Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Eastern State Penitentiary / Part # 1


Eastern State Penitentiary
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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PART # 1 
The Walnut Street Jail / Gaol
(Engraving Credit: William Birch) 

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Charles Williams stood in front of the courtroom on Walnut Street in Philadelphia in late October of 1829 and awaited the judge's verdict concerning his case.  He had been labeled a burglar by the prosecution, accused of stealing several items from a home, including a $20 watch, a $3 gold seal, and a gold key.  He was a farmer by trade, a literate black man on a visit to the city who now faced an uncertain future beyond his control.  He closed his eyes as the judge rendered his decision with the word guilty ringing loudly within Williams' ears.  He was sentenced to two years of confinement in the newly opened prison on the hill a mile outside the city of Philadelphia known as Eastern State Penitentiary.  Williams had never heard of the word penitentiary and had no idea what it meant. 

Walnut Street Jail Cell
(Illustration Credit: E.S.P. Museum)
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On the morning of October 23, 1829 Charles Williams was informed he would be transported from the Walnut Street Jail to the new facility within the hour.  He was escorted from the loud, crowded jail cell and was placed inside the Black Maria police wagon for the half hour journey.  He took in his last glimpse of busy Walnut Street as the wagon door was closed tightly shut and the interior became dark.  The horses jutted forward and the chains on his wrists and ankles began to jingle with the rhythm of the cobblestone streets below.  The ride became increasingly rough as the wagon navigated the rutted dirt country roads outside the city.  Finally, the wagon came to a stop and the door was abruptly jarred open, allowing the outside light to penetrate the space and chase the darkness away.  He was pulled from his container and stood on his feet.  As his eyes began to adjust to the light, an ominous castle of enormous scale and size came into focus, with stone walls thirty feet high. 

Eastern State Penitentiary Castle Exterior
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The sight of the stone structure before him was surreal but before he could absorb the scene further, a thick cloth bag was placed over his head and tied fast around his neck.  Again he was in darkness as a pair of guards led him forward up a few steps and through a blind route to a room where he would be processed into the system.  Soon he was seated in a chair and the cloth bag around his neck was loosened and pulled off.  The room was dimly light and his eyes adjusted more quickly, revealing a man behind a desk who studied him with interest.  He introduced himself as Warden Samuel R. Wood who notified Williams that he would have the distinction of being Prisoner # 1 of Eastern State Penitentiary.  He was told he would be isolated in solitary confinement in a private cell with little contact with the outside world.  He would not be permitted to see any visitors nor receive any mail during his stay at the penitentiary.  Warden Wood said that he hoped the silence would provide Williams the opportunity to consider the weight of his crimes and seek repentance as a form of rehabilitation for his sins.

 Prisoner in Blindfold Bag
(Later Version with Eye-holes)
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Prisoner # 1 saw Warden Wood disappear from view as the cloth bag was replaced over his head once again.  He was stood up and turned around to exit the room as he attempted to digest the instructions the warden had just handed down.  He was aimlessly led forward in darkness through long straight spans and multiple twists and turns until he was suddenly pulled to a stop.  He heard the jingle of keys and the creak of a heavy door as the guard placed a hand on top of his head and instructed him to stoop and step forward.  Helpless, he stood and listened trying to gain clues that might offer a hint of his unseen surroundings.  The door slammed shut and the key revolved in the lock chamber and all fell silent at once.  However, he was not alone as he felt his hood strings loosened again and the bag pulled from his face.  He was surprised to see the blue sky and feel the heat of the sun's rays on his face.

 Eastern State Prison Cell /Yard Model
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He was standing within a small stoned walled space that was open to the sky above him free from bars but at least ten feet in height on all sides.  There was a heavy door on either end of the stone walled rectangular shaped space.  He guessed the one he just passed through led to the cell block corridor and the other door possibly to an enclosed cell.  The guard notified him that with good behavior he would be awarded two half hour sessions per day in the individual exercise yard.  The other door was opened and he peered inside the cave-like cell.  The cell inside contained a bed off the floor, a small wooden night stand and a circular stool with an opening on top.  The guard must have noticed his curious expression and told him it was a toilet, a necessary built into the cell that could be flushed twice a day with a bucket of water.   The braces on his ankles and wrists were opened and his limbs were released.  The guard backed out of the cell door, the iron door creaked shut, the lock turned, and he was alone in silence.

Cell Ceiling Skylight
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Williams examined the space that would be his home for the next twenty-four months.  The room appeared to be similar in size and construction to the small exercise yard outside.  The ceiling arched high to a narrow rectangular slit that allowed light to pour into the cell, like light that brightly bursts through a small opening in dark clouds.  The light was so bright that he could not see outside beyond the opening's glare but it only illuminated a small space in the center of the floor.  The light faded to the edges of the room.  On the wall opposite the cell entrance was a rectangular wooded panel about the size of his chest.  He ran his fingers around the edges but it would not move, keeping its purpose a mystery.  He sat down on the hard iron frame bed topped with a thin mattress, covered by a single blanket of gray wool, and a thin pillow made of linen.  Several pipes were stacked on top of one another and attached to the side wall but their purpose, he could not guess.  He laid down on the bed, closed his eyes, and listened for any evidence of sound.

Cell Sliding Food Door
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If there were other prisoners above, below, or beside him, he could not detect their existence.   He gazed at the light coming from the thin slit in the ceiling but he could not detect what time of day it might be by now.  When working in the fields he could always track the passing of time by the movement of the sun but this light was fixed and only changed when a cloud might obstruct the strength of its light.  His stomach began to growl and he sat up and filled a tin cup from a matching pitcher filled with water.  He looked at the curious cement chamber pot in the corner but was startled when the wooden square door slid open and a plate of food was handed to him by a faceless guard who did not speak.  The door closed tightly shut as quickly as it had opened and he was contained once again in quiet.  He dined on a small loaf of hard bread and warm beans with a large provided spoon. He wiped his plate clean with the remaining crust of his bread and placed the open face upon the wall, resting his ear on the bottom side.  He began to tap a cadence with the spoon on the wall and held his breath, listening for any hint of response.  After several minutes, the one sided effort became tiresome and the cell fell back into lonely silence.     

Suffering in Solitude
(Illustration Credit: Charles Dickens)
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Over time, a routine developed with long spans of solitude and four brief contacts with prison personnel for meal deliveries, exercise yard access, and routine counts.  Warden Wood stopped in once a day to check on him but the staff interacted very little with him.  Other than the warden, he did not know the guards' names and still could not detect the presence of other prisoners.  The thick walls of his cell revealed little and when outside in his walled yard, he could not hear any human sounds.  When his food door opened, he gazed into the corridor but the wall on the far side was solid blank plaster. On rare occasions he was removed from his cell to visit the prison doctor or barber but was always covered by the canvas bag to block his sight during transit.   As the weather cooled through fall and winter approached, he noticed that the stacked pipes along his cell wall began to give off heat to keep him warm.  It was a strange phenomenon he could not explain nor even begin to comprehend.  He had no books to read, or cards to play, and he began to drown in the deafening silence that consumed his world. Without notice, he began to talk to himself, as isolated people often do in an attempt to keep hold of their sanity. 

Deteriorating Cell Block Today
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It is impossible to know what ever became of Charles Williams, AKA: Prisoner # 1.  He was most likely released and disappeared into obscurity.   We hope his experience at Eastern State Penitentiary had a positive impact on his criminal tendencies and rejoined society with a new outlook on life.  Perhaps he returned to his old trade of farming the land in the wide open spaces, where he could once again track the passing of time by the movement of the sun.  Or he may have quickly fallen back into old habits that repeatedly returned him back into the system.   On Part # 2 of our visit to Eastern State Penitentiary, we will examine the prison further and outline the purpose of the worlds first true penitentiary that became praised by some and criticized by others.   We will also look at other personal stories of prisoners, including gangster Al Capone and bank robber Slick Willie Sutton.  Remember kids, Crime Doesn't Pay... It never has!

PLEASE NOTE: The above narrative was written by me personally.  The story is based on my research concerning prisoner Charles Williams, Eastern State Penitentiary, and my historical imagination after touring the site.  It is not a factual published account of real events.



Please See Additional Photographs at....
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Individual Cell Toilet and Heating Pipes
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PLEASE SEE RELATED POSTINGS...

Eastern State Penitentiary / Part #2



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Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 1930
(215) 236-3300
http://www.easternstate.org
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Along the Forbes Road / Part # 2


The French and Indian War Series 
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Along the Forbes Road / Part # 2 

Fort Ligonier
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General John Forbes was making his slow methodical way toward Fort Duquesne along with his Cherokee and Catawba Indian allies.  Forbes had fallen ill from an intestinal disease that he would never recover.  His previous medical experience made the reality of his grave condition clearly evident and he knew he was dying.  He found it difficult to hide his condition from his troops, as they witnessed his daily spells of intense abdominal pain and severe migraine headaches that caused temporary blindness.  As his health continued to deteriorate, he became unable to ride his horse or even walk.  He fell further and further behind on the road but refused to resign his command. He led through his able-bodied second-in-command, General Henry Bouquet.  The two communicated through correspondence and all decisions were discussed between the two men but decided by Forbes who had the final word. 

 General Forbes' Arrival
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General Forbes wanted to have an impressive fortress built about fifty miles from Fort Duquesne where their attack could be launched from a defendable position.  General Bouquet, with the help of his troops and colonial construction workers built Fort Ligonier.  The impressive military base made use of the natural terrain and rock formations with several lines of defense to keep the French and their Indian allies at bay.  Forbes Road carried a constant stream of supply wagons and weapons to Fort Ligonier before the winter months would make the route impassable.  The French mounted a four hour attack on the fort but were pushed back by the powerful British guns nestled in artillery batteries located near the fort's center. The last order of construction sent by Forbes was to have a small private officer's hut built away from the rest of the interior barracks for his private quarters.  General Forbes entered Fort Ligonier on November 2, 1758 carried on a litter, a hammock bed set between a team of side-by-side white horses. His health continued to deteriorate but he refused to relinquish his command until his mission had been fulfilled.

Forbes' Private Quarters
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The most valuable asset to any military commander is information, intelligence of the conditions of the enemy.  General Forbes received word that the French stronghold of Louisbourg off the coast of Canada in Nova Scotia had been defeated by the Royal Navy, cutting off all French supply lines.  Fellow British commander General Jeffery Amherst, began to make plans for a Canadian invasion.  Unlike all of his fellow British commanders, Forbes was the only one who truly understood the role of the Indians and how critical they would be to the outcome of the war.  Forbes had noticed that the Indians were casual allies with a "what have you done for me lately" type of allegiance.  The Indians required constant financial installments of payments made in the form of various goods.  Forbes knew with the fall of Louisbourg, the French would not be able to keep the Indians demands satisfied.  Before he would attack Fort Duquesne, he would delay action one more time, sending his own Indian allies to talk with the nations allied with the French.  He hoped he could bribe them away with promises of hunting grounds and European goods.  Washington protested, not wanting to have to wait through the long cold winter before an attack on Fort Duquesne could take place in late spring.  He was scheduled to be married to a wealthy widow in Virginia named Martha Dandridge-Custis and did not want to delay his wedding plans.

The Conspiracy
Painting / Robert Griffing
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Not unlike most other people looking out for their own self interests during the conflict, the Native Americans were no exception and sadly could not see the big picture.  The French to date, had never taken their land from them and the British had a poor track record, devouring Indian lands with an incredible appetite.  Despite this reality, the Shawnee and Delaware tribes sold out to Forbes' offer and began to quietly withdraw from Fort Duquesne.  Upon meeting with the former French aligned Indian leaders, Forbes learned of the poor condition of the French troops at Duquesne.  The lack of supplies from Canada had forced the French troops to butcher their own horses for provisions.  Forbes decided to take advantage of the opportunity and began to assemble his army for an sudden attack on Fort Duquesne before the winter could take hold of the region. 

Forbes at the Point
Painting / Nat Youngblood
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The French commander  of Fort Duquesne received word of General Forbes' advance of over 1,000 troops, supported by 3,500 more, a short distance behind the lead force.  With no way of stockpiling supplies for the coming winter and his Indian allies no where to be found, Claude-Pierre P├ęcaudy de Contrecoeur decided to abandon the fort and retreat west into Illinois Territory.  On the morning of November 24, 1758, the French began to destroy the fort so the British would win the site but be denied the prize.  British scouts returned to General Forbes with accounts of Fort Duquesne engulfed in flames. Around midnight, a loud explosion echoed through the valley, the main ammunition magazine had ignited, destroying much of the fort's interior and remaining weapon stores.  Forbes and his troops arrived at the ruins of the fort the next morning and had finally seized control of the critical location of the Forks of the Ohio.  Forbes proved that sometimes diplomacy is the best weapon and the greatest battle is the one that is never fought.  The war would continue in the north with the capital city of New France, Quebec as the new target.
 Forbes Memorial 
Christ Church / Philadelphia
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General John Forbes was removed from his liter and carried on a stretcher to survey the scene.  He ordered that a new British fortress be constructed on the site to be named Fort Pitt after British Prime Minister, William Pitt.  Following the war, the fort would eventually give way to a new great city called Pittsburgh, known as the Gateway to the West.  Forbes, with his mission complete, finally resigned his command to General Henry Bouquet and the command of Fort Pitt to General Hugh Mercer.  In early December, he prepared to make the arduous journey back east toward Philadelphia.  The journey back over the road that bore his name took a long three months as the condition of his health became critical.  A week after his arrival in Philadelphia he died and was buried in a place of honor at Christ Church.  He was laid to rest in the chancel on the right side of the alter.

Unconquered
Painting / Robert Griffing
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Sadly, the promises made to the Native Americans by General Forbes died with him in Philadelphia.  The Forbes and Braddock Roads became super-highways for new settlers heading west, which meant disaster for the Indian Nations of the Ohio Valley.  Over the next 100 years the nations would bound together in a series of confederacies that only delayed their inevitable defeat and the loss of their tribal lands.

Point State Park / Pittsburgh, PA
(Credit / Flicker Images)
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Today the former location of Fort Duquesne and later Fort Pitt at the Forks of the Ohio is known as Point State Park.  The fort's original location is behind the fountain on the point.  The outline of the five pointed star pattern of the fort's walls are outlined in brick and are partly visible in the photo above on the green lawn behind the fountain.  My journey ended at Fort Ligonier, a short fifty miles from the point.  It is my goal to get there someday to see the beautiful city of Pittsburgh and discover the history within.  I will miss the friends I have met and the unique opportunities I have had the privilege to experience through the Governor's Institutes for educators.  Perhaps if the economy rebounds this valuable resource will become available once again.

Mr. Martin takes a Picture
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Did you Know... 

Most of the cannons at Fort Ligonier are period correct reproductions made by local licensed artillery artisans.  You can purchase one similar to the cannon pictured at the top of this article for about $40,000 in today's money.  It might look great in your front yard with lots of pretty flowers planted around it.  I'm told they make great Mother's Day gifts!  Personally, I'd rather buy a Mercedes! Dream on!


Please See My Additional Fort Photos of the French and Indian War at...
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Along the Forbes Road / Part # 1


The French and Indian War Series 
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 Along the Forbes Road / Part # 1
Map of Forbes / Braddock's Roads
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Following Braddock's defeat in Western Pennsylvania in 1755, the British Crown created a new position within the government in an effort to turn the tide of the war.  William Pitt was named Prime Minister and was granted sweeping powers to remove the French threat from North America.  Pitt was an eccentric politician but proved to be a brilliant architect of war.  A new push was organized to move the armies of King George II west and north toward key French strongholds on the continent of North America.  In 1757, General John Forbes was selected to lead a new expedition west toward Fort Dusquene at the Forks of the Ohio.

 Fort Sentry on Guard 
U.S. Army Heritage + Education Center
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
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Forbes studied medicine at Edinburgh University in Scotland but gave up the idea of becoming a physician to live a soldier's life. Forbes would prove to be an academic and cautious officer, well versed in military strategy and tactics. Not discouraged by Braddock's previous failure, Forbes decided to once again build a road west toward Fort Duquesne.  But rather than follow Braddock's route, he would forge a new road further north, through western Pennsylvania.  The leadership of Virginia and Maryland protested, knowing that success would equate to Pennsylvania settlers migrating west to settle the territory.  The true motivation of the war effort for Americans was often rooted in the promise of future financial profits harvested from the rich lands in the western frontier.  Forbes was not interested in the political impact of his war strategy and turned a deaf ear to the debate between Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia who all claimed rights to the Ohio Valley.  However, to ease colonial tensions and keep the French off balance, he decided to have crews simultaneously work on re-clearing Braddock's Road in the frontier of Virginia.

Forbes Road near Fort Duart
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In December of 1757 General John Forbes left Carlisle, Pennsylvania with 7,000 troops and began a slow and methodical march through the western wilderness.  William Pitt was very supportive with financial payments for everything Forbes needed.  Ironically, Pitts' free spending and growing debt to fund the French and Indian War, would later become the center of the debate that would lead to the next war, The American Revolution.  Forbes hired colonial workers at high wages to construct the road, while his soldiers protected the right of way.  Unlike Braddock, Forbes understood the importance of his Indian allies and valued their insight and support.  Forbes was careful of ambush, moving slowly and building small support fortresses along the way to give the army and local settlers a safe haven if attacked.  Like his predecessor, Forbes was later joined by George Washington, who hoped to represent Virginia's interests, as well as his own, concerning a roadway being constructed through territory claimed by several colonies.

 Mountain Pass Switchbacks
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Engineers and Indian scouts forged ahead of the construction party to discover the best route to build the road west.  The road itself would not meet our expectations of what a road should look like today.  The road was slow to build using the crude tools and technology of the time period.  As a result, it was a one way road only wide enough for a Conestoga wagon to pass through to deliver needed supplies. Mountains were crossed using a new technique of creating multiple switch-backs that zig-zaged up the steep slopes.  This technique made the road longer but much more practical with a lower incline grade that made it easier for draft animals to pull the heavy supply wagons up the mountain side.  It was still a monumental task to ascend the mountain road and often entailed men helping beasts by pushing loads from behind.  Wagons fell victim to the abuse of the road and damaged equipment was abandoned and pushed over the slope.  Often the roadway followed the way of Mother Nature, following waterways that cut their way through the rocky terrain over time.  If you ever noticed, our roads, railroads, etc. still follow Mother Nature's lead when constructing transportation routes through mountainous areas.  It's cost effective! 

 Outline of Fort Duart
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On one of our stops we came upon the remains of a small freighter's fort called Fort Duart along the former roadway in the middle of the woods.  After the area was discovered, local residents, who had built vacation homes in the area, decided to preserve and maintain the site.  It is in the middle of Nowhere, USA and I would have a hard time ever finding it again.  I was surprised that our large tour bus could navigate the narrow roads and was able to deliver our group within walking distance of the site. The area was beautiful, covered in wild bright green ferns that hid all evidence of the location of the original roadway. We were met by two representatives of the local homeowners association who revealed key points of reference.  The raised earthen walls were still evident with new trees growing up through the remnants of the palisade fence base. A monument few see was erected on the site to pay tribute to the space.

Forbes Road Artifact
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General Forbes continued to make his slow advance toward Fort Duquesne and had dispatched orders to avoid any contact with the enemy whenever possible.  He continued to order the construction of a series of forts to protect the right of way, some small, such as Fort Duart, and others larger, like Fort Loudoun.  General Forbes led from the rear sending his second-in-command General Henry Bouquet to the front to oversee the ongoing roadwork, construction of forts, and command of the troops. Fort Loudoun was a large but simply designed fort, built along the Forbes Road that was rediscovered and brought back to life.  Off the beaten path, the reconstructed fort has few visitors and even less financial support.  Sadly, it is once again falling into decay.  After the war, many of the forts were decommissioned and abandoned.  Newly arriving setters carried the dressed logs away to build their own homes, others fell prey to Mother Nature and the elements.  Fort Loudoun is re-telling the story of how a fort slowly dies.  The front gate fell off over a year ago and no funds are available to fix it.  The bottom of the fence posts are beginning to rot away where they meet the wet ground. 

Fort Loudoun / Franklin County
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Fort Loudoun was a point of support as the British Army pushed west but saw no action during the war.  However, in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the remaining British garrison faced off against a vigilante group of settlers during the Black Boys Rebellion.  Following the war, the British began to re-establish trade relationships with former enemy tribes who had raided Franklin County settlements.  A group of renegade men began to capture trade wagon trains heading west as an act of revenge. The Black Boys group got their name by blackening their faces with black soot to conceal their identities.  The fort was fired upon several times but following several key arrests the rebellion fell apart.  The future of Fort Loudoun is uncertain but several colonial reenactments are scheduled at the site in hopes it will attract more attention, visitation, and financial support.

Remains of the Forbes Road 
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Above is a rare view of a small remaining section of The Forbes Road outside Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  The route of Forbes Road through Pennsylvania was later closely followed by what became known as the infamous Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental roadway.  In our next installment we will visit the major military base Fort Ligonier, which was the last fort constructed on the Forbes Road.  Impressive Fort Ligonier became the staging area for Forbes' planned assault on Fort Duquesne in the coming spring. Tune in next time to see how the story ends.


Please See My Additional Fort Photos of the French and Indian War at...
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Abduction of Mary Jemison


The French and Indian War Series 
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The Abduction of Mary Jemison

Fort Duquesne / Forks of the Ohio
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Our story begins in April of 1754 with the French and Indian War going poorly for the British.  The fertile Ohio Valley was at stake and England was not going to let the claims of the French, who had descended south from Quebec, take it away.  Both nations would import professional armies at great expense to secure the expanding west and the center of contention was an area known by the Indians as the Forks of the Ohio. The French had built a string of forts as a military fence to keep the American setters from coming west but this action was received by the British Crown as an Act of War.  One of the most geographical and militarily significant locations of conflict was Fort Duquesne (Du-kane), a commanding presence where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers came together to form the Ohio River.  Today the coveted site is within view of Heinz Field where the Pittsburgh Steelers have defeated gridiron enemies on their way to winning six Super Bowls.
The Expedition of 1755
Painting / Pamela Patrick White
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 General Edward Braddock was sent to take command and he quickly set his sights on Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio.  His plan was to advance through the wilderness by building a road through the western frontier of Virginia to enable supply wagon trains to easily reach his troops.  He was accompanied by a young American officer named George Washington who was eager to make amends, following his failure at Fort Necessity that sparked the war.  (Washington is represented in the painting above in the blue uniform)  Braddock was an excellent commander proven in battle across the European theater but in America, he was in an unfamiliar landscape.  Braddock had little respect for the Indian peoples who offered their aid and dismissed them as savages, incapable of fighting with professional soldiers.  Braddock followed the traditional military customs and insisted that his troops march in straight columns to fife and drum cadence.  Despite the protests of Washington, warning of Indian ambush in the densely wooded terrain, Braddock was determined to follow proper military rules of behavior according to the established European Articles of War.
Wounding of Braddock
Painting / Robert Griffing
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The British Army, sharply clad in uniforms of bright scarlet red, made their way west toward their predetermined target without incident or detection.  Washington knew better and cautioned General Braddock, who continued to dismiss the American officer's warnings as inexperience and youth. Braddock had never encountered an enemy in the woods and expected the fight to take place at Fort Duquesne.  On July 8, 1755 within a few miles of the French stronghold, Braddock and his 1300 men marched straight into the middle of a surprise ambush attack.  The Battle of the Monongahela would rage for over three hours of heavy fighting but the Indians had the advantage of fighting on familiar hunting grounds and used the terrain to their advantage.  Braddock had several horses shot out from under him and was then shot through the lungs and fell.  (Washington is represented in the painting above kneeling behind Braddock in the red uniform)  Without his leadership, the British lines began to fall apart and Washington began to lead the men in retreat back toward Fort Necessity.  Indians overran the battle site and began to harvest trophies of war from the British fallen, enabling the organized retreat to proceed without chase.  Braddock died four days later and was buried in the road in an effort to hide the grave from the Indians. Over 900 British Soldiers were killed or wounded in the lop-sided battle. 

Taking of Mary Jemison
Painting / Robert Griffing
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Following the defeat of Braddock and the retreat of his army, the frontier was set ablaze by Indian war parties that swept over western Pennsylvania.  Lonely settler cabins were easy prey and one after another fell victim to Indian attack.  Like so many other newcomers, the Jemison family had immigrated from Ireland, entered America through Philadelphia, and later settled in the wilderness of Adams County, Pennsylvania. Early one morning following Braddock's defeat, the Jemison cabin was attacked by a party of a dozen Shawnee and French raiders.  The family was captured and force marched west toward Fort Duquesne where they might be ransomed off or taken to Canada as forced labor.  However, the Jemison family soon became victimized by their captors with the entire family being killed on the trail with the exception of their teenage daughter, Mary and another small neighbor boy. Upon her arrival at Fort Duquesne, she was traded to two Seneca Warriors who took her south to their tribe.   Following several abductions in the area, the frontier emptied of settlers, many coming east for the protection available in populated Lancaster County.     

Our Group / College Dining Hall
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I was at Gettysburg College attending a week long teacher's institute focusing on local history  associated with war in Pennsylvania.  I really enjoyed taking a week each summer and going back to college to learn about the subject I love.  Plus, it brought back a lot of memories of my college days, living in a dorm room, eating at the dining commons, and writing my parents to plead poverty and beg for them to send me money...  It didn't work!  Sadly, state funding has dried up and the Governor's Institutes for educators I looked forward to each year are now a thing of the past and part of history themselves.  I will miss the friendships and unique experiences the program granted me access to experience the past few summers.  I am hoping someday they will offer the program once again.

 Endless Apple Trees
(Credit / Flicker Images) 
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This warm summer morning we were off to find the location of the original Jemison home site in rural Adams County.  We passed through areas of dense apple orchards that went on as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful display of nature's bounty with the sun just starting to burn off the morning mist. I learned that Apple trees are sensitive to temperature and only thrive on one side of the low grade mountains in this area.  The quiet community comes to life once a year for the National Apple Festival.  Bet you didn't see that one coming! The Jemison family would have lived on the opposite warmer side of the ridge, which was better suited to field crops.

    Jemison Home Site Location 
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Our large tour bus wound through the twisting roads of the rural and lonely low slope mountains and descended into the Buchanan Valley.  We passed by the open spaces seen in the photograph above and the original Jemison cabin remains were found in the lower fields near Marsh Creek.  The site today looks much as it did when the Jemison family cleared the forest and planted crops in the fields seen above.  Sadly, their dream of working their own land was short lived as they were farming land in the wilderness they did not own.  Squatter settlers cleared land and harvested crops hoping that by the time the line of settlement, slowly shifting west, caught up with them, they could afford to buy the land they had been working.  These families were often living outside the protection of local militias and their quest for a better life made them the most vulnerable to Indian attack.  It was the only land available to the poor and recently released indentured servants. The threat to settlers living in the frontier became a stark reality with the defeat of Braddock and the retreat of the British Army from the wilderness of Western Pennsylvania.

  Mary Jemison Statue
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On the ridge above the long lost home site, a solemn likeness of young Mary Jemison looks down over the Buchanan Valley and Marsh Creek where tragedy struck her family so long ago.  The monument is located on the grounds of a beautiful Catholic Church that seems out of place in the quiet rural landscape.  Parishioners must come from far and wide to fill the pews of this isolated place of worship.  It was one of the most peaceful locations for a country church I have ever seen, which complimented the tranquil likeness of Mary Jemison's gaze.

St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church 
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Mary Jemison was taken south by two Seneca braves who took her to their village where she was adopted by two women who incorporated her into the Seneca tribe and lifestyle.  Native Americans sometimes adopted white children into their communities to help support their dwindling populations, which consistently fell victim to warfare and disease.  During the journey west the abducted were evaluated and judged by their captors. If they thought they could potentially assimilate into tribal life and be reeducated in their way of life, they would be spared. If the captured were uncooperative during the journey they would be killed, which was the fate of Mary's parents and siblings.  Most often, the very young were spared because they could forget their previous lives as whites over time.  This is most likely why Mary and the young boy, who was her family's neighbor, were spared. The fate of the little neighbor boy is lost to history. 

 Buchanan Valley / Adams County
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Mary grew up and learned to mesh with her new world, later marrying a Delaware warrior and gave birth to a son, she named Thomas, after her deceased father.  When the war ended in defeat for the native peoples, her husband feared he would lose her to treaty agreements that would require the return of all abducted Christian souls back to white society.  He decided to take his wife and son on a 700-mile journey north into New York State near the Genesee River in the Sehgahunda Valley.  Mary and her son Thomas arrived safely but her husband fell ill while hunting and died.  Mary later remarried another Seneca man and had another six children.  Following the end of the American Revolution, much of the land in the area was seized by corporate land companies.  Mary helped negotiate more favorable terms for her tribe with those representing "white" interests, in what became known as the Treaty of Big Tree.

 
 The Genesee River, NY
(Credit / Flicker Images)
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The land of the Seneca continued to dwindle until the only tract left was a two-acre parcel left for Mary Jemison and her family, where she stayed for quite some time.  She later chose to move to the Buffalo Creek Indian Reservation with the Seneca people, where she lived until she died at the age of ninety. Over her life, she became legend and was locally known as the White Woman of the Genesee and the White Squaw.  Although given the opportunity many times to return to white society, she remained part of the Seneca Nation for the duration of her long adult life.  Perhaps having children who were raised in the Native American culture, cemented her decision to stay.  She was buried at the Buffalo Creek Reservation but her body was later relocated to Letchworth State Park near Castile, New York. A bronze likeness similar to the one in Adams County marks her gravesite.  

 
Mary Jemison Grave site / NY
(Credit / Flicker Images) 
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The legacy of Mary Jemison was recorded in an interview with Rev. J. E. Seaver who published the narrative in his book Captivity Narrative in 1824.  The account was played out in the popular historical fiction work for young readers by Lois Lensky entitled The Story of Mary JamisonA similar account that centered in New Hampshire during the same time period is portrayed in another popular book for adolescent readers entitled Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare. 

Did you Know...
  • Mary Jemison was born aboard the ship William and Mary during her family's transatlantic voyage from Ireland to the New World.


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