Fort Bedford's History

Old Fort Bedford, a British stockade built in 1758 as part of the French and Indian War campaign against the French at Fort Duquesne, After several failed attempts in the early 1750s, the British launched a major offensive against Fort Duquesne in 1758. Facing the formidable task of crossing the Allegheny Mountains and the threat of attack, numerous stockades were built along the way westward. Fort Bedford was constructed as a key fortification along the military path, Forbes Road (Pitt Street), and served as the staging area for their successful campaign against the French.

The stockade, known as Raystown and later named Fort Bedford, had been built by Forbes' capable deputy, Col. Henry Bouquet. Bouquet constructed one of the best of the frontier forts at Bedford. Embracing an area of 7000 square yards, the fort had five bastions, places for the use of swivel guns, which guarded the corners of the irregularly shaped stockade (see image, below). The main gate was on the south side of the fort parallel to modern-day Pitt Street, a smaller gate faced the west side and a postern gate opened northward.

In order to secure the water and secure the banks of the river, a gallery with loopholes extended from the central bastion on its north front down to the water's edge. A ladder-like arrangement of steps led down the river's bluff-like south bank that enclosed gallery. The layout and structure of this fort was no different than any other contemporary fortified structure: the idea was to make the wall impregnable from the outside but easily defended from the inside.

A V-shaped ditch, four to five feet deep and about three feet wide at the top, was dug around the entire perimeter of the fort. While the ditch was being dug by part of the troops, some of the others were employed at cutting down trees, preferably oak, in the surrounding forests. Logs about eighteen feet in length were needed to be cut and hewn flat on two sides to fit snugly together. The logs were then placed upright in the ditch side by side. The fort's stockade wall would have required at least 2,000 logs!

By 1763, Fort Bedford's garrison was reduced to 12 men and the frontier had moved to Pittsburgh. By 1775, the fort had fallen into disrepair. The records of the Whiskey Rebellion do not mention the fort, so the building was likely destroyed or totally deteriorated by the early 1790s. Today, visitors can see a reconstructed wall that stands along the Juniata River and, inside the museum, a large scale model of the original Fort showing Forbes Road, the river and surrounding areas.

*For more information on Fort Bedford and the Pennsylvania Frontier, visit Fort Bedford on Wikipedia and Mother Bedford, the Frontier of the 1700s.