On this day in 1756, England declares war on France to start the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the European counterpart to the French and Indian War (1754-1763); fighting had been going on in North America for two years, but did not go well for England until William Pitt came to power in 1756 and sent troop reinforcements.
” The Seven Years War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Aboriginal allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Québec City in 1759 and Montréal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War, therefore, laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.
Reasons and Aims
The Seven Years War pitted the alliance of Britain, Prussia and Hanover against the alliance of France, Austria, Sweden, Saxony, Russia, and eventually Spain. The war was driven by the commercial and imperial rivalry between Britain and France, and by the antagonism between Prussia (allied to Britain) and Austria (allied to France). In Europe, Britain sent troops to help its ally, Prussia, which was surrounded by its enemies. However, the main British war aim was to destroy France as a commercial rival, and they, therefore, focused on attacking the French navy and colonies overseas. France, which was heavily committed to fighting on the European continent, had few resources to spare for its colonies. France found itself committed to fighting in Europe to defend Austria, which could do nothing to aid France overseas.
Hostilities in North America, 1754–55
Hostilities began in 1754 in the Ohio Valley, which both the French and British had claimed. In 1753, the French built fortifications in the area to strengthen their claim. In response, the governor of Virginia (then a British colony) sent militia colonel George Washington to the Ohio frontier. Washington ambushed a small French detachment but was subsequently defeated by a larger French force.
Even though the war had not yet been officially declared, the British began planning an assault against the French in America, ordering Major-General Edward Braddock and two regular regiments to America in 1755. Other regiments would be raised in the colonies, and a four-pronged attack would be launched against Niagara, Fort Beauséjour on the border of Nova Scotia, Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River, and Fort Saint-Frédéric [Crown Point] on Lake Champlain (in what is now New York state).
On learning of these movements, the French ordered six battalions under Baron Armand Dieskau to reinforce Louisbourg and Canada. Vice-Admiral Edward Boscawen and a squadron of the British navy tried to intercept and capture the French convoy but captured only two ships. The British had even less success on land. The army advancing on Lake Champlain fought the French near Lake George, capturing Dieskau, but decided to abandon the campaign against Fort Saint-Frédéric; instead, they consolidated their position at the opposite side of the lake, where they built Fort William Henry. The proposed assault on Niagara collapsed due to supply problems and heavy desertion, and Braddock’s army was destroyed by a small detachment of French soldiers and Aboriginal warriors. However, the British had some success in Acadia, capturing Fort Beauséjour with its small garrison in 1755. The Acadian settlers of the entire region were subsequently rounded up by the New England forces and deported (see History of Acadia). “