Fort Necessity, Virginia, July 3, 1754. It was early days of the British colonists’ participation in the global Seven Years’ War, and Col. George Washington, believing his small force could not defeat the French and their allies surrounding the fort, accepted surrender terms that allowed for a safe retreat from the area.
Another George was at Fort Necessity (now in Pennsylvania) 200 years later, and he said, “Great things had their beginnings here. The man to lead the Colonists in the revolutionary struggle had his start here, an unsuccessful one it must have seemed.”
George Marshall spoke at the anniversary of the Battle of Fort Necessity on July 4, 1954. This was not George Marshall’s first trip to Fort Necessity, as he grew up in the area. In his speech, he remembered “my father took the family on a picnic. We ate our supper on the bank of this stream. He gave us a thrilling description of the battle Washington’s small force fought. I clearly recall his showing us the shallow outline of the trench that had been manned by the Colonists.”
Marshall noted to his biographer, Forrest Pogue in 1957 that Fort Necessity had changed since he was a boy — “In my day there was just a slight ridge in the field which showed where the entrenchment had been. I went to the dedication of the new markers — the rebuilt fort — not so long ago.” He said the location of the original fort was discovered “by finding, well beneath the surface, the lower end of the logs which formed the palisade.”
As part of the Independence Day ceremonies at Fort Necessity, Marshall participated in a review of local National Guard troops.
Quite a good way for George Marshall to spend an Independence Day near his childhood home.
The staff at the George C. Marshall Foundation wish you a safe and enjoyable Independence Day!
Photos of Fort Necessity from the National Park Service and discovertheburgh
Melissa has been at GCMF since Fall 2019, and previously was an academic librarian specializing in history. She and her husband, John, have three grown children, and live in Rockbridge County with their large rescue dogs. Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary