The 7 Year’s War (1756-1763) and the Berkshires

Frequently known as the French and Indian War, this was actually the fourth in a series of conflicts, stretching over 85 years*.  Unlike the three earlier conflicts between the English and French in North America

-this conflict was a true world war involving Europe, India, the Caribbean and North America (earlier wars had been more focused on Europe)

A World War for Empire
A World War for Empire

-Great Britain committed major resources to defend her North American colonies (in contrast to the earlier wars in which the English colonists were left largely to fend for themselves.)

-Major territories in North America would change hands leaving most of North America East of the Mississippi in English hands.

10-Map

This war would have direct consequences for the Berkshires:

-the fear level was high enough that what few settlers were in Lenox fled to Stockbridge when there was an attack by a couple of Indians

-the peace resulted in settlement (finally) being encouraged in the westernmost part of the state

-many of the male settlers (historians estimate as many as 30% of adult males would have served at least one tour of duty) would have had the experience of serving under a British military commander (and would take out their resentments 12 years later!)

By the 1750’s many Colonial families would have been away from Great Britain and used to managing their own affairs for 120 years and had developed their own distinct code of conduct.  Troops, navy, and other overt manifestations of kingly authority had been absent in prior fighting.

-these men would have traveled widely (through New York to Quebec, in Nova Scotia) and would have formed bonds with fellow Massachusetts and Connecticut settlers

-Great Britain tried to recoup the considerable cost of the war in North America  with a series of initiatives that would be among the causes of the Revolution (Stamp Act, Townsend Act., etc).

This war actually started in North America when a brash 22 year old colonial named George Washington attacked the French at Fort Duquense  (later Pittsburgh)

George Washington in his Virginia Regimental Uniform
George Washington in his Virginia Regimental Uniform (Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale)

By this time English colonists numbered about 1.5MM, French only 75,000 heavily concentrated along the St Lawrence,  Nonetheless, the war went badly for the British at first (see James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans for a famous fictional account of the ravaging of Fort William Henry on Lake George) due to the effectiveness of France’s Indian allies and poor leadership on the part of Great Britain.

With renewed commitment to the colonies from Prime Minister Pitt and an able commander in Jeffrey Amherst, the situation turned around and the British conquered Quebec.  In final treaties, the British won Canada and most of what would become the United States East of the Mississippi (which was, given the value of the sugar trade at the time, considered of equal value with Guadalupe and Martinique).  Many of the colonies felt entitled to land with an indeterminate western border and were miffed that the Ohio valley was forbidden to them and was to be held as a reserve for the Indians.

See great article by Carole Owens on the Seven Years War in Stockbridge

Google “French and Indian War,” 2014

U.S History.org

Mass Moments

The French and Indian War, Deciding the Fate of North America, by Walter R. Borneman, Harper Collins e-books

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