French and Indian Wars

Britain and American Colonies — versus — France and Algonquin Indians

King William's War — 1689-97     Queen Anne's War — 1702-13     
King George's War — 1744-48      Seven Years' War — 1752-62     

The French and British had rival claims to North America, and from the mid 1600's, fought an almost continuous series of border wars, often through their proxies, the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians. These wars between the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard, and the French, whose power bases were forts built throughout the St. Lawrence seaway and Great Lakes region, became more intense when France and Britain were formally at war with each other, but continued to some extent, even during times of official peace.

Massacre at Machilimackinac
After nearly a century of conflicts between the two countries, no permanent resolution was made in the disputed territories. The British colonies continued to thrive, the population increased, and new settlers arrived constantly to settle the frontiers. Meanwhile, the French built more forts, sent more missionaries among the Indians, and established a thriving fur trade. The wars caused property damage and loss of life, but did not deter either nation from their colonial activities.

Finally, between 1758 and 1760 the tide turned strongly in favor of the British and the French were driven from North America. This dramatic turn of events had largely to do with a concerted effort made by William Pitt who as Secretary of State, took charge of Britain's war effort during the Seven Year's War. Although this was a European War, Britain's primary interest in it lay in contending with France for domination in the Americas and in India. It was in these theatres that Pitt focused most of his efforts, and a series of brilliant victories ensued. Long term, the victory of the British was probably inevitable because the native population of the British colonies was vastly larger than that of the French. But judged on a military basis, the French were more united and made far better use of their Indian allies. The war would likely have continued stalemate had not Pitt interjected a new energy into the project of driving France from the continent.

French and Indian Wars : 1689-1748

Surrender of Louisbourg
Between 1689 and 1748 Britain and France fought three wars against each other on the European Continent. In the Americas, these were known as "French and Indian Wars" although officially, they corresponded to the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-1697), War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), and War of the Austrian Succession (1744-1748). Most of the pitched battles of these wars occurred in Europe, but the open hostilities between the nations gave occasion of innumerable raids and massacres on villages, farms and forts. On the French side, most of these raids were conducted by Indians and coureurs de bois (runners of the woods—half-breed bush-rangers, often the sons of French fur-traders and their Indian wives), rather than large bodies of European troops. On the British side, they sometimes involved colonial militias, but also often relied on British naval support, since primary targets of the British were Canadian settlements on the St. Lawrence Seaway. To complicate things further, the British colonists also were allied with the Iroquois, and the French, with the Huron and Algonquin Indians, and these tribes were also perpetually at war with each other. Because of these factors, the line between Indian raids, and French directed aggression into British territory was not entirely clear, and even between the three "official" wars between France and Britain, there was no definite cession of hostilities. That said, the major events of the early French Indian Wars were as follows:

War of the Grand Alliance a.k.a. King William's War (1689-1697)

During the late 17th century, the great French governor of Canada was Frontenac. He was ordered by the King of France to attempt to take New York, and so initiated a series of Indian raids on towns along the Hudson Valley, most notably Schenectady. In retaliation, Britain sent a fleet to bombard and attempt to take Quebec. Both these efforts came to nothing.

War of the Spanish Succession a.k.a. Queen Anne's War (1702-1713)

The War of the Spanish Succession went relatively well for Britain, both in Europe and in the Americas. Largely due to significant British naval support, the British were able to take several outlying posts in Canada, including Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and several forts on Hudson Bay. They failed however, to take forts along the French stronghold the St. Lawrence Seaway. On land, the southern colonists were attacked by the Spanish at Charleston, since Spain still claimed the Carolina territory. When the final treaty was signed, Britain was allowed to keep all of its conquests in Canada, and Carolina was also officially ceded.

War of the Austrian Succession a.k.a. King George's War (1744-1748)

During the relatively long period of official peace between 1713 and 1744, the French increased the size of their settlements in the regions surrounding New Orleans, and built several new forts along the Mississippi valley. Now the French power base spread all the way from the Great Lakes to the mouth of the Mississippi. However, when hostilities resumed between the two countries, the most desperately fought regions remained, as in previous wars, the New England regions of Maine, New Hampshire, and upstate New York. The greatest event of this war, was the capture of Fort Louisbourg in the French region of Nova Scotia, by a colonial militia from Massachusetts. Much to the indignation of the colonists, the fort was returned to France at the close of the war, in exchange for Madras, a trading point the French had captured from the British in India.

There were innumerable raids and massacres during these wars, but very few pitched battles. Harbottle mentions only the taking of Fort Louisbourg, during the War of the Austrian Succession, but various other battles are mentioned in the Story Links.

DateBattle Summary
Siege of Louisburg (Seven Years War ) Colonists victory
This place, the strongest fortress in America, was captured June 16, 1745, by a force of New Englanders, under Pepperel, aided by a naval force under Commodore Warren.

Short Biography
Count Frontenac Governor of New France from 1672 to 1698. Expanded fur trade, and fought with British.
Sir William Phips Colonial Governor who tried to drive the French out of Quebec during King William's War.
William Pepperell Led a colonial militia on a successful raid on Fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia.

Story Links
Book Links
Canada as a Royal Province  in  Canada: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Half-Century of Conflict  in  Canada: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
King William's War and Queen Anne's War  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
How a Bold Answer Saved Quebec  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
How the Union Jack was Hoisted upon the Fort  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Knight of New France  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Count Frontenac  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Struggle for North America  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge

French and Indian War : 1753-1762

Battle of Quebec
All the 18th century wars between France and Britain in the continent were called "French-Indian Wars", but the main conflict known by this name is the one fought between 1753 and 1762, that was associated with the Seven Year's War in Europe. Even before the fighting broke out in Europe there were territorial disputes between France and England in North America and the American hero George Washington figured prominently in them. The French built a fort in Pennsylvania territory claimed by the British and in 1753 Washington was sent to negotiate a peaceful solution. However, the French refused and several minor battles followed. Britain then sent General Braddock to lead an expedition to capture Ft. Duquesne, a French settlement in the region, which ended in disaster.

Another event that occurred early in the conflict was the forced migration of over 6000 Arcadians, who refused to take a loyalty oath to Britain, out of Nova Scotia. Many died or starved in transition. Several thousand moved to Louisiana territory, and were later known as "Cajuns".

Overall, the early years of the war went badly for the British, not just in North America, where several important forts were lost, but also in Europe. By mid 1757 however, William Pitt assumed the position of Secretary of State and from that point on, the tide turned. He appointed young, energetic and ambitious generals in place of senior, but ineffective ones. These new generals included General Wolfe, who masterminded the British Conquest of Quebec, and General Amherst, who lead the American effort to a series of critical victories resulting in the complete withdrawal of the French government from all of its territories in America. By 1760, only three years after Pitt took control of war affairs, all of North America east of the Mississippi was in British hands.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Great Meadows (Seven Years War ) French victory
Fought July 3, 1752, between 350 Virginians, under Washington, and 700 French, under Coulon de Villiers. The Virginians occupied a square log enclosure, known as Fort Necessity, where they resisted the French attack for nine hours, till lack of ammunition forced Washington to surrender. The Virginians lost 60 killed and wounded; the French considerably less.
Battle of Youghiogany (Seven Years War ) Colonists victory
A skirmish of no importance in itself, but notable as being "the shot fired in America which gave the signal that set Europe in a blaze", and was in a sense the cause of the Seven Years' War. On May 27, 1754, Washington, with 40 Virginians, surprised a small French detachment, under Coulon de Jumonville, despatched probably as a reconnaissance by Contrecoeur from Fort Duquesne. The detachment, with one exception, was killed or captured.
Siege of Beausejour (Seven Years War ) Colonists victory
This fort in Nova Scotia, held by a garrison of 460 men under Duchambon de Vergor, was invested June 4, 1755, by 2,000 Massachusetts volunteers and a small force of regulars under Colonel Monckton. On the 14th the besiegers opened fire, and on the 16th the garrison surrendered.
Battle of Monongahela (Seven Years War ) French victory
Fought July 9, 1755, between 900 French and Indians, under Contrecoeur, and about 1,400 British and Virginians, under Braddock. The English were attacked shortly after crossing the river, and though the officers and the Virginians fought gallantly, the troops, ignorant of Indian warfare, gave way to panic, and after three hours' fighting, were driven across the Monongahela, with a loss of 877 killed and wounded. Of 86 officers, 63 fell, including Braddock, who was mortally wounded. The French lost 16 only; their Indian allies somewhat more heavily.
Battle of Lake George (Seven Years War ) Colonists victory
Fought September 8, 1755, between 1,500 French and Indians, under Baron Dieskau, and 2,500 New England militia, under Colonel William Johnson. A small force sent by Johnson to the relief of Fort Lyman was ambushed by the French and driven back to camp, but Dieskau pursuing, was repulsed in his attack upon the camp, with a loss of about 400. Dieskau himself was wounded and captured. The loss of the New England men during the day was 216 killed and 96 wounded, most of whom fell in the ambush.
Siege of Oswego (Seven Years War ) French victory
This place, held by a garrison of 1,400 Provincial troops, under Colonel Mercer, was besieged by the French, under Montcalm, August 11, 1756. After a bombardment of 3 days in the course of which Mercer was killed, the place surrendered. The losses on both sides were very small.
Battle of Louisburg (Seven Years War ) British victory
Louisburg, having been restored to the French, was invested June 3, 1758, by a force of 11,600 British troops, under General Amherst, and a fleet of of 41 ships of war, under Admiral Boscawen. It was defended by 3,800 French regulars, besides Indians and armed citizens, under the Chevalier de Drucour, while in the harbour were 12 ships of war, with crews numbering 3,000 men. Owing to heavy weather no siege guns were landed till the 18th, but by July 20 a practicable breach had been effected, whereupon the garrison surrendered. During the siege the defenders lost 1,200 men killed or died of disease, while the prisoners numbered 5,637, and 239 guns and mortars were taken. Wolfe, who commanded a brigade, specially distinguished himself.
Battle of Trout Brook (Seven Years War ) British victory
A small skirmish, in which the advance guard of Abercromby's army, marching on Ticonderoga, fell in with a French scouting column, 350 strong, under Langy, July 6, 1758. The French lost 150 killed and wounded and 148 prisoners, and the affair would be without importance but for the fact that Lord Howe, who was the brain of Abercromby's staff, was killed in the fight. His death was followed by the disaster of Ticonderoga, and as Parkman says (Montcalm and Wolfe, chap. xx.): "The death of one man was the ruin of fifteen thousand."
Battle of Ticonderoga (Seven Years War ) French victory
Fought July 8, 1758, between Montcalm, with 3,600 French and Canadians, and the British, 15,000 strong, including 6,000 regulars, under General James Abercromby. Montcalm was strongly intrenched on a ridge in front of Fort Ticonderoga, his position being furthered strengthened by an abatis. Abercromby made no attempt to turn the position, but without waiting for his guns, ordered the regulars to take the lines by storm. Notwithstanding the gallantry of the troops, who advanced six times to the assault, the position proved impregnable, and Abercromby was forced to withdraw, with a loss of 1,944 killed and wounded, the French losing 377 only. The 42nd Regiment (Black Watch) showed conspicuous bravery, losing half the rank and file, and 25 officers killed and wounded. On July 22, 1759, a British force of 11,000 men under General Amherst, arrived before Ticonderoga, which was held by about 3,500 French and Canadians, under Bourlamaquc.
On the 23rd, Bourlemaque withdrew to the Isle-aux-Noix, on Lake Champlain, leaving only 400 men, under Hébécourt, with instructions to hold Amherst before the place as long as possible. On the 26th, however, Hébécourt set fire to the magazine and retired.
Siege of Fort William Henry (Seven Years War ) French victory
This fort, held by 2,200 British and Colonial troops under Colonel Monro, was besieged, August 4, 1757, by Montcalm, with 6,000 French and Canadians and 1,600 Indians. Montcalm's batteries opened on the 6th, and on the 9th, having lost 300 killed and wounded, and nearly all his guns being disabled, Monro surrendered. He was to be permitted to retire unmolested to Fort Edward, but the French were unable to control their Indian allies, who attacked the unarmed column as it retired. Before order was restored, some 50 had been killed, and 400 carried off prisoners by the Indians.
Siege of Fort Frontenac (Seven Years War ) British victory
This place, held by about 110 French troops, under Noyan, was captured by Colonel Bradstreet with 3,000 Colonials, August 27, 1758. The capture was of extreme importance, as it robbed the French of the control of Lake Ontario, and severed their communications with their posts on the Ohio.
Battle of Grant's Hill (Seven Years War ) French victory
Fought September 14, 1758, when Major Grant, with 800 Highlanders, and Provincials, attacked a body of Indians in the French service near Fort Duquesne. He was repulsed, and in turn attacked by the garrison of the Fort, 3,000 strong, under M. de Ligneris. Grant was totally defeated, losing 293 in killed, wounded and prisoners, and was himself captured.
Siege of Niagara (Seven Years War ) British victory
This fort was besieged in June, 1759, by 2,500 British, with 900 Indians, under General Prideaux, the garrison consisting of 600 French, under Captain Pouchot. Prideaux was killed by the premature explosion of a shell, and Sir William Johnson succeeded to the command. On July 24, when the garrison were almost in extremis, an attempt to relieve the fort was made by 1,300 French and Indians, under Ligneris, but he was repulsed by Johnson with considerable loss, at La Belle Famille, and Pouchot at once surrendered.
Siege of Quebec (Seven Years War ) British victory
This city was besieged June, 1759, by 9,000 British troops, under General Wolfe, assisted by a fleet of 22 ships of war, under Admiral Holmes. The place was defended by about 16,000 French, under Montcalm. Wolfe was too weak numerically for an investment, and his object was to draw Montcalm into an engagement. On July 31 he was defeated in an attack on Montcalm's lines outside the city, but on September 13, having landed above Quebec, he met and defeated the French, who evacuated the place on the 17th. After defeating General Murray, April 27, 1760, the Chevalier de Levis laid siege to Quebec, with about 8,000 French and Canadians. The garrison consisted of no more than 2,500 effectives, but owing to the superiority of their artillery, Levis was unable to make any impression on the defenses. On May 15 a small British squadron anchored off the city, and on the following day attacked and destroyed the French ships carrying de Levis' supplies and reserve of ammunition, whereupon he hastily raised the siege, leaving behind him 40 siege guns and all his sick and wounded.
Battle of Montmorenci (Seven Years War ) French victory
Fought July 31, 1759, during the siege of Quebec, when Wolfe, with 5,000 men, attacked the entrenched camp of the French, which was defended by 12,000 men under Montcalm. As the British were landing, 13 companies of grenadiers advanced to the attack without waiting for the main body. They were repulsed with heavy loss, which so weakened Wolfe that he decided not to press the attack further, The British loss amounted to 443, almost the whole of which fell upon the grenadiers. The French losses were very small.
Battle of Plains of Abraham (Seven Years War ) British victory
Fought September 13, 1759, when Wolfe, who was lying on shipboard in the St. Lawrence above Quebec, with 4,000 troops, effected a landing secretly in the night of the 12th to the 13th, and took up unperceived a strong position on the Plains of Abraham. Next morning he was attacked by Montcalm, with about equal numbers, but notwithstanding the most desperate efforts, the French were unable to carry the position, and were driven back into Quebec with a loss of about 1,500. Both Wolfe and Montcalm fell mortally wounded. The British loss amounted to 664 killed and wounded. The French immediately afterwards evacuated Quebec.
Battle of Ste Foy (Seven Years War ) French victory
Fought April 27, 1760, between 3,000 British troops, under General Murray, and 8,000 French, under the Chevalier de Levis, who was approaching from Montreal, with the object of recapturing Quebec. Murray marched out to attack Levis, but was defeated and driven back into Quebec with a loss of over a third of his force. The French lost about 800.
Battle of Montreal (Seven Years War ) British victory
This city was surrendered to the British, under General Amherst, by Vaudreuil, Governor-General of Canada, September 8, 1760. One of the conditions of the surrender was that the whole of the French army in Canada and its dependencies must lay down their arms. Canada thus became a part of the British dominions.
Battle of Belle Isle (Defense of Cumae ) British victory
On June 7, 1761, the island was captured by 8,000 British troops under General Hodgson, convoyed by the fleet under Admiral Keppel. After a first repulse, the troops made good their landing, and the garrison of Palais, the principal town, at once capitulated.

Short Biography
George Washington Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
General Braddock Led a disastrous campaign to Fort Duquesne (Ohio) during the French and Indian Wars.
Robert Rogers Leader of a band of mountain men who did great service for Britain during the French and Indian War.
General Montcalm Military leader of New France during the Seven Year War; died at Battle of Quebec.
John Stark 'Hero of Bennington' during the American Revolution. Fought with Rogers' Rangers during French Indian War.
Israel Putnam Outspoken and adventure-loving soldier. Participated in both French-Indian and Revolutionary Wars.
General Wolfe Defeated the French at the Battle of Quebec, giving Canada to Britain. Died during battle.
James Abercromby Commander-in-chief of British forces during French and Indian Wars. Relieved after disastrous expedition to Fort Ticonderoga.
Jeffery Amherst Commander-in-chief of British forces during French and Indian Wars. Captured Louisbourg and Montreal.

Story Links
Book Links
Old French War  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Story of a Captive  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Roger's Rangers  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Indians and Major Putnam  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
How A Terrible Disaster Befell the British Army  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
End of French Rule in America  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
War of the Boundary Line  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Perils of the Wilderness  in  Historical Tales, Vol I: American  by  Charles Morris
Some Adventures of Major Putnam  in  Historical Tales, Vol I: American  by  Charles Morris
Gallant Defense  in  Historical Tales, Vol I: American  by  Charles Morris
French and Indian War  in  American History Stories, Volume I  by  Mara L. Pratt
George Washington Stands Fast  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin
On Braddock's Bloody Field  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin
George Washington, Soldier and Patriot  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

The most conspicuous figure on the field of carnage
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

Braddock's Force Surprised
 in Stories from English History, Part Third

Indians attacking the settlers
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Major Waldron's terrible fight
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Scene of Operations—French and Indian Wars
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Garrison-house at Oyster River successfully defended
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Braddock's defeat
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Indian raid on a settlement
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Capture of Fort Duquesne
 in Indian History for Young Folks

An Indian Ambush
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Major Robert Rogers
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Ruins of Ticonderoga
 in Indian History for Young Folks

The retreat of the Rangers
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Fort Stanwix (afterwards Fort Schuyler) and vicinity
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Siege of Fort Meigs
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Ruins of Fort Louisburg
 in The Hanoverians

The surrender of Louisbourg
 in Canada: Peeps at History

Shouting their war-whoops, they dashed at him
 in The Story of Captain Cook

Indian Attack and Gallant Defence
 in Historical Tales, Vol I: American

My name is George Washington.'

Washington was here, there, everywhere

The English Route to Fort Duquesne
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

The French and English Forts of the Western Frontier
 in Builders of Our Country: Book II

Attacking the French Hiding Place
 in Builders of Our Country: Book II

Braddock's March
 in Builders of Our Country: Book II

The defeat of the Iroquois by Champlain and his party on Lake Champlain
 in A Book of Discovery