Tag Archives: French And Indian War

CFP: 1763 and All That, The Decade After The Seven Years’ War

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1763 and All That: Temptations of Empire in the British World During the Decade After the Seven Years’ War – a call for papers for a conference to be held on February 25th and 26th, 2010, at the University of Texas at Austin, sponsored by the Department of History’s Institute for Historical Studies.

The focus of the conference is the British Empire during its “decade of crisis” between the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 and the passage of the Tea Act ten years later. Over the course of this decade, Britons drastically transformed the way they viewed themselves and their empire. For the first time, British imperial policy extended to the governance of the French Catholic inhabitants of Canada, the Native people of the trans-Appalachian interior of North America, Africans in the new colony of Senegambia, and the twenty million inhabitants of Bengal subject to the authority of the East India Company.

In Britain itself, the governance of this vastly extended empire engendered an enormous amount of bitter debate and anxious discussion in the halls of power as well as in the popular press. Among historians of each of the different parts of the British World, this decade has long been seen as one of crucial importance.

However, while invaluable work has been done to examine British and indigenous relations and exchanges in specific colonial contexts, as well to examine connections between the metropolis and specific colonial regions, there has been as yet few attempts to interrogate the links across and between the colonial regions and to set developments in particular regions into the context of the transformation of the British Empire as a whole. The organizers aim to address this need by bringing scholars working on various aspects of the British World into dialogue and debate over the causes and character of the imperial transformation of the 1760s and early 1770s.

Submissions are invited for individual papers on these themes. Note that the conference will be organized around the discussion of pre-circulated papers. Accepted papers must be submitted for circulation to participants no later than February 1, 2010. Each proposal should include a brief précis of the paper topic and a clear indication of how the paper will undertake to connect the specific research subject to larger events and processes taking place across the British Empire. The deadline for receiving proposals is September 1, 2009.

Paper proposals (as well a brief C.V.) should be submitted via e-mail to the conference organizers, Robert Olwell and James Vaughn, at: historyinstitute@austin.utexas.edu. Send all queries to the same address.

2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series

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A presentation by acclaimed French & Indian War reenactor Major George A. Bray III will present “Struggle for an Empire, The French and Indian War along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, 1755-1760” at 6 pm at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield this Thursday, May 21, 2009. Bray will relate tales of the 250-year-old conflict to open the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Bray will appear in period costume, portraying an officer of Rogers’ Rangers, an elite rapid response light infantry unit known for its bold military tactics. Rogers’ Rangers became the chief scouting unit of the British Crown forces during the war fought from 1754 to 1760.

In addition to being a respected French & Indian War historian, Bray is a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians, and an author writing for such publications as Early America Review. He has written about various aspects of the war from the use of poisoned bullets by the French to scalping. Bray’s historic collection includes original newspapers, documents, books, prints and weaponry.

As event commander at historic Fort Niagara in Youngstown, NY, Bray will welcome hundreds of reenactors for the July 3-5 New York State Signature Event for the 250th French & Indian War Anniversary Commemoration. Bray says, “My mission is to portray 18th century military life for the education of visitors to historic sites and to perpetuate the significant history of the French and Indian War and Rogers’ Rangers.”

Bray serves with Seaway Trail Foundation President Teresa Mitchell on the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemorative Commission. The $5 admission for May 21st presentation will benefit the nonprofit Seaway Trail Foundation that promotes learning experience tourism along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, one of America’s Byways noted for authentic American experiences. Learn more at www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Defying Empire: Trading With The Enemy

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A new book on the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War in Europe) highlights the role New York merchants played in trading with the French enemy. Thomas M. Truxes’s Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York gives an engaging narrative account of New York City’s heavy involvement in a thriving, forbidden commerce with the French enemy and how the suppression of that trade by British authorities contributed to the coming of the American Revolution. The book was recently named a finalist for the Society of American Historians’ prestigious Francis Parkman Prize.

Readers will recognize elements of our current economic situation in the story of how a few ambitious businessmen put their personal financial interests ahead of their country in order to enrich themselves. Upstate New York served as a major center for the French and Indian War military activities beginning when the remnants of the disastrous Braddock expedition, after having destroyed most of their equipment and supplies, retreated to Albany which Truxes describes “with its fort, guns, and small garrison of regular soldiers, the last physically secure place along the northern frontier.”

Upstate New York then suffered much of the brunt of the ensuing war as all the while New York City traders continued to deal amicably with the French on the high seas. With French, British, and American economies increasing linked through trade, Truxes makes a convincing argument that New York City’s former Dutch openness inspired a growing sense that individual and corporate ties of trade and commerce, at leasat for some, might override national alliance. Delancey, Chambers, Duane, and White streets in New York were all named for historical figures chronicled in Trading with the Enemy and whose names figure prominently in the conflict over what could be considered a kind of free trade movement. “French agents moved with ease in the shadows of wartime New York [City],” Truxes notes, “Agents and spies entered and departed unseen aboard vessels shuttling between New York City and French settlements in Maritime Canada, the western Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.” Some of New York City’s most prominent trader-businessmen did the same. Well worth the read.

Truxes is a Senior Lecturer in the History Department at Trinity College. His current project (now in the works) 1756: The Year the World Ended will also have a lot to say about New York (city and province) during the French and Indian War.

The author sent me the following synopsis, which I’ll include here:

Prologue: “The Informer”
The book opens in the autumn of 1759 with a dramatic account of the public humiliation of a government informer. George Spencer, a failed New York wine merchant, has responded to a notice from the custom house offering an award for information related to the shipping of provisions, supplies, and “warlike stores” to the French enemy. Spencer stands to recover his fortune by bringing ruin to New Yorkers doing business with the French. When word spreads that an informer is loose in the city, a dozen members of the city’s merchant elite—main characters in the story—meet in secret to plan the punishment of George Spencer. The following day (November 2, 1759), an angry mob “carts” the informer through the city, pelting him with stones, dirt, and “the filth of the streets”. He is then taken to the New York City Jail where he spends 27 months unraveling a web of false charges and planning his revenge.

1: “A City at War”
New York during the Seven Years’ War (1755-1763) was an attractive, thriving, and self-confident city. It was the headquarters of the British Army in North America and a principal link in the chain of military supply—for both sides. Its large and aggressive fleet of privateers, the most successful in British America, was emblematic of the swagger that pervaded the city. Most importantly, New York was a commercial center, driven by a business ethos that placed commercial success above all else.

2: “Admiral Hardy and the Smugglers”
Early in the war, New York’s provincial governor, Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, fears—quite rightly—that large-scale smuggling operations in New York City have the potential to undermine the British war effort. In the spring of 1756, Hardy stages an aggressive campaign to eradicate all forms of illicit trade. Since its founding in the seventeenth century, colonial New York City has benefited from a delicate balance between legal and extra-legal trade, and there is a long tradition of cooperation between political and commercial elites. When Hardy upsets that balance in the interest of the war effort, he unwittingly drives New Yorkers into large-scale trade with the French enemy.

3: “Frenchified Bottoms”
At midnight at an East River wharf in May 1756, Samuel Stilwell, one of the conspirators in the punishment of George Spencer, loads a cargo of provisions for the neutral Dutch island of St. Eustatius. The goods will be turned over to enemy agents for transshipment to French Saint-Domingue. Stilwell’s vessel departs New York just as Great Britain declares war against France. In the weeks that followed, British warships and privateers sweep the French carrying trade from the sea, creating a crisis for military planners in Versailles. In desperation, they turn to neutral “Frenchified bottoms”, as well as North America vessels bound for neutral Dutch and Danish islands in the Caribbean. High-handed British countermeasures take a severe toll on neutral shipping and create a diplomatic crisis.

4: “Mountmen”
London is more cautious in its dealings with neutral Spain, fearing Spanish entrance into the war on the side of the French. Britain’s toleration of Spanish neutrality contributes to the rise to prominence of an obscure Spanish port on the north coast of Hispaniola just a few miles east of the border with French Saint-Domingue. By 1757, Monte Cristi is one of the busiest shipping points in the North Atlantic, with as many as 180 vessels riding in the bay at one time. Each day, a fleet of Spanish coasting vessels carries high-priced North American provisions and other goods (many manufactured in Britain) to the French at Cape François and elsewhere in Saint-Domingue. There they are exchanged for sugar, coffee, indigo, and other island produce at bargain prices. From the British perspective, the trade is legal so long as there is no direct contact with the subjects of the French king. New York ships and resident merchants are a conspicuous presence at Monte Cristi, as are the sulking British warships patrolling off the coast.

5: “Flag-Trucers”
The chapter opens with a New York trading vessel flying a white flag of truce slipping silently beneath the guns at the entrance to the harbor at Cape François. British harassment of ships doing business with the French through neutral sites—and the high costs that accompany indirect trade—give rise to a more creative ruse: trading with the enemy under the protection of government-issued permits to exchange prisoners-of-war. When the commander of the British naval squadron at Port Royal, Jamaica, discovers that “flag-trucers” from North America are outfitting French warships in the summer of 1759, he takes the law into his own hands, rounding up flag-of-truce vessels and initiating prosecutions in the Jamaican court of vice-admiralty. The British admiral’s actions cause consternation in New York where the faint-of-heart begin to exit wartime trade with the French.

6: “Mixed Messages”
From his cold and dank room in the New York City Jail, George Spencer plots his revenge and launches a barrage of lawsuits in the early weeks of 1760. Some are to gain his “informer’s share” of ships and cargoes trading with the enemy; others are to recover personal damages from his tormentors. The Navy’s interdictions in the West Indies and Spencer’s initiatives at home spark a lively but inconclusive debate on trading with the enemy. In late July, the sudden death of Lieutenant-Governor James Delancey (Hardy’s replacement and a friend of the traders) further demoralizes the city and brings Cadwallader Colden (a less skilled and more confrontational politician) to power. In London, the de facto prime minister, William Pitt, responds to a chorus of complaints from the British military with a circular letter to all colonial governors demanding that they look into allegations of widespread trading with the enemy. In November 1760, after Spencer’s prosecutions are thrown out of the New York Court of Vice–Admiralty by a corrupt judge, the informer throws himself at the mercy of the British commander in North America, General Jeffery Amherst. Pressured to act, Colden calls for formal hearings. After two weeks of testimony, the provincial council in New York finds no basis for Spencer’s charges. In late December—the day Colden completes his report to Pitt—news arrives of the death of King George II.

7: “Business as Usual”
In January 1761—in the midst of a blizzard—King George III is proclaimed in New York. The guest list at the governor’s reception includes the city’s leading traders with the enemy, several of them kinsmen of prominent politicians and judges. Meanwhile, in the West Indies, the Royal Navy is stepping up its campaign to eradicate the practice and becomes increasingly aggressive in its disruption of trade with the French via Spanish Monte Cristi. News arrives in New York that an appeals court in London has begun to reverse lower-court condemnations of ships trading with the enemy where there was no evidence of face-to-face contact between British traders and subjects of the French king. George Spencer is released from the New York City Jail in January 1762 following the appointment of a new chief justice without ties to the New York mercantile community. By June, Spencer is in London.

8: “Crackdown”
New York City has become a nest of French agents coordinating the movement of provisions and supplies to the French West Indies and Gulf of Mexico. At the time of Spencer’s release from jail, a British warship departs a naval base on the south coast of England for New York City. It carries news of Britain’s declaration of war against Spain, as well as urgent orders for General Amherst to prepare an expeditionary force to join an assault on Havana, Cuba. In April, Amherst is unable to meet London’s deadline because of the scarcity of provisions and supplies created by the city’s trade with the French. When naval patrol boats seize New York ships returning from Cape François, captured documents reveal the full extent of the city’s involvement in the trade. Raids lead to the seizure of French agents, following which prominent New York merchants are arrested and jailed. At a public meeting on May 29, 1762, fifty-four New York merchants sign an appeal to Lieutenant-Governor Colden begging forgiveness for what they had done and the harm it may have brought to the war effort.

9: “The Trial”
Cadwallader Colden and New York’s attorney general, John Tabor Kempe, prepare for the prosecution of leading figures in New York’s trade with the French. The first of these, the Cunningham-White trial, opens in April 1763. Waddell Cunningham and Thomas White (among the principal characters in the book) are among the leading participants in the trade. Readers will be taken through the twists and turns of the trial and follow Kempe’s presentation to the jury. The defense, caught off-guard by the rigor of the Crown’s case, argues that Cunningham and White are being prosecuted for behavior that was commonplace during the war. To the consternation of the city’s merchant community, the jury finds the defendants guilty and the court imposes a stiff fine. The defense petitions the court for permission to argue later for an “arrest of judgment” based on the severity of the penalty.

10: “Fruits of Victory”
New York slips into a severe postwar recession. George Spencer—now in London—haunts the corridors of power, demanding justice for himself and punishment for those aiding and comforting the enemy. We learn about the politics of the government’s lackluster response to colonial smuggling and trading with the enemy. In America, the war ends in the summer of 1763, and Waddell Cunningham—the principal defendant in the Cunningham-White trail—becomes involved in a violent altercation on the streets of New York with a fellow merchant, Thomas Forsey. The British government, facing staggering wartime debt, deputizes naval officers as customs officials and sends warships to America to enforced laws governing trade. New Yorkers feel the heavy hand of commercial reform as the remaining trading-with-the-enemy cases go to trial. The mood turns ugly, and juries now refuse to convict. At a hearing in January 1764, a judge sharply reduces the fines against Cunningham and White.

Epilogue: “Path to Revolution”
In London, George Spencer—now busier than ever—is in contact with British Treasury officials as prime minister George Grenville puts the finishing touches on tough new legislation to reform the customs administration in America and raise revenue to pay for the long and expensive war. In New York, at the Cunningham-Forsey civil trial in October 1764 (a much anticipated event), the jury rules in favor of Forsey and imposes a huge fine on Cunningham. When the court refuses to hear an appeal based on the size of the penalty, friends of the defendant persuade Lieutenant-Governor Colden to allow an appeal based on his powers as chief executive of the province. Colden defers the matters to London and earns the wrath of the citizenry for interfering the sanctity of jury verdicts. In the spring of 1765, the Stamp Act is passed in London and New Yorkers edge toward open resistance against what they see as tyrannical and arbitrary rule. On the day the Stamp Act goes into effect (November 1, 1765), violence erupts in New York, and the city teeters on the edge of anarchy. Within a fortnight, Colden is replaced by a new governor who defuses the tension. In January 1766, George Spencer offers the British Treasury a solution to the thorny problem of raising revenue in America—a tax on tea.

The book ends with brief accounts of what happens to the principal characters later in their lives. Many go on to play prominent roles as Patriots and Loyalists during the American Revolution. A few of those who had earned their fortunes trading with the enemy during the last of the eighteenth-century Anglo-French colonial wars become Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

400 Years of The Champlain Valley Event

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Rich Strum, Director of Interpretation and Education at Fort Ticonderoga, will offer a program entitled “Conquest, Commerce, and Culture: 400 Years of History in the Champlain Valley” at Saranac Village at Will Rogers in Saranac Lake on Sunday, March 8, 2009.

Samuel de Champlain first saw the great expanse of Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains to the east, the Adirondacks on the west in 1609. New York State, Vermont, and the Province of Quebec are commemorating the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s explorations this year through a variety of programs and events.

Strum will provide an illustrated overview of four centuries of the Champlain region’s history. He will discuss military contests for control of the vital Champlain corridor, the role the lake has played in economic growth and expansion, the lasting impact of 150 years of French dominance in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The presentation will begin at 2:00 p.m. and is offered at no charge to member sof the Adirondack Museum and children of elementary school age or younger. Free admission will be extended to all residents of Saranac Village at Will Rogers. The fee for non-members is $5.00. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Rich Strum has been the Director of Interpretation and Education at Fort Ticonderoga since 1999. He serves as North Country Regional Coordinator for New York State History Day. He is the author of Ticonderoga: Lake Champlain Steamboat, as well as two books for young readers: Causes of the American Revolution and Henry Know: Washington’s Artilleryman. He lives in Ticonderoga, N.Y. with his wife and daughters.

Call For Papers: When The French Were Here

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As part of the quadricentennial of Samuel de Champlain’s exploration of Lake Champlain, Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont is hosting an international academic symposium on July 2-5, 2009. Scholars from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences are invited to participate.

The theme, “When the French Were Here,” invites the broadest possible consideration of Samuel de Champlain’s achievements, his life, and of his world as a cultural, social and ideological context. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Facing Financial Ruin

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Fort Ticonderoga President Peter S. Paine Jr. has suggested in a memo forwarded to the Plattsburgh Press Republican that the historic site (a veteran of the French and Indian and American Revolutionary wars as well as the War of 1812) has seven options to avoid permanent closure, none of them good.

Paine wrote in the memo that “the fort is running through its available endowment funds to pay the Mars Education Center bills, and, in the absence of a major infusion of funds, the fort will be essentially broke by the end of 2008.”

His options include applying for new short-term loans (perhaps from the Essex County Industrial Development Agency), banking on a new capital campaign to raise $3 million to $5 million (Paine had said the Fort needed 2.5 million), asking the state for a bailout or to take over ownership of the fort, selling some of the fort’s property or collections (it holds paintings worth millions, including Thomas Cole’s 1831 “Ruins of Fort Ticonderoga,” but its ownership is in dispute) or closing for an indefinite period until the finances are sorted out.

Paine’s proposals come after a year of chaos at the fort began when Deborah Mars, a Ticonderoga native married to the billionaire co-owner of the Mars candy company Forrest Mars Jr., bailed on their long-time support for the fort just before completion of the new $23 million Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. The Mars paid for nearly all of the new building’s construction but left before it was finished leaving Fort Ti about a million dollars in debt. When the building bearing their name opened this month, they didn’t show. Mr. Mars said disagreements with fort’s Executive Director Nicholas Westbrook were the reason why. Paine replaced Deborah Mars as the fort’s president.

A newly released study of Revolution War and War of 1812 sites by the National Park Service [pdf] points to the problem of private ownership of some America’s most important heritage sites:

Nonprofit organizations dedicated to preserving, maintaining, and interpreting their historic properties own all or portions of 100 Principal Sites [identified by the report]. Ownership of four Principal Sites is unknown currently. Private owners still control most of the Principal Sites, especially the battlefields and associated properties made up of large land areas. Privately owned sites or portions of sites are without any known form of enforceable legal protection. Many private owners maintain and care for their historic properties, but without legally mandated protection, the properties could be damaged or destroyed at any time.

Fort Ticonderoga had already been identified in the report as a Priority I (“these sites need immediate preservation or may be lost by 2017″) facing a “medium” level of threat. The threat is real for the already economically depressed Adirondack region of New York State, and the locals are restless.

A Short History of Fort Carillon / Fort Ticonderoga

The fort located at the north-south choke-point between Lake George and Lake Champlain was ordered built by French Governor-General Vaudreuil (the French Governor of Canada) as the southernmost fort of the French Empire in the New World as a bulwark in anticipation of attacks on Fort St. Frederic and the French settlements at today’s Crown Point, New York (currently being excavated) and Chimney Point, Vermont. Named Fort Carillon, it was built by soldiers and settlers in 1755-56. The following year French General Montcalm used Carillon as a base to attack British Fort William Henry at the southern end of Lake George. In 1758, British General Abercromby led an overwhelming British and Colonial Army in a attack on the fort that ended disastrously. American colonial forces under Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen took the poorly manned fort in the opening engagements of the American Revolution without a fight in 1775. It was retaken by Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne in 1777. Native Americans from the Algonquin, French Mohawk, Huron, and Nippissings are among those associated with the history of the fort.

It is considered one of America’s oldest heritage tourism sites with tourists arriving in numbers in the 1830s (by way of comparison, the Hasbrouck House, George Washington’s headquarters at Newburgh, NY, became the first historic house museum in the United States in 1850). In 1783, George Washington visited the Fort with New York’s Governor Clinton. Following the Revolution New York State granted the Fort and its surrounding grounds to Columbia and Union Colleges. In 1791 future presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both visited the fort.

William Ferris Pell purchased 546 acres containing the ruined fort in 1820, but it wasn’t opened to the public until 1908. The non-profit Fort Ticonderoga Association took control in the 1930s and members of the Pell family formally loaned many of the paintings and artifacts to the fort in the 1940s. Mount Independence, the high ground on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain where many colonial troops were encamped during occupation of the fort is under the care of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. The ruins at nearby Crown Point are a New York State Historic Site.

This post also appeared at Adirondack Almanack, the premiere blog of the culture, politics, history, and environment of the Adirondacks.

Largest Event at Fort Ticonderoga in Modern Times

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It’s a big year at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. First it’s the 100th anniversary of their opening with a dedication attended by President William Howard Taft. The Pell family began it’s restoration that year, a project that is continuing with the completion of the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center that will open on July 6.

This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War of the Battle of Carillon, which was designated as the I Love NY “signature event,” and the opening of the new exhibit “Face of War; Triumph and Tragedy at Ticonderoga, 1758-1759,” the first new exhibit in many years. It details the lives of soldiers taken directly from their diaries and letters.

On the weekend of June 28 and 29th, over 2,000 re-enactors from all over the world are expected to make camp assembling to commemorate and celebrate the battle when Major General Abercromby’s British Army, along with Native Americans and American Militia was defeated by a much smaller force defending the fort under the Marquis de Montcalm. The focal point of the re-enactment of the 1758 battle will be a replica of the log breastwork that was a focal point of repeated and deadly British frontal attacks.

On July 5, the British and the Black Watch will be remembered with a parade to the Scottish Cairn, accompanied by clans, bagpipes and Scots from Canada, England and the United States. On July 8, there will be a parade led by the Fort Ticonderoga Fife and Drum Corps to the Montcalm Cross in remembrance of the French victory.