Causes of the French and Indian War


The 'Join or Die' woodcut of Benjamin Franklin, from May 9, 1754, warning what would happen if the colonies did not unite against the French threat .


There was lingering hatred between the French and English after the earlier colonial wars . At the start of King William's War in 1689, the British allies, the Iroquois, attacked the French settlement of La Chine near Montreal before the French were aware that war had been declared.


 The War That Made America: A Country Between (Episode 1/4)

Louis de Frontenac


The Governor General of New France, Louis de Frontenac (1622-1698) responded by attacking isolated English settlements with his Indian allies and holding prisoners for ransom .These raids created a climate of fear in the colonies and against the Catholic church. The English felt the Catholic missionaries encouraged the Indians to attack the Protestant English . One of the most famous French missionaries was father Sébastian Rale (1657-1724). Rale, was a Jesuit missionary and lexicographer who worked among the eastern Abenaki in the contested Kennebec River region in what is now Maine. Father Rale was widely suspected of inciting the tribe against the English because their settlements and blockhouses encroached on Abenaki land. He was killed by an English expedition against the Indians in 1724.


Death of Father Rale


The frontier war was conducted without pity or mercy, with scarcely a pretense of regard for the amenities of civilized warfare. Neither side was particularly scrupulous, each side  kept up a terrible outcry against the other for doing the very same thing which it did itself. English writers have held up their hands in holy horror at the atrocious conduct of the French in sending savages to burn villages and massacre women and children on the English border. Yet was it not an English governor of New York who in 1689 launched the Iroquois thunderbolt against Canada, one of the most frightful Indian incursions known to history ? It does not appear that the conscience of either Puritan or Catholic was in the slightest degree disturbed by these horrors. Each felt sure that he was fighting the Devil, and thought it quite proper to fight him with his own weapons.  


In the mid-18th Century, as England and France battle over control of Canada, an epic romance between a peasant woman and a trapper unfurls.


While the French, however, prudently refrained from gross violations of international law, they were nevertheless quite willing to incite the Indians to attack the English. Vaudreuil, the governor of Canada, expressly declared that it was convenient to maintain a secret alliance with the Indians, since the latter might inflict much damage upon the English, while the French could disclaim all responsibility for their acts.  The word guerrilla comes from this era of  French and English conflict in the New World, derived from la petite guerreo, a phrase used by Governor Frontenac to describe the strategy of using Indians to raid English settlements.


Indians allied with the French carry off their English captives

Captives were usually held for ransom, called 'redeeming' captives at the time. Besides being killed, scalped, raped, etc, one of the greatest English fears was to be taken by Indians and turned into a 'savage.' Rape was not as common as believed as many Indian warriors did not find European women attractive and rape was seen as deviant behavior in many tribes . It was common to torture captives in Indian warfare with flaying,burning, forcing captives to eat severed parts of their own body or being forced to run between two rows of warriors armed with clubs. These attacks caused reprisals from the English and a desire to expel the French who armed the Indians and encouraged such attack. Captivity narratives such as The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) and John William's The Redeemed Captive (1706) were some of the first 'best sellers' in colonial America.



 Captives in American Indian Wars


 Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson Part 1/3



 Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson Part 2/3



 Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson Part 3/3

Sebastian Rale -A Maine Tragedy (1906)




An account of Peter Williamson who was captured by Indians from his Pennsylvania farmhouse in 1754 yet managed to escape and fight in many battles in the French and Indian War .


Most Indian attacks on frontier settlers were hit and run raids. Settlers would usually construct a stockade in the area they could run to outwait an Indian attack


Wilderness Empire

Whipped to a frenzy by the French, the Iroquois were cutting a swath of desolation from New York to Virginia. Terrified settlers banded together, no match for the Indians' cunning. Cabins were burned, entire families massacred, victims scalped, captives tortured. Yet, in the end, the Iroquois would pay the highest price.


Since the end of King George's War in 1748, both France and England desired to expand into the rich Ohio River Valley, which was formally unclaimed by either side . The British established the Ohio Company to develop trade in the area. The French regarded this as an attempt to claim the entire area and sent in troops and built forts to prevent the British from settling the area . There were also tensions among the Acadians in Nova Scotia . The French built forts which the British felt violated the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748.


The French were also encouraging the Acadians, a French speaking people who found themselves under British rule as a result of the treaty in 1713, to agitate for independence .


English Advantages and Armed Forces


King George II (1683-1760) relied on the advice of his ministers such as William Pitt. The global victories during his reign would establish England as a major world power.


The English had numerous advantages over the French when the war began. One was the alliance between the English and the Iroquois, which was made up of the six Indian nations of the Cayuga, Seneca,Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and the Tuscarora.


 Iroquois Confederacy (First Democracy of the Americas)The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Haudenosaunee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People of the Long House. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations.


England was stronger as a naval power and English settlers outnumbered French settlers greatly , with the English having over a million settlers in its 13 colonies and France having an estimated 60,000 on the St. Lawrence River and 6,000 on the Gulf coast . The British had about 2,500 regular troops in North America in 1754 . Many of the troops that were to fight in the war were colonial militia troops raised in America . Most males between the ages of 16 and 60 were members of a local militia . In 1759, there were roughly 17,000 provincial troops enlisted. they were not as disciplined or well trained as British regular troops .


Enlistment document for an English colonist in the

 French and Indian War era .

For a larger image click here .


French Advantages and Armed forces 

map of French forts and cities in New France


King Louis XV (1710-1774) was destined not to maintain

the empire established by his great grand father Louis XIV


The French held an extensive system of forts in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes region. Unlike the English settlers with their independent local governments which were difficult to organize in time of war, the French had a single royal system of command . There were no elected assemblies in New France and it was considered a province of France. Decisions were made by local magistrates and corruption was rampant . The French system was the autocratic one without the local autocrat ; for the functions of the governor and the intendant overlapped each other, and all disputes had to be referred to Quebec, where the functions of another governor and another intendant also overlapped each other. If no decision could be reached at Quebec, and the question at issue was one of sufficient importance, the now double imbroglio would be referred to the Supreme Council in France .


The idea was to prevent any one man from becoming too strong and too independent. The result was to keep governors and intendants at perpetual loggerheads and to divide every station into opposing parties. The ablest man in either of the principal posts was the notorious intendant ( The Intendant controlled the colony's entire civil administration. The Intendant was in charge of  settlement, economic development, and to the administration of justice . ) François Bigot ( 1703 - 1778 ), whose main goal like many administrators in New France was to get rich and go home. He was charged with corruption after the fall of New France and spent 11 months in the Bastille before escaping to Switzerland .


There was less population pressure on the land in France, leading to fewer people feeling the need to try for a better life in a far off land .The French, having less settlements than the English , came into less conflict with the Indians and were able to establish a strong network of Indian allies . French trappers, hunters and traders were at home in the forests where many of the battles of the war would be fought and developed tactics suited to the wilderness . The uniformed French troops in New France at the start of the war were the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, marines because New France was under the administration of the French Navy . The French troops wore white and blue uniforms. Many of the French officers were familiar with frontier warfare and had served in outposts in the wilderness .The French often attacked with mixed parties of Canadian militia and Indian allies, led by regular officers and regular soldiers . They were able to combine European organization with the Indians knowledge of the land and stealth to great effect .As in the English colonies, most men aged 16 to 60 served in the local militia .In 1750 the militia totaled around 13,000 men .


Coin of New France. The livre was the currency of New France. New France currency also made extensive use of paper money



 French Colonization of North America



 Origins a history of Canada Part 9 Empire Builders - New France

France had penetrated deeply into the interior of North America through such noteworthy explorations as Samuel de Champlain in the Great Lakes and Robert Cavalier La Salle who reached the Gulf of Mexico by going down the Mississippi River in 1682. Captain de la Verendrye established trading forts on the Canadian prairie and went as far west as Wyoming by the 1730s . Unlike England, France had few coastal cities and forts in North America, except for the naval base of  Louisbourg, built in 1720 and Mobile and New Orleans . The mainstay of New France was the fur trade, which was maintained through a wide network of forts from the gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico .


The Fall of New France

Handsome book extensively illustrated with paintings, sketches, and color photographs of important sites and artifacts relating to the war, historian Ron Dale offers a narrative encompassing all sides of the conflict and important sites and fortifications.




 The Indian Nations