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Terms of Capitulation of Fort Necessity, 1754


In January 1754, Virginia's lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie, sent a small force of Virginia soldiers to build a fort at the forks of the Ohio River, where Pittsburgh now stands. The stockade was barely finished when they were driven off by a French force who built a larger fort on the site and named it Fort Duquesne. In April, George Washington led a detachment of Virginia frontiersmen west and, after a brief skirmish, erected Fort Necessity at Great Meadows. A French force left Fort Duquesne and attacked Washington’s force on July 3. About midnight the French commander, Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers, requested a truce to discuss surrender of the fort. After some negotiations, Washington agreed to the terms and retreated back to Virginia with his force. One contentious item was that the original document, written in French, described the death of one of the French officers in the earlier skirmish as an “assassination.” Washington refuted the assertion, saying that the translation he received did not describe the death of the officer that way. At any rate, the French were able to use the surrender document as propaganda to great effect.

Citation: Virginia (Colony), Colonial Papers, Articles of capitulation of Capt. Louis Coulon de Villiers, 1754 July 3. Accession 36138. State government records collection, Library of Virginia.


VS.1, VS.5a, b, USI.1, USI.6c, VUS.1

Suggested Questions

Up for Debate: Have students discuss whether the terms of surrender were fair to the British.

Analyze: Have students use a map to locate Fort Necessity, Fort Duquesne, and Williamsburg and discuss the importance of geography (such as securing the forks of the Ohio River), distances, and travel in the eighteenth century, etc.

Social Media Spin: Have students create a 280-character summary of the event.


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