The collection contains the two-page letter with the hand-drawn plan of Fort Duquesne on the verso of the letter, written by Robert Stobo to Colonel James Innes, pressing for an attack of the fort by British colonial and Indian forces. There is also an early manuscript (clerical) copy of the letter and plan, in addition to a typed transcription of the letter.
Robert Stobo wrote two letters during his captivity at Fort Duquesne by the French. This first letter -- the one in the Darlington collection -- is dated July 28, 1754. The other is dated July 29 which can be found in the Pennsylvania State Archives. On the verso of the first letter, Stobo sketched a detailed plan of the fort. Evidence suggests he also made a copy of the first letter in case the original was intercepted. It is this second copy that is found in the Darlington collection. The location of the original is unknown.
Stobo smuggled the letters out of Fort Duquesne by way of friendly Indians 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. An Indian, named Moses, delivered the letter in this collection to Will's Creek, but he did not give it directly to Colonel Innes first, but rather to George Croghan, whom he knew and hoped to receive a reward. Croghan opened the letter himself and proceeded to make several copies. Innes received the second letter (July 29th) before he received the one from July 28th.
The July 28th letter describes the concerns of the Shanoe (Shawnee) Indians about the alleged imprisonment of two of their "kings and 300 warriors." Stobo communicates the plight of the Shanoe left in the villages who are vulnerable to raids from Cheroquees (Cherokees) and Cotabes. Stobo describes the competing English and French attempts to ally themselves with the Shanoe. At the time of writing, the Shanoe council is deliberating on the matter.
The remainder of the letter describes the number and movement of French troops at Fort Duquesne. On the reverse of the letter is a map of the fort and its environs. The map shows the Ohio and Monongahela rivers with the Allegheny River drawn but not identified by name. A descriptive legend translates letters and numbers depicted on the diagram of the fort revealing the location of arms and embankments. The map indicates a half mile of cornfields and woods beyond the fort. Stobo closes with an optimistic assessment of the British position, stating that one hundred Indians could take the fort by autumn.
According to author Walter R. Borneman, Stobo's letter was found in General Edward Braddock's trunk and returned to Fort Duquesne after the defeat of Braddock by the French and Indians on July 9, 1755 at the Battle of Monongahela. However, evidence suggests from a detailed textual and handwriting analysis conducted by a E[mily] Driscoll, a manuscript dealer in New York City in the 1960s, it was a copy of the letter given to General Braddock by Colonel Innes when Braddock set off on his engagement. While it has been presumed that Braddock carried the original letter that Stobo penned, the analysis conducted by Driscoll suggests otherwise.
By making detailed comparisons, Driscoll claims that the copy given to Braddock and now held at the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec is not the original letter penned by Stobo but a copy. It is believed that the first version of Stobo's July 28th letter is in the hands of a private collector while the copy Stobo made himself was acquired by William Darlington along with one of the clerical copies made by Innes' staff. In Robert C. Albert's book,
The Most Extraordinary Adventures of Major Robert Stobo (1965), he cites in a footnote that five copies of the letter are known to exist: "two in the University of Pittsburgh's Darlington Library, one in the State Archives in Harrisburg, Pa., one in the library of Mr. George Spannuth in Pottsville, Pa., and one (presumably the original) in the old Court House Archives in Montreal." Again evidence suggests that the original is actually not in Canada but in the hands of a private owner.