French and Indian War Waystation

 

The waystation exhibit along the Army Heritage Trail is modeled after original British examples constructed along the Forbes Road in what is now western Pennsylvania after the French and Indian War. Waystations provided an invaluable service to the British during the colonial period by acting as a buffer between the more civilized east and the largely unsettled frontier. More importantly, waystations preserved the vital British supply line, as well as offered protection to troops moving through the backwaters of western Pennsylvania. These buildings were a symbolic testament to British authority over the region and stood as a barrier against aggressive native tribes.

As you approach the cabin, you will notice the hand tooled marks bearing testimony to the 18th century craftsmanship techniques used during its construction. Upon entering, you will also notice the cabin's two main rooms: a storeroom and living quarters complete with bunks, hearth, and musket rack. Accompanying the cabin is a well and land for a vegetable garden from which garrisoned troops drew water and supplemented daily rations.

The biggest obstacle facing both the French and the British in colonizing North America was natural barriers that stymied westward expansion into the vast hinterland. The Appalachian Mountains seriously handicapped the British from advancing into the Ohio River Valley. The untamed western frontier also provided a refuge for Native Americans who grew increasingly violent towards their encroaching European neighbors. These logistical concerns came to the forefront during the French and Indian War. Eventually, the British were able to carve their way through the frontier and adopted waystations to preserve their interests on the continent. When war erupted in North America between the two competing European powers, the British had to first contend with the wilderness before they could defeat the French. General Edward Braddock initiated a British effort to attack the French at Fort Duquesne in the summer of 1755. Setting out from Fort Cumberland on 7 June, the British quickly found themselves in a quagmire while advancing through the frontier. The rough wilderness slowed Braddock's advance and eventually brought his army to a halt forty miles from Fort Duquesne on 3 July. The British had failed to average even three miles a day through the dense frontier. A combined coalition of French and Native forces headed out from Fort Duquesne to surprise Braddock's weary army. During the resulting Battle of the Monongahela, Braddock suffered a devastating defeat. The frontier had inflicted its punishment upon the British and prevented Braddock from what might have otherwise been a successful campaign.

After Braddock's failed first attempt at dislodging the French from Fort Duquesne, the British army withdrew from virtually all its frontier positions. Native American forces unleashed a series of raids on the unprotected Pennsylvania frontier, causing settlers to retreat back east for safety. The violent episodes that plagued the back country for the next three years prompted the British to re-secure the frontier border regions and make a second attempt at attacking Fort Duquesne in 1758.

General Forbes, refusing to meet the same fate as Braddock, conceived a bold new strategy by choosing an alternative route through the frontier. The Forbes expedition started out from Fort Loudon, a Pennsylvania frontier post built in 1756. From there, his forces advanced slowly but methodically. Military engineers and laborers carved a road along the way and constructed forts at regular intervals. By September, the Forbes expedition had advanced within fifty miles from the Forks of the Ohio River. Here, Forbes ordered the construction of Fort Ligonier. In late November, Forbes made a critical decision to proceed against Fort Duquesne instead of keeping his army in winter quarters. The French garrison in Fort Duquesne was ill-equipped and unprepared to stave off any siege attempts and destroyed the fort upon learning of Forbes' audacious move. The British then laid claim to the Forks of the Ohio in 1759 by erecting Fort Pitt.

Shortly thereafter, it was determined that the chain of forts built by Forbes was inadequate to successfully protect the frontier and left large gaps in the British supply line. The frontier region remained at the mercy of Native attacks and a stronger British presence was required to prevent any further Native or French aggressions. As a result, Colonel Henry Bouquet, commander of the Royal Americans, directed that five "stations" be built along the Forbes Road between Carlisle and Fort Pitt. These military outposts strengthened the British supply line by acting as resupply centers for troops moving through the frontier. The cabins were built by a company of the 3rd Battalion, Pennsylvania Regiment under the command of Captain Nicholas Wetterholt.

Every supply station along the Forbes Road was garrisoned by eight to ten men who were responsible for maintaining the King's property within. The waystations were typically spaced about twenty miles apart because that was considered an adequate daily distance for troop movements through the frontier. The cabins themselves as indicated in Colonel Bouquet's papers consisted of two rooms: one acted as a storeroom and the other as living quarters. Soldiers at the waystation had to be self sufficient and thus planted gardens in order to supplement their daily rations and dug a well from which to draw water.

"Each Logg House containing two rooms, one about 20 feet Square, the other with a Chimney for a Serjeants guard: a door and a Padlock to the Store room" October 12, 1759, Captain Lewis Ourry to Colonel Henry Bouquet

The French and Indian War officially came to an end on February 10, 1763 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. As a result, Britain assumed control over most of North America. However, the British immediately provoked the Natives who felt slighted by the French giving their lands away to the British. Not willing to abide to yet another alien rule, a coalition of native Tribes launched a series of raids against western settlements and even laid siege to Fort Pitt. With the outbreak of Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763, many of the waystations were destroyed when Native raids swept eastward.

After the fighting had finally subsided, these waystations provided the impetus for settlement in the West. Waystations took on the role of 18th century "mini marts" as pioneers regularly stopped to exchange supplies, water horses, or get fresh food while traveling through the frontier. Small communities began to coalesce and take root around these waystations. The Forbes Road, first constructed for military maneuverability, became one of the most important thoroughfares utilized by western pioneers and settlers in the decades that followed.