The French and Indian War began in 1754 in America and the conflict prompted the British to take the side of Prussia in the Seven Years War which began in Europe on August 29, 1756.
The French and Indian War
called the Seven Years' War in Europe and Canada

1754 - 1763

The French and Indian War was the last and most important conflict in North America before the Revolutionary War in America (1775-1783). The French and Indian War broke out in America, and then spread to Europe in 1756. It was called the Seven Years' War in Europe and Canada.

After King George's War, territorial rivalries between Britain and France had become stronger as the two countries' settlements expanded. In addition, the Iroquois Indians had begun to permit some British settlement in the Ohio River Valley. Formerly, the Iroquois had barred both French and British settlers from the region. The French, who feared the loss of the Ohio country's fur trade, responded by trying to strengthen their own claim to the area. In 1753, they built a chain of forts along the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, at the eastern end of the Ohio River Valley.

The British colony of Virginia also claimed the land along the Allegheny. Virginia's lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie, sent 21-year-old Major George Washington to demand that the French abandon their new forts and return to Canada. The French refused to leave. In 1754, Washington led a small band of colonial troops to the disputed territory to force the French to withdraw. The French defeated Washington at Fort Necessity, in the first battle of the French and Indian War. Meanwhile, representatives of seven of the British colonies met in Albany, New York, to plan further military action.

In 1755, General Edward Braddock led a band of British and colonial soldiers, including George Washington, against Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh). Braddock was unfamiliar with North American methods of warfare, which often involved ambush. He also had few Indians to act as scouts. As a result, when Braddock's troops encountered a French and Indian force near Fort Duquesne, Braddock and many of his men were killed. Washington led the survivors to safety.

The British also failed to take Crown Point and Fort Niagara. However, they succeeded in seizing Forts Beausejour and Gaspereau in what is now New Brunswick.

In 1756, the Marquis de Montcalm took charge of the French forces in North America and captured Britain's Fort Oswego. The next year, the French and their Indian allies destroyed Fort William Henry.

In 1756, William Pitt became the political leader of Britain. His leadership, and that of the vigorous young officers he sent to North America, gave new life to the British cause. In 1758, British forces captured Louisbourg and Forts Frontenac and Duquesne. In 1759, the British took Crown Point and Forts Niagara and Ticonderoga. Meanwhile, General James Wolfe began attacking French forces near the city of Quebec, which was held by troops under General Montcalm. After nearly three months of occasional fighting, Wolfe's army defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham, outside the city. The fall of Quebec crippled the French war effort, but the struggle continued until British troops under General Jeffery Amherst captured Montreal in 1760.

The war ended in 1763 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The treaty gave Britain almost all French land in Canada and, to the south, all of France's holdings east of the Mississippi River except New Orleans. Britain also received the territory of Florida from Spain, which had become France's ally in 1762. France kept two tiny islands south of Newfoundland -- St.-Pierre and Miquelon -- and the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. In 1762, France had given Spain New Orleans and all French lands west of the Mississippi.

Contributor: Fred W. Anderson, Ph.D., Associate Prof. of History, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder.

Additional resources

Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years' War in America. Norton, 1988.

Marrin, Albert. Struggle for a Continent: The French and Indian Wars, 1690-1760. Atheneum, 1987.

Minks, Benton and Louise. The French and Indian War. Lucent Bks., 1995.

Ochoa, George. The Fall of Quebec and the French and Indian War. Silver Burdett, 1990. Younger readers.

Steele, Ian K. Betrayals: Fort William Henry and the "Massacre." Oxford, 1990.


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