Forbes, John

Forbes, John, 1710–59, British general in the French and Indian Wars, b. Scotland. He entered the British army in 1735, won distinction and promotion in the War of the Austrian Succession, and in 1757 was made a colonel and was sent to reinforce the expedition against Louisburg, Nova Scotia. Courageous, thorough, and particularly able as a quartermaster, he was promoted (Dec., 1757) to brigadier general (in America only) and assigned to command an expedition to take Fort Duquesne, the French stronghold at the forks of the Ohio River. Forbes decided not to use the road that Gen. Edward Braddock had taken to his disastrous defeat on the same mission in 1755. Instead he moved (1758) his force of nearly 7,000 men in short stages through W Pennsylvania, establishing successive depots as he went. West of Raytown (now Bedford) he cut a wagon road over the Alleghenies, which, later known as Forbes Road, became a chief highway of Western migration. An advance column under Major James Grant was severely repulsed by the French on the night of Sept. 13–14 while making a reconnaissance in force. However, French and Native American prisoners captured in a subsequent skirmish (Nov. 12) revealed that the French were weak. George Washington was given command of one of the three brigades into which Forbes then divided his army to assure fullest mobility in a quick thrust at Duquesne. But the French garrison decamped (Nov. 24), and Forbes occupied the burned fort on Nov. 25 without further fighting, promptly renaming it Fort Pitt (whence Pittsburgh).

See A. P. James, ed., Writings of General John Forbes Relating to His Service in North America (1938, repr. 1971).

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