The French & Indian War

The French and Indian war was a war fought between Great Britain and its two enemies, the French and the Indians of North America. Most of the battles were in Canada. American colonists, including George Washington, fought with the British in this war, which lasted from 1754 to 1763. The British won the war and won the right to keep Canada and several other possessions in the New World.

The Colonies in America

People from Europe began coming to America to live in the 17th Century. Spain, France, Sweden, Holland, and England claimed land.

The first French settlement was Quebec, in 1603. It was a large settlement but little more than a trading center, like most other French settlements.

The first permanent settlement in North America was the English colony at Jamestown, in 1607, in what is now Virginia. John Smith and company had come to stay. The Pilgrims followed, in 1620, and set up a colony at Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts.

Other English colonies sprang up all along the Atlantic coast, from Maine in the north to Georgia in the south. France, meanwhile, was taking control of most of eastern Canada. Swedish and Dutch colonies took shape in and around what is now New York.

England forced Sweden and Holland out of the picture in one way or another. Soon, English interests came into conflict with French interests. Disputes arose over the Ohio Territory and parts of Canada. War was approaching.

At first glance, it looked like a mismatch. English troops outnumbered French troops almost 2-to-1. English colonies had their own militias and produced their own food. French settlements had to rely on soldiers hired by fur-trading companies and food from the homeland.

On the other hand, French forces were controlled by a single government and had settlements that were close together and, therefore, more easibly defended. Each English colony had its own assembly government, and the colonies often argued with one another over simple things.

In the early 1750s, French troops arrived in the Ohio Valley. They built a series of forts just west of the Appalachian Mountains. One of the more famous of these was Fort Duquesne. In 1754, a small battle started the war.

Colonel George Washington headed a small force of 150 English militiamen who had been ordered to capture Fort Duquesne. The fort, of course, was guarded by a lot more than 150 men. Washington’s men fired on a French patrol but had to retreat. In their haste, they built a crude structure optimistically named Fort Necessity. A large French force surrounded this “fort” and forced Washington to surrender. They sent him back to Virginia with a message that the Ohio Territory was French territory.

The English responded in force. General Edward Braddock, accompanied by Washington, marched on Fort Duquesne. It was a disaster. While the English troops marched in straight lines, the French troops and their Native American allies fired from behind rocks and trees. This guerrilla tactic was hugely successful. Braddock himself was killed in the July 9, 1755 battle.

An ocean away in Britain, a new prime minister, William Pitt, took over. His strategy for winning the war: take Canada.

Watch the Brainpop movie on the French & Indian War

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