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France and Great Britain in Pennsylvania


Valley forge in Pennsylvania
Valley forge in Pennsylvania

From the late 1600s, France and Great Britain fought a series of wars for control of territory in North America. The last of these wars, called the French and Indian War, began on Pennsylvania soil in July 1754. As British traders and settlers pushed into the Ohio River valley, the French began building a chain of forts to establish control over the area. Virginia, which claimed some of the area, sent an armed force under the command of George Washington to expel the French. Washington was defeated at the Battle of Fort Necessity, near present-day Uniontown.

In the summer of 1755 British General Edward Braddock led troops to attack France’s Fort Duquesne, at the forks of the Ohio River. But the French and their Native American allies ambushed and defeated Braddock’s forces, which withdrew to Philadelphia.

The French then persuaded the Delaware and Shawnee to seek revenge for their lost lands. The Native Americans attacked the unprotected Pennsylvania frontier, killing settlers, burning houses, and sending refugees flooding into eastern Pennsylvania. Facing this crisis, the colonial assembly approved funds for military defense. The colony built a line of forts from Easton on the Delaware River to Chambersburg in the Cumberland Valley. In September 1756 Colonel John Armstrong struck back, destroying the Delaware’s main village at Kittanning. In November 1758 General John Forbes ended French control of western Pennsylvania by capturing Fort Duquesne, which he renamed Pittsburgh. Under a peace agreement with the Iroquois, the colony gave back the land purchased in 1754, ending attacks by the Delaware and Shawnee.

The British defeated the French in 1760. Peace was made by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, which gave Britain all of France’s North American territory. Colonial leaders and British officials promised the Native Americans that no more white settlements would be made in native lands west of the Appalachian crest, but the pledges were broken and settlements expanded. In an effort to drive out the British, the Ottawa chieftain Pontiac led an uprising in May 1763 by an alliance of many native groups. Pontiac’s forces captured all but 4 of 14 British forts extending from the Pennsylvania frontier to Lake Superior. Western Pennsylvania again suffered attacks, until Colonel Henry Bouquet defeated Native Americans at Bushy Run in August 1763. In retaliation for attacks during Pontiac’s war, a group of colonists called the Paxton boys attacked a small settlement of Susquehannocks in 1763 at Conestoga, near Lancaster.

Although these Native Americans had not taken part in the war, the Paxton boys massacred 20 old men, women, and children.

In 1768 a new treaty with the Native Americans was signed at Fort Stanwix, under which the native peoples sold their interest in lands west of the Allegheny Mountains. Many of them migrated west, leaving few Native Americans in Pennsylvania. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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