The Seven Years War in North America

The Death of Wolfe

The Death of General Wolfe at Quebec

Both France and Great Britain claimed to own the Ohio country, but until the middle of the eighteenth century neither nation had done much to substantiate those claims. Moreover, Native Americans living in the region had their own claims to it. In the 1740s, the French became concerned that Native Americans were strengthening their commercial ties with Pennsylvania and Virginia traders at the expense of those in New France. To stall this trade, the French built a number of forts from Lake Erie to the Forks of the Ohio.

Also in the 1740s, a number of enterprising Virginians and their British partners decided to take advantage of the colony's charter claims to the Ohio country by creating several land companies to gain title to it. One of them, the Ohio Company (of which a third of its members lived in England), in May 1747 received a patent for 500,000 acres near the Forks of the Ohio River. In 1748, the Virginia Council granted 800,000 acres in the Ohio Valley to the Loyal Company. In 1749, the Privy Council, the members of which were impressed with the Ohio Company's potential to check French encroachment, ordered Virginia's lieutenant governor, William Gooch, to grant a further 200,000 acres to the Ohio Company-whether he liked it or not. Virginia's next lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie (who, unlike Gooch, was an Ohio Company shareholder), followed an order from the British government to determine the French presence on the Ohio and, if found trespassing on British claims, to order the French to leave. If they refused to, Dinwiddie was directed to drive them out. After sending George Washington on an unsuccessful mission to warn them away, Dinwiddie raised a force to remove them. Part of those troops, led by a young George Washington, met a larger French and Native American force at Fort Necessity, Pennsylvania. Forced to surrender, Washington unwittingly admitted to assassinating a French envoy. France protested, but Great Britain's response was unapologetic. The British government then sent a small army, under the command of Major General Edward Braddock, to America with orders to retake the Forks of the Ohio. Within five miles of the French fort at the Forks (Fort Duquesne), Braddock's army suffered a disastrous defeat. Braddock was killed and his army was forced to retreat. In May 1756, when Great Brittan declared war on France, what began as a frontier skirmish became a world war.

Until the war's end in 1763, Great Britain waged war against France in central Europe, on the Mediterranean Sea, in the West Indies, on the Indian subcontinent, and in eastern North America. For several years after Braddock's defeat the war did not go well for Britain and its American colonies. Native Americans allied with New France ranged freely along the frontier. Initially, the French and their native allies outfought British and colonial troops. Britain was hard-pressed to raise the men and money necessary to fight the war. The outlook for the war in America changed with the rise to power in Britain of William Pitt. He pushed for much more aggressive-and expensive-measures to combat the French and, more importantly, lifted the entire financial burden of the war off the backs of the colonials. As a direct result, the war swung in favor of the British. 1759 became Britain's Annus Mirabilis, its "Year of Victories," with the capture of Quebec and major victories in Europe, at the battle of Minden, and at sea, at Quiberon Bay. The French surrendered Montreal the next year.

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