Wolfe, Washington & The French and Indian War

Montcalm attempts to stop native warriors from attacking the British. A number of British soldiers were killed after the Siege of Fort William Henry.
Montcalm attempts to stop native warriors from attacking the British. A number of British soldiers were killed after the Siege of Fort William Henry.

The French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763 pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, each side supported by military units from the parent country and by American Indian allies.

1755- The Territory of the US During the French-Indian Wars
1755- The Territory of the US During the French-Indian Wars

In the 1700s the British and the French began to show interest in the Ohio River Valley.  Both countries viewed the valley as theirs. The French had a fur trade with Native Americans in the region, and had no interest in sharing their business with the British settlers.
The french built a chain of forts from Lake Ontario south to the Ohio River in order to protect their claims in the valley. The British responded by starting to build a fort in what is now Western Pennsylvania. The French seized the site before they could finish. They later built their own fort on it naming it Fort Duquesne.
The Ohio River Valley
In 1754 the governor of Virginia sent a Militia, lead by George Washington, to drive out the French. After Marching to Fort Duquesne  Washington made a fort of his own called Fort  Necessity.The fort was soon attacked by the French and their Native American Allies. The combined army won the battle and forced Washington’s soldiers to surrender. They were later released by the French and returned to Virginia.
Early French Success
The first four years saw nothing but severe reverses for the British regulars and American colonials, primarily because of superior French land forces in the New World. Braddock was killed and his army scattered in July 1755 when the force was ambushed while approaching Fort Duquesne. In 1756 the defenders of Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario were obliged to surrender, as were the defenders of Fort William Henry near Lake Champlain in 1757. Lord Loudoun’s amphibious expedition from New York City against the great French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island ended in dismal failure that year. In July 1758 Gen. James Abercrombie attacked the French stronghold at the northern end of Lake George, Fort-Carillon (later renamed Fort Ticonderoga). Despite outnumbering the French defenders under Gen. Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Grozon, marquis de Montcalm, almost four to one, Abercrombie’s army was almost destroyed. Moreover, the frontier settlements in what are now central New York, central Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and western Virginia were deserted while thousands of families fled eastward in panic to escape the hostilities.

The Redcoats - The Soldiers of the British Army
The Redcoats – The Soldiers of the British Army

British Advantages And Victory
Under these circumstances, the French tide in North America reached its crest by the end of 1757. In 1758 Amherst captured Louisbourg. Soon afterwards, John Bradstreet compelled the garrison of Fort Frontenac to capitulate, and that same year Forbes and Henry Bouquet brought about the fall of Fort Duquesne. The following year Sir William Johnson forced the surrender of Fort Niagara. Amherst pushed the French out of Fort-Carillon and Crown Point. The climax came with the British victory at the Battle of Quebec (September 13, 1759). Montcalm, were fatally wounded. Faced with hopeless odds, on September 8, 1760, the governor-general, the Marquis de Vaudreuilt was obliged to surrender not only his last stronghold, Montreal, but all of Canada. Thus, the North American phase of the Seven Years’ War came to a close.
British Advantages And Victory
Under these circumstances, the French tide in North America reached its crest by the end of 1757. In 1758 Amherst captured Louisbourg. Soon afterwards, John Bradstreet compelled the garrison of Fort Frontenac to capitulate, and that same year Forbes and Henry Bouquet brought about the fall of Fort Duquesne. The following year Sir William Johnson forced the surrender of Fort Niagara. Amherst pushed the French out of Fort-Carillon and Crown Point. The climax came with the British victory at the Battle of Quebec (September 13, 1759). Montcalm attempts to stop native warriors from attacking the British. A number of British soldiers were killed after the Siege of Fort William Henry. Montcalm, were fatally wounded. Faced with hopeless odds, on September 8, 1760, the governor-general, the Marquis de Vaudreuilt was obliged to surrender not only his last stronghold, Montreal, but all of Canada. Thus, the North American phase of the Seven Years’ War came to a close.
Wolfe and The Battle of Quebec
General James Wolfe, (born Jan. 2, 1727, Westerham, Kent, Eng.—died Sept. 13, 1759, Quebec), Ccommander of the British army at the capture of Quebec from the French in 1759, a victory that led to British supremacy in Canada.

Battle of the Plains of Abraham Part of the French and Indian War The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. Oil on canvas, 1770
The Battle of Quebec and the Plains of Abraham  Part of the French and Indian War The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. Oil on canvas, 1770


The elder son of Lieutenant General Edward Wolfe, he was commissioned in the Royal Marines in 1741 but transferred almost immediately to the 12th Foot. Wolfe was on active service continuously until the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, fighting against the French at Dettingen (1743) and later at Falkirk and Culloden (1746) during the Jacobite rebellion. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1750 and served as brigadier general under Major General Jeffery Amherst in an expedition against the French at Cape Breton Island (1758). The capture of Louisbourg, a fortress on the island, was largely attributed to Wolfe’s daring and determination.
Wolfe returned to England to restore his failing health, but there he received from William Pitt the rank of major general and command of the expedition to capture the city of Quebec. By late June 1759, Wolfe’s entire convoy had passed up the St. Lawrence River and had reached the island of Orleans, which lay opposite Quebec along the river. The army of the French defender of Quebec, the marquis de Montcalm, was strongly entrenched on the high cliffs along the river frontage. Unable to lure Montcalm out from the safety of his defences, Wolfe on July 31 ordered an assault on the Beauport shore east of the city, which proved to be a costly failure.
Ill with dysentery and suffering from rheumatism, Wolfe endured great pain and anxiety while the siege dragged on throughout August 1759. At the end of that month, he and his brigadiers agreed on a plan to land troops across the river a short distance upstream and to the west of Quebec. The resulting attack, which involved scaling the cliffs only one mile from the city, was carried out on September 12 and surprised the French on the level fields of the Plains of Abraham. On September 13, after a battle lasting less than an hour, the French fled. Wolfe, wounded twice early in the battle, died of a third wound, but not before he knew Quebec had fallen to his troops. Montcalm survived him by only a few hours. Quebec surrendered on September 18, and a year later in 1760 Amherst received the surrender of Montreal and the rest of Canada.

1024px-Nouvelle-France_map-en.svg
Map of European colonies in North America, c. 1750. Disputes over territorial claims persisted after the end of King George’s War in 1748.

During those years of defeat, the only notable success scored by the British and colonial forces was the capture in 1755 of the well-fortified Fort Beauséjour on the Chignecto Isthmus, a narrow strip of land connecting Nova Scotia with the mainland. British authorities held the region to be a part of Nova Scotia, ceded by France in the April 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. However, the French-speaking Acadians who lived in the region not only steadfastly refused to take an oath of loyalty to the British crown but had provided Fort Beauséjour with provisions and a large labour force to aid the French in consolidating their foothold on the isthmus. As no large contingent of British soldiers was available to garrison the area and subdue the pro-French populace, the British authorities at Halifax decided to disperse the Acadians as a war measure. Transports carried most of the Acadians away from their villages in western Nova Scotia and distributed them among the British colonies to the south. Some returned to the area after the war, while others settled in French Louisiana, where their descendants became known as Cajuns. The exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia was famously dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellows’ narrative poem Evangeline (1847).

Last of the Mohicans Movie still image set during the North American colonies French and Indian War of 1763
Last of the Mohicans Movie still image set during the North American colonies French and Indian War of 1763

Almost every important Virginia family—including members of the Washington, Lee, and Randolph families—was vitally interested in the fate of the Ohio area. When news reached Williamsburg, the colonial capital, that the French were driving out English traders and building forts on the headwaters of the Allegheny in order to consolidate their positions, Lieut. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie determined to act.
In October 1753 Dinwiddie dispatched young George Washington to the French Fort LeBouef (now Waterford, Pennsylvania) to warn the garrison there that it was occupying land that belonged to Virginia. After that mission failed, the Ohio Company of Virginia, which had received a special grant of upper Ohio Valley land, was encouraged to build a fort at the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers (modern Pittsburgh), with the understanding that troops from Virginia would support the undertaking.
The French, however, were too quick. Descending the Allegheny in large numbers in the spring of 1754, French troops overwhelmed the uncompleted fort before Virginia militia under Col. Joshua Fry could arrive. Upon Fry’s death in May 1754, Washington assumed command of the militia and entrenched himself at a post that came to be called Fort Necessity (now Confluence, Pennsylvania), about 40 miles (60 km) from the French position at Fort Duquesne. On May 28 Washington’s forces engaged a French scouting party, killing the commander, Coulon de Jumonville, and nine others as well as taking 20 prisoners. The French could not ignore such a provocation and descended upon Fort Necessity, besieging it on July 3. Although Washington had been reinforced with militia troops from Virginia and a company of regular British infantry from North Carolina, the combined French and Indian force outnumbered the defenders roughly two to one. Washington surrendered the fort, which was then burned by the French, and withdrew with his forces to Virginia.
The government of Virginia appealed to London for assistance. Fearing the renewal of war with France after just six years of peace, George III at first stubbornly refused to consider the request, agreeing with his prime minister, the duke of Newcastle, who said, “Let Americans fight Americans.” When it became clear that raw Virginia militia could not make headway against seasoned French regulars, George ordered General Edward Braddock to go to Virginia with a force and eject the French from Fort Duquesne and its environs. Edward Boscawen was sent into the region of the Gulf of St. Lawrence with a powerful fleet to prevent further reinforcement of French troops from arriving in Canada. The war thus begun to defend British territorial claims in the Ohio Valley spread like wildfire across the continent.
During those years of defeat, the only notable success scored by the British and colonial forces was the capture in 1755 of the well-fortified Fort Beauséjour on the Chignecto Isthmus, a narrow strip of land connecting Nova Scotia with the mainland. British authorities held the region to be a part of Nova Scotia, ceded by France in the April 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. However, the French-speaking Acadians who lived in the region not only steadfastly refused to take an oath of loyalty to the British crown but had provided Fort Beauséjour with provisions and a large labour force to aid the French in consolidating their foothold on the isthmus. As no large contingent of British soldiers was available to garrison the area and subdue the pro-French populace, the British authorities at Halifax decided to disperse the Acadians as a war measure. Transports carried most of the Acadians away from their villages in western Nova Scotia and distributed them among the British colonies to the south. Some returned to the area after the war, while others settled in French Louisiana, where their descendants became known as Cajuns. The exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia was famously dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellows’ narrative poem Evangeline (1847).

 

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