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Breaking The Backcountry

Breaking The Backcountry: Seven Years War In Virginia And Pennsylvania 1754-1765

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 360
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    Breaking The Backcountry
    Book Description:

    Even as the 250th anniversary of its outbreak approaches, the Seven Years' War (otherwise known as the French and Indian War) is still not wholly understood. Most accounts tell the story as a military struggle between British and French forces, with shifting alliances of Indians, culminating in the British conquest of Canada. Scholarly and popular works alike, including James Fennimore Cooper'sLast of the Mohicans, focus on the action in the Hudson River Valley and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Matthew C. Ward tells the compelling story of the war from the point of view of the region where it actually began, and whose people felt the devastating effects of war most keenly-the backcountry communities of Virginia and Pennsylvania.Previous wars in North America had been fought largely on the New England and New York frontiers. But on May 28, 1754, when a young George Washington commanded the first shot fired in western Pennsylvania, fighting spread for the first time to Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ward's original research reveals that on the eve of the Seven Years' War the communities of these colonies were isolated, economically weak, and culturally diverse. He shows in riveting detail how, despite the British empire's triumph, the war brought social chaos, sickness, hunger, punishment, and violence, to the backcountry, much of it at the hands of Indian warriors.Ward's fresh analysis reveals that Indian raids were not random skirmishes, but part of an organized strategy that included psychological warfare designed to make settlers flee Indian territories. It was the awesome effectiveness of this "guerilla" warfare, Ward argues, that led to the most enduring legacies of the war: Indian-hating and an armed population of colonial settlers, distrustful of the British empire that couldn't protect them. Understanding the horrors of the Seven Years' War as experienced in the backwoods thus provides unique insights into the origins of the American republic.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7273-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Illustrations] (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-8)

    In 1754 military commanders in Britain began preparations for a grand expedition against the French Empire in North America. Since the end of King George’s War in 1748, tensions between France and Great Britain had increased rather than lessened. Nowhere was friction more apparent than in the Ohio Valley. Here British and French traders had come into direct competition, and the French had responded by building a string of new forts and driving the British from the region. Now Whitehall had determined to take action. Defeat could not be comprehended. As ministers confidently noted, it was “taken for granted, that...

  6. 1 The Collision of Worlds: 1700–1755 (pp. 9-35)

    In the first half of the eighteenth century the disparate worlds of French Canada, the British colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and the Indian villages of the Ohio Valley were drawn into closer contact and eventually dramatic conlict. The conlict, now most commonly termed by historians the Seven Years’ War, would devastate Canada, the Ohio Valley, and the backcountry of Virginia and Pennsylvania. This struggle was neither planned nor desired by any of the participants. It grew out of the developing forces of trade and settlement, which pulled all sides together.

    Between 1700 and 1755 settlers poured into the region...

  7. 2 War Comes to the Backcountry (pp. 36-58)

    The settlement of the backcountry and the growth of the fur trade had steadily drawn Britain and France into conlict in the upper Ohio Valley. Neither country had sought confrontation, yet the British decision to send an army to North America to capture the Ohio Valley ensured that war would engulf the region. In early 1755 British officials were confident that they would be victorious and force the French to evacuate the region. However, they were to reap defeat, not victory. When Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock’s expedition suffered one of the most decisive routs in British military history, the French...

  8. 3 “Dissatisfact’n, Discontent and Clamours of All Ranks”: The Breakdown of Backcountry Society, 1755–1758 (pp. 59-90)

    For over two years following Gen. Edward Braddock’s defeat, raiding parties laid waste to the backcountry of both Virginia and Pennsylvania. However, the damage caused by these raids was not just in the abandoned settlements that littered the backcountry and in the streams of refugees who led east; the raids also opened up deep rifts within backcountry society. By simultaneously offering new opportunities and new dangers the war heightened divisions that had been scarcely visible in peacetime. In particular, the war highlighted the insubstantial nature of the elite’s influence over backcountry society.

    When faced with the Indians’ onslaught, backcountry inhabitants...

  9. Illustrations (pp. None)
  10. 4 “An Extream Bad Collection Of Broken Innkeepers, Horse Jockeys, & Indian Traders”: The Provincial Forces (pp. 91-122)

    The social unrest that permeated the Virginia and Pennsylvania backcountry during the Seven Years’ War stemmed, at least in part, from the failure of the provincial forces to protect the region. Backcountry settlers fumed at the inactivity of the Virginia militia and the Virginia and Pennsylvania Regiments. They were not alone in disparaging the military effectiveness of these forces. When reviewing the Virginia and Pennsylvania forces who had assembled under his command in the summer of 1758, British general John Forbes derided the provincial officers as “an extream bad Collection of broken Innkeepers, Horse Jockeys, & Indian traders.” The ranks, he...

  11. 5 Wars and Words: Political Conflict and the Diplomatic Offensive (pp. 123-156)

    The Seven Years’ War witnessed conflict not only in the backwoods of Virginia and Pennsylvania but also on the floors of the colonies’ assemblies. Both colonies suffered bitter political disputes that on occasion even spilled into physical violence as the war unleashed competition for power and patronage. As both colonies raised troops and procured supplies, political disputes focused not just on the war itself but on the raising and spending of provincial funds. This resulted in a contest over the powers and privileges of the assemblies and the rights of the governors.

    Political disputes in turn affected the diplomacy of...

  12. 6 Turning Point: The British Drive to the Ohio (pp. 157-185)

    In the backcountry of Virginia and Pennsylvania the fortunes of war changed very quickly. For the first years of the war, Britain and her colonists had reeled from defeat upon defeat. However, in 1757 affairs slowly began to change. In 1758 British fortunes would be transformed. The commitment of regular forces in the region allowed the British to undertake major offensive operations in the theater for the first time since 1755. However, the British army that assembled on the frontier in 1758 was very different from that assembled by Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock. Brig. Gen. John Forbes, who commanded British...

  13. 7 The Quest for Security, 1759–1763 (pp. 186-218)

    From 1759 to 1763 both the British and the Ohio Indians had to develop new policies to cope with the realities of North America without the French. For both the period was shaped by their experiences during the war in the backcountry. Many Virginians and Pennsylvanians now saw the Ohio Indians as defeated and the upper Ohio Valley as opened up to trade and settlement. The Ohio Indians, on the other hand, viewed themselves as anything but a conquered people. The war in the backcountry had demonstrated their military superiority, not their inferiority. Indeed, it was the French who had...

  14. 8 Denouement: “Pontiac’s War,” 1763–1765 (pp. 219-254)

    The war that broke out on the colonial frontier in 1763 was the culmination of four years of British maladministration. At the root of the conflict was the perception by some British officials that the Ohio Indians were a weak and defeated people whose concerns they did not need to heed. As “Pontiac’s War” broke out, however, it was the strength rather than the weakness of the Indians that became apparent to the British. The war revealed how far the Indians had been able to adapt their strategies and tactics to European warfare, for now they fought without European allies...

  15. Conclusion (pp. 255-262)

    It was an early March morning in 1765. The convoy wound its way slowly toward Fort Loudoun over the notorious Sideling Hill. Suddenly, without warning, the attackers descended on the convoy whooping and hollering. In panic most of the wagoners led for safety and were pursued to the very walls of Fort Loudoun. To celebrate their victory the attackers set fire to anything they could not drink or carry off. Yet these attackers were not Ohio Indians, but backcountry settlers. Frustrated at the continuing negotiations with the Ohio Indians, they had decided to take matters into their own hands to...

  16. Appendix: Composition of the Provincial Regiments (pp. 263-264)
  17. List of Abbreviations (pp. 265-266)
  18. Notes (pp. 267-306)
  19. Selected Bibliography (pp. 307-318)
  20. Index (pp. 319-329)