Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bringing the Eighteenth Century Into the Twenty-First

Speaking of some ponytail guy named George Washington...

Twice in my life have I visited Fort Necessity in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The first time, I was around ten years old and accompanied my father and grandmother. All I remember from then is the colonial dude shooting his gun into the air. The second time was about nine years ago, when my oldest child was just a little baby. Not having a clear memory of my earlier visit, I was a little disappointed to find that I had driven across two counties with wife and tiny daughter to visit a circle of sticks in the middle of a mud pit.

Yes, there was a small blockhouse with a few artifacts in the middle of the circle of sticks in the middle of the mud pit. And of course there was an interpretive center. But we could have gotten as much out of an interpretive center at any number of similar reconstructions without getting any mud on our shoes. Most of the site consisted of walking trails through tall grass. This is not good when you are pushing a stroller designed for sidewalks.

Oh, and an old roadside inn along Route 40 (The National Road) nearby was similarly disappointing in that the bar was just a replica.

The truth dawned on me -- nothing had changed in twenty years. A decade after my last visit, however, things are looking up for the stick-adorned mudhole. A new, larger visitors center that's more like a museum than an overglorifed book shop? Opposing murals depicting opposing sides in the battle that took place there at Great Meadows? Life sized figures from history populating the displays? Looks like I will have to take my family, which has doubled in size since my last visit, back to Fort Necessity.

And, sadly, let them learn the unfortunate truth that not only did George Washington sleep there, but he lost the battle. To the friggin' French.

I wonder why you never see this battle as a footnote to #6 on that "cursory review of French military history" that's been making the rounds for the last three years.

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