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The Impulse to the French and Indian War

The Battle of Fort Necessity between France and England marked the beginning of French and Indian war. The French and British colonists immediately after the war of the Austrian succession which was fought between 1740 and 1748 moved closer to armed conflict owing to their desire to expand their territories to the fertile and rich Ohio River valley. Both the French and British considered the area along the Ohio River to be unchartered and therefore formally unclaimed. According to the British, the area was to be open for trade to both sides and thus established the Ohio Company as a result of this claim.

The French viewed this gesture as an attempt by the British to claim the entire area. In response, they sent regular troops and militia to evict any British settler or traders in this region. They also set to build forts. Along the Bay of Fundy in Acadian Nova Scotia, numerous new forts had been established by the French which also raised tension since the British considered these establishments to be in violation of the treaty signed at Aix-la-Chapelle (Marston, 2003). Both the French and the British claimed large areas of land in this section thus making them consider each other as the transgressor.

The relationship that the French government had with the Acadians, a French speaking population who due to treaty agreements had become subjects of the British Crown, compounded the insults offered by these encroachments. The Acadian’s aspirations for independence was deliberately stirred by the French authorities which enraged the British governors. The final straw was the establishment within the disputed area Fort Beausejour which made it clear to the British that they were surrounded by the French. The French intended to enclose the British colonies by constructing a series of forts extending from Louisbourg to New Orleans.

As such, hostility which existed between the two countries was nearing explosion. Virginia’s governor, Robert Dinwiddie opted for a move against the French in the valley of Ohio River while William Shirley of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay organized a move in the Bay of Fundy. In 1754, the British started to build a fort at the Ohio River folks. George Washington was to march into the river valley to assist and protect the construction of the fort (North, 2006). However, the French had pushed the British from the forks, seizing it and renaming it Fort Duquesne.

Washington established Fort Cumberland at Wills Creek then moved towards Duquesne. Reinforcements were sent by many other colonies to the region with a regular independent company from South Carolina moving into Virginia. Other militia troops from North Carolina also marched north to offer their support while the cost of the expedition was granted by Pennsylvania. Washington and his men reached the Great Meadows on May 24 where he received information that the French troops were moving against him. It is here that he built fortifications which he named Fort Necessity.

With his forty militia soldiers, Washington moved to attack the French detachment. He hoped for a surprise ambush but the alarm was sounded. Even though the battle was short, it marked the opening of armed conflict between the French and the British. Nine French soldiers including their commander were killed and twenty one others taken prisoner. One French soldier escaped and made a report to Fort Duquesne. Washington opted to remain and build up defenses of the fort. He received reinforcement from Virginia militiamen and the Independent Companies of South Carolina.

The French garrison was also reinforced with support from the Indians. The Battle at Fort Necessity marked the opening of the French-Indian war which further provided the base for a wider war. The 1754 frontier skirmishes made Britain and France to seek continental alliances. Conflict was thus inevitable with Europe divided into two camps. With confrontations at Fort Necessity, the frontier skirmishes emerged into a fully fledged war which spilled over to Europe. The Battle of Fort Necessity led to the eventual outbreak of hostilities in Europe.

Tension between the French and Britain had continued even after the signing of the Aix-la-Chapelle. Direct confrontation was inevitable especially when the two rival decided to establish forts in areas which they both considered unchartered. With the French authorities inciting the Acadians to root for independence, the British had to consider other alternatives of suppressing these calls. The French on the other hand aimed to acquire more lands in North America and were willing to protect their interest by all means possible.

As such, direct conflict between the two was inevitable and this came at Fort Necessity. The decision by the governor of Virginia and the governor of Massachusetts directly led to the Battle of Fort Necessity which sparked the French Indian war. With the Battle of Fort Necessity, the seeds of French Indian war was planted (Purvis, 1997) References Marston, Daniel. The French-Indian War, 1654-1760. London: Taylor and Francis, 2003 North, Sterling. George Washington: Frontier Colonel. New York: Sterling Publishing Co, 2006 Purvis, Thomas L. A Dictionary of American History. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell Publishing, 1997

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