Ancestors’ Military Service in the French and Indian War

In 1754 both France and Great Britain had large colonial interests in North America. Britain, of course, had the 13 colonies[1]  plus Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Hudson’s Bay. France had New France, which extended from Isle Royale (Cape Breton Island today) in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west and from what is now southern Ontario in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south.

French & Indian War, 1754-1763

The two countries’ competition for expansion led in 1754 to what became known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War. The war was fought primarily along the frontiers separating New France from the British colonies and lasted until the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, with France ceding New France to the British. (This war was part of the global Seven Years War, 1756-1763, focused on conflict between Britain and the Bourbons in France and Spain and territorial battles by others in the Holy Roman Empire.)

My sixth great-grandfather, John Brown, and two of his sons, Perley Brown (my fifth great-grandfather), and John Brown, Jr., served with the British forces in this war.[2]

In the Fall of 1756, the three men were members of a Minute Men brigade that went from their home town of Leicester, Massachusetts to join others in a planned assault on the French Fort St. Frederic (now Crown Point) at the southern end of Lake Champlain in today’s upstate New York.  However, before the offensive got underway, word arrived of the French victory at Fort Oswego on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario in present-day New York. The British feared that an overwhelming French army would be assembled in the Champlain Valley, and, therefore, the British cancelled the planed attack.

Fort William Henry

In August of the next year, 1757, the three men and other Minute Men from Leicester went to help defend the British Fort William Henry at the southern end of Lake George in the Province of New York. The Fort, however, was weakly supported, and after several days of French bombardment, the British surrendered. Afterwards the French destroyed the fort. (The fort has been reconstructed and is open with a museum for tourists.)

Under the terms of surrender, the French were to protect the British from the Indian allies of the French. The Indians, however, attacked the withdrawing British forces who had been stripped of their ammunition and killed and scalped a significant number of soldiers. The Indians also captured women, children, servants and slaves. (This incident was portrayed in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans.) Fortunately the three Browns were not involved in this massacre.

[1] The 13 colonies were Province of New Hampshire, Province of Massachusetts Bay, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, Connecticut Colony, Province of New York, Province of New Jersey, Province of Pennsylvania, the Lower Colonies on Delaware, Province of Maryland, Colony and Dominion of Virginia, Province of North Carolina, Province of South Carolina and Province of Georgia.

[2] Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 at 6, 11, 17 (Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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