Touring the French and Indian War – Campaigns in the Ohio Country

A trader’s map of the Ohio country before 1753 (Library of Congress)

The Braddock Expedition in the summer of 1755 was one of the greatest military campaigns (and follies) in 18th-century North America up to that point in history. After diplomatic attempts to oust the French from Fort Duquesne by a young British officer named George Washington were rebuffed a year prior, British General Edward Braddock sought to move an army of some 2,000 through the wilderness and lay siege to the fort. The Battle of the Monongahela on July 9th ended the expedition and Braddock’s life.

Three years later, Washington and 6,000 soldiers returned to the region as part of an army led by General John Forbes. Once again, Fort Duquesne was the target as the Forbes Campaign which set out from Carlisle, PA in September 1758 and cut a new road to the west, just north of Braddock’s doomed route. Along the way, the expedition constructed a string of forts across the wilderness as safe havens for the British. As 1758 drew near to a close, Forbes would succeed where Braddock had failed in removing the French from the Forks of the Ohio forever.

British Generals Edward Braddock and John Forbes

The failures and successes of these men and their soldiers defined the story of the French and Indian War and the decades after in this corner of the 18th-century British Empire. In the aftermath, Pontiac’s Rebellion would rage through the same region, eventually leading to the decimation and removal of the native people who occupied the land well before the French or British came. In these two wars, the British emerged as the dominant power in the region. Unbeknownst to the Crown and Parliament safely at a distance in London, the seeds had also been sown for the eventual colonial rebellion against British rule less than two decades later.

My preparations for my expedition in September 2018 (photo by author)

In late September 2018 I set out to retrace these campaigns and stories by train, car and on foot. Over the course of a week, I made my way from my home in Brooklyn, NY to Alexandria, VA and then zig-zagged my way to Pittsburgh, PA and back again. Along the way I sought to get a sense of these historic, out-of-the-way places where armies once moved and pivotal battles were fought over 250 years ago. I also captured a number of videos and photos of the sites, allowing others to visit these places from a digital distance. For me, breathing the air, hiking the trails and camping amid the trees and mountains of what was then known as the Ohio Country was my opportunity to engage with history first-hand.


George Washington in the Ohio Country

George Washington’s 1754 map to the Ohio River (Library of Congress)

Much of the story of the Ohio Country in the mid-18th-century is also the story of one person: George Washington. As an ambitious, twenty-something Virginia Provincial officer, he was eager to prove his worth and earn a place as a full British officer in service of the Crown and Empire.

Observations from Ohiopyle State Park

To that end, in 1753 Washington was appointed as an envoy tasked with delivering a message to the French at Fort Duquesne. The order unceremoniously commanded the French to vacate the region, one the British felt they rightly claimed. The arduous winter journey through mountains, rivers and thick forests had challenged Washington’s physical fortitude. The French commander’s refusal of Washington’s carried message challenged his spirits and ambitions of taking a place among elite society. On his first assignment as a designated representative of the British colonial government, Washington had failed.

Jumonville Glen

A view of Jumonville Glen

The following spring, Washington returned to the region for a second try at forcing the French from their further-developed positions. This time, Washington was at the head of his first command of some 300 Virginians. Camping in a meadow some distance from Fort Duquesne, Washington was tipped off by an Mingo ally, Tanacharison (“Half King”), to the presence of a French advance guard camped in a nearby wood.

Early in the morning on May 28, 1754, Washington approached the French camp with some 40 colonials and a dozen allied Mingo warriors. Surprising the French (actually French Canadians led by Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville) in their morning camp, a quick firefight erupted. In the subsequent surrender negotiation between Jumonville and Washington, Tanacharison killed the French officer. By all accounts, Washington had blundered into a brief firefight and further lost control of the situation after the smoke had cleared. The encounter at what became known as Jumonville Glen had the potential to be yet another bad mark on the young officer’s record.

Me at Jumonville Glen near the site of the French camp (photo by author)

When I visited Jumonville Glen in September 2018, I had not been to the site in over two decades. On the morning I was there, I had the site to myself and its still, secluded quiet in a cool morning rain is eerie. Standing at the rocky prospect above at the British position and then at the base of the glen where the French camped, you get a true sense of the intimacy of the place where a major event occurred.

Fort Necessity

Observations from British positions at the stockade at Fort Necessity National Battlefield

The event at Jumonville Glen didn’t immediately reveal its long term significance, but Washington sensed a French reprisal would be imminent. With that, he returned to the meadows and had a small “fort of necessity” constructed. Some 50′ in diameter, the split-log stockade was surrounded by earth ditches dug into the damp ground near an adjacent trace of a stream.

Observations from the French position at the treeline at Fort Necessity National Battlefield

On July 3, 1754, around 600 French Regulars and Canadians accompanied by perhaps 100 or more Indian allies appeared at the treeline surrounding Washington’s hasty defense. With may only 400 men, many of whom were sick, drunk or otherwise unfit to fight, Washington was vastly outnumbered as Indian and French musket volleys rang out from the trees throughout the day. When rain fell in the afternoon, Washington’s shattered force eventually surrendered. In the negotiation of terms relying on questionable translations, Washington signed his name to a document in which he inadvertently admitted responsibility for the assassination of Jumonville.

As Washington retreated his force from the field, he had delivered a third failure on his third assignment as a want-to-be British officer. With these personal failures, the 22-year-old Virginian had also set in motion events which would erupt in the French and Indian War.

The recreated stockade at Fort Necessity National Battlefield (photo by author)

The Braddock Campaign

The Braddock Expedition of 1755 (Library of Congress)

Following on the failures of Washington in 1753 and 1754, an escalated show of British force was determined to be the solution to finally oust the French from the region. The person tapped for the job was British General Edward Braddock, a veteran in the ways of European warfare and campaigns. The disconnect between Braddock’s military experience and the fighting in the forests of the Ohio Country would prove to be disastrous.

The Carlyle House

Observations from the Carlyle House in Alexandria, VA

In the spring of 1755, Braddock had arrived in Alexandria, VA with 1,200 troops and set up his headquarters at the Carlyle House. There on April 15th, he convened a “congress” of colonial governors from Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts to seek shared funding of the campaign against the French ensconced in the Ohio Country. The governors pushed back on funding Braddock’s expedition but did agree a multi-front campaign against France was the key to their removal from the contintent.

The parlor of the Carlyle House, site of the 1755 Congress of Alexandria (photo by author)

A visit to the Carlyle House today in downtown Alexandria is largely a tour of a grand 18th-century home, not unlike many historic house museums. For someone like me, imagining the heated conversation and planning for what was to become the Braddock campaign and the French and Indian War at large makes it an important part of the era’s story.

Braddock’s Road

Observations from Braddock’s Road near Fort Necessity

By late May 1755, Braddock and his force now numbering over 2,000 set off from Fort Cumberland, MD with the destination of Fort Duquesne over 100 miles to the west and north. Among the troops and working wagon teams recruited by Benjamin Franklin, Braddock’s army contained a who’s who of people who would play a large part in the events over the coming decades. These included the back woodsmen Daniel Boone and Daniel Morgan as well as Thomas GageCharles Lee, Horatio Gates and Washington as Braddock’s personal aide.

A 3 1/2 minute hike along Braddock’s Road

Braddock’s route was challenging from the beginning. The landscape ahead presented dense forests, rushing streams and steep, rocky hills and mountains. His long column consisted of advance work parties cutting and building a road at the head of the slow-moving army. In some areas rock needed to be blasted and cleared and at other points wagons and cannon were broken down to be hauled over inclines or cross waterways.

The route of the campaign today (much along what would be come the National Road and later US Route 40) is traced with dozens of roadside historical markers. Getting off the road, there are opportunities to hike short remnant portions of the road. The experience of walking some of Braddock’s route shows the closeness and seclusion experienced by a massive European army moving through wilderness for which they were completely unprepared.

The Battle of the Monongehela

A 1755 sketch of the Battle of Monongahela (Library of Congress)

After some five weeks of slow advance at a pace of what could be less than five miles a day, Braddock’s column arrived near the banks of the Monongahela River. On July 9, 1755, the head of the British force was attacked by over 200 French and Canadian militia along perhaps 600 or more Indian allies. In the bloody confusion and surrounding crossfire, the British were thrown into disarray as multiple officers fell and troops were engaged at close range attacks. Braddock himself fell to a musket wound, and Washington managed to organize a hasty retreat, saving what he could of British line that had been wrecked with nearly 900 dead and wounded.

General Edward Braddock monument at Fort Necessity National Battlefield (photo by author)

Thus, just ten miles from Fort Duquense, yet another British force was thrown back by the French. Again, Washington had been a participant and this time he buried his commanding officer and mentor near the ruins of Fort Necessity.

Braddock’s Battlefield History Center in (photo by author)

The site of the Battle of the Monongahela at present day Braddock, PA is largely lost to history. The Braddock’s Battlefield History Center has done an outstanding job of documenting the event, and I was lucky enough to be the only the visitor on the day of my trip. There I was able to have the museum’s founder, local retired attorney Robert T. Messner, to myself as we discussed the battle and took a tour of the exhibits. A couple weeks after my visit, a merger between the center and Fort Ligonier was announced, guaranteeing further interpretation of the battle for years to come.


The Forbes Campaign and Pontiac’s Rebellion

The Forbes Expedition of 1758 (Library of Congress)

Leaving the Braddock story at its natural and tragic end, I had the opportunity to also visit a number of other mid-18th-century sites of historical significance in the region. With these I followed other travelers, settlers and campaigns of the era from the French and Indian War to the follow-up conflict of Pontiac’s Rebellion.

Fort Frederick

Observations from Fort Frederick State Park

The entire region is dotted with sites of former stops along major routes of 18th-century travel and trade. In Washington County, MD, I spent the evening at Fort Frederick State Park. After an evening camping in a downpour in an otherwise empty campground along a rising Potomac River, I awoke to an overcast day and a visit to the recreated Fort Frederick. Originally built in 1756-1758, the large stone Vauban-style fortress is today represented as rebuilt by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Initially used for defense and a trading hub for local settlers during the period of the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion, the fortress was later used as a prison during the American Revolution and then garrisoned again by Union troops during the US Civil War.

Fort Bedford

Travelling about 100 miles northwest from Fort Fredrick, is the site of Fort Bedford. Built in 1758 by British troops under Colonel Henry Bouquet, the log star-shaped fort served as one of the string of supply points during the campaign led by General Forbes to take Fort Duquesne. The original fort is long gone but the site today is marked by the Fort Bedford Museum which is home to the fort’s original 1758 flag and a nice scale model of the fort as it once looked.

Fort Ligonier

Observations from Fort Ligonier

Following the route of Forbes and his army fifty more miles to the northwest, I arrived at Fort Ligonier. Some fifty miles southeast of present-day Pittsburgh, the fort was the final jumping-off point for eventual siege and taking of Fort Duquesne in late November 1758. During Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763, the fort continued as an important British outpost and was attacked twice by united Indian forces during that conflict. Today’s fort is a fine reproduction of the 18th-century log fort and the museum houses the absolute best collection of exhibits on the period I’ve visited.

Fort Duquesne

Plan of Fort Duquesne after its capture by the British in 1758 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

All roads lead to the the Forks of the Ohio at present day Pittsburgh, PA where the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together. After years of attempts by the British through diplomacy and a failed militia campaign with a young Washington followed by Braddock’s fateful end, the Forbes expedition succeeded in taking the site. Ultimately, British seizure of the point was anticlimactic with the French burning the fort before retreating to the north in late November 1758.

The British set to work redeveloping the site with Fort Pitt between 1759 and 1761 where it served as the anchor of the British Empire’s western edge for the remainder of the war. The fort was besieged by Indians during Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763 and then used by Virginian’s during the brief Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774 which many know view as a precursor to the Revolutionary war.

Observations from the site of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt

Jutting out from the the modern city of Pittsburgh, a visit to the site easily reveals the important strategic location of the point at the intersection of three mighty rivers. While the Indian villages, trading posts and forts which once crowded to the river banks are long gone, the park and Fort Pitt Museum there offer a marvelous experience and transport back in time.

Battle of Bushy Run

A 1765 map of the Battle of Bushy Run (John Carter Brown Library)

Squeezed between the little known French and Indian War and the mythic American War of Independence is the almost completely forgotten Pontiac’s Rebellion. From 1763 to 1766 a confederation of Indian nations from the Great Lakes and Ohio Country united to push back the tide of European settlers encroaching westward following the French and Indian War. By the spring and early summer of 1763 dozens of settlements, forts and outposts fell to Indian forces across the entire region, and once-inconceivable Indian sieges of Fort Detroit and Fort Pitt were underway.

In the hopes of relieving the siege at Fort Pitt, British veteran of the region Henry Bouquet led about 600 men over the route once used by Forbes and his army just a few years prior. On August 5, 1763 Bouquet’s force was about 25 miles from the fort when attacked by hundreds of Indians from the thick woods. After a first bloody and disastrous day of defeat, Bouquet’s men rallied the second day in a surprise flanking attack through the woods. The narrow defeat by the British threw back the native rebellion, effectively ending the brief war and assuring British supremacy in the region.

.Observations from Bushy Run Battlefield

A visit to Bushy Run Battlefield today is a long, winding, out of the way trip to beautifully preserved grounds over rolling hills and wooded trails. The small museum does an out sized job in defining the battle and overall period in context, and its annual reenactments are some of the most picturesque recreations of the period.


While the empires of the British, French and Indian people of the region clashed over the grounds I visited for decades of the 18th-century and involved tens off thousands of participants, my trip allowed me to quietly consider the region from a singular observer’s point of view. Over a week of travel and contemplation, I sought and found a journey back in time to the 18th-century found no so far off my usual 21st-century trail.

Rebuilding a 28mm Wilderness Fortification

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The construction of 17th and 18th-century European fortifications were revolutionized by the writing of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the French military engineer and author of A Manual of Siegecraft and Fortification. His formal star-shaped forts of the era defined military and city defensive architecture throughout Europe and in overseas colonies.

North American wilderness warfare of the French and Indian War often called for more hastily-built backcountry defenses. A paper by Military Architecture of the American Frontier, made available online by the National Park Service, provides an overview of how Vauban’s and other writings of the period influenced fort building in a very different environment. Blockhouses and stockades were common, and some reconstructed examples like Fort Necessity and Fort Ligonier can be visited today. Given even less time and planning, dirt, plentiful trees, and woven gabions filled with rocks could be used to create a somewhat formidable defensive position by throwing the strong backs of soldiers and hired civilians into the effort. While some Vauban-style grand forts of the period like Fort Niagara and Fort Ticonderoga still stand centuries later in the United States, countless small, temporary fortifications have been long lost to time.

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A plan of Fort Ligonier, Pennsylvania from “A Set of Plans and Forts in America. Reduced from Actual Surveys” by John Rocque (c. 1750)

My local club Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY has hundreds of pieces of terrain in multiple scales spanning many historical eras. Some of these pieces are decades old, once belonging to members who have long since moved on. They reflect different wargaming modeling techniques of the past and some bear the markings of manufacturers long gone.

I’ve taken it upon myself recently to rebuild and refresh some of these pieces, particularly a number of 28mm buildings and scratch built terrain models appropriate to 18th-century scenarios of the French and Indian War era. With this in mind, a large, banged-up and dusty wilderness fortress piece recently caught my eye on the club’s shelf and I set to work making it usable again.

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A decades-old scratchbuilt piece of terrain in need of repair

Mounted on a piece of quarter-inch plywood measuring about 8″ x 18″, this hefty model features three canon positions on a plaster raised earth mound surrounded by resin-cast wicker gabions and sharpened wooden stakes. The years had not been kind to the model. Original trees had snapped off long ago, several breaks in the plaster were evident, grass had worn off, fences were broken and overall, the whole model had taken on a drab appearance.

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Some initial repairs and a fresh coat of paint

The first step was to clean the model of the layers of dust accumulated over the years, remove remnants of broken trees and trim off flaking and broken bits of plaster. Next, I filled cracks and missing areas of plaster with lightweight wood filler. All the earthen areas then received a fresh coat of dark brown paint over which I dry brushed varying layers of browns and gray paints.

With the base repainted, I made small glued repairs to broken fencing. I also added a few spare sticks and a barrel to bring some detail to the model as if repairs were an ongoing part of the fortification’s use. From there, the logs, fence, sharpened stakes and gabions were repainted and weathered using more dry brushed coats of browns and grays.

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New trees are glued to the model

With most of the new painting done, I turned to adding new trees. I drilled and glued nails into the trunks of pre-made trees from Woodland Scenics which were then glued into holes in the base at the rear along the fence. The trees added textural and vertical interest to an otherwise flat model and also provided some additional color to the overall earthiness of the terrain.

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A layer of new groundcover is applied over the model

Further texture and color was added with my favorite Adirondack Blend from Scenic Express. This material contains grass of varying color and texture along with other larger bits of scattered twigs and wood chips which give a highly detailed look that reflects the ground of the North American wilderness. To attach, I heavily brushed white glue on a section at a time all around the base of the fortification and then shook a thick layer of the grass over the glue. Some areas around the logs also received a bit of grass to break up the sameness of the main battery area. Once dry, I lightly tapped the excess grass off the model, carefully scooping up the extra for use again. Finally, a couple small bits of clump foliage were glued around the trees and in random areas along the model’s base. With everything dry, the model got a matte spray coat to hold on the grass and seal the new paint.

In less than a couple hours work, the whole model popped back to life after sitting unused for years. The fortress also has a look more consistent with some of my other terrain pieces, allowing for a more unified look on the table. The project has inspired me to have a look at rebuilding other long-ignored pieces of terrain at the club, bringing them into a new century of miniature wargaming for hopefully years to come.

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French and Indian War: Colonel George Washington from Eureka Miniatures

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One of the remarkable things about history is how individuals taking part in small events can carry weight across generations and around the world. George Washington was one of these people over and over again throughout his life. Washington wanted nothing more than to rise through the ranks of the British military, earning glory and status as part of what had become the most powerful colonial force of the 18th-century. Three formative events occurred for Washington in 1754 and 1755 as a British Colonial officer on the rise, and his fate would become wrapped up in what would become the French and Indian War.

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“Death of Jumonville”

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1859).

In the spring of 1754, a newly-promoted 21-year-old Lt. Col. Washington in command of the Virginia Regiment was sent into the Ohio Country of Western Pennsylvania to provide assistance to British fort and road construction. Accompanied by Mingo leader Tanacharison (also known as “The Half King”), a dozen Indians and 40 Virginians, Washington encountered a French-Canadian scouting party on May 28, 1754. Washington’s ambush of the French in what would become known as the Battle of Jumonville Glen quickly devolved into The Half King’s surprise killing of the French Canadian commander Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. Although a victory for Washington, the affair rattled the young officer. The event also escalated hostilities between the French and British in North America, contributing directly to the beginning of the FIW.

Night Council at Fort Necessity

“The Night Council at Fort Necessity”

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1856). 

Anticipating French retribution, Washington and his Virginians fell back to a nearby meadow and began work on a hasty stockade fort. On July 3, some 600 French, French-Canadians and French-allied Indians attacked at the Battle of Fort Necessity. Outnumbered with just 400 men, Washington surrendered at day’s end after a rainy, muddy and bloody fight. In signing the terms with the French, Washington may have inadvertently admitted to the murder of Jumonville. Again, Washington’s stature in the British military was used as propaganda in France to further stoke the fires of war in the American Colonies.

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“The Fall of Braddock”

Painted by C. Schuessele, engraved by J.B. Allen, Virtue, Emmins & Co., New York. (1859)

With the war amping up, British Major General Edward Braddock arrived in the colonies in 1755 and set about a campaign deep into the Ohio Country to attempt again to oust the French. Beginning in May of that year, the ambitious campaign began with Washington at his mentor Braddock’s side leading over 2000 soldiers and ten cannon into the wilderness. The troubled and often stalled campaign finally arrived near their destination of Fort Duquesne (at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) on July 9, 1755. In the chaotic ambush, hundreds of Indians and French set upon the British advance column. In the ensuing battle Braddock was shot and eventually succumbed. Washington was devastated by the loss of his role model in another emotional loss that would weigh in him for years.

These events in the early career would go on to effect Washington for the rest of his life. His experience in the war and his rise within and eventual rejection by the British military system cannot be understated for how they molded Washington as the leader of the American Revolution and President of the United States.

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Needless to say, if you’re going to wargame the FIW period, you need a little Colonel Washington on the table. For mine, I turned to Eureka Miniatures. For about $10 they offer a metal cast vignette of Washington dismounted holding the reins of his horse and two of his beloved greyhounds standing faithfully nearby.

 

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Despite the charm of the four-piece set, I really wanted to model Washington with his boots on the ground. I’ll save the horse and dogs for some future project, and glued a spare musket to Washington’s extended hand.

For a painting guide, I used the iconic portrait painted by Charles Wilson Peale in 1772. Although painted after the FIW, the image depicts Washington as a proud British Colonial officer of the war years dressed in his Virginia Regiment uniform.

With Washington, I have the charismatic leader from his early career ready to command forces on the tabletop.

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French and Indian War: French Canadian Militia from North Star Military Figures

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Much of the fighting in the North American colonies for the French in what is known as the French and Indian War was in fact conducted by French-Canadians. As early as the 1740s, Canadians born in New France made up the majority of forces allied with Native Americans in staving off the spread of British settlers into the contested Ohio Country. Years prior, Canadian militia had cut their teeth fighting New England settlers during King William’s War (1688-1697) and Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713).

Well-versed in moving and fighting through the wilderness, these French-Canadian militiamen proved to be highly effective during the FIW against British regular forces yet to adapt to a very regional style of warfare. Their successes at the Battle of Fort Necessity, the Battle of the Monongahela and the Battle of Fort Oswego dealt hefty blows to the British war effort. Irregularly clad in rugged back country clothing and armed with muskets and native hand weapons, the Colonial French militia struck a rugged look as they fought on behalf of the French Crown in Europe.

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I’ve begun building out my 28mm French Canadian Militia with a small pack of metal models from North Star Military Figures. Although many companies manufacture figures for the period, North Star serves as the official product line for the popular Muskets and Tomahawks skirmish game.

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The main joy of painting these figures is in the variety and personality struck in each model’s clothing, equipment and pose. The imagination can really run wild in painting clothing in a variety of earth tones and muted reds, blues and green. Satchels, often traded with Indians in the period, can also be decorated with geometric patterns mimicking fine native finish work.

The North Star miniatures scale to a full 28mm, a bit taller and heftier than castings from manufactures like Conquest Miniatures and Eureka Miniatures. Those who are familiar with FIW figures from Galloping Major Wargames or Blue Moon Manufacturing will find their equal with these North Star models. That said, the look of these models fit in nicely as part of a rough force fighting the British for control of their frontier homeland of New France.

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French and Indian War: Building Fort Necessity in 28mm

Twenty-three years ago I found myself interning for a summer in southwestern Pennsylvania. While researching and writing National Register of Historic Places historic district nominations for three towns along Route 40 (The National Road) I found myself driving past Fort Necessity National Battlefield countless times. I wound up visiting and revisiting the site numerous times that summer, and I was fortunate to return to the site a couple summers ago (photo from that visit above).

Fort Necessity holds a particular place in my heart as a site marking a military loss and a long-misinterpreted oddball fortification. This is American history at its small and messy best. And so, with a big current interest in modeling and wargaming the French and Indian War at the 28mm scale, I needed to build Fort Necessity.

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Mid-20th-century archeology formed the basis for my fort

In building my fort in 28mm, I relied heavily on the historic and archeological work from J.C. Harrington’s New Light On Washington’s Fort Necessity. The report is available for free and makes for some fairly detailed reading on the campaign leading up to the construction of the stockade and battle. The Battle of Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754 is notable for being a foundational experience for a young George Washington commanding British Colonial forces. The defense in an open field was accomplished with a simple “Fort of Necessity” of split upright logs and a small central storage building. The battle was overly one-sided with the French Canadians and their Indian allies dealing a loss to Washington. The hastily-built stockade, having served its one-time purpose, was burned to the ground at a later date.

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Scale drawing of the fort as based on archeology of the 1950s

From there, the site passed through a number of unremarkable ownerships over the centuries until the National Park Service took over the site in 1933. First-hand accounts and contemporaneous documentation of the battle site and fort is minimal. The NPS recreated a fort in a vaguely diamond-shape, erroneously interpreting the remains of earthen ramparts as firing steps inside the stockade. Subsequent investigations of the site in the late 1950s revealed a round shape for the stockade, and the NPS built a new version of the fort in the 1970s. Visitors to the site today see the fort in a much closer approximation to what the original must have been like some 260 years ago.

Timbers were split lengthwise with the flat side pointed outward. This is thought to have been done largely as a time saver as only half the number of trees had to be felled when building the fort. Live musket tests at the site in the video above demonstrate how little protection the logs would have provided with hundreds of French and Indians firing from the surrounding woods. Standing in the stockade under fire would have been a mix of smoke, splinters and metal ripping through the air.

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Scaled drawings for the fort construction

I used the scale drawings from the report to create a scaled building plan. With the fort estimated at 53′ in diameter, I converted the size to about 12″ in diameter for the model. Going on my own visits to the site, I estimated the palisade height at about 7 1/2′ which I scaled to about 1 1/2″ for the cut timbers. Finally, the small storage house at the center of the fort of about 14′ square in real life was scaled to a 3″ square model size.

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Twigs being cut and split into scale timbers

With all this research and inspiration in my head, I spent a sunny afternoon collecting fallen twigs in a nearby park. I cut selected twigs into 1 1/2″ pieces and split them lengthwise with a sharp knife. Once cut and split, one end of each was clipped to a point using small hobby cutters.

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The stockade goes up six inches at a time

The base of the fort consisted of a rigid plastic circle I found discarded on the street. Using a pencil, I traced the outline of a 12″ circle toward the outer edge of the base. Working about six inches at a time, I applied a heavy bead of construction adhesive along the line and stuck my cut timbers side by side in the glue.

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Superglue adds strength to the wall

Although the adhesive eventually dries very hard, it does cure a bit slowly. This allowed me to wiggle and straighten the wall pieces as I went along. When a section began to firm up, I spread a small amount of superglue between each timber. Once dry, the whole wall was nice and rigid. I continued this process around the whole fort, leaving a 1 1/2″ gap for the door with a solid round timber on each side.

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Woodworker’s putty forms the ground around the stockade

As sections of the wall were completed, I filled in the ground. I used woodworkers putty to slope up gently to the wall on either side and cover the bead of adhesive holding the wall in place. I made sure to maintain an irregular texture with the putty to add some realism to the ground surrounding the fort.

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The full fort built and ready for some ground cover

When dry, I covered the ground in a thick layer of brown paint and ground cover. I left the gate area muddy, dry-brushing some lighter browns over the dark basecoat. With everything dry, I soaked the whole fort in some heavy coats of sprayed matte finish.

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The door comes together using more split timbers

For the stockade door, I split small timbers into boards flat on both sides. Cross pieces on the back held the boards together, and a final bead of superglue between each board firmed the door up. To make the door functional, I cut two small pieces of leathery cloth into thin hinges and glued them to the door and a round post to one side.

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Logs are glued up on the cardboard base

For the small interior storage building, I began with thin cardboard cut to 3″ on a side and tapering from 1 1/2″ at the front to 1″ at the back. A small door opening 1″ across was cut at the front.

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The log walls are completed

The building’s walls were made inside and out with logs glued over one another. I cut alternating lengths to provide joint overlaps at the corners to approximate actual speculated construction of the period.

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The roof is laid out and completed

For the removable roof, another piece of cardboard cut about 3 1/2″ square was laid on top. Beams were laid out and then the roof was covered with roughly cut thin pieces of leather to represent skins used to cover the roof. Finally, a few random poles were glued on top to hold everything in place.

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Colonel George Washington inspects the completed Fort Necessity

With the build completed over just a couple days, I had a fairly good model of Fort Necessity built at a 28mm tabletop wargaming scale. My plan is to use the new model in a recreation of the battle at the upcoming Fire In The East NJ Con this coming June. I’ll have another post on the scenario as I playtest it in the coming month.

French and Indian War: Virginia Provincials from Galloping Major Wargames

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With French eyes on the contested Ohio Country and Western Virginia, in 1754 British Colonial Governor Robert Dinwiddie called for the raising of provincial infantry to protect the frontier. Commanded by Colonel Joshua Fry and a young Lieutenant Colonel George Washington, the Virginians would be present at the very start of the French and Indian War at an encounter gone badly at Jumonville Glen in Western Pennsylvania in May 1754. Washington’s eventual promotion to Colonel commanding the Virginians in 1755 during disastrous experiences at Fort Necessity and with the Braddock Expedition would shape his future leadership both on and off the battlefield.

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I was fortunate to be recently gifted fifteen Provincial figures from Galloping Major Wargamers. These excellent sculpts are on the bigger side of the 28mm miniature spectrum, representing a classic “true 28mm” with stocky, detailed and well-posed figures. The models are equipped so as to represent a variety of the Provincial forces in the British colonies during the era, allowing for a lot of flexibility for painters and gamers.

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Charles Willson Peale. George Washington in the Uniform of a British Colonial Colonel. 1772. Oil on canvas. Lee Chapel & Museum, Washington & Lee University.

The challenge in painting models of the FIW period can be in choosing what uniforms to base color schemes on. From my research I was able to tell the  Virginia Provincials went through two distinct uniform designs. The first, from about 1754-1755, featured a boldly in red — red coats with red cuffs and turnbacks, red waistcoats and red breeches. The later uniform adopted in 1756 through the end of the conflict featured a dark blue coat with red cuffs and turnbacks, red waistcoats and blue breeches. The 1772 portrait of Washington by Charles Willson Peale captures a heroic depiction of this later uniform style. In reality, both uniforms probably overlapped in use and at times the undersupplied provincial units would have resorted to using whatever equipment and clothing was available.

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I chose to paint my provincials in the later blue coats so as to make them stand out from the other allied British redcoats on the gaming table. To my eye, the later uniforms somehow look “more American” as the Virginians exited the war already sowing the seeds of the Revolution against British Crown rule to come over the next two decades.

As stated above, these Galloping Major castings feature some great personality. The command figures, one with a sword drawn behind his back and the other with his pistol at the ready, really carry a lot of presence on the table. The drummer stands resting as is catching his breath before the next command beat through his drum. Even each line figure, either loading or firing, has slight tweaks to their pose or equipment to show each miniature as an individual within the Virginia Provincial Regiment.

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Boardgames of the French and Indian War

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To understand the founding of the United States, you have to understand the American Revolution, and to understand the American Revolution, you need to understand the French and Indian War. As I’ve learned more about these wars in my adult life, I’m increasingly surprised the FIW gets such short shrift in American education and the general cultural conversations of the country’s history.

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Major campaigns and battles of the French and Indian War, 1754-1763

As I’ve written about previously, I’ve spent a lot of time touring many sites where the French and British vied for control of the continent in the mid-18th-century. In that era the French held much of the country west and north of the Alleghenies while the British possessed the eastern regions of the coast. As an extension of the Seven Years War in Europe and around the globe, the French and British empires fought over territory in America during the FIW and pulled numerous native Indian tribes into complicated alliances along the way. The clash of cultures and motives among Europeans and native peoples carried ripple effects for years to come and old grudges from the period led directly to the American Revolution some two decades later.

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My time spent touring various sites around the company has been supplemented by a stack of books. Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War (2001) weighs in at over 900 pages and provides a super comprehensive treatment of the war in depth. The French and Indian War (2006) by Walter Borneman provides a similar overview with detail stripped way back into a more historical narrative. For a focus on how Indian peoples shaped the 18th-century European settlement and wars for the continent, Peter Silver’s Our Savage Neighbors (2007) gives some fantastic insights which are usually breezed over in most histories. Finally, I’ve recently picked up a copy of Braddock’s Defeat (2015) by David Preston. This book provides a great bridge story on how a key campaign on the western frontier of Pennsylvania in 1755 echoed through the events of the FIW into the American Revolution and history beyond.

With many miles traveled and pages read, getting to play boardgames of the FIW — both tactically and strategically — has provided me the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and experience the wilderness roads, forts, settlements and battlefields of this fascinating period.

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Wilderness War (GMT Games)

My longtime favorite of FIW games is GMT’s Wilderness War from 2001. Designed by Volko Ruhnke, WW is not only the standout game of the period but also ranks among the best of modern wargames depicting any period. The game’s gorgeous hardbound game board defines the game as the war was fought amid the geography of the Northeast with point-to-point connections between major landmarks, cities, settlements and forts.

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Sample strategy cards from GMT’s Wilderness War

Strategy cards featuring both abstracted military actions like recruiting troops and militia, building siege works or conducting campaigns and period-specific events and personalities drive the game. Alternatively cards are played for points to activate leaders, forces stacked with a leader or individual units. Points may also be spent to construct stockades and forts to defend against attack a provide a safe haven during wintering periods.

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Wilderness War by GMT Games

For me, the three key strategies to WW are in defending the important interior frontier, remaining exceedingly mindful of troop positions as winter seasons approach and playing a long game of carefully-planned campaigns. All of these factors are incredibly well factored into a game which balances abstraction with historic events, all of which can be experienced with a solid few hours of play.

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The French and Indian War (Decision Games)

For another grand strategic experience of the FIW, Strategy & Tactics magazine issue #231 from Nov/Dec 2005 by Decision Games offers up a full campaign level game with The French and Indian War. Traditional wargamers will feel right at home with this hefty game although it does offer some unique elements.

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S&T’s FIW map and counters organized in tray

Right off the bat, experienced gamers will notice a departure with the game map laid out on a square grid instead of the more typical hex style. Past the square grid, the map itself is gorgeous with well-delineated terrain, clear colonial control boundaries and abstracted French and British home country holding areas across the Atlantic in Europe. Charts and tables for terrain effects, supply points, balance of power and colonial control displayed right around the board. The tiny cardboard playing chits likewise feature some simple and colorful art clearly differentiating units types and nationalities. In all, there’s a lot to love visually in this magazine game.

Gameplay goes a long way toward representing the build up of tensions and eventual outbreak of war between the French and British in North America. Yearly turns between 1758 and 1762 are split into four seasons each, and the results of battles occupation of cities and towns shifts the Balance of Power track which drives income, initiative, random events and negotiating strength. The relatively weak and poor British at the start of the game quickly gain strength as the Seven Years War breaks out and men, money and ships begin to arrive from Europe. For the French, they have to take some early victories and then hold key cities like Quebec through the late game. Victory in one of the three included scenarios is determined by a straight points system accumulated during the game largely by capturing cities and settlements.

Aside from the game rules themselves, the magazine holds over 20 pages of background on the FIW, major battles and quick bios on some of the conflict’s major personalities. This plus some nice maps and a short bibliography makes for a great package for those wanting a relatively comprehensive experience of the war. Being a magazine game, there are a couple discrepancies in the rules here and there, but the design and heft of the game is entirely satisfying.

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Hold The Line: French and Indian War (Worthington Publishing)

The 2008 French and Indian War Expansion Set for the popular Hold The Line series by Worthington Publishing downshifts into a more tactical presentation of the war without sacrificing the flavor of the era.

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Scenario set-up for the Battle of Snowshoes for the HTL FIW expansion

Adding to the HTL base game components,  the FIW expansion comes with Indian, Ranger and French unit tiles to be played with using the British and Militia pieces in the original. Additional terrain hex tiles  are included to represent lakes, boats forts and Indian villages, all of which played important roles in the wilderness battleground of the FIW. Five historic scenarios round out gameplay which will be any lover of the original HTL.

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The 2016 remastered HTL French and Indian War game

The HTL series has been remastered in 2016 with a successfully funded recent Kickstarter campaign. The new version has some serious upgrades with plastic miniatures from the Plastic Soldier Company and redesigned board and tile artwork. For both the American Revolution and FIW sets there were a bunch of extra scenarios and options to buy add-on miniatures. The new game looks fantastic and breathes new life into an already immensely enjoyable game on the era of 18th-century American colonial conflict.

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A Few Acres of Snow (Treefrog Games)

A Few Acres of Snow, designed by Martin Wallace and published in 2011 by Treefrog Games, is my other go-to game on the period. While not strictly a game confined to the FIW, AFAOS takes two players through the broader French-British colonial period in North America.

Playable in just over an hour, AFAOS is an area control deck-building game where British and French players draft cards into and out of their hands in order to move, settle, construct, skirmish and conduct sieges. Managing cards gives the game a campaign feel as several turns may be taken up getting all the right cards in place before executing a plan. The British player generally has more financial and naval strength while the French are much more agile and open to trade opportunities in the wilderness interior. Essentially, the game captures the overall character of the opposing forces and provides for a ton of strategic play within a simple, gorgeous design.

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A recent game of  A Few Acres of Snow by Treefrog Games

The major downside to AFAOS that many critics will bring up is a broken mechanic within the game where one side can all but sew up a victory through a specific series of opening moves. I’m not going to provide any details since players agreeing to play fairly and ignoring this one issue with an otherwise perfect and wildly popular game is how I choose to play the game. The look and flow of AFAOS makes it what I consider to be the best at introducing even inexperienced gamers to the period.

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Struggle For New France (Schutze Games)

I picked up a copy of 2013’s Struggle For New France designed by Bill Molyneaux and published by Schutze Games in a charity auction at HMGS Fall In! 2015. It’s a super simple beginner’s game playable in about 90 minutes with event cards and point to point movement. With just a few pages of rules, including a solo game option, SFNF is a lean game designed for swift play while still reflecting the basic character of the war.

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Set-up for a play through Struggle For New France by Schutze Games

The relatively inexpensive game has a compact yet beautiful 11″ x 17″ color map, over 60 cards and over 175 small printed wooden tiles. Play is quick with a hand of five cards for each player, of which one can be played per season. In a season, both sides move and battle using standardized movement for regulars and Indians plus bonuses for having a leader stacked with a force. Forts, fortresses and Indian villages give defensive modifiers in battle along with leaders present and any cards added to the battle modifiers. Areas won or lost provide victory points, all tracked on either side of the map. After four seasons of play, cards are refreshed and the next turn year begins. Playing from the entire course of the war, British win at 50 points and taking Quebec, Montreal and Louisburg, and the French win with 45 points. While by no means as rich an experience as the offerings from GMT and Decision Games, SFNF achieves a remarkable amount in strategic experience of the FIW.

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French & Indian War Battle Collection (Two Buck Games)

Another charity auction win at Fall In last year was 2014’s French & Indian War Battle Collection by Two Buck Games. The game makes a nice companion to SFNF and is also designed by Molyneaux. Like SFNF, this is an easy game but with a pack of twelve major battles and engagements of the war instead of a grand campaign style of play. Each scenario is playable in anywhere from well under an hour to maybe two hours maximum. While not big on design, the game does allow a player to get down to the tactical level in some very small engagements including some personal favorites like Jumonville Glen, Fort Necessity and the Mary Jeminson Raid.

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The Fort Necessity scenario from The French & Indian War Battle Collection

A brief set of rules is supplemented with specific scenario outlines for set-up and play. Maps for each scenario are printed front and back on card stock, and 88 counters come with generic information to make for flexible use representing a variety of regular and irregular French, British and Indian units at each battle or skirmish. As this is a tactical game, units move just one hex and may only by stacked alone or with an officer. Leaders die easily in combat, Indians are dangerously flexible on the attack and terrain can play a big role in a game’s outcome. All these factors make planning an attack or defense finicky down at the ground level and FIBWBC goes a long way toward mimicking the feel of up-close engagements during the period.

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Empires In America (Victory Point Games)

My latest addition to my FIW games is the recent second edition reprint of Empires In America from the States of Siege series by Victory Point Games. This one stands apart from the others here as a purely solo game with the player’s French and Indian allies pitted against the game’s British and their allied Indian forces.

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My first try at the re-issue of Empires In America by Victory Point Games

It took me a few times to get a handle on the single player flow of the game and I was beaten by the non-player AI in my first two games. Having played through it about a half dozen times now, I’ve finally got the hang of it with quick play and a fairly rich experience. Leaders wind up being key in winning the game much as leadership could make the difference during battles during the war.

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Photo from my visit to Fort Necessity in the summer of 2014

So where to start with the French and Indian War?

The 21st-century has already given us a bunch of fantastic games to take us back to the forest, rivers and battles of the French and Indian War of some 260 years ago. Despite having a half-dozen of the recent FIW games under my belt, there area always more games to play. Wilderness Empires, also by Worthington Publishing, puts the war in a block game format with beautifully-illustrated event cards and game board. Columbia Games re-released its 1972 classic block game of Quebec 1759 in 2009, and the game still stands as probably the best way to experience this pivotal siege of the war.

For me, Wilderness War sits at the top of the list for its design and depth, not only for the FIW but among all the games I play. A Few Acres of Snow, Empires In America and Hold The Line likewise win big design points for me, and their speed of play sacrifices nothing in telling the story of the period. A gamer wishing to get into the FIW with a couple very different yet always rewarding gaming sessions could hardly do better by starting with these games.