Mile 53 – Fort Necessity N.B., Farmington, Pa. (Part II)

This is the second of two posts on Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Fayette County, Pa. The park is broken up into three sections: the main unit, which consists of the visitor center, the actual fort and Mount Washington Tavern; Braddock’s Grave; and Jumonville Glen. The latter two are both west of the main unit – Braddock’s Grave being about a mile west along U.S. 40, and Jumonville Glen, which is accessible from U.S. 40 by going north on Jumonville Road, which branches off U.S. 40 at the summit of Chestnut Ridge (a few miles west of the visitor center). My first post focuses more on the visitor center and the fort itself. So, this post is dedicated to the other parts of the park.

Mount Washington Tavern at Fort Necessity N.B.

Mount Washington Tavern – This early 19th Century building is another still-standing original tavern and inn built to cater to National Road travelers. Unfortunately for me, it is closed during the winter months. However, that doesn’t mean that walking around the building is also off-limits. Since Mount Washington Tavern is located within the main unit, it’s possible to walk up to and around the building when visiting the fort and visitor center. It’s important to note that, although the path to the tavern is paved, the last part of the path is very steep, so if that’s a problem, there is also a separate parking lot for the tavern which is accessed via the road in the main unit. When the building is open (April 15 to Nov. 1), it functions as another museum/exhibit area, and tours may be available.

The present burial site of Gen. Braddock.

Braddock’s Grave – This unit isn’t very large, but it still is worth stopping by for a quick walk through the site. Basically, the site features two historic elements. The first is the grave of Gen. Edward Braddock, who was killed in the opening years of the French and Indian War. To avoid desecration of his body, Braddock’s army buried him in the middle of Braddock Road, which was originally built by George Washington and then improved by Braddock. When his remains were discovered in the 1910s, they were relocated to the present, marked grave. The original gravesite is also marked, and is reached by a short walk down a remarkably well-preserved section of Braddock Road.

The original site of Braddock's Grave.

That section is only a short part of what remains of the entire road, and is preserved similar to the Oregon or Mormon trails in the western states. Braddock Road is a predecessor to the National Road, and was meant to connect what is now Cumberland, Md., with modern-day Pittsburgh. From Braddock’s Grave east to Cumberland, the National Road either parallels or is built on top of Braddock Road. Along this corridor, it’s not uncommon to find various things named after Braddock. For example, I attended Braddock Middle School in Cumberland, and the original beginning section of the National Road in Cumberland (present Md.-49) is actually Braddock Road, and retains that name today.

Braddock’s Grave is open year-round, but in the event of snow, the parking lot is closed and is not maintained.

The preserved section of Braddock Road. Gen. Braddock's original grave is at the end of this path.

Jumonville Glen – Like Mount Washintgon Tavern, Jumonville Glen is only open seasonally. It preserves the site of the first skirmish between George Washington’s army and the French army. The site contains outdoor exhibits and is self-guided.

In my opinion, Fort Necessity is one of the more overlooked National Battlefields in the NPS system. This isn’t surprising, since it doesn’t carry as much historical significance as Civil War sites like Antietam, Shiloh or Gettysburg. However, significant improvements to the visitor center, the high level of interactivity and the relative compact-ness of this park compared to others really makes it a great place to visit and is a gem of the National Park System.

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