The Black Boys

  Indian tribes in the region had been making raids upon the white settlers on the frontier over the past few years, and the intensity of the raids had increased during the early part of 1769. Certain of the traders working in this part of the Province of Pennsylvania were supplying the Indian marauders with the goods, including powder and lead, which they needed to continue their raiding forays. The settlers were greatly angered over this activity and appealed to the British authority stationed at Fort Bedford to put a stop to it. Finding that the soldiers at Fort Bedford intended to do nothing to safeguard them, the settlers banded together under the name of the Black Boys to carry out their own form of protection: namely to attack and destroy the trader's packtrains. (The name "Black Boys" had been adopted by the citizen army which had, in 1765, banded together to attack Fort Loudon in order to secure the freedom of a group of citizens who had been arrested for being suspected of attacking and destroying a trader's shipment of goods to the Indians. Captain James Smith had led a group of volunteers to free the captured citizens; they blackened their faces with soot in order to conceal their identities and thus acquired the name of the Black Boys. Camping outside of the fort, the group captured as many soldiers as they could in the area and then traded them for the imprisoned citizens.) The group of citizen vigilantes succeeded in destroying a large quantity of lead and gunpowder, but wound up being captured and thrust into the imprisonment in the guard house at Fort Bedford by the British garrison there. Captain Smith, hearing of the Fort Bedford incident, gathered together eighteen of his original Black Boys and made preparations to free those held in the fort. The small party made their way to Fort Bedford despite being informed that the commandant of the fort was aware of their plan. He had found the idea amusing that a band of eighteen would even attempt to attack the fort and felt nothing would come of it. Smith and his men arrived outside of the fort during the night and concealed themselves near the gate. As dawn was breaking, Smith and his Black Boys made a dash through it, hidden partly by the early morning mist and took possession of the arms which were routinely stacked upon one spot in the fort's yard. While a local blacksmith was brought to free the prisoners from their legirons, the Black Boys kept watch over the British troops.

   Despite the fact that the garrison was later freed by Captain Smith and returned to the British commandant, the incident remains as the first on record in which a British fort was attacked and captured by American Rebels. This incident points toward one of the most basic of all the reasons why the majority of the settlers of Bedford County became supporters of the Patriot cause. The British forces stationed throughout the American colonies were not sympathetic to the unique problems faced by the Americans, such as the threat of Indian attack. The Americans, especially those settling on the frontier, realized that their defense from the Indians was not one of Britain's immediate concerns. The Indian incursions, encouraged by the British, that stretched into the second half of the 1780s would be this frontier region's primary preoccupation during the Revolutionary War.