Canada History

Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 




Prehistory | 2 Worlds Meet | New France | England Arrives | Clash of Empires | Revolution | British America | Reform/Revolt | Responsible Government | Confederation | Nation Building | Laurier | The Great War | Roaring 20's | Great Depression | WWII | The Peace | Cold War | Trudeau | PC's in Power | Modern Canada

English Colonies | France vs England | Fur Trade | HBC | The Mississippi | Le Petite Guerre | Containment | New France | Preparations | War | Treaty of Paris

The Mississippi River is the key waterway in North America. It's tributaries start in Montana, Manitoba, West Virginia, Minnesota and another 1/2 dozen states at least. It geographically divides west from east. It provides a superhighway from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The leaders of New France recognized that with their small population, they would have to contain the English Colonies or be swallowed up as their population exploded.

The French explorer La Salle travelled down the Mississippi between 1678 - 1682. He established trading posts to capitalize on the fur trade and claimed the entire area for France and named it after Louis XIV - Louisiana. It was not until President Jefferson negotiated to buy this area from France - The Louisiana Purchase that France finally gave up all claims to the Mississippi basin.

Before 1755, New France began to build military forts at strategic locations along the river and to reinforce trade posts with soldiers. They understood that this area was vital to their survival. The Indian nations along the Mississippi were more or less willing to live with the French along the river because they were not trying to settle the area and displace the Indians. The French were interested in the area fro military and business reasons.

The English colonies however were bursting at the seems and looking for new land. They looked to the west and as surveyors and settlers began to penetrate the Appalachian Mountains and come in contact with French and Indians, there was a reaction which tried to hold them out. This entire issue would re-surface again after the American War of Independence when due to agreements with the Indian nations the British tried to hold back the colonists by declaring that settlers were not to pass over the Proclamation Line which protected the Indian lands, the colonists became alienated from British rule.

This river, the Mississippi, then became the powder keg that would not only cause conflict between the local French and English forces, but would ignite the first world wide conflict - the Seven Years War.

A group of Virginia businessmen decided to launch a commercial enterprise to explore and settle the Ohio Valley. After French claim and occupation of the Mississippi/Ohio territories in 1749-1754, they decided to take military action and raised a force of 300 men under a young office named George Washington. Washington launched his expedition into the territory in 1754 and proceeded to the French post of Fort Le Boeuf. Washington and the Virginians were decisively defeated by the French and sent retreating back across the Appalachian Mountains.

The Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddle began sending repeated requests to Britain for help and after incessant pressure from the colonies Britain dispatched General Edward Braddock in 1755 to take control of the Ohio from the French. In the meantime the French had reinforced the Valley with 3,000 regular troops under the command of Baron Dieskau. Braddock, with Washington on his staff set out to capture Fort Duquesne and force the French out. Braddock's attack was a stunning defeat and the English once again stumbled back to their colonies to regroup. Although France and England were still at peace in Europe, these battles ignited the greatest war the world had ever seen and in 1756 the Seven Years War started in earnest.