In May 1754, George Washington arrived with 160 men at Great Meadows, Pennsylvania. He intended to set up camp and wait for British reinforcements.
Before the additional troops could arrive, Washington’s men discovered and engaged a small group of French soldiers under the command of Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. Jumonville and 12 other French troops were killed, and another 21 were captured.
Washington retreated to the meadow and directed the construction of what he called “Fort Necessity.” Earthen fortifications were piled around a stockade measuring just 53 feet in diameter. A storehouse stood in the center of the stockade.
On the morning of July 3, the nearby woods filled with 600 French and 100 Indian troops under the command of Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers, brother of the slain ensign Jumonville. The troops engaged, and both sides suffered significant losses.
By nightfall, the French commander called for a truce. Angry over his brother’s death, he ordered Fort Necessity burned and agreed to let the British withdraw with honors, providing Washington surrendered his command. It was the first and only surrender of Washington’s military career.
The Fort Necessity/National Road Interpretive Center offers educational exhibits about the fort and the French and Indian War. The site of the fort is a short walk from the center. Jumonville Glen, site of the initial engagement, is about 7 miles away.
If You Go
Above the site lies Mount Washington Tavern, a typical example of the many inns that once serviced travelers along the first federally funded highway, National Road.