Fort LeBoeuf

Fort Leboeuf

Le Boeuf Fortress

Fort LeBoeuf, also known as Fort de la Rivi ere au Boeuf, was established by the French in 1753 on a branch of French Creek (within the Ohio River drainage basin) in modern-day Waterford in the northwest region of Pennsylvania. This fort was part of a series of forts which included Fort Presque Isle, Fort Machault, and Fort Duquesne.

Fort Le Boeuf was situated approximately 15 miles away from the shores of Lake Erie, near the banks of LeBoeuf Creek in Pennsylvania, which was the inspiration for its name. The French used the land route to transport supplies and trade goods from Lake Erie to the fort. They then continued their journey by raft and canoe down French Creek to reach the Allegheny, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers.

Currently, the location of the fort is now home to the Fort LeBoeuf Museum, which is managed by the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society.

Fort Leboeuf


The construction of Fort Le Boeuf was initiated by Captain Paul Marin de la Malgue on July 11, 1753. On December 3, 1753, Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre took command of the fort. This fort was one of several posts constructed by the French in the Ohio Country between 1753 and 1754 to assert their control. These posts, Fort Presque Isle, Fort LeBoeuf, Fort Machault, and Fort Duquesne, were strategically placed from Lake Erie to the Forks of the Ohio to connect the French dominions in Canada with those in the Illinois Country and Louisiana. The French also took control of the British trading post at the Lenape village of Venango, located at the junction of French Creek and the Allegheny River (which later became Franklin, Pennsylvania). After establishing garrisons at the new posts, the French command returned to Canada for the winter.

The southern end of the portage road, known as the Venango Path, between Lake Erie and French Creek, was guarded by Fort LeBoeuf, which is now modern Waterford, Pennsylvania. This location also served as a French trading post and garrison until the capture of Fort Niagara in 1759. This event led to the French abandoning the Ohio Country.

Washington’s Message


Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia sent a 21-year-old George Washington, a major in the Virginia militia, along with seven escorts, to Fort Le Boeuf. The purpose of their journey was to deliver a message to the French, demanding that they leave the Ohio Country. This was in response to reports of the French constructing forts in the area. Washington was accompanied by explorer Christopher Gist, who acted as his guide. During the trip, Gist saved Washington’s life on two separate occasions. On December 11, 1753, they reached Fort LeBoeuf, where they were received by the commanding officer, Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. Despite Washington’s aggressive ultimatum, Saint-Pierre, an experienced veteran of the west, politely but dismissively rejected it.

Fort Leboeuf

Washington was granted three days of rest and accommodation at the fort by Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, as well as a letter to deliver to Governor Dinwiddie. The letter instructed the Governor of Virginia to present his request to the Major General of New France in the capital city of Quebec City.

During his visit, Washington observed that the fort was occupied by one hundred soldiers and a large number of officers. There were also many birch and pine canoes, some of which were still under construction. He described the fort as being located on a south or west branch of French Creek, in close proximity to the water and almost completely surrounded by it. The fort was made up of four houses forming its sides, with bastions constructed from driven piles that reached a height of over 12 feet and were sharpened at the top. These bastions had port holes for cannons and loop-holes for small arms. Each bastion was armed with eight six-pound cannons, while a four-pound cannon guarded the gate. Inside the bastions, there were various buildings such as a guard-house, chapel, doctor’s quarters, and the commander’s private storage area. Outside the fort, there were several log barracks, some of which were covered in bark and others in boards. Additional structures included stables, a blacksmith’s shop, and other buildings.

The Fort and The French & Indian War

The French and Indian War started on 28 May 1754 in North America, specifically with the Battle of Jumonville Glen. This event was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between Britain and France in Europe. After approximately four years, on 25 July 1759, the British successfully took control of Fort Niagara when the French surrendered it.

In August of 1759, the leader of Fort Presque Isle issued a directive to the officers and soldiers at Fort Le Boeuf and Fort Machault to evacuate their posts and relocate to the north. Prior to their departure, the forts were set on fire to prevent them from falling into British hands. The British later reconstructed these forts and renamed them with British titles, including the former Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio, which became known as Fort Pitt.

On June 18, 1763, during the conflict known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, a group of Native Americans attacked and set fire to Fort LeBoeuf. The individuals who managed to survive fled to Fort Venango (previously known as Fort Machault), but it was also burned down. As a result, they were forced to continue their journey to Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania.

Fort Leboeuf

Major Ebenezer Denny reported to Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin from LeBoeuf on August 1, 1794. In his report, he detailed a fort with four blockhouses, occupied by riflemen. On the second floor of the two rear blockhouses, there was a six-pound cannon, along with swivel guns placed above the gates.

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