Teach PA History
A Shot in the Backwoods of Pennsylvania Sets the World Afire
Equipment & Supplies
  • VCR and television Computers with Internet access Colored pencils, or markers


Download and copy the combined worksheets for this lesson, and assemble handout packets as described below.

Day One

Attention Grabber: "How is a rock, dropped in a pool of water, like a historical event?" {The rock represents a historical occurrence, like Washington's shooting of the French Representative Jumonville in 1754, hitting the pool of water, which represents the world, which will cause ripples that will impact other parts of the pool that were not at the site of the original impact.) Let students discuss how this might be so. Then introduce the lesson on the beginning of the French and Indian War.

Today we are going to begin our quest to understand why the French and Indian War broke out in Western Pennsylvania, and to examine the role of George Washington in the outbreak of the war. We will do this through examination of original sources, video clips, on-line investigation and secondary sources.

Work Groups: Break students into groups of no more than three in order to work on the various mini-lessons. Students must all agree on what the information that they work with means. Students should write all the information down in their notebooks. Students should have access to computers so that they can conduct their own searches for information.

Hand out a copy of Packet One to each group. Contents of Packet One: The Roots of Conflict. Each envelope should contain the following:

  • Three (3) copies of Reading 1 "Origins of the French and Indian War." in Waddell, Louis M. and Bruce D. Bomberger, The French and Indian War in Pennsylvania, 1753-1763 (pp 1-2). Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1996.

  • Three (3) copies of Reading 2: "France In Western Pennsylvania." In J. Martin West, Ed., War for Empire In Western Pennsylvania (p. 12). Fort Ligonier Association, 1993.

  • One Copy of Worksheet 1: The Roots of the Conflict Focus Questions.

Debrief group work after 10-12 minutes. (It is recommended that you give no more than 10 to 12 minutes for each lesson in order to keep students on task.) Make sure to point out where Louisbourg is. Show its strategic importance as "The Gibraltar of New France."

After the questions have been shared by the students, let them view the tape "When the Forest Ran Red." (First 10 minutes). Make sure that they take notes. Introduction to Video: "When the Forest Ran Red".

Next we are going to view a new film, When the Forest Ran Red. In about ten minutes we will learn from some prominent French and Indian War historians what they believe are the reasons for the start of the French and Indian War. Let's see if any of their views are similar or different than ours. Take notes on anything that might add to your group answers or understanding.

End of Video Debrief:

Take about four minutes as groups to see if there is anything that we heard or saw that could help our understanding of the events leading up to the French and Indian War.

Let students share, use the focus questions as a starting point. This should take about five minutes, use your own discretion.

Continuing the Lesson:

We have some homework to do. (Teacher should pass out Packet Number Two). There are some handouts and questions that we must complete tonight so that we can move right into our next investigation. You will be studying an original source, take your time. Make sure all your assignment is done before the next class session; there will be very limited time as a group to discuss what you have read before moving into the next activity. It is essential you do this.

Contents of Packet Two: The Journal of George Washington

  • Three copies of The Journal of George Washington. IMPORTANT: Omit the sections of Dinwiddie's letter and the French Commander's reply. (Teacher Note: You may choose to have the students read from their computers, or download and edit your own parts of Washington's journal for your classroom use.)

  • Three Modern Maps of Pennsylvania. (Teacher's Note: Your local State Representative's Office can assist you in obtaining a classroom set of State Travel Maps. Laminate and save for future projects.)

  • Three copies of Worksheet 2: Focus Questions Primary Document Homework.

  • Three copies of Worksheet 3: Washington's Pennsylvania Historical Markers.

Day Two

Until Washington delivers the message to the French commander at Ft. LeBoeuf, he is an unknown. With this mission he emerges upon the stage of history. For better or worse, Washington's journey to Western Pennsylvania lays the foundation for what will become the French and Indian War. But his journey from Williamsburg, Virginia, the capitol of the Virginia Colony, to the largely unknown Ohio Territory will propel him into international prominence. From your reading last night, let us consider our answers to the questions that were to help us gain insight into this primary source.

Reform your group, and discuss for the next five minutes what answers you gave to the homework questions.

Call groups back to order, and debrief information. (This should take about 10 minutes or more).

Then continue by telling students:

The writing style and the printing methods of Washington's day makes for hard reading for us, but still it tells us about the manners of the day, and the grammatical style. If we had to make a movie about this journey using Washington's Journal, could we? What would be some of the problems with using the journal? There is a film that does just that called George Washington: The Hidden Years. Let us see how this film presents the story and how and why Washington gets this assignment to deliver a message to the French in the wilderness of the Ohio.

View film to the point where Washington gives the message to the French at Ft. LeBoeuf and just before he leaves Fort LeBoeuf to return to Virginia.

Debrief film clip (about five minutes):

What reasons does Washington give in his journal for undertaking this journey to Western Pennsylvania? (None.) What reasons do the various historians suggest that he did it for? (Recognition other than being a younger brother, attempts to gain a Commission as an Officer in the British Army, etc.)

What were some of the hardships that the film and journal both describe? What came as a surprise to you? (Usually the part where the Indian shoots at him.)

Contents of Packet Three: Painting Exercise:

  • Worksheet 4: Domain of Three Nations Exercise

Handout Packet Four to each group. Contents of Packet Four: Washington and Gist are shot at by a Native…and

When time has expired, ask the students to share what they know about the incident. How does Washington's account on page 21 of his journal and Gist's account vary? List the differences on the board.

Why does Gist distrust the Native American? (Map shows that the Forks of the Ohio and Gist's settlement lay to the southeast. What direction did Gist claim the Native American was heading them?)

Why do you suppose that Washington's account was so brief and Gist's so detailed? How did this event set up the incident at the crossing of the Allegheny River? What reasons could you give for not shooting the Native American? Do you think that Washington did the right thing?

Teacher Introduction for Writing Task:

Did you ever notice how some people take what you say the wrong way? Perhaps it is your family, friends, etc. Can you recall some of the words that might have a different meaning to one person, and not the one intended by the other person? (Keep it clean, folks!) Words can either heal or hurt, we all know that. But being diplomatic and strong are things that we often do not have much practice with. Washington has to deliver a message to the French. The French have to return an answer. From the film, this was a cool meeting, very formal, and at times very angry. Let's brainstorm what would have been in those messages.

On the board are two questions that will let us practice our diplomacy and use what we know about English and French claims to the Ohio country.

Questions on board or overhead:

  • What do you think was in the message that Washington delivered?

  • You are now the French Commander, what do you think your reply would have been?

Homework Preparation:


  • Reading 3: "First Blood" (Chapter 8) In Thomas A. Lewis, For King and Country. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.

  • Worksheet 6: Great Meadows Question Guide

Day Three

Attention Grabber:There is something in great events that remain in the places where they occurred.

Whenever we think about historic places, the events and the people that took part in them come flooding back to us. Whenever we think of September 11, 2001, the site of the World Trade Center comes to mind, and the pictures of that day all come to mind. Even a small county roadside where a plane crashed on that terrible day brings to mind the words of one of the people that foiled the hijackers: "Let's roll!" History is full of such places, Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg, Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia and the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. Whenever you visit those places it seems at times as if the people were still there. . . you realize something important happened there, and that realization makes that place historic, sometimes even sacred. In Pennsylvania, there is a little visited place, tucked away in the Allegheny Mountains, nestled in the green of a forest where three nations came into conflict...where a young Virginian gained international attention, and where the beginning of the end of the French presence in what would become the United States occurred. Let us review some of the facts that surround what history calls the "Jumonville Affair." Today we will see how a shot in the woods of Pennsylvania set the world on fire.

Debrief on what students have read the night before by using focus questions.

For further enrichment: Teacher or students can read aloud the selection from Crucible of War by Fred Anderson on the Jumonville Affair. This will set the stage for the viewing.

We've read the background material last night, we've thought about what went on in that Pennsylvania Glen, and we've heard a historian's recreation of that event. Now let us watch how other historians see this event. We'll actually get to view the place where this occurred, so use your eyes to gather information, as well as your ears.

Play videotape: "When the Forest Ran Red" section on Jumonville. (3 minutes.)

What did we see? Describe the area of the Jumonville Affair.

Why did the French pick such a position to camp? (Rain goes over them at this area.) (Good shelter from the weather.)

What advantage did this area give to Washington?

Now, can we map out what happened? Discuss how Washington came upon the French, and the directions he took, as well as the Native Americans.

When a filmmaker creates a film, she or he takes what they see in their mind's eye and attempts to capture it on film for the world to see. So do historians, they look at the remaining evidence, either written or physical and attempt to give their explanation of what occurred. What could be some of the problems with the historical records that we consult?

For a few minutes now we are going to see a recreation of the events in the Glen. See if it is like what we have read so far.

PLAY TAPE: George Washington: The Hidden Years. Jumonville Affair (4 minutes.)

Why did Washington give the order to fire?

What could he have done differently? How would it have effected the situation?

What role did the Native Americans play in this affair?

What about the death of Jumonville? Is it Washington's fault?

What about the words and actions of the Half-King? What do they mean?

Teacher Action:

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction...or so the scientists say. What is the next action after Jumonville is killed? By the French? By the English?

Washington begins to build a fort, in a place called the GREAT MEADOWS. What was it about this place that made it: "a charming field for an encounter"?

Let's break into our groups and do a little investigating.


Computers with Internet set to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, (linked from Student Resources page)

Have students answer the questions on Worksheet 7: Questions about Fort Necessity.

Teacher Debrief: The battle of Fort Necessity was short and brutal. Do you think Washington had chosen a "charming field for an encounter"?

Debrief the information from the web site and the questions.

As Washington marches back to Virginia his short military career is in a shambles, but another chance for redemption awaits on his road to the Forks of the Ohio. This time, he will be part of a British army on its way to conquer the French Fort, and again this time Washington will see disaster first hand, with Major General Edward Braddock.

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