first settler in that section, we have data showing that with him came one Garrett Pendergrass, who, by consent of the chiefs of the Six Nations, took up his settlement at this place, made improvements, and it was supposed that he did a thriving business with the Indian traders, and set up his claim for three hundred acres of land, which included the three springs, but by an account furnished later, on account of the French and Indian wars, he sought safety at some other point eastward.
The next person that we have some account of is William Fraser, being the first child born in Raystown. The town of Bedford was laid out by Lukens, the Surveyor General. The State will, doubtless, suitably mark the place of this fort.
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