Nat Youngblood: Trailblazer

Nat Youngblood was an artist for the Pittsburgh Press, a major--and long defunct--afternoon newspaper. Nat often created cover portraits of television personalities for the weekly newspaper insert magazine, TV Graphic, and portraits or caricatures of important people-in-the-news for the Rotogravure section. In 1968, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned Nat to create a series of paintings for the Fort Pitt Museum, which was scheduled to open in 1971. Nat subsequently painted a remarkable group of images that pre-date the excellent work of other "Eastern Frontier" artists, most notably Robert Griffing and John Buxton, by 30 years.

As you can see from the images below, Nat Youngblood was a true pioneer and a true original. He undertook meticulous research with noted architect and history buff Charles Morse Stotz, visionary of what would become Point State Park, to capture key moments in the 1758 campaign of British General John Forbes against French Fort Duquesne.

These paintings are very important to Paladin. A chance email sent by their owner, Rob MacLachlan, set off a series of events that led to production of George Washington's First War. Its predecessor, When the Forest Ran Red, had been intended as a stand-alone, but Mr. MacLachlan's offer of the opportunity to photograph these paintings, and another chance conversation with Scottish Highland Regiment reenactors Ed Gaudelli and Ed Vogler, were catalysts for the creation of a second movie that documented the events after Braddock's Defeat, leading to the capture of Fort Duquesne by the British army led by Forbes, Henry Bouquet, and George Washington.

We hope you enjoy the glimpses of some of Nat Youngblood's work below. In many ways, he led the way for all of us as we try to interpret for modern audiences the events that shaped the United States of America. These rare paintings are available as limited-edition lithographs at the web site of the Allegheny Land Trust, an organization dedicated to "helping local people save local land" in Southwestern Pennsylvania.



This detail of Youngblood's painting of the movement of Forbes' army over the mountains shows the sweat and toil involved in the march. The Allegheny Mountains are beautiful to look at, but hellacious to surmount. Many men, horses, and wagons were lost in the effort as Forbes built a road that would one day be reflected in U.S. Route 30, and ultimately by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one of the first expressways in the United States.






The first important base along the line of march was Fort Bedford, site of present-day Bedford, Pennsylvania. Youngblood's depiction of the fort shows the might of the British army, and the growing logistical effort to wrest control of the Ohio Country from the French. It was from Fort Bedford that Gen. Forbes and Col. Bouquet launched the next leg of their campaign over the rugged and untamed Laurel Mountains.






West of Bedford, another important base was established along Loyalhanna Creek. "The Loyalhanna Camp" would ultimately become Fort Ligonier, a hilltop stronghold "fit to stand a siege," as Forbes had envisioned. This post would witness a strong French attack on October 14, 1758--which would be captured in a famous painting by John Buxton long after Nat Youngblood created this image of the construction of the fort.





September, 1758. Col. Bouquet at Loyalhanna is persuaded by an officer of the Highland Regiment, Major James Grant, to permit an attack on Fort Duquesne that would be led by Grant. The ensuing battle, depicted in detail in George Washington's First War, is known to history as "Grant's Defeat" on land that is now marked by Pittsburgh's tallest buildings, the 63-story U.S. Steel Building and the slightly smaller Mellon Building. In 1758 it was forest, and it ran red with the blood of Grant's Highlanders and a contingent of Virginia and Pennsylvania provincial troops. Grant's Defeat was recently rated as one of the 10 greatest victories by Indians in American history.





Despite the debacle of Grant's Defeat, Forbes and his army pushed on west. On November 25, 1758 they arrived at the smoking ruins of Fort Duquesne, which the French army had destroyed before evacuating. Here Youngblood envisions the gravely ill Gen. Forbes, who would die a few months later, writing to King George II of the fall of the French stronghold that had for so long threatened English interests in the Ohio Country. The officer in the blue coat standing at right center with his back to Forbes is probably George Washington.






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