Battles Of The French & Indian War, by Diane Smolinski
I was disappointed in this book, even with fairly low expectations and a generous standard for treating it. There are some things that this book does very well, and that is capturing the logistical importance of various posts as well as the back and forth nature of combat between the British and French, and the way that it introduced readers to battles they likely would not know unless they were pretty serious about reading about the Seven Year’s War in North America. Even so, there is a lot about this book that bothered me, and it is not entirely fair to dismiss the issues of this book by saying that it is a book intended for young readers and not necessarily for Atlantic historians, even if that is true. Books made for children should still at least attempt to convey certain aspects of depth as a way of encouraging young readers to go beyond the text and explore it if they so wish. This book fails on at least a couple of major aspects in conveying certain matters of the French & Indian War that is most unfortunate, as it amounts to a missed opportunity to provide some solid discussion of matters of late colonial American history.
This book is a short one at just over 30 pages, and it is divided into numerous short articles that, quite appropriately given the book’s title, discuss the battles of the French & Indian War. The author begins this book by setting up the conflict over the North American continent between the English and French and, to a lesser extent, the Spanish, along with the problem of controlling the Ohio River territory. There is a discussion about the move towards Fort Duquesne before the author moves to a look at the early struggle for New York territory and the Battle of Lake George. At this point, the declaration of war between France and the United Kingdom led to a defeat for the British at Fort William Henry before the British began to control the war thanks to their demographic and logistical and naval superiority. We then move on to battles at Fort Carillon, Louisbourg, and Frontenac that demonstrated the British were advancing on French territories, along with the successful march on Fort Duquesne by Forbes that followed. The book then ends with a look at the successful invasion of Canada, the victory by Wolfe over Montcalm (even if both died) on the Plains of Abraham, and the final campaign and Treaty of Paris that ended the war. The author also comments briefly on what happened after the war and gives a glossary and index and suggestions for historical fiction to read and places to visit.
While this is not a horrible book–it indeed discusses a great deal of the North American front of the French & Indian war, it is not nearly as good a book as it could have been. For one, the book seems to think that the claims of the French and the British and the Spanish were all that mattered. The maps that introduce the colonial discussion do not include a look at the tribes and tribal groups that inhabited various lands, even if it discussed the general native preference for the French, in large part because they had far fewer people and were not looking to settle as much as trade. The second big issue with this book is that the author does not tend to connect the French & Indian War to a larger context. Part of the context for the ultimate success of British efforts in Canada in 1759 and 1760 were due to British naval superiority established at battles like that at Quiberon Bay. Likewise, the French & Indian War was part of a much larger context that included the successful conquest of Cuba and Manilla by the British as well as battles in Europe and India, none of which are included here. This is not a bad book, but it could have been a much better one.