Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Wars are a part of any history. Every country has had its share of them. One of the very first ones in American history was the French and Indian War. Now, if you are big into American history you could probably mention a few other incidences that were fought but this war was the very first one in the New World that began in the New World. (Note: The name of this war is misleading since the war was not between the French and Indians. It was named after the enemies of the British though many tribes did fight for the British. The French call the war the War of the Conquest since the British took over the majority of French lands in the New World.)
Most skirmishes that occurred in the Americas were just spillovers from the wars in Europe. If there was a problem over territory in the colonies, it was usually fought over in Europe. This war reshaped America and literally was a catalyst for launching the New World on a course to be a great power.
The stage was set for a major confrontation. There were three main powers vying for territory in the New World. Spain had land and they were looking for gold. England had established colonies that were focused on tobacco and were expanding into the fur trading business. The French had a stake in the fur trading and pioneered much of the early explorations of the land in search for more fur. No matter how large the land was there was going to be a conflict soon. It was just a matter of time.
The Ohio Valley was a very desirable section of land. It was comprised of what we have today in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Carolinas, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The land was rich and the wildlife was plentiful. The English had claimed the Virginias and the Crown had awarded land to several financial companies to expand the tobacco industry and to capitalize on the fur trade which was beginning to boom across Europe with the wonderful furs the Americas possessed. The French had claimed what is now Canada. The Spanish were deeper south. The trouble began when the French began to look longingly at the Ohio Valley and decided that they had to have it.
This area had not been too well mapped yet, and the French did not have any alliances in that region. The Indians from the Canadian areas were working with the French. The ones located in the Ohio Valley did not even know the French existed. Their experience was mainly with the British that were located nearby. To resolve this issue Celoron was dispatched in 1750 to survey the area and remove the British presence in the Ohio Valley. When Celoron encountered any British, they were ordered to leave because they were now in French territory. When he discovered tribes, he tried to form alliances by ordering them to stop trading with the British and only work with the French. This did not go over too well with the natives. They did not like being told who they could and could not trade with and that the French owned the land they lived on. Celoron did not meet with much success though he did map out the area a little better so that the French had an idea of how vast the land and the resources were.
After Celoronís return, another expedition was sent out using his information. When the tribes continued to resist French ownership of land and trade, blood was shed. The village of Pickawillany in todayís western Ohio was comprised of the Miami tribe. They stood firmly in their rights to their own land and to the right of trading with whomever they wished. They desired to continue their relationship with the British and not with the newly arrived French. Their punishment was bloodshed as the French attacked them for not conceding to French authority. The British stood by as their allies died and did nothing. Relations with all Europeans began to decline rapidly.
In 1754 the colonies are introduced to George Washington. No one knew at the time that this young man was to become one of the most renown colonists of all time. He was sent by the British to go through the Ohio Valley and remove all French influence. He met with little success. On his return he got into a skirmish that many historians call the start of the French and Indian War. War erupted throughout the Ohio Valley and the areas up to Canada as the French had begun to build forts to stake their claims. The British would have none of that. The last of the fighting ended in 1760 though officially it did not end until 1763 when the Treaty of Paris was signed. The results? Major shifts in the New World.
The French lost Canada to Britain. That is why today there are large populations that speak French while the currency shows Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. The Louisiana territory was signed over to Spain. Britain became the powerhouse of North America. The colonists gained experience that would serve them in their own revolution. The British went into major debt that caused them to ask the colonists for more money to recoup the colonial war costs. This all led to the American Revolution that created a whole new country that would ultimately replace Britain as a world power.
The French and Indian War, or the War of the Conquest, all began with the greed of one nation to claim rich lands. It eventually ended with a new nation and changed the entire western world.