French and Indian Wars
For more than 75 years, conflict roiled Europe and the new world colonies. Four wars over this period defined the future of the American colonies, the relationship with Native Americans, and finally, America’s destiny. Welcome to this Mometrix video on the French and Indian Wars, a period characterized by conflict and lust for power. In this video, we’ll review the four French and Indian wars, their causes, and how the colonies became embroiled in them.
Let’s take a look at each of these wars individually.
The Nine Years War
The Nine Years War was a battle between France and the Grand Alliance countries of England, Scotland, Dutch Republic, Duchy of Savoy, Spanish Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Swedish Empire, and the Kingdom of Portugal. King Louis XIV of France had emerged as the most powerful monarch in Europe following his victory in the French-Dutch war that ended in 1678. In 1688, King Louis invaded the Rhineland to expand his country’s borders, and that started the Nine Years War. The incursion so angered other European powers they formed the Grand Alliance.
King William’s War
The war spilled over into North America where it was known as King William’s War after the English monarch at the time. In North America, the French and English fought over the economically important fur trade. English colonists allied with the Iroquois and had more fighters but suffered losses against the more organized French, who were backed by local militias and their Native American allies, especially the Algonquins and Abenakis. The Nine Years War ended in Europe in 1697 but continued in American colonies for a few years.
Since combatants fought the war in Europe and North America, some historians refer to the Nine Years War as the first global conflict.
The War of Spanish Succession
The War of Spanish Succession broke out in 1701 over the issue of who would rule Spain. King Charles II of Spain died without an heir in 1700 and in his will he gave the crown to Prince Phillip. King Louis XIV named Prince Phillip, his grandson, King of Spain, with the goal of merging Spain and France into one superpower. Europe was already nervous about France’s strength, and the plan to create an even more dominant state caused more friction. As a result, England, Austro-Hungary, and the United Provinces, led by Hungary, embarked on a war that lasted until 1714.
In the colonies, the conflict was known as Queen Anne’s War and was the second French-Indian war. Native American tribes aligned with different sides as the French and English continued to battle for control of the colonies.
The three-front battle saw Spanish Florida fighting against the English in the Carolinas while English and French forces, each supported by Native Americans, fought in Alabama. The battle was so fierce that the war nearly killed off South Florida’s native population. In New England, colonists fought the French and their native allied partners. France didn’t want England expanding into what is now southern Maine. And lastly, the English at St. John’s, Newfoundland, engaged the French in largely economic warfare over control of the small Canadian island. The French took St. John’s in 1709, but the English took it back when France left the island.
The war ended in the colonies in 1713, with France giving territory to Britain in exchange for keeping some territory. But there was one important omission. The treaties ending the war did not take into account the concerns of Native Americans, an omission that would result in future wars.
The War of Austrian Succession
The War of Austrian Succession started with a simple question – can a woman succeed her father on the throne? When Austrian Monarch Charles VI died in 1740, his daughter Maria Theresa was next in line to take the throne. But Salic law noted women were prohibited from inheritance, giving European powers yet another excuse to go to war. Britain, the Dutch, and others supported Maria Theresa while France, Prussia, and Bavaria challenged her power.
King George’s War
In the colonies, King George’s War was an offshoot of the fighting in Europe and became the third French Indian war, taking place mostly in British colonies. The most significant fighting occurred when Massachusetts governor William Shirley organized an expedition that took a French fortress in Nova Scotia. A treaty signed in 1748 gave the fortress, called the Fortress of Louisbourg, back to France but accomplished little else. Overseas, another eight years of fighting ended with Maria Teresa ascending to the throne.
French and Indian War
Just six years later, France embarked on a conflict that was the beginning of the end of a French presence in the colonies. In 1754, the French and Indian War started, with French forces battling colonists, and each side once again supported by different Native American tribes. English colonists had the support of Iroquois, Catawba, and Cherokee tribes, with French colonists receiving backing from several tribes including the Shawnee, Ottawa, and Algonquin. France was vastly outnumbered, with 60,000 colonists compared to more than 2 million English, forcing France to heavily rely on its native allies.
As with many of the conflicts of the day, the fighting started over border disputes. The war gave birth to a military legend by the name of George Washington. In 1754, at the age of 22, Washington ambushed a French patrol at the Battle of Jumonville Glen in 1754.
The beginning of the war went badly for the English forces, whose attacks on France proved futile. French forces and their native allies proved too powerful. Nova Scotia’s British government collapsed in 1757 as Native Americans massacred colonists.
But then there was a change. William Pitt took control of the British forces and decided to increase resources against France. By this time, France was embroiled in the Seven Years War in Europe and didn’t want to divert attention to the New World. Britain captured French Canada but what happened in the colonies was equally monumental. Great Britain gained possession of French territory east of the Mississippi, and the French ceded territory west of the Mississippi to Spain as compensation for losing Spanish Florida to the British. The end of the French and Indian War in 1763 marked the end of France’s desire to colonize America and marked Britain as the dominant power in the colonies.
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