John Hains' Letter

From Camp At Race town June the 24th 1758

Reproduced by kind permission of Mark Haines

  The text which appears on the obverse side of the letter reads as follows:

I having an oppertunity to Inform you
that I am in good helth Bleテd be
the Lord for it hoping theテ few Lines
Will find you in the Same
I have Nothing Strange to inform
you of, our army is now Lying at
Race tow a bout 1 hundred ^and thirty miles from
hariテs ferrey wee Intend to Bild a
fort here in order for to Store our
Proviナons and amaniナon there will be
a party ^of men Left here to Guard the
fort and the army to march to fort Cumberland
there wee Expect a bout
12 thouヂnd men of the Province and
kings Troops and about 12 hundred
Tarekee Indians. So no more at
Preテnt But my Love to father mother
Brothers and Siフer and my Love
to all inquireing friends
Dear father your
Ever loving and Dutifull
John Hains

  On the reverse side of the letter appears the following notations:

To Mr:
Jacob Hains
Near Lancaster
theテ With Care
To Six Days of Diging
To fifteen Days work 10 50

How John Hains Came To Be At Raystown In The Summer of 1758

   During the conflict known in America as the French and Indian War, the English had attempted twice to take Fort Duquense from the French. In 1758 they determined to try a third time. For that purpose, British General John Forbes was chosen to lead a force of roughly four thousand and five hundred soldiers raised in the colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia along with fifteen hundred Highlanders and Royal Americans. Colonel George Washington, in command of the Virginians, urged General Forbes to take the trail established by General Braddock a few years earlier (perhaps to prevent the colony of Pennsylvania from obtaining its own route westward from Philadelphia). But Forbes was swayed by Henry Bouquet, the Swiss commander of the Royal Americans, who urged the cutting of a new route through southwest Pennsylvania from Raystown through Ligonier to Fort Duquense, believing it would be a shorter route, and therefore more expedient.
       The Pennsylvanian troops were organized as a regiment comprised of three battalions. Colonel James Burd commanded the Second Battalion, which was divided into fifteen companies, the third of which was commanded by Major Joseph Shippen. A detailed account of the Forbes Campaign can be read by clicking on the link below:
       For purposes of this page, it should simply be noted that the British/American army under General Forbes arrived on the 24th of November, 1758 within twelve miles of the coveted French fort at the forks of the Ohio River, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge. While encamped that evening, the British/American army could hear a series of explosions. The French, determined that the British would not have a ready-made fortification to capture, had set fire to the fort's magazine. On the 25th of November, 1758, the British marched into the still smouldering ruins of the French Fort and declared the site's name to henceforth be Pittsburgh, in honor of Britain's Prime Minister, William Pitt. While a contingent of soldiers remained at Pittsburgh to build a new fort ~ to be named Fort Pitt ~ the bulk of Forbe's army started a return march eastward.
       John Hains was enlisted in Major Joseph Shippen's Company (for a term of three years). At the age of twenty when he enlisted, John was commissioned as a Sergeant on 12 June 1757. Major Shippen's Company of Foot was a part of the Second Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Burd. A farmer, residing in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, John Hains would have marched with the army westward through Carlisle, pausing at Forts Loudoun and Littleton before arriving in the western frontier of the province of Pennsylvania. The army built a series of fortifications to serve as supply depots as they went (Loudoun, Littleton, Raystown, and Ligonier) toward present-day Pittsburgh. Not yet acquired from the Indians by treaty, the region in which John (variously, Robert) Wray (variously, Rea or Ray) had established a trading post did not yet fall under the jurisdiction of any county government. It was indeed frontier wilderness into which the young farmer from Lancaster came.
       Serving in the army in the 1750s entailed participating in various non-combat activities such as camp set-up and there would be no doubt that John Hains, sergeant though he was, would have participated along with all the other men in clearing the land and establishing the encampment. There are no records to inform us as to whether the site of the encampment was in any state of completeness when John Hains arrived. His company might have needed to cut some trees and undergrowth to clear a space for their tents, and that might have taken a day or two. The writing of letters would no doubt have had to wait until such work was finished, and the soldiers ordered to rest. As his letter was dated June 24, it is therefore possible that John Hains arrived at the site of the encampment at Raystown on the 21st or 22nd. It should be noted, at this time, that there is no way to determine if the notation written on the reverse of the letter: To Six Days of Diging and To fifteen Days work 10 50 was attributable to John Hains. It is possible that the paper on which he wrote his letter was a statement of payment of 10 shillings 50 pence due to Hains himself, but it is also just as possible that he simply used a piece of paper that was available, the notations already written on it having nothing at all to do with himself.
        John Hains was probably like all the other young men in the army making its way westward toward the forks of the Ohio. He was no doubt excited and anxious in anticipation of coming into contact with the French, but at the same time he would have been cognizant of the dangers posed by the native peoples who inhabited the frontier. He might have participated in a scouting party to determine if the encampment was safe from Indian incursion. His letter of June 24 does not hint at any apprehension on his part, though, and therefore is evidence that his company had not received any threat of violence on the part of the natives. In his letter John noted that the bulk of the army was about to march to Fort Cumberland. That would have been at present-day Cumberland, Maryland. Why the bulk of the army would intend to travel off course to Fort Cumberland is questionable. But then this is a letter written prior to such a move; it is not written in terms of already having done so. As such, the statement might simply be evidence of what John, and the other men had heard as rumors.
       The somewhat cheerful style of the letter indicates that John Hains' view of his future was that he would participate in the campaign and then return home to Lancaster County to be reunited with his father, mother, brothers and sister. But that was not to be. Sergeant John Hains did not live to see his family after writing the letter on 24 June 1758. He was killed on 13 April 1759. The circumstances surrounding his death are a mystery though. It would not have been in active conflict because there is no recorded action in western Pennsylvania on or around 13 April 1759. Perhaps he participated in a scouting party, and was waylaid and killed by Indians during such. His death is recorded with four words in the Pennsylvania Archives. A List of Lt. Colo. Shippen's Company In The Second Battalion Of The Pennsylvania Reg't recorded in 1759 noted, beside the name of John Hains: Serj't; killed 13th April.
       The date of this letter from John Hains to his family sets a substantial boundary date for the building of the fort at Raystown. Until the discovery of this letter, the date of the arrival of the British and American troops at the site of the encampment at Raystown was based on statements such as: early in July, by mid-month [July], in the summer 1758, and even during the latter part of July. It is possible that John wrote the letter on the day he arrived at the encampment at Raystown, or at least a day or two after his arrival. He does not say anything to the effect that his company had been there for a week or so. And one can easily imagine that the writing of a letter could not be accomplished while on the march. But the soldier would have wanted to write to his family as soon as possible once a camp was established. In any case, the date of 24 June 1758 is more accurate than the various assumptions of some time during July.


  About fifteen years ago, Mark Haines was in San Diego, California and shopping at an antique shop there. He noticed a letter dated 1758 from a son to his father, their surname being the same as his own, with a slight spelling variation. The letter was large ~ 8-3/4" wide and 12-3/4" long, with the main body of text on one side and a few notations on the reverse. Mr. Haines purchased the letter and then spent some time researching the names on it to see if there was some connection with his own family. Unfortunately, a connection could not be found between the John Hains or his father, Jacob Hains of the 1750s and Mark Haines of the present-day.

  In April of 2010 Mark Haines contacted Larry Smith, the webmaster of and offered a digital image of the letter for inclusion on the MotherBedford website. It was an offer too good to pass up. The possibility of the existence of a document such as this, written by a person who actually took part in the construction of Fort Raystown (later to be renamed Fort Bedford) was unthinkable. And more astounding than the mere existence of such a document was the sequence of events that brought it to attention at this time ~ the letter ending up in an antique store in San Diego, California, the chance that a customer would be in that store and notice the similarity of the writer's name and his own, and then the subsequent finding of the new owner of the letter finding a website devoted to the history of Bedford County during the Colonial and Revolutionary periods. At any point in time and place, the letter written by John Hains on a summer day in 1758 could have been destroyed and lost to history. It could have been lost while in the possession of his own family and their descendants. It could have been lost in its transport from Lancaster, Pennsylvania across the country to San Diego, California. And it could have been lost for however many years it sat in the antique store, possibly changing hands between more than one antique shop before finally ending up in the one into which Mark Haines decided to venture in the 1990s. And the letter, purchased some fifteen years ago by Mark Haines, a resident of the state of North Carolina, might have been given away or sold to some later owner who would never have made contact with the webmaster of Being given a digital image and the permission to reproduce the letter on this website is indeed a gift, the value of which can not be adequately expressed.