We start with a look at the early years of colonial settlement in North America, including the long running ‘Beaver Wars’, fought over control of the fur trade, the brief Scottish occupation of parts of Nova Scotia, the English conquest of New Amsterdam, the role of the powerful Five Nations of the Iroquois, and the start of the long running rivalry between England (then Britain) and France in North American. We then move onto the period of open warfare, triggered by the outbreak of the War of the League of Augsburg back in Europe.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this war is that it took place at a time when the Native American nations were still major powers, and the European colonies were surprisingly fragile and vulnerable to attack. Even major settlements such as Boston were potentially vulnerable to attack, and the British did manage to mount one unsuccessful attack on Quebec, while the British colony in Newfoundland was briefly eliminated by the French.
Both the British and French carried out ambitious long range attacks on each other’s colonies, which almost always involved lengthy journey’s thorough the wilderness. However, many of the most significant actions of the war involved the Native Americans, including a series of attacks by them on isolated English settlements, and English and French attacks on Native American villages. In both cases the nature of those settlements is of interest, with the Iroquois living in sizable fortified villages often known as ‘castles’, while the English colonists were aware of their vulnerability and lived in villages protected by strong houses, which were meant to act as strong points to resist any sudden attack.
A key part of this story is the different quality of leadership on the two sides. The French were lucky that they were led by the very able Louis de Buade de Frontenac, an experienced governor of New France before the war, who returned to Canada at the start of the war, and remained in post throughout the conflict. He was held in high regard by many of Canada’s allies, and had a good understanding of the nature of warfare in the area. In contrast the British colonies were badly divided, with the southern colonies hardly involved in the conflict, and the northern ones often unwilling to cooperate with each other. New York, the link between the two, had only recently been conquered from the Dutch, and appears to have been a source of weakness much of the time. In addition the war started immediately after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which caused a great deal of political chaos in North America, even in colonies that generally supported the new monarch. As a result the badly outnumbered French were able to more than hold their own during this war, and can be said to have emerged as the victors in North America.
This is a compelling account of an unfamiliar conflict, and is one of those books that successfully immerses you in a very different world.
Part One: New Worlds, 1604-1688
1 – The Beaver Wars
2 – New France and New Netherland
3 – The King’s Hand
4 – The French and the Five Nations
5 – Rivals to the North
6 – Denonville’s Expedition
7 – Acadia and New England
Part Two: Grand Alliance, 1689-1691
8 – The Glorious Revolution
9 – The Wabanaki and the Iroquois
10 – Three Wars, One Name
11 – The Reduction of Canada
12 – Winthrop’s Folly
13 – The Battle of La Prairie
14 – A Shifting Tide
Part Three: Attrition, 1689-1695
15 – Disunity and Discord
16 – The Mohawk Expedition
17 – Missed Opportunities
18 – Stalemate in the East
19 – The Peace Offensive
20 – Frontenac and the Onondaga
Part Four: Uncertain Peace, 1696-1697
21 – The Fall of Pemaquid
22 – Iberville
23 – The War at the Top of the World
24 – The Treaty of Ryswick
Author: Michael G. Laramie