Visiting the Bushy Run Battlefield was like all the historic sites in Pennsylvania, very well organised, informative and a great learning experience. I learned so much and really enjoyed reliving a defining moment of history.
My visit in June 2014 began with paying a very reasonable $5 admission fee. After a brief chat with the girl on reception (they all love the fact that I’m from Yorkshire) I was informed of the exhibits, a video display and the opportunity to go on a guide tour. Tours are offered Friday to Sundays at no extra cost. I was quite surprised at this since the tour took around an hour and was very informative.
I initially sat in on the video explaining the history of the battle at Bushy Run. The video was short but informative enough to understand the history and the military tactics used, so much so that the US Military even now study this battle to learn from it.
Brief history of events leading up to the conflict at the Bushy Run Battlefield
Following the end of the Seven Year War the British had controlling interest over much of the inhabited space of North America. However in doing so they had broken a promise to the Native Indians that they would not occupy land west of the Allegheny Mountains. They also failed to keep their promise and dismantle forts already built in Indian territory. This was in exchange for the Indians not aligning with the French during the Seven Year War. By the Indians being neutral the advantage had swayed towards the British.
The Indians had become incensed that this promise was not being adhered to. In addition trade links between the two had become frayed. This led to what is now called Pontiac’s War.
With a swift set of raids the Indians attacked and conquered numerous British forts across the north east of modern day America.
Fort Pitt (modern day Pittsburgh) was well defended however it was under heavy attack from the Indians.
A 2 day fight at Bushy Run Battlefield
Col. Bouquet led a group of British soldier up the Forbes Road en route to Fort Pitt to provide supplies, aid and help to defend the strategic site.
Bouquet was aware of a high risk of attack from Native Indians. He felt that a valley (a little closer to Fort Pitt than Bushy Run) would be the perfect place for Indians to plan their attack. He also knew that the Indians only fought in daylight so he planned to cross the dangerous valley passage at night.
Plans quickly changed as the Indians attacked at what is now known as the Bushy Run Battlefield.
With quick strikes then withdrawing under the cover of trees in the wooded area the Indians were able to inflict numerous casualties on the British. The ambush was working so the British retreated up to an open area, Edge Hill.
Without water and short of supplies the British were struggling. They lay flour bags as a mini fortress over the night.
The next day the battle continued. The British were surrounded on three sides with the Indians attacking from the woods. Only one way was open for manoeuvre and that was further back. The Indian strategy of battle was to leave a retreat route for the enemy. They felt that a retreating enemy was vulnerable and they could kill off a retreating army quickly.
Aware of their potential tactics someone within Bouquet’s group came up with the idea to feign a retreat. Then the 2 retreating positions would under the cover of the woods manoeuvre round and perform a surprise attack on the Indians who will have pushed forward.
The plan worked perfectly and the Indians were routed.
The guided tour of the battlefield of Bushy Run
Our tour guide, Dan, took us around the battlefield site on a golf cart. There was a fair length of land to cover so this seemed like a good time saver.
We drove to various positions along the battlefield and could picture how the battle unfolded.
Remains of the original Forbes Road where the British troops marched were visible. Numerous trees had been cleared from the area, after all it was 250 years ago however it took little imagination to see the story unfold.
We were then led up the route of retreat and up to Edge Hill where the British camped out. Flour bag mock ups had been laid out and a Ligonier “Blue Rock” acts as marker to where the actual positioning was.
We even saw a beech tree which is believed to have been growing at the time of the battle.
At one end of the field is a commemorative statue which was placed to mark the 250th anniversary of the battle. In addition, each year on the weekend closest to the anniversary of the battle (5th and 6th of August) a mock up re-enactment is performed.
The museum at the Bushy Run Battlefield
The museum exhibits at the Visitors Center were also to some degree interactive. There were replica uniforms from the day for you to try on.
Examples of weapons used and tools were on show.
There were even some impressive life size models showing how the Indian and British forces looked.
The guided tour of the battlefield took around an hour and I guess I spent another hour in the Visitors Center watching videos, the exhibits and reading the many placards.
The Bushy Run Battlefield strikes me to be like all the historical sites I’ve seen in Pennsylvania, very highly recommended and well worth visiting for anyone interested in history.
Have you visited the Bushy Run Battlefield or any historic battlefield? What fascinates you about these places? What can be done, if anything, to make them more appealing?