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EXPLORING HISTORY and AMERICAN FRONTIER CULTURES OF THE 18TH CENTURY
French & Indian War
West Virginia Parks commemorated the 250th anniversary of the 18th century clash of empires known as The French & Indian War. Fought 20 years before the Revolutionary War, the French & Indian War's grand significance to the subsequent history of North America is reflected in other names for the war, such as The First World War, The War for Empire, and The War that Made America. The Ohio Valley was the highly coveted territory that two European superpowers, two American Indian superpowers, and a dozen or so other native nations contested for during this war. History buffs will readily recognize several famous French & Indian War sites in the Ohio River basin: Fort Necessity, Fort Duquesne, Kittanning (all in Pennsylvania), and Fort Loudoun (Tennessee) are examples. Less known, but as important as those sites, is the Ohio River corridor, a major war trail that hosted numerous armies and war parties during the long duration of the war called in Europe, The Seven Years War. In recent years, new light has been thrown on the importance of southern American Indian alliances with Great Britain's colonies during the war. War party after war party of Cherokees and Catawbas assisted Virginia in defending its western frontier. The Cherokees in particular carried on an effective offensive war against the French over a 1,300 mile front, including that portion of Ohio River along present-day West Virginia's border.
 
The state park historical interpretive events highlighted the 1758 war excursion of Cherokee military leaders Man Killer Ostenaco and Great Warrior Oconostota along Ohio River from near present-day Kenova, WV to present-day Pittsburgh, PA. Three state parks near the Ohio River interpreted this successful excursion that helped clear the way for the Forbes Campaign by ridding the Ohio Valley of French soldiers and their allied warriors. Trails Inc. living history presenters visited the host parks Tu-Endie-Wei, Blennerhassett Island, and Tomlinson Run to commemorate this important part of our country's history through living-history demonstrations, drama, and history hikes. 
 
 
Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, famous as the location of the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774, hosted a day of historical interpretation of the French & Indian War. From 1755 through 1757 armies of French, Shawnee, Delaware, and Miami warriors passed the point on their way to war against Virginia's frontier settlers. Over 100 Virginian captives, like Mary Ingles and her son Thomas, were carried past the point by the successful raiders. Cherokee war gangs passed the point from 1756 through 1758 on their way to defeat the French and their allies in the Ohio country. The stories of these participants in the War that Made America were told by historical re-enactors. They demonstrated how these men and women survived, walking hundreds of miles to war and to captivity. Through drama, living-history demonstration, audio-visual presentation, and history hikes, public visitors immersed themselves in the War for Empire that raged around the juncture of two great rivers and two great war roads at Tu-Endie-Wei State Park. 
 

 
Blennerhassett Island State Park covers many historic eras, but is most famous as the late 18th century home of Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. However, 40 years before the Blennerhassett's purchased the island, it witnessed war party after war party traveling the river during the deadly struggle for control of eastern North America now called the French & Indian War. In commemoration of the 250th anniversary of this war, Blennerhassett Island once again hosted a war gang, as living-history re-enactors demonstrated skills and lifeways of the warriors and women who participated in the war. Come find out how both French and British allied warriors accomplished long-distance travel by foot and canoe. Learn how captives survived their ordeals to become adoptees of Indian families in the Ohio country. Hear the story of Man Killer Ostenaco, a Cherokee major who led the western arm of the Cherokee pincer campaign that weakened the French stronghold of Fort Duquesne 250 years ago in 1758. 
 

Saturday, August 30, 2008: Although the American Indian wars of the late 18th century are the usual foci of the historical interpretive programs at Tomlinson Run State Park, the park stepped back a little further in time to the French & Indian War in order to host an evening of living-history education on that wars western front. Through a History Alive! performance Man Killer Ostenaco told the story of how his Cherokee warriors helped defeat the French and their Ohio Valley allies in the summer of 1758 along Ohio River, clearing the way for the army of General Forbes to reach Fort Duquesne unopposed. After the performance, historical re-enactors interpreted American Indian elements of the war such as long-distance travel, war strategy, battle tactics, Cherokee-Virginia special forces in the region, and women's roles in war. 
 

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