When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
Forty Fort was a stronghold built by settlers from Westmoreland County, Connecticut, on the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolutionary War, both Connecticut and Pennsylvania claimed this territory, as Connecticut laid claim to a wide swath of land to its west based on its colonial charter. These competing claims were settled by exchanges and agreements with resolution by the national government after the United States gained independence.
This fort became a refuge for displaced settlers during the Battle of Wyoming in 1778. Zebulon Butler’s force of Continental and allied Indians was defeated by the far larger force of Loyalists and their Indian allies. Construction on the fort began in 1770 but was still not fit for defense in 1772-1773. In 1777 it was rebuilt so as to occupy almost an acre and strengthened with a sharpened upright log palisade. The palisade was two logs deep and 12′ high with buildings built along the walls that provided a platform for troops on the roofs. The fort plan was rectangular with small guard towers at each corner. A nearby spring provided access to water via a covered passageway.
In June 1777 a large British and Indian force approached the fort coming down the Wyoming Valley. The fort defenders chose to advance outside the fort and attack the oncoming force, not knowing that there were some 1100 of the enemy in that force. After some initial success in driving back the attackers the defenders were caught in an open field and outflanked by some 700 Indians. The defenders fell back to the fort but some 300 were killed or captured. The fort was forced to surrender the following day. The battle came to be known as the “Wyoming Massacre”.
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