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French and Indian War (1754-1763) – The North American Theater

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The Franco-Indian War, the war with the French and the Indians, or, in other words, the North American front of the Seven Years’ War, was the fourth and last armed colonial conflict in North America between Great Britain and its colonies, on the one hand, and France, allied with the Indian tribes, on the other, 1756-1763.

The name is associated with the two main opponents of Britain: the troops of royal France and several tribes of Indians who were allies of the French. This war completes a series of colonial wars between England and France, sometimes called the Second Hundred Years’ War. The conflict erupted because of claims of both the British and French on territory in the Ohio River Valley, which at that time was already inhabited by 3,000 to 4,000 American Indians. Beginning on the eve of the Seven Years’ War and, to a large extent, provoking it, the French-Indian war ended with the defeat of France. As a result, France lost all its colonial possessions in America, called New France. In addition, the United Kingdom took possession of Florida, before belonging to an Ally of France, Spain. French territories east of the Mississippi River moved to England, and French Louisiana west of the Mississippi was transferred to Spain to compensate for the loss of Florida.

The Course of the War

The first serious event of the future war was in 1754, called the Skirmish at Great Meadows. Major George Washington, who was then only 22 years old, was sent to the French to negotiate the demarcation of the border. Washington led a detachment of the Virginia colonial militia, and moved to the French fort in the area of modern-day Pittsburgh, when it came upon a French detachment. In the exchange of fire, one of the French officers was killed, and Washington retreated. His unit hastily built a fort, being made as a  defense of an inevitable attack of a hostile enemy. Approaching French troops forced Washington to go back to Virginia. Meanwhile, representatives of the majority of the British colonies gathered in Albany to discuss the situation on the north-western border and plan their further steps. In 1755, a large expeditionary corps of British was defeated by the French and Indians at the Battle of Monongahele. However, earlier, British troops, after a two-week siege, captured Fort Bosejour.

The first defeat of the British was followed by a number of victories by the French. Only in the Battle of Fort Carillon, the French commander, the Marquise de Montcalm, succeeded in overcoming the British’s fivefold superior forces. Among the few victories of the British army in the first phase of the war, we can mention the battle of 1755 on Lake George, which prevented the French offensive in the Hudson River Valley, as well as operations in Nova Scotia, which prepared for the seizure of the coast of New France and the cessation of communications between the French colonies and the homeland. The tragic consequence of these operations was the forced deportation of the entire French population of Nova Scotia.

In 1756, William Pitt Sr. became Britain’s Secretary of State. His leadership, combined with the underestimation of the North American theater of war by France, led to a turning point in the course of hostilities. The French were forced out of several border forts, such as the fort of Niagara, covering the river traffic between the lakes of Erie and Ontario, and in 1758, lost the important seaport of Louisburg. Despite the impressive victory of the French at the fort of Duquesne, the latter was forced to leave it in October 1758. In 1759, the French left their last port on the east coast of North America, Quebec, which they tried unsuccessfully to return to in a year. In September 1760, they agreed to surrender, stipulating the rights of the remaining French population to profess Catholicism, to own property, and to preserve their homes intact. The British also provided medical assistance to the wounded and sick French soldiers, after which the regular French troops were evacuated to Europe by British ships in accordance with an agreement that obliged them not to continue to participate in the war that was not yet over.

Results of the War

Although another important battle occurred in 1762 in the Caribbean Sea, the capture of Spanish Havana by British troops, officially the war ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty on February 10, 1763. Under this treaty, France lost all possessions in North America, with the exception of two small islands near Newfoundland. The Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, occupied by the British, were also returned to the French. Their economic importance for France was greater than that of Canada, as the islands were the source of sugar produced in the local plantations; moreover, it was easier to defend them. Britain had other sources of sugar, and defense of the former New France was not difficult for her. Spain received French Louisiana west of the Mississippi River along with control over Canada. The British crown received about 65,000 new subjects, French-speaking Catholics. Even at the beginning of the war, in 1755, the British expelled the French settlers from their province of Acadia.

Now, wanting peace and ensuring the security of the new province, which was taken at a high price, Britain felt obliged to establish law and order on the conquered lands; in connection with which the Act of Quebec was issued in 1774.

The war dramatically changed economic, political and social relations between Great Britain and its colonies. Military expenses forced the British government to raise taxes levied in overseas possessions. In addition, to ensure peace in the vast Indian territories, they also transferred from French control to English jurisdiction. In 1763, a Royal Proclamation was issued, according to which the white colonists were forbidden to occupy land for farms and plantations beyond the Appalachian Mountains. At the same time, the British government overlooked the fact that the removal of the French threat simultaneously eliminated one of the most important reasons why the colonies maintained their ties with the homeland. Unpopular taxes, restrictions of territorial expansion, and guarantees of the rights of the Catholic population of Quebec created conditions for the beginning of the American revolution.

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