You have to park your car in a small lot that’s off a road that’s off another road from Route 40 in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Fayette County. A sign says you need to hike 250 yards on a trail into the woods, and that’s when you’ll come to a rock outcropping.
George Washington stood there early on the morning of May 28, 1754, along with fellow Virginians and friendly Indians. They were looking down on a camp of French soldiers when someone fired a shot that the English writer Horace Walpole said “set the world on fire.”
My wife, Mary, and I stood there too, on a Sunday afternoon in August.
This is Jumonville Glen, part of the Fort Necessity National Battlefield.
In 2006, I worked on a three-part series for The Morning Call about how the war was fought in the Lehigh Valley. A year earlier, as part of the research, I saw a reenactment of the 1755 Battle of the Monongahela at Old Bedford Village. But I had never been to Jumonville Glen.
After you’ve stood at the outcropping, you can continue down a trail that’s more difficult and reach the French camp. That’s where I’m standing in this picture, below the rocks. As you can see, there’s no one else around. We ran into maybe a half-dozen other folks in the glen. That’s all.
What a feeling to stand on the very spot where the real first world war began, to see what the young Washington had seen. It must have looked much the same in 1754.
Another trail takes you back to the parking lot. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn onto a different trail and wound up lost for a while, a little unnerving. And by the time we emerged from the woods and got to our car, we needed to hit a restroom.
Fort Necessity, several miles away, took on a whole new meaning.