Robert Stobo Letter and Plan of Fort Duquesne
Stobo, Robert, 1726-1770
July 28, 1754
0.08 linear feet (1 box)
This collection contains a French and Indian War-era letter written by Captain Robert Stobo to Colonel Innes, who were officers in the British army in the mid-18th century. Stobo writes in captivity from Fort Duquesne, describing French negotiations with the Shawnee [Shanoe] Indians, among other observations. On the reverse of the letter is a map of Fort Duquesne and its environs. The collection also contains a manuscript copy of the 1754 letter, and a transcription. Digital reproductions of the collection are available online.
ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
Finding aid prepared by Angela Manella.
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.
Collection Scope and Content Notes
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 (c. 1700-1759, pressing for an attack of the fort by British colonial and Indian forces. There is also an early manuscript copy of the letter and plan, in addition to a typed transcription of the letter.
Notes: Robert Stobo wrote two letters during his captivity at Fort Duquesne by the French. On the verso of one of those letters, he sketched a detailed plan of the fort. 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. 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.
The 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. Colonel Innes gave the letter to Braddock when he set off on his engagement. Presumably Braddock carried the orginal letter that Stobo penned since Alberts indicates that the original letter is held at the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec. He mentions that four copies of the letter are known to exist: William Darlington obtained two of them with the remaining two believed to be held in private collections.
- Cherokee Indians -- Pennsylvania -- History
- Indians of North America -- Pennsylvania -- History
- Shawnee Indians -- Pennsylvania -- History
- Fort Duquesne (Pa.) -- History
- Pittsburgh (Pa.)
- United States -- History -- French and Indian War, 1755-1763
Access and Use
Part of the original donation of William M. Darlington’s family library to the University of Pittsburgh in 1918 and 1925 by his daughters, Edith Darlington Ammon and Mary Carson Darlington.
Digital reproductions of the collection are available online.
This collection was located in the Darlington Memorial Library in the University’s Cathedral of Learning until 2007 when it was moved to the ULS Archives Service Center for processing, storage, preservation and service. However, it remains in the custodianship of the ULS Special Collections Department.
Robert Stobo Letter and Plan of Fort Duquesne, July 28, 1754, DAR.1925.05, Darlington Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh
This collection was processed by Angela Manella in August 2007.
No copyright restrictions.
- Stobo, Robert and Neville B. Craig.
Memoirs of Stobo. Pittsburgh: John S. Davidson, 1854.