Fort Duquesne

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Fort Duquesne
Fort Duquesne
Type Fort
Site information
Controlled by New France; Great Britain
Site history
Built 1754
In use 1754-1758
Battles/wars French and Indian War
Designated May 8, 1959[1]

Fort Duquesne (/dˈkn/, French: [dyken]; originally called Fort Du Quesne) was a fort established by the French in 1754, at the convergence point of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in what is now downtown Pittsburgh in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

It was destroyed and replaced by Fort Pitt in 1758. The site of both forts is now occupied by Point State Park.


Forts at Forks of Ohio.png
French forts, 1753 and 1754

Fort Duquesne, built at a point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together to form the Ohio River, was long seen as important for controlling the Ohio Country,[2] both for settlement and for trade. Englishman William Trent had established a highly successful trading post at the forks as early as the 1740s, to do business with a number of nearby Native American villages. Both the French and the British were keen to gain advantage in the area. As the area was within the drainage basin of the Mississippi River, the French claimed it as theirs.

In the early 1750s, the French commenced construction of a line of forts, starting with Fort Presque Isle on Lake Erie near present-day Erie, Pennsylvania, followed by Fort Le Boeuf, about 15 miles inland near present-day Waterford, and Fort Machault, on the Allegheny River in Venango County in present-day Franklin.

Lieutenant Governor of the Virginia Colony, Robert Dinwiddie, saw this as threatening to the extensive claims to land in the area by Virginians (including himself). In late autumn 1753, Dinwiddie dispatched a young envoy named George Washington to the area to deliver a letter to the French commander, asking them to leave, and to assess French strength and intentions. Washington reached Fort Le Boeuf in December and was politely rebuffed by the French.

Fort's construction and replacement

A 1755 map clearly showing the location of Fort Duquesne on the upper border.

Following Washington's return to Virginia in January 1754, Dinwiddie sent Virginians to build Fort Prince George at the forks. Work began on the fort on February 17. By April 18, a much larger French force of five hundred strong arrived at the forks, forcing the small British garrison there to surrender. The French knocked down the tiny British fort and built Fort Duquesne, named in honor of Marquis Duquesne, the governor-general of New France. The fort was built on the same model as Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario.[3]

Even though location at the Forks of the Ohio looked strong on paper—it controlled the confluence of three rivers—the reality was rather different. The site was low, swampy, and prone to flooding. In addition, the position was dominated by highlands located directly across the Monongahela River, which would allow an enemy to bombard the fort with ease. The Canadien commander, Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecœur, was preparing to abandon the fort in the face of Braddock's advance in 1755, and was only saved when the advancing British force was annihilated (see below). When the Forbes expedition approached in 1758, the French had initial success in the Battle of Fort Duquesne against the English vanguard, but were then forced to abandon the fort in the face of the much superior size of Forbes' main force.

Model of Fort Duquesne

In 1754, Washington, who had been promoted to Colonel of the newly created Virginia Regiment, left on April 2 as part of a small force with the dual purpose of constructing a road and defending the fort upon their arrival. Washington was at Wills Creek in south central Pennsylvania when he received news of the surrender of Fort Prince George. On May 25, Washington assumed command of the expedition upon the death of Colonel Joshua Fry. Two days later, Washington encountered a Canadian scouting party near a place now known as Jumonville Glen (several miles east of present-day Uniontown). Washington attacked the Canadians killing 10 in the early morning hours, and took 21 prisoners, of whom many were killed by the Natives. He then ordered construction of Fort Necessity at a large clearing known as the Great Meadows. On July 3, the counterattacking French and Canadians forced Washington to surrender Fort Necessity but allowed Washington and his men to return home without their armaments.

The French held Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War, and it became one of the focal points for that war because of its strategic location. The French held the fort successfully early in the war, turning back the expedition led by General Edward Braddock. George Washington served as one of General Braddock's aides. A smaller attack by James Grant in September 1758 was repulsed with heavy losses. Two months later, on November 25, the Forbes Expedition under General John Forbes captured the site after the French destroyed Fort Duquesne the day before.[4] The British built a much larger fort on the site, and named it Fort Pitt.

Present-day site

File:Duquesne outline.JPG
At Point State Park, bricks mark the outline of the former site of Fort Duquesne.

Fort Duquesne was located where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio. The location in downtown Pittsburgh is now known as Point State Park or "the Point." The park includes a brick outline of the fort's walls. In May 2007, Thomas Kutys, an archaeologist with A.D. Marble & Company, a Cultural Resource Management firm based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, rediscovered a stone and brick drain thought to have drained one of the fort's many buildings. Due to its depth in the ground, this drain may be all of the fort that has survived. The entire northern half of the site the fort is thought to have occupied was destroyed by the heavy industrial usage of the area in the 19th century.[5]


Fort Duquesne commemorative stamp
1958 issue

On November 25, 1958, the 200th anniversary of the capture of Fort Duquesne, the U.S. Post Office issued a 4-cent Fort Duquesne bicentennial commemorative stamp, first released at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, post office. The design was reproduced from a composite drawing, utilizing various figures that were taken from an etching by T.B. Smith and a painting portraying the British occupation of the fort.

Colonel Washington, depicted on horseback is in the center, while General Forbes is shown wounded on a stretcher. The stamp also depicts Colonel Henry Bouquet, who was second in command to the ailing Forbes, and other figures chosen that represented the Virginia militia and provincial army.[6]

See also

Further reading

  • Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt: Early Names of Pittsburgh Streets. Daughters of the American Revolution. Pittsburgh Chapter (Pittsburgh, Pa.). 1907. p. 47.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> E'book
  • Craig, Neville B. (1876). The Olden Time: A Monthly Publication Devoted to the Preservation of Documents and Other Authentic Information in Relation to the Early Explorations and the Settlement and Improvement of the Country Around the Head of the Ohio, Volume 1. R. Clarke & Company, 583 pages;.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>, E'book


  1. "PHMC Historical Markers Search" (Searchable database). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2014-01-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 1," Donald Jackson, ed., Dorothy Twohig, assoc. ed. Library of Congress American Memory site
  3. "France in America, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, p. 181
  4. "Chronicles of Border Warfare" Page 73, 1895
  5. [1] Archived June 6, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Fort Duquesne Issue". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved June 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000. ISBN 0-375-40642-5.
  • Hunter, William A. Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1753–1758. Originally published 1960; Wennawoods reprint, 1999.
  • Stotz, Charles Morse. Outposts Of The War For Empire: The French and English In Western Pennsylvania: Their Armies, Their Forts, Their People 1749–1764. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8229-4262-3.

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