• Fort Necessity (NPS photo by Debbie Martinez)

    Fort Necessity

    National Battlefield Pennsylvania

The National Road

Workers on the National Road

The National Road, today called U.S. Route 40, was the first highway built entirely with federal funds. The road was authorized by Congress in 1806 during the Jefferson Administration. Construction began in Cumberland, Maryland in 1811. The route closely paralleled the military road opened by George Washington and General Braddock in 1754-55.

By 1818 the road had been completed to the Ohio River at Wheeling, which was then in Virginia. Eventually the road was pushed through central Ohio and Indiana reaching Vandalia, Illinois in the 1830's where construction ceased due to a lack of funds. The National Road opened the Ohio River Valley and the Midwest for settlement and commerce.

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Map of Historic National Road
The National Road linked the eastern and western states in the first half of the 19th century, running from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois.

Did You Know?

George Washington

Before the battle at Fort Necessity, George Washington wrote that the meadow would be “a charming field for an encounter”. After the skirmish at Jumonville Glen he wrote there was “something charming in sound” of bullets. After his defeat at Fort Necessity he never again refers to war as charming. More...