During the French and Indian War, colonists in the Virginia backcountry relied upon fortifications for protection from Native raids. Fort Pleasant was designed by George Washington and constructed by men of the Virginia Regiment, who served as its garrison. The fort protected the local populace, improved the local economy, and was home to the county court for several years during the war. Although never directly attacked, men from the fort did skirmish with Indians in the area, notably during the 1756 Battle of the Trough. The fort was mostly gone by 1765, although it was rebuilt by 1770 and stood for some years. Eventually it was torn down, and a brick home was built for the Van Meter family, on whose lands the fort stood.
Backstory and Context
In 1754, war erupted in Virginia backcountry between British, French, and Native-Americans for control of the Ohio River Valley and the interior of the North American continent. Known in America as the French and Indian War and globally as the Seven Years' War, the American backcountry was especially impacted by the war. Angry over the encroachment of white settlers, Natives and their French allies unleashed a wave of raids on frontier settlements. In 1755, the decisive defeat of Major General Edward Braddock's British army at the Battle of the Monongahela only exacerbated the aggression of French and Indian forces.
Frontier colonists responded by constructing small stockade forts and blockhouses to offer protection in case of attack. Along the South Branch of the Potomac River in western Virginia, settlers constructed Fort Pleasant for protection. Built on Henry Van Meter's farm at Old Fields, the fort was build ove rteh winter and spring of 1756 by a detachment of Thomas Waggoner's Virginia Regiment. Featuring 90-foot long walls, bastions at the corners, a barracks, and a magazine, the fort's was designed by Virginia militia officer George Washington.
The Virginia Regiment used the fort as its headquarters and kept a garrison there. The fort's presence proved a boon to the local community. The soldiers guarded farmers and bought excess crops and goods. Between 1759 and 1761, the fort also served as the location for the county court. As one colonial captain noted:
"The Forts built by Captain Waggener have had the desired effect --- The inhabitants of that fertile district, keep possession of their Farms, and seem resolved to pursue their Business under cover of them. They are therefore to be looked upon in the chain intended by the Assembly."
Unlike many frontier forts in the surrounding region, Fort Pleasant was never directly attacked. Colonial forces from the fort did skirmish with Indians in the area, however, notably at the April 1756 Battle of the Trough, when colonial forces were defeated by Native-Americans just a few miles from Fort Pleasant.
The fort was likely abandoned in early 1762. Much of the fort itself seems to have been deconstructed by 1765, although a later fortification existed from 1770 onward. George Washington indicated in his diary in 1784 that the fort was still still standing. The fort was eventually replaced by a brick home for the Van Meter family (still called "Fort Pleasant"). The brick home still stands today in Hardy County, West Virginia.
1. Greg Adamson. "Fort Pleasant." July 30, 2012. e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Web. Accessed May 1, 2015.
2. Terry Gruber. "Fort Pleasant: Soldiers and Civilians in the South Branch Valley, 1756-1762." 1998. Web. Accessed October 11, 2020. http://web.hardynet.com/~gruber/fort_pleasant.htm
3. "Fort Pleasant." June 5, 1973. National Register of Historic Place Inventory--Nomination Form. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Web. Accessed October 11, 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/hardy/73001903.pdf
"Fort Pleasant." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed September 22, 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=155454.