Fort Ligonier

Posted by junketseo in Pittsburgh Ghost Tours
Fort Ligonier - Photo

If you’re a history buff and your travels have taken you to Western Pennsylvania, head east on Route 30. At one time, this highway was known as the Lincoln Highway, and it was the first ribbon of concrete that went through America from coast to coast.

This is a historic highway, and even today, it links the present with the past. Built along an old military road, the ghosts of a once tumultuous period still linger, solidifying their place in history.


Passing through the French and Indian War


Route 30 passes through many vital sites in the French and Indian War. To discuss hauntings in this part of Pennsylvania is to talk about a rich history that stretches well back into the 1700s.

Two foreign crowns fought this region—the English on one side and the French on the other. Fought between 1754 and 1763, The French and Indian War was the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War worldwide.

The war was waged between the colonies of British America and New France and by Native American allies– or, more accurately, mercenaries– fighting for a particular side. Some of the most critical battlegrounds in this conflict were fought on the land that would become Westmoreland County.

One such military foothold along what would become Route 30 in Westmoreland County was a British enclave named Fort Ligonier. This installation was utilized as a staging area for the Forbes Expedition, led by the military commander John Forbes, which was an endeavor by the British to wrest control of Fort Duquesne away from the French.

Because of its strategic location and logistical importance, this fort along the Loyalhanna River was often under attack. Remarkably, during the eight years of its tenor as a garrison, Fort Ligonier was never taken by an enemy.

Fort Ligonier was constructed in September 1758. By late October of that year, George Washington had arrived at the place then known as Loyalhanna, an Indian name meaning “middle stream.” Forbes, as mentioned above, renamed Loyalhanna “Fort Ligonier” after his superior, Sir John Ligonier, commander-in-chief in Great Britain.

Fort Ligonier suffered the onslaught of various enemy attacks almost immediately after its construction. However, one of the most unfortunate events of the Seven Years’ War took place less than a month after Washington’s arrival, and it may explain several ghosts reportedly haunting the fort’s ramparts in Ligonier and even ranging beyond its walls.


A Sad Day Under the Command of Washington


On November 12, 1758, units led by George Washington of the 1st Virginia and Lieutenant Colonel George Mercer of the 2nd Virginia accidentally engaged each other in battle under a blanket of heavy fog while shrouded by the everlasting darkness of the night.

In this tragic exchange of friendly fire, two officers and 38 troops were killed or seriously wounded. Could the anguish of this terrible encounter still reverberate in the realization of this accidental massacre, still etched into the land even today?

A convenience store directly across the grounds from the Fort Ligonier complex has reported several sightings of ghosts, dressed in full military regalia, rifle in hand and at the ready, creeping through the parking lot in the dead of night.

It seems that even after the field where this catastrophe occurred had been leveled with concrete and gas pumps, over two and a half centuries after the events transpired, the terrified emotion lingers and still materializes in the form of those soldiers involved in that infamous night in November.


Old Soldiers Never Die


It is appropriate that Fort Ligonier, with all of its violent events and the outpouring of human emotions, has reported many such ghostly residents. The residual apparitions of soldiers clad in full British military uniforms or the ghostly shapes of American Indians sneaking around the fortifications have been witnessed throughout the years.

Residual energies have unquestionably imprinted on this site, probably brought about by the constant stress that tormented these troops who were on relentless high alert. Even in death, these steadfast soldiers still follow their orders, keeping continual guard in perpetuity, unfailing in their duties as they stand on their post in an everlasting sentry against the marauding French forces.

Indeed, this guarding of the fort was necessary during the hostilities of the French and Indian War. In 1763, Fort Ligonier was attacked twice and besieged by the Native Americans prior to the decisive victory at Bushy Run in August of that year.

This constant state of high alert is witnessed to this day as ghosts have been reportedly seen marching to and fro, hovering eerily over the pointed palisades before dematerializing into thin air. The underground magazine where the gunpowder was stored has long been the haunt of the spectral artillery keeper, still keeping a protective watch over the fort’s supply of gunpowder and ammunition.

Many tourists, and not a few workers of the fort, have reportedly witnessed this apparition which is at first believed to be a reenactor. When approached, this military figure vanishes!

With the war in the frontier subsequently turning on the side of the British, Fort Ligonier was decommissioned from active service in 1766. Although it was the setting for much strife and bloodshed, the fort held its ground.

The site today serves as a reminder of what kind of heroic struggle was necessary to ensure liberty from foreign powers. The residual hauntings still prove that the fort is still protected by those serving even in the afterlife.

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Boucher, John N. History of Westmoreland County, Pa. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.