Roads and Military Provisioning During the French and Indian War (1754–1763)

Lay summary authored by Martin Welker. Their full paper can be read in Open Quaternary:

The human diet is influenced by a variety of cultural and environmental factors including wealth, status, ethnicity, and urbanization, many of which have been studied extensively by archaeologists. The degree to which local infrastructure influences the distribution of goods has been less heavily investigated but is no less significant in its potential to impact human diets by enhancing the ease with which goods can be moved across the landscape. Our analysis brings to light the effects road systems had no the diets of French and Indian War (1754-1763) soldiers in Eastern North America. The French and Indian War was one of many conflicts between French and English colonists and has been recognized as the “War that made America”. Colonists increasingly came to resent an English government content to leave the construction, provisioning and even garrisoning of many frontier defenses to the Colonial governments.

Fort Shirley Excavation

English regiments sent over to lead major offensive efforts during the war were composed largely of conscripts and criminals. And following the war colonists were subjected to a series of new taxes including the Stamp Act to cover the British Crown’s expenses. Together, these served as tinder for the subsequent American Revolutionary War. In addition to its historical significance, the French and Indian War is notable in that major British campaigns in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and elsewhere drove the development of road systems and the construction of a large number of fortifications. These, including Fort Shirley in Huntington Co, PA, have been investigated by archaeologists. By studying animal bones recovered from these fortifications, our analysis demonstrates the impact that road systems had upon the diet of soldiers stationed there. We found that sites located in cities or near roads generally had far more domestic livestock (predominantly cattle and pigs) than those located further from major roads. For example, Fort Shirley, a frontier fortification, had very few domestic animal bones and soldiers relied heavily on hunting deer. Furthermore, cattle are far more common in assemblages from forts located on roads away from urban centers. These data support historic documents asserting that cattle and pigs were widely used for soldiers’ provisions. British generals leading campaigns in the Americas came to rely heavily on live animals, which could be herded to sites as an adaptation to the rough frontier conditions and poorly developed road systems. This practice likely explains the significance of cattle in many frontier assemblages.

Fort Shirley Screening

The full paper can be read in Open Quaternary:

Welker, M. et al., (2018). Roads and Military Provisioning During the French and Indian War (1754–1763): The Faunal Remains of Fort Shirley, PA in Context. Open Quaternary. 4(1), p.5. DOI:

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