The French and Indian War of 1754-1763 Tour Images and Diary 2019
Day 1. Pittsburgh
Our group assembled at the Grand Hotel in Pittsburgh in the late afternoon, where we enjoyed a wonderful welcome dinner. We were to be a truly international contingent with travellers hailing from USA, Canada and UK. The Cultural Experience had arranged 22nd and 23rd floor rooms with magnificent unobscured panorama over the Point State Park, situated at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, with the footprints of Forts Duquesne and Pitt clearly outlined. The views of the wonderful skyline illuminated at night will remain etched in our memories for some time to come.
Day 2. Forts Pitt & Ligonier and Bushy Run
With a day of magnificent sunny weather we walked to the Point (or the Forks of the Ohio) to appreciate its strategic and trading importance to the native Indians and the French and the British, the latter two nations establishing Forts Duquesne and Pitt respectively. The nearby Fort Pitt museum with its informative illustrated exhibits was ideal for setting the context of our forthcoming tour and provided a good narrative of the French and Indian Wars. We continued to the imposing Fort Ligonier which was established by General Forbes in 1758. After being left to rack and ruin, the fort was completely and faithfully reconstructed in the 1960s and now stands as a formidable testament to the ingenious engineering skills of British soldiers on the march. Today it houses a vast and international collection of weapons, uniforms and art from the Seven Years War global conflict. At Bushy Run we saw where, during Pontiac’s War in 1863, Col Henry Bouquet foiled an Indian entrapment by faking a withdrawal, only to draw his enemy in so that he could ambush them in their flank. The victory allowed Bouquet to continue his mission to relieve besieged Fort Pitt.
Day 3. Jumonville Glen, Fort Necessity and Monongahela
Blessed again with wonderful weather, we set off to Jumonville Glen where George Washington is said to have ignited the French and Indian War in 1754. This very evocative site is set below a sandstone cliff amidst Pennsylvanian forest and is accessed by a pretty woodland path. In the stillness and quiet of the moment, one could well imagine Washington’s surprise dawn attack.
Thence to Fort Necessity where we explored the visitor centre and the recreated fort, which was actually nothing more than a simple round stockade surrounded by low earthwork defences. Having acquired our sandwiches from Fred’s favourite outlet, Sheetz, we headed for a tranquil lunch beside the River Youghiogheny River rapids at Ohiopyle. A brief stop at Braddock’s grave allowed us to pay our respects and catch a glimpse of an extant section of his celebrated ‘road’.
Heading back to Pittsburgh, we visited the suburb of North Braddock to visit Braddock’s Battlefield History Center and hear of that general’s unfortunate defeat at the battle of Monongahela in 1755. The battlefield has long since been built over by the town’s steelworkers, but it is still possible to appreciate the topography of the steep hills over which it was fought.
Our final call of the day was at ‘Point of View’ Park which provided incredible views over the Ohio Forks, our hotel being dwarfed in the stupendous panorama.
Day 4. French Porterages, Niagara Falls
We left Pittsburgh, and, it seemed, the sunshine behind us and began our journey along the Allegheny valley in search of the French and British forts that secured the trade routes from Lake Eire to the Ohio Forks. We reached the confluence of French Creek and the Allegheny at Franklin, PA, where we found an evocative place on the riverbank from where we could envisage life in and around forts Machault and Vergano. Further upstream of French Creek we found the site of Fort Le Beouf where Major Washington gave notice to the French to quit the place in 1753. Thence to the site of Fort Presque Isle on the banks of Lake Erie which protected the head of the overland porterage to Fort Le Beouf.
The weather was starting to become unreasonable, so it was fortunate that we spent the next two hours aboard our coach on our way to Niagara where we checked in to our hotel for one night. We walked to the edges of the eponymous falls from where we took the elevator to board the ‘Maid of the Mist’ for our intrepid voyage to the base of the Horseshoe Falls. Clad in fetching blue plastic ponchos, we clutched the gunwales at the bow of our boat as we surged through the turbulent bubbling waters, foam and spray to behold the might of the Niagara Falls. An exhilarating and memorable experience!.
Day 5. Fort Niagara and Oswego
Setting off in inclement weather, we stayed on board our coach for an account of the Battle of La Belle Famille, where French relieving forces were ambushed before they could reach the besieged Fort Niagara in 1759. At the Fort itself, the rain eased off a little allowing us to explore this wonderful French colonial establishment. The main French buildings have little changed and their rooms are presented in atmospheric authentic fashion. The lingering, acrid smell of wood smoke and re-enactors wearing period costume providing demonstrations of daily life and musketry, both adding to the aura of the place. Further along the Lake Ontario coast we found the Bayside Inn just outside of Rochester, where we enjoyed a pub lunch prior to our long drive across New York State which was punctuated by a stop at Oswego. The extant Fort Oswego was built upon the site of one of the forts from 1757 and from the edge of the great lake we could see the sites of the forts successfully attacked by Montcalm and his men resulting in the capitulation of the British garrison. Then it was off to Syracuse for a night at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Day 6. Fort Stanwix, Rogers Island, Lake George and Fort William Henry.
We woke to find the hotel shrouded in mist, although it quickly cleared. Indeed, the sun had begun to make an appearance before our departure for Fort Stanwix. Rumours abounded that, further south, temperatures were likely to exceed 100 degrees, so we were thankful that we were starting to turn northwards. Not completed until 1762, after French threat had been eliminated, Fort Stanwix played a small role in the Revolutionary War but was then left to decay. It was not until the 20th century that it was restored to the impressive state that we find it in today. Thence to Fort Edward where we visited Rogers Island to learn a little about the formation of Rogers’ Rangers and their role during the war.
Briefly paying our respects at the grave of Major Duncan Campbell of the Black Watch, we headed north to the battlefield of Lake George, where William Johnson got the better of the French under Baron Dieskau in 1755. To consolidate his position at the foot of Lake George, Johnson built Fort William Henry, which was our final visit of the day. The fort was successfully laid siege to by the French in 1758, the fate of the ejected British garrison being dramatically told in James Fennimore Cooper’s ‘Last of the Mohicans’. The fort itself, although a little ‘disneyesque’ in its presentation, nevertheless had some fascinating exhibits and informative demonstrations by uniformed re-enactors. After checking in to our hotel, we took the short walk to the ‘Barnside Smokehouse’ for dinner.
Day 7. Ticonderoga (Carillon), Crown Point, Lake Champlain
The day dawned in mist which soon cleared, and we enjoyed a picturesque journey northward along the banks of Lake George to Fort Ticonderoga. Being some of the first visitors to arrive, we practically had the fort to ourselves. We were pleased to see that the fort had elected to recreate soldiers’ lives in 1758 and there were the usual musketry demonstrations, but also a working field kitchen and barrack scenes. The museum presented the history of the fort through a series of weapons, uniforms and diorama and one of our group, Robin, was particularly happy to see two life-sized models created by Gerry Embleton. Outside the fort in the wooded grounds, Fred took us to the site where the bloody battle of Carillon was fought, the costliest of the war for the British.
Most of us took lunch at a 1950’s/60’s themed American diner which was very enjoyable.
Thence to Crown Point where we arrived just as the sun came back out and the temperatures started to rise. From under a tree on the banks of shimmering Lake Champlain we viewed the remains of the French Fort Frederick and the British fort at Crown Point. Many of us then traipsed around the ruins, taking a circular walk of the five bastioned walls.
It was now time to continue our drive north and cross the border into Canada which turned out to be a simple affair, with no interest shown by the US officials as we left and only a few cursory questions as we entered: it was all over within 30 minutes. Within the hour we had arrived at our hotel in Montreal where we bid farewell to our Canadian driver, Richard, and enjoyed a very sociable dinner.
Day 8. Montreal.
An early start saw us take a tour around Montreal with our local guide, Thomas, who turned out to be Austrian! He took us up to Mont Royale for a splendid panorama of the city and the St Lawrence river, on to the islands to view the port, and walked us through the old city from the banking sector, ending at Nelson’s column in the Place Jacques Cartier.
We returned to our hotel to collect our luggage and caught their shuttle to the airport for our flights to Halifax. We had to travel via Ottawa with only a 45 minute connection so there was some anxiety when we discovered that our plane had been delayed by 30 minutes. With minutes to spare we made the connection. We checked in to the lovely Nelson Hotel where we enjoyed dinner in its ‘pub’ restaurant. Afterwards, we took a late evening stroll around the city, making our way down to the lively waterfront to admire the reflection of the city lights and the rising moon twinkling on the bay in front of us.
Day 9. Halifax.
With another bright start to the day, we took an early stroll around this attractive city, visiting the burial ground, where we found the tomb of Major-General Robert Ross (who burned down the Whitehouse), the waterfront, the Maritime Museum with its exhibits pertaining to the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and the Titanic (many of the recovered dead are buried in Halifax), and the citadel. Just as we arrived at the airport for our flight to Sydney, the heavens opened, and we arrived at our destination in the pouring rain.
Day 10. Louisbourg.
The rain of the previous evening had cleared the skies and we enjoyed one of the clearest and sunniest days of the tour. We headed for Kennington Cove where Amherst’s British forces, spearheaded by James Wolfe, landed in June 1758. The place has changed little during the intervening years, although for a few locals it has become an almost secret beachside destination. Alan gave a fascinating description of the challenges associated with getting ashore and dealing with the formidable French defence.
We headed back along the coast to the Lighthouse Point, which was seized by Wolfe to erect a battery used to silence the Island Battery. From here we obtained magnificent views across the harbour to the city of Louisbourg and we could easily imagine the masts of the sunken ships guarding the entrance with the bottled in French ships awaiting their fate. At the Royal Battery and Wolfe’s battery we examined the vulnerability of the French exterior defences and saw how this was exploited by Wolfe. We boarded the Canada Park’s coach (the only form of vehicle entry allowed into the city) and spent the afternoon exploring this wonderfully restored fortress. On the King’s Bastion we looked out to the site of the British siege lines and discussed Drucour’s surrender. Then we were free to wander at liberty, with each building offering an interpretation of aspects of 18th century life. The city has been restored to its 1745 appearance and although the vast majority of it remains as ruins, it was significantly rebuilt in the 1960s/1970s. In the evening we brought joy to another client, Tim, as we dined in a nearby Irish pub which was playing one traditional folk song after another in the background.
Day 11. St Lawrence River
An early morning flight saw us travel to Quebec via Montreal, where we bade our farewells to Fred who was leaving us to return home. By 09:30 we were aboard our Quebec coach driven by the affable Daniel and heading straight for the Isle d’Orleans, where we gained a superb panorama of the St Lawrence river, the ‘Basin’, Montmorency Falls, Levi and Quebec itself. From here we appreciated the difficulty of the objective that Wolfe had been set when he landed here in June 1759. At Montmorency with its stunning waterfall (apparently 30 metres higher than Niagara), Alan described the failed British amphibious landing aimed at seizing the French entrenched positions on the Beauport Heights. We drove into the Lower town to catch the ferry to Levi where we stood on the site of the British batteries that over a period of 6 weeks systematically destroyed the city of Quebec. At Goreham’s Post, at the confluence of the Etchemin River, we got the same view of the Anse of Foulon that Wolfe had 3 days prior to the assault of the Quebec Heights but it was at St Nicholas, opposite Cap Rouge, that we really understood the complexity of the amphibious operation that would be undertaken on the night of 12/13 September 1759. As it was en route to our hotel, we stopped off at the Parc des Braves to discuss Chevalier Levis’ victory over the British in the Spring of 1760, although he was unable to subsequently retake the city. Our day’s touring ended at the Augustine Convent where we found the mass graves of many of those from all sides who were mortally wounded during the siege and both battles. Checking in to the Chateau Laurier, after a long day, we were keen to get an early supper in one of the myriad of restaurants along the Grand Allee, which also happened to be on the 13 September battlefield.
Day 12. Quebec, Anse au Foulon and the Heights of Abraham.
Still blessed with fine weather, we set off on our guided tour of Old Quebec with our local expert historian, David. As he was on the advisory board of many of the city’s historical and ecclesiastical buildings, David provided us with an extraordinary insider’s glimpse into its heritage, architecture and modern influences.
After lunch in the Lower town, we took taxis to the Anse au Foulon to walk in the footsteps of Wolfe and his men as they ascended the heights to the battlefield above them. The trail has been marked with informative interpretation panels, the reading of which provided a welcome excuse to break the steep ascent. Then, finally, we had arrived on the famous Plains of Abraham were Wolfe won his momentous victory which would secure British control over New France. Although the modern city of Quebec has encroached over much of the battlefield, the area fought over by the British right flank survives and allows for a good interpretation of events, a battle that was over within 30 minutes. We saw where Wolfe was mortally wounded and expired, where British and French regiments were formed up and where the French General Montcalm received his fatal wound. Our farewell dinner tonight was at the ‘Aux Anciens Canadiens’, one of the city’s oldest buildings where we enjoyed typical Quebecois fayre, although we were at a loss to understand how the Beef Wellington that three of us enjoyed counted as local cuisine!
Day 13. Citadel and the ‘Van Doos’
A slightly early start saw us arrive at the citadel in time to enjoy a VIP tour of this still working military establishment to learn all about Canada’s only French speaking unit, the Royal 22nd Regiment or ‘Van Doos’ as they are affectionately known. The regiment is over 100 years old and boasts some 40 plus battle honours won since the outbreak of the First World War. By 10 o’clock we were standing on the edge of the Parade Ground anticipating the ceremony of the changing of the guard. Preluded by a solitary bugler, the old guard marched on to the square to be inspected by a duty officer accompanied by her CSM. The band in full tune then made its appearance before the new guard joined the parade which, as a whole, ‘marched by’ the officer to end the spectacle. Dressed in their bright red tunics, bearskin busbies and performing drill in the manner of the British Army, it was curious to hear their commands delivered wholly in French. A fitting and dramatic finale to our tour. After some free time we jumped into taxis to the airport where we said our farewells and dispersed in our separate directions.
View details of this tour - Washington and Wolfe