Learning the History of Pontiac’s Rebellion at Bushy Run Battlefield

Last Updated on by Jeremy

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In the early days of southwest Pennsylvania history, a number of battles ensued for control over the confluence of the three rivers in what is now downtown Pittsburgh.

You likely know about George Washington's mishap at Fort Necessity in the Laurel Highlands that is considered the start of the Seven Years War. You may also know about the Forbes Campaign that passed through Fort Ligonier in order to capture Fort Duquesne a short time later. But the Battle of Bushy Run during Pontiac's Rebellion may be one you have not heard much of, and if so, a trip to Jeannette, PA, should be on your radar.

Pontiac's Rebellion in Southwest Pennsylvania

Bushy Run Battlefield Museum Exhibits

Much like how other local sites played a key part in the start of wars that shaped modern life as we know it, Bushy Run Battlefield played an integral part in the outcome of Pontiac's Rebellion.

Tensions between the British and Native Americans rose after the British began violating the Treaty of Easton. The 1758 treaty was an attempt to ensure that the Native American tribes would not fight alongside the French in the French and Indian War in exchange for allowing native control of the land west of the Alleghenies and limiting British trading practices to name a few.

Bushy Run Battlefield Museum Exhibits

Shortly after the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the Native American tribes were worried that the British would further disregard their end of the treaty and decided to go to war. Led by Pontiac, the warriors attacked many forts in the frontier and made their way towards the Alleghenies in the east.

Bushy Run Battlefield Museum Exhibits

Their campaign extended eastward where it reached Fort Pitt, Fort Ligonier, and other nearby forts. It was at this point that a group of war-battered British troops, under the command of Colonel Henry Bouquet, marched west to the aid of Fort Pitt and were ambushed at Bushy Run (about 30 miles east of the city) on August 5th, 1763.

During the first day of the battle, the British suffered a major defeat. They regrouped, outsmarted the Native Americans, and defeated them on August 6th before continuing their push to aid Fort Pitt (which was successful). This resulted in the reconnection with the frontier due to Fort Pitt's strategic location, which ultimately contributed to the end of Pontiac's Rebellion a few months later.

What You Can See at Bushy Run Battlefield

Bushy Run Battlefield site

Today, Bushy Run Battlefield is a state park and is home to a gorgeous, albeit small, museum, as well as an expansive field marking the site of the battle. 

A visit to the museum can be quite brief; however, you will do well by having a guided tour from a docent (included with admission) who can bring the Rebellion's history to life as many of the details leading up to the battle are just as important as the battle itself!

After touring the visitor's center, you can then head out and see a portion of the battlefield for yourself, and make your way across the field to a small statue memorializing those who fought in this battle. 

Bushy Run Battlefield Memorial Statue

What is fascinating about the site of the battlefield is that you can really imagine what the ambush was like.

The rolling hills (then tree-covered) made for a strategic disadvantage for the troops, which ultimately led to their defeat in the first day of battle. Picturing the events as they are described by a docent helps paint a picture for a devastating battle that ended up changing the outcome of the war altogether.

Overall, Bushy Run Battlefield is a pretty significant spot in a war that is often not discussed as much as it should be. The local significance of this battle played a rather large role in the outcome of Pontiac's Rebellion and is a great historical outing for a half-day trip from Pittsburgh.

Bushy Run Battlefield is located at 1253 Bushy Run Road in Jeannette, PA. The park is open year-round but the visitor center is only open select days of the week mid-April to late-October.

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