Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fort Loudoun

Fort Loudoun Marker Q-4k on Loudoun Street, Winchester, VACity of Winchester, Virginia
Marker No. Q-4k

Marker Text: Here in May 1756, overlooking the frontier town of Winchester, construction began on Fort Loudoun during the period of the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War in Europe). The fort, named for John Campbell, earl of Loudoun, was a square fortification with four bastions constructed of earth, wood, and stone. Col. George Washington, commander of the Virginia Regiment, designed the fort and supervised its construction until 1758. It served as Washington's command center for a series of forts authorized by the Virginia House of Burgesses and built on the frontier that extended from the Potomac River to North Carolina. A well, dug through limestone bedrock, survives.

Location: At the intersection of Loudoun Street and Peyton Street, about 200 feet north of the intersection, near 419 Loudoun Street, Winchester. Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 2006.

Fort Loudoun Marker Q-4k on Loudoun Street looking toward Winchester.

Photo taken looking toward downtown Winchester.  The fort sat on this hill overlooking the small frontier town. (Click any photo to  enlarge)

  Today, it is difficult for the traveller to imagine that this location in Winchester, VA was once at the crossroads of the western U.S. Today, we clearly view Winchester in the eastern U.S., but it one time it was on the frontier of the west. At the time Winchester, founded in 1752, was the first and only English-speaking settlement west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and nothing more than a frontier town with four cross streets during fort’s construction.

  This state historical marker at 419 N. Loudoun Street marks the spot where ground was broken for the fort’s construction on May 18, 1756. There is also a brass marker pictured below placed by The French and Indian War Foundation in 2006.

Fort Loudoun Marker Q-4k with other fort marker on Loudoun Street.

Another brass marker about Fort Loudoun is seen at the bottom of photo and a close-up is pictured below with text. (Click photo to enlarge)

  In 1756, the Virginia House of Burgesses approved the construction of a chain of forts to defend the colony's frontier. George Washington, colonel of the Virginia Regiment was chosen by the British military command to execute the plan for the fort and served as the commander responsible for protecting the back country from incursions by the French and Indian allies. This marker indicates the location of Fort Loudoun that for a short period, became the center of western defenses during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

  Following the initial defeats during the French and Indian War, particularly, General Braddock's defeat at Fort Duquesne in which Washington participated, there was a necessity to protect the settlers. Due to these defeats, people were leaving the area, going over to the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains trying to escape repeated Indian attacks experienced on the western frontier.

Fort Loudoun plaque near state marker at site of the fortFort Loudoun

Marker Text: In 1756, during the French and Indian War, Col. George Washington proposed, designed, and supervised construction of the largest and most formidable fort on Virginia’s colonial frontier. Equipped with 24 pieces of artillery, the fort served as Col. Washington’s command center for the Virginia Regiment and a chain of defenses that extended from the Potomac River to the North Carolina border. Situated on the high ground north of town, the fort overlooked and protected the developing community. Directly behind this marker is the fort’s surviving well dug through 103 feet of solid limestone. Erected 2006 by The French and Indian War Foundation.

  Built between 1756 to 1758, the fort was the creation of a young 26-year-old George Washington who used Fort Loudoun as his regimental headquarters during the French and Indian War. The fort never came under attack, Washington's chief purpose was to establish a "large Magazine to supply the diverse Forts with Stores", where he could have supplies, ammunition, and soldiers who could be sent out to other frontier forts. Washington chose Winchester as a command center, due to its strategic location in providing supplies to a series of smaller western frontier forts that would be constructed. Washington wanted to build Fort Loudoun in Winchester as a command center, Baker said,

Cannon from Fort Loudoun located at Washington's Office, Winchester, VA

In downtown Winchester is Washington’s office where there is a old cannon from the fort and the inscription is pictured below.  Statute of Washington is seen the background.

  Today, many historical markers exist in Virginia and West Virginia indicating the locations of these later frontier forts. Fort Loudoun was named for John Campbell (1705-1782), the fourth Earl of Loudoun, a man who blessed the idea of the fort through correspondence, but never laid eyes on the structure. Approved by the Virginia General Assembly and the House of Burgesses at a cost of 1,000 British pounds, the fort was situated on a five-acre tract about 200 yards north of town.

Inscription on Fort Loudoun cannon in Winchester, VA  Washington drew the plans for Fort Loudoun and supervised its construction. Washington laid out a 204-square-foot fortification with bastions at each corner. Built of horizontal logs filled with earth and rubble, creating a base 18-feet thick. The fort was designed with four bastions, barracks for 450 men a powder magazine, an officer’s guard house, a grand house and kitchen, and a drinking well drilled 103 feet through solid limestone rock to supply the fort with water. Fort Loudoun was unmatched in size along the colonial Virginia frontier that stretched from the Potomac River to the north at the border of Maryland to North Carolina.

  Fort Loudoun served as George Washington's regimental headquarters during the French and Indian War. Little of the old fort exists today, an old well and remnants of the bastion are the only reminders of its existence, the area is now a residential section of Winchester. On-going archaeological investigations have uncovered intact period deposits including part of the barrack's foundation as well as numerous artifacts.

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