Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Forks of the Ohio / Part # 2

Fort Pitt
Forks of the Ohio / Part # 2
Pittsburgh, PA

 Model of Fort Pitt
Following the destruction of Fort Duquesne, General John Forbes deemed that a new fortress should be reconstructed on the site in honor of British Prime Minister William Pitt.  The new fort would be much larger and further inland from the point where the rivers converged to protect the structure from flooding.  General Forbes was dying from an intestinal disease and was in great pain and discomfort.  Now that his mission had been fulfilled, he resigned his commission and handed the reigns of power over to his capable second in command General Henry Bouquet who oversaw the new fort's construction.  General Forbes then began the painful return journey back east over the road that bore his name and sadly died a few weeks after arriving back in Philadelphia.  As the walls of the impressive fort began to rise, so did the white population as a small town began to grow on the fort's peninsula that was later named Pittsburgh by General Bouquet.

Fort Pitt / Recreated Interior Building
Following the construction of Fort Pitt, the French retreated back into Canada and the war centered on the key French cities of Montreal and Quebec.  However, the region of western Pennsylvania once again erupted into violence during Pontiac's Rebellion in the last year of the French and Indian War.  Abandoned by the French and losing land to English settlers promised to their tribes, the Indians decided to continue the fight by banding together into a tribal confederacy.  Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Nation, who targeted British Frontier forts and isolated English setter cabins, led the movement.  The British continued to fight the Indians according to European Articles of War, which were ignored by their Native American enemies.  Although the French would fall to such tactics on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec that would lead to the end of the French and Indian War, the English were soundly defeated by Pontiac's hit-and-run tactics throughout the Ohio Valley.  On occasion, women and children were kidnapped from isolated cabins and taken west to an unknown fate.  The conflict was becoming ugly on both sides.

 General Bouquet Negotiations with Native Americans
(Lithograph Source / Ohio Historical Society)
--> The British Army, desperate for an antidote to the rebellion, committed one of the first acts of attempted biological warfare in history. Under the direction of General Jeffery Amherst, officers from Fort Pitt acquired blankets tainted with the smallpox virus.  They contained scabs and bacteria from the previous owners who died from the disease.  They were delivered to Native American tribes through disguised humanitarian channels.  The true results of the deplorable tactic are unknown but outbreaks of the smallpox virus did break out across the region within the Native American population.  Amherst was soon called back to England where he was chastised concerning his questionable tactics by Parliament and was removed from command.  He later resurfaced as a military adviser to Parliament and became a career politician. 

French and Indian War / Post War Map
The Indian hostilities persisted until Parliament passed the Proclamation of 1763 Act, which closed the Ohio Valley to English settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  The Proclamation Line created a superimposed separation boundary between the English and Native American cultures.  This policy angered Americans who witnessed the French threat removed from the west but did not allow Americans access to the cheap fertile farmland in the Ohio Territory.  This action by Parliament in London would be one of several postwar decisions that would eventually lead to unrest between America and the Mother Country.  The high cost of the French and Indian War led to increased taxes on American colonists, which soon prompted the American Revolution.  Be careful what you wish for... you just might get it!     

 Fort Pitt Museum Entrance
Fort Pitt continued to serve as an active military base throughout the American Revolution operating as the key American base for campaigns in the west.  General George Rodgers Clark and his frontiersman captured one British outpost after another, eliminating most of the troops of King George III in the Ohio Valley.  After the American Revolution, all British laws in the former English Colonies evaporated, including the Proclamation Line of 1763.  The Ohio Valley was once again open to settlement and Pittsburgh was dubbed the Gateway to the West.  Several more Indian Confederacies would follow in the wake of Pontiac's Rebellion but were slowly defeated by General "Mad" Anthony Wayne in the North and General Andrew Jackson to the South.  Indian hostilities would continue to erupt west of the Mississippi River following the Lewis and Clark Expedition west to the Pacific.  Manifest Destiny, America's determination to settle the west, would eventually prevail.

Early Village of Pittsburgh
(Image Credit / Fort Pitt Museum)
As the region became more stable, the military presence at Fort Pitt continued to slowly reduce in number.  The American Congress stopped investing funds in the maintenance of the fort and the structure began to deteriorate, falling prey to the elements.  Fort Pitt was officially decommissioned by the United States government in 1792 and was soon abandoned.  However, the community of Pittsburgh continued to flourish due to the town's economically advantageous location at the Forks of the Ohio.  The outbuildings of the fort continued to be used as trading posts to conduct business in the fur trade with the remaining local Native American population.  Over time, building materials from the abandoned fortress were recycled by newly arriving settlers and were used to build the expanding town until most of the previous structure had disappeared from the landscape.  The once impressive fortress had slowly faded into history.
Restored Fort Pitt Blockhouse
The only remaining part of the fort today is a small brick blockhouse that was built in 1764 during Pontiac's Rebellion just outside the fort's walls.  The former outbuilding used for gunpowder storage was saved from foragers looking for building materials by being reinvented as a small private residence.  As a result, the blockhouse stayed intact over time and was eventually purchased by the Daughters of the American Revolution.   It has since been restored back to its original purpose and opened to the public as part of the museum.   Over the years, the town of Pittsburgh continued to grow into a city that became an economic power center of the American steel industry.  The former site of Fort Pitt was covered over by a collection of large-scale industrial warehouses and railroad lines.  In 1958 the Allegheny Conference of Community Development led efforts to reclaim the space to create a large 36-acre city park.  Point State Park was born and two years later was designated a National Historic Landmark. 

Aerial Photo of Pittsburgh's Point / 1945
(Photo Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)
My friend Brian Repine and I entered the Fort Pitt Museum as it opened shortly after our discovery of the brick outline of Fort Duquesne.  The museum had an excellent collection of art by several well-known artists of the French and Indian War genre including Nat Youngblood, Robert Griffing, and John Buxton.  There were several life size dioramas that help recreate the everyday life of Fort Pitt as a military base and trading post.  The artifact collections on display include relics from Braddock's March, historical flags, fort models, and various weapons from the conflicts associated with the fort.  I especially enjoyed the large observation windows that gave incredible views of the rivers and surrounding landscape including the Fort Pitt Bridge. 

View of Point State Park at Dusk
(Photo Credit / Panorama / Buck Cash)
Unfortunately, Point State Park was in the process of undergoing extensive renovations and improvements during our visit and much of the space was closed off to visitors by construction fencing.  As a result, we were not able to visit the actual point by the landmark fountain where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio.  We hope to return again during a warmer season to visit the city and Point State Park when the construction project is complete and fully accessible to the public.  Stay tuned...
Aerial View / Point State Park   
(Photo Credit / Google Earth Image)
The satellite image shown above from Google Earth shows the four pointed outline of Fort Duquesne and the outline of one of the points of Fort Pitt to the right of the elevated highway that spans above the park's center.  Well, it was getting close to lunchtime and we were off to find the original Primanti Brothers in the famous Strip District along the Allegheny River.  We tried to eat at least two meals a day at Primanti Brothers while exploring Pittsburgh to experience as much of their unique menu as possible before it was time to return back east toward home!  Bon Appetite... Take Two!

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