The French and Indian War

As Britain grew its 13 American colonies in the 1600s and 1700s and eyed the Ohio Country to the west, France occupied New France to the north and advanced southward into the Ohio River valley. Conflict was inevitable.

It was touched off in southwestern Pennsylvania in May 1754 when men, led by a young George Washington and his native associate, Tanacharison, ambushed a French party sent to warn against British advancement into the Forks of the Ohio River—site of Pittsburgh, today. When British General Edward Braddock did try to reach the Forks the following year, he was killed and British forces were forced to retreat.

What followed was five years and more of fighting along the disputed frontier between the British colonies and New France, stretching from Virginia and Pennsylvania in the south to Acadia, north of Maine. Both sides allied with native tribes in support of ejecting the other. Although Britain’s declaration of war on France in 1756 turned this into the American theater of the worldwide Seven Years’ War, Americans know it as the French and Indian War.

British forces and their native allies finally expelled the French from Fort Duquesne and the Ohio Country in 1758, then pushed north into New France. In the 1763 treaty that ended the Seven Years’ War, France ceded Canada and its territory east of the Mississippi River to Britain.

At war’s end, southwestern Pennsylvania was changed. The roads and forts built in support of the war turned what had recently been wilderness to the gateway to the West.

And the conflict that began in southwestern Pennsylvania ultimately had effects that ripple through history: To pay off its debt for the Seven Years’ War, Britain imposed higher taxes on the colonies—one development that led to the American Revolution.

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