Re-enactor, shoemaker plans Fort Ligonier presentation |

Re-enactor, shoemaker plans Fort Ligonier presentation

Mary Pickels
Courtesy of Fort Ligonier
Shoemaker and re-enactor Brett Walker (right) will speak at Fort Ligonier during its annual commemoration of George Washington’s Friendly Fire Incident.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Brett Walker is shown at Fort Ligonier in a 2018 photo, where he works on a project to repair and preserve a large cache of mid-18th century archaelogical shoes.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Brett Walker is shown in a 2018 photo, working on a project to repair and preserve Fort Ligonier’s large cache of mid-18th century archaelogical shoes.

Shoemaker and historian Brett Walker will return to Fort Ligonier, where he sometimes appears as a re-enactor and where he is working on a project to examine and catalog a large cache of mid-18th-century archaeological shoes.

This time, at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8, Walker will present “St. Crispin’s Lance and the Forks of the Ohio: British shoes, shoemaking and shoe repairing on the Braddock and Forbes campaigns.”

Walker says the Duke of Wellington once was asked what he considered to be the three most important pieces of equipment for a British soldier.

“First, a good pair of shoes. Second, another good pair of shoes. And third, leather to repair the two pairs of shoes,” was his response, Walker says.

His presentation will focus on the human stories connected to the bounty of shoes found at Fort Ligonier from the French and Indian War era.

“Imagine these are the shoes that walked 300 (plus) miles from Philadelphia through the wilderness to drive the French out of Fort Duquesne,” Walker says.

Equipping that army, Walker says, was a “monumental task.”

“Why are certain people 300 miles in the woods? What’s their story?” he asks.

While academicians can provide a bigger, bird’s-eye view of the conflict, Walker tries to urge people to consider the human response.

“Try to imagine yourself in the same shoes. What would make you do this? How would you respond? What would your life be like?” he says.

Walker uses known names of people who marched, along with “bits and pieces of research,” to imagine some of the participants’ stories.

His own group of re-enactors, His Majesty’s Corps of Artificers and Auxiliaries, participated in this year’s Fort Ligonier Days festival.

“My group seems to be growing, (with) lots of young people. I think young people are interested in history,” he says.

Walker also is training two young shoemakers to assist with the Fort Ligonier shoe project.

First president’s friendly fire

Since 2008, Fort Ligonier has hosted a slate of speakers to commemorate George Washington’s Friendly Fire Incident. According to a release, the incident is the true-life tale of young Col. George Washington.

He rides into the night on Nov. 12, 1758, a few miles from Fort Ligonier, desperate to stop his confused troops from shooting at each other during a deep-woods patrol gone wrong. He puts his life in the balance to stop the gunfire, but not before dozens of his soldiers are wounded or go missing.

Washington escapes unharmed and later writes about the harrowing experience. His “Remarks” are featured in the museum’s Washington Gallery beside the new Chas Fagan painting, “Flash Point,” which immortalizes the incident.

“Brett is an excellent speaker and is a top expert in the field of historic footwear, especially from the 18th century. To have somebody with that very specific knowledge and skill set speak about one of our most important archaeological collections obtained from our grounds since the first dig in 1947 is going to be a special presentation,” adds Erica I. Nuckles, the fort’s director of history and collections.

Cost is $35.

Details: 724-238-9701 or RSVP to Candace Gross at [email protected]

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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