French and Indian War – Encyclopedia of U.S. History

The French and Indian War (1754–63) was fought in America between
England and France from 1754 to 1763. It was one war in a long and
complicated history of conflicts between the two countries. Having both
laid claim to territories in present-day Ohio, the two countries fought a
long and costly war in the New World to settle the dispute. Both sides
were joined in the fighting by colonists and Native Americans.
Continuing disagreements between England and France led to other
conflicts in other parts of the world in what is known as the Seven Years’
War (1756–63). The conclusion of war in 1763 marked the end of the
French presence in North America and the beginning of English domination of the continent. It also led to problems between England and its
colonies that resulted in the American Revolution (1775–83). Settlement in the New World
Throughout three wars from 1689 to 1748, the French and the British
struggled for control of the lands west of the British colonies in America.
Although the British settlements were mostly confined along the eastern
seaboard from Maine to Florida, some of the English colonies had
claims west of the Appalachian Mountains, according to their original
charters. Most of these areas were still unsettled by the 1740s, but many
English colonists were interested in the land.
The French had established a lucrative fur trade in the region west of
the Appalachians. Although there were few permanent settlements, the
French had established missions, trading posts, and relationships with
Native Americans there, and they wanted to protect these interests and establish permanent settlements. England, too, and France attempted to
gain control by peacefully establishing settlements in the area. Tensions rise
In the 1740s, British traders began to enter areas close to French posts
and to compete for trade relationships with the local Indians. British
goods often were cheaper and of better quality than French wares, so
many Indians chose to break ties with the French to trade with the
British. The French responded by constructing a series of forts stretching
from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
The last, southernmost of the forts encroached on territory claimed
by the British colony of Virginia. In November 1753, its governor,
Robert Dinwiddie (1693–1770), sent General George Washington
(1732–1799) to warn the French that they were trespassing.
Overwhelming French forces pushed Washington back, forcing him to
return to Virginia.
In 1754, the Virginia governor commanded that a fort be built to
counter the French at the Forks of the Ohio River (present-day
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). On April 17, 1754, a large number of French
soldiers surrrounded the British sent to build the fort, forcing them back
to Virginia, and then proceeded to build a French fort instead, Fort
Duquesne. When Washington reached the area on May 28, he and a
band of 150 reinforcements surprised a group of French soldiers at
Jumonville Glen, killing ten in battle and then slaughtering all but one
of their prisoners. This incident marked the beginning of the French and
Indian War. France and England, however, did not formally declare war
until May 1756, with the beginning of conflicts in Europe in the Seven
Years’ War.
The war in America
The first four years of the French and Indian War were dominated by the
French and their Indian allies. The French had superior advantages:
Their movements of troops and supplies were helped by access to the St.
Lawrence River, and their Native American allies provided warriors and
skillful knowledge of the lands.
In contrast, British forces struggled with inadequate leadership and
difficulty maneuvering men and supplies across dense, unsettled land.
They also failed to gain adequate support from the colonists. Many colonial businessmen resented the trade problems caused by the war, and colonists recruited to serve under English forces resented the strict discipline, harsh punishment, and unfair treatment they received.
In December 1756, William Pitt (1708–1778) became leader of the
House of Commons (a house of Parliament) of Great Britain. His dynamic leadership led to important changes for the English troops in
America. More financial and military support from England helped the
troops create a network of roads, supply stations, and colonial manpower
to transport necessities to the British front lines. Thus reinforced, the
British began to make strong advances into French territory.
In October 1758, a new treaty brought many of France’s Indian allies onto the British side of the war. By July 1759, the British managed
to cut off the French from the St. Lawrence River, and in doing so, they
cut French supply lines and crippled the French army. In September, the
British captured Quebec, and Montreal fell the next year, in September
1760. The war in America was then effectively over, but the two countries continued to fight in Europe and elsewhere. The Treaty of Paris,
which they signed in 1763, finally ended the wars and ceded French land
in Canada to the British Empire.
The French and Indian War was a difficult struggle for England that depleted the financial resources in the British treasury. As a result,
Parliament began to pass measures to raise funds through taxes on the
American colonies. These measures angered the colonists and soured
their relationship with England. A little more than a decade later, the
colonists’ resentment ignited the American Revolution.