French and Indian War

The Seven Years’ War, known in America as the French and Indian War, established British supremacy over most of North America. As a result of its
defeat, France ceased to be a colonial power in North America. The impact of this conflict on Native Americans was more ambiguous. Large, interior nations, which had previously been able to play the English and
French off each other for their own diplomatic game, now faced not only increasing white settlement in their lands but a powerful, far-reaching
bureaucracy that cared more about the maintenance of its overseas empire than the promises it made to the native peoples.
It would not be an exaggeration to call the Seven Years’ War a global conflict. In addition to the fighting in Europe and North America, French and British
interests battled in India, Africa, the Philippines, and the Caribbean.

Prelude to War

Though the French and English had fought over North America off and on for several decades, the French and Indian War eclipsed all of these conflicts in
terms of the amount of destruction and the finality of its result. Throughout the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, France and England
jostled for territory, access to profitable trade, and alliances with powerful Native American nations, such as the Creek, Cherokee, and Iroquois. Roughly
concurrent with this fighting was an explosion in the population of British America. In 1700, a quarter of a million people lived in the English colonies; in
1750, this number had grown to 1.2 million, and, by 1760, the population had reached 1.6 million. This rapid growth was due in large part to Scots-Irish
and German immigrants, who moved into the American backcountry throughout the eighteenth century. Speculation in land, the formation of land
companies, and the speedy settlement of frontier territory brought the English, French, and Native Americans into new kinds of contact with one another.

English colonies were no longer tiny outposts along the Eastern seaboard; rather, they were turning into large, profitable, and well-populated colonies.
The implications of rapid colonial development were not lost on the French, who sought to secure Native American allies against British expansion
through the early 1750s. The French intended to capitalize on their strengths in the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes, areas as yet unsettled by the
British. They constructed a number of forts in the Ohio Valley and encouraged the Iroquois, Shawnee, and Delaware to join them against the English.
Most Native American groups approached by the French were reluctant to fight the English, who provided them with more goods and cheaper prices than
the French. In 1752, in an effort to change that situation, French soldiers and allied Native Americans attacked English trading posts and replaced them
with their own forts.

Matters came to a head in Virginia in 1754, when the British governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, sent men under the young George Washington to
kick the French out of Fort Duquesne, a recently constructed stronghold near the Forks of the Ohio (near present-day Pittsburgh). On the way,
Washington erected Fort Necessity; his defeat of a small French patrol in turn incited the larger French force to surround his encampment and force his
surrender. The remnants of Washington’s army straggled back to Virginia.

The English response to the French threat was not particularly encouraging. Colonial leaders and representatives of the Iroquois gathered at the Albany
Congress in 1754. This was a halfhearted attempt to forge a bond between the different English colonies and draw the Iroquois into the English camp.
The congress accomplished little, other than to prove that agents of different colonial land companies were already carving up Iroquois territory by signing
questionable deals with minor polities.

The French and Indian War began on July 3, 1754, with a defeat by the French of British colonial troops at Fort Necessity, a small stockade in the
mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. The colonials were commanded by 22-year-old George Washington. (Fort Necessity National Park)
In Europe, British and French officials were already busy planning an all-out war for North America. In 1755, the British sent Edward Braddock and 2,200
men to capture Fort Duquesne. Meanwhile, the French sent 3,000 men to Louisbourg and Quebec. Braddock’s campaign proved disastrous to the British.
A force of around 1,000 French and Native Americans ambushed Braddock’s regulars 10 miles from the fort, killing or wounding about half the men,
including Braddock, who died of his wounds four days after the battle; the French forces suffered minimal casualties of their own.
Braddock’s arrogance and unwillingness to use Native American allies (only eight scouts accompanied the expedition) in his campaign was a major factor
in this disaster. One Native American scout recalled that Braddock treated the natives like animals and ignored their advice.
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