Sunday, October 07, 2007

Something Different This Sunday

Tired of waiting for the service department to call about out truck, Denny and I decided to take a relatively short driving tour of the area. Striking out on the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, we made our way south on Rt. 381 with the thought of possibly catching a glimpse of Fallingwater. That wasn't going to happen, as there is a guard shack placed near the entrance to collect a tour fee before you get anywhere close to the house. Not knowing how much the transmission repairs were going to cost, we decided to pass this time around. Continuing south and west, we drove by the Ohiopyle State Park which has a miles of biking, hiking and riding trails, plus several overlooks for great views of the Youghiogheny River (called the "Yawk" and pronounced yaw-ki-GAY-nee).

Intrigued by the name, I had Denny stop at the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, which is located on US 40 just west of Farmington, PA. Entering the modern, new visitor center we were greeting by two very friendly staff members who explained a little about the park and visitor center and who directed us to the video which explained the history of Fort Necessity. Once again, Denny and I learned more about the history of our country simply by making an unplanned stop on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Briefly, the area of what is now western New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and all land south to Louisiana was controlled by the French although the British claimed rights to the area, also. The British had built a fort where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers combined to become the Ohio River, but the French drove them out, building a much larger fortification which they called Fort Duquesne. George Washington, then a lieutenant colonel, was assigned the task of building a road to Redstone Creek and assist in defending the British fort. When he heard the French had taken it over, Washington decided to continue to Redstone Creek and await further orders.

Washington and his troops settled in an area called the Great Meadows, which he believed to be "a charming field for an encounter". He and his men set up camp and a few day later had a skirmish with a small group of French soldiers in what some historians think might have been an ambush on Washington's part. Whatever the facts, the French were furious when they heard the news and 600 French soldiers and 100 Native Americans were sent from Fort Duquesne to battle the British troops. Washington and his men, certain that such an encounter was coming, had built up the earthworks around the small, round stockade which held their supplies and mounted the small swivel guns on the entrenchments.

Unfortunately, young and inexperience George had built the stockade only about 60 yards from the woods, expecting any fighting troops to march out in a row, shooting in an orderly fashion. What the French and Indians did, however, was hide and shoot from behind the trees, while Washington and his men were stuck in trenches that soon filled with water from the pouring rain that fell that day. After several hours, the commander of the French forces offered to allow Washington to surrender, which he did.

That initial skirmish, where Washington and his troops caught the small troop of French soldiers off-guard and killed them, was the beginning of what was to be the French and Indian War. Eventually, the war ended with Britain having control of North America and India.

Imagine laying in mud, 700 rifles blazing away at you while the rain pours down upon you, ruining your gunpowder and your chance to protect yourself.

The Mount Washington Tavern is also on the grounds of Fort Necessity and is open for tours. Once part of the National Road, the stagecoach tavern fed and housed travelers on what is now US 40.

US 40, also known at the National Road, now sits about 12 feet lower than the original road as it passes in front of Mount Washington Tavern. The National Road was the first federally funded roadway built in America.

Heading west on US 40 towards Uniontown, PA, the mountain roads are very steep. Note the speed limit of 10MPH for trucks and buses. This is one road where I wouldn't want to be driving in front of a fully loaded semi, believe me.

Driving through Uniontown we saw this "graveyard" or storage area for military tanks in an array of camouflage paint and styles. I have no idea of what the story is behind it, but I did find this so what we saw must have been a storage area for BAE systems.

1 comment:

Coll said...

Interesting bit of history there. Stories of long ago fascinate me. I marvel at the hardships that the people before us endeared. I wonder if someone will someday look back at our lives and feel the same way.

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