Forts, Forests, and Flintlocks

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  • Item #: 9781620065136
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Frontier Pennsylvania Series

As the officer in charge at Hyndshaw’s Fort in the Pocono Mountains, Captain John Van Etten knew that few Indian war parties raided the settlements during the snowy winter months, but that warm spring weather often signaled the sudden onslaught of Indian attacks.

The captain himself was wary, and he made it a point to keep his troops on their guard. He had good reason for this. The morning of May 7, 1757, for instance, he learned that while on sentry duty during the night, some of his men had observed “that the dogs kept an unusual barking and running to a particular place … ” With daylight, the soldiers ventured out to investigate “and found that an Indian had stood behind a tree about 25 yards from the fort. Being told, I went to see and found it true, his tracks being visible enough to be seen.”

John L. Moore’s non-fiction book contains true stories of Van Etten and other real people caught up in the struggles that took place all along the Pennsylvania frontier throughout the 1700s. Other chapters tell how:

  • Blacksmith Anton Schmidt repaired guns for Indian hunters who came to the Moravian mission at Shamokin. He knew Chief Shikellamy, the Iroquois territorial governor who lived in the town at present-day Sunbury. When Shikellamy died in 1748, carpenters at the mission made a wooden coffin for him, and Schmidt was one of four men who carried the old chief to his grave. Seven years later, as Indian attacks shattered the long peace that William Penn had established in 1681, the blacksmith guided a small military force headed by Benjamin Franklin from Philadelphia over muddy country roads to Bethlehem, where the Moravian Church was based. Franklin’s column included a wagon carrying firearms for settlers to use against enemy Indians. It also transported equipment for building stockade forts in the mountains.
  • Major James Burd, the commandant at Fort Augusta, welcomed a delegation of Iroquois leaders. In March 1757, they came down the Susquehanna River’s North Branch in a fleet of fifteen canoes and three flat-bottom boats. The visitors ““informed me that there was 800 French and Indians marched from Fort Duquesne against this fort, and they were actually arrived at the head of the West Branch of this river, and were there making canoes and would come down as soon as they were made.” To Burd’s relief, no such invasion ever occurred.
  • Captain Patrick Work, a Pennsylvania officer who in October 1757 was marching his troops along a forest trail that crossed Peters Mountain north of present-day Harrisburg. As they reached the top of the ridge, “the advance guard, consisting of a sergeant and 12 men, discovered a party of Indians … Our party advanced supposing them to be friends until they came within about a hundred yards, when the Indians fired upon them, which was returned briskly by our men.”

The author uses journals, letters, official reports and other first-person accounts to portray the frontiersmen and the events and conflicts in which they were involved. The stories are set mainly in the valleys of the Delaware, Juniata, Lehigh, Ohio and Susquehanna rivers.  

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John L. Moore, a veteran newspaperman, said he employed a journalist’s eye for detail and ear for quotes in order to write about long-dead people in a lively way. He said his books are based on 18th and 19th century letters, journals, memoirs and transcripts of official proceedings such as interrogations, depositions and treaties.

The author is also a professional storyteller who specializes in dramatic episodes from Pennsylvania’s colonial history. Dressed in 18th century clothing, he does storytelling in the persona of “Susquehanna Jack,” a frontier ruffian. Moore is available weekdays, weekends and evenings for audiences and organizations of all types and sizes.

Moore has participated in several archaeological excavations of Native American sites. These include the Village of Nain, Bethlehem; the City Island project in Harrisburg, conducted by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission during the 1990s; and a Bloomsburg University dig in 1999 at a Native American site near Nescopeck. He also took part in a 1963 excavation conducted by the New Jersey State Museum along the Delaware River north of Worthington State Forest.

Moore’s 45-year career in journalism included stints as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal; as a Harrisburg-based legislative correspondent for Ottaway News Service; as managing editor of The Sentinel at Lewistown; as editorial page editor and managing editor at The Daily Item in Sunbury; and as editor of the Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal in Bethlehem.

8 x 5 perfect bound

Cover art by Andrew Knez, Jr.

106 pages w/maps and illustrations

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