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Step back in time | Take a step way back in time

About 5,000 British troops were stationed at Fort Ligonier.
About 5,000 British troops were stationed at Fort Ligonier. TNS file photos

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The American Revolutionary War and the Civil War often take center stage as the most-discussed battles that took place on U.S. soil, but pre-American military history can often be just as fascinating.

Finding opportunities to walk around a piece of pre-Revolutionary history are few and far between, but the original site of Fort Ligonier has been preserved and restored to its former glory, giving visitors a chance to see how the military operated more than 250 years ago.

The fort is a two-hour drive southwest along Interstate 99 to state route 56 and 711.

Operating between 1758 and 1766, Fort Ligonier served as a staging area for the Forbes Expedition of 1758, post of passage to Fort Pitt and a vital link in British communication and supply lines during Pontiac’s War of 1763, according to the fort’s website. It also boasts as having never been taken by an enemy in its eight years of existence as a garrison.

In the mid-1700s, the struggle between Britain and France for control of the inner basin of North America led to the hostilities known as the French and Indian War. This later ballooned into international conflict called the Seven Years’ War.

In order to establish a gateway to the West and create a staging area to seize French forts, Ligonier was constructed in September 1758, the website said. George Washington himself helped defend the fort after defeating French forces at Fort Duquesne, later renamed Fort Pitt.

Eight acres of the original fort’s site have been preserved, the website said, restoring subsurface features and above-ground structures. The 200-square-foot inner fort features barracks, officers’ quarters, guardrooms and an underground magazine. Outside the fort sits other buildings of the time, including a surgeon’s hut, smokehouse and a forge.

The fort also features heavy cast-bronze weapons that would have been used in the fort’s defense, including a 6-pound field cannon, a 5.5-inch Howitzer and a 12-pound field cannon.

A museum accompanies the fort and features numerous artifacts of the war and time period, including weapons, 18th century paintings and an original Redcoat uniform as well as items owned and written by Washington, including an 11-page memoir written in 1787 and a pair of saddle pistols presented to him by Marquis de Lafayette.

The fort features different events throughout the summer, including history demonstrations and a music concert by the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra. A schedule of events is on the website.