A Letter From The Fort at No. 4

The Fort at No. 4 - We ask your indulgence to print here exerpts from a letter recently received from one of our correspondents who resides on the North River, a branch of the Cacapehon, but who in relation to urgent business for the Regiment has lately journeyed northward to the upper limits of the Colony of Massachusetts.  There he had the good fortune to witness an event of some import to the citizens of the community at No. 4 on the east bank of the Connecticut River as the militia of that area was summoned to gather for its annual training at the Fort.  The French and Indian War has reached to the extremities of our colonies, and we wish to share with you encouraging information about our northern brothers and their valiant defense.

"Dear Virginia Friends,

    The Fort at No. 4 is a stockaded village of several buildings, lean-tos, watch tower and a Great Hall.  It was first constructed about the year 1744.  Herein live the inhabitants who farm and work in the area outside the stockade.  In times of danger from the vile Indians who side with the French in this war, all citizens of the neighborhood rush to the Fort to find safety and solice.

    There are several features of this fort that one might find unusual, but which are occassioned by the cold and bitter climate of the high latitudes.  Unlike our Virginia stockades, the Fort at No. 4 has wide spaced stockade walls that allow the heavy snows of their winters to blow through thus disallowing any enemy of climbing over the wall in the event of heavy drifting snow.  Due to this method of construction the buildings within are spaced shoulder-to-shoulder to provide a solid wall of protection.  This occassions the placement of some armaments within the houses themselves that will be fired either over the walls or through the openings in the stockage posts.   It is not often that one would expect to find a swivel gun in one's bed chamber, but here it is a necessity.

    As one finds in some of our well situated forts, there is adequate water to be had as there is a well located within the fort itself.   This makes life within the fort more comfortable and is a great help to those who are given the task of insuring everyone is well supplied with bread and other essentials.  Of course, the soldiers who serve in the militia are suppled their share of bread that is  freshly baked in the fort's oven on a timely basis.

    The fort at No. 4 also has some gardens within musket range of the walls so that they can be protected from those within in the event of any enemy attack.  The growing season in these northern latitudes is much shorter than the long summer of our pleasant Virginia frontier,  but they still manage to grow a generous supply of corn and other staples for the hungry soldiers.

    The soldiers are summoned four times each year to the fort to be instructed and drilled by Captain Phineas Stevens who is a man of some education and military experience.  The Captain shows the same competance and dedication in the training of his troops as do our officers under Col. Washington.

    Although one suspects that the Captain has some difficulty with some of the men of lower status, there did not appear to be any problem with discipline that the officers and sergeants could not handle with some firm action.  The Captain takes much time to instruct the men in the finer points of their soldier's skills, and he is often seen personally instructing any man who may need a little more time to grasp the intricate manuevers of handling a flintlock. Of course, the officers are aware that these weapons may prove dangerous to the unskilled men who make up the militia. That is why training is of such import.

    When the Captain feels that the men have been properly drilled in the handling of their firearms, the corporal passes out the proper amount of powder and shot, and the men are formed in a line to insure that the firearms are in proper firing order.  After a proper drum roll the order to fire is given and the men as though moved with a singular resolve discharge their arms with great precision.  Everyone within the walls of the fort is amazed at the orderliness of the men as the singular sound of the firing in unison resounds within the wooden walls of the fort.

    However this sound is but small compared with that from the firing demonstration that occurrs after the men move out of the fort.  Should the French or their Indian allies attemtp to attach this fort everyone knows his assigned task as the heavy cannon is quickly rolled out to be fired across the river.  These soldiers are not ones to be constrained by the safe walls of a fort, but they are ready to sally forth and pursue any enemy that is unfortunate enough to attack and lay seige to them.  As each man takes his assigned position and the great gun is loaded with shot and powder the air is filled with expectancy.  On the order of the gunnery officer the the lighted tallow is brought forth and held to the fuse.  In a moment the pleasant valley of the Connecticut River is filled with the  roar of the mighty cannon.  It is a fitting finale to the military exercises and is designed to send to all men, both friend and foe, the signal that these stalwart men of Massachusetts are prepared to face any enemy.

    The rest of the day is spent in time to relax and strengthen friendships made but not practiced since the last gathering of the militia. 
One can not but be impressed with the courage and resolve of the men of this colony both citizen and soldier.  Their skills at their tasks and their resolve to portect their frontier settlement  is reminescent of what one finds on our Virginia frontier. Let King Louis take note that all of our colonies are prepared to answer any attack his forces might be so foolish to make in this war.

I look forward to returning to my dear Virginia as soon as my business is finished.
I remain, Sir, your humble and obedient servant...."



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