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French and Indian War

During the 18th century, land in North America was controlled by Spain, France and Britain, with Spain controlling Florida, France exerting its power in the northern and central areas and Britain controlling the east. All three nations knew they could not co-exist together peacefully in North America and that this situation which could only be settled by war.

The powerful European nations already were fighting each other for land and money all over the world. These small wars continued for more than one-hundred years and came to be known as King William's War (War of the League of Augsburg), Queen Anne's War, King George's War and the French and Indian War.

The French and Indian War was fought to decide which of Britain or France would become the stronger power in North America, each side relying on its colonists and Indian allies to fight.

The war began with conflicts about land. French explorers had been the first Europeans in the areas around the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and France had sent traders and trappers to these territories and had established trading centers there.

Britain, however, claimed the same land. Land granted in North America by the British monarch was considered to extend from the east coast all the way to west coast, even though where the location of the west coast was unkown at the time. With the east coast becoming increasingly crowded, settlers began migrating westward, destroying in the process the local Indians' hunting areas. These, in turn, became increasingly worried that they would lose the use of their land.

The Indian tribes might have been able to resist the westward encroachment of European settlers had they been united, but internecine conflicts kept them apart. When conflict flared between Britain and France, Indians were divided over who to support with some helping the British and others helping the French.

French settlers lived mainly in what was then called New France, today a part of Canada. Settlers there were required to be French and belong to the Roman Catholic Church. As a consequence, numerous Frenchmen who belonged to Protestant churches resettled in the British colonies. Moreover, France was more interested in the fur trade than in settling the land, and thus did not appreciate the high prices paid by the British to the Indians for animal furs.

Where the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania lies today, the French had built one of their trading forts, called Fort Duquesne. Britain, however, claimed the fort was situated in Virginia on top of land belonging to them. In 1754, the governor of Virginia sent a twenty-one-year-old colonist named George Washington to demand the withdrawal of the French -- the same George Washington who would later become the first President of the United States. The French refused to leave and Washington, along with 150 men, tried to force them out, attacking a group of Fenchmen and killing ten of them, sparking the beginnig of the French and Indian War.

British troops under the command of General Edward Braddock joined George Washington at Fort Duquesne. The British general expected to fight the way battles were fought in Europe with troops lined up on open fields and firing their weapons as they marched toward each other. The French and their Indian allies refused to fight in this manner, preferring instead to hide in the woods, donning clothes that made them difficult to see and shooting at British troops from behind the cover of trees. Though the British outnumbered the French side, the French and Indians nevertheless won the battle of Fort Duquesne, killing in the process General Braddock.

The bulk of the fighting that occured durig the French and Indian War took place along lakes George and Champlain, in the state of New York state near the Canadian border. Lake Champlain is located north of Lake George and reaches almost all the way to the city of Montreal in Canada. Both of these lakes provided the best way to move troops and supplies as few roads existed in North America at that time. As such, these lakes were of vital strategic importance so that whichever military force controlled the lakes and rivers would in turn control much of North America.

French military bases were located in the cities of Quebec and Montreal while the British had military bases along New York's Hudson River. The area between them became the war's battle ground. Following the French defeat by the British near Lake George in the last months of 1755, fighting increased and the French attempted to consolidate their hold on Lake Champlain and its surrounding area by building a new military base on the lake's southern end and named it Fort Carillon. From this position, the French would be able to control both Lake Champlain and the area needed to reach the northern part of Lake George. Designed with providing a strong defense in mind, fortifications consisted of two big walls of logs, several meters apart, the area between the walls being filled with dirt. A strong stone front was latter added. The British troops did not remain idle and themselves built a similar fort at the southern end of Lake George which they called Fort William Henry.

France sent one of its best military commanders to take command of its troops in America, the Marquis de Montcalm. Upon arrival, Montcalm proceeded to attack several British forts in 1757, among which Fort William Henry. The British commander was forced to surrender on the condition that British troops would be treated fairly. That agreement was however reneged upon by the French's Indian allies proceeded to kill possibly more than 1,000 British soldiers and settlers alike.

In 1758, a strong British force attacked Fort Carillon which was under the command of General Montcalm. Thanks to its fortifications, Fort Carillon able, despite the smaller size of its military contingent to defeat the bigger British force. The British withdrew, but renewed their attack the following year, under the command of General Jeffery Amhurst. This time, the British were successful and defeated the French. Fort Carillon was renamed Fort Ticonderoga and became an important military center in the French and Indian War. Fort Ticonderoga would later come to play an important role later America's War for Independence.

With the defeat of the French in Quebec and the signing of a treaty in Paris in 1763, the French and Indian war officially came to an end. The British victorious, took control of land previously claimed by France and which stretched from the east coast of North America to the Mississippi River. Everything west of that river belonged to Spain with France giving all its western lands to Spain to keep the British out. Indians still retained control over most of the western lands, except for some Spanish colonies in Texas and New Mexico.

The end of the French and Indian War however had resulted in large debt that the British Parliament decided would be repaid by a raise in taxes on the colonies, being as tehy were the primary beneficiary of the successful prosecution of the war. Taxes were imposed on a number of items, including legal documents and tea. Stamps were issued to be affixed onto the legal documents and newspapers. Beginning in 1765, protests at the taxes and stamps began to mount in the colonies.



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