Fort Necessity (AKA Fort Patti)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

 

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On Thursday morning, Carol and I packed up the car and hit the highways. We were on the road by 630am and heading westward.  Fort Necessity was going to be our first stop on our way to Cincinnat.i Ohio.  I needed another National Passport stamp collection

Fort Necessity

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My knowledge of Fort Necessity was extremely limited.  The fort was only mentioned in passing while at George Washington\’s birthplace during a tour of the estate.  All I knew  was that the fort was during a battle, but was a critical learning experience for the future General Washington. which he later employed during the Revolutionary War  That was it.  I wasn\’t even sure what the Fort was built for, or what battle was involved, who was fighting, or what they were fighting over.  Unprepared and ill-informed, I was eager for the visit.

The drive into the woods of southeastern PA was lovely.  It is a winding road the crests gentle hills and farmland.  You couldn\’t help but appreciate the beauty of the drive.

Explanatory Video

Lucky for me the National Park services assumed guests might not know the full details.  So they provide a very helpful and informative Introductory video.  And so I learn…

Seven Years\’ War

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Arriving at the National Battlefield, an introductory video explained the pivotal event involving the murder of a French military man named Jumonville .  The details of the conflict with the French and the eventual death of Jumonville  seem to be in dispute.  One side indicates there was an equal skirmish between the English and Fresh.  The French report differently, claiming there was an assault and ambush by the English, resulting in a slaughter of men unprepared for battle.  Despite the disparity of what exactly happened – the end result was that the death of French officer Jumonville which guaranteed a future conflict.

Wait. Where?

For reasons I could not appreciate, the English decided to built a meager \”fort\” in the middle of an alpine valley.  But it wasn\’t a fort. It was a meager pile of wood and simple trenches.  This tiny pile of wood was ringed by dense woods. The woods would provide attackers an ideal defense while taking pot-shots at the \”fort\” ridiculously exposed in the cleared valley. Fort Necessity seemed the perfect place to die in a gun fight.  Shooting fish in a barrel came to mind when I observed the recessed valley, humble earthworks, dry-rotted wood planks, and ominously surrounding treeline in the video.  Who decreed this good fighting ground? Fire that man.

No wonder this battle was considered a learning experience: if you survived, there is no way you\’d make the same mistake again.

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I think I see the problem

It shouldn\’t be a shock to any reasonable person that the English could not hold the fort. Do you see that wall?  If that is remotely close to the original fort defense, I expect I can see the problem.  There\’s not much hope this would protect anyone from anything.  Plus, there were men outside the fort defenses laying on the ground firing over the trench.  I couldn\’t imagine this battle.  It seemed doomed from the start.  The video and small museum reinforced the hopelessness of defending the meager fort; but it also explained why the fort was necessary. And how it got it\’s unique name.  It was quite literally built out of immediate necessity. Washington knew a fight was coming.

It didn\’t go well

The English were slaughtered defending their humble fort, and eventually Washington was presented with terms of surrender.  Lieutenant Colonel George Washington signed a French surrender agreement, and unknown to Washington, a confession to murder.  It seems there was a comedy of errors that left Washington ignorant of the document\’s contents.  First, it was raining and the document become smudged. Secondly, it was written in french and the translator wasn\’t quite up to the task.  Left with little to no choice, Washington signed the surrender agreement.

According to Washington, he didn\’t realize that signing the surrender agreement, he was also signing a confession and taking sole responsibility for Jumonville\’s death.  After the battle, the fort fell to the French and the British left.  Unfortunately the war raged on far longer.

The Fort

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After watching the video and exploring the mini-museum (AND getting my National Passport Stamps), Carol and I left the National Park guest building and passed an interpretive playground for the kiddies to enjoy while at the park.  I commented to Carol that I thought the playground fort was built with better defenses in mind.  Apparently I was feeling quite snarky on this walk!  Blame it on the tension of the long drive.  But between you and me? I\’d rather defend the playground fort.

Still strolling to the fort, Carol and I emerged from the shaded trail onto a sunny field. I squinted and sought out the fort.  At first I thought we still had a distance to go before seeing the fort. I was mistaken. The fort was there; low, squat and virtually bleached by the sunlight.

I squinted again.  Could that be it?

Yep. That tiny thing in the distance was the fort. It was so small and insignificant that it was easily overlooked.  It didn\’t look like a fort.  It didn\’t look like much of anything. It was amazingly underwhelming.   Remembering the battle, I cringed at the thought of trying to defend this meager fort.

Fort Patti

In the distance a colonial-era militia man leaves the fort and approaches us on the only path leading to and from the fort.  He was carrying a musket rifle and was clearly the last man standing at the fort.  Upon seeing him, I declared a bit too loudly to no on in particular: \”Oh, look! The fort is now abandoned.  I can claim it as my own!\”

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The living-history actor smiled in resignation.  Instead of defending the fort from the invading ladies, he offered the fort up without resistance.  I gained a fort!

I asked for a photo, which he very generously agreed to provide me.  And so I present evidence of the transition of ownership from this last guard to me, the new owner of the humble Fort Necessity.

I thanked him kindly, and then celebrated my bloodless coup of the fort by marching forward to inspect it.  The fort needed much love and attention. And a very serious trip to a home repair store.

First, no one should try to engage in a gun fight from this position in the middle of a low field, surrounded  by dense woods and enemies.  That was madness.

Forts should also defend from weaponry and assault. This fort could barely withstand a strong breeze. Instead, it has more holes and gaps than wall.  I scratched my head.  Didn\’t they see the problem? Because I saw the problem.

The problem MIGHT be the defenses:

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Imagine the courage

Imagine the courage to defend this impossible-to-defend location? The courage of these men is hard to imagine. When you see the meager defenses, it is easy to imagine the difficulty of it.  But nearly impossible to fully imagine the violence, the stench, the suffering, etc.

Fort Necessity (currently Fort Patti)

Thankfully, no one is attempting to attack us during our visit of my Fort.  So I inspected my new fort and realized it isabout the size of my living room.  It was meager, to say the least.  Obviously no central air or satellite.

I\’m starting to have reservations about my new fort.

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I relinquish my Fort due to lawn care

Carol and I headed back to the National Park Visitor Center after our inspection and photo documentary efforts.  There I greeted the Park Rangers and informed them of conquering the fort and the need to change the signage. .  They congratulated me on my new fort and asked when I would be mowing the field.

And that my friends, is the moment I conceded and relinquished my claim to the Fort.  Over lawn care.  No one wants to mow that mess.

Passport stamps and magnet in hand, we were back on the road heading towards Ohio and left my fort behind.  Farewell Fort Patti.  I was proud of you for a whole twenty minutes.

 

Road Trip Destinations

  • Fort Necessity
  • Hayden Falls Park
  • National Museum of the US Airforce (WPAFB)
  • Dayton Aviation Heritage
  • Wright Bros Memorial
  • National Aviation Hall of Fame
  • Cooney Island
  • GeoTour Exploration
  • Devou Park
  • William H. Taft Historic Site
  • Hopewell Culture National Historic Park,
  • The Golden Palace