Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pennsylvania the War Zone

I have mentioned Pennsylvania's long history as a war zone before, but for those 0f you not familiar with the story it may be useful to go over it. If all you know of our state is bustling cities, long vistas of farmlands, forests, or --not to forget--ever-encroaching development, what you are about to learn may be quite a surprise.
We shall never know what wars were waged among the Native tribes before the arrival of European settlers, so let's begin with those European settlers. Seeds of war among the new English colonies were sown back in London, when land grants were drawn up and their boundaries overlapped. So there were wars over boundary issues. These included, most conspicuously, the so-called Yankee-Pennamite Wars, fought between Pennsylvania and Connecticut in Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley in the 18th century and not settled until after the American Revolution. There were other border struggles with Maryland and Virginia.
From 1755 until 1763 British America was involved in a world war, one of a series between Britain and its European and global rival France. This, the last in the series, was known in Europe as the Seven Years' War, but here as the French and Indian War. At stake on this side of the Atlantic was whether the riches of the North American continent would fall to Britain or to France. Some Native tribes sided with the French, some with the British.
All parts of Pennsylvania were involved in the French and Indian War. Attacks against white settlements by Native warriors flared up everywhere. In 1916 Pennsylvania put out a massive two-volume work called "Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania". You can find some chunks of this online, including maps showing a staggering number of forts and fortifications, online. But much of the action swirled around the present location of Pittsburgh, site first of the French Fort Duquesne and later of the British Fort Pitt. This was a vital place, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers came together to form the Ohio. Whoever controlled this site would control the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, their trade, and presumably their future. At the end of the French and Indian War and its aftermath, the Native uprising known as Pontiac's Rebellion, the language spoken here at "the Point" was English.

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