Washington Marches

Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia warned the French, but was ignored. In response he sent George Washington to expel them and Washington marched. Building forts as he stopped, Washington built a fort which he called Fort Necessity after the British drew first blood killing 10 French and capturing 22 others. The French attacked him (an act of war) and defeated him on July 3-4, 1754.

Washington and his men were sent back to Virginia on Parole (they cannot raise arms against France or their allies for the rest of the war) and the English began to realize what they had on their hands.

The English government sent Edward Braddock to take Fort Duquesne to solve this once and for all. Edward Braddock was a veteran of the European wars but not Americas. One British officer mentioned that "this is no longer war - it's murder." But only if you didn't understand the ways.

The main tactics of the day were to line up in ranks two or three deep and have the front rank kneel and fire at the enemy at fifty yards away, followed by the rank behind it firing above their heads. This was the only pattern of fire that the British redcoat knew - and they lost very few battles in Europe because of it. But this was not Europe.

Braddock and Washington (who could not fight) conducted a spotless march to Fort Duquesne where he just had to cross the Monongahela and his army of 1,400 men and 15 artillery pieces to attack 108 French regulars, 146 Canadians and 600 natives.

It should have been easy work, but crossing the river, the French were late arriving. The Canadian militia fled at the first volley and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Cage, instead of pushing to safety in a nearby clearing, held his ground.

Braddock, running up to see what was happening, was followed by his army and soon confusion reigned over the river, with soldiers pushing forward and retreating. The natives occupied the high ground and started using the cover of trees to fire at the British.

Braddock could still have gotten his troops to sweep on either side of the march and they would have reached Fort Duquesne. The American militiamen either fled like their Canadian counterparts, or laid low. While this was happening, the British regulars, true to their training, held their ground and fired at a flash - only to have their bullets go through the trees.

The British did charge - at a great cost only to have the natives work their way around to a new position. With Braddock's force routed and with Braddock fatally wounded, the war looked for Britain even though Nova Scotians captured Fort Beauséjour and Fort Gaspareau and William Johnson winning the first engagement of the Lake Champlain corridor with American colonials and natives of the Iroquois against Baron de Dieskau.

The English with 3,500 colonials and 400 natives and French with about 1,500 Canadians and 1,500 regulars, were on a collision path and Dieskau realised this first. Putting the natives on one flank and the French Canadians on the other, the Americans walked right into a trap. But both sides had members of the Iroquois confederacy on their sides and they were forbidden to kill each other.

As the story goes, a French native warned the English and the firing began before the Americans were in the trap. The English were routed as they streamed back to the base of Lake George and circled his supply wagons and waited.

Dieskau lined up his regulars and marched them forward. The Canadians and natives refused to attack the fortified wagons, but Dieskau marched and a Bunker hill like charge happened. The French regulars had heavy causalities and Dieskau was wounded and later captured by the Americans.

With the capture of Dieskau, Louis XV sent the master of defence - Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm - to New France with a detachment of soldiers and in Britain, John Campbell, Earl of Loudoun was sent.

The main victory of the campaign went to England which expelled the Acadians from New Brunswick where they had lived for 150 years. The reason was that they were French and spies but they had good reason not to be after the hardships that they went through without the help of France.

Even before Montcalm arrived, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil (who was now the governor of New France) was planning to capture the only British post on Lake St. Louis (Ontario) - Fort Oswego (Chouagen).

With the formal declaration of war on France on May 17, 1756, the Royal Navy was free to capture the French ships and make sure that few reinforcements reached New France. The Royal Navy did this with devastating efficiency.

Vaudreuil, still wanting to capture Oswego, sent small detachments of Canadians and natives to cut communications with the outside. Montcalm, returning from Fort Carillon (the chimes because of the falls nearby) laid plans for the attack.

On August 13, Montcalm had seized the heights above Oswego and placed his artillery on the heights. The 1,100 colonials did not have a chance and surrendered on the 14th at 10am. The goods gained more than made up the loss of France in earlier campaigns: 122 cannons, 8,000 balls, 1,800 rifles, 2,950 bullets, 1,476 grenades and 450 bombs with enough provisions to supply an army on a drive to Quebec City.

But in 1756 the main victory went to Britain, whose parliament had elected William Pitt to become First Minister. George II now had an able Minister whose only goal was the capture of America.

In the Lake Champlain corridor in 1757, Montcalm marched to Fort William-Henry (where Dieskau was captured) and besieged it. With 8,000 fighting men, Lieutenant-Colonel Munro did not have a chance and surrendered six days later. After surrendering, the British and Americans were ambushed by Montcalm's native allies. (Accounts vary, so I will not commit to a number - Read James Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans).

But the door was slowly closing of New France and Montcalm had to act fast. But instead of following his momentum to Fort Edward - the last post before Albany and then New England - he retired to Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga).

In 1758, the Royal Navy slammed the door shut on France with the help of Frederick the Great of Prussia fighting against France, Austria and Russia. Spain was also at war with Britain, but after the defeat of the Armada in 1588 and Rocroi, where Louis II de Bourbon, duc d'Eighien broke the spirit of the Spanish army - forever in 1643 before going on to serve on as one of France's greatest marshals.

Fort Duquesne would be taken with a force of 6,000, Louisbourg would be captured by a force of 14,000 and James Abercromby who had a force of 30,000 soldiers would march up the Lake Champlain corridor. It would only be a matter of time for the 6,800 regulars of France.

The campaigning season opened with Abercromby marching to Fort Carillon and attacking with infantry against an abatis placed on the heights above Ticonderoga. The attack was doomed from the start as 20,000 to 25,000 British attacked Montcalm who rejoiced at the news of 400 regulars to augment his force.

Wave after wave of redcoats marched forward only to be stopped by the abatis. Only to stop and be picked off by the French, the British lost 550 dead and 1355 wounded with 27 missing to the French losses of 106 dead and 266 wounded.

It was at Fort Carillon where the French soldiers raised their hats on their bayonets in a tactic that would be repeated in many western movies. Montcalm himself had two bullet holes in his hat.

France sending reinforcements to New France had most of its 20 ships fall into the hands of the Royal Navy - another sign of its superiority. Lord Jeffrey Amherst (with a young general named James Wolfe) and Admiral Edward Boscawen reached Louisbourg with 12,000 sailors and 13,000 soldiers.

Louisbourg commanded the approach through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and was the largest fortress of North America. Louis XV, seeing the rising costs of building it, said one day he would look out of Versailles and see it in the west.

In fact the fortress of Louisbourg had a serious defect. That was that the base was made of soft limestone. The result of this was that when the French fired their guns, they furthered the destruction of Louisbourg along with the moisture in the air eating away at the base.

Deciding to surrender Louisbourg under full honours of war, Governor Drucourt had his request refused and the regulars decided to fight on till the last man. But the townspeople refused and demanded that Drucourt surrender. The regulars burnt their colours and the gates were opened to the British. With the fall of Louisbourg, the gate to Quebec was wide open.