|The modern site of the historic fortifications of Erie, PA|
Today, we are going to look at the history of a place a little closer to home than normal. While much of the fighting of the Kabinettskriege era went on in places far away from my rustic midwestern living quarters, some of it occurred quite close to home. Erie, Pennsylvania, is a town with a rich historical background. While probably best well known to historical enthusiasts for its rich naval history, focusing on the War of 1812, there is another, equally important part of Erie history which has been overlooked by most of the town's inhabitants.
Before it was the home of the flagship Niagara, or the supply post of Oliver Hazard Perry, Erie was the center of a different conflict. Not between the British and the Americans, but between the French and the British, and various Native American forces. In the Kabinettskriege era, Erie was located in a hotly disputed territory referred to as the Pays d'en Haut, or what we might refer to in English as the "Upper Country," or colonial back-country. Erie was not a town then, or even a population center, it was part of a vast territory under dispute by many peoples: the French, the British, and various Indian peoples. At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, Erie was the site of a French colonial fort, Fort de la Presqu'Ile.
|Historical Marker near the site of Fort de la Presqu'Ile|
In an issue of the Erie county historical society magazine from the turn of the century, a local historian found an engineer's description of the fort:
"The body of the work was in the form of a parallelogram, about seventy five by one hundred and five feet, with bastions in the form of polygons at each of the four angles. The gate fronted the river. In the interior were the magazine, fifteen by eighteen feet, protected by a thickness of three feet of earth, and several buildings for officers' barracks. Two of these were eighteen by fifty feet, with three others that were smaller. The barracks were two stories high, and furnished with stone chimenys. A door in the northeastern bastion led to a large cellar. The soldiers' barracks consisted of forty-four separate buildings chiefly on the north and east sides. "
However, in the summer of July, 1759, disaster struck. The larger and more important Fort Niagara, near Youngstown, NY, had been attacked by overwhelming British forces. As a result, the forts in modern northwestern, PA were expected to send forces to Niagara's relief. Fort de la Presqu'Ile, For Le Boeuf, and Fort Machault all sent a significant portion of their garrisons in an effort to break the British siege. These soldiers were defeated in the Battle of La Belle-Famille, leaving the western French forts almost undefended.
Thus, in the high summer of 1759, the French made the decision to abandon their forts in the Pays d'en Haut. They gave whatever they could not carry with them to their Indian allies, and burned their wooden forts to the ground.
Sadly, that is all I have time for today. Tune in soon for the continuation of this story- when the British construct a new fort in the area, and that fort, in its turn, is attacked by Native Americans.
Thanks for Reading!