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The French and Indian War (1754-1763)

British Ascension (1758)

The Massacre at Fort William Henry

Battle of Quebec

Summary

In December 1756, William Pitt became the leader of the British ministry. He adopted aggressive new policies that had a crucial effect on the latter half of the war. One of those policies was, in October 1757, to recall the Earl of Loundoun as commander-in-chief of British forces in North America.

The first battle of 1758 was, nonetheless, a failure for the British. They failed to take the Fort at Ticonderoga, despite having a force of 16,000 men to the French's 3,500 troops. The battle was a disaster, due mostly to a lack of British leadership. The only British allies to emerge from the battle with any credibility at all were Robert Rogers' Rangers, who were rapidly gaining fame and success for their skill at scouting, spying, and employing guerrilla tactics against the French.

Pitt's new tactics soon began to take hold, however, and, after Ticonderoga, things quickly began to change for the British. On July 26, 1758, the British finally captured Louisbourg after many attempts. This victory opened the route to Canada. Just a month later the British achieved another victory by taking Fort Frontenac on the shores of Lake Ontario, and thereby cutting off the ability of the French to communicate with their troops in the Ohio Valley. In November, the British captured Fort Duquesne, the site of Braddock's disaster and death. Duquesne was renamed Fort Pitt, after the new English leader, and eventually became known as Pittsburgh, PA.

With Pitt at the helm, England finally began to take advantage of its huge advantage in supplies and manpower, and the tide of the war quickly turned. In May 1759, the British captured the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. Guadeloupe was a wealthy, sugar-producing island and the French would certainly want it back in any peace negotiation—a chip the British planned to use for their advantage. They followed this victory with the seizure of Ticonderoga in June and Fort Niagara in July. The French abandoned their post at Crown Point shortly after, leaving the whole of the western frontier to the British.

Commentary

Unlike previous British generals and rulers, William Pitt did not attempt to force the colonies to comply with British policy by waving the rights of the mother country in their faces. Instead, he asked for their cooperation, and he got it. He also made it clear in court that the way to win the war was not merely by defending the British's existing territory, but by striking at the heart of the French empire and attacking the possessions the French held most dear.

Pitt's policies were aided by a change of heart among a number of the Indian nations. Many abandoned their alliances with the French; some of them going so far as to fight against the French. In October 1758, the British made peace with the Shawnees, the Delaware, and the enormous Iroquois nation. Both the British and the French had for years coveted making an alliance with these three powerful Indian nations. Although all three refused to take an integral role in the fighting, their favor surely boosted the profile of the English with other Indian nations.

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