French & Indian War
     Part 1 ~ 1754

   aka ~ Seven Years War

     1754 - 1763

    Unlike the previous three wars which were started in Europe and extended to the colonies in the New World, the French & Indian War started in America and spread, two years later, to Europe. In Europe, it would variously be called the Seven Years War or the Great War For Empire. The French & Indian War would be fought primarily on three fronts: the Ohio Valley in western Pennsylvania, the Fort Niagara region of New York, and Nova Scotia.

    In the interim between the end of King George's War (1748) and 1754, both the French and the English were expanding their boundaries. Friction was inevitable as those boundaries pressed against each other.

    The English were more aggressive than the French in expanding their boundaries. The French were primarily concerned with establishing and maintaining fur trapping and trading posts while the English were interested in increasing the size of the commonwealth. In the north, the English settlements on Nova Scotia were expanded to include the region of present-day New Brunswick and the Gaspe Peninsula. It was during this period that Lord Halifax organized the settlement of the town of Halifax by 2,500 English settlers.

    The Ohio Valley was the scene of more intense expansion. The Ohio Company was established in the fall of 1748 to treat with the Indians of the Ohio Valley and purchase land and trading rights from them. At about the same time, two men, George Croghan and Conrad Weiser, traveled as representatives of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to meet with the Indians of the Ohio Valley and attempt to negotiate a treaty of peace and commerce. Virginia also had her eyes on the Ohio Valley. A group of settlers from that colony founded the settlement of Draper's Meadows. The settlement was the first permanent English settlement west of the Allegheny Divide.

    On 16 March 1749, the Ohio Company received a grant of 200,000 acres of land lying between the Ohio and the Great Kanawha Rivers and the Allegheny Mountain range from the English Privy Council. A royal charter was granted by King George II on 19 May for the lands in the Ohio Valley.

    On 13 June 1752, the Treaty of Logstown was signed between the Iroquois League of Six Nations, Delaware, Shawnee and Wyandot tribes and representatives of the Virginia colony and the Ohio Company. The treaty, in addition to confirming the alliance between the Indian tribes and the English, laid claim to the lands south of the Ohio River for Virginia. The Indians agree to the proposal of the English to build a fort in the region. When the French received word of the treaty, they enlisted the aid of Ottawa and Ojibway Indians and attacked the major English trading post of Pickawillany in an effort to scare off the English. In the attack the Miami chief, Demoiselle, was killed along with thirteen Indian warriors and an English trader.

    The French, alarmed at the intrusion of the English into the Ohio Valley, began to construct fortifications along the major waterways and to fortify previously established trading posts. The settlement of Toronto was fortified in 1749. Fort Presque Isle (present-day Erie), Fort Le Boeuf (present-day Waterford) and Fort Venango (present-day Venango) were erected in what is present-day northwestern Pennsylvania.

    Then, in a surprising turn of events, both the Iroquois and Delaware broke the Treaty of Logstown and declared themselves to be allied to the French. The show of force that the French had made in fortifying the region impressed the Indians.

    On the 31st of October 1753, Robert Dinwiddie, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia dispatched a party under the command of a twenty-one year old major named George Washington to the Ohio Valley. The party's mission was to travel to the fort at Le Boeuf to discover the intentions of the French, and to present a letter to inform the French that their fort was situated on English soil, and that they would have to leave. Washington was guided to the Ohio Valley by Christopher Gist, a notable frontiersman. His party also included Jacob Van Braam, a Dutch interpreter; Tanacharisson, i.e. Half King, an Indian sachem; and three other sachems of the Iroquois Six Nations. It took Washington and his company a few weeks to reach the Ohio Valley. They traveled to Fort Venango and then to Fort Le Boeuf.

    According to George Washington in entries in his Journal dated between 31 October and 11 December 1753:

"I was commiピioned and appointed by the Honourable Robert Dinwiddie, Eヒ; Governor, & c., of Virginia, to viナt and deliver a letter to the Commandant of the French forces on the Ohio, and テt out on the intended Journey the ヂme day: The next, I arrived at Frederickッurg, and engaged Mr. Jacob Vanbraam, to be my French interpreter; and proceeded with him to Alexandria, where we provided Neceピaries. From thence we went to Wincheフer, and got Baggage, Horテs, &c; and from thence we purブed the new Road to Will-Creek, where we arrived the 14th of November.
Here I engaged Mr. Giフ to pilot us out, and alバ hired four others as Servitors, Barnaby Currin and John Mac-Quire, Indian Traders, Henry Steward and William Jenkins; and in company with thoテ perピons, left the Inhabitants the Day following.
The exceピive Rains and vaフ Quantity of Snow.
As I got down before the Canoe, I パent バme time in viewing the Rivers, and the Land in the Fork; which I think extremely well ナtuated for a Fort, as it has the abバlute Command of both Rivers...
About two Miles from this, on the South Eaフ Side of the river, at the Place where the Ohio Company intended to erect a Fort, lives Shingiピ. King of the Delawares: We called upon him, to invite him to Council at the Logg-Town.
We met in Council at the Long-Houテ, about 9 o'clock...
We found the French Colours hoiフed at a Houテ from which they had driven Mr. John Frazier, and Engliド Subject. I immediately repaired to it, to know where the Commander reナded. There were three Officers, one of whom, Capt. Joncaire, informed me, that he had the Command of the Ohio: But that there was a General Officer at the near Fort, where he adviテd me to apply for an Anヘer. He invited us to ブp with them; and treated us with the greateフ Complaiヂnce.
The Wine, as they doテd themテlves pretty plentifully with it, バon baniドed the Reフraint which at firフ appeared in their Converヂtion; and gave a Licenハe to their Tongues to reveal their Sentiments more freely.
They told me, That it was their abバlute Deナgn to take poピeピion of the Ohio, and by G-- they would do it: For that altho' they were テnナble the Engliド could raiテ two Men for their one; yet they knew their Motions were too ネow and dilatory to prevent any Undertaking of theirs. They pretend to have an undoubted Right to the River, from a Diツovery made by one La Salle 60 Years ago; and the Riテ of this Expedition is, to prevent our テttling on the River or Waters of it, as they had heard of バme Families moving-out in Order thereto.
At 11 o'Clock ( 05 December ) we テt out for the Fort, and were prevented from arriving there till the 11th by exceピive Rains, Snows, and bad Traveling, through many Mires and Swamps. Theテ we were obliged to paピ, to avoid croピing the Creek, which was impoピible, either by fording or rafting, the Waters was バ high and rapid."

    On 12 December, Washington delivered his message to the French commander, Captain Legardeur de St. Pierre de Repentigny. According to Washington:

"I prepared early to wait upon the Commander, and was received and conducted to him by the テcond Officer in Command. I acquainted him with my Buナneピ, and offered my Comiピion and Letter: Both of which he deナred me to keep till the Arrival of Monナeur Riparti Captain, at the next Fort, who was テnt for and expected every Hour.
This Commander is a Knight of the military Order of St. Lewis, and named Legardeur de St. Pierre. He is an elderly Gentleman, and has much the Air of a Soldier. He was テnt over to take the Command immediately upon the Death of the late General, and arrived here about テven Days before me.
At 2 o'Clock the Gentleman who was テnt for arrived, when I offered the Letter, &c, again; which they received, and adjourned into a private Apartment for the Captain to tranネate, who underフood a little Engliド. After he had done it, the Commander deナred I would walk-in, and bring my Interpreter to peruテ and correct it; which I did.
13th) The chief Officers retired, to hold a Council of War; which gave me an Opportunity of taking the Dimenナons of the Fort, and making what Obテrvations I could.

    De Repentigny suggested to Major Washington that the Virginians accompany him to Quebec to present the letter to the governor of Canada. Washington declined the offer and instead returned to Virginia, arriving at Williamsburg on the 16th of January 1754 after a very harrowing journey. (His party was ambushed and attacked by French Indians. Later, Washington fell from his raft into icy cold water when he was unbalanced attempting to push ice out of the raft's path.)

    During the following spring, Governor Dinwiddie sent a party of woodsmen to construct a fortification at the confluence of the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela Rivers. The governor intended that two companies, of one hundred men each, to be commanded by Captain William Trent and Major George Washington. The entire expedition was to be managed by Colonel Joshua Fry. As it happened, Fry remained in Virginia, for one reason or another, and the actual management of the expedition was laid on Trent and Washington. Colonel Fry was destined to die on 31 May from a fall from his horse. He would be replaced by Governor Dinwiddie with Colonel James Innes of North Carolina, but Innes did not even reach Winchester until late in June, and no record is given of his participation in the events that were played out in western Pennsylvania.

    Governor Dinwiddie issued a proclamation, sanctioned by King George II, that five thousand acres of land situated along the Ohio River would be divided among all those who participated in the expedition. The proclamation angered the General Assembly of Pennsylvania because it believed that the lands to be given away belonged rightfully to that colony and not to Virginia for the giving. (The dispute was settled when Governor Dinwiddie assured the Pennsylvania Assembly that if the boundary line between Virginia and Pennsylvania should eventually be settled, the quit-rents received for the lands would be paid to the proprietary of Pennsylvania instead of to the Crown.)

    As soon as Captain Trent got a company of about fifty men raised, he set out for the lands at the forks that is occupied by the present-day city of Pittsburgh. The Virginians arrived there on 17 February, and began to construct a fort on the site. It was intended to be named Fort Prince George. They were thusly engaged yet on 16 April 1754 when a large French force, under the command of Claude Pierre Pecaudy, Sieur de Contrecoeur, appeared. At the time, Trent and his lieutenant were away, and Ensign Edward Ward was left in charge with forty-one men. George Washington, by that time (15 March), had received a Lieutenant Colonel's commission and orders to march to the forks of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers to assist Trent in the construction of the English fort. Washington was at Wills Creek (present-day Cumberland, Maryland) on the 25th of April, when Ensign Ward and his men arrived there. He noted the following in his Journal:

"Captain Trent's enナgn, Mr. Ward, has this day arrived from the Fork of the Monongahela, and brings the diヂgreeable account, that the fort, on the 17th inフant, was ブrrendered at the ブmmons of Monナeur Contrecoeur to a body of French, conナフing of upwards of one thouヂnd men, who came from Venango with eighteen pieces of cannon, ナxty batteaux, and three hundred canoes. They gave him liberty to bring off all his men and working-tools, which he accordingly did the ヂme day."

    At the time of the French takeover, the English had completed only one structure - a storage building, apparently not intended to be a defensible structure. Contrecoeur proceeded to finish the construction of the fortification begun by the English, which he enlarged and then christened, Fort Duquesne.

    George Washington, in letters to Horatio Sharpe, governor of Maryland, and Governor Dinwiddie, noted the increasing numbers of French and their Indian allies in the region.

(27 April to Horatio Sharpe) "Beナdes the French herein mentioned we have credible information that another party are coming up Ohio. We alバ have intelligence that 600 of the Chippoways and Ottoway Indians are marching down Scioto Creek to join them."
(09 May to Robert Dinwiddie) "We Daily receive Intelligence from Ohio by one or other of the Traders, that are continually retreating to the Inhabitants with their Effects; they all concur, that the French are reinforced with 800 Men; and this day, by one Kalender, I received an acc't, which he テts forth as certain, that ther is 600 at the Falls of Ohio, from whence they int'd to move up to the lower Shawno Town, at the mouth of Sciodo Ck. To Erect other Fortreピes...The French down the River are sending presents and invitations to all the neighbouring Indians and practising every means to influece them in their Interest."

    In the meantime, the Virginians courted the Catawbas and other "southern Indians" to side with them against the French.

    While George Washington contemplated what his next move should be, word was received from his Indian ally, Half-King that confirmed other reports he had been receiving that a large body of French had left the Forks and were advancing toward the Virginians who were encamped at a place called the Great Meadows. Of the encounter that followed, on 28 May 1754, Washington wrote the following in his Journal:

"About eight in the Evening I received an expreピ from the Half-King, who informed me, that as he was coming to join us, he had テen along the road, the tracks of two men, which he had followed, till he was brought to a low obツure place; that he thought the whole Party of French was hidden there. That very moment I テnt out forty men, and ordered my ammunition to be put in a place of ヂfety, fearing it to be a Stratagem of the French to attack our Camp: I left a guard to defend it and with the reフ of my men, テt out in a heavy rain, and in a night as dark as pitch, along a path ツarce broad enough for one man; we were バmtime fifteen or twenty minutes out of the path, before we could come to it again, and we would often フrike againフ each other in the darkneピ: All night long we continued our route, and on the 28th, about ブn-riテ, we arrived at the Indian Camp, where after holding a council with the Half-King, we concluded to attack them together; so we テnt out two men to diツover where they were, as alバ their poナtion, and what バrt of ground was thereabout; after which, we prepared to ブrround them marching one after the other, Indian faドion: We had advanced pretty near to them, as we thought, when they diツovered us; I ordered my company to fire; my fire was ブpported by that of Mr. Waggoner, and my company and his, received the whole fire of the French, during the greater part of the action, which only laフed a quarter of an hour, before the enemy were routed.
We killed Mr. De Jumonville, the Commander of the party, as alバ nine others; we wounded one, and made twenty-one priバners, among them whom were M. la Force, M. Drouillon, and two cadets. The Indians ツalped the dead, and took away the greater part of their Arms, after which we marched on with the priバners under guard, to the Indian camp, where again I held a council with the Half-King; and there informed him, that the Governor was deナrous to テe him, and was expecting him at Wincheフer; he anヘered that, he could not go juフ then, as his People were in too imminent a danger from the French, whom they had attacked; that he muフ テnd runners to all the allied nations , inviting them to take up the Hatchet..."

    To Governor Dinwiddie, Washington wrote on 03 June:

"There was 3 French Deテrters met a few days [ago](one an Englishman) at Loyal henning, going to Virg'a, by one Crawford, a Man of veracity, who was aピur'd by them that there was two Major traders confined in Irons at the Fort when Sieur De Jumonville was Detach'd; and at the ヂme time that he departed for this, another Party of 50 was テnt down Ohio to Kill or take Priバners of all the Engliド they'd met with. They alバ aピure us that Jumonville has all choテn Men fixed upon for this Enterpriテ. They likewiテ c\nfirm the report the priバners gave, that 1,100 men were now in the Fort, and Reinforce'ts expected.
If the whole Detach't of the French behave with no more Reバlution than this choテn Party did, I flatter myテlf we ドall have no g't trouble in driving them to the d--- Montreal. Tho' I took 40 men under my com'd when I marched out, yet the darkneピ of the night was バ great, that by wandering a Little from the main body 7 were loフ, and but 33 ingag'd. There was alバ but 7 Indians with arms, two of which were Boys one Dinwiddie, Y'r Hon'rs God Son, who behav'd well in action. There were 5 or 6 Indians, who テrved to knock the poor, unhappy wounded in the head, and bereiv'd them of their ツalps. So that we had but 40 men, with which we tried and took 32 or 3 men, beナdes others, who may have eツaped. One, we have certain acc't did."

    To his brother, John Augustine Washington, George wrote:

"Since my laフ arrived at this place, where three days ago we had an engagement with the French, that is, a party of our men with one of theirs...The battle laフed about 10 or 15 minutes, with ドarp firing on both ナdes, till the French gave ground and ran...I fortunately eツaped without any wound, for the right wing, where I フood, was expoテd to and received all the enemy's fire, and it was the part where the man was killed, and the reフ wounded. I heard the bullets whiフle, and believe me, there is バmething charming in the バund."

    In what was to be the opening volley of the French and Indian War, the Virginians sustained only one man killed and, as noted by Washington in his letters, "two or three" wounded in the skirmish with the French near their camp at Great Meadows. The death of Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville greatly enraged the French. Jumonville's brother, Louis Coulon Ecuyer, Sieur de Villiers, was summoned from Montreal to avenge his brother's death. Villiers arrived at Fort Duquesne, along with a body of Indians he had recruited along the way, on 26 June. When he arrived, he found that a company was preparing to march against the English under the command of Chevalier le Mercier. The command was transferred to Villiers instead. Before the party departed from the fort, Contrecoeur held a council with the Indians who had joined the French. They included warriors of the Abenakis, Algonquin, Delaware, Huron, the Indians of Saut St. Louis, Iroquois of La Presentation, Nipissings and Ottawas.

    In the meantime, Governor Dinwiddie sent another company of men, the Independent Company of one hundred men from South Carolina, under the command of Captain James MacKay to reinforce Washington. Dinwiddie's original intention (according to a letter he sent to Washington on 25 June) was for Colonel James Innes to assume overall command of the English forces (as a result of Joshua Fry's recent death), for Washington (in the rank of Colonel, as noted in a letter dated 25 May) to be second in command, for Captain Thomas Clarke (with an independent New York company) to be third in command, and finally Captain MacKay to serve as fourth in command. MacKay, though, was an officer of the British Royal Army and was of the opinion, like most other Royal Army officers, that he should not take orders from any colonial, regardless of that colonial's rank. Washington wrote to Governor Dinwiddie on 10 June 1754 to express the situation he had been placed in. The letter reveals one of the problems that would contribute to the rift between the colonies and Great Britain two decades later.

"Your Honour may depend I ドall myテlf, and will endeavor to make my Officers ドew Capt. McKay all the reパect due to his Rank and merit, but ドould have been particularly oblig'd if your Honour had declar'd whether he was under my Command or Independent of it: however, I ドall be フudious to avoid all diパutes that may tend to publick prejudice, but as far as I am able, I will inculate harmony and unanimity. I hope Capt. McKay will have more テnテ than to inナフ upon any unreaバnable diフinction, tho' he and His have Com'ns from his Majeフ: let him conナder tho' we are greatly inferior in reパect to profitable advantages, yet we have the ヂme Spirit to テrve our Gracious King as they have, and are as ready and willing to ヂcrifice our lives for our Country's as them; and here once more and for the laフ time, I muフ ヂy this Will be a cancer that will grate バme Officers of this Regiment beyond all meaブre, to テrve upon ブch different terms, when their Lives, their Fortunes, and their Characters are equally, and I dare ヂy as effectually expo'd as thoテ who are happy enough to have King's Commiピions..."

    George Washington had determined to continue with the assault on the French at Fort Duquesne. He made his way to the homestead of the noted Indian trader, Christopher Gist, some thirteen miles from the Great Meadows. In order to do so, he had to cut a road through the dense forest that covered the Laurel Hill. It took Washington's men nearly two weeks to cut the road. At Gist's homestead, Washington's troops were set to constructing entrenchments under the assumption that the French were on their way there for the next confrontation. Some forty Indians arrived at the camp, ostensibly to join the Virginians; they brought additional news from the west. They left soon after, though. It was discovered later that some of those Indians had come as spies for the French. After learning that additional reinforcements had reached Fort Duquesne, he held a council of war with his officers. At the council, held on 27 June at the home of Christopher Gist, it was decided to call for MacKay's Independent Company, still at the Great Meadows encampment to join Washington's troops. But during a subsequent meeting held the following morning, the decision was made to retreat to the Great Meadows encampment.

    Washington returned to his camp at Great Meadows on 01 July and began in earnest to strengthen the fortifications that had already been constructed at that place. The men felled trees to increase the breastworks and dug trenches throughout that day. The site was okay for an encampment, but not necessarily suitable for a fort. The ground was somewhat swampy and it was surrounded by hilly ground. The troops were too fatigued to travel further, though, so it was here that Washington determined to make a stand. He named the fortification: Fort Necessity.

    Early in the morning of July 2, 1754 an alarm was sounded be a sentinel who had received a wound from the approaching French forces. Around nine o'clock word was received that a force of nearly nine hundred French soldiers had been sighted not more than four miles away. By eleven o'clock the French, under the command of Coulon de Villiers, a brother of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville who was slain in the May 28 battle, arrived and took up a position within the cover of the woods about six hundred yards of the fort and began a musket fire.

    Colonel Washington assembled his men on the level, open ground before the trenches to wait for the frontal assault that he assumed the French would commence. But that assault never came about. Apparently the French hoped to lure the English to come into the wooded area, and thereby take them at a disadvantage. Sensing what was up with the French, Washington ordered his men to move back into the trenches and to fire at their own discretion. It began to rain and fell heavily all day, which of course caused problems for the colonials' flint-lock muskets. On top of that, the rain was so heavy that for periods of time the combatants could not see anything but a few yards distant. The English had brought nine swivel guns with them from Gist's, but they had been mounted on the fort's rampart, and were so unprotected from the enemy's higher position on the hillside that they were practically useless. The stalemate continued until night came on; then the firing revived briskly and continued until eight o'clock that evening, when the French finally called for a parley. Coulon de Villiers, in explaining why he had called for a ceasefire, later made the statement that:

"As we had been wet all day by the rain, as the バldiers were very tired, as the ヂvages ヂid they would leave us the next morning, and as there was a report that drums and the firing of cannon had been heard in the diフance, I propoテd to M. Le Mercier to offer the Engliド a conference."

    Washington feared that the request by the French was simply a ruse to be able to get one of their officers into Fort Necessity to discover their condition, so he refused the offer. Upon the second call by the French, suggesting that Washington send an officer into their ranks as a show of faith, he relented and agreed. Captain Van Braam was chosen, since he was the only person in the group who professed to be able to speak French (other than the Virginia Regiment's Ensign Chevalier de Peyrouny, who was wounded and disabled). Van Braam returned from the French camp with a written list of the articles of capitulation offered by Villiers. The articles were translated and read by Van Braam in the pouring rain, by the light of sputtering candles. Some critics later claimed that Van Braam secretly wanted to defect to the French side; they said he mistranslated one section of the articles, but who was to know? As such the English agreed to the terms and despite his lower rank, Captain MacKay insisted on signing the document first, ahead of Colonel Washington, because he held a royal commission and therefore seniority in such matters.

    The part of the articles of capitulation which was deemed mistranslated was the seventh article which read, in the French: "Que comme les Anglois n'ont en leur pouvoir un officier, deux cadets, et generalement les prisoniers qu'ils nous ont fait dans l' assassinat du Sr de Jumonville..." The phrase, l' assassinat du Sr de Jumonville, was translated by Van Braam to read "the death of the Sieur de Jumonville" rather than correctly as "the assassination..." The signature of George Washington on the document was claimed by the French as proof of criminal intent because they maintained that Jumonville had been shot dead by Washington himself, who led the English column, as he attempted to read a letter from Contrecouer.

    The articles of capitulation called for the removal of the English from the region, but that they should be provided with the honors of war, being permitted to take with them one of their swivel guns and all their personal property including their own hand weapons. Realizing that the English had no horses or cattle with which to carry their baggage because the Indians had killed them all, the French agreed to let them hide whatever they wished and come back for it when they could obtain the necessary animals. The French would provide a guard against the Indians pillaging such goods.

    The English began their retreat from Fort Necessity the following morning, 03 July. Half-King and his warriors had decamped during the night, fearful of retaliation from the other Indian tribes for having assisted the English. As the English trudged eastward along the road that they had cut across the Alleghenies only months before, the Indians began to taunt them with threats of attack and they started plundering their baggage, but the French restored order, and the English escaped unharmed. The French returned triumphantly to Fort Duquesne, on the way burning the buildings at Christopher Gist's trading settlement and other structures that the English had built to serve as storage buildings along Redstone Creek.