French and Indian War

French and Indian War France’s decision to reassert its authority in the Ohio Valley precipitated the French and Indian War (17541763), also known as the Seven Years’ War (17561763) in Europe. The French and Indian War is perhaps the best known of all the colonial wars, and it is certainly the most significant. Great Britain’s eventual victory in the conflict radically altered the balance of power among British Americans, Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Native Americans in North America. At the time of the war, however, the British could not foresee the tremendous consequences their victory would have. The French and Indian War began with the 1754 mission of George Washington to deliver Virginia’s message to the French that they must evacuate their forts in the Ohio Country. Washington’s skirmish at Jumonville’s Glen sparked a worldwide conflagration. In 1755, Britain sent Major General Edward Braddock and his army to remove the French from Fort Duquesne at present-day Pittsburgh. Braddock met with disaster on the Monongahela River, and another combined British American-Native American force under William Johnson stalled after fighting the French and their allies under Jean-Armand, Baron de Dieskau, to a draw on Lake George. The one success of the British plan for 1755, which was supposed to win the war in one season, was the capture of Fort Beausjour in Acadia, followed by the deportation of the French-speaking and Catholic Acadians. British failures on the frontier led to a repeat of the earlier imperial wars, as British Americans fled the backcountry in waves.

In 1756, the French complicated British efforts when they and their Native American allies took Fort Oswego in western New York. French officers, in an effort not to antagonize their allies, turned a blind eye as native warriors looted the fort and killed their prisoners. In 1757, the new British commander, John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun, sailed to take Louisbourg. The French, under Louis-Joseph, marquis de Montcalm, counterattacked on Lake George and laid siege to Fort William Henry. The infamous Massacre ensued when French officers again watched their Native American allies seize the spoils of war. Campbell returned to New York to find that the Crown had replaced him as commander-in-chief with Major General James Abercromby. In July 1758, Abercromby snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Fort Ticonderoga. The year 1758 also offered the British promise of what was to come. Lieutenant Colonel John Bradstreet led a force primarily composed of British Americans and captured Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario, Brigadier General John Forbes and Colonel Henry Bouquet captured Fort Duquesne, and Major General Jeffery Amherst and Brigadier General James Wolfe took Louisbourg. A recruiting poster for the Continental Army offers enlistees a bounty of twelve dollars, sixty dollars a year in gold and silver money, and other benefits. By the end of the colonial period, Americans had a tradition of war making and diplomacy that stretched back nearly 170 years. (Brown Brothers, Sterling, Pennsylvania) Amherst took command of the British armies, and, for the 1759 campaign, he moved northward along the Hudson River-Lake Champlain front toward Montreal, while Wolfe approached Quebec along the Saint Lawrence. Wolfe won a place for himself in Britain’s pantheon of heroes when he lost his life in his army’s victory at the Plains of Abraham. French forces attempted to retake Quebec at the Battle of Sainte-Foy in April 1760, but they failed. Amherst used his larger and better-equipped army to methodically reduce the French positions and, in September 1760, entered Montreal.

Following the 1763 Treaty of Paris, France abandoned its claims to Canada, and Britons and British Americans toasted each other as members of the world’s greatest empire. Beyond witnessing the British Army’s tremendous military and diplomatic victory, the French and Indian War saw a clash between American and British military cultures. The war was seen to continue colonial-British arguments over the proper role and place of British professional soldiers, colonial provincial troops, and British American rangers. Great Britain entered the war, assuming that it would be a limited conflict. American colonists, on the other hand, fought their part of the Seven Years’ War to conquer their French and Native American enemies. In time, Prime Minister William Pitt embraced the colonists’ goals and promised to repay them for their costs in fighting the war. British field commanders, most notably Amherst and Wolfe, grudgingly came to value the colonial troops. Both Amherst and Wolfe had increasingly used American-born rangers, most notably the companies under Major Robert Rogers and Captain Joseph Gorham, to wage war directly against Native Americans and terrorize Canadian civilians. The eviction of France from North America meant that Native Americans could no longer play Great Britain and France against one another. Their insecurity manifested itself in Pontiac’s Rebellion, as the native peoples of the pays d’en haut sought to define the parameters of reciprocity in a new British-Native American relationship.

British imperial administrators, having to contend with both Native Americans and American colonists who hoped to expand into the lands taken from France, faced a daunting task. The Proclamation of 1763 proved only a temporary salve to the concerns of Native Americans that colonial Americans would overwhelm them. The colonial wars began to merge into Americas’ expansionist wars at the end of the French and Indian War. Colonial Americans reacted negatively to ambiguous British policies, like the Proclamation of 1763 that would have limited their expansion west of the Appalachian Mountains. Beginning at the end of the colonial period, and stretching through the War of 1812, colonists fought a series of wars of conquest against the native peoples of the Transappalachian West. In each of those wars, all of them Native American wars against colonialism, colonial fighters turned to the first way of war. Following the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, Americans focused their military energies on completely subjugating the Mi’kmaq of the Maritimes. In 1760 and 1761, combined British and colonial armies laid waste to huge tracts of the Cherokee homelands in a war to spread colonial settlement into present-day western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The winning of the West and Kentucky began in 1774 with the outbreak of Lord Dunmore’s War in western Virginia. During the American War for Independence, the colonists would continue to fight Native Americans on the southern, western, and New York frontiers. At the end of the colonial period, America had a tradition of war making and diplomacy that stretched back nearly 170 years.

Although wars in colonial America paled in terms of the number of forces engaged as compared to contemporary European conflicts, they were no less important. Warfare and diplomacy were the colonists’ tools to clear North America for settlement. The colonists’ wars were unlike most contemporary European wars in that they were unlimited wars for the conquest of enemy lands, and, therefore, were wars of extermination and removal. Native Americans, in that sense, fought all the colonial era’s wars as wars of anticolonialism. Their goals centered on maintaining their independence, whether that independence revolved around maintaining the proper boundaries of reciprocity with Onontio or preserving their lands from colonial encroachments. Ultimately, the Native Americans failed. The product of the colonial wars and diplomacy was the eventual European American conquest and settlement of the lands between the Atlantic seaboard and the eastern range of the Appalachian Mountains. John Grenier Bibliography Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 17541766. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Grenier, John. The First Way of War: American Warmaking on the Frontier, 16071814. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Holland-Braund, Kathryn. Deerskins and Duffels: Creek Indian Trades with Anglo-America, 16851815. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Merrell, James. The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal. New York: W. W. Norton, 1989. Richter, Daniel. Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Steel, Ian. Warpaths: Invasions of North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 16501815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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French and Indian War



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