Hi all! I just came back to PGH, and won’t cha know, on my first night here, I curled up on the couch to watch … a PBS re-enactment of the French and Indian War. I know that to some of you this sounds as interesting as paint drying, but I was surprised at how geekily I got into it. Pittsburgh is the star of this historical documentary. The blood shed here isn’t something to love about Pittsburgh per se, but this series underscores its historical importance in the creation of the United States.
In the mid-1700s, our Ohio River Valley was the key to expanding the French or British empire. The 3000-4000 American Indians living here also claimed the forks of the Mon, Allegheny and Ohio as their land.
The documentary is totally fascinating – esp. the pastoral and colonial scenes of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Fayette, and other surrounding counties. Imagine, only 250 years ago, the banks of our rivers were green, pristine, and silent, save for the occasional fort, trading post, or brave frontier outpost.
In the 18th century, the area around Pittsburgh was owned by the French and their Indian allies. Sent from Great Britain, General Braddock, along with the American-born and inexperienced George Washington, were sent with over 1000 troops to fight the French and take over the river fork as a major trading route. (Their excrutiating journey from Virginia to Pittsburgh looks eerily like Route 40.) Braddock, having never fought before on American terroritory, was ill-prepared by the French and Indian guerrilla fighters, and he and his troops were slaughtered … on what is now PA 837 at Kennywood Park, North of Duquesne. He finally died en route in Chalk Hill, off route 40 in Fayette County.
After watching the initial blunders of the British troops, it’s a wonder we aren’t all speaking French … or Lenape (the language of the Delaware Indians) right now. I guess we’ll just have to tune in to the next installment to find out how the British finally won the war, after losing many of the first battles. What I also appreciate about the documentary is the portrayal of American Indians and their presence on our land. (Unfortunately most of the native Indian population were later forced to Oklahoma by the US government.)
The first installment was on Wednesday at 9pm, but it is playing again on Friday night. Check the local listing here. The next installment is next Wednesday, January 25 at 9pm. Don’t be afraid to get your geek on – I assure you, it’s much more interesting than another repeat of Everybody Loves Raymond.
Here is a description from the site:
“The War that Made America” brings to life a vastly important time in American history, when events set forces in motion that would culminate in the American Revolution. The dramatic documentary tells the story of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which began in the wilderness of the Pennsylvania frontier and spread throughout the colonies, into Canada, and ultimately around the world.
“The War That Made America” combines a commitment to accuracy with a compelling portrayal of the dangerous world of the 18th-century frontier. A central figure is George Washington, a brash and ambitious young officer in his twenties hoping to make his reputation in the military — and whose blunders inadvertently trigger the war.
“A primary focus of the series, and a story that has been distorted or long forgotten, is the critical military importance and strategic diplomacy of Native Americans in the conflict between the English and French. It was a war the British won, but the fruit of their victory contained the seeds of the Revolutionary War.
“The program is narrated and hosted by Graham Greene, the Academy-Award nominated actor for “Dances With Wolves” and an Oneida Indian whose ancestors fought in the French and Indian War.”