French Indian War
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The French & Indian War
The conflict between the Americans & their British allies and the French & their Indian allies was about to come to a head. Both groups claimed the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains which included the Ohio territory.  
The French & Indian War (1754-1763)
A
t the beginning of the eighteenth century, the region west of the Appalachian Mountains was pretty much as it had been for the centuries. Except for some trappers and backwoodsmen, French from Canada and English from the British colonies, who traveled through the areas woods and rivers, the principal occupants of the region were Indians and very diverse wildlife.

The French and the English had coexisted relatively peacefully in North America for nearly a century. But as the British colonies on the east coast prospered and became more populated, the colonists began to look west across the Appalachian Mountains for new settlements and economic growth. The French had explored and claimed a vast region of the continental interior, ranging from Louisiana in the South to the Great Lakes in the North. To secure their hold on these enormous claims, they founded a whole string of communities, missions, trading posts, and fortresses. The region was enclosed by the four major cities: Montreal, Detroit, New Orleans, and Quebec, the center of the French empire in North America. They were worried about British encroachments into this region. A series of French forts were built in the area, including one at Crown Point on Lake Champlain, and forts on the Wabash, Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The British built their own forts at Oswego and Halifax. 

In 1749 a group of Virginian businessmen, the Ohio Company, secured a grant of 500,000 acres of Ohio valley land for settlement purposes. They, of course, had no intentions of honoring the claims of Joseph Celeron who in the same year had claimed that region for France. This prompted the French, in an effort to keep the English from expansion into French lands, to construct new fortresses in the Ohio valley. This, in turn, caused the English, interpreting the French activity as a threat to their western settlements, to begin making military preparations and building fortresses of their own. People started moving into the area, building roads and setting up bases in the region for trade and settlement.

In 1750, British and French representatives met in Paris to resolve the territorial disputes, but no agreement was reached. The Marquis Duquesne was made governor-general of New France in 1752, with specific instructions to take control of the Ohio Valley and remove all British from the area. The following year, he sent troops to western Pennsylvania to build forts at Presque Island (Erie) and on the Rivière aux Boeufs (Waterford). Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, at the same time was granting land in the Ohio Valley to citizens of his colony. The stage was being set for the French & Indian War.

Virginia Governor Dinwiddie, hearing of new French forts on the upper Allegheny River, sent out a young Virginia officer by the name of George Washington to deliver a letter demanding that the French leave the region. Not surprisingly, the mission was a failure. But while Washington was passing through the area he noted that the point of land at the junction where the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers form the Ohio was an excellent spot for a fort. 

Early in 1754, the British started Fort Prince George at the fork Washington found. But French troops soon arrived and ran them out. The French took over the location and completed the fortification, renaming it Fort Duquesne. Washington, in the meantime, was sent with a contingent of troops to establish British control west of the mountains. When he heard of the surrender of Fort Prince George, he set up camp in Great Meadows, just southeast of Fort Duquesne. Washington received a report that a French contingent was nearby, he went to investigate and ended up launching a preemptive strike against that French camp. This was the first engagement of the yet undeclared French & Indian War. Although Washington won that engagement, he was soon defeated by a superior French force sent out from Fort Duquesne, leaving the French in command of the entire region west of the Allegheny Mountains. Read more about this by clicking here.

The next year, 1755, Major General Edward Braddock was ordered to America as commander-in-chief of the British forces. In June he established plans to capture Fort Duquesne by leading his troops west from Virginia. Confronting the French 10 miles east of Fort Duquesne, the British were defeated suffering heavy losses, including General Braddock who died four days after the battle. The French maintained their control of the Ohio Valley. In the north, the British did better. They won a battle on Lake George and established two forts just south of the French fortification (Fort Frederick) at Crown Point on Lake Champlain. These forts were Fort Edward on the Hudson River and Fort William Henry at the southern end of Lake George. During the beginning of the conflict the British had few troops in America. The colonists were basically on their own. Almost all the Indians were allied with the French. Only the Iroquois sided with the British but they tried to be maintain neutrality. 

Despite years of military conflicts, war between the French and British was not officially declared until 1756. It lasted nine years. The fighting  spread to the West Indies, India, and Europe itself. But the principal struggle was in North America where so far England had suffered nothing but frustration and defeat. In 1757, William Pitt ,the English secretary of state, transformed the war effort by bringing it fully under British control for the first time. One of the first things he did was force the colonists to provide supplies, equipment, shelter, and manpower. This  caused a lot of resentment among the colonists, who resisted the new imposition and firmly, at times even violently. By early 1758, the friction between the British authorities and the colonists was threatening to bring the war effort to a halt.

The military activities that year and in 1757 were relatively inconclusive, though the French generally had the upper hand, capturing Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario and Fort William Henry. 

In 1758 the tide was turning against the French. Pitt relaxed many of the policies that Americans had objected to. This resulted in an immediate increase in American support for the war and a dramatic increase in colonists' enlistment. Pitt also sent large numbers of additional British troops. The French, now even more outnumbered then before and plagued by poor harvests, could no longer offer enough resistance to the British troops and American militias.

The British launched a three part attack against the French at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, on the Atlantic Coast, Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) on Lake Champlain, and Fort Frontenac at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. That summer the British finally captured the city of Louisbourg taking control of the Bay on the St. Lawrence. While they failed in an assault on the Fort Carillon, they did capture Fort Frontenac and control of Lake Ontario with troops under Lt. Colonel John Bradstreet. That July, Brigadier General John Forbes assembled a large force and moved against Fort Duquesne. Despite an initial setback, Forbes was successful. He held a council at Fort Bedford with the regional Indian tribes and established peace with them. The French quickly abandoned Fort Duquesne when they realized they had lost their Indian allies, and that their communication with Montreal was going to be cut off with the capture of Fort Frontenac. The French destroyed the fort as much as they could. General Forbes's troops occupied the site, rebuilt it and renamed it Fort Pitt. The British and Americans controlled the upper Ohio Valley for the first time.

The next year, 1759, was good for the British. Major General Jeffrey Amherst took over from Abercromby as commander-in-chief of the British forces. He captured both the forts at Ticonderoga at the cost of 2,000 British troops and Crown Point. Later that summer British forces captured Fort Niagara. Quebec was the strongest French fortress in Canada, the key to French power in North America. The British knew that if they could capture Quebec, the rest of the country would soon fall. In early 1759 the largest attack of the conflict was planned. A combined force of about 9,000 soldiers under General James Wolfe and a fleet of 20 ships under Admiral Charles Saunders was to lay siege to Quebec. From June 27th until mid-September the British pounded Quebec. The French finally surrendered the city on September 13, 1759. This was the turning point of the war. British victory was all but certain now. By the end of that year, the British controlled all of North America, except Montreal and Detroit. Amherst moved against Montreal and took the city in September 1760. One week later Major Robert Rogers captured Fort Detroit. The British now had total control of the Ohio Valley.

Taking North America did not end the world war between the French and British. Two and a half years later at the Treaty of Paris, February 10, 1763, France gave all of North America east of the Mississippi, other than New Orleans, to the British. The French also yielded their claims to New Orleans and the lands west of the Mississippi to Spain, as compensation for Spain having to surrender Florida to the British. 

The ending of the European-based war did not stop all the conflicts in North America. The Indians to the west remained hostile to the British and the colonists. The Pontiac Rebellion and other Indian hostilities lasted until the end of 1764, at which time peace finally came to North America. This peace, however, would last only a decade.  The American Revolutionary War would begin a new episode in the history of the North American continent.

The results of the French and Indian war. Click here for the next page

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Seymour I. Schwartz. The French and Indian War. 1754-1763. The Imperial Struggle for North America. Edison, NJ, 1999. Cloth

Maps can be found at philaprintshop.com

A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations, by their Lordships most obliged and very humble servant, Jno. Mitchell. Tho: Kitchin, sculp. can be found by here for more maps and a conversation about how the French & Indian wars showed England that better maps were needed.

A Hypertext on American History from the colonial period until Modern Times - Age Mooy - Department of Humanities Computing, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Additional Reading:

The French and Indian War's Impact on America- By Adam M. Kravetz

 

 

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