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Trouble With Fur, Forts, and the French: A French & Indian War Unit

written by: Noreen Gunnell • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/17/2014

The French and Indian War, fought in the French and British colonies of North America, was actually part of the Seven Years War which was waged in Europe. It played out in the territories of France and England over the profitable fur trade and the westward migration of settlers into Ohio Country.

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    The time line of decisive victories during the French and Indian War is not synchronous with the official dates attributed to the beginning and French and Indian War end of the conflict. For example, the first significant battle (and French victory) occurred during the summer of 1754, but England did not declare war on France until 1756. Similarly, the fall of Quebec and Fort Niagara in 1759 followed by the defeat of Montréal in 1760 marked France’s loss of power in North America, but the official end of the Seven Years War came in 1763 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

    French and Indian War Unit Study:

    Objectives:

    To understand the causes, outcomes and consequences of the war.

    Outline:

    Introductory Lesson Plan: Basically a lecture format providing the background of the conflict and simple timeline. The group assignment begun in this lesson requires access to the Internet.

    Time Needed: Three or four days should be set aside for the lesson, assignment and presentations.

    From the time of their initial settlements, France (Quebec –1603) and Britain (Jamestown –1607) vied for domination in North America and the fur trade. With fur trappers and traders in the Great Lakes area, and along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, France enjoyed congenial relations with local Native Americans and desirable trade routes.

    The English claimed the same land and were also involved in the fur trade. Any lands given by the English extended to the west coast (even though they hadn’t been there yet). French colonies in Nouvelle (New) France lay to the north in areas such as present day Vermont and Canada, while British colonies ranged from present day Maine to Georgia.

    The French and Indian War (1754-1763) broke out over ownership of the Ohio Valley and important trade centers. The English investors of the Ohio Company sought to encourage settlers in Ohio Country, a move that threatened the French. It was the last of what is known as the four Colonial Wars. Unfortunately, the preceding three wars did not settle issues of colonial borders or expansion, also catalysts for the conflict.

    Timeline:

    • 1750s – Both nations try to keep each other out of the Ohio Country. The French construct Fort Duquesne.
    • 1752 – French destroy Pickawillany.
    • 1754 – George Washington and Virginia militiamen move into the Ohio Country and build Fort Necessity.
    • July 3, 1754 – Fort Necessity falls and Washington and his men retreat.
    • July 9, 1755 – General Edward Braddock and his army are attacked and defeated en route to Fort Duquesne.
    • September 8, 1755 – British victory in the Battle of Lake George.
    • 1758 – Under the direction of the Prime Minister, William Pitt, Britain sends many soldiers to the American colonies. Fort Duquesne is taken from the French and renamed Fort Pitt.
    • 1759 – Fort Niagara and Quebec fall to the British.
    • 1760 – Montreal is captured from the French.

    Divide the class into five small groups and assign each group two topics from the list and questions below. Each group will need to present its findings to the class on the fourth day and turn in a written response to the teacher. Each member must participate in the presentation.

    They can begin this in class using the Internet but will need an additional two days to complete their work. Scheduling a class period in the library would allow students to use additional sources as well.

    1. July 3, 1754 – Fort Necessity:
      • What was significant about this date? What was Fort Necessity? What future Revolutionary General took part in the building of Fort Necessity?
    2. William Pitt:
      • Who was William Pitt? What position did he hold during the French and Indian War? Explain his plan for success against the French. How did he help to turn the war to England’s advantage? What fort was named after him and when?
    3. Pickawillany:
      • Where was this village located? Was it occupied by the French or English? Why do you think it as attacked and destroyed? Which Native American tribes took part in the attack?
    4. Fort Duquesne:
      • Why was its location so valuable? How many battles were fought over this fort? At the end of the war, which country could claim Fort Duquesne? Was it renamed? What modern city is located at this site?
    5. The Ohio Company:
      • What was its purpose? Was this an English, French or colonial company? Which General invested in this company?
    6. General Edward Braddock:
      • Provide a brief biography. What role did he play in the war?
    7. Fort Niagara:
      • Why was its location so valuable? How many battles were fought over this fort? At the end of the war, which country could claim it?
    8. The Seven Years War:
      • Which nations were involved? What were the main disputes between these nations that led to war?
    9. Governor Dinwiddie:
      • How did he play a role in the beginning of the war? In what ways did he benefit Virginia during the war?
    10. Battle of Lake George:
      • What was the goal of the British at Lake George? Why was this the objective?

    Media Literacy Lesson:

    Just like today, events in the past were covered by the media. Of course, what “media" means has certainly changed. During the French and Indian War, it meant newspapers. The coverage of the French and Indian War helped to develop a sense of unity among the colonies which would benefit the Revolutionary movement in the coming years. The article, "Fighting For A Continent" by David A. Copeland on the website "Archiving Early America" discusses how coverage fueled the fear of French domination and somewhat coalesced the colonies. Older students (11th through 12th graders) can handle reading the article. A copy of George Washington’s journal from his trip to the Ohio as it appeared in the "Maryland Gazette" in 1754 is also available on "Archiving Early America."

    Most grade levels could handle the following activity:

    Provide everyone with a copy of Benjamin Franklin’s famous woodcarving, Join or Die, as it appeared in the May 9, 1754, edition of the "Pennsylvania Gazette."Benjamin Franklin - Join or Die 

    Discussion Questions:

    1. Why is the snake shown in pieces?
    2. What did each piece represent?
    3. What do you think the caption implied?
    4. Do you think this is an effective means of communicating a message? Explain.

    Map Skills and Interdisciplinary Lesson:

    Have students locate significant battles on a map or coordinate with the English teacher and create lesson plans covering "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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    Resources

    1. America’s Historic Lakes,
    2. The Fort William Henry Museum and Restoration
    3. Ohio History Central: French and Indian War
    4. Ohio History Central: Ohio Company
    5. Ohio History Central: Robert Dinwiddie
    6. Rickard, J. (24 October 2000), Seven Years War (1756-1763),
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    References

    How Newspapers Covered the French and Indian War, Early America Review, David A. Copeland, Archiving Early America (Spring, 1997), EarlyAmerica.com

    The French and Indian War, Michigan State University website.

    US History.org, The French and Indian War

    Join or Die by Benjamin Franklin under Public Domain

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