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French and Indian Wars

French and Indian Wars, conflict over control of North America that erupted into a series of wars involving England and its North American colonies against France and the colony of New France: King William's War (1689–97), Queen Anne's War (1702–13), King George's War (1744–48), and the French and Indian War (1754–63). In Europe these wars are known, respectively, as the War of the League of Augsburg, the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Austrian Succession, and the Seven Years War, but Americans generally use these names only for the European phase of each war. All of these wars combined the struggle for specific North American territories between France and Britain with their battle for world power. In each struggle the French lost some territory, and in the last war they were forced entirely out of the North American mainland.

The dispute that erupted in 1754 concerned rival French and English claims to the upper Ohio Valley. Both French and English fur trading was expanding, and territories were not clearly marked, so disputes became increasingly frequent. In 1748 the Ohio Company, formed by English colonists from Virginia and Maryland, claimed the Ohio region, which was occupied by the French. The French reacted by harassment of English traders and by constructing forts along the Allegheny. In 1753 George Washington was sent to warn the French that they were trespassing and to bring about their withdrawal. His mission was ineffective, and the Ohio Company began to build a fort on the present site of Pittsburgh. The French arrived before the fort was completed, and Washington withdrew to Fort Necessity. In 1754 he was forced to surrender this position. England's George II finally ordered General Edward Braddock to help the colonies. In July 1755 Braddock was ambushed and defeated near Fort Duquesne. After repeated French victories, William Pitt began the reorganization of the British forces in America. He strengthened the navy and recruited men like Lord Jeffrey Amherst and James Wolfe. In 1758 Louisbourg fell to Amherst, and forts Frontenac and Duquesne were forced to surrender. In 1759 forts Niagara and Ticonderoga and Crown Point fell. Finally on Sept. 13, 1759, General Wolfe, at the cost of his life, defeated the French near Quebec City, which surrendered on Sept. 17. Montreal surrendered in Sept. 1760. After the fall of Spanish Havana to the British forces in 1762, the Treaty of Paris was negotiated and signed in Feb. 1763. France gave up Canada and the lands east of the Mississippi to England. New Orleans and the French territory of Louisiana west of the Mississippi were transferred by Britain to Spain, in exchange for British possession of Spanish Florida.

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