Military Wiki
Fort Duquesne
Fort Duquesne
Type Fort
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1754
In use 1754-1758
Controlled by New France; Great Britain
Battles/wars Seven Years War

Fort Duquesne (/dˈkn/, French: [dyken]; originally called Fort Du Quesne) was a fort established by the French in 1754, at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in what is now downtown Pittsburgh in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

It was destroyed and replaced by Fort Pitt in 1758; over two centuries later, the site formerly occupied by Fort Duquesne is now Point State Park.


Forts at Forks of Ohio.png

French forts, 1753 and 1754

Fort Duquesne, built at a point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together to form the Ohio River, was long seen as important for controlling the Ohio Country,[1] both for settlement and for trade. Englishman William Trent had established a highly successful trading post at the forks as early as the 1740s, to do business with a number of nearby Native American villages. Both the French and the British were keen to gain advantage in the area. As the area was within the drainage basin of the Mississippi River, the French claimed it as theirs. Many of the charters of the British colonies on the east coast of North America granted land indefinitely to the west, setting the scene for conflict.

In the early 1750s, the French commenced construction of a line of forts, starting with Fort Presque Isle on Lake Erie near present-day Erie, Pennsylvania, followed by Fort Le Boeuf, about 15 miles inland near present-day Waterford, and Fort Machault, on the Allegheny River in Venango County in present-day Franklin.

Lieutenant Governor of the Virginia Colony, Robert Dinwiddie, saw this as threatening to the extensive claims to land in the area by Virginians (including himself). In late autumn 1753, Dinwiddie dispatched a young envoy named George Washington to the area to deliver a letter to the French commander, asking them to leave, and to assess French strength and intentions. Washington reached Fort Le Boeuf in December and was politely rebuffed by the French.

Fort's construction and replacement

Following Washington's return to Virginia in January 1754, Dinwiddie sent Virginians to build Fort Prince George at the forks. Work began on the fort on February 17. By April 18, a much larger French force of five hundred strong arrived at the forks, forcing the small British garrison there to surrender. The French knocked down the tiny British fort and built Fort Duquesne, named in honor of Marquis Duquesne, the governor-general of New France. The fort was built on the same model as Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario.[2]

Even though location at the Forks of the Ohio looked strong on paper—it controlled the confluence of three rivers—the reality was rather different. The site was low, swampy, and prone to flooding. In addition, the position was dominated by highlands located directly across the Monongahela River, which would allow an enemy to bombard the fort with ease. The Canadien commander, Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecœur, was preparing to abandon the fort in the face of Braddock's advance in 1755, and was only saved when the advancing British force was annihilated (see below). When the Forbes expedition approached in 1758, the French were not as lucky.

Model of Fort Duquesne

Washington, who had been promoted to Lt. Colonel of the newly created Virginia Regiment, left on April 2 as part of a small force with the dual purpose of constructing a road and defending the fort upon their arrival. Washington was at Wills Creek in south central Pennsylvania when he received news of the surrender of Fort Prince George. On May 25, Washington assumed command of the expedition upon the death of Colonel Joshua Fry. Two days later, Washington encountered a Canadian scouting party near a place now known as Jumonville Glen (several miles east of present-day Uniontown). Washington attacked the Canadians killing 10 in the early morning hours, and took 21 prisoners, of whom many were killed by the Natives. He then ordered construction of Fort Necessity at a large clearing known as the Great Meadows. On July 3, the counterattacking French and Canadians forced Washington to surrender Fort Necessity but allowed Washington and his men to return home without their armaments.

The French held Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War, and it became one of the focal points for that war because of its strategic location. The French held the fort successfully early in the war, turning back the expedition led by General Edward Braddock. George Washington served as one of General Braddock's aides. A smaller attack by James Grant in September 1758 was repulsed with heavy losses. Two months later, on November 25, the Forbes Expedition under General John Forbes captured the site after the French destroyed Fort Duquesne the day before. The British built a much larger fort on the site, and named it Fort Pitt.

Present-day site

At Point State Park, bricks mark the outline of the former site of Fort Duquesne.

Fort Duquesne was located where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio. The location in downtown Pittsburgh is now known as Point State Park or "the Point." The park includes a brick outline of the fort's walls. In May 2007, Thomas Kutys, an archaeologist with A.D. Marble & Company, a Cultural Resource Management firm based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, rediscovered a stone and brick drain thought to have drained one of the fort's many buildings. Due to its depth in the ground, this drain may be all of the fort that has survived. The entire northern half of the site the fort is thought to have occupied was destroyed by the heavy industrial usage of the area in the 19th century.[3]

See also


  1. "The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 1," Donald Jackson, ed., Dorothy Twohig, assoc. ed. Library of Congress American Memory site
  2. "France in America, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, p. 181
  3. [1][dead link]


  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000. ISBN 0-375-40642-5.
  • Hunter, William A. Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1753–1758. Originally published 1960; Wennawoods reprint, 1999.
  • Stotz, Charles Morse. Outposts Of The War For Empire: The French and English In Western Pennsylvania: Their Armies, Their Forts, Their People 1749–1764. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8229-4262-3.

Coordinates: 40°26′29.86″N 80°00′39.40″W / 40.4416278°N 80.010944°W / 40.4416278; -80.010944

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