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Fort Ligonier

History/Guide

About the middle of the eighteenth century the European conquerors of the New World began a contest for the ownership of the vast inland basin of America. In 1749 the French sent a party down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers to claim the land for the King of France. To enforce this claim the French began to build a chain of forts from Quebec to the Mississippi, including Fort LeBoeuf, near the present site of Erie. Here Washington presented himself in December, 1753, to deliver the British challenge. Finding that conflict was inevitable, the British decided to establish a key fort at the "Forks of the Ohio," as advised by Washington. This fort was hardly begun before the garrison surrendered to a superior force of French. British arms were unavailing. Washington's unsucessful stand at Fort Necessity and Braddock's tragic defeat in 1755 left the French in complete possession for the next three years.

Finally, in 1758, the British organized their strength to drive the French from the New World by simultaneous attacks on Quebec, Crown Point, Niagura and Duquense. General Forbes, who was assigned the task of taking Fort Duquense, decided to abandon the Braddock route and extend the path westward through the forests from the recently completed Fort Bedford.

Fort Ligonier Gate PA
Fort Ligonier Palisade at Ligonier, PA
The distance to the Forks of the Ohio was too great for an army to travel without rest and reprovisioning. At the site of an Indian village called "Loyalhannon", which lay almost exactly half way from Bedford, it was decided to build a fortified camp to serve was the "staging area" for the final assault. Work was begun September 4, 1758, on this post, later to be named Fort Ligonier in honor of Sir John Ligonier, commander-in-chief of the British Army.

By mid-October, Colonel Washington, and his Virginian Regiment had joined the rapidly growing force there, but not till after the fort had already repulsed several severe attacks by the French and Indians on October 12. After resting and reprovisioning, Forbes army struck out and occupied Fort Duquesne on November 25, 1758.

Fort Ligonier served a vital purpose in our history as the "Key to the West" and it was never taken by the enemy. It served as a place of refuge for settlers through the Indian wars and, with Fort Pitt, was the only stronghold that did not fall during the Pontiac Revolt of 1763. Finally, on Bouquet's recommendation, Fort Ligonier was officially abandoned in 1765, after serving through seven colorful and eventful years.

How The Fort Was Located

Although all vestiges of the fort had disappeared more than 175 years ago, its plan and location have been definitely fixed from early military drawings and records, some of which are on display in the museum. Indisputable evidence was obtained from archaeological excavation of the site and recovery from the ground of several hundred objects which form the nucleus of the collection on exhibit.

Fort Ligonier Ramparts PA
Fort Ligonier Ramparts at Ligonier, PA

Original Appearance of Fort

Like most frontier forts of pre-Revolutionary days, Fort Ligonier was a simple structure, ingeniously built of materials readily available in the wilderness, mainly earth and timber. Its design was based on principles long established in continental Europe. The inner fort was square, with pointed projections at the corners known as "bastions." Within this square were storehouses, officers' barracks, powder magazine, and other structures. The portion of the fort presently reconstructed is the lower half of that inner fort and includes the officers' barracks and two bastions, connected by a wall of palisades.

When adequate funds are available, it is planned to build the upper half of the inner fort and the upper and lower batteries, also the "retrenchments" (low breastworks of horizontal logs) which surrounded the inner fort. These retrenchments made possible the accommodation of an army with its equipment, thus giving Fort Ligonier its special distinction as a "post of passage." Without these provisions for the protection and refitting of Forbes' Army, the conquest of Fort Duquesne would not have been attempted.

Beyond the retrenchments all trees but a scattered few had been felled to a point well beyond the reach of musket fire from the enemy who was concealed in the dense forest that surrounded the fort. In this open area were the log redoubts, the hospital, the smithy, cattle enclosure, Indian encampment and, most important of all, the precious springs which largely determined the location of the fort. A protected way led to Loyalhanna Creek on the other side. All of these features are clearly portrayed in the model to be seen in the museum.

Flying over the fort is the authentic flag of 1758, known as the King's Colors. It bears the Cross of St. George (England) and the Cross of St. Andrew (Scotland). The Cross of St. Patrick was added later. American and British authorities graciously granted permission to display this flag.

Fort Ligonier Palisades PA
Fort Ligonier Palisades at Ligonier, PA

The Story of Reconstruction

Recognizing the significant role of Fort Ligonier in our early history, the citizens of Ligonier valley had long cherished the ambition to rebuild it. The Fort Ligonier Memorial Foundation, incorporated in 1946 for this purpose, set about to raise funds by popular subscriptions from individuals, organizations, and foundations. What will always be the most important single gift was the transfer to the Foundation of the deed to the property on Loyalhanna Street by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Through the vision of the William Kenly Chapter, this property had been acquired long before and marked with the monument.

While the campaign was in purpose, the architect was commissioned to conduct research from early historical and military records, excavate the site, and prepare drawings and specifications for the reconstruction.

In 1953 construction began and the following year the present partially restored Fort was opened to the public. During the next three years the log cabin and blacksmith shop appeared as additions to the Fort's museum facilities. Purchase of the property at the upper eastern end of the Fort grounds in 1960 increased these facilities with the addition of another museum in one of its buildings. That same year witnessed the first "Fort Ligonier Days", a now annual fall celebration marking the battle fought here on October 12, 1758.

The Fort Bicentennial

A major event in the Fort's recent history took place in September of 1958 when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed a crowd of some 30,000 people and linked the century chain as the highlight of Ligonier Bicentennial celebration, commemorating Fort Ligonier's 200th anniversary.

Visitor Information

Special Events:

Numerous living history events and other activities are held throughout the season. The annual Fort Ligonier Days commemoration occurs each October. Contact Fort Ligonier for details.

Admission:

The Fort Ligonier Association is a nonprofit organization, applying all revenues toward Fort operations. Admission fee charged. Free admission to gift shop. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Write or call for special group rates.

Fort Ligonier Small Cannon PA
Small Cannon and Fort Ligonier at Ligonier, PA
Hours:

Open daily from May 1 to October 31, 9:30 AM to 5 PM. Special group visits may be arranged during off months upon written request.

Facilities:

Large, accessible free parking area for cars, buses and recreational vehicles. Picnic facilities.

Location:

Fort Ligonier is located on U.S. Route 30 and PA Route 711, in Ligonier, PA. It is fifty miles east of Pittsburgh and twelve miles north of the PA Turnpike.

For additional information, school inquiries, group reservations, etc. write or call:
Fort Ligonier Association
South Market Street
Ligonier, Pennsylvania 15658
Phone: (724) 238-9701

Information was taken from the Fort Ligonier Brochure

 
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