Thursday, June 28, 2007

French and Indian War Forts

Most folks probably wouldn't think about French and Indian War forts when they think of North Carolina, but we have one (or at least the site where one once stood). One of our least known state historic sites, Fort Dobbs is an interesting site with a lot of potential. Efforts are currently underway to raise the funding necessary to reconstruct the fort near Statesville.

On my recent trip to Pennsylvania I visited a terrific example of French and Indian War fortifications, Fort Ligonier. I had not been to this site since I was a child and boy has it changed! They have done a tremendous job restoring the fort, installing excellent exhibits in their museum, and putting together an artillery collection unsurpassed as far as I can tell. I was told by a staffer there that they've put $5 million into the work there and I wouldn't be surprised if they have $500,000 or more tied up in reproduction artillery alone. They've got everything from swivel guns (probably 20 of them) mounted on the fort walls to 8-inch howitzers on field carriages. They've got a mortar wagon, a howitzer mounted on a sled, and ammunition wagons. Its just plain damn impressive! The photos show a few examples.

One of the fort's many swivel guns

8-inch howitzer

Howitzer on a sled

Fort Ligonier was an active fort from 1758-1766 and was named for Sir John Ligonier, commander in chief in Great Britain. The fort restoration is excellent and is based on sound archaeological research. The museum exhibits are very nice and include two of the most unique artifacts I've ever seen - a pair of pistols given to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette. The same pistols were later owned by Andrew Jackson. The museum also has some other Washington artifacts. It is a unique site all around and well worth a visit if you are anywhere close by. The only downfall to Fort Ligonier is that they are only open to the public May through October. I assume this is a money saving effort as they are a private, non-profit and receive no government funding.

I think that the folks who are trying to rebuild Fort Dobbs could learn a lot by visiting Fort Ligonier and spending time with their staff. The staffer I talked to said he has had a number of phone conversations with the site manager at Fort Dobbs. That is a line of communication that will be beneficial to North Carolinians in the future, as the Fort Dobbs project moves forward.

For more information on the French and Indian War go to the website for the 250th anniversary celebration.

More F&I links include:

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