25 July 2015 Bolivar, OH
This is my sixth straight visit to this commemorative program. And, each time I've been here I've been told about how the fort located on these hallowed grounds was garrisoned by men from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Well, they were not the only people here.
Last year, when I returned home from here, I went online and found an interesting book about Fort Laurens on EBAY. It was the Archaeological Record of research done here in 1972 and 1973 by the Ohio Historical Society. Richard Michael Gramly is the author.
The history of fortification here began in 1764 with the construction of a blockhouse that was used to store provisions and protect a line of communications between Fort Pitt and British Col Henry Bouquet's westward expedition during Pontiac's War. The blockhouse was manned by a garrison of about 50 militiamen for about one month.
By 1775, the blockhouse was no more. Speculation is that the structure was burned down by local Indians who removed the nails for their own use.
General Lachlan McIntosh arrived here on November 18, 1778, and commenced to building Fort Laurens. With McIntosh, were companies of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment, and the 13th Virginia Regiment, forty North Carolina Dragoons, a portion of another North Carolina Brigade, militiamen from western Virginia counties, some Delaware Indian scouts, a few French officers, and many camp followers.
The main body totaled about 1,200. They occupied about 58 acres in and around where we gather today, while the fort was under construction. The militiamen and North Carolina detachments returned to Fort Pitt on December 9th. Fort Laurens was not yet completed, but 180 men would remain to complete the work and garrison the stockade.
The Virginia 13th had the first watch here ... from December 1778 to March 1779. They were replaced by the Pennsylvania 8th who stayed here through June. The Virginia 13th Regiment was re-designated the 9th Virginia in May and a detachment from the new Virginia 9th, along with members of a Maryland regiment, held the fort for the next two months, ending the operations here in August 1779.
During the 10-month period Fort Laurens was in existence, as many as 24 defenders died. The first deaths were recorded on January 22, 1779, when a supply detachment, en route to Fort Pitt, was attacked by a group of Indians led by Simon Girty. Two Virginians were killed and buried just outside Fort Laurens' main gate. The following day, John Nash was killed while searching for food outside the fort.
The greatest loss occurred on February 23 when Captain Henry Bird of the 8th Regiment of Foot, a few British soldiers, and a couple hundred local Indians sprung a successful ambush within sight of the fort. Seventeen members of the fort's garrison were killed. The siege continued until March 20. The remains of the 17 men were buried in a mass grave and their final resting place is marked by the small white American flags to the front and rear of where we sit today. Two more deaths were recorded in early March but were not hostile. They were caused by eating poisonous roots. The final deaths came on the 28th of March when a firewood party was overpowered by Indians and two men were killed.
We gather here today to celebrate the lives of all the men who served and died at Fort Laurens between November 1778 and August 1779 ... but we focus our attention on one unknown deceased soldier, re-interred in this grave ... dedicated on June 26, 1976.
May God bless him. May God bless the S A R, and may God continue to bless these United States of America.