The “French and Indian War”, the colonial part of the “Seven Years War” that ravaged Europe from 1756 to 1763, was the bloodiest American war in the 1700’s. It took more lives than the American Revolution, involved people on three continents, including the Caribbean.
The war was the product of a clash between the French and English over colonial territory and wealth. In North America, the war can also be seen as a product of the local rivalry between British and French colonists.
Tensions between the British and French in America had been getting worse for some time, as each side wanted to gain more land. In the 1740s, both England and France traded for furs with the Native Americans in the Ohio Country. By the 1750s, English colonists, especially the investors in the Ohio Company, also hoped to convert the wilderness into good farmland.
Each side tried to keep the other out of the Ohio Country. In the early 1750s, French soldiers captured several English trading posts and built Fort Duquense (now called Pittsburgh) to defend their territory from English incursions.
What is now considered the “French and Indian War” (though at the time the war was undeclared), began in 1753, when a young Virginian, Major George Washington, and a number of men headed out into the Ohio region to deliver a message to a French Captain demanding that French troops leave the territory. The demand was rejected by the French.
In 1754, George Washington and a small force of Virginia militiamen marched to the Ohio Country to drive the French out. Washington hoped to capture Fort Duquesne but soon realized the fort was too strong, so he retreated and when chased by the French, quickly built Fort Necessity. If he could not drive the French from the area, they would at least have to reckon with the English fortifications. He also hoped to convince native people that England was the stronger force, so that they would ally with the British rather than the French.
A combined force of French soldiers and their native allies overwhelmed Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754, marking the start of the “French and Indian War” in North America. The French permitted Washington and his men to return to Virginia safely, but made them promise they would not build another fort west of the Appalachian Mountains for at least a year. England did not officially declare war until 1756, although the conflict had actually begun two years earlier at Fort Necessity.
After a year and a half of undeclared war, the French and the English formally declared war in May 1756. For the first three years of the war, the outnumbered French dominated the battlefield, soundly defeating the English in battles at Fort Oswego and Ticonderoga. Perhaps the most notorious battle of the war was the French victory at Fort William Henry, which ended in a massacre of British soldiers by Indians allied with the French.
The tide turned for the British in 1758, as they began to make peace with important Indian allies and, under the direction of Lord William Pitt began adapting their war strategies to fit the territory and landscape of the American frontier. The French were also abandoned by many of their Indian allies. Exhausted by years of battle, outnumbered and outgunned by the British, the French collapsed during the years 1758-59, climaxing with a massive defeat at Quebec in September 1759.
The end and a new war
By September 1760, the British controlled all of the North American frontier; the war between the two countries was effectively over. The 1763 Treaty of Paris, which also ended the European “Seven Years War”, set the terms by which France would capitulate. Under the treaty, France was forced to surrender all of her American possessions to the British. Although the war with the French ended in 1763, the British continued to fight with the Indians over the issue of land claims. "Pontiac's War" flared shortly after the Treaty of Paris was signed
North America 1763:
The results of the war effectively ended French influence in North America. England gained massive amounts of land and vastly strengthened its hold on the continent. The war, however, also had subtler results. It hurt relationships between the English and Native Americans; and, though the war seemed to strengthen England's hold on the colonies, the effects of the “French and Indian War” played a major role in the worsening relationship between England and its colonies that eventually led into the Revolutionary War.
By the time he was 20, he was commissioned in the Virginia militia. When he was appointed to lieutenant colonel he found out that his standing as a non-British-born officer afforded less pay than his fellow British officers of equal rank. It was his first glimpse of British treatment of Americans and a lesson he would not soon forget. Nonetheless, he carried the British flag into battle against the French and native Americans in what we in America call the French and Indian war.
He went on three different British missions to try to take Fort Duquesne. All three missions ended in defeat. The first mission never even reached its destination, stopping to build Fort Necessity, which then was surrendered to French troops. Washington was allowed to return to Virginia, where he was told that all colonial officers were being forced to drop a rank; He resigned. The second mission was with Gen. Edward Braddock, but the result was the same and the defeat even greater: the French smashed the British again, and Braddock was shot dead. Finally, in 1758, British and American troops set out again to take fort Duquesne only to find it burned to the ground by the retreating French.
After the final, empty attack, he returned home, where he stayed for the rest of the war. In his years in the field, he learned one important fact: the British could be beaten.
General Edward Braddock
British general who lost an intense battle at Fort Duquesne. He was the British commander in America for a time, and one of his officers was a young George Washington. Braddock ordered a march through the wilderness to a heavily fortified Fort Duqesne. He paid for it with his life. Out of the 1,400 British soliders who were in involved in the battle, 900 of them died. One of them was Braddock. Washington organized the retreat to Fort Necessity, where the British awaited the inevitable French follow-up.
Brilliant British general who won the two most different battles of the war, Louisbourg and Quebec. He was second in command to Jeffery Amherst but got most of the duties in these two battles. Always poor in health, he somehow managed to inspire his troops to victory. Right before the Battle of Quebec, he was shot while inspecting his troops. He stayed the course and led them to victory. He later died from his wounds.
William Pitt (the Elder) 1708 -- 1778
Pitt the Elder was Prime Minister during the French and Indian War. When the British retook Fort Duquesne, they named it Fort Pitt in honor of their Prime Minister. Pitt was responsible for financing the British war effort, largely by taxing the British colonies (including those in America).
King George III
King of Great Britain from 1760 to 1820. Under his guidance, Britain won the French and Indian War but lost the Revolutionary War. He was mentally unstable because of a disease called porphyria, and he was given to bouts of madness and unpredictability. He also didn't like his government officials very much.
Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), Mohawk
born in 1742, was a Mohawk chief who helped gain Indian support for the British in the French and Indian War between 1754 and 1763.
French commander in charge of all French troops in Canada. He was the architect of the "fort strategy," by which French forts were built at key spots all across Canada. He won several small battles, but his greatest success was in the taking of Fort Ticonderoga in July 1758. The war took a decidedly British turn after that. British victories at Crown Point and Loiusbourg left the St. Lawrence River open to attack, and Montcalm retreated to Montreal then Quebec. He lost his prestige and his life at the Battle of Quebec.
Albany Plan of Union
Aware of the hard times that war could put on the colonies, English officials suggested a "union between ye Royal, Proprietary & Charter Governments." Some colonial leaders agreed and in June 1754 delegates from most of the northern colonies and representatives from the Six Iroquois Nations met in Albany, New York. They decided on a "plan of union" drafted by Benjamin Franklin. Under this plan each colonial legislature would elect delegates to an American continental assembly presided over by a royal governor.
First of all, Franklin anticipated many of the problems that would beset the government created after independence, such as finance, dealing with the Indian tribes, control of trade, and defense.
British officials realized that, if adopted, the plan could create a very powerful government that His Majesty's Government might not be able to control.
The plan was rejected by the Crown and by the legislatures in several of the colonies.
In a heroic battle British General James Wolfe defeated French general Marquis de Montcalm that almost ended French occupation of Canada. Quebec was a natural fortress, a large city built on high bluffs, with steep cliffs on either side of the city. A British scout had discovered a hidden path that led up the cliffs to a lightly defended part of the French defense. During the night, thousands of troops slipped up the path and past the French guards to the Plains of Abraham, a wide open space outside the city of Quebec. French troops awakened the next morning to find line after line of British troops waiting for them. The battle raged for days and finally ended with the French surrender on September 12, 1759. Both Wolfe and Montcalm died soon after from injuries sustained in the battle.
Treaty of Paris 1763
The Treaty that officially ended the French and Indian War. The British gained control over the area west of the 13 British Colonies all the way to the Mississippi River. The French agreed to give up any colonies in North America, including all of Canada. Since Spain had helped the French, the Spanish were also forced to give up Florida. But the Spanish still held their territory west of the Mississippi River and in Central and South America.