Re-enactors commemorate Pontiac's War
Fort Ligonier will mark the 250th anniversary of the siege of Fort Ligonier during Pontiac's War with an encampment and re-enactment activities 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Re-enactments of the Native American Raid will be 1:30 p.m. on both days.
Re-enactment coordinator and historical interpreter Jeffrey Graham said he was asked in 2011 to come up with a program to commemorate Pontiac's War by former director Martin West.
Graham said this is different from the fort's usual programming, which normally demonstrates artillery and battlefield tactics. With around 60 re-enactors, 30 of which will be Native American, the weekend will depict the events of the siege, including an attempted raid that took place on June 21, 1763.
“We are going to try to recreate, as best as we can in our modern sense, events that actually occurred,” Graham explained. “The whole premise is that the fort is going to be under siege. There are going to be sentry on the wall at all times; somebody is going to be on these walls on the lookout at all times. There may be sporadic firing, depending on what the commanders have in mind. You will be able to see colonial life of people here living their everyday lives, but in a state of emergency. There will be people trying to get through this crisis as best as they can, but yet doing the everyday things that people have to do. It's a real life experience, as best as we can create.”
Pontiac's War began in May 1763 when Native Americans, offended by the policies of British Gen. Jeffrey Amherst and postwar policies after the British victory in the French and Indian War, attacked several British forts and settlements to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the region.
“What it boiled down to was it was the last chance for the American Indians to stop European encroachment to west of the Alleghenies and being overtaken by a culture that was just going to roll over them eventually,” said Graham. “It was a very near-run thing had it not been for Col. Bouquet's victory at the Battle of Bushy Run, a few weeks after this fort was relieved. That battle was the pivotal battle of that conflict. The siege at Fort Ligonier helped set the stage for that. Had this post fallen, then Col. Bouquet's relief force would have had a much longer trek through the wilderness and no base to operate from.”
The fort's executive director Annie Urban said this is the first time Fort Ligonier has offered this kind of live depiction of the siege, and she expects it will be a well-attended event for the fort.
“Any time we do any kind of living history activities we always get a big crowd because people are interested in seeing what's happening,” Urban said. “People always enjoy coming to see the re-enactors every time we have an encampment taking place. They enjoy talking to the re-enactors that are here and learning about what happened here and what it all pertains to. You really feel like you are in the 18th century when you come out here and we have the fort filled with re-enactors and their families. It's very engaging. It makes the history come alive for all the visitors.”
For more information, call 724-238-9701 or visit www.fortligonier.org.
Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.