Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to ——, 25 January 1756


Copy: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Fort Allen, at Gnadenhutten Jan: 25: 1756.

Dear Sir,

We got to Hays’s the same Evening we left you and reviewed Craig’s Company by the Way. Much of the next morning was spent in exchanging the bad Arms for good, Wayne’s Company having joined us. We reachd however that night to Uplinger’s,8 where we got into good Quarters.

Saturday morning we began to march towards Gnadenhutten and proceeded near two miles; but it seeming to set in for a rainy day, the Men unprovided with great Coats, and many unable to secure effectually their Arms from the wet, we thought it most adviseable to face about, and return to our former Quarters, where the Men might dry themselves and lie warm; whereas had they proceeded they would have come in wet to Gnadenhutten, where Shelter and Opportunity of drying themselves that night was uncertain. In fact it raind all day and we were all pleased that we had not proceeded. The next Day, being Sunday, we march’d hither where we arrived about 2 in the afternoon, and before 5 had inclosed our Camp with a strong Breast work, Musquet Proof, and with the Boards brought here before by my Order from Drucker’s Mill,9 got ourselves under some Shelter from the Weather. Monday was so dark with a thick Fog all day, that we coud neither look out for a Place to build, or see where Materials were to be had. Tuesday morning we lookd round us, pitchd on a Place, markd out our Fort on the Ground, and by 10 o’Clock began to cut Timber for Stockades, and to dig the Ground. By 3 in the afternoon, the Logs were all cut and many of them halled to the Spot, the Ditch dug to set them in 3 Feet deep, and that Evening many were pointed and set up. The next Day we were hinderd by Rain most of the Day. Thursday we resumd our Work, and before night were pretty well enclosed, and on Friday morning the Stockado was finished, and Part of the Platform within erected, which was compleated the next morning, when we dismissd Foulk’s and Wetterholt’s Companies, and sent Hays’s down for a Convoy of Provisions.1 This Day we hoisted your Flag,2 made a general Discharge of our Pieces, which had been long loaded, and of our two Swivels, and named the Place Fort Allen in Honor of our old Friend.3 It is 125 Feet long, 50 wide, the Stockadoes most of them a Foot thick, they are 3 Foot in the Ground and 12 Feet out, pointed at the Top, the Figure nearly as follows.

This is an Account of our Weeks Work, which I thought might give you some Satisfaction.

Foulk is gone to build another, between this and Schuylkill Fort, which I hope will be finished (as Trexler is to join him) in a Week or 10 Days.4 As soon as Hays returns, I shall detach another Party to erect another at Surfas’s,5 which I hope may be finished in the same Time, and then I purpose to end my Campaign, God willing, and do myself the Pleasure of seeing you in my Return. I can now add no more than that I am with great Esteem and Affection Dear Friend Yours affectionately

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7This letter is entered in full in the MS Journal of the Provincial Council, together with BF’s letter to Morris of January 26, as “Two Letters from Mr. Franklin” read at the meeting of Jan. 30, 1756. Following the signature in the copy are the words: “The Honourable Robert Hunter Morris Esquire.” Cf. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 15–16. The informal, affectionate terms of the closing, the repetition of much of the information in this letter in that to Morris of the next day, and the indication in the first sentence that the addressee had been in Bethlehem on the 15th, when Morris was in Carlisle, make it impossible that this letter was to him. The likelihood is that whoever received it (possibly some person with civil or military responsibility in Northampton Co., such as William Parsons) redirected it to Morris for his information.

8The inn of Nicklasz Oblinger (Uplinger, Obblinger), just north of the Lehigh Gap, at the site of the present Palmerton; later garrisoned by small military detachments. Hunter, Forts, pp. 293–4. For officers mentioned in this letter see above, pp. 343–7. A more detailed account of this march and of the building of Fort Allen, by a participant, is printed below, p. 380.

9Usually Trucker’s or Kern’s Mill, three miles south of the Lehigh Gap, at the site of the present Slatington; later also fortified. Hunter, Forts, pp. 289–93.

1In his autobiography BF commented further on the fort-building: “The next Morning our Fort was plann’d and mark’d out, the Circumference measuring 455 feet, which would require as many Palisades to be made of Trees one with another of a Foot Diameter each. Our Axes, of which we had 70 were immediately set to work, to cut down Trees; and our Men being dextrous in the Use of them, great Dispatch was made. … Each Pine made three Palisades of 18 Feet long, pointed at one End. While these were preparing, our other Men, dug a Trench all round of three feet deep in which the Palisades were to be planted, and our Waggons, the Body being taken off, and the fore and hind Wheels separated by taking out the Pin which united the two Parts of the Perch, we had 10 Carriages with two Horses each, to bring the Palisades from the Woods to the Spot. When they were set up, our Carpenters built a Stage of Boards all round within, about 6 Feet high, for the Men to stand on when to fire thro’ the Loopholes. We had one swivel Gun which we mounted on one of the Angles; and fired it as soon as fix’d, to let the Indians know, if any were within hearing, that we had such Pieces, and thus our Fort, (if such a magnificent Name may be given to so miserable a Stockade) was finished in a Week, tho’ it rain’d so hard every other Day that the Men could not work.” Par. Text edit., pp. 366–8.

2BF wrote the next day that the British flag was raised over the fort.

3Chief Justice William Allen. See above, III, 296–7.

4That is, the companies of Capts. Foulke and Trexler were to build a fort between Fort Lebanon on the Schuylkill River and Fort Allen. The new fort, later named Fort Franklin, was just north of the Blue Mountains, near present-day Snyders.

5BF sent Captains Hays and Arndt to join Trump in the construction of Fort Norris, about fifteen miles east of Fort Allen, in the valley north of the Blue Mountains. An interesting side light on the building of this fort on the Serfas (Survas, etc.) farm is found in the journal of Samuel Preston (1787), a surveyor, who had this account of it from Mary Catherine, widow of Johann Philip Serfas (d. 1786), a settler in the region in 1754: “The first Indian war broke out and they [Serfas and his family] saw some few Indians but received no damage, until the soldiers came there to build a fort. The Commissary was scant of provision and took all they had for the soldiers, and sent them off empty handed to seek their fortunes. They were gone eight years, during which time all their buildings were burned as well as fences, and the fields and meadows overgrown with bush, and as hard to clear as at first. Since then they were driven off by the Indians three times and met with like losses.” PMHB, XXII (1898), 352; Abraham Reincke, “A Register of the Members of the Moravian Church … 1727–1754,” Moravian Hist. Soc., Trans., I (1873), 379. An apparent contradiction of at least part of this story is found, however, in the Nazareth Moravian Diary that a “Servas family, nine in number,” had been refugees in Nazareth from Dec. 11, 1755, to April 11, 1756, and then returned “home over the mountain.” PMHB, XXXIX (1915), 352. But this may have been another family of the same name.

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