Most streets in Pittsburgh are named after prominent industrialists, influential artists and victorious generals. But Grant Street bucks the trend: It is named for British Maj. James Grant, who was responsible for one of biggest military failures of the French & Indian War.
Grant set out to challenge the French at Fort Duquesne as part of an expedition alongside Gen. John Forbes and a young George Washington. In 1758, Grant commanded the 77th Regiment of Foot, also known as Montgomerie's Highlanders, a regiment of 800 troops comprising mostly colonial militia.
Grant disdained the lowly colonial troops, whom he felt were poorly trained and not worthy to fight for the Crown. Ultimately, this distaste for the militia led to his downfall.
On Sept. 14, 1758, Grant dismissed the advice of his troops, who begged him to keep his forces intact. Instead, he split his forces to try and surprise the French while approaching Fort Duquesne, located in present-day Point State Park. The plan backfired miserably, as French and Indian forces ambushed his men near a hill where the south end of Grant Street stands today.
Grant himself was taken as a prisoner by the French, and nearly half of his men died in the skirmish, which would later be known as the Battle of Fort Duquesne. The fort itself remained in French control until later that fall, when Forbes assumed control after French forces fled, and he renamed it Fort Pitt.
More than 250 years later, Grant Street has a far more positive disposition than its namesake as home to some of Pittsburgh’s grandest buildings, including the U.S. Steel Tower, Allegheny County Courthouse and the William Penn Hotel.
Visitors to the Fort Pitt Museum can learn more about the Battle of Fort Duquesne and the French & Indian War. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
By Brady Smith is the Heinz History Center senior communications manager.