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On this lovely, windy autumn day, some friends and I drove up towards the mountains of Pennsylvania to enjoy Ligonier Days at Ft Ligonier, PA. I knew we would not be able to stay long since my friends are Seniors, but we wanted to go. We arrived just in time for the re-enactment of the battle that took place at Ft. Ligonier, a turning point in the French & Indian War.

Ft Ligonier Museum

Today at the Fort Ligonier Museum visitors can see the latest exhibition about the most significant and decisive conflict of the 18th century, which Winston Churchill called the first world war. This long-term installation, The World Ablaze: An Introduction to the Seven Years’ War, represents a significant addition to the permanent collections of Fort Ligonier, especially in British, French and Native American items. READ MORE

The history of Fort Ligonier began in September 1758 and was concluded in March 1766, embracing the period of the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s War. Today, the story of this time period is told through the remarkable Fort Ligonier museum exhibits and a fully reconstructed and restored fortification. MORE HERE

By 1758, General John Forbes was assigned the daunting task of seizing Fort Duquesne, the French citadel at the forks. He ordered construction of a new road across Pennsylvania, guarded by a chain of fortifications, the final link being the “Post at Loyalhanna”, fifty miles from his objective, to serve as a supply depot and staging area for a British-American army of 5000 troops. The fort was constructed in September 1758. By late October, Washington had arrived at Loyalhanna, but not before the defeat of a British force at Fort Duquesne on September 14, and the successful defense of Loyalhanna from a French attack on October 12. Heavily outnumbered, the French abandoned Fort Duquesne, which Forbes occupied on November 25. He designated the site “Pittsburgh” in honor of Secretary of State William Pitt. Forbes also named Loyalhanna “Fort Ligonier” after his superior, Sir John Ligonier, commander in chief in Great Britain.

Brigadier General John Forbes gave his name to a challenging military campaign and to a remarkable road. Follow the Forbes Trail through Pennsylvania’s history.

"British soldiers manning the Fort!"

On the grounds of the Fort you will find a living history encampment showing frontier life, military tactics, drills, cannon firing, ceremonies, Highlanders, redcoats, French troops, frontier men and women, Indians and music from 1758. (Ft Ligonier website)

The fourth and final French and Indian War, fought between Britain and France over control of North America, that eventually became part of the Seven Years War. The French had colonies in Canada and Lousiana, and were attempting to link them by taking control of the Ohio Valley. This would have encircled the British colonies on the coast, and stopped any expansion on their part. The war begin with conflict between the French in the Ohio Valley and the Virginians, led by George Washington, who was forced to withdraw by the French. The war started well for the French. A British campaign in 1755 led by General Braddock met with disaster, and saw the death of Braddock, while 1756 saw the French led by General de Montcalm captured Fort Oswego and Fort George and 1757 saw the fall of Fort William Henry. The war turned in 1758, first with the capture of Louisburg and then Fort Ticonderoga, followed on 13 September 1759 by the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (Canada), in which General de Montcalm was killed and by the fall of Quebec on 18 September. Finally the French lost Montreal (8 September 1760), ending their interest in Canada, and removing the French threat to the American colonies. The British occupation of Canada was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris (1763).

French & Indians VS British

After General John Forbes arrived at the Post at Loyalhanna, later known as Fort Ligonier, in early November 1758, he decided to spend the winter here. Intelligence gathered on the day of a friendly fire incident, however, prompted him to change this strategy.

George Washington in 1772

At dusk on November 12, Colonel George Washington, then 26 years of age, led on foot a detachment of 500 Virginia soldiers from Fort Ligonier. Shortly afterward, Lieutenant Colonel George Mercer led an additional 500 men by a different route. The two leaders planned to surround a force of 140 French and Native American warriors which, they believed, was trying to steal the British army’s cattle and horses. Three prisoners were captured; the rest withdrew to Fort Duquesne, 50 miles to the west.

Soon, the two Virginia units encountered each other in the darkness, and, mistaking each other for the enemy, engaged in friendly fire that killed or left missing 38 soldiers and two officers. Intelligence gathered from the prisoners indicated that Fort Duquesne was weak. Forbes accordingly countermanded his orders and led 2,500 troops, including Washington, to the forks of the Ohio River. Fort Duquesne, blown up and abandoned by the French, was captured on November 25, 1758 and renamed Pittsburgh by Forbes. He also renamed the Post at Loyalhanna, Fort Ligonier.

The Seven Years War was the first global conflict. It had two main fronts. The first, in Europe, was the hostility between Prussia and Austria, still simmering after the War of the Austrian Succession , which expanded through alliances to include all of Europe. The second was the colonial rivalries between Britain, France and Spain, known in America as the French and Indian War, which begin in 1754 with conflict over control of the Ohio valley. The Seven Years War started in a flurry of diplomatic activity which resulted in a diplomatic revolution and the reversal of the alliances of the War of the Austrian Succession. First Britain and Prussia formed an alliance (January 1756), followed by France and Austria, who had been traditional enemies. The fighting started with Frederick II of Prussia‘s invasion and defeat of Saxony (August-October 1756), although the main conflict did not start until the following year. MORE HISTORY HERE

View of the Fort from the town of Ligonier

Our overcast, blustery morning, broke into beautiful, sunny day, just as the battle got underway. We had a lovely time learning more about our local history. The Pittsburgh area boasts many local historical sites, Ft Ligonier is just one!