250 years later, terror revisited in Pa.

Anniversary of Forbes Campaign celebrated at Fort Loudoun

Anniversary of Forbes Campaign celebrated at Fort Loudoun

June 20, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - We call it, dryly, the French and Indian War. Residents of Colonial America called it by a more gripping name: the Terror in the Back Country.

In 1756, frontier families in the Conococheague River valley feared for their livelihood and for their lives. For several months, French soldiers and their American Indian allies attacked homesteads, villages and forts. Hundreds were killed or captured. Livestock was slaughtered. Farms and businesses were burned.

The attacks horrified surviving settlers, who fled or clustered around British forts for safety.

This weekend, Conococheague Institute celebrates the 250th anniversary of the campaign that put a stop to the terror.

"This ... is the anniversary of the Forbes Campaign, one of the most important campaigns in American history," says Walter Powell, executive director of the Conococheague Institute.

Thousands of English and Colonial troops gathered in Carlisle, Pa., in 1758 under the command of Brig. Gen. John Forbes. Forbes' men built forts and a road as they marched west to attack Fort Duquesne, a French stronghold at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers - the location of present-day Pittsburgh.


At Fort Loudoun, a wooden palisade fort just west of modern-day Chambersburg, Forbes' right-hand man, Col. Henry Bouquet, arranged an alliance with two American Indian tribes - the Catawba and the Cherokee.

"The Cherokee were a large tribe looking out for their own interests. The Catawba were from further south - the Carolina area," Powell says. "The council held at Fort Loudoun was important to get their support. It was a bit complicated. There were formal talks. ... Finally, that led to an agreement."

The Indian warriors brought the total force to nearly 6,000 men, according to Powell. Forbes' men defeated the French at Fort Duquesne and renamed it Fort Pitt, after William Pitt, Britain's secretary of state.

This weekend's events will feature a variety of events to commemorate the campaign's anniversary. French, British and American Indian re-enactor encampments will be set up around Fort Loudoun. The Cherokee-Catawba council will be re-enacted Saturday and Sunday. Speakers will talk about aspects of life and military action during the French and Indian War. And performers will present music and dance of Colonial America and contemporary Indian tribes.

When Powell speaks to visiting students about the French and Indian War, he tries to show that those events are not just dusty, old history. They are as fresh as today's headlines.

"It was like living in Iraq today," he says. "You didn't know when you'd be attacked or if your neighbors might be killed."

And although the war preceded the founding of the United States, it helped shape the American character, Powell says.

"What became the United States only 25 years later got started during this conflict," he says. "Officers such as George Washington got their experience in this war. Also, once the French were defeated, the British were no longer needed for protection, so the colonials pushed for independence."

If you go ...

WHAT: A Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Forbes Road Campaign, hosted by the Conococheague Institute, which promotes the study of cultural and natural history in Franklin County.

WHEN: Friday, June 20, through Sunday, June 22

WHERE: Fort Loudoun, off U.S. 30 in Franklin County, Pa.

COST: Admission is $5 per person per day Saturday and Sunday events; free for ages 11 and younger. There is a charge for some Friday events.

CONTACT: For more information, call 717-328-3467 or go to

MORE: Friday's events are at Conococheague Institute, 12995 Bain Road, Mercersburg, Pa. They include a dinner at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $20 per person. At 7 p.m. Helen Westra, professor of English, Grand Valley State University will lecture on the "The Jean McCord Lowry Captivity Narrative." Lowry was captured by American Indians. The lecture is free. A reprint of Lowry's 1760 journal will be available.

Saturday and Sunday events - at Fort Loudoun - off U.S. 30 in Franklin County, Pa., will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. There will be lectures, Colonial music and re-enactments.

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