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French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America

French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America

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by Walter R. Borneman

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In the summer of 1754, deep in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, a very young George Washington suffered his first military defeat, and a centuries-old feud between Great Britain and France was rekindled. The war that followed would be fought across virgin territories, from Nova Scotia to the forks of the Ohio River, and it would ultimately decide the fate of


In the summer of 1754, deep in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, a very young George Washington suffered his first military defeat, and a centuries-old feud between Great Britain and France was rekindled. The war that followed would be fought across virgin territories, from Nova Scotia to the forks of the Ohio River, and it would ultimately decide the fate of the entire North American continent—not just for Great Britain and France but also for the Spanish and Native American populations.

Noted historian Walter R. Borneman brings to life an epic struggle for a continent—what Samuel Eliot Morison called "truly the first world war"—and emphasizes how the seeds of discord sown in its aftermath would take root and blossom into the American Revolution.

Editorial Reviews

Barry Gewen
The French and Indian War of the mid-18th century is little studied by Americans. Yet it is a conflict with something for everyone — tragic military heroes, foolish and arrogant politicians, daring escapes, massacres, sieges, famine, ethnic cleansing, germ warfare and, of course, lots of Indians…The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America, by the independent historian Walter R. Borneman, is a fast-paced introduction. It will not replace Fred Anderson's sweeping and magisterial Crucible of War, but as its subtitle suggests, it demonstrates just how important the war was in configuring the world we inhabit today. And like Anderson, Borneman shows how transformational it was…:
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Borneman offers an excellent general-audience version of Fred Anderson's Crucible of War (2000), the definitive academic history of the mid-18th-century French and Indian War and its long-term consequences for America and the world. Drawing on a broad spectrum of primary and secondary sources, Borneman (1812: The War That Forged a Nation) argues that the French and Indian War not only made Britain master of North America but created an empire that dominated the world for two centuries. What began in the Ohio Valley in 1755 as the local defeat of a small force under Gen. Edwin Braddock escalated into what legitimately merits designation as the First World War. Borneman connects that complex conflict in North America with events in the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. Although the Native Americans were "the real losers" in the war for their continent, they offered formidable resistance to a developing European hegemony. But the English colonials' discomfiture overshadowed Native Americans', as the settlers were expected to help finance the war but were denied its fruits by being forbidden to claim land west of the Appalachians. Britain's victory in the French and Indian War thus lit the kindling for the American Revolution. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The American Revolution sometimes obscures the importance of the French and Indian War (1755-63), which established British control of North America, gave birth to the British Empire, and ultimately laid the groundwork for the founding of the United States. Historical writer Borneman (1812: The War That Forged a Nation ) has produced a fast-moving popular history of the war. Borneman's work does not break new ground and lacks the depth of Fred Anderson's scholarly Crucible of War, but it does convey the global strategy of the combatants and provides a rich narrative of the important campaigns, battles, and personalities. Oddly, Borneman gives only a few lines to George Washington's controversial battle at Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania, although this was the war's first bloodletting. Borneman concludes by recounting that the British victory brought its own problems in the form of Pontiac's Indian rebellion (1763) and the disaffection of the American Colonies with British postwar policies. All public libraries should consider purchasing this book. Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The French and Indian War (1754-63) established British dominance over France in North America but sowed sufficient local discontent that some colonists began to think the unthinkable: revolution. Borneman's third venture into popular history (1812: The War That Forged a Nation, 2004, etc.), like its predecessors, evinces much reading and a thorough understanding of the people, the places (many of which he visited) and the events. Evident, too, is a sort of narrative ebullience often lacking from more academic accounts (Borneman is a fan of the exclamation mark). And very helpful, indeed, are the many maps distributed throughout, plus a chronology and annotated cast of characters. The author begins in 1748 with a status report: England, France and Spain are competitors in North America; conflict is inevitable. Borneman argues that the English strategy (building settlements, encouraging immigration) was superior to the French (claiming territory, doing little to secure it), but it took nine years of bloodshed, here and elsewhere, to resolve it. (He notes that the conflict could have been called World War I.) Borneman is at his best elucidating battle strategies (especially the pivotal encounter at Quebec) and bringing to life the personalities of some of those famous names-Washington, Montcalm, Wolfe, Howe, Braddock, Pontiac and others who strode that particular stage. He spends considerable time with the famed Robert Rogers (and his fabled rangers), giving credit where it's due but also peeling away layers of legend and chronicling the man's weaknesses. The author also gives much (deserved) attention to the ambitious William Pitt, who recognized more than any other the significance ofwhat was happening across the Atlantic. Like many other accounts, though, Borneman focuses on the English participants. We don't learn enough about what the French were doing and thinking; he doesn't tell us enough about the culture of the various Indian nations involved, though he does offer some sobering details about Indian unpredictability and martial ferocity. Adds color and animation to a familiar but faded photograph.

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The French and Indian War

Deciding the Fate of North America
By Walter Borneman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Walter Borneman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060761849

Chapter One

The Bells of Aix-la-Chapelle

In the fall of 1748, the bells in the venerable cathedral at Aix-la-Chapelle pealed out the welcome news that Europe was again at peace. Europe's warring powers had gathered at the site of Charlemagne's medieval capital in yet another attempt to end their incessant feuds and bring a lasting peace to the continent. But the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle--as has been the case with so many of history's paper pronouncements--failed to resolve gnawing geopolitical realities. The playing field was no longer just the continent of Europe. Increasingly, it was the entire world, and the rival empires that fought on European battlefields were also colliding on far-flung oceans and faraway continents. Nowhere was this truer than in North America.

For more than two centuries, England had lagged far behind its European rivals in coloring in the map of North America. John Cabot sailed the North Atlantic a few years after Columbus's first voyage, but England did little more for decades. Meanwhile, the Frenchman Jacques Cartier circled Newfoundland and probed the Saint Lawrence River as far as the site of Montreal in 1534-1535. Elsewhere, Coronado carried the Spanish banner across the American southwest and de Soto traversed the Deep South between 1539 and 1542. Somewhat belatedly, Elizabeth I ofEngland sent Martin Frobisher on three voyages across the Atlantic in the 1570s to search for the Northwest Passage and reassert Cabot's claims. By then, Spain had already established an outpost at Saint Augustine on the Florida coast in response to French forays into the area.

The continent of North America was never, of course, a universal blank waiting to be claimed, as all Europe deemed it. Numerous Native American nations, some quite powerful empires themselves, held sway over forest, lake, bayou, and river. Like the Europeans, they, too, frequently fought among themselves for territorial rights and other prerogatives. These Native American--or Indian--sovereignties did not deter European incursions, but they certainly made such incursions far more complex and conflicted. (Because contemporary accounts use the term "Indians," it has sometimes been retained here rather than the currently accepted term "Native Americans.")

In 1577, Spain was still the world's leading power, but Elizabeth could not resist probing its weaknesses by dispatching Francis Drake to circle the globe and cause a little havoc on the Spanish Main. Attempts by the English to plant a colony at Roanoke on the Carolina coast withered under the distraction of the Spanish Armada; and by the time three English ships anchored off Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, Elizabeth was dead and England still far behind in the race for a continent.

Three years before, a French company that included Samuel de Champlain had established an outpost at the mouth of the Saint Croix River between present-day Maine and New Brunswick. After a damp and frigid northeastern winter, the post was moved to Port Royal on the northwest coast of Nova Scotia. When Port Royal was temporarily abandoned in 1607, Champlain and a few others refused to return to France and instead followed Cartier's route up the Saint Lawrence and built an outpost under the Rock of Quebec.

Meanwhile, Spanish Florida was thriving despite Drake's burning of Saint Augustine in 1586. Juan de Oñate's efforts at colonization on the northern reaches of Spain's claims resulted in the founding of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1609. That same year, the Dutch entered the competition when Henry Hudson, an Englishman serving under the Dutch flag, sailed the tiny Half Moon up the Hudson River. In 1624, just four years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Dutch West India Company built a trading post called Fort Orange at the future site of Albany, New York.

Thus the seeds of many would-be empires were planted in North America. For a time the vastness of the continent swallowed their meager expansion and prevented major collisions. Then in 1682, Robert La Salle and his men dragged canoes across the portage between the Chicago and Illinois rivers and floated down the Illinois to the Mississippi. Continuing south down the Mississippi, La Salle reached the Gulf of Mexico and on a spot of dry ground at the river's mouth proclaimed the sovereignty of Louis XIV over half a continent. The French already controlled one of North America's strategic arteries--the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes--and now, on April 9, 1682, La Salle grandly claimed another. Henceforth, La Salle asserted, the Mississippi River and its tributaries, "this country of Louisiana," were the domain of France.1

Indeed, by 1700 a look at the map of North America suggested that France held claim to the lion's share. From Quebec, up the Saint Lawrence, across the Great Lakes to Michilimackinac, and down the Mississippi Valley, France constructed a string of trading posts that included Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes in the Illinois country and Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit) between lakes Huron and Erie. Spain was equally well established along the Gulf Coast east and west of Louisiana and was sending expeditions north from Santa Fe into Colorado to counter French claims to the extent of Louisiana. That left England with a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic coast and the Appalachian Mountains.

All this time, the wars of Europe had continued to rage. Their causes were many: covetous territorial appetites, intense religious fervor, uncertain royal successions, and more and more frequently, commercial rivalries in an ever-expanding global marketplace. Before the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Europe's wars had spilled over to North America, but they had been relatively minor sideshows. Three conflicts, however, became enough of an issue in North America that English colonists came to call them by the name of the reigning sovereign.

The War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697) was called King William's War in the English colonies. It pitted an anti-French alliance that included England under William III, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Holland, and a few German states against Louis XIV, who had an appetite for Alsace and Lorraine. . . .


Excerpted from The French and Indian War by Walter Borneman Copyright © 2006 by Walter Borneman. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Walter R. Borneman is the author of Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land, 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, and several books on the history of the western United States. He lives in Colorado.

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French and Indian War 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Father_of_5_Boys More than 1 year ago
This was a decent book and filled in some gaps in my knowledge of pre-Revolution American history. It helped me get a better understanding of these events and put the American Revolution into better context. As a resident of Western Pennsylvania, it's neat to read about a lot of local places too and have a better understanding of their historical significance. This book made me want to read more about the time period and do some more research. As an example, I'm ashamed to say I had never even heard of Robert Rogers before!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall, job well done. The author did a good job making the history engaging.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
sounds and looks like a really good book