Washington's 1753 Journey

In 1753, the imperial nations of France and Great Britain and the Native Americans all claimed control of the Ohio Country, the area encompassing present-day western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.


Washington’s Mission

Acting on orders from Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie, twenty-one-year-old George Washington embarked upon a dangerous expedition north from Williamsburg to deliver a diplomatic message to the French ordering them to evacuate the region. Already the French had erected three forts to reinforce their claim to the area: Fort Presque Isle (Erie, PA), Fort LeBoeuf (Waterford, PA) and Fort Machault (Franklin, PA).

During his journey in the winter of 1753-1754, young Washington encountered many hazards. There were “excessive rains and vast quantity of snow.” He was nearly shot by an Indian guide near Harmony, PA, and he nearly drowned in the icy waters of the Allegheny River near present-day Pittsburgh, PA. When Washington returned to Williamsburg in January 1754, he reported to the governor that the French intended to remain entrenched in the Ohio Country. This marked the beginning of the military struggle known as the French and Indian War.


The Trail

This trail is a driving route through western Pennsylvania. Traversing modern highways, the route commemorates young George Washington’s first military and diplomatic venture in the fall and winter 1753-1754.

Today, the route primarily follows major roads. However, in some areas there are alternate historic or scenic routes suggested which may more closely align with Washington’s travel in the fall of 1753, and these are likely to be back roads.

Historic markers are erected along Washington’s route through the scenic western Pennsylvania countryside, and into Maryland. Pick up the trail in Pennsylvania at the Maryland border and follow it north. Relive Washington’s first military expedition – retrace the steps of our first president. And don’t forget to take advantage of the historic and natural attractions along the way.

Young George Washington


The George Washington's Manuscript

Imagine reading a document written in George Washington’s own hand, describing the scene of battle, fought right where you are standing. As you look around, you can see and feel the story unfold before your eyes. History comes to life.

A coalition of French and Indian War sites in southwestern Pennsylvania acquired an 11-page manuscript, all written in George Washington’s hand in 1786, in which he described his early military career, including a vivid account of the catastrophic defeat of General Braddock on the 1755 Fort Duquesne expedition. The acquisition of this extraordinary document will ensure that it forever remains part of the southwestern Pennsylvania story, and that you too can experience the power of his words.

The manuscript is owned by Fort Ligonier, where an entire exhibit is on permanent display and you can view a facsimile. The original manuscript is put on view on occasion – contact Fort Ligonier for an exhibition schedule.

Photo credit: Fort Ligonier
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