On May 25th, Memorial Day, Pricketts Fort held observances in memory of the men from Pricketts Fort who served in the following wars: the French & Indian War, Pontiac’s Uprising, Lord Dunmore’s War and the American Revolution. The ceremony also memorialized the descendents of these men who served in the Civil War.
At the time of the French & Indian War and Pontiac’s Uprising, Pricketts Fort was not yet in existence, but Jacob Prickett and his two compatriots, James Chew and Zacquill Morgan, participated in these wars while serving in the Frederick County militia in Virginia in the 1760s. These three men would go on to organize the civilian militia on Jacob Prickett’s land at the confluence of Pricketts Creek and the Monongahela River a decade later.
The original refuge fort on Prickett’s land was built by civilian militia in the spring and early summer of 1774 in response to an uprising of the Mingo and Shawnee tribes sparked by the murder of Chief Logan’s family by a band of rogue frontiersmen. This would lead in turn to Lord Dunmore’s War, in which the Pricketts Fort militia were active participants.
During the Revolutionary War, the Pricketts Fort militia participated in putting down a Tory uprising in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and in campaigns to suppress Native hostilities.
As part of the Memorial Day observances, four stations were set up near and in the fort, representing the French & Indian War,
Lord Dunmore’s War,
the Revolutionary War
and the Civil War,
manned by historical interpreters with an in-depth knowledge of those conflicts. Visitors with an interest in any of these wars could engage in conversation with the interpreters and examine a blanket filled with articles that a soldier in any of these wars would have carried.
On the hour at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the following brief address was given to an assembly of visitors in front of the fort gate:
“Traditionally, Memorial Day has been an occasion not only of remembering our war dead, but also an occasion for forgiveness, for putting old enmities to rest, for burying the hatchet.
Looking back at the wars which we are remembering here today — the Indian wars of the 1760s and ‘70s, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War — for the families who lived here on the frontier, all these wars were wars of Americans fighting Americans. Whether it was colonial Americans fighting native Americans, colonial rebels fighting colonial loyalists, or northern Americans fighting southern Americans, in every case it was Americans on both sides fighting for their homeland, fighting for their idea of what America was and what it should become.
In this gathering of Americans here today it is a safe bet that many of us had ancestors who not only fought in those wars, but fought on both sides in those wars. Old enemies who spilled one another’s blood had descendents in whom that same blood became mingled.
Memorial Day had its birth in the aftermath of the Civil War. It began with a small article from 1867 in the New York Tribune, which noted: ‘…the women of Columbus, Mississippi have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They have strewn flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the National soldiers.’
Not long after this, a northern speaker referred to the same incident: ‘…the widows, mothers, and the children of the Confederate dead went out and strewed their graves with flowers; at many places the women scattered them impartially over the unknown and unmarked resting places of the Union soldiers…’
Within a year the response to this story had resulted in one state after another passing a law which recognised ‘Decoration Day’, a day for decorating the graves of the war dead with flowers. In time, these state Decoration Days would become a single federal Memorial Day, a day for remembering the war dead of the nation.