Challenging the French in the Ohio Country

In an attempt to lay claim to the Ohio Country, the French had created alliances and established forts throughout what is now Western Pennsylvania and Western New York. The British Crown and its representatives in the American colonies did not like this incursion on the territory that they believed was rightly British. On December 12th, 1753, a tall young Major in the Virginia Militia would deliver a letter to the Commandant of Fort LeBoeuf, a French fort sitting close to what is now Union City, Pennsylvania (Roughly 23 miles Southeast of Erie PA). The young Major would soon be a linchpin in the start of the French and Indian War, Major George Washington was a young man dedicated to the crown and to military service to his homeland in the Virginia Province.

Major George Washington
Photo: George Washington – Mount Vernon National Historical Site

Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent this letter with Washington inquiring of the Commandant, what authority they had to erect a fort on British land. On his arrival at the fort, Washington was greeted and given entry to visit with Legardeur de St. Pierre an elderly man who was sent to command the fort after the death of the prior Commandant.  St. Pierre advised one of his men to write a letter back to Governor Dinwiddie advising, “As to the summons you send me to retire, I do not think myself obliged to obey it.”  As for Washington and his party, that included several Native guides, the french military at the fort attempted to sway them from returning with Washington, including getting the guide drunk to the point that they could not leave. On December 16, however, Washington and his party left Fort Leboeuf and started their journey south.

This would not be Washington’s last foray into the Ohio Country. The next attempt to reach out to the French would result in the significant death of a French party and what would be the first shots fired in the French and Indian War.

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