Right at the start, I want to get it in that I am in the process of celebrating...
WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY! God bless him.
Now, I hope you are at least aware of the holiday for what still matters to some people. The story of Fort Necessity fits the occasion almost down to a tee.
All the visitors to the site are sincerely appreciated and I hope you are all doing fine.
As is natural, we have broadened out over the years in to various area of interest. But, since we have gone some months without a new post specifically concerning those events in old Westmoreland and Fayette counties of southwestern Pennsylvania which originally brought the blog to your attention, I am aware of a certain impression a fair percentage of visitors are anxious to read more of our own locality. With that thought in mind, starting today, the next few posts should, with one minor exception, lead directly in that familiar and cherished territory.
On another note, further historical information of a general sort (that wasn't meant as a pun) can easily be found on an early blog posting entitled, "French and Indian War Overview." Actually, I did this one in December of 2013, that's how old it is, but hopefully not completely forgotten!
One point I continue to make is, never lose faith! 'Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History' does eventually get around to most of the promises and claims it makes in one fashion or another. You know what I say, it does take some time.
This week, we are concentrating on Fort Necessity and Washington's role in it's creation, the battle fought here, and his love of the region in purchasing the property, kept in his possession until his death.
This special reconstruction is located east of Uniontown, Wharton Township, at the Great Meadows. Go south on Route 40, you won't miss it. This is the history of the fort, as well as a commentary of how it was rebuilt and the prominent Sons of The Revolution who were instrumental in the exciting process.
In early years, Fourth of July celebrations were held there, also at the Old Orchard Camp of Braddock's Road, according to pages 11-13 of 'Fort Necessity And Historic Shrines Of The Redstone Country', which I am fortunate to own an old copy of in reasonable condition. Some of the photos included are from this vintage book.
Some historical underpinnings are required to better explain aspects of this cherished and unique structure, how the original came to exist in the past, and again in the future of this state and country.
The New Fort
The cornerstone for a monument was first laid in 1854.
In attempt to accomplish this project various bills were introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature, only to die in committee for one reason or another, mainly for a sad lack of interest.
The author of 'Historical Highways', the famous Dr. Archer Hulbert, visited the locality in 1905 finding the structue's elusive fourth side , unearthing a part of the bark believed to be from the original stockade and therefore helped to lay out the probable shape of the fort. The fort's actual position was confirmed by Rueben Gold Thwaites.
Key members of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons Of The American Revolution of Uniontown proceeded by a joint resolution of Congress, created the George Washington Bicentennial Commission on December 2, 1924 when they initially met to iron out all the details. Present were luminaries such as J. E. Hustead, who became the first President, J. C. Whaley, and others. Once the application for a Charter was made and presented, the Uniontown Country Club was secured for the Benefit and first Banquet on La Fayette's birthday, September 6, 1926. This was soon granted and approved on Lincoln's birthday, Febuary 12, 1927. Thus the Chapter was formed on the same day as the Banquet with many toasts all around.
|Early photo of the Ft. Necessity battlefield site|
The first Vice-President was Harry J. Bell, he Secretary, J. C. Whaley Sr., with the Treasurer, Homer Hess. Many other prominent officials were involved, such as the National Geographic Director, Rulef C. Schanck.
Once this took place, later the Chapter was incorporated on December 16 of the year 1930. It soon acquired 23 acres of prime real estate for the Braddock Memorial Park Association and donated a bronze tablet and $1,000 toward the restoration. Obvious it is, how urgent and important our historical data, restoration and preservation was in these heady glory days.
Interestingly, to myself, although I haven't any proof these were relatives or ancestors, original chapter members included the likes of Clarence L. Wilson and L.L. Minor, as well as Judge Hudson Allen Beeson a descendant of Henry Beeson and James Veech himself. Who knows, an ancestor may be in the mix somewhere. Possibly one of YOURS!
.The National Society of the Sons of the Revolution was called 'The Minuteman'.
Through the project's efforts they sent Dick Sherrick among others to purchase the farm of Walter Fazen Baker for the sum of $25,000. This had a large area of 234 acres for a National ans State Shrine and Park. Compatriot President Hoover signed a bill to forward this reality on March 4, 1931. On the 200th Anniversary of George Washington's birth, they successfully passed the resolution.
Altogether, the members raised a whopping $4, 550. A pretty sum back then.
The magnificent land was finally deeded to the country and especially the great State of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1932., which disbanded and dissolved the Braddock Park Memorial Commission through this endeavor.
The Great Meadows also had and still has a DAR Chapter that help look after the grounds in various ways.
|Fort Necessity monument|
On July Fourth it was once a tradition to hold old celebrations at the grove behind the Fayette Springs Hotel. By the way, the Old Orchard Cap was called Braddock Park, near where General Braddock was hastily buried and later re-buried.
A Report On The Battle of the Fort
While the French had made their claim on the Ohio River Valley region as their own and preceded to influence many of the Indian tribes and drive out English traders, a young George Washington had already been engaged in midwinter of 1753-1754, in a futile effort which supported the plans from a large land grant for the Ohio Company centered in Wills Creek, Cumberland, Maryland, as emissary to the northern french forts. The warning was, of course, unsuccessful. The efforts to build a fort at what would become Pittsburgh at the forks of the Ohio found the small Virginian force outnumbered and driven away. Fort Duquesne was built in its place. Clearly, they were here to stay.
After Colonel Washington and the Half-King Tanacharison's infamous Battle of Jumonville against likely spies, the stakes were set for the next engagement of what is known as the French and Indian War, (and in Europe, the Seven Years' War). The only battle lost by Washington, his lone surrender, and this took place on July 3, in the year, 1754. More can be learned at the Fort Necessity website of the National Park Service.
By all accounts this was a circular palisaded stockade of seven foot upright logs covered with bark and hides surrounding a small hut for ammo and various provisions made ready by early June, altogether his men came to nearly 400, while most of the Indian support had left the field. Unfortunately, the provisioning was hardly adequate. The French had as many as 700 men including their Indian allies which positioned themselves in the woods; Washington's forces remained in the drenched entrenchments with wet ammunition and meager supplies; not a situation in which to court victory.
|An engraving of Washington in Council, from the Darlington Collection|
The number of the enemy was said to be at 700, which doesn't necessarily include all the Indians on the side of the French, while with the 100 of Captain Mackay's regiment there said to be as many as were 400. The toll of the dead was thought to be 30 dead and many wounded on the British side, and as many as 300 dead for the French. This would help explain why the French were so eager to parley with the new Lieutenant-Colonel Washington for negotiations.
After the surrender, the negotiations led to a mistake in that his interpreter apparently didn't read french properly, Washington certainly could not, and the translated statement of 'killing" of Jumonville was taken to read "assassination", which Washington strongly denied. Such a condition may of been partly arranged by the leader of the french contingent and Jumonville's older brother, Louis Coulon de Villiers seeking revenge. The fort was quickly emptied. What a blow this must have been to young George, the future general and Commander in Chief! We can rest assured he never forgot any of the experience. The Fort of Necessity was then burned on July, 4.
De Villers went on to make an exciting attack on Fort Granville in the summer of 1756. He died the next year, in November, of small pox.
The next year for the colonists was to see the building of Braddock's Road and the defeat of his forces at Baaddock's Field. That would not be the last word written on the subject, not by a whole lot.
Mount Washington, the name given to the site of the battle and fort by Washington himself, was purchased by him in 1770 for the price of 35 pounds, 55 shillings. Our great general and first President owned the land until his solemn death on December 14, 1799. The Great Meadows were said by Theodore Tilton to be 'the Fountain Head of American Independence.' Who, then, would we be to argue with this bold, patriotic statement?
As of late, the habit converges on two-parters. Since that seems to works well and I haven't heard any real complaints, there is no reason it can't continue a while longer. You shouldn't have much of a problem with the subject in question because the next installment does contain a certain surprise factor. That, and the fact that the graphically intensive photo opportunities are better suited to something less than a very long post. And, hey, everything just loads quicker too. So, wait and see!
More To Come...