Bridgeville history group highlights Washington in Western Pa.
The Bridgeville Area Historical Society’s June “Second Tuesday” workshop focused on George Washington’s adventures in Western Pennsylvania in 1754.
When we ended our April workshop, Washington was back in Williamsburg in January 1754, reporting to Gov. Dinwiddie.
The governor had dispatched a small force to the Forks of the Ohio to build Fort Prince George as a deterrent to further French aggression.
In April the French invasion began, a force of about one thousand warriors. When they reached the Forks, the Virginians surrendered and were allowed to return home. Led by commander Contrecoeur, the French began to construct Fort DuQuesne, named for the Governor of New France.
Ordered to engage the enemy, Washington left Winchester on April 19 with about 200 men and proceeded west. They found a good camp-site at Great Meadows. Learning of Washington’s advance, on May 23, Contrecoeur ordered Ensign Jumonville to take thirty French soldiers and engage him.
Instead, Washington’s Indian allies found Jumonville’s camp. Accompanied by forty Virginians and twelve Mingoes, Washington surprised the enemy on May 28. After a short skirmish that left Jumonville and nine of his soldiers dead, the remainder surrendered.
Washington returned to Great Meadows where he was pleased to find another company of soldiers had arrived. His forces continued to move westward. By the time they reached Gist’s Plantation his small army had grown to nearly four hundred, thanks to the arrival of an independent company of British soldiers led by Captain James Mackay.
More significantly, Washington learned that Colonel Fry had died at Wills Creek, the result of a fall from a horse, and that he had been promoted to Colonel and commander of the full Virginia Regiment. In less than a year he had gone from private citizen applying for a job in the military to its highest rank.
Washington’s scouts reported that Contrecoeur had sent a massive force to take revenge for the death of Jumonville, commanded by Jumonville’s half-brother, Villiers. By July 1 Villiers was moving so quickly that his forces would soon engage the Virginians. Washington determined to make a stand at Great Meadows, where he had erected a modest stockade, dubbed “Fort Necessity”.
Two days later the French arrived. When they realized that the fort was within musket range of nearby woods, they maintained a heavy fire on it from a protected position. The situation was disastrous for Washington’s troops. By evening thirty of them were dead and another seventy wounded.
Villiers sent envoys under a flag of truce, offering conditions for surrender. Washington sent his translator, Captain Jacob van Braam, to meet with them. Several hours later he decided to accept their terms. He and his troops could march out in the morning and return to Wills Creek without a battle.
The next morning the defeated Virginians left the fort and began the trek back to Wills Creek on foot. Villiers returned to Fort DuQuesne with proof he had avenged the death of Jumonville.
Our next workshop, on July 10, 2018, will focus on the Bridgeville High School Classes of 1952 and 1953.