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Brigadier General John Forbes gave his name to a challenging military campaign and to a remarkable road. Follow the Forbes Trail through Pennsylvania's history.
The Forbes Trail was carved into the Pennsylvania backcountry in 1758, at the height of the French and Indian War, by 6,000 British and Provincial troops commanded by British General John Forbes. He ordered built the original Fort Ligonier (first called the Post at Loyalhanna) in September to serve as a supply depot and staging area for the massive army meant to seize Fort Duquesne from the French.
The expedition was a turning point in the French and Indian War, resulting in the capture of the French stronghold, Fort Duquesne. The spot was named Pittsburgh in honor of British statesman William Pitt; at the same time the Post at Loyalhanna was renamed Fort Ligonier. This expedition was the last of his French and Indian War experiences as Forbes died of disease in 1759.
George Washington’s participation is a fascinating part of the Forbes Trail story. The headstrong 26-year-old Washington, a colonel with the Virginia troops, first caught General Forbes’s attention by strenuously but unsuccessfully arguing against the route Forbes had selected across Pennsylvania. He nearly lost his life in friendly fire after fending off a French-native attack near Fort Ligonier, and Washington led the lead brigade of Forbes’s army to Fort Duquesne.
Fort Ligonier was never captured by an enemy. After 1758, the fort served as a post of passage to the new Fort Pitt and remained a vital link in communication and supply lines during Pontiac’s Rebellion. The French and Indian War sowed the seeds of discontent that led to the American Revolution and in the end it was ironically the colonists, not Great Britain, who would control North America.
Forbes and Washington could not have imagined what the future held for the route they opened in 1758. The Forbes Trail stretches from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, primarily along U.S. Route 30. The corridor along the trail is home to a rich collection of historic sites spanning more than 250 years of American history, as well as a wide array of outdoor recreation, historic sites, travel amenities and family destinations. The Forbes Trail winds its way past many of the most significant chapters in U.S. history – The French and Indian War in Western Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna Valley; The gateway to the west at the Forks of the Ohio River; The Revolutionary War in Valley Forge; The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in Philadelphia; Civil War turning point in Gettysburg; the Flight 93 National Memorial in the Laurel Highlands.
Content Reference: Pennsylvania’s Forbes Trail: Gateways and Getaways along the Legendary Route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. From the dramatic story of the Forbes Expedition to more than 40 themed tours, featured activities, and lodging and dining tips, this beautifully illustrated guide puts you on the Forbes Trail, then and now.