With the Three Rivers Arts Festival and Point State Park fountain reopening set for this weekend, it is important to understand the pivotal role that the triangular piece of land at the Forks of the Ohio played in American history.
In the early 18th century the Point's location along the rivers made it an important hub for hunting, fishing and trade between American Indians and European settlers. By the beginning of the French & Indian War in 1754, the area became a critical military stronghold due to its strategic location at the Forks of the Ohio.
In February 1754, British Capt. William Trent established the first fort at the site called Fort Prince George.
Later that spring, French troops invaded Fort Prince George and forced the overmatched British to flee without conflict. The French built a new fort, which they named Fort Duquesne in honor of Marquis Duquesne, the governor-general of the French-controlled Colonies.
The British engaged in two major military expeditions to recapture Fort Duquesne over the next few years, but failed both times. The first attempt came in 1755 when British Gen. Edward Braddock's forces were ambushed by French soldiers and their American Indian allies at the Battle of the Monongahela, one of the most devastating defeats for the British military in the 18th century. In 1758, British Maj. James Grant and a regiment of 800 troops were defeated by the French while approaching Fort Duquesne.
The French knew British forces would return with a larger army, so they burned Fort Duquesne and fled before British Gen. John Forbes arrived to capture the site in 1758.
Forbes commissioned the construction of a large fort, which he named Fort Pitt in honor of British Secretary of State William Pitt.
Fort Pitt withstood several attacks in the next two decades, including one by American Indians in 1763 in an effort to drive European settlers out of the region.
During the American Revolutionary War, the fort was the Continental Army's western headquarters, housing troops and supplies used to defend the newly founded union.
Today, the Fort Pitt Museum, part of the Heinz History Center's museum system, is in a re-created bastion where Fort Pitt once stood.
Visitors to the Fort Pitt Museum on Saturday can see Colonial re-enactors and live musket demonstration as part of the Summer Saturdays at the Fort event. For information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org and click on the Fort Pitt Museum tab.