With the fall of Presqu’isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, the trade-route between Lake Erie and Fort Pitt was closed. Save for Detroit, Niagara, and Pitt, not a British fort remained in the great hinterland; and the soldiers at these three strong positions could leave the shelter of the palisades only at the risk of their lives. Meanwhile, the frontiers of the British settlements, as well as the forts, were being raided. Homes were burnt and the inmates massacred. Traders were plundered and slain. From the eastern slopes of the Alleghanies to the Mississippi no British life was safe.
THE RELIEF OF FORT PITT
On the tongue of land at the confluence of the Monongahela and Aheghany rivers stood Fort Pitt, on the site of the old French fort Duquesne. It was remote from any centre of population, but was favourably situated for defence, and so strongly garrisoned that those in charge of it had little to fear from any attempts of the Indians to capture it. Floods had recently destroyed part of the ramparts, but these had been repaired and a parapet of logs raised above them.
Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a Swiss soldier in the service of Great Britain and an officer of keen intelligence and tried courage, was in charge of Fort Pitt. He knew the Indians. He had quickly realized that danger threatened his wilderness post, and had left nothing undone to make it secure. On the fourth day of May, Ecuyer had written to Colonel Henry Bouquet, who was stationed at Philadelphia, saying that he had received word from Gladwyn that he ‘was surrounded by rascals.’ Ecuyer did not treat this alarm lightly. He not only repaired the ramparts and made them stronger, but also erected palisades within them to surround the dwellings. Everything near the fort that could give shelter to a lurking foe was levelled to the ground. There were in Fort Pitt at this time about a hundred women and their children—families of settlers who had come to the fertile Ohio valley to take up homes. These were provided with shelter in houses made shot-proof. Small-pox had broken out in the garrison, and a hospital was prepared under the drawbridge, where the patients in time of siege would be in no danger from musket-balls or arrows. But the best defence of Fort Pitt was the capacity of Ecuyer—brave, humorous, foresighted; a host in himself—giving courage to his men and making even the women and children think lightly of the power of the Indians.
It was nearly three weeks after the siege of Detroit had begun that the savages appeared in force about Fort Pitt. On May 27 a large band of Indians came down the Alleghany bearing packs of furs, in payment for which they demanded guns, knives, tomahawks, powder, and shot, and would take nothing else. Soon after their departure word was brought to Ecuyer of the murder of some traders and settlers not far from the fort. From that time until the beginning