French and Indian War

From Ohio History Central
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The French and Indian War (1754 -1763) was one in a series of wars fought between England and France beginning in the late 1600s. What made the French and Indian War different from the earlier conflicts was that it began in the New World. All previous wars had begun in Europe, and with the exception of King George's War (1744 ' 1748), no battles had been fought in the New World. Most of these conflicts began because each side hoped to gain trade or military advantages in Europe as well as in various European colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

The reason why the French and Indian War began in the New World involved the Ohio Country. Both the English and the French claimed the land west of the Appalachian Mountains. Beginning in the 1740s both countries had merchants engaged in the fur trade with the Native Americans in Ohio. By the 1750s, English colonists, especially the investors in a venture called The Ohio Company, also hoped to convert the wilderness into viable farms.

In the 1750s, the French and the English each moved to deny the other access to the Ohio Country. In the early 1750s, French soldiers captured several English trading posts. They also built Fort Duquesne (modern-day Pittsburgh) so that they could defend their territory from English threats. A Miami village called Pickawillany in what is now western Ohio hosted English traders. The French and their Indian allies destroyed it in 1752.

In 1754, George Washington and a small force of Virginia militiamen marched to the Ohio Country to drive the French from the region. Hoping to capture Fort Duquesne, Washington quickly realized that the fort was too strong. Washington retreated a few miles from the fort and constructed Fort Necessity. If he could not drive the French from the area, he would at least contest their presence with his own stockade. A combined force of French soldiers and their native allies overwhelmed Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754, marking the start of the French and Indian War in the New World. England did not officially declare war until 1756, although the conflict had actually begun two years earlier.

The next few years witnessed French successes on the battlefield against the English, including General Edward Braddock's defeat in 1755. The major reason for the French victories was their Native American allies. Ohio Country natives enjoyed trading with both the English and the French. However, most tribes feared the large number of British colonists in North America. Natives west of the Appalachian Mountains feared that the number of English colonists would continue to grow. As the English population increased, the Indians believed that white settlers would seek their fortunes in the west, driving the natives from their land.

In 1757 the tide turned in favor of the English. William Pitt, the English Prime Minister, determined that the best way that England could defeat the French in Europe was first to conquer the French in the New World. In 1758, sizable numbers of British soldiers arrived to carry out Pitt's plan. With colonial assistance, British soldiers captured Fort Duquesne that year. In 1759, the English captured both Fort Niagara and Quebec, France's major city in the New World. Montreal fell the following year, leaving England in control of France's possessions in North America.

The French and Indian War continued in Europe, Africa, and Asia for three more years. In 1763, both sides signed the Treaty of Paris (1763), which formally concluded the war. The end result in the New World was France's loss of practically all of its colonies in North America to the English. England now owned most of modern-day Canada and most of the land between the Atlantic seaboard and the Mississippi River. Although French territory now belonged to England, the British did not have firm control over most of it. Native Americans, including those in the Ohio Country, stood ready to defend their territory from the colonists' westward expansion. Most tribes hoped that friendly trading arrangements could be made, but they also feared the large number of English colonists in the New World.