A British victory at the Battle of Bushy Run in 1763 helped prevent a takeover of Fort Pitt, the fortification that would become the major city in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.
Putting this historic event into context, the Bushy Run Battlefield site in Penn Township welcomed visitors on Sunday to learn how the state began, in recognition of Pennsylvania Charter Day.
“We are celebrating the 341st anniversary of the day William Penn signed the Pennsylvania charter,” said Bonnie Ramus, president of the Busy Run Battlefield Heritage Society. This is the date in 1681 when Penn received a grant of 26 million acres from English King Charles II, land that would become the current Commonwealth.
“We’re trying to get the community to make them aware of this special day and let them know what we’re doing here at the company, with a bit of history in between,” Ramus said.
Due to the site’s freezing temperatures and snowy terrain, the event was held inside the battlefield visitor center. It featured an exercise and living history presentation by Ourry’s Company – 60th Royal American Regiment re-enactment group, which is modeled after a British unit that had soldiers present at the battle of 1763.
Henry Bowden of Turtle Creek, representing Penn, signed facsimiles of the charter.
During free tours of the center, visitors could learn about the military and civilian aspects of colonial life in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Vandergrift’s Brad Tomasello, along with his wife, daughter and four grandchildren, made a repeat visit.
“I really like the story,” he said, noting, “A lot of people don’t even know what Bushy Run is.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to present this to my grandchildren. It allows them to discover the local history.
Another visitor, Mackenzie Gray from Ligonier Township, expressed interest in eventually joining the ranks of the Ourry Company.
“I thought it would be pretty interesting to be a part of it,” he said.
Jeannette’s Dan Balzarini was among other reenactors on site. When portraying a British allied ranger, he usually dresses in a rustic hunting shirt and moccasins, but he donned more upscale period clothing in honor of the charter anniversary.
Bushy Run Battlefield ‘is kind of like my backyard,’ he said, explaining that he fell into re-enactment after taking on the role of black powder security officer for mock battles in the 18th century. century that frequently take place in the field.
“Here I am in front of all these pretty soldiers and officers doing my inspection wearing a bright yellow staff shirt and ruining everyone’s picture,” Balzarini said. He began to wear attire more in keeping with the period depicted.
“One thing led to another,” he said, “and I became a ranger.”
While regular soldiers in units like Ourry’s were armed with smoothbore muskets, Balzarini said rangers would have fired rifles, targeting key members of an opposing force.
“With a smooth bore, 50 yards is about the best you can do,” he said. “With a rifled rifle, you could hit someone 200 meters away. It’s just that the rate of fire is much slower.
During the two-day Battle of Bushy Run, British forces repelled an attack by Native American enemies and prevented the capture of Fort Pitt. It was a turning point in a campaign led by Pontiac, an Ottawa leader in the Detroit area, who retaliated against British policies and control by attacking British outposts.
Summer camp among the planned events
After two years in a virtual format, due to pandemic restrictions, the annual Bushy Run Battlefield Kids Summer Day Camp is set to return in person June 18-25. Participants will experience colonial life through activities such as arts and crafts, games, and a clothes-washing contest.
The camp is for 30 children who have completed grades 1-5. Details will be forthcoming on the battleground website, bushyrunbattlefield.com.
Other upcoming events at the site include: Pontiac’s War Symposium, an inaugural day of presentations by historians and authors on Saturday; a spring nature walk on May 7; a spring tea, May 14; a colonial cocktail, May 21; a car cruise on July 9; and the re-enactment of the Battle of Bushy Run, August 6-7.