Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Those who know me understand how proud I was of my father. (Allen K. Smail 1923-1999) Last week I obtained some papers from his school days and his military time in Europe. The above paper is his discharge document. He traveled over a lot of the war areas including being part in the Battle of the Bulge. I wish I would have written down some of the stories. I wish I would have asked more for I do not have a lot information from those years against the Germans. I know he was watching, as part of the military police (MP) a gasoline depot in Belgium with orders to blow it up in the case of the Germans getting through. He said he could hear the war sounds in the distance. He only had a 45 automatic with seven rounds at that time. I can’t imagine the fear one would have in such a situation. His uniform and MP arm band are currently at the Armstrong County Historical Museum in Kittanning, Pennsylvania.

Allen K. Smail -Uniform

My dad had a German Shepherd named Wolf as his companion. Notice in the document where he was a dog trainer.

The document below is of interest to me. My dad had perfect attendance at the Elderton High School. He was awarded this document and a small gold colored trophy for his efforts. He graduated in 1941 as valedictorian. His son didn’t fare as well. I did well in school, actually in my junior year with an average leading to third place. I even made the Honor Society. Who would have “thunked” it! My senior year I slipped.

My father’s son liked to hunt and fish a lot during my school years. Ha Ha

Eleven years of perfect attendance.

My father’s 1941 valedictorian speech from Elderton High SChool

The above photo shows my father’s valedictorian Speech from 1941. The speech has unbelievably words of a prophetic nature, both, in reality and in Biblical prophecy. Yes, I am proud to be his son.

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The Drake Log cabin in Apollo, Built around 1816.

Recently, my wife, Laurie, happened on a write-up in our local newspaper. An event was mentioned. That event was the Armstrong County 4-H Historical Adventure. I called to get information. We decided to participate.

This event was from August 7 through to the tenth. Twenty sites were to be discovered in our travels.

St. Patrick’s Episcopalian Church in East Brady. Built in 1867.

The 4-H supplied a clue sheet f the various sites of the county. I formalized  the routes to travel. here is where my knowledge of the county roads really paid off. I traveled many back roads looking for wildlife, as well. (By the way, we saw two bucks, doe and fawns and a flock of gobblers.) 

Every locale on the clue sheet featured a 12X 12 white cement block with the emblem: 4-H painted on it. Underneath each block was a plastic bag with placards of that particular site. The laminate placards had information of the site. The 4-H people supplied a lanyard to place each placard.

I took plenty of photos of the two day adventure for us. We finished up prior to noon on Saturday  the 8th.

Some photos are included here.

Coaling Tower used to fill railroad cars with coal. Used 1930 -1957.












John Ford Statue in Ford City. FC was founded in 1887.


Armstrong County Memorial Wall


My ancestors died in 1863 during the Civil War.







Grace Presbyterian Church in Kittanning. Built in 1910.


Marshall House in Dayton. Built in 1868.

Grist mill stones in Dayton









Old McCain House, currently, the Armstrong County Museum. Built in 1842.


Nellie Bly Marker in Cochran’s Mill.


Lock #8 Dam. Built between 1928-1931.

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Laurie and I have had a lot of things to do these last two days. last evening, February 25, we and two friends enjoyed an evening out to see the movie, “CALL OF THE WILD.” We all enjoyed the movie and were amazed at how far the technology with computerized  imagery have come. Later, at our home, we enjoyed Laurie’s carrot cake and tea.

Today, February 26, we and two other friends visited the Carnegie Science Center to especially view the exhibition of the,  “Mummies of the World.” I was a little disappointed to learn photography was not permitted within the actual exhibit. the mummy collection on display featured the long-ago Egyptian mummies along with pets. However, they had mummified bodies reaching only a couple of hundred years ago. Some of the mummies wre created through a mummification process while others had become that way through natural processes due to perfect conditions retarding the decomposition.

The Forks of the Rivers. The site of Fort Pitt in 1758.

The exhibition was very interesting, but somewhat eerie. One mummy was created in 1994 by scientists attempting to copy the procedure of Egyptian mummification as close as possible.

We enjoyed spending several hours examining the various hands-on displays. I, particularly, enjoyed the aquariums with fish , reptiles and so forth.

West End Bridge in Pittsburgh

One area was extremely hilarious for the four of us and everybody else. One baby laughed uncontrollable at this site. The site consisted of two cushioned chairs and every time one would raise up and set down loud fart-like sounds exploded.

A large miniature railroad was enjoyed.

I took a few other photos of the West End Bridge as well as, the site where Fort Duquesne once stood at the point. The fort was renamed Fort Pitt in 1758 after the French left their fort to the British during the French and Indian War. Afterwards, we visited a separate building where the kids could enjoy many various adventures, such as a miniature zip-line and rock climbing.





Meteorite weighting 746 pounds.


Yellow Perch




One view of Miniature railroad




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From A Proud Son

Allen K. Smail -Uniform

Allen Kenneth Smail (June 4, 1923 to June 20, 1999)

My dad was in a car setting at a gasoline pump at what was then Reedy’s Store just east of the Cherry Run intersection. He heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl harbor. In 1942 he was off to basic training and England. He was D-Day 13 if I remember correctly.  he would be in France, Belgium, Bavaria, and finally Germany. He returned to Kittanning in the fall of 1945 after riding a train out of Pittsburgh. He began the long walk home to Cherry Run, probably around eleven miles. However, by chance a family from nearby his home would pick him up.

My father took care of his mother for a long time as his father had asthma and was having a rough time. (He died in 1950 at 65 years of age.) He worked his entire life at the Schenley Distillery near Leechburg, Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year I came to an important decision. I believe it was time to donate my father’s World War 2 uniform and other things I had in possession from his time in Europe. This was a difficult action on my part, but I deemed it for the best. I have no children or grandchildren and I feared this precious, to me, uniform would simply be tossed out after my time.

Currently, the uniform is hanging within the Armstrong County Historical and genealogical Society Museum in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. I supplied a box of much paraphernalia. This box had documents and medals and books of his time in the European theater of the war. One such book with a map of Europe found pencil marks showing my father’s travels within the continent. All of such items are historical and deserve to be on display. I, also, donated a German 8mm Mauser action rifle that my dad had managed to send home.

I am so very proud of my father and his role in the Great War. This is my humble attempt on my part to honor him.

My father’s 1941 valedictorian speech from Elderton High School


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A dedicated group of volunteers quickly decide to have a Christmas Open House event at the Armstrong County Historical  and Genealogical Society Museum in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. Technically, the museum is housed in an1842 building  known as the McCain House. Members of the 62nd  Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 5th Corps Living Historian group along with some other volunteers did a great job with the planning and setting up for the event. (I am a proud honorary member of this group of Civil War historians.)

  I, also, was present to take photos and spend time in the Native American Room which I am curator. I had hoped to spend more time mingling around the premises and taking additional photos, but I had many interested individuals wishing to discus and ask questions about the events involving the Lenni-Lenape Indians of Kittanning past. Believe me I enjoyed our discussions.

Many of the women-folk, including my wife, baked some cookies for the event. various drinks were available, as well. Local florists helped to make the museum festive. A Christmas tree was donated.







Below are additional photos from the Christmas event.









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Log Cabin Revival

The log cabin.


Many years ago this log cabin shown above was erected in Armstrong County. It is believed to have been originally built by Heinrich Schrecongost. The approximate size is eighteen by twenty-one feet. A friend has sated he remembered a second cabin at the same site, possibly of the dog-trot style of cabin.

At this time, I know the building was in existence in 1850. So when was this structure originally erected? I don’t know if that information will ever be discovered.

Fortunately, funds have been raised to dismantle the building and later reconstruct it in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. The new site is, hopefully, going to be on the property owned by the Armstrong County Historical and Genealogical Museum.

Re-erecting this building will prove to be a challenge for some of the logs are not in the best shape from years of weather and rain. Carpenter ants and/or termites, no doubt, have had a part in log destruction.

Any individual or group interested with helping with funding this dismantling and re-erection of this log cabin may do so by sending a check to:

Armstrong County Historical Museum 

300 North McKean Street, Kittanning, PA 16201 

(Checks can be made out to: ACHMGS







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I haven’t added many posts recently. The program I had used to store and edit my photos went berserk! I would enter the card with the pics as usual and download them onto this program. No biggie. I would  crop and edit as desired on the program. Still no biggie! I could see the results. However, if I chose to place the edited photos onto this site of Facebook the unedited version would appear. Of course this frustrated me. I contacted the company of this photo program twice and nothing they suggested worked. I am currently using a computer-based program to edit until I decide what course of action to do.

Ring-billed Gull

Western Pennsylvania weather has been perfect. A trip to Presque Isle seemed appropriate. We checked out some familiar places and sites. Also, we went into a lighthouse to see the view. The lighthouse we visited internally is known as the Presque Isle Lighthouse. (I wonder how this one received that name.)   The last time we were in the area this site was not opened to the public for the structure, at that time, was privately owned. Much had changed and the lighthouse has been made  accessible for tours.

North Pier Lighthouse

The Presque Isle Lighthouse was erected in 1872-73 and made seventeen feet taller in 1896. The tower is 57 feet high with seventy-eight steps to climb to the small room where the light is stationed.  The light still is used today to aid in navigation.

We, also, visited the North Pier Lighthouse. The original structure  was built in 1830. The one in this photo here was built in 1857. It was moved in 1882-1891 easterly 450 feet. This tower was moved again in 1940.  A long cement pier juts out into Lake Erie to the current site. The North Pier Lighthouse is thirty-four feet high. This tower is still in use today to aid in navigation.

Over 450 ships have been lost in Lake Erie, more ships lost here than the Bermuda Triangle.

Presque isle Lighthouse

Lots of wildlife to see as one watches the water areas and bogs. Turtles exist on logs. I saw several Great-Blue Herons, lots of gulls with the most common gull being the Ring-billed Gull. I saw a group of little birds yet unidentified by me. They are of the plover or sandpiper species. I saw Double-crested Cormorants and Canada Geese.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the beach and later spent time bare-footed walking along the beach trying to avoid the waves splashing  all about. That didn’t work for my pants became wet eventually although they were rolled up.

We visited some historical sites, too.

Later we enjoyed some time at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.






Beautiful little birds


the Huge Rubber Ducky in Erie Harbor



Oliver Hazard Perry Monument


View from the lighthouse


Cormorant in the water


Natural debris


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History repeats itself continually and mankind seems hell-bent to not learn from past thinking and actions. This is especially accurate when one studies gun control practices of history. The very same parallels are occurring within America as to what happened in pre-World war ll years including the war’s end in 1945.

I have done a rather in depth study, I feel, of gun control in France during the above mentioned years. However, I am not going to write an in-depth study here on my blog site. My intent is to touch on various aspects of those times in a summarizing write-up.

NAZI Germany would invade France in May of 1940. (Despite what one may hear from the media the NAZI party was a socialist party.) World War ll had begun. The Germans referred to there tactics as the “blitzkrieg” or the lightning war. This tactic was a fast-moving invasion into another country in order to overwhelm the country into quick submission and it worked well for the German army. The French had their cement bunker wall known as the Maginot Line.  The Germans simply went around the miles of defense line. (The Maginot Line was a massive concrete fortification built as a defense line.)

Immediately, the Germans would place posters in the towns they overtook in France. These posters demanded the firearms of the individuals be surrendered to the authorities. Jail time to death could result from failure to comply.

Before moving along in this study, I am going to include some French history in the years just prior to the invasion. France, in 1935, had already begun banning various weapons , often referred to as, military-style weapons. Sound familiar? (Politicians  have been trying to ban military-style weapons in America for a number of years, now. The infamous AR-15 is usually the evil gun in today’s demands. Most of these politicians and most of media refer to this rifle as an automatic firearm. The truth is this rifle is the very same rifle used by many hunters, but often with a traditional-style stock. The AR-15 is a SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE WITH ONLY THE LOOK OF A MILTARY WEAPON!This above-mentioned statements became law for the French under Prime Minister Pierre Laval. He, also, began a registration of French firearms at this same time. Many French did not comply.

Move along to the 1940 invasion of France by German soldiers and the next step was for the registration papers to be gathered to know precisely who had firearms. f course these records were easy for the Germans to obtain. A positive respite to many French, at this time, was the armistice signed with the Germans with France. In this agreement French authorities and French police were to begin the confiscating of guns. The registrations of the guns in communities had the names and addresses of the owners and the make and models. Laval. who was a socialist and fascist collaborated with the Germans.

NOTE: Interestingly, Germany in the early thirties had armed upheavals between the communists and NAZIs. Banning of guns and registration in Germany occurred because of the such actions. In 1933, Adolph Hitler seized power of Germany. He used the registration records to disarm people or groups deemed to be an enemy of the state. Also interestingly, was the fact of the German Prime minister’s words concerning registration. He warned of his concerns of these records getting into the hands of some extremist elements in the future…enter Hitler! This is the very same concern of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and law-abiding, patriotic Americans today.

NOTE: France in 1789 tried to pass law to have a second amendment type agreement within it’s borders. The measure failed.

NOTE: Gun control attempts began growing in America and in 1934 a compromise gun control law was passed to ban automatic firearms and saw-off shotguns. Our Constituional Second Amendmant has twarted many gun control laws. However, many anti-gun laws have been passed. These laws are made in a “chipping away” style of gun control. In other words, little by little. These laws always use wording such as “commonsense gun laws” or closing loopholes. They know such words help their cause with less-informed indidviduals of America or those faithful to any political party without question. 

During the earlier time frame of German occupation the people weren’t shot as often as the years to follow. Jailtime, or imprisonment, including hard labor in Germany may be the result of firearm possession. Remember, at first the French police and French authorities were doing a percentage of the German’s work. However, in time, the Gestapo and SS military entered onto the scene. This was, in part, for the failure of the French to act on German demands with force. They were much more inclined to shoot a person for firearm possession. Things worsened in France daily. Interestingly, In America, proponents of firearm banning and/or gun registration may, go as far, to state the Germans seldom used gun registration to find gun owners and execute them. Such politicians are lying for there is a lot of information available to read on this subject.

NOTE: The European Union, today, require registration of guns from all lawful gun owners. Unbelievably, Germany was the first nation to comply with the EU mandates. History is clearly repeating itself. Europe has learned nothing from past events under Hitler’s dominion or Stalin in the Soviet Union…. Today, French Jews have been pleading with their government to allow for firearms to protect themselves because of the Islamic push in Europe, especially with the terrorist attacks. In America, we see the screams of more gun control with every evil school or workplace shooting. Gun free zones are becoming numerous and most shootings are in places with gun-free zones. Imagine that! The world is in decline with evil! The removal of anything pertaining to Christ, in part, has degraded the populace with evil intent always.

Often these decrees began with the wording of military-style guns being banned. In short order even hunting guns were included. Ammunition was included as part of what needed turned in to the government. Registration required name, address, model and caliber of firearm. At times amnesty was offered for the return of guns. Nothing worked with the impact expected by the Germans. The French were having an understanding as to what was needed to thwart the Germans.

The French who defied the laws often would become part of the French Resistance. Prior to the organization of the resistance many guns were hid or buried to avoid detection. These are to be compared with the community militias of America’s roots where Americans became militias to be used against the British or Indian attacks. The biggest issue with these brave individuals was the lack of firearms. Quite possibly, one gun per ten men may actually have been reality. Many died as they attacked Germans at times and blew up train tracks and German equipment. Many women, as were Jews, were sent to concentration camps as they were captured. However, their efforts helped the allied cause by keeping the Germans on their toes, so to speak, allowing for the allied forces to move easier at times as Germans were being tied down with French conflicts. Of course, anyone caught, by this time with such weapons were shot. Often times when the resistance acted the Germans would execute a number of individuals in retaliation. An interesting aspect of all of the German’s retaliatory actions led to the growth in numbers of the French fighters. Some gun and ammo shipments were parachuted to the French when available to do so.

The Germans made rules to include possible execution for any person knowing of another with guns. In other words, they were seeking information from other French individuals to report knowledge of their neighbor if they were aware that guns were present. Reports of informants on this issue are available. Nobody could be truly trusted in those years. Gun related executions increased as the time moved along and the Germans became more frustrated with the French resistance. The French became more emboldened as rumors of a D-Day invasion were heard.

This report here is a very brief listing of what events were like in France over a ten-year time frame. The actual details are very complex and chaotic to read about. I can not believe how terrible those years would have been for the French people. The fear of that knock on the door followed by a gun point prior to being removed would be dreadful to consider. But that consideration was present always. Many would be executed in the streets. Other would be hauled off and never heard from again.

Prime Minister Pierre Laval would be executed by the French at the end of the war for his gun registration and collaboration with the Germans.

So, what is the lesson with this historical entry?  Many French refused to become a slave to the government. They did not want to be without protection and did whatever means necessary to obscure their guns from the Germans and French police. The importance of an armed citizenry is obvious to combat governmental tyranny domestically or foreign. The value of our Constitution and Bill of Rights including the Second Amendment can not be understated. The fight to keep this right and the others is paramount to America’s survival.

The Second Amendment


The Militia is the people capable and ready to take up arms to protect out land and country. We are the people and our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon.  The words do not say may, or might, be infringed upon, but SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED UPON.





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Braddock’s Monument

This is part three of the Fort Necessity trip from Washington’s attack on the French force at Jumonville Glen, his defeat by the French at Fort Necessity concluding with some information about the English general Edward Braddock.  The French and Indian War lasted many years within Pennsylvania. The Delaware and Shawnee living at, what is now, Kittanning, Pennsylvania would begin launching raids of terror across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia following the event of Braddock’s defeat.

Braddock’s Road and the marker showing where the remains were found in 1804.


Washington’s humiliating defeat at Fort Necessity had some effects on the various players of this beginning of the French And Indian war. First, the  French began to believe the English wasn’t about to be the obstacle they once believed them to be. Secondly, the various tribes of western Pennsylvania were evaluating these recent results. Most were hoping to remain neutral, but I believe most, also, realized staying out of the war of France and England would be impossible.

The English in 1755 had their best commander within America’s borders. General Edward Braddock was a military man of 45 years of service. His mission in America was to send English forces to attack the French at several forts destroying their presence in the Allegheny region. He would spearhead the attack against the French at Fort Duquesne. (Present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.) He proudly admitted his task would be easily completed. After all, he had 2400 soldiers of the great English army at his disposal. One must realize that, at this time,  England had the most powerful military in the world.

Braddock had a great flaw in character. He was an arrogant man with lots of power and he abused it.  One of the beliefs he had followed with statements once arriving in America dealt with his low opinion with the American militias. At a meeting with Delaware Chief Shingas in attendance went poorly for the general, albeit he didn’t know it and/or he just didn’t care.  He made statements that the Indian forces were no match to the powerful English army. He, also, said no Indian should have ownership of any lands. Shingas was angered! He, also, believed Indian warfare techniques of no concern.

General Braddock began to move northeasterly towards Fort Duquesne. The road had to be widened as he progressed. As he approached to around eight miles of the fort on July 9th, a sudden explosion of musketry and whooping and hollering became everywhere within the depths of the forest. The blood-curling screams of the Indians and shots from the shadows  quickly eroded the English into a mass of dead, dying and wounded men. Others ran in terror in retreat often times throwing their muskets to the ground.

The men in retreat couldn’t be changed. George Washington tried to regain control of the men. Braddock was mortally wounded. Washington had two horses shot out from under him and had four musket balls rip holes in his uniform, but he was untouched. The retreat continued. Braddock eventually died a few days later and was buried on the road so the Indians wouldn’t find and mutilate the body.


Close-up of panel

The battle began with approximately 1460 troops. Causalities were approximately 900. The Indians once they understood their victory began plundering and scalping. If the Indians would have ignored their ways of war and followed the army they would have annihilated the entire force.  Causalities for the French were around 43 men and 27 causalities for the natives.

Most Indian historians believe this rout was the determining event for the Delaware and Shawnee Indians joining allegiance with the French soldiers. Shingas lived in Kit-Han-ne and, no doubt, after this managed to persuade the others of present-day Kittanning, Pennsylvania to ally with the French. Shingas may have participated in the Braddock event as well as others from Kit-Han-Ne. History doesn’t tell us. The battle at Kit-Han-ne happened on September 8th, 1756.

Workers working on Braddock’s Road in 1804 discovered the remains believed to have been the general.  The body was moved and reinterred nearby where the present monument stands.

I can’t help to wonder what the general’s last thoughts were in those few days prior to his death. I wonder if he come off his high horse of arrogance to see the reality of Indian warfare. I guess we will never know.

General John Forbes gained the forks of the rivers from the French n 1758. The fort would be named, Fort Pitt later to be known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.




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Fort Necessaity

I can’t say with any degree of certainty when I first heard of Fort Necessity, but I know I was only a young fellow. I was captivated to learn of this somewhat local event and to realize that the one and only George Washington was actually involved. I really didn’t have a true grasp of the importance of this time.

One sad reality for me, with hindsight, was the fact as to how little was taught about the French And Indian War in schools. I imagine few hear about this great war in today’s educational system. As in the last entry about Jumonville Glen I will not placing a complete detailed report as to everything of the times. Like I said one can discover more into this subject easily if further interested. There are books galore of this battle and the French and Indian War.

   Laurie and I finally  took time to visit the site I have had in my mind for many, many years.  We hiked around some, too  and had a private picnic lunch towards  noon way back in the woods above the site. Indians, French and English soldiers, probably, have walked exactly where we had our lunch.

Lieutenant Colonel George Washington had discovered a marshy, grassy area and allowed this as a point to work out of. Much fodder could be had for livestock.  The area would prove to be a disaster.

On May 27th, 1754, Indians reported of a French force of soldiers encamped nearby. The young Washington went through the night to encounter them in the following morning. The following morning shots were fired and the French were defeated. the French and Indian War had begun, but I doubt anyone knew just how these few shots would be remembered in history. (This event was listed in the previous entry.)

Washington realized the French would feel a need to counter-attack and removed his men back to the Great Meadows. Here earthenware trenches would be made and a quickly-erected fort of necessity was built. Hence the name of Fort Neccessity! Additional men came to the site in early to mid-June giving Washington command of over 400 men.

The fort was a small circular fort erected hastily by placing logs upright with points on the top. A small building was erected within the fort to hold gun powder, rum and other perishables. The interior circumference of this fort was about 155 feet and would only, at best, protect about fifty soldiers. Earthwork trenches, outside the fort, were built to allow soldiers to be concealed behind the ground but they were only about two feet high because the water table was reached by digging deeper.

Improvements were made at the fort whenever realizations were spotted and the wait began. The troops were exhausted and lacked a lot of food.

Washington’s force

would be outnumbered something like three to one. Incessant rains began  pounding the area. There was sickness, desertions and injuries further lessening the number of fighting soldiers, too. The site of the fort now was becoming a muddy, swamp-like bog creating many problems within. Gun powder was becoming wet making firearms impossible to shoot. Seneca Half King Tanacharison knew the fight here was a foolish venture thus he and his warriors slipped away.

  The attack from the French and allied Indians came into reality on July 3rd, 1754 as volleys were fired and positioning began. The French and allied  Indians began shooting cattle, horses and dogs, as well as, any troop  when an opportune shot arose. As time moved along, Washington realized about a third of his troop were causalities. Others became drunk because they believed their time was short. They broke into the stores of rum. Washington knew he was in a dire position. Indians would want to tear them apart once this battle reached a certain point of despair. He needed to sue for peace with the French.

Later, however, that evening the French offered discussion of a surrender and Washington agreed. A serious problem erupted  concerning the signing of the papers, but the extent would not be realized immediately. Those papers for surrender announced Washington had assassinated the French officer at Jumonville Glen. The issue came to be due to translations and the interpreter not understanding the French language as needed, but further questions came to be later on this issue. Once this was realized, and after Washington had signed the paper, the young officer denied that statement. The French would use the letter as a propaganda tool against the English.

Washington and his remaining men left the Great Meadows free on July 4th, 1754.  English General Edward Braddock would be annihilated  near this site the following July in 1755.



George Washington



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