Empires at War
The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763
By William M. Fowler, Jr.
(Walker & Company, Hardcover, 9780802714114, 360pp.)
Publication Date: January 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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On May 28, 1754, a group of militia and Indians led by twenty-two-year-old major George Washington surprised a camp of sleeping French soldiers near present-day Pittsburgh. Washington could not have known it, but the brief and deadly exchange of fire that ensued lit the match that, in Horace Walpole's memorable phrase, would "set the world on fire." The resultung French and Indian War in North America became part of the global conflict known as the Seven Years War, fought across Europe, India, and the East and West Indies. Before it ended, nearly one million men had died.
Empires at War captures the sweeping panorama of this first world war, especially in its descriptions of the strategy and intensity of the engagements in North America, many of them epic struggles between armies in the wilderness. William M. Fowler Jr. views the conflict both from British prime minister William Pitt's perspective-- as a vast chessboard, on which William Shirley's campaign in North America and the fortunes of Frederick the Great of Prussia were connected-- and from that of field commanders on the ground in America and Canada, who contended with disease, brutal weather, and scant supplies, frequently having to build the very roads they marched on. As in any conflict, individuals and events stand out: Sir William Johnson, a baronet and a major general of the British forces, who sometimes painted his face and dressed like a warrior when he fought beside his Indian allies; Edward Braddock's doomed march across Pennsylvania; the valiant French defense of Fort Ticonderoga; and the legendary battle for Quebec between armies led by the arisocratic French tactical genius, the marquis de Montcalm, and the gallant, if erratic, young Englishman James Wolfe-- both of whom died on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759.
For many, the French and Indian War has been merely the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper's famous novel, The Last of the Mohicans. William M. Fowler Jr.'s engrossing narrative reveals it to have been a turning point of modern history, without which the American Revolution as we know it might well not have occurred.
William M. Fowler, Jr. is director of the Massachusetts Historical Society, consulting editor at The New England Quarterly, and honorary professor of history at Northeastern University. His books include Jack Tars and Commodores: The American Navy, 1783-1815 and The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Hancock.
"William Fowler is a superb historian, and his Empires at War is absolutely first rate-- both a work of expert scholarship and a clear, insightful unfolding of one of the great dramas in history, the importance of which can hardly be overstated."-- David McCullough, author of John Adams and Truman
"A masterful account of the clash of two great empires. Ultimate victory by the British and their colonial allies ended in the expulsion of France from North America and brought the English vast new territories. It also brought them a mountain of debt, which they determined to reduce by levying taxes on the colonists-- laying the groundwork for the American Revolution. Mr. Fowler has told this immensely complex story with such clarity and knowledge that the reader is caught up in the danger and excitement of that critical time."-- Richard Ketchum, author of Victory at Yorktown: The Campaign That Won the Revolution and Divided Loyalties: How the American Revolution Came to New York