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French and British Rivalry, The French and Indian War

Chief Pontiac, Plains of Abraham, Louisbourg, new settlements, Bay of Fundy

With the outbreak of the French and Indian War, Britain began a relentless attack on France’s colonies. The conflict began in the Ohio Valley, where traders from the 13 colonies were beginning to settle. This British expansion threatened Louisiana’s links with the rest of New France. The British also threatened the French on the Atlantic coast. In 1755 Britain rounded up and deported some 7,000 Acadians, destroying the century-old Acadian society of Nova Scotia. The Acadians were replaced by settlers from New England, who occupied the productive diked farmlands that the Acadians had created by the Bay of Fundy. Some of the deported Acadians were sent to France, and some eventually went to Louisiana, where their present-day descendants are known as Cajuns. Some retreated to the woods to avoid being sent away and settled farther north on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After 1764 the British allowed some deportees to return, and in the last part of the 18th century a few came back to join the refugees in these new settlements.

For several years New France’s forces, led by the experienced French general the Marquis of Montcalm, held their own against the large and very costly assault by British forces. In a global military contest, Britain was compelled to devote one-seventh of its army—20,000 soldiers—to face down a few thousand French troops, supported by militia and indigenous allies, in North America. But Louisbourg fell in 1758, and its population was deported to France. In 1759 three British armies pushed toward the St. Lawrence heartland. After a summer-long siege of Quebec, the young British general James Wolfe won the battle of the Plains of Abraham and captured the city. Montreal fell the following summer and New France came under British rule.

The conquest did not end all the fighting. The final stage was a widespread indigenous campaign in the spring of 1763, under Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa, against the western posts where British garrisons had recently replaced the French. Most of these posts were in the southern and western territories of Canada that now form the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The indigenous nations of the area resented the 13 colonies’ westward expansion onto their lands, and joined the uprising to force them back. However, they were unable to sustain their attack or to sever British supply lines.

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