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Battle of Bushy Run re-enactment will benefit heritage society | TribLIVE.com
Penn-Trafford

Battle of Bushy Run re-enactment will benefit heritage society

Bob Karlovits
| Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:04 a.m
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Alexandria Polanosky | Trib Total Media
Indian reenactors prepare to fire their guns during the 252nd anniversary of the Battle of Bushy Run at Bushy Run Battlefield in Harrison City on Saturday, August 1, 2015.
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Alexandria Polanosky | Trib Total Media
Actors portraying British troops fire their weapons during a reenactment of the Battle of Bushy Run at Bushy Run Battlefield in Harrison City on Saturday, August 1, 2015. The reenactment is part of the 252nd anniversary of the battle.

The sounds of musket fire echo this weekend at Bushy Run Battlefield in Penn Township during the annual re-enactment of the bloody confrontation in August 1763 in which British soldiers and colonial rangers defeated Native Americans, a victory that led to the end of a long siege of Fort Pitt by the Native Americans.

The 253rd anniversary of the battle along Route 993, about one mile east of Harrison City, is expected to draw about 75 re-enactors representing the rangers, British soldiers, Native Americans and settlers, said Colleen Madore, the new museum facilitator for the Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society, a nonprofit that has volunteers operating the battlefield’s museum and visitor center. Depending on the weather, the re-enactment can attract about 2,000 visitors, Madore said.

The re-enactment is the heritage society’s largest fundraiser of the year, Madore said. With money raised by events such as car cruises, haunted hayrides and a summer camp, the heritage society keeps the site operating. Staff from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was cut in 2009 because of a reduction in the state budget. The state employs one full-time and one part-time maintenance worker at the site.

“We’ve recovered really well. We’ve been able to stabilize ourselves,” Madore said.

The re-enactment will feature encampments by the colonial and British troops and Native Americans, as well as live fire, trade and craft demonstrations. The battlefield’s museum offers visitors the opportunity to see a video about the battle, as well as artifacts of the British soldiers, Native Americans, and colonials. McMurray artist Andrew Knez Jr., who paints scenes from 1750 through 1830, will be at the re-enactment, Madore said.

While there were numerous battles between Native Americans and colonials and the British in Pennsylvania, Bushy Run is the only registered Native American battlefield in Pennsylvania, Madore said.

The battle occurred as Col. Henry Bouquet was on a mission to bring relief to Fort Pitt at the fork of the Ohio River. Native Americans had surrounded the British fort for about two months in the summer of 1763 during what was known as Pontiac’s War.

The British soldiers and colonial rangers, totaling about 400, were following what was known as Bouquet’s Road and got within a mile of Bushy Run station, a trading post at the current site of a gas station along Route 130 in Harrison City, Madore said. They were attacked by an unknown number of Native Americans, including members of the Delaware, Shawnee, Mingoes, Ottawas, Wyandot and Mohican tribes, Madore said.

“They got caught unaware,” said Dan Balzarini of Jeannette, a volunteer at the battlefield and ranger re-enactor.

Those Native Americans had left the siege at Fort Pitt to ambush the relief column before it could reach the fort. Bouquet had feared an attack along the Turtle Creek gorge, not far from where Gen. Edward Braddock’s army was routed by the French and American Indians in 1755 at present-day Braddock, Madore said.

A two-day battle ensued before the Native Americans broke off the engagement and fled, allowing Bouquet’s thirsty and hungry soldiers to reach Bushy Run Station. Four days later, they reached Fort Pitt, lifting the siege.

“A lesser army might have lost the battle,” Balzarini said, noting Bouquet benefited from having the rangers, who understood fighting in the forest, and the Scottish Highlanders under his command.

Bouquet’s victory at Bushy Run was the first for the British over warriors led by Pontiac and Guyasuta in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas, according to C. Hall Sipe’s 1931 book, “Indian Wars of Pennsylvania.”

Visitors to the battlefield, which is administered by the Historical and Museum Commission in partnership with the heritage society, see a site that is both similar to what Bouquet’s troops encountered and has been altered by farming over the centuries. Sections of the battlefield remain heavily wooded, but a clearing atop a hill where Bouquet erected a “flour bag fort,” is now a field.

“It was all forest except for the trail” at the time of the battle, Baslzarini said.

Madore added, “It was a silent, dark and dangerous place.”

Trees have been planted recently in some areas of the 230-acre battlefield, but it remains a site where people can picnic, walk trails and fly a kite, Madore said.

“We straddle the balance between maintaining the battlefield and the park,” Madore said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

Categories: Penn-Trafford
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