Before Fort Duquesne

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I always had an understanding that the French built Fort Duquesne and when the French found out that a large British Army Contingent was on their way to take the fort, the French destroyed it. What I never learned in school was that when the French arrived at the forks of the Ohio, they found that the building of a British Fort was already in progress.

In early 1754, William Trent, a veteran of the Pennsylvania Provincial Militia during King George’s War was working for the Ohio Company. Trent was commissioned by Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia to recruit a unit of soldiers and tradesmen and meet with Half-King (Tanacharison) a Seneca leader who was allied with the British, Half-King wanted the British to build a Fort at the forks of the Ohio to help stop the French expansion into the Ohio Territory. At that same time, Lt. Gov. Dinwiddie instructed Major Washington to recruit 100 soldiers to prepare to help and defend the fort.

The Half King – Painting by Robert Griffing

Trent had no difficulty recruiting the men he needed to begin the task for which he was given. Washington had a great deal of difficulty recruiting soldiers to travel so far away and protect a fort in the Ohio Country. Trent and his men constructed a store house at the mouth of the Redstone Creek (Modern Day Uniontown PA) and continued on to build a store house and the beginnings of a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, Half-King laid the first log of the store house.

The building of the fort would be short lives as French Troops came down the Allegheny River from Fort Presque Isle (Erie PA) to take the land for France. An action that would happen in April of 1754, when the French Commander sent notice from Shanopin Town to the fort to vacate, or be besieged by the French Army. Shanopin Town was a native settlement on the shore of the Allegheny River (approximately 30th street in Pittsburgh). The next day, Trent’s third in command capitulated to the French demands and the fort was evacuated.

The story of Trent, his company and the struggles they incurred are well written in a new book by Jason Cherry, who also happens to be the commander of Trent’s Company, a living history reentactment group. You can find his book Pittsburgh’s Lost Outpost from many retail sellers. I strongly suggest that if you a fan of History, especially Pittsburgh and French and Indian War history that you pick up a copy of this book. The author, Jason Cherry, includes documents of Trent’s Company and deciphering of documents written by Trent within the book.

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