The War That Made America: A Short History Of The French And Indian War, by Fred Anderson
This is the sort of short history of the French and Indian War that makes for compelling reading and plenty of material to think about. When the American colonists and the English government were racking up huge debts to decisively defeat the French and later the Spanish in such areas as the West Indies and North America and India, among other places, the English did not think to wonder what differences they and their settler colonists had in mind when it came to the meaning and legitimacy of Empire. But they should have paid attention to these matters. The author does a particularly good job at discussing the importance of the various indigenous peoples from the six nations to their unwilling tributaries to the Cherokees to the war plans of both the French and the British and how important logistics was to the waging of warfare. And the author’s attention to matters of logistics and politics and various peoples whose viewpoints are often neglected makes this a richly complicated history that is full of intrigue and material that will make someone think about what it took for the United States to come into being as it did.
At just over 250 pages, this book is indeed a short history. After a preface and an introduction in New York in July 1776, the author begins with the context of the French & Indian war at being at the end of a long period of relative peace (I), with chapters that discuss the delicate balance between the English and French (1), the dilemma of the half king in seeking to become more independent of his overlords (2), the confrontation on the Ohio between French and American colonials led by George Washington (3), and the horrifying murder of the French envoy that gave the French the cause they would need for war (4). Then the author moves into savage warfare (II), with chapters on the intervention of the French (5), the failures of Braddock’s march (6), the efforts of New York to defend itself (7), the brutal fighting in Nova Scotia and Pennsylvania (8), the beginning of the European war (9), and the making of a massacre (10). By this point, halfway through the book or so, the author discusses the turning point (III) in the rise of William Pitt (11) and the defeat of the British and colonials at Ft. Carillon (12), followed by the conquest of Louisbourg (13), the coup of Col Bradstreet in destroying the logistical basis of the French forts in the Ohio (14), the role of tribal diplomacy in making war and peace (15), General Forbes’ last campaign to take Ft. Duquesne (16), and the reckonings of the British successes (17). The book then concludes with a series of chapters on British conquests and its consequences (IV), with chapters on the shift in the balance of the Six Nations against neutrality (18), an incident at La Belle Famille (19), the hesitation of General Amherst (20), Wolfe’s moment of glory at the Plains of Abraham (21), the conquest of a mighty empire by Britian (22), the Spanish gambit to help the French at the last minute (23), peace (24), insurrection among the Swanee and other tribes (25), the crisis and resolution of the early quarrels over the stamp tax (26), and a look at the move towards patriot for George Washington (27).
This book has a lot to offer the reader. If you are looking for compelling discussions of battles and the fate of armies and empires, there is plenty of discussion of that, although it does focus on the North American theater, as one would expect given the intentions of the author to show how the war made America. The author also notes, quite pointedly, that the behavior of the native Americans in many cases helped to encourage among white Americans the belief that there could be no lasting peace unless the natives were driven off the land or destroyed outright. Likewise, the rise of American stirrings for independence required first that the French no longer be a threat to American colonies, which this war managed to achieve. If you are fond of a discussion of politics, strategy, logistics, and the legitimacy of empire, this is definitely a worthwhile history to check out.