The New Student's Reference Work/French and Indian Wars

French and Indian Wars, 1689-1763. Under this term are included the four intercolonial wars of the 17th and 18th centuries in America, known as King William's War, Queen Anne's War, King George's War and the specifically-entitled French and Indian War — all of them conflicts with the French and Indians of Canada (New France). The last of the series, however (which is coincident with the Seven Years' War in Europe), is especially characterized in the American colonies by the designation of the French and Indian War, which comprised the period between 1755 and 1763.

This grand struggle was inevitable from the conflicting character of the respective governments. England had settled the eastern coast, and claimed the territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The French had occupied the valley of the St. Lawrence, and, exploring westward along the Great Lakes, had followed the Wabash and Illinois Rivers to the Mississippi and thence down the great valley to the Gulf. These explorations were carried on chiefly by the Jesuit missionaries, who with unflagging energy and at the greatest personal risk, pushed far into the wilderness to establish missions among the Indians. In 1673 Father Marquette, a missionary, and Joliet, a trader, together passed down the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi and thence down that river to the Arkansas. La Salle, the most indefatigable of these explorers, received from the French king a tract of land adjoining Fort Frontenac, in recognition of his services in exploring Lakes Erie and Ontario. He then pushed westward through the Great Lakes, explored the Illinois and descended the Mississippi to the Gulf. On the line of these explorations the French had, in 1750, established 60 small military and trading-posts, stretching along the lakes and down the Maumee, the Wabash, the Illinois and the Mississippi to New Orleans. They had also traversed the country to the headwaters of the Ohio. They had thus taken formal possession of this vast country, while but little had been done in the way of colonization.

Thus far no conflict had occurred, because the English had not yet pushed their way west of the Alleghanies upon disputed territory. But in 1749 a corporation called The Ohio Company received from the king a grant of land west of the Alleghanies, along the Ohio, and opened traffic with the Indians. The French promptly resented the infringement upon their claims. The governor of Canada sent 300 men into the valley, who drove off the traders. In 1753 the French built three forts at Presque Island on Lake Erie, Fort Bœuf a short distance south and Fort Venango on the Allegheny River. Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent George Washington, then 21, with a message to the French General St. Pierre, in command of these forts, setting forth the claim of Virginia to the territory west of the Alleghanies and remonstrating against its occupancy by the French. Washington was courteously received, but the French commander positively declined to consider the claims of Dinwiddie. In 1754 the Ohio company built a blockhouse on the present site of Pittsburg. This was soon captured by the French, who proceeded to build Fort Duquesne on the same site. Meantime a force of 600 Virginians under Colonel Fry, Washington being second in command, were on their way to the same point. While en route Colonel Fry died, leaving Washington in command. At Great Meadows, within 50 miles of Fort Duquesne, learning that a French force was marching against him, he built a stockade which he named Fort Necessity. Here, on the third of July, he was attacked by the French General De Villiers with a force of 1,500 French and Indians, and after a stubborn defense was compelled to surrender.

Meantime the English government made active preparation for war. In February, 1755, General Braddock arrived with two regiments of troops. To these were added a small body of militia, and with this force he marched in April through the wilderness against Fort Duquesne. On the 9th of July Braddock was met and defeated by a large force of French and Indians, himself falling mortally wounded. A second expedition under Governor Shirley, which was sent from Albany against Fort Niagara, returned without attempting to capture it. Governor Johnson of New York, in command of a militia force, marched against Crown Point. He built Fort Edward on the Hudson, and, proceeding, met and defeated a force of French and Indians under General Dieskau, who was killed. Johnson went no further, but here built a fort which he named Fort William Henry. A fourth expedition was sent by Governor Lawrence of Massachusetts to attack the French forts on the Bay of Fundy. These they captured with little resistance, and the whole country of Nova Scotia or Acadia fell into their hands. The English were here guilty of a great piece of cruelty. The country was laid waste and the inhabitants, simple French peasants who had taken no part in the war, were driven into exile at the point of the bayonet.

The events narrated cover the operations of 1755. The plan of operations for 1756 covered the same points, viz., the capture of Forts Duquesne, Niagara and Crown Point. Not one of these objects was accomplished. On the other hand the French, led by Marquis de Montcalm, a successor of Dieskau, captured Oswego. A fleet of vessels, 135 cannon and 1,500 prisoners fell into his hands. During the summer the settlements in western Pennsylvania and Virginia were ravaged by Indians, who killed and captured large numbers of settlers. They were finally defeated with great loss in a battle near the Indian town of Kittanning. In 1757 but one expedition was undertaken by the English. Lord Loudon, who had been appointed commander-in-chief of the British forces, sailed against the fortress of Louisbourg with an army of 6,000 regulars. A fleet under Admiral Holbourn, with 5,000 men, joined him at Halifax. Learning that the garrison at Louisbourg had been reinforced, Loudon sailed back to New York without firing a gun. Meanwhile Montcalm appeared before Fort William Henry with a force of 5,000 French and Indians. After a brave defense of six days the garrison under Colonel Monroe was compelled to surrender. Montcalm destroyed the fort and returned to Crown Point.

At the close of this year — the third since hostilities began — the advantage rested decidedly with the French. The English had accomplished little, and had been driven back at the points of chief importance. With the opening of 1758 the government of England made preparations for a vigorous campaign. Twenty-two thousand troops were sent from England; the colonies furnished 28,000 militia. General Abercrombie was appointed to succeed Lord Loudon as commander-in-chief, with an able corps of subordinates, including young Lord Howe, General Amherst and General James Wolfe. Expeditions were planned against Louisbourg, Ticonderoga and Duquesne. General Amherst with a force of 10,000 men captured Louisbourg on July 28, with nearly 6,000 prisoners. Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island passed under English control. The attack on Ticonderoga was conducted by General Abercrombie at the head of 15,000 men. The English were repulsed after four hours' hard fighting, with a loss of 2,000 in killed and wounded. The English fell back to Fort George. Colonel Bradstreet was sent with 3,000 men against Fort Frontenac (Kingston) on Lake Ontario. He captured the place after a siege of two days. This success proved to have an important bearing on the capture of Fort Duquesne, which was abandoned by the French and was occupied by Virginian troops under Washington on Nov. 25.

The year 1759 opened with the advantage greatly on the side of the English. Their combined forces numbered nearly 50,000 men against 7,000 on the side of the French. Three expeditions were planned, one against Niagara, a second against Ticonderoga and Crown Point and a third against Quebec. Niagara was captured by Sir William Johnson, who took the place, after severe fighting, on July 25. In the same month General Amherst, with 11,000 men, marched against Ticonderoga. On his approach the place was abandoned by the garrison, who retired to Crown Point. This place also was abandoned five days later, and was occupied by the English. Thus these important positions fell without a struggle. Wolfe commanded the expedition against Quebec, where, on Sept. 13, occurred the most desperate and the decisive battle of the war, resulting in the defeat of the French. Wolfe was killed and Montcalm, the French commander was mortally wounded at the city's gate. Four days later the city and fortress were surrendered to the English. In September, 1760, Montreal surrendered. This was the last point of importance held by the French, and with it Canada passed into the possession of Great Britain.

The war between England and France ended with the treaty of Paris in 1763. France surrendered all her possessions east of the Mississippi, except the Island of Orleans. At the same time Florida was ceded to England by Spain. The possessions of England in America were now 20 times greater than when the war began. The Indian tribes, which had been allied with the French, refused to submit to English authority. In 1763 a formidable league was formed under the leadership of Pontiac, a famous Ottawa chief. The country west of Niagara was devastated. All the British posts, excepting Detroit and Fort Pitt, were captured and the settlements blotted out. Next year a strong force was sent against the Indians, and they were reduced to submission.