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Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch


Robert Stobo (1727-1770) was a Scottish-born officer in the Virginia Regiment who was promoted to the rank of captain by Robert Dinwiddie (1693-1770), the Lieutenant-Governor of Colonial of Virginia, on March 5, 1754. Robert Stobo arrived at the Forks of the Ohio in early April 1754 with additional troops and orders to assist with the construction of the British fort, which was to be named Fort Prince George. On April 17, 1754, Ensign Edward Ward (c. 1726-1793) was forced to surrender the British fort under construction to the captain of the French forces in the Ohio Valley, Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Controeur (1705-1775). The French immediately began construction of their fort at the site, which they named Fort Duquesne.

On May 28, 1754, George Washington and the Seneca Indian leader Tanacharison (c. 1700?-1754), with their colonial militia and Indian forces, attacked and defeated the French force led by Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville (1718-1754) in the Battle of Jumonville Glen, in which Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville was killed. A few weeks later on July 3, 1754, overwhelming French forces led by Jumonville’s brother, Louis Coulon de Villiers (1710-1757), forced the surrender of George Washington and the Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Fort Necessity. This engagement was also known as the Battle of Great Meadows, and is considered one of the first battles of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Washington agreed to the surrender terms of Louis Coulon de Villiers in which Washington’s two captains, Robert Stobo and Jacob Van Braam (b. 1727), were taken as prisoners of war to the French Fort Duquesne on July 8, 1754. Robert Stobo and Jacob Van Braam were to be returned during a prisoner exchange of the 21 French soldiers held by Washington since the Battle of Jumonville Glen. During this captivity, Captain Stobo was promoted to Major in July 1754 once Washington's superiors received word of his actions.

Held at Fort Duquesne, Stobo and Van Bramm were free to wander around the fort as "gentlemen prisoners." In doing so, Stobo began to record his observations. He wrote two letters during his captivity at Fort Duquesne. On one he sketches a diagram of Fort Duquesne on the back, including the layout of magazines, gates, ditches, drawbridge, and interior buildings (and their functions). He smuggled both letters out of Fort Duquesne and had them sent to Colonel James Innes (c. 1700-1759), the Commander-in-Chief of colonial forces in the Ohio River Valley. Colonel Innes was headquartered at Fort Cumberland on Will’s Creek during the summer of 1754. Stobo’s letter and detailed description of Fort Duquesne pressed for an attack of the fort by British colonial and Indian forces. Stobo wrote, “…for my part I wou’d Die ten thousand Deaths to have the pleasuring of possessing this Fort but one Day, they are so vain of their success at the Meadows, its worse than Death to hear them, Strike this Fall as soon as possible make the Indians ours, prevent Intilegence, get the best and its Done…”

The Indian (Moses) delivered this letter to Will's Creek, but he did not deliver the letter directly to Colonel Innes first, but rather gave it to George Croghan whom he knew and hoped to receive a reward. Croghan opened the letter himself and proceeded to make several copies. The French began to hear rumors of a letter and map smuggled from the fort, which proved to be an embarrassment to Stobo, rendering him now a spy rather than a "gentleman prisoner." Subsequently, the French moved Stobo and Van Braam to Quebec in September 1754.

As described in Robert C. Alberts' book, The Most Extraordinary Adventures of Major Robert Stobo, Stobo goes on to lead quite an adventurous life, but ended up committing suicide in London with a revolver on June 19, 1770. His burial location is unknown.