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George Washington's Only Defeat

By July 10, 2013

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Fort Necessity National BattlefieldWe all know George Washington as our country's first president. But did you know he also played a major part in the French & Indian War more than 20 years before America claimed its independence?

It was the spring of 1754 when a young Colonel named George Washington came to southwestern Pennsylvania looking to oust the French from the rich Ohio valley region, and claim the area for Great Britain. He brought with him a small force of Virginia militiamen with plans to capture Fort Duquesne (the site of present day Point State Park in Pittsburgh) from the French. Quickly realizing that the fort was too strongly defended, however, he retreated about an hour away and constructed his own stockade - Fort Necessity, near present-day Uniontown, PA.

The French had no patience for this cheeky young British Colonel, however, and joined with their native allies to overwhelm Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754, forcing Washington's troops to surrender. This small skirmish marked the first battle of the French & Indian War in the New World, and the only defeat ever suffered by the 22-year-old George Washington.

George Washington always felt very strongly about this early battle in his career, going so far as to purchase the meadow where the battle was fought in 1771. He owned the land, now part of the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, until his death in 1799.

Summer is a great time to visit Fort Necessity because the National Park Service offers a number of ranger led programs, including "Soldier's Life" programs to demonstrate aspects of an 18th century soldier's life, firing demonstrations of historic muskets or cannons, and a variety of interpretive talks and tours. Junior rangers, ages 6-12, have their own special programs. There is also a special Pontiac's Rebellion encampment weekend planned at Fort Necessity for July 20-21, 2013, with reenactors portraying Native American and British forces to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Pontiac's Rebellion.

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