Battle of Fort Necessity – 3 July 1754

Fort Necessity was built by Virginia Militia Lt. Col George Washington to protect his party from the anticipated retaliatory attack by the French after the battle at Jumonville, Glen. Washington’s relative lack of military experience proved critical as the fort was sited in a depression and was too close to the tree lines, a mistake the French eventually took advantage of. Washington’s men quickly completed work on the fortification. During this time, Half King attempted unsuccessfully to rally Delaware, Shawnee, and Seneca warriors to support the British. During June, additional troops arrived to reinforce Washington’s small band. The road work continued to the north, to Gist’s plantation. Late in the month, Washington received word that a force of 600 French and 100 Indians had departed Fort Duquesne. He retreated from Gist’s Plantation to Fort Necessity, where the British began to reinforce defenses. On July 3, the French, led by Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers, Jumonville’s brother, arrived and quickly surrounded the fort, occupying the high ground along the tree line which allowed them to fire into the fort. Pinned down, Washington’s men soon ran short of ammunition. To make their situation worse, heavy rain began which made firing difficult on both sides. With soaked gunpowder and a fighting force with low morale, Washington negotiated and accepted terms of capitulation in the late evening on July 3, surrendering his swivel guns, but maintaining the rest of his equipment. In signing the terms of surrender (the only time he ever did surrender), Washington unwittingly (likely due to a poor translation) acknowledged his role in assassinating Ensign Jumonville. On July 4, the Virginians left the fort, which the French then burned. This battle has been seen as the opening action of the French and Indian War.

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