Fort Necessity If ever there was an aptly named fort, this certainly was it. Constructed by the young George Washington in 1754 it was with the certainty that the French and their Indian allies would be coming to seek revenge for the massacre of their compatriots by the British at Jumonville Glen. That particular incident was to haunt Washington for the rest of his life and to leave him with the certainty that he caused the French and Indian War to escalate into a global conflict. A single conflict between two groups of soldiers both itching for a fight had repercussions felt round the world.
What happened at Fort Necessity was a defeat for the English and a much needed victory for the French. On July 3, 1754, after a one day battle, Washington surrendered the Fort and as part of the surrender was required to sign a document that admitted his part in the massacre at Jumonville Glen, calling it an assassination. Washington always claimed he was told that it translated as death or killing but the French had a powerful weapon and they used it.
Today Fort Necessity, Jumonville Glen, Braddock’s Grave, and Mt. Washington’s Tavern are all part of the Park Department and are close enough to all be visited at one time.
Mt. Washington Tavern is located on route 40 and shortly after it you turn down and drive into the woods to find the visitor center. In the visitor center there is a film to watch which last about a half hour. There are also live interpreters who give talks at different times during the day. Be sure to check the schedule with the rangers in the visitor center. There is also a very nice museum at the visitor center.
The Tavern closes the earliest so we went there first. You can walk through the woods or there is a parking lot close to the Tavern. This has nothing really to do with Fort Necessity but it is interesting nonetheless. It was a stage stop on the national Road and you get to see what the sleeping, eating, and drinking arrangement would have been like. There are guides inside to answer any questions you may have.
We tried to time everything perfectly so we went next to listen to the interpreter who was a French soldier in our case. I found this of particular interest since I lost a French Ancestor in the French and Indian War. We were sitting out in the woods so wear bug spray on trees and we had to walk down a dirt path through the woods. You will see a reconstruction of the fort off on your right. Try to listen to the interpreter, he was fascinating and very interactive with the children in our group. His talk lasts about a half hour.
After sitting in the heat it was nice to watch the movie in an air-conditioned theater.
Braddocks Grave is located a couple of miles down route 40 from Fort Necessity. General Edward Braddock was a career soldier. He had 45 years of military service when he was assigned the task of taking Fort Duquesne which is located where on the point of land where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet, in other words today’s Pittsburgh. The General came with two regiments infantry and with the colonials forces and some Indians he had 2,400 men. One of the Colonials was George Washington. They organized in Maryland and headed out on the road that Washington had blazed the previous year. Washington’s road however was not wide enough to accommodate the wagons and the artillery that Braddock had with him so they had to begin by creating a better road (this is the beginnings of the national Highway).
This was slow work and it resulted in the army splitting and only part moving ahead. The consequence was a resounding defeat by the French. Of the 1,400 men engaged in this battle 900 died (casualties on the British side). Many officers were killed and general Braddock was fatally wounded. The troupes retreated taking their wounded General with them. They retreated back to near Great Meadow. General Braddock died 4 days later and was buried in the middle of the road he had built with George Washington saying the committal service. The men then road their horses and wagons over the grave to hide it.
Fifty years later human bones were found where Braddock was supposed to have been buried and they were taken and interred on a small knoll nearby and the monument that you see today was erected in 1913.
The monument is close enough to the road to see when driving by. There is a parking lot and as you go down the stairs look to the right. You will see a path leading into the woods and if you follow it , you will arrive at the spot where the General was originally buried.
If you are in the mood for more you can follow the signs to Jumonville Glen and walk to the spot where the French and Indian War really began. When we got there it had already closed so we were not able to walk to the spot. We did however read all the available plaques.