Visited 26 Aug 2010 – Fort Ligonier is a superbly restored French & Indian War fort at Ligonier Pennsylvania. Originally built in 1758 to supply British General John Forbes in his attack on the French Fort Duquesne at what is now Pittsburgh. Fort Ligonier was the largest and most important post along what came to be known as Forbes Road that stretched from Philadelphia to present day Pittsburgh.
My first impression of the reconstructed Fort Ligonier was a simple Wow! There are several areas to the reconstruction, and each area more than holds it’s own. We started with the lower area outside the fort that contains period cannons, limbers, wagons and finally period support structures like the blacksmith shop and smokehouse.
It is hard to describe how exceptional is the display of cannons and limbers. The weapons and limbers look as if they has just been made.
The cannons, mortars and howitzers are faithful bright brass reproductions on limbers that seem to display the full range and combinations of equipment that would have been used in this era, and all in mint condition. At the far end of this display are wagons and other transport vehicles. The display of typical outbuildings includes the blacksmith shop, bake ovens, smokehouse and hospitals.
This lower level display is so interesting and comprehensive that you can easily spend an hour or more taking it all in. We next headed for the upper level stockade which is the innermost fortification. This stockade is a square with bastions at all four corners. The east bastions are of log and earth construction because they house the Armory and Powder magazine.
The west bastions and wall are fronted by a fascine artillery battery and are of log construction. Inside the stockade are five building reproductions that include an officers mess, officer’s quarters, enlisted barracks, commissary and quartermaster storage. These buildings contain excellent period interpretive displays and they really help to understand the workings of the fort.
Don’t miss General Forbes Hut just outside the back gate of the stockade. As you leave the front gate of the stockade don’t miss the fascine battery off to your right. This battery has emplaced cannons, howitzers and mortars that illustrate what a 1750s battery might look like. This is a great complement to the display below that shows all of the armaments packed up for travel. As you leave the battery gate, take the time to walk around the space between the inner stockade and the outer fortifications. Scattered about are some mortar and swivel gun emplacements, more buildings and artillery batteries.
I had skipped the museum when I paid the entrance fee because I’m usually disappointed by them and I’m always anxious to see the real fort. Well, this museum more than holds it’s own with the “real” fort. On display are a pair of George Washington’s saddle pistols and his handwritten memoirs. There is a great collection of archeological treasures, period costumes, maps and other period arms and gear. All of this is displayed in exceptional settings, clearly created by a professional hand. Far and away, the most impressive part of the museum is the collection of thirteen original paintings of the central figures in the French & Indian War.
This is a collection not to be missed. How is it that this fort and museum are such exceptional treasures when most other historical locations are struggling just to keep open? The answer here seems to be a great staff and no government funding. Fort Ligonier is a private, not for profit 501(c)3 organization, funded by admissions, museum store purchases, and donations. It is not affiliated with federal, state or local government. The 2011 season begins on Friday, April 15. Hours of operation will be Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 4:30 PM, and Sundays from 12 PM – 4:30 PM. (Closed Easter Sunday) Admission: $8 – Adults; $5 – Children ages 6 – 14; Ages 5 and under are free. Check out the website.
This post was written by John Stanton on March 15, 2011