Fort Ligonier

Good afternoon, fellow adventurers and history buffs! Today, we're setting our sights on a remarkable journey back in time to explore Fort Ligonier, a hidden gem nestled in the scenic landscape of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. This site offers the only fully reconstructed British colonial fort in Pennsylvania. It offers a window into the tumultuous period of the French and Indian War, part of the global conflict known as the Seven Years War. So grab your favorite travel mug, fill it with coffee, and let's embark on a virtual tour of this fascinating historical landmark.

A Glimpse into the Seven Years War

Before we wander through the gates of Fort Ligonier, let's take a moment to understand the backdrop against which it was built. The Seven Years War (1756-1763) was the world's first global conflict, pitching the British against the French in a struggle for colonial supremacy. It was a worldwide showdown with land and naval engagements across Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The French and Indian War is the name for the American theater of this global war, where the British and French, each allied with various Native American tribes, vied for control of the North American continent.

Fort Ligonier: A Unique Pennsylvania Historical Site

Nestled on 8 picturesque acres, Fort Ligonier is a rare jewel among historical sites, offering a glimpse into a time when Pennsylvania was just a colonial battleground. The location of the fort now is on the exact site where the fort was built as part of a strategic British initiative.

In the 1750s, the British constructed Forbes Road from Carlisle to what is now Pittsburgh. Forts were strategically placed approximately every 50 miles along this route, serving as beacons of British presence and power. Interestingly, today the modern Pennsylvania Turnpike traces much of Forbes Road's path, with many exits named after these historic British forts.

In October 1758, the fort, known then as the Post at Loyalhanna, was the scene of a significant skirmish between the French and their Native American allies, and the British forces. This battle was a crucial moment in the broader Seven Years War, highlighting the fort's strategic importance.

The Fort Today: A Step Back in Time

What you see today at Fort Ligonier is a meticulously researched and lovingly reconstructed full-scale model of the 18th-century fortification. Researchers spent weeks at the National Archives in England studying the original architectural plans. The result? A stunningly accurate recreation of the fort, complete with replicas of the cannons that once defended its walls—shiny and new as if it were still 1758.

But Fort Ligonier isn't just about the buildings and artillery. The site is also an archaeological treasure trove, boasting over 200 original artifacts from the 18th century, many discovered right on the premises. Among these finds is the world's largest collection of colonial-era leather shoes, offering a unique insight into the daily lives of those who lived and fought here.

Supply cabin
PHOTOGRAPH BY Denys Allen

The modern museum on the grounds is nothing short of a time machine, with extensive displays that not only showcase the site's archaeological finds but also immerse visitors in the history of the French and Indian War. A highlight for many is the exhibit dedicated to George Washington's early military career as a British officer, providing a personal connection to a figure who would later lead American soldiers in the American Revolution.

Living History and Community Spirit

One of the most vibrant aspects of Fort Ligonier is the community that has grown around it. Volunteers dedicate hundreds of hours each year to maintaining the fort's walls, buildings, and artillery, ensuring that this historical gem remains in pristine condition for future generations to explore. The annual reenactments of the battle bring history to life, with participants dressed as British, French, and Indian warriors, offering a powerful visual representation of the fort's past.

Artillery
PHOTOGRAPH BY Denys Allen

Beyond Fort Ligonier

For those hungry for more history, Pennsylvania is rich with sites related to this period. From the Fort Necessity National Battlefield to the Fort Bedford Museum, Braddock’s Battlefield History Center, Fort Pitt (Fort Duquesne) Museum, and Bushy Run Battlefield, there's a wealth of history to explore, each site adding depth to our understanding of this pivotal time in American history.

A Journey Worth Taking

Visiting Fort Ligonier offers a rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of those who shaped the nation's early history, in a setting that has been carefully preserved and presented with great respect for its past. So whether you're a history aficionado or simply looking for a unique travel experience, Fort Ligonier beckons with the promise of adventure, education, and reflection.

Located in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

Open 10am - 5pm, Friday - Sunday during December - March

Open 10am - 5pm, Wednesday - Sunday during April - November

200 S. Market St, Ligonier, PA 15658

Website: https://www.fortligonier.org/

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Denys Allen

Denys Allen is a genealogist on a mission to help you uncover the history of your Pennsylvania ancestors. In 2019, she founded PA Ancestors to provide the resource she wished she had when she began her own genealogical journey.

With a commitment to discovering her eight generations of Pennsylvania ancestors, Denys has researched their lives in the courthouses and archives of Berks, Blair, Centre, Chester, Clearfield, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, and Union counties.

Denys's books are written for today's family historian who is going deeper into their ancestors' lives and breaking down brick walls. Her current books are: Pennsylvania Vital Records Research: A Genealogy Guide to Birth, Adoption, Marriage, Divorce, and Death Records from 1682 to Today, and Archives of Pennsylvania: A Genealogy Research Guide to Records in Archives, Colleges, Courthouses, Genealogical Societies, Historic Sites, Historical Societies, Libraries, and Museums.

Three times a year she runs a workshop for genealogists, Discover Your Pennsylvania Ancestors. This community-based, three week workshop promises attendees will find new records on their ancestors in the Keystone State.