5 facts you need to know about the French and Indian War

The French and Indian War is known as the North American theater and the beginning of the Seven Years’ War. The shots fired in Pennsylvania would become the first in the world’s “first global war.” But how much do you know about the early career of George Washington and the catalyst for the American Revolution?

1. It all began in the Ohio River Valley.

(Map via Robinson Library)

With British America slowly grabbing land westward from the colonies and New French creeping south from modern-day Canada, the two were bound to crash into each other. New France ranged from The Saint Lawrence River Valley through Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis, to New Orleans. British America consisted of what would be the 13 colonies, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Rupert’s Land.

Both sides pushed into the Ohio River Valley for it’s vast resources and strategic advantage.

2. The rise of a 21 year old Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George Washington.

Washington as Captain in the French and Indian War by Junius Brutus Stearns (Painting via Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

In 1753, a young George Washington was sent as an emissary to the French officials to deliver the British demands that they leave Ohio Country. On his way, he traveled with “Half King” Tanacharison and three of his tribesmen. After the demands were declined, Washington learned of the French plans to “take possession of the Ohio.”

Washington, Tanacharison, and men from both sides ambushed a camp of 35 Canadiens (French Canadians) under the command of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. Washington himself ordered the shots starting the French and Indian War. After ten French soldiers were killed and 21 captured, Tanacharison, without warning, struck Jumonville in the head with a tomahawk. Historians are unsure why he did this, but he was sold as a slave by the French as a child.

Bonus Fact: If you haven’t been keeping up with your simple math skills, the Battle of Jumonville Glenn was in 1754 and the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 — meaning the war lasted technically nine years. (Great Britain declared it a war two years later. Hence the name.)

3. Both sides found allies in the Native Tribes and other European Kingdoms.

(Map via The Thomson Corporation)

Despite the name of “The French and Indian War,” not all Native Americans fought along side the French. The Iroquois Confederacy chose no side until they joined the British in 1758.

The ragtag colonists that fought along side the British were the inspiration for the song “Yankee Doodle.” Meant as an insult, it became a badge of honor for patriots during the Revolution.

Outside of North America, Great Britain was joined by Prussia and Portugal. While France made allies of Spain, The Holy Roman Empire, Russia, and Sweden.

4. The British lost much of the war until money was poured in.

The monument to William Pitt the Elder, in the Guildhall, London. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

The Brits didn’t have nearly the right supplies or the amount of troops needed to take on France. They were pushed back to the 13 colonies. This changed when William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (and namesake for Pittsburgh, PA) took control of the British war effort. He doubled the British national debt to £140 Million — or £26.46 Billion today, adjusted for inflation. 

Great Britain won the won at the Battle of Quebec. This forced France to sign the Treaty of Paris, establishing British dominance outside of Europe.

5. Great Britain’s war debt is why they taxed American colonies to the point of revolution.

“The Stamp Act Riots at Boston, America, 1765,” initially appeared as a black-and-white drawing for the Historical Scrap Book (Illustration by Cassell & Company)

And how does a nation pay for it’s substantial debt? By taxing the hell out of its subjects, of course!

The Sugar Act and Stamp Act were enacted. These taxes highly punished American colonists for the wars of other nations. This was done without the acknowledgement or consent of the colonists.

In case you didn’t know, American colonists weren’t exactly fans of taxation without representation.

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