Struggle with the French

NJGenWeb ~ Morris County, New Jersey

Struggle with the French
Morris Co. Up

In rummaging through an "old" box of books I came across the book "Swinton's First Lessons in Out Country's History" Revised Edition, copyright, 1872 by William Swinton, Copyright 1894 and 1899 by American Book Company. It appears as if this book was possibly used as a history text for school. Chapter X, pp 70-77 is about the Struggle with the French as taught in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

While our country still belonged to England, it had to carry on a severe struggle with the French in America. We must remember that about the time the English were settling Virginia and New England, the French were settling the northern country, that is, along the gulf and river of St. Lawrence. They founded Quebec (1608) and Montreal. Gradually they spread westward along the great lakes with their trading-posts and mission-stations. Father Marquette, in company with a fur-trader named Joliet, visited the Mississippi River near its source, ten years before La Salle sailed down that great river to the Gulf of Mexico, in 1682. New Orleans was founded soon afterwards.

Finally the French claimed all the country watered by the Mississippi and the rivers that flow into it. Then they began to connect the New Orleans region (called Louisiana) with Canada by a chain of forts. In this way they tried to confine the English to the narrow strip of settlement along the Atlantic coast.

In the early times, there were several wars between the English and the French settlers. The English invaded the French territories, Canada and Acadia (Nova Scotia), and the French swept down on New England and New York.

These contests arose out of quarrels between France and England, that did not really have much to do with America.

But at length there came a great trial of strength. It is called the French and Indian War. It began in 1755, and ended in 1763.

This contest is of great importance because it decided that our country should belong to the English, and not to the French.

The war began by some Virginians settling on the Ohio River, where they had bought a large tract of land, and meant to trade with the Indians.

The French claimed that this part of the country belonged to them by right of discovery and settlement. Virginia said it was her soil.

Suddenly French soldiers marched down from Canada to where the English had settled on the Ohio, and carried off some of the traders prisoners. This was in 1753.

When this was done, Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia determined to send a messenger to the French commander, asking him what he meant, and telling him to march his soldiers away.

The messenger chosen by Governor Dinwiddie was a young Virginian named George Washington.

Washington was at that time only twenty-one years old; but he was even then remarkable for his wisdom, dignity, and courage. He had educated himself as a land-surveyor, and had acquired skill and patience and self-reliance. He had also been an officer in the Virginia militia.

Accompanied by two or three attendants, Washington made his way through the unbroken wilderness, till at last he reached the French headquarters and delivered to the commander a letter from the governor or Virginia. The French officer refused to leave the country, and with this answer Washington set out to return.

The horses which the party had brought with them had given out, so there was no way for them but to return on foot. The day after Christmas, Washington, wrapping himself up in an Indian dress, with his gun in his hand and his pack on his back, set out through the woods by the nearest way to the forks of the Ohio. He had but one companion.

It was a perilous journey. In passing through the forest, an Indian, lying in wait, shot at Washington, but missed his aim. When they got to the Alleghany River they spent a whole day making a raft, which they launched. Before they were half over the stream, they were caught in the running ice, and could not reach either shore. Putting out a pole to stop the raft, Washington was jerked into the deep water, and saved himself only by grasping at the raft-logs. Finally they managed to reach an island, where they stayed all night, and in the morning the river had frozen over; so they were able to cross it.

When Governor Dinwiddie received the message brought back by Washington, he raised four hundred troops, and sent them under Washington against the French on the Ohio.

The French had built a fort named Fort Duquesne at the spot where Pittsburg now is. Washington's army made a long, wearisome march towards this place. Before they reached it, they were met by a party of French at a place called Great Meadows. Washington defeated this party.

Afterwards the main body of the French came down on the little force. Washington made a very gallant fight, but was forced to surrender.

The English government now saw that it was necessary to come in and help the colonists conquer the French. Accordingly the next year (1755), General Braddock, with a force of British regulars, was sent out to America.

The first thing Braddock did was to march against Fort Duquesne. Braddock, though ignorant of Indian warfare, would not take Washington's advice.

The result was that the British force was suddenly ambushed by the Indians and French, who fired, unseen, from behind trees and rocks. The British regulars, not being used to this kind of warfare, were routed. Braddock was killed. It was only by Washington's coolness that the troops were able to retreat and reach Philadelphia.

The British now saw that it would require very hard fighting to beat the French, so they sent over a large army. There was a great deal of fighting for the next two or three years.

But the war was not well carried on till the great English statesman, William Pitt, took charge of it. This was in 1759. The most decisive event of the war was the capture of Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River.

The French looked upon Quebec as one of the strongest places in the world. The citadel was built upon a high rock, so steep that no enemy could climb it. It was defended by a great many large cannon, and by a powerful French garrison, commanded by General Montcalm.

The force to take Quebec was put under a brave young English general named Wolfe. It consisted of American and British regulars, and sailed from Halifax to the St. Lawrence.

Wolfe began by trying various unsuccessful plans to take Quebec. At last he hit upon a plan so bold that the French never dreamed of it. He found that there was a place above Quebec where his troops might climb up the steep to the plains back of the city.

Accordingly, he had the ships sail up the St. Lawrence; then at night the troops dropped silently down stream in boats, to the spot selected, and known ever since as Wolfe's Cove. In the dark hours the soldiers secretly scaled the precipice. The morning light revealed to Montcalm the whole British force drawn up in battle array on the plain.

As quickly as possible, the French commander went out to meet the English. The battle began at ten o'clock, September 13, 1759. It was fought with great bravery on both sides; but the solid charges of the British grenadiers broke the ranks of the French, who finally gave way.

General Wolfe was mortally wounded. While he lay on the ground he heard some one say, "They fly." "Who fly?" asked the dying hero. "The French," was the answer. "Then," said he, "I die in peace." Montcalm also was fatally wounded.

The capture of Quebec showed the French that they could not stand against the English in America. The was was closed by the treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, and France surrendered to the English all her American possessions.


Copyright 1999-2017 by Brianne Kelly-Bly, all rights reserved.