Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trip to Morgantown WV - Fort Necessity

Fort Necessity from the location of the 1754 tree line.
Tuesday was a big day.  I did some exploring in the morning and then went to Braden's high school soccer game that night.  In between I went to Brady's football practice.  Brendan lost a temporary crown from a front tooth and had to get to a dentist for repair.  Picked up lunch at a restaurant and went to the model where Eileen was working that day.  Whew!

Anyway, my morning adventures led to Fort Necessity, the site of an 1754 defeat of Virginian and English troops by the French.  This was the second battle of what would be come known in North America as the French Indian War but which Europe knew as the Seven Years War.   It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines.  It is considered by most historians as the first Global War in modern times.  Deaths have been estimated to be 900,000 to 1,400,000.  It established England as the dominant global power especially in North America.  

Jumonville Glen where the first global war began.
As impressive as that sounds and was, the war actually started in a remote mountain glen in southern Pennsylvania close to the West Virginia border.  In 1754, Lt. Colonel George Washington with a Virginia Regiment entered the area near Chestnut Ridge in Pennsylvania to work on opening up a military road.  When informed by friendly Senecas of the location of a group of 30 French soldiers encamped at the base of bluff, Washington took 40 men and engaged them.  All the French were killed or captured but one escaped and informed the French garrison at Fort Duquesne (modern day Pittsburgh) of the attack.
The storehouse inside the palisade

 Washington was very aware that French would seek revenge for the attack and especially for the brutal killing and scalping of the commander by the Senecas.  He returned to his base camp in Great Meadow and hastily constructed Fort Necessity.  He and 400 men awaited the attack which came on July 3 by 600 French and 100 Indians.

While the circular palisaded fort was constructed according to prevailing military standards, it had two disastrous liabilities.  It was too close to the surrounding woods providing the French dense cover for assaults without exposing themselves.  Second, it was built on the low ground of a marshy meadow.
The earthworks outside the palisade
While excavations were easy, they were subject to dampness and in the heavy and steady rain on the day of the battle they filled with water.  Conditions were dismal and when the French offered terms of surrender, Washington took them and marched out the next day and back to Virginia.  The French burnt the fort to the ground and returned to Fort Duqesne.

A year later as the global war ignited by this battle was well underway, Washington returned to the area as an aide-de-camp to General Edward Braddock who led an English force of 2,400 men with orders to attack the French at Fort Duqesne. The resulting battle was a defeat for the English with Braddock receiving mortal wounds and dying four days later within half a mile of the site of Fort Necessity.  

Memorial to General Edward Braddock
To prevent desecration by the Indians, Washington had Braddock's body buried in the middle of the military road--later known as Braddock's road--and then had the entire army march over that spot to hide its location.  The remains were discovered in 1804 by workmen and the remains were reburied on a knoll at the side of what became The National Road and later U.S. Route 40.

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