1689-French and Indian Wars

French & Indian War Map - thumbnail
French and Indian Wars Map

(1689-1763) is the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th centuries. They were really campaigns in the worldwide struggle for empire and were roughly linked to wars of the European coalitions. At the time they were viewed in Europe as only an unimportant aspect of the struggle, and, although the stakes were Canada, the American West, and the West Indies, the fortunes of war in Europe had more effect in determining the winner than the fighting in the disputed territory itself.

To the settlers in America, however, the rivalry of the two powers was of immediate concern, for the fighting meant not only raids by the French or the British but also the horrors of tribal border warfare. The conflict may be looked on, from the American viewpoint, as a single war with
interruptions. The ultimate aim--domination of the eastern part of the continent--was the same; and the methods --capture of the seaboard strongholds and the little Western forts and attacks on frontier settlements --were the same. The wars helped to bring about important changes in the British colonies. In addition to the fact of their ocean-wide distance from the mother country, the colonies felt themselves less dependent militarily on the British by the end of the wars; they became most concerned with their own problems and put greater value on their own institutions. In other words, they began to think of themselves as American rather than British.

The French and Indian War, fought between 1754 and 1763, made North America British rather than French. It was not a war against Indians, but rather a fight between Britain and France for control of North America. Most Indians supported the French in the war. The French and Indian War was part of the Seven Years' War.

The Seven Years 'War was waged both in Europe and outside it. In Europe, France, Russia, Austria, and Spain fought against Britain, Prussia, and Hanover. The reason these countries fought was because both Austria and Prussia wanted to govern Germany. But Britain and France joined because they each wanted to become the world's most powerful nation. In North America, the British and French clashed head-on.

For many years before the war, the French firmly controlled Canada. They tried to gain control of the Ohio River Valley and the land west of the Appalachian Mountains. This threatened the British colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. People in those colonies felt they owned all the land to the west.

The French built Fort Duquesne (later to become Pittsburgh) where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River. Colonists in Virginia decided to stop the French. They sent 22-yearold George Washington, then a lieutenant colonel, and his militia to attack the fort in 1754. But the French overpowered and defeated young Washington and his troops.

The French, using Indian allies and fighting methods, easily won early victories. Many frontier settlers in western New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia had to flee back to eastern settlements in the face of fire and tomahawk raids by the French and Indians.

The British lost many battles, including those at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario, Fort William Henry near Lake Champlain, and Fort Ticonderoga in New York. When William Pitt the Elder became prime minister of Great Britain in 1757, he pressed the war with new zeal. The British used their stronger navy to cut off French forces. The British could provide better supplies and replacements for their soldiers than the French. The British captured Fort Frontenac in 1758, and then overwhelmed Fort Duquesne. They forced the French to surrender at Fort Niagara and Fort Ticonderoga.

In the decisive battle of the war, the British General James Wolfe opposed the French Marquis de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham near Quebec. Both generals were killed, but Britain defeated France. Britain gained all the land east of the Mississippi River in what is now the United States, as well as part of Canada. As a result, the British heritage and the English language dominate the United States and most of Canada today.

- - - -- - - - - -

Rivalry for the West, particularly for the valley of the upper Ohio, prepared the way for another war. In 1748 a group of Virginians interested in Western lands formed the Ohio Company, and at the same time the French were investigating possibilities of occupying the upper Ohio region. The French were first to act, moving S from Canada and founding two forts. Robert Dinwiddie, governor of Virginia, sent an emissary, young George Washington, to protest.

The contest between the Ohio Company and the French was now joined and hinged on possession of the spot where the Monongahela and the Allegheny join to form the Ohio (the site of Pittsburgh). The English started a fort there but were expelled by the French, who built Fort Duquesne in 1754. Dinwiddie, after attempting to get aid from the other colonies, sent out an expedition under Washington. He defeated a small force of French and Indians but had to withdraw and, building Fort Necessity, held his ground until forced to surrender (July, 1754). The British colonies, alarmed by French activities at their back door, attempted to correlate their activities in the Albany Congress. War had thus broken out before fighting began in Europe in the Seven Years War. The American conflict, the last and by far the most important of the series, is usually called simply the French and Indian War. The British undertook to capture the French forts in the West--not only Duquesne, but also Fort Frontenac (see Kingston, Ont., Canada), Fort Niagara, and the posts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point. They also set out to take Louisburg and the French cities on the St. Lawrence, Quebec and Montreal. They at first failed in their attempts. The expedition led by Edward Braddock against Duquesne in 1755 was a costly fiasco, and the attempt by Admiral Boscawen to blockade Canada and the first expeditions against Niagara and Crown Point were fruitless.

French & Indian Wars Map

French and Indian Wars Map

After 1757, when the British ministry of the elder William Pitt was reconstituted, Pitt was able to supervise the war in America. Affairs then took a better turn for the British. Lord Amherst in 1758 took Louisburg, where James Wolfe distinguished himself. That same year Gen. John Forbes took Fort Duquesne (which became Fort Pitt).

The French Louis Joseph de Montcalm, one of the great commanders of his time, distinguished himself (1758) by repulsing the attack of James Abercromby on Ticonderoga. The next year that fort fell to Amherst. In the West, the hold of Sir William Johnson over the Iroquois and the activities of border troops under his general command--most spectacular, perhaps, were the exploits of the rangers under Robert Rogers--reduced French holdings and influence.

The war became a fight for the St. Lawrence, with Montcalm pitted against the brilliant Wolfe. The climax came in 1759 in the open battle on the Plains of Abraham (see Abraham, Plains of). Both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed, but Quebec fell to the British. In 1760, Montreal also fell, and the war was over. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 (see Paris, Treaty of) ended French control of Canada, which went to Great Britain.

1689-King William's War

(1689-1697) was the first of what came to be known in America as the French and Indian wars. In fact, the French and Indian Wars were a series of colonial wars between Great Britain and France that lasted three-quarters of a century. Hostilities in King William's War began in 1690, when in the course of a few months Schenectady, N.Y., was burned by the French and Indians, and colonial English forces launched attacks on Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal), Nova Scotia, and on Quebec. Despite further raids by the French and Indians, the war ended in a stalemate. The Treaty of Ryswick, by which were ended the war and its European counterpart, the War of the Grand Alliance restored all colonial possessions to their prewar status.

French and Indian forces from Montreal attacked and burned Schenectady, NY

The city of Quebec was attacked by English forces in the first major military operation of King William's War. They were repulsed by the French under Louis de Baude, comte de Palluau et de Frontenac

King William's War was ended by the Treaty of Ryswick. From the standpoint of the American colonies, the war was completely pointless. Both French and English forces won a number of engagements and managed to occupy part of each other's territory. However, the treaty restored all possessions to their prewar status. King William's War was also a series of colonial campaigns in North America between England and France, corresponding to wars between European alliances in the worldwide struggle for empire. In America, seaboard strongholds and western forts were seized, and the settlers engaged in guerrilla warfare with Indians. King William's War (1688-97 ' ), linked to the War of the GRAND ALLIANCE, consisted chiefly of frontier attacks on the British colonies. Queen Anne's War (1702-13) corresponded to the War of the SPANISH SUCCESSION, and King George's War (1744-48) to the War of the AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION. The last and most important conflict, called simply the French and Indian War (1754-63), was linked to the SEVEN YEARS WAR. Jeffrey AMHERST took Louisbourg (1758), and Quebec and Montreal also fell (1759-60) to the British. The war ended French control in Canada and the West (see PARIS, TREATY OF). After the wars the American colonies felt less dependent militarily on the British; they began to concentrate on their own problems and institutions and to think of themselves as American rather than British.

Queen Anne's War

"The French and Indian War was different from earlier wars in one very important way. Formerly Great Britain had been content to leave fighting in North America to the colonists and had furnished only naval and logistical aid. William Pitt's ministry reversed that policy, and the regular British Army now carried out the major combat operations. The Provincials were relegated to support and reserve functions. Americans resented this treatment, particularly when they saw British commanders such as Edward Braddock and James Abercromby perform poorly in the wilderness. At the same time, Britons formed a negative opinion of the fighting qualities of the Provincials. British recruiting techniques and impressment of food, quarters, and transport created other tensions. The resulting residual bitterness contributed to the growing breach between the colonies and the mother country during the following decade."


1689 Bibliography