In a nondescript field in rural western Pennsylvania, a battle began what some historians consider the first worldwide war. In April 1754, a young George Washington led British troops, Virginia militia, and their American Indian allies on a mission to push the French out of the western frontier. After Washington’s troops ambushed and scalped French officers, an angry retaliatory force pinned him down at the hastily constructed Fort Necessity. Washington surrendered on July 3, 1754, starting a global conflict that became known as the Seven Years War (or the French and Indian War).
Museum, reconstructed fort, Mount Washington Tavern
The National Park Service manages an excellent museum and a re-creation of the small fort. There is a playground, too, perhaps to entice children to come learn that little actions can have big consequences.
Make a side trip to nearby Jumonville Glen, where a short loop trail guides visitors through the forest where the initial ambush on the French occurred.
The reconstructed Mount Washington Tavern, a stagecoach stop on the historic National Road. Construction of the National Road began in 1811 and businesses like this one soon popped up to serve travelers.
Open year round, except Jumonville Glen and Braddock’s Grave are only open in summer.
Big Hole National Battlefield is located in southwestern Montana, part of the larger Nez Perce National Historical Park, which spans four states. Back in 1877, following violent clashes with white settlers, five bands of the Nez Perce tribe left the Wallowa Valley of Oregon and were followed east by the U.S. Army. After the remaining 800 Nez Perce went over the mountains bypassing an Army blockade at Lolo Pass, they stopped to rest in the Big Hole Valley. A surprise attack by the U.S. Army on the morning of August 9, 1877 led to bloodshed on both sides, with Nez Perce warriors forcing the troops to retreat, capturing a Howitzer cannon, and allowing their women and children to escape towards Yellowstone National Park.
Overlook from visitor center, interpretive film, trail to site of Nez Perce Camp
Start at the visitor center for the 26-minute film and an overview of the battlefield. You are in for a treat if you happen to be around for a presentation by Dr. Bob Brown acting as Major Charles Rawn to describe his historic connection with the site.
The National Park Service visitor center overlooks the battlefield for orientation, and a paved road leads down to a trailhead to access the site of the attack (Nez Perce Camp), and a more strenuous climb to the Siege Area, army trenches, and the Howitzer capture site. Interpretive booklets are available for only $1.00.
Montana is known for its Big Sky, which can be quite beautiful when pierced by the tale teepee poles set up at the site of the Nez Perce camp.
Open year round, but winters are long and snowy in this part of Montana, making summer the best time to visit.