The map below shows the locations of colonial-era forts throughout Pennsylvania, shown with . Clicking on one of those icons will display additional information about that fort. A few areas have forts in nearly identical locations (denoted by "1 of 2" in the popup window); zoom in to see all of those present in an area. Use the button to return to the original view.
Pennsylvania is home to a significant number of colonial-era forts due to its heavy involvement in several historical events. The colonial era is the time period between 1492 and 1783. Fortification was a major part of Pennsylvania's military history with most forts being built for defense, shelter, or as temporary supply posts. In the modern day, these forts provide unique historical context about the types of wars fought and how defenses were developed. Additionally, many colonial-era forts now operate as historical sites and can provide programs about Pennsylvania history.
The French and Indian War was a nine-year-long battle (1754 - 1763) between the British with their American colonists against the French allied with Native Americans that was largely fought throughout the state; the greatest number of Pennsylvania forts were involved in this war. However, Pennsylvania's use of forts extends beyond that one war. Here are several key examples:
- Fort Mifflin had a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War and went on to be used by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
- Fort Necessity, the site of a key battle that jump started the French and Indian War as well as the military career of George Washington.
- Fort Ligonier, fortified by the British and involved in a handful of wars, which served as a starting point for the Forbes Expedition (see below).
- Fort Duquesne, established by the French, later taken by the British and then Americans before being destroyed in 1758, which led to the development of modern day Pittsburgh.
- Fort Pitt, built by the British to replace Fort Dusquesne.
Together Forts Duquesne and Pitt now make up Point State Park in Pittsburgh, a historical and recreational landmark for the city.
The table below classifies the historical events in which Pennsylvania colonial forts were most involved.
|Military Context||Number of Forts|
|French and Indian War (1754 - 1763)||24|
|American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)||14|
|Forbes Expedition (1758)||4|
|Dunmore's War (1773 - 1774)||4|
|Pontiac's War (1763 - 1766)||3|
The events on the above list that were not previously described include:
- Pontiac's War (1763-1766) continued the hostilities of the French and Indian War in the Great Lakes area as Native Americans tried to reclaim possession of their lands.
- Lord Dunmore's War (1774) was a conflict between the Colony of Virginia, governed at the time by Lord Dunmore, and Native American tribes.
- The purpose of the Forbes Expedition (1758) was to build a major route across the state to capture Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War. It was led by the British Brigadier-General John Forbes.
- The Big Runaway, counted as part of the Revolutionary War, was a mass evacuation of northern central Pennsylvania settlers during the American Revolutionary War.
- "Other" is used here to classify colonial forts that were not utilized in any particular event.
Fort locations: Wikipedia articles on each fort.
Descriptive information about the forts and events:
Legends of America
County boundaries: PASDA.
Map and website created by: Amanda Peters and Ben Lacher, Spring 2021.
Modifications by: Dr. Geiger, 2021.