CHAPTER XI. THE FRENCH DRIVEN FROM AMERICA

THE SITUATION IN 1754. - The French were now in armed possession of the Ohio valley. Their chain of forts bounded the British colonies from Lake Champlain to Fort Duquesne. Unless they were dislodged, all hope of colonial expansion westward was ended. To dislodge them meant war, and the certainty of war led to a serious attempt to unite the colonies.

By order of the Lords of Trade, a convention of delegates from the colonies [1] was held at Albany to secure by treaty and presents the friendship of the Six Nations of Indians; it would not do to let those powerful tribes go over to the French in the coming war. After treating with the Indians, the convention proceeded to consider the question whether all the colonies could not be united for defense and for the protection of their interests.

FRANKLIN'S PLAN OF UNION. - One of the delegates was Benjamin Franklin. In his newspaper, the Philadelphia Gazette, he had urged union, and he had put this device [2] at the top of an account of the capture of the Ohio fort (afterward Duquesne) by the French. At the convention he submitted a plan of union calling for a president general and a grand council of representatives from the colonies to meet each year. They were to make treaties with the Indians, regulate the affairs of the colonies as a whole, levy taxes, build forts, and raise armies. The convention adopted the plan, but both the colonial legislatures and the Lords of Trade in London rejected it. [3]

THE FIVE POINTS OF ATTACK. - The French held five strongholds, which shut the British out of New France and Louisiana, and threatened the English colonies.

1. Louisburg threatened New England and Nova Scotia.

2. Quebec controlled the St. Lawrence.

3. Crown Point (and later Ticonderoga), on Lake Champlain, guarded the water route to New York and threatened the Hudson valley.

4. Niagara guarded the portage between Lakes Ontario and Erie, and threatened New York on the west.

5. Fort Duquesne controlled the Ohio and threatened Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The plan of the British was to strengthen their hold on Nova Scotia (Acadia), and to attack three of the French strongholds - Crown Point, Niagara, and Fort Duquesne - at the same time.

ACADIA. - Late in May, 1755, therefore, an expedition set sail from Boston, made its way up the Bay of Fundy, captured the French forts at the head of that bay, reduced all Acadia to British rule, and tendered the oath of allegiance to the French Acadians. This they refused to take, whereupon they were driven on board ships at the point of the bayonet and carried off and distributed among the colonies. [4]

CROWN POINT. - The army against Crown Point, composed of troops from the four New England colonies and New York, gathered at Albany, and Forts in northern New York, under command of William Johnson [5] marched to the head of Lake George, where it beat the French under Dieskau (dees'kou), and built Fort William Henry; but it did not reach Crown Point.

NIAGARA. - A third army, under General Shirley of Massachusetts, likewise set out from Albany, and pushing across New York reached Oswego, when all thought of attacking Niagara was abandoned. News had come of the crushing defeat of Braddock.

BRADDOCK'S DEFEAT. - Under the belief that neither colonial officers nor colonial troops were of much account, the mother country at the opening of the war sent over Edward Braddock, one of her best officers, and two regiments of regulars. Brad-dock came to Virginia, appointed Washington one of his aids, and having gathered some provincial troops, set off from Fort Cumberland in Maryland for Fort Duquesne. The country to be traversed was a wilderness. No road led through the woods, so the troops were forced to cut one as they went slowly westward (map, p. 144).

On July 9, 1755, when some eight miles from Fort Duquesne, those in the van suddenly beheld what seemed to be an Indian coming toward them, but was really a French officer with a band of French and Indians at his back. The moment he saw the British he stopped and waved his hat in the air, whereupon his followers disappeared in the bushes and opened fire. The British returned the fire and stood their ground manfully, but as they could not see their foe, while their scarlet coats afforded a fine target, they were shot down by scores, lost heart, huddled together, and when at last Brad-dock was forced to order a retreat, broke and fled. [6]

Braddock was wounded just as the retreat began, and died as the army was hurrying back to Fort Cumberland, and lest the Indians should find his grave, he was buried in the road, and all traces of the grave were obliterated by the troops and wagons passing over it. From Fort Cumberland the British marched to Philadelphia, and the whole frontier was left to the mercy of the French and Indians.

FRENCH VICTORIES. - War parties were sent out from Fort Duquesne in every direction, settlement after settlement was sacked, and before November the Indians were burning, plundering, massacring, scalping within eighty miles of Philadelphia. During the two following years (1756-57), the French were all energy and activity, and the British were hard pressed. [7] Oswego and Fort William Henry were captured, [8] and the New York frontier was ravaged by the French.