The French & Indian War
At 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Hypertext on American History from the colonial period until
Modern Times -
Mooy - Department of Humanities Computing, University of
Groningen, The Netherlands
French and Indian War's Impact on America- By Adam M.