Fort Necessity is a Flash-point of U.S. History

The modern replica of Fort Necessity

Among the rolling Western Pennsylvania hills sits a small but very significant part of American History.

Known as Fort Necessity, this tiny fortification was the flash-point of the French and Indian or Seven Years War. During the pounding rain on hot, July 1754 afternoon, the battle of Fort Necessity marked the clash between England’s quest for colonialism and France’s desire for imperialism. Not only did the battle establish the start of the war. The struggle was the beginning of a young George Washington‘s military career.

Super Powers Wished to Gain Control within the Boundaries of the Expanding New World

America was rich with timber, offered numerous furs, an abundance of properties and held countless other natural wealth. The lust to dominate it‘s lands and control it’s unlimited resources evitable lead to the clash at Fort Necessity.

British officials ordered provisional Lt. Colonel George Washington and the Virginia Regiment into the remote Pennsylvania territories to establish roads, construct fortifications, and most importantly to intimidate French forces.

In May, Washington, a small detachment of British soldiers, and a group of Native Americas fought a skirmish with a column of Frenchman at Jumonville Glen (named after a French causality). Washington and the raiders soundly defeated the French. In fact, Washington regarded the military action as “a “charming encounter.”

However, bracing for a counter-attack, Washington and his Regiment constructed Fort Necessity within the Great Meadow at present-day Farmington, PA. The fort was simply, dug-in vertical timbers surrounding a single interior building. Along the outer perimeter trenches were excavated for the troop’s protection.

Just weeks after the Jumonville Glen assault, British sentries reported the dust clouds of advancing French soldiers were seen rising along the approaching trail (now National Pike route #40).

The Battle Raged Throughout the Day and Well into the Evening

Unfortunately, the French onslaught proved too much for the defeaters and the tiny outpost was conquered. A French liaison demanded Washington’s surrender. George Washington had little choice and reluctantly conceded. This incident would mark Washington’s only action of surrender throughout his remaining military career.

For the next seven years, France and England would collide across the North American continent. Finally, English persistence established a foot-hold and forced France’s departure. Subsequently, attitudes of the conquering Englishmen greatly impacted the resident colonists. The British were frequently harsh toward their enlisted Virginia followers, believed they were superior to the provisional officers, and were abusive toward Native Americans allies. These British cruelties fostered thoughts of rebellion and dreams of personal sovereignty for Washington and his fellow Americans.


  1. National Park Service