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definitions - Seven_Years'_War

Seven Years' War (n.)

1.a war of England and Prussia against France and Austria (1756-1763); Britain and Prussia got the better of it

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Seven Years' War

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Seven Years' War

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham by Benjamin West.
Date1756–1763
LocationEurope, Africa, India, North America, South America, the Philippine Islands.
ResultTreaty of Saint Petersburg
Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Hubertusburg
Territorial
changes
France cedes Canada to Great Britain and Louisiana to Spain; Great Britain annexes Bengal; Spain cedes Florida to Great Britain
Belligerents
Great Britain and her colonies
File:Flag of Prussia (1750).gif Prussia
Hanover
Iroquois Confederacy
 Portugal and her colonies
Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Hesse-Kassel
France and her colonies
 Holy Roman Empire
 Austrian Empire
 Russian Empire
 Sweden
 Spain and her colonies
Saxony
Sardinia
Commanders
File:Flag of Prussia (1701).gif Frederick II
File:Flag of Prussia (1701).gif Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz
John Manners
Edward Boscawen
Baron Clive
James Wolfe  
Baron Amherst
Edward Braddock  
Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick
Louis XV
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm  
Count von Daun
Franz Moritz von Lacy
Charles Alexander of Lorraine
Ernst von Laudon

Elizabeth
Pyotr Saltykov
Frederick Augustus II

The Seven Years' War was a major military conflict that lasted from 1756, as a result of the French and Indian War that erupted in North America in 1754, until the conclusion of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in 1763. It involved all of the major European powers of the period.

The war pitted Prussia and Great Britain and a coalition of smaller German states against an alliance consisting of Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony. Russia temporarily changed sides in the later stages of the war. Portugal (on the side of Great Britain) and Spain (on the side of France) entered the conflict later, and a force from the neutral Dutch Republic was attacked in India.[citation needed]

Fighting between Great Britain, France, and their respective allies in North America had broken out in 1754, two years before the general conflict, as part of an Imperial rivalry. The fighting in North America is a separate war, known in the United States as the French and Indian War.

War in Europe began in 1756 with the French siege of British Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea, and Frederick the Great of Prussia's invasion of Saxony on the continent which also upset the firmly established Pragmatic Sanction put in place by Charles VI of Austria. Despite being the main theatre of war, the European conflict resulted in a bloody stalemate which did little to change the pre-war status quo, while its consequences in Asia and the Americas were wider ranging and longer lasting. Concessions made in the 1763 Treaty of Paris ended France's position as a major colonial power in the Americas (where it lost all claim to land in North America east of the Mississippi River along with what is now Canada, in addition to some West Indian islands).[1] Prussia confirmed its position in the ranks of the great European powers, retaining the formerly Austrian province of Silesia. Great Britain strengthened its territories in India and North America, confirming its status as the dominant colonial power.

Because of its global nature, it has been described as the "first World War".[2] It resulted in some 900,000 to 1,400,000 deaths and significant changes in the balance of power and territories of several of the participants.

Contents

Etymology

In Canada, France and the United Kingdom, the name Seven Years' War is used to describe the North American conflict as well as the European and Asian conflicts. This conflict lasted seven years from 1756 to 1763. In the United States, however, the North American portion of the war, which started in 1754, is popularly known as the French and Indian War. Many scholars and professional historians in America, such as Fred Anderson, however, follow the example of their colleagues in other countries and refer to the conflict as the "Seven Years' War," regardless of the theatre. In Quebec, the conflict is also referred to as La Guerre de la Conquête, meaning The War of Conquest. The conflict in India is termed the Third Carnatic War while the fighting between Prussia and Austria is called the Third Silesian War.

The war was also described by Winston Churchill as the first "world war",[3] as it was the first conflict in human history to be fought around the globe, although most of the combatants were either European nations or their overseas colonies. As a partially Anglo-French conflict involving developing empires, the war was one of the most significant phases of the 18th century Second Hundred Years' War.[4]

Background

This war is often said to be a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession that had lasted between 1740 and 1748, in which King Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great, had gained the rich province of Silesia from Austria. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle only in order to gain time to rebuild her military forces and to forge new alliances, which she did with remarkable success. The political map of Europe had been redrawn in a few years as Austria abandoned its twenty-five year alliance with Britain. During the so-called Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, the centuries-old enemies of France, Austria and Russia formed a single alliance against Prussia.

All the participants of the Seven Years' War. Blue: Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal with allies. Green: France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Sweden with allies.

Prussia's only major assistance came from Great Britain, their newfound allies, whose ruling dynasty saw its ancestral Hanoverian possession as being threatened by France. In many respects the two powers' forces complemented each other excellently. The British had the largest, most effective navy in the world, while Prussia had the most formidable land force on continental Europe, allowing Great Britain to focus its soldiers towards colonial expeditions. The British hoped that the new series of alliances that had been formed during the Diplomatic Revolution would allow peace to continue, but they in fact provided the catalyst for the eruption of war in 1756.

The Austrian army had undergone an overhaul according to the Prussian system. Maria Theresa, whose knowledge of military affairs shamed many of her generals, had pressed relentlessly for reform. Her interest in the welfare of the soldiers had gained her their undivided respect. Austria had suffered several humiliating defeats to Prussia in the previous war, and strongly dissatisfied with the limited help they had received from the British, they now saw France as the only ally who could help them retake Silesia and check Prussia's expansion.

The second cause for war arose from the heated colonial struggle between the British Empire and French Empire which, as they expanded, met and clashed with one another on two continents. Of particular dispute was control of the Ohio Country which was central to both countries' ambitions of further expansion and development in North America. The two countries had been in a de facto state of war since 1754, but these military clashes remained confined to the American theatre.

Strategies

For much of the eighteenth century, France approached its wars in the same way: it would let its colonies fend for themselves, sending only small numbers of troops — or perhaps inexperienced soldiers — out, anticipating that fights for the colonies would likely be lost anyway. This strategy was to a degree forced upon France: geography coupled with the superiority of the British navy made it difficult for the French navy to provide supplies and support to French colonies. Similarly, several long land borders made an effective domestic army imperative for any ruler of France. Given these military necessities, the French government, unsurprisingly, based its strategy overwhelmingly on the army in Europe: it would keep most of its army on the European continent, hoping that such a force would be victorious closer to home. The plan was to fight to the end of the war and then, in treaty negotiations, to trade territorial acquisitions in Europe in order to regain overseas possessions lost. This approach did not serve France well in the war, as the colonies were indeed lost, but France had few counterbalancing European successes.

The British—by inclination as well as for pragmatic reasons—had tended to avoid large-scale commitments of troops on the Continent. They sought to offset the disadvantage this created in Europe by allying themselves with one or more Continental power whose interests were antithetical to those of their enemies, particularly France. For the Seven Years' War, the British chose as their principal partner the greatest military strategist of the day, Frederick the Great, and his kingdom, Prussia, then the rising power in central Europe, and paid Frederick substantial subsidies to support his campaigns. In marked contrast to France, Britain strove to actively prosecute the war in the colonies, taking full advantage of its naval power. The British pursued a dual strategy of naval blockade and bombardment of enemy ports, and also utilised their ability to move troops by sea to the utmost. They would harass enemy shipping and attack enemy colonies, frequently using colonists from nearby British colonies.

The formal opening of hostilities in Europe was preceded by fighting in North America, where the westward expansion of the British colonies located along the eastern seaboard began to run afoul of French claims to the Mississippi valley in the late 1740s and early 1750s. In order to forestall the expansion of Virginia and Pennsylvania, in particular, the French built a line of forts in what is now western Pennsylvania in the mid-1750s, and British efforts to dislodge them led to conflicts generally considered to be part of the French and Indian War, as the Seven Years' War is known in the United States.

Europe

1756

The British Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle remained optimistic that war could be prevented from breaking out in Europe by the new series of alliances.[5] However a large French force was assembled at Toulon, and the French opened the campaign against the British by an attack on Minorca in the Mediterranean. A British attempt at relief was foiled at the Battle of Minorca and the island was captured on 28 June (for which Admiral Byng was court-martialed and executed).[6] War between Britain and France had been formally declared on 18 May[7] nearly two years after the first fighting had broken out in the Ohio Country.

Battle of Lobositz. Austria: blue; Prussia: red.

Having received reports of the clashes in North America, and having secured the support of Great Britain with a Anglo-Prussian alliance, Frederick II of Prussia crossed the border of Saxony on 29 August 1756, one of the small German states in league with Austria. He intended this as a bold pre-emption of an anticipated Austro-French invasion of Silesia. The Saxon and Austrian armies were unprepared, and their forces were scattered. At the Battle of Lobositz, Frederick prevented the isolated Saxon army from being reinforced by an Austrian army under General Browne. The Prussians then outmaneuvred and surrounded the Saxon army which surrendered at Pirna in late 1756, resulting in the Prussian occupation of Saxony. The only significant Austrian success was the partial occupation of Silesia.

Britain had been surprised by the sudden Prussian offensive, but now began shipping supplies and money to their allies. A combined German force was organised under the Duke of Cumberland to protect Hanover from a French invasion. The British attempted to persuade the Dutch Republic to join the alliance, but the request was rejected as the Dutch wished to remain fully neutral.[8] Despite the huge disparity in numbers, the year had been a successful one for the Prussian-led forces on the continent, in contrast to disappointing British campaigns in North America.

1757

File:Schlacht von Leuthen.JPG

In early 1757, Frederick again took the initiative by marching into Bohemia hoping to inflict a decisive defeat on the Austrian forces. After the bloody Battle of Prague, the Prussians laid siege to the city, but had to lift the siege after a major Austrian counter-attack and Frederick's first defeat at the Battle of Kolin. That summer, the Russians had invaded East Prussia and defeated a smaller Prussian force in the fiercely contested Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf. Further defeats followed. Frederick was forced to break off his invasion of Bohemia, and withdraw back into Prussian-controlled territory.[9]

Things were looking very grim for Prussia at this time, with the Austrians mobilizing to attack Prussian-controlled soil and a French army under Soubise approaching from the west. In what Napoleon would call "a masterpiece in maneuver and resolution" in November and December the whole situation in Germany was reversed. Frederick devastated first a French invasion at the Battle of Rossbach and then routed a vastly superior Austrian force at Battle of Leuthen. With these great victories, Frederick once again established himself as Europe's finest general and his men as Europe's finest soldiers. In spite of these successes the Prussians were now facing four major powers attacking on four fronts (France from the West, Austria from the South, Russia from the East and Sweden from the north). This problem was compounded when the main Hanoverian army under Cumberland was defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck and then forced to surrender entirely at the Convention of Klosterzeven.[10] The Convention removed Hanover and Brunswick from the war leaving the Western approach to Prussian territory extremely vulnerable. Frederick sent urgent requests to Britain for more substantial assistance, as he was now without any military support for his forces in Germany.[11]

The British had suffered further defeats in America, particularly at Fort William Henry. At home however stability had been established. Since 1756 successive governments led by Newcastle and William Pitt had both fallen. In August 1757 the two men agreed to a political partnership and formed a coalition government which gave new, firmer direction to the British war effort. The new strategy emphasised both Newcastle's commitment to British involvement on the European continent particularly in defence of Germany and William Pitt's determination to use British naval power to launch expeditions to seize French colonies around the globe. The "dual strategy" would dominate British policy for the next five years.

1758–60

Into late 1758 the general tide of the war continued to be in favour of the Prussians and British. In the west, the French were beaten in the Battle of Krefeld by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick. Finally later in 1758 in the east, at the Battle of Zorndorf in Prussia, a Prussian army of 35,000 men under Frederick fought to a standstill with a Russian army of 43,000 commanded by Count Fermor. The Russians withdrew from the field. In the undecided Battle of Tornow on 25 September, a Swedish army repulsed six assaults by a Prussian army.

File:7yearswar.PNG
Operations of Russian army from Polish territory during Seven Years' War 1756–1762. The green arrows are Russian movements, and green circles are Russian bases

The back-and-forth nature of the war continued as on 14 October, Marshal Daun's Austrians surprised the main Prussian army at the Battle of Hochkirch. Frederick lost much of his artillery but retreated in good order, helped by the densely wooded landscape.

The year 1759 saw some severe Prussian defeats. At the Battle of Kay, or Paltzig, the Russian Count Saltykov with 47,000 Russians defeated 26,000 Prussian troops commanded by General Carl Heinrich von Wedel. Though the Hanoverians defeated an army of 60,000 French at Minden, Austrian general Daun forced the surrender of an entire Prussian corps of 13,000 men in the Battle of Maxen. Frederick himself lost half his army in the Battle of Kunersdorf, the worst defeat in his military career, and one that drove him to the brink of abdication and suicide. The disaster resulted partly from his misjudgment of the Russians, who had already demonstrated their strength at Zorndorf and at Gross-Jägersdorf.

The French planned to invade the British Isles during 1759 by accumulating troops near the mouth of the Loire and concentrating their Brest and Toulon fleets. However, two sea defeats prevented this. In August, the Mediterranean fleet under Jean-François de La Clue-Sabran was scattered by a larger British fleet under Edward Boscawen at the Battle of Lagos. In the Battle of Quiberon Bay on 20 November, the British admiral Edward Hawke with 23 ships of the line caught the French Brest fleet with 21 ships of the line under Marshal de Conflans and sank, captured or forced aground many of them, putting an end to the French plans.

1760 brought even more disasters to the Prussians. The Prussian general Fouqué was defeated in the Battle of Landshut. The French captured Marburg, and the Swedes part of Brandenburg-Prussian Pomerania. The Hanoverians were victorious over the French at the Battle of Warburg, their continued success preventing France from sending troops to aid the Austrians against Prussia in the east. Despite this the Austrians, under the command of General Laudon captured Glatz in Silesia. In the Battle of Liegnitz Frederick scored a victory despite being outnumbered three to one. The Russians under General Saltykov and Austrians under General Lacy briefly occupied his capital, Berlin, in October. The end of that year saw Frederick once more victorious, defeating the able Daun in the Battle of Torgau, but he suffered heavy casualties and the Austrians retreated in good order.

1761–62

Prussia began the 1761 campaign with just 100,000 available troops, many of them new recruits.[12] 1762 brought two new countries into the war. Britain declared war against Spain on 4 January 1762; Spain reacted by issuing their own declaration of war against Britain on 18 January.[13] Portugal followed by joining the war on Britain's side. Spain launched an invasion of Portugal and suceeded in capturing Almeida. The arrival of British reinforcements stalled a further Spanish advance, and the Battle of Valencia de Alcántara saw British forces overrun a major Spanish supply base.

At the Battle of Villinghausen Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick defeated a 92,000-man French army. The Russians under Zakhar Chernyshev and Pyotr Rumyantsev stormed Kolberg in Pomerania, while the Austrians captured Schweidnitz. The loss of Kolberg had seen Prussia lose its last port on the Baltic Sea.[14] In Britain, it was speculated that a total Prussian collapse was now imminent.

Britain now threatened to withdraw its subsidies if Prussia didn't seriously consider offering to make concessions to secure peace. As the Prussian armies had dwindled to just 60,000 men Frederick's survival was severely threatened. Then on 5 January 1762 the Russian Empress Elizabeth died. Her Prussophile successor, Peter III, at once recalled Russian armies from Berlin (see: the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1762)) and mediated Frederick's truce with Sweden. In the aftermath, Frederick was able to drive the Austrians from Silesia in the Battle of Freiberg (29 October 1762), while his Brunswick allies captured the key town of Göttingen and compounded it by taking Cassel.

The long British naval blockade of French ports had sapped the morale of the French populace. The French will to continue collapsed yet further when news of a French failure in Newfoundland reached Paris.[15] Feelers for peace were now extended to the British.

1763

By 1763 Frederick had Silesia under his control and had occupied parts of Austria. The British subsidies had been withdrawn by the new Prime Minister Lord Bute, and the Russian Emperor had been overthrown by his wife Catherine the Great who now switched Russian support back to Austria and launched fresh attacks on Prussia. Austria, however, had been weakened from the war and like most participants they were facing a severe financial crisis. In 1763 a peace settlement was reached at the Treaty of Hubertusburg ending the war in central Europe.

British amphibious "descents"

Great Britain planned a "descent" (an amphibious demonstration or raid) on Rochefort, a joint operation to overrun the town and burn the shipping in the Charente. The expedition set out on 8 September 1757, Sir John Mordaunt commanding the troops and Sir Edward Hawke the fleet. On 23 September, the Isle d'Aix was taken, but due to dithering by military staff such time was lost that Rochefort became unassailable,[16] and the expedition abandoned the Isle d'Aix, returned to Great Britain on 1 October.

William Pitt, lauded British leader during the war, confirming Britain's status as the world's dominant colonial power

Despite the operational failure and debated strategic success of the descent on Rochefort, William Pitt — who saw purpose in this type of asymmetric enterprise — prepared to continue such operations.[16] An army was assembled under the command of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough; he was aided by Lord George Sackville. The naval escorts for the expedition were commanded by Anson, Hawke, and Howe. The army landed on 5 June 1758 at Cancalle Bay, proceeded to St. Malo, and burned the shipping in the harbor; the arrival of French relief forces caused the British to avoid a siege, and the troops re-embarked. An attack on Havre de Grace was called off, and the fleet sailed on to Cherbourg; but the weather being bad and provisions low, that too was abandoned, and the expedition returned, having damaged French privateering and provided a further strategic demonstration against the French coast.

Pitt now prepared to send troops into Germany; and both Marlborough and Sackville, disgusted by what they perceived as the futility of the "descents", obtained commissions in that army. The elderly General Bligh was appointed to command a new "descent", escorted by Howe. The campaign began propitiously with the Raid on Cherbourg. With the support of the navy to bombard Cherbourg and cover their landing, the army drove off the French force detailed to oppose their landing, captured Cherbourg, and destroyed its fortifications, docks, and shipping.

The troops were re-embarked and the fleet moved them to the Bay of St. Lunaire in Brittany where, on 3 September, they were landed to again operate against St. Malo; however, this action proved impractical. Worsening weather forced the two armies to separate: the ships sailed for the safer anchorage of St. Cast, while the army proceeded overland. The tardiness of Bligh in moving his forces allowed a French force of 10,000 men from Brest to catch up with him and open fire on the re-embarkation troops. A rear-guard of 1,400 under General Dury held off the French while the rest of the army embarked; they could not be saved, 750, including Dury, were killed and the rest captured.

Colonies

The colonial conflict mainly between France and Britain occurred in India, North America, Europe, the Caribbean isles, the Philippines and coastal Africa. During the course of the war, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence at the expense of the French.

Great Britain lost Minorca in the Mediterranean to the French in 1756 but captured the French colonies in Senegal on the African continent in 1758. The British Royal Navy captured the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762, as well as the Spanish cities of Havana in Cuba, and Manila in the Philippines, both prominent Spanish colonial cities.

North America

The campaign began with the victory of George Washington, then a lieutenant colonel in the British colonial militia Virginia Regiment, at Jumonville Glen in 1754 and his surrender at the Battle of Fort Necessity. In 1757, following three years of warfare in the Ohio Valley, the British mounted an attack on New France by land as well as sea. French forces defeated British attacks in the Hudson Valley and French naval deployments successfully defended the key fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, as well as the approaches to Quebec. However, a renewed British offensive in 1758 succeeded in taking Louisbourg. Then on 13 September 1759, following a three-month siege of Québec, General James Wolfe defeated the French forces at the Plains of Abraham outside the city. The French staged a counteroffensive in the spring of 1760 with some success, but failed to retake Québec due to a lack of naval support. French forces retreated to Montréal, where on 8 September they surrendered in the face of overwhelming British numerical superiority. This defeat has serious ramifications in Canada to this day, as the Quebec sovereignty movement continues to see this as their "nation's" defining moment.

In 1762, toward the end of the war, French forces attacked St. John's, Newfoundland. If successful, the expedition would have strengthened France's hand at the negotiating table. Though they took St. John's and raided nearby settlements, the French forces were eventually defeated by British troops at the Battle of Signal Hill. This was the final battle of the war in North America, and it forced the French to surrender to the British under Lieutenant Colonel William Amherst. The victorious British now controlled all of eastern North America.

The history of the Seven Years' War, particularly the siege of Québec and the death of Wolfe, generated a vast number of ballads, broadsides, images (see The Death of General Wolfe), maps and other printed materials, which testify to how this event continued to capture the imagination of the British public long after Wolfe's death in 1759.[17]

India

Lord Clive meeting with Mir Jafar at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, painted by Francis Hayman

In India the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe resulted in a renewal of the long running conflict between French and British trading companies in the region for influence. The war spread beyond southern India and into Bengal, where British forces under Robert Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, a French ally, and ousted him from his throne at the Battle of Plassey. In the same year the British also captured the French settlement in Bengal at Chandernagar.

However, the war was decided in the south. Although the French captured Cuddalore, their Siege of Madras failed, while the British commander Sir Eyre Coote decisively defeated the French under the Comte de Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760 and overran the French territory of the Northern Circars. The French capital of Pondicherry fell to the British in 1761; together with the fall of the lesser French settlements of Karikal and Mahe this effectively eliminated French power from India.

West Africa

In 1758 at the urging of an American merchant Thomas Cumming, Pitt despatched an expedition to take the French settlement at Saint Louis. The British captured Senegal with ease in May 1758 and brought home large amounts of captured goods. The success of the mission convinced Pitt to launch two further expeditions to take the island of Gorée and the French trading post on the Gambia. The loss of these valuable colonies further weakened the French economy.

Outcome

The Anglo-French hostilities were ended in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, which involved a complex series of land exchanges, the most important being France's cession to Spain of Louisiana, and to Great Britain the rest of New France except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. France was given the choice of retrieving either New France or its Caribbean island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and chose the latter to retain these lucrative sources of sugar,[18] writing off New France as an unproductive, costly territory.[19] France also returned Minorca to the British. Spain lost control of Florida to Great Britain, but received New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River from the French. The exchanges suited the British as well, as their own Caribbean islands already supplied ample sugar, and with the acquisition of New France and Florida, they now controlled all of North America east of the Mississippi, with the exception of New Orleans.

In India, the British retained the Northern Circars, but returned all the French trading ports. The treaty, however, required that the fortifications of these settlements must be destroyed and never rebuilt, while only minimal garrisons could be maintained there, thus rendering them worthless as military bases. Combined with the loss of France's ally in Bengal and the defection of Hyderabad to the British side as a result of the war, this effectively brought French power in India to an end, making way for British hegemony and eventual control of the subcontinent.

European boundaries were returned to their status quo ante bellum by the Treaty of Hubertusburg (February 1763). Prussia thus maintained its possession of Silesia, having survived the combined assault of three neighbours, each larger than itself. Prussia gained enormously in influence at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire. This increase in Prussian influence, it is argued, marks the beginning of the modern German state, an event at least as influential as the colonial empire Great Britain had gained. Others, including Fred Anderson, author of Crucible of War, believe the war was needless and overly costly.[20]

The French Navy was crippled by the war, which meant that only an ambitious rebuilding program in combination with the Spanish fleet would see it again able to challenge the Royal Navy's command of the sea.[21]

However, the British now faced the delicate task of pacifying their new French-Canadian subjects, as well as the many American Indian tribes in the western lands who had supported the French. George III's Proclamation of 1763, which forbade white settlement beyond the crest of the Appalachians, was intended to appease the latter, but led to considerable outrage in the Thirteen Colonies whose inhabitants were eager to acquire native lands. The Quebec Act of 1774, similarly intended to win over the loyalty of French Canadians, also spurred resentment among American colonists. Victorious in 1763, Great Britain would soon face another military threat in North America — this time from its longtime subjects.

It should be noted, that while Frederick the Great's earlier acts of aggression towards Austria can to some degree be blamed for the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the war was waged against him by a far stronger coalition of the largest European powers intent on reversing Prussia's fortunes. The nations and empires allied against Prussia during most of the war comprised over half of Continental Europe, and Frederick's forces were compelled to fight at times on four fronts. To maintain the defense of Prussia "against the greatest superiority of power and the utmost spite of fortune" in the words of Lord Macaulay,[22] while retaining Prussia's earlier territorial gains, stands as a significant accomplishment of leadership in itself. The Austrian army also performed well and sometimes successfully against a Prussian army led by a man later acknowledged by Napoleon Bonaparte as a greater military leader than himself, and thanks to Maria Theresa's leadership the war was not such a great loss for Austria that Austrian prestige or internal stability were seriously harmed. However, the same cannot be said of France.

The Seven Years' War was the last major military conflict on the European continent before the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792.

Cultural references

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ The Treaty of Paris in Corbett, Julian (1918). England in the Seven Years' War: A Study in Combined Strategy Vol. II. (Second Edition ed.). London: Longman, Green and Co.. 
  2. ^ Bowen, HV (1998). War and British Society 1688–1815. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-521-57645-8. 
  3. ^ Bowen, HV (1998). War and British Society 1688–1815. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-521-57645-8. 
  4. ^ Tombs, Robert and Isabelle. That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present. London: William Heinemann, 2006.
  5. ^ West p.129
  6. ^ Rodger p.265–67
  7. ^ West p.170
  8. ^ Carter p.84-102
  9. ^ West p.176
  10. ^ West p.211–12
  11. ^ West p.176–77
  12. ^ West p.491
  13. ^ Fish 2003, p. 2
  14. ^ West p.492
  15. ^ West p.498
  16. ^ a b Julian Corbett, England in the Seven Years' War: A Study in Combined Strategy, 2 Vols., (London, 1918).
  17. ^ Virtual Vault, an online exhibition of Canadiana at Library and Archives Canada
  18. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia, retrieved 17 June 2006.
  19. ^ E.g., Canada to Confederation p. 8: Barriers to Immigration, mentioning mother country's image of New France as an "Arctic wasteland with wild animals and savage Indians".
  20. ^ According to Anderson, "Beyond the inevitable adjustments in the way diplomats would think of Prussia as a player in European politics, six years of heroic expenditure and savage bloodshed had accomplished precisely nothing." (p. 506)
  21. ^ Kennedy, Paul (2004) [1976] (book). The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (new introduction ed.). London: Penguin Books. 
  22. ^ Essay on Frederic the Great, Essays vol. 5 (1866) Hurd and Houghton

Bibliography

  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. Faber and Faber, 2000.
  • Carter, Alice Clare. The Dutch Republic in Europe in the Seven Years War. MacMillan, 1971.
  • Fish, Shirley When Britain ruled the Philippines, 1762–1764: the story of the 18th century British invasion of the Philippines during the Seven Years War. 1stBooks Library, 2003. ISBN 1410710696, ISBN 9781410710697
  • Fowler, William H. Empires at War: The Seven Years' War and the Struggle for North America. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005. ISBN 1553650964.
  • Keay, John. The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. Harper Collins, 1993
  • Marston, Daniel. The Seven Years' War. Essential Histories. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 1841761915.
  • McLynn, Frank. 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. London: Jonathan Cape, 2004. ISBN 022406245X.
  • Rodger, N.A.M. Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649–1815. Penguin Books, 2006.

External links

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Seven Years' War

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Seven Years' War

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham by Benjamin West.
Date1756–1763
LocationEurope, Africa, India, North America, South America, the Philippine Islands.
ResultTreaty of Saint Petersburg
Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Hubertusburg
Territorial
changes
France cedes Canada to Great Britain and Louisiana to Spain; Great Britain annexes Bengal; Spain cedes Florida to Great Britain
Belligerents
Great Britain and her colonies
File:Flag of Prussia (1750).gif Prussia
Hanover
Iroquois Confederacy
 Portugal and her colonies
Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Hesse-Kassel
France and her colonies
 Holy Roman Empire
 Austrian Empire
 Russian Empire
 Sweden
 Spain and her colonies
Saxony
Sardinia
Commanders
File:Flag of Prussia (1701).gif Frederick II
File:Flag of Prussia (1701).gif Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz
John Manners
Edward Boscawen
Baron Clive
James Wolfe  
Baron Amherst
Edward Braddock  
Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick
Louis XV
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm  
Count von Daun
Franz Moritz von Lacy
Charles Alexander of Lorraine
Ernst von Laudon

Elizabeth
Pyotr Saltykov
Frederick Augustus II

The Seven Years' War was a major military conflict that lasted from 1756, as a result of the French and Indian War that erupted in North America in 1754, until the conclusion of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in 1763. It involved all of the major European powers of the period.

The war pitted Prussia and Great Britain and a coalition of smaller German states against an alliance consisting of Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony. Russia temporarily changed sides in the later stages of the war. Portugal (on the side of Great Britain) and Spain (on the side of France) entered the conflict later, and a force from the neutral Dutch Republic was attacked in India.[citation needed]

Fighting between Great Britain, France, and their respective allies in North America had broken out in 1754, two years before the general conflict, as part of an Imperial rivalry. The fighting in North America is a separate war, known in the United States as the French and Indian War.

War in Europe began in 1756 with the French siege of British Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea, and Frederick the Great of Prussia's invasion of Saxony on the continent which also upset the firmly established Pragmatic Sanction put in place by Charles VI of Austria. Despite being the main theatre of war, the European conflict resulted in a bloody stalemate which did little to change the pre-war status quo, while its consequences in Asia and the Americas were wider ranging and longer lasting. Concessions made in the 1763 Treaty of Paris ended France's position as a major colonial power in the Americas (where it lost all claim to land in North America east of the Mississippi River along with what is now Canada, in addition to some West Indian islands).[1] Prussia confirmed its position in the ranks of the great European powers, retaining the formerly Austrian province of Silesia. Great Britain strengthened its territories in India and North America, confirming its status as the dominant colonial power.

Because of its global nature, it has been described as the "first World War".[2] It resulted in some 900,000 to 1,400,000 deaths and significant changes in the balance of power and territories of several of the participants.

Contents

Etymology

In Canada, France and the United Kingdom, the name Seven Years' War is used to describe the North American conflict as well as the European and Asian conflicts. This conflict lasted seven years from 1756 to 1763. In the United States, however, the North American portion of the war, which started in 1754, is popularly known as the French and Indian War. Many scholars and professional historians in America, such as Fred Anderson, however, follow the example of their colleagues in other countries and refer to the conflict as the "Seven Years' War," regardless of the theatre. In Quebec, the conflict is also referred to as La Guerre de la Conquête, meaning The War of Conquest. The conflict in India is termed the Third Carnatic War while the fighting between Prussia and Austria is called the Third Silesian War.

The war was also described by Winston Churchill as the first "world war",[3] as it was the first conflict in human history to be fought around the globe, although most of the combatants were either European nations or their overseas colonies. As a partially Anglo-French conflict involving developing empires, the war was one of the most significant phases of the 18th century Second Hundred Years' War.[4]

Background

This war is often said to be a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession that had lasted between 1740 and 1748, in which King Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great, had gained the rich province of Silesia from Austria. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle only in order to gain time to rebuild her military forces and to forge new alliances, which she did with remarkable success. The political map of Europe had been redrawn in a few years as Austria abandoned its twenty-five year alliance with Britain. During the so-called Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, the centuries-old enemies of France, Austria and Russia formed a single alliance against Prussia.

All the participants of the Seven Years' War. Blue: Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal with allies. Green: France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Sweden with allies.

Prussia's only major assistance came from Great Britain, their newfound allies, whose ruling dynasty saw its ancestral Hanoverian possession as being threatened by France. In many respects the two powers' forces complemented each other excellently. The British had the largest, most effective navy in the world, while Prussia had the most formidable land force on continental Europe, allowing Great Britain to focus its soldiers towards colonial expeditions. The British hoped that the new series of alliances that had been formed during the Diplomatic Revolution would allow peace to continue, but they in fact provided the catalyst for the eruption of war in 1756.

The Austrian army had undergone an overhaul according to the Prussian system. Maria Theresa, whose knowledge of military affairs shamed many of her generals, had pressed relentlessly for reform. Her interest in the welfare of the soldiers had gained her their undivided respect. Austria had suffered several humiliating defeats to Prussia in the previous war, and strongly dissatisfied with the limited help they had received from the British, they now saw France as the only ally who could help them retake Silesia and check Prussia's expansion.

The second cause for war arose from the heated colonial struggle between the British Empire and French Empire which, as they expanded, met and clashed with one another on two continents. Of particular dispute was control of the Ohio Country which was central to both countries' ambitions of further expansion and development in North America. The two countries had been in a de facto state of war since 1754, but these military clashes remained confined to the American theatre.

Strategies

For much of the eighteenth century, France approached its wars in the same way: it would let its colonies fend for themselves, sending only small numbers of troops — or perhaps inexperienced soldiers — out, anticipating that fights for the colonies would likely be lost anyway. This strategy was to a degree forced upon France: geography coupled with the superiority of the British navy made it difficult for the French navy to provide supplies and support to French colonies. Similarly, several long land borders made an effective domestic army imperative for any ruler of France. Given these military necessities, the French government, unsurprisingly, based its strategy overwhelmingly on the army in Europe: it would keep most of its army on the European continent, hoping that such a force would be victorious closer to home. The plan was to fight to the end of the war and then, in treaty negotiations, to trade territorial acquisitions in Europe in order to regain overseas possessions lost. This approach did not serve France well in the war, as the colonies were indeed lost, but France had few counterbalancing European successes.

The British—by inclination as well as for pragmatic reasons—had tended to avoid large-scale commitments of troops on the Continent. They sought to offset the disadvantage this created in Europe by allying themselves with one or more Continental power whose interests were antithetical to those of their enemies, particularly France. For the Seven Years' War, the British chose as their principal partner the greatest military strategist of the day, Frederick the Great, and his kingdom, Prussia, then the rising power in central Europe, and paid Frederick substantial subsidies to support his campaigns. In marked contrast to France, Britain strove to actively prosecute the war in the colonies, taking full advantage of its naval power. The British pursued a dual strategy of naval blockade and bombardment of enemy ports, and also utilised their ability to move troops by sea to the utmost. They would harass enemy shipping and attack enemy colonies, frequently using colonists from nearby British colonies.

The formal opening of hostilities in Europe was preceded by fighting in North America, where the westward expansion of the British colonies located along the eastern seaboard began to run afoul of French claims to the Mississippi valley in the late 1740s and early 1750s. In order to forestall the expansion of Virginia and Pennsylvania, in particular, the French built a line of forts in what is now western Pennsylvania in the mid-1750s, and British efforts to dislodge them led to conflicts generally considered to be part of the French and Indian War, as the Seven Years' War is known in the United States.

Europe

1756

The British Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle remained optimistic that war could be prevented from breaking out in Europe by the new series of alliances.[5] However a large French force was assembled at Toulon, and the French opened the campaign against the British by an attack on Minorca in the Mediterranean. A British attempt at relief was foiled at the Battle of Minorca and the island was captured on 28 June (for which Admiral Byng was court-martialed and executed).[6] War between Britain and France had been formally declared on 18 May[7] nearly two years after the first fighting had broken out in the Ohio Country.

Battle of Lobositz. Austria: blue; Prussia: red.

Having received reports of the clashes in North America, and having secured the support of Great Britain with a Anglo-Prussian alliance, Frederick II of Prussia crossed the border of Saxony on 29 August 1756, one of the small German states in league with Austria. He intended this as a bold pre-emption of an anticipated Austro-French invasion of Silesia. The Saxon and Austrian armies were unprepared, and their forces were scattered. At the Battle of Lobositz, Frederick prevented the isolated Saxon army from being reinforced by an Austrian army under General Browne. The Prussians then outmaneuvred and surrounded the Saxon army which surrendered at Pirna in late 1756, resulting in the Prussian occupation of Saxony. The only significant Austrian success was the partial occupation of Silesia.

Britain had been surprised by the sudden Prussian offensive, but now began shipping supplies and money to their allies. A combined German force was organised under the Duke of Cumberland to protect Hanover from a French invasion. The British attempted to persuade the Dutch Republic to join the alliance, but the request was rejected as the Dutch wished to remain fully neutral.[8] Despite the huge disparity in numbers, the year had been a successful one for the Prussian-led forces on the continent, in contrast to disappointing British campaigns in North America.

1757

File:Schlacht von Leuthen.JPG

In early 1757, Frederick again took the initiative by marching into Bohemia hoping to inflict a decisive defeat on the Austrian forces. After the bloody Battle of Prague, the Prussians laid siege to the city, but had to lift the siege after a major Austrian counter-attack and Frederick's first defeat at the Battle of Kolin. That summer, the Russians had invaded East Prussia and defeated a smaller Prussian force in the fiercely contested Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf. Further defeats followed. Frederick was forced to break off his invasion of Bohemia, and withdraw back into Prussian-controlled territory.[9]

Things were looking very grim for Prussia at this time, with the Austrians mobilizing to attack Prussian-controlled soil and a French army under Soubise approaching from the west. In what Napoleon would call "a masterpiece in maneuver and resolution" in November and December the whole situation in Germany was reversed. Frederick devastated first a French invasion at the Battle of Rossbach and then routed a vastly superior Austrian force at Battle of Leuthen. With these great victories, Frederick once again established himself as Europe's finest general and his men as Europe's finest soldiers. In spite of these successes the Prussians were now facing four major powers attacking on four fronts (France from the West, Austria from the South, Russia from the East and Sweden from the north). This problem was compounded when the main Hanoverian army under Cumberland was defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck and then forced to surrender entirely at the Convention of Klosterzeven.[10] The Convention removed Hanover and Brunswick from the war leaving the Western approach to Prussian territory extremely vulnerable. Frederick sent urgent requests to Britain for more substantial assistance, as he was now without any military support for his forces in Germany.[11]

The British had suffered further defeats in America, particularly at Fort William Henry. At home however stability had been established. Since 1756 successive governments led by Newcastle and William Pitt had both fallen. In August 1757 the two men agreed to a political partnership and formed a coalition government which gave new, firmer direction to the British war effort. The new strategy emphasised both Newcastle's commitment to British involvement on the European continent particularly in defence of Germany and William Pitt's determination to use British naval power to launch expeditions to seize French colonies around the globe. The "dual strategy" would dominate British policy for the next five years.

1758–60

Into late 1758 the general tide of the war continued to be in favour of the Prussians and British. In the west, the French were beaten in the Battle of Krefeld by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick. Finally later in 1758 in the east, at the Battle of Zorndorf in Prussia, a Prussian army of 35,000 men under Frederick fought to a standstill with a Russian army of 43,000 commanded by Count Fermor. The Russians withdrew from the field. In the undecided Battle of Tornow on 25 September, a Swedish army repulsed six assaults by a Prussian army.

File:7yearswar.PNG
Operations of Russian army from Polish territory during Seven Years' War 1756–1762. The green arrows are Russian movements, and green circles are Russian bases

The back-and-forth nature of the war continued as on 14 October, Marshal Daun's Austrians surprised the main Prussian army at the Battle of Hochkirch. Frederick lost much of his artillery but retreated in good order, helped by the densely wooded landscape.

The year 1759 saw some severe Prussian defeats. At the Battle of Kay, or Paltzig, the Russian Count Saltykov with 47,000 Russians defeated 26,000 Prussian troops commanded by General Carl Heinrich von Wedel. Though the Hanoverians defeated an army of 60,000 French at Minden, Austrian general Daun forced the surrender of an entire Prussian corps of 13,000 men in the Battle of Maxen. Frederick himself lost half his army in the Battle of Kunersdorf, the worst defeat in his military career, and one that drove him to the brink of abdication and suicide. The disaster resulted partly from his misjudgment of the Russians, who had already demonstrated their strength at Zorndorf and at Gross-Jägersdorf.

The French planned to invade the British Isles during 1759 by accumulating troops near the mouth of the Loire and concentrating their Brest and Toulon fleets. However, two sea defeats prevented this. In August, the Mediterranean fleet under Jean-François de La Clue-Sabran was scattered by a larger British fleet under Edward Boscawen at the Battle of Lagos. In the Battle of Quiberon Bay on 20 November, the British admiral Edward Hawke with 23 ships of the line caught the French Brest fleet with 21 ships of the line under Marshal de Conflans and sank, captured or forced aground many of them, putting an end to the French plans.

1760 brought even more disasters to the Prussians. The Prussian general Fouqué was defeated in the Battle of Landshut. The French captured Marburg, and the Swedes part of Brandenburg-Prussian Pomerania. The Hanoverians were victorious over the French at the Battle of Warburg, their continued success preventing France from sending troops to aid the Austrians against Prussia in the east. Despite this the Austrians, under the command of General Laudon captured Glatz in Silesia. In the Battle of Liegnitz Frederick scored a victory despite being outnumbered three to one. The Russians under General Saltykov and Austrians under General Lacy briefly occupied his capital, Berlin, in October. The end of that year saw Frederick once more victorious, defeating the able Daun in the Battle of Torgau, but he suffered heavy casualties and the Austrians retreated in good order.

1761–62

Prussia began the 1761 campaign with just 100,000 available troops, many of them new recruits.[12] 1762 brought two new countries into the war. Britain declared war against Spain on 4 January 1762; Spain reacted by issuing their own declaration of war against Britain on 18 January.[13] Portugal followed by joining the war on Britain's side. Spain launched an invasion of Portugal and suceeded in capturing Almeida. The arrival of British reinforcements stalled a further Spanish advance, and the Battle of Valencia de Alcántara saw British forces overrun a major Spanish supply base.

At the Battle of Villinghausen Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick defeated a 92,000-man French army. The Russians under Zakhar Chernyshev and Pyotr Rumyantsev stormed Kolberg in Pomerania, while the Austrians captured Schweidnitz. The loss of Kolberg had seen Prussia lose its last port on the Baltic Sea.[14] In Britain, it was speculated that a total Prussian collapse was now imminent.

Britain now threatened to withdraw its subsidies if Prussia didn't seriously consider offering to make concessions to secure peace. As the Prussian armies had dwindled to just 60,000 men Frederick's survival was severely threatened. Then on 5 January 1762 the Russian Empress Elizabeth died. Her Prussophile successor, Peter III, at once recalled Russian armies from Berlin (see: the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1762)) and mediated Frederick's truce with Sweden. In the aftermath, Frederick was able to drive the Austrians from Silesia in the Battle of Freiberg (29 October 1762), while his Brunswick allies captured the key town of Göttingen and compounded it by taking Cassel.

The long British naval blockade of French ports had sapped the morale of the French populace. The French will to continue collapsed yet further when news of a French failure in Newfoundland reached Paris.[15] Feelers for peace were now extended to the British.

1763

By 1763 Frederick had Silesia under his control and had occupied parts of Austria. The British subsidies had been withdrawn by the new Prime Minister Lord Bute, and the Russian Emperor had been overthrown by his wife Catherine the Great who now switched Russian support back to Austria and launched fresh attacks on Prussia. Austria, however, had been weakened from the war and like most participants they were facing a severe financial crisis. In 1763 a peace settlement was reached at the Treaty of Hubertusburg ending the war in central Europe.

British amphibious "descents"

Great Britain planned a "descent" (an amphibious demonstration or raid) on Rochefort, a joint operation to overrun the town and burn the shipping in the Charente. The expedition set out on 8 September 1757, Sir John Mordaunt commanding the troops and Sir Edward Hawke the fleet. On 23 September, the Isle d'Aix was taken, but due to dithering by military staff such time was lost that Rochefort became unassailable,[16] and the expedition abandoned the Isle d'Aix, returned to Great Britain on 1 October.

William Pitt, lauded British leader during the war, confirming Britain's status as the world's dominant colonial power

Despite the operational failure and debated strategic success of the descent on Rochefort, William Pitt — who saw purpose in this type of asymmetric enterprise — prepared to continue such operations.[16] An army was assembled under the command of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough; he was aided by Lord George Sackville. The naval escorts for the expedition were commanded by Anson, Hawke, and Howe. The army landed on 5 June 1758 at Cancalle Bay, proceeded to St. Malo, and burned the shipping in the harbor; the arrival of French relief forces caused the British to avoid a siege, and the troops re-embarked. An attack on Havre de Grace was called off, and the fleet sailed on to Cherbourg; but the weather being bad and provisions low, that too was abandoned, and the expedition returned, having damaged French privateering and provided a further strategic demonstration against the French coast.

Pitt now prepared to send troops into Germany; and both Marlborough and Sackville, disgusted by what they perceived as the futility of the "descents", obtained commissions in that army. The elderly General Bligh was appointed to command a new "descent", escorted by Howe. The campaign began propitiously with the Raid on Cherbourg. With the support of the navy to bombard Cherbourg and cover their landing, the army drove off the French force detailed to oppose their landing, captured Cherbourg, and destroyed its fortifications, docks, and shipping.

The troops were re-embarked and the fleet moved them to the Bay of St. Lunaire in Brittany where, on 3 September, they were landed to again operate against St. Malo; however, this action proved impractical. Worsening weather forced the two armies to separate: the ships sailed for the safer anchorage of St. Cast, while the army proceeded overland. The tardiness of Bligh in moving his forces allowed a French force of 10,000 men from Brest to catch up with him and open fire on the re-embarkation troops. A rear-guard of 1,400 under General Dury held off the French while the rest of the army embarked; they could not be saved, 750, including Dury, were killed and the rest captured.

Colonies

The colonial conflict mainly between France and Britain occurred in India, North America, Europe, the Caribbean isles, the Philippines and coastal Africa. During the course of the war, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence at the expense of the French.

Great Britain lost Minorca in the Mediterranean to the French in 1756 but captured the French colonies in Senegal on the African continent in 1758. The British Royal Navy captured the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762, as well as the Spanish cities of Havana in Cuba, and Manila in the Philippines, both prominent Spanish colonial cities.

North America

The campaign began with the victory of George Washington, then a lieutenant colonel in the British colonial militia Virginia Regiment, at Jumonville Glen in 1754 and his surrender at the Battle of Fort Necessity. In 1757, following three years of warfare in the Ohio Valley, the British mounted an attack on New France by land as well as sea. French forces defeated British attacks in the Hudson Valley and French naval deployments successfully defended the key fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, as well as the approaches to Quebec. However, a renewed British offensive in 1758 succeeded in taking Louisbourg. Then on 13 September 1759, following a three-month siege of Québec, General James Wolfe defeated the French forces at the Plains of Abraham outside the city. The French staged a counteroffensive in the spring of 1760 with some success, but failed to retake Québec due to a lack of naval support. French forces retreated to Montréal, where on 8 September they surrendered in the face of overwhelming British numerical superiority. This defeat has serious ramifications in Canada to this day, as the Quebec sovereignty movement continues to see this as their "nation's" defining moment.

In 1762, toward the end of the war, French forces attacked St. John's, Newfoundland. If successful, the expedition would have strengthened France's hand at the negotiating table. Though they took St. John's and raided nearby settlements, the French forces were eventually defeated by British troops at the Battle of Signal Hill. This was the final battle of the war in North America, and it forced the French to surrender to the British under Lieutenant Colonel William Amherst. The victorious British now controlled all of eastern North America.

The history of the Seven Years' War, particularly the siege of Québec and the death of Wolfe, generated a vast number of ballads, broadsides, images (see The Death of General Wolfe), maps and other printed materials, which testify to how this event continued to capture the imagination of the British public long after Wolfe's death in 1759.[17]

India

Lord Clive meeting with Mir Jafar at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, painted by Francis Hayman

In India the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe resulted in a renewal of the long running conflict between French and British trading companies in the region for influence. The war spread beyond southern India and into Bengal, where British forces under Robert Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, a French ally, and ousted him from his throne at the Battle of Plassey. In the same year the British also captured the French settlement in Bengal at Chandernagar.

However, the war was decided in the south. Although the French captured Cuddalore, their Siege of Madras failed, while the British commander Sir Eyre Coote decisively defeated the French under the Comte de Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760 and overran the French territory of the Northern Circars. The French capital of Pondicherry fell to the British in 1761; together with the fall of the lesser French settlements of Karikal and Mahe this effectively eliminated French power from India.

West Africa

In 1758 at the urging of an American merchant Thomas Cumming, Pitt despatched an expedition to take the French settlement at Saint Louis. The British captured Senegal with ease in May 1758 and brought home large amounts of captured goods. The success of the mission convinced Pitt to launch two further expeditions to take the island of Gorée and the French trading post on the Gambia. The loss of these valuable colonies further weakened the French economy.

Outcome

The Anglo-French hostilities were ended in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, which involved a complex series of land exchanges, the most important being France's cession to Spain of Louisiana, and to Great Britain the rest of New France except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. France was given the choice of retrieving either New France or its Caribbean island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and chose the latter to retain these lucrative sources of sugar,[18] writing off New France as an unproductive, costly territory.[19] France also returned Minorca to the British. Spain lost control of Florida to Great Britain, but received New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River from the French. The exchanges suited the British as well, as their own Caribbean islands already supplied ample sugar, and with the acquisition of New France and Florida, they now controlled all of North America east of the Mississippi, with the exception of New Orleans.

In India, the British retained the Northern Circars, but returned all the French trading ports. The treaty, however, required that the fortifications of these settlements must be destroyed and never rebuilt, while only minimal garrisons could be maintained there, thus rendering them worthless as military bases. Combined with the loss of France's ally in Bengal and the defection of Hyderabad to the British side as a result of the war, this effectively brought French power in India to an end, making way for British hegemony and eventual control of the subcontinent.

European boundaries were returned to their status quo ante bellum by the Treaty of Hubertusburg (February 1763). Prussia thus maintained its possession of Silesia, having survived the combined assault of three neighbours, each larger than itself. Prussia gained enormously in influence at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire. This increase in Prussian influence, it is argued, marks the beginning of the modern German state, an event at least as influential as the colonial empire Great Britain had gained. Others, including Fred Anderson, author of Crucible of War, believe the war was needless and overly costly.[20]

The French Navy was crippled by the war, which meant that only an ambitious rebuilding program in combination with the Spanish fleet would see it again able to challenge the Royal Navy's command of the sea.[21]

However, the British now faced the delicate task of pacifying their new French-Canadian subjects, as well as the many American Indian tribes in the western lands who had supported the French. George III's Proclamation of 1763, which forbade white settlement beyond the crest of the Appalachians, was intended to appease the latter, but led to considerable outrage in the Thirteen Colonies whose inhabitants were eager to acquire native lands. The Quebec Act of 1774, similarly intended to win over the loyalty of French Canadians, also spurred resentment among American colonists. Victorious in 1763, Great Britain would soon face another military threat in North America — this time from its longtime subjects.

It should be noted, that while Frederick the Great's earlier acts of aggression towards Austria can to some degree be blamed for the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the war was waged against him by a far stronger coalition of the largest European powers intent on reversing Prussia's fortunes. The nations and empires allied against Prussia during most of the war comprised over half of Continental Europe, and Frederick's forces were compelled to fight at times on four fronts. To maintain the defense of Prussia "against the greatest superiority of power and the utmost spite of fortune" in the words of Lord Macaulay,[22] while retaining Prussia's earlier territorial gains, stands as a significant accomplishment of leadership in itself. The Austrian army also performed well and sometimes successfully against a Prussian army led by a man later acknowledged by Napoleon Bonaparte as a greater military leader than himself, and thanks to Maria Theresa's leadership the war was not such a great loss for Austria that Austrian prestige or internal stability were seriously harmed. However, the same cannot be said of France.

The Seven Years' War was the last major military conflict on the European continent before the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792.

Cultural references

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ The Treaty of Paris in Corbett, Julian (1918). England in the Seven Years' War: A Study in Combined Strategy Vol. II. (Second Edition ed.). London: Longman, Green and Co.. 
  2. ^ Bowen, HV (1998). War and British Society 1688–1815. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-521-57645-8. 
  3. ^ Bowen, HV (1998). War and British Society 1688–1815. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-521-57645-8. 
  4. ^ Tombs, Robert and Isabelle. That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present. London: William Heinemann, 2006.
  5. ^ West p.129
  6. ^ Rodger p.265–67
  7. ^ West p.170
  8. ^ Carter p.84-102
  9. ^ West p.176
  10. ^ West p.211–12
  11. ^ West p.176–77
  12. ^ West p.491
  13. ^ Fish 2003, p. 2
  14. ^ West p.492
  15. ^ West p.498
  16. ^ a b Julian Corbett, England in the Seven Years' War: A Study in Combined Strategy, 2 Vols., (London, 1918).
  17. ^ Virtual Vault, an online exhibition of Canadiana at Library and Archives Canada
  18. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia, retrieved 17 June 2006.
  19. ^ E.g., Canada to Confederation p. 8: Barriers to Immigration, mentioning mother country's image of New France as an "Arctic wasteland with wild animals and savage Indians".
  20. ^ According to Anderson, "Beyond the inevitable adjustments in the way diplomats would think of Prussia as a player in European politics, six years of heroic expenditure and savage bloodshed had accomplished precisely nothing." (p. 506)
  21. ^ Kennedy, Paul (2004) [1976] (book). The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (new introduction ed.). London: Penguin Books. 
  22. ^ Essay on Frederic the Great, Essays vol. 5 (1866) Hurd and Houghton

Bibliography

  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. Faber and Faber, 2000.
  • Carter, Alice Clare. The Dutch Republic in Europe in the Seven Years War. MacMillan, 1971.
  • Fish, Shirley When Britain ruled the Philippines, 1762–1764: the story of the 18th century British invasion of the Philippines during the Seven Years War. 1stBooks Library, 2003. ISBN 1410710696, ISBN 9781410710697
  • Fowler, William H. Empires at War: The Seven Years' War and the Struggle for North America. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005. ISBN 1553650964.
  • Keay, John. The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. Harper Collins, 1993
  • Marston, Daniel. The Seven Years' War. Essential Histories. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 1841761915.
  • McLynn, Frank. 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. London: Jonathan Cape, 2004. ISBN 022406245X.
  • Rodger, N.A.M. Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649–1815. Penguin Books, 2006.

External links

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Seven Years' War

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Seven Years' War

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham by Benjamin West.
Date1756–1763
LocationEurope, Africa, India, North America, South America, the Philippine Islands.
ResultTreaty of Saint Petersburg
Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Hubertusburg
Territorial
changes
France cedes Canada to Great Britain and Louisiana to Spain; Great Britain annexes Bengal; Spain cedes Florida to Great Britain
Belligerents
Great Britain and her colonies
File:Flag of Prussia (1750).gif Prussia
Hanover
Iroquois Confederacy
 Portugal and her colonies
Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Hesse-Kassel
France and her colonies
 Holy Roman Empire
 Austrian Empire
 Russian Empire
 Sweden
 Spain and her colonies
Saxony
Sardinia
Commanders
File:Flag of Prussia (1701).gif Frederick II
File:Flag of Prussia (1701).gif Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz
John Manners
Edward Boscawen
Baron Clive
James Wolfe  
Baron Amherst
Edward Braddock  
Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick
Louis XV
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm  
Count von Daun
Franz Moritz von Lacy
Charles Alexander of Lorraine
Ernst von Laudon

Elizabeth
Pyotr Saltykov
Frederick Augustus II

The Seven Years' War was a major military conflict that lasted from 1756, as a result of the French and Indian War that erupted in North America in 1754, until the conclusion of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in 1763. It involved all of the major European powers of the period.

The war pitted Prussia and Great Britain and a coalition of smaller German states against an alliance consisting of Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony. Russia temporarily changed sides in the later stages of the war. Portugal (on the side of Great Britain) and Spain (on the side of France) entered the conflict later, and a force from the neutral Dutch Republic was attacked in India.[citation needed]

Fighting between Great Britain, France, and their respective allies in North America had broken out in 1754, two years before the general conflict, as part of an Imperial rivalry. The fighting in North America is a separate war, known in the United States as the French and Indian War.

War in Europe began in 1756 with the French siege of British Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea, and Frederick the Great of Prussia's invasion of Saxony on the continent which also upset the firmly established Pragmatic Sanction put in place by Charles VI of Austria. Despite being the main theatre of war, the European conflict resulted in a bloody stalemate which did little to change the pre-war status quo, while its consequences in Asia and the Americas were wider ranging and longer lasting. Concessions made in the 1763 Treaty of Paris ended France's position as a major colonial power in the Americas (where it lost all claim to land in North America east of the Mississippi River along with what is now Canada, in addition to some West Indian islands).[1] Prussia confirmed its position in the ranks of the great European powers, retaining the formerly Austrian province of Silesia. Great Britain strengthened its territories in India and North America, confirming its status as the dominant colonial power.

Because of its global nature, it has been described as the "first World War".[2] It resulted in some 900,000 to 1,400,000 deaths and significant changes in the balance of power and territories of several of the participants.

Contents

Etymology

In Canada, France and the United Kingdom, the name Seven Years' War is used to describe the North American conflict as well as the European and Asian conflicts. This conflict lasted seven years from 1756 to 1763. In the United States, however, the North American portion of the war, which started in 1754, is popularly known as the French and Indian War. Many scholars and professional historians in America, such as Fred Anderson, however, follow the example of their colleagues in other countries and refer to the conflict as the "Seven Years' War," regardless of the theatre. In Quebec, the conflict is also referred to as La Guerre de la Conquête, meaning The War of Conquest. The conflict in India is termed the Third Carnatic War while the fighting between Prussia and Austria is called the Third Silesian War.

The war was also described by Winston Churchill as the first "world war",[3] as it was the first conflict in human history to be fought around the globe, although most of the combatants were either European nations or their overseas colonies. As a partially Anglo-French conflict involving developing empires, the war was one of the most significant phases of the 18th century Second Hundred Years' War.[4]

Background

This war is often said to be a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession that had lasted between 1740 and 1748, in which King Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great, had gained the rich province of Silesia from Austria. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle only in order to gain time to rebuild her military forces and to forge new alliances, which she did with remarkable success. The political map of Europe had been redrawn in a few years as Austria abandoned its twenty-five year alliance with Britain. During the so-called Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, the centuries-old enemies of France, Austria and Russia formed a single alliance against Prussia.

All the participants of the Seven Years' War. Blue: Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal with allies. Green: France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Sweden with allies.

Prussia's only major assistance came from Great Britain, their newfound allies, whose ruling dynasty saw its ancestral Hanoverian possession as being threatened by France. In many respects the two powers' forces complemented each other excellently. The British had the largest, most effective navy in the world, while Prussia had the most formidable land force on continental Europe, allowing Great Britain to focus its soldiers towards colonial expeditions. The British hoped that the new series of alliances that had been formed during the Diplomatic Revolution would allow peace to continue, but they in fact provided the catalyst for the eruption of war in 1756.

The Austrian army had undergone an overhaul according to the Prussian system. Maria Theresa, whose knowledge of military affairs shamed many of her generals, had pressed relentlessly for reform. Her interest in the welfare of the soldiers had gained her their undivided respect. Austria had suffered several humiliating defeats to Prussia in the previous war, and strongly dissatisfied with the limited help they had received from the British, they now saw France as the only ally who could help them retake Silesia and check Prussia's expansion.

The second cause for war arose from the heated colonial struggle between the British Empire and French Empire which, as they expanded, met and clashed with one another on two continents. Of particular dispute was control of the Ohio Country which was central to both countries' ambitions of further expansion and development in North America. The two countries had been in a de facto state of war since 1754, but these military clashes remained confined to the American theatre.

Strategies

For much of the eighteenth century, France approached its wars in the same way: it would let its colonies fend for themselves, sending only small numbers of troops — or perhaps inexperienced soldiers — out, anticipating that fights for the colonies would likely be lost anyway. This strategy was to a degree forced upon France: geography coupled with the superiority of the British navy made it difficult for the French navy to provide supplies and support to French colonies. Similarly, several long land borders made an effective domestic army imperative for any ruler of France. Given these military necessities, the French government, unsurprisingly, based its strategy overwhelmingly on the army in Europe: it would keep most of its army on the European continent, hoping that such a force would be victorious closer to home. The plan was to fight to the end of the war and then, in treaty negotiations, to trade territorial acquisitions in Europe in order to regain overseas possessions lost. This approach did not serve France well in the war, as the colonies were indeed lost, but France had few counterbalancing European successes.

The British—by inclination as well as for pragmatic reasons—had tended to avoid large-scale commitments of troops on the Continent. They sought to offset the disadvantage this created in Europe by allying themselves with one or more Continental power whose interests were antithetical to those of their enemies, particularly France. For the Seven Years' War, the British chose as their principal partner the greatest military strategist of the day, Frederick the Great, and his kingdom, Prussia, then the rising power in central Europe, and paid Frederick substantial subsidies to support his campaigns. In marked contrast to France, Britain strove to actively prosecute the war in the colonies, taking full advantage of its naval power. The British pursued a dual strategy of naval blockade and bombardment of enemy ports, and also utilised their ability to move troops by sea to the utmost. They would harass enemy shipping and attack enemy colonies, frequently using colonists from nearby British colonies.

The formal opening of hostilities in Europe was preceded by fighting in North America, where the westward expansion of the British colonies located along the eastern seaboard began to run afoul of French claims to the Mississippi valley in the late 1740s and early 1750s. In order to forestall the expansion of Virginia and Pennsylvania, in particular, the French built a line of forts in what is now western Pennsylvania in the mid-1750s, and British efforts to dislodge them led to conflicts generally considered to be part of the French and Indian War, as the Seven Years' War is known in the United States.

Europe

1756

The British Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle remained optimistic that war could be prevented from breaking out in Europe by the new series of alliances.[5] However a large French force was assembled at Toulon, and the French opened the campaign against the British by an attack on Minorca in the Mediterranean. A British attempt at relief was foiled at the Battle of Minorca and the island was captured on 28 June (for which Admiral Byng was court-martialed and executed).[6] War between Britain and France had been formally declared on 18 May[7] nearly two years after the first fighting had broken out in the Ohio Country.

Battle of Lobositz. Austria: blue; Prussia: red.

Having received reports of the clashes in North America, and having secured the support of Great Britain with a Anglo-Prussian alliance, Frederick II of Prussia crossed the border of Saxony on 29 August 1756, one of the small German states in league with Austria. He intended this as a bold pre-emption of an anticipated Austro-French invasion of Silesia. The Saxon and Austrian armies were unprepared, and their forces were scattered. At the Battle of Lobositz, Frederick prevented the isolated Saxon army from being reinforced by an Austrian army under General Browne. The Prussians then outmaneuvred and surrounded the Saxon army which surrendered at Pirna in late 1756, resulting in the Prussian occupation of Saxony. The only significant Austrian success was the partial occupation of Silesia.

Britain had been surprised by the sudden Prussian offensive, but now began shipping supplies and money to their allies. A combined German force was organised under the Duke of Cumberland to protect Hanover from a French invasion. The British attempted to persuade the Dutch Republic to join the alliance, but the request was rejected as the Dutch wished to remain fully neutral.[8] Despite the huge disparity in numbers, the year had been a successful one for the Prussian-led forces on the continent, in contrast to disappointing British campaigns in North America.

1757

File:Schlacht von Leuthen.JPG

In early 1757, Frederick again took the initiative by marching into Bohemia hoping to inflict a decisive defeat on the Austrian forces. After the bloody Battle of Prague, the Prussians laid siege to the city, but had to lift the siege after a major Austrian counter-attack and Frederick's first defeat at the Battle of Kolin. That summer, the Russians had invaded East Prussia and defeated a smaller Prussian force in the fiercely contested Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf. Further defeats followed. Frederick was forced to break off his invasion of Bohemia, and withdraw back into Prussian-controlled territory.[9]

Things were looking very grim for Prussia at this time, with the Austrians mobilizing to attack Prussian-controlled soil and a French army under Soubise approaching from the west. In what Napoleon would call "a masterpiece in maneuver and resolution" in November and December the whole situation in Germany was reversed. Frederick devastated first a French invasion at the Battle of Rossbach and then routed a vastly superior Austrian force at Battle of Leuthen. With these great victories, Frederick once again established himself as Europe's finest general and his men as Europe's finest soldiers. In spite of these successes the Prussians were now facing four major powers attacking on four fronts (France from the West, Austria from the South, Russia from the East and Sweden from the north). This problem was compounded when the main Hanoverian army under Cumberland was defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck and then forced to surrender entirely at the Convention of Klosterzeven.[10] The Convention removed Hanover and Brunswick from the war leaving the Western approach to Prussian territory extremely vulnerable. Frederick sent urgent requests to Britain for more substantial assistance, as he was now without any military support for his forces in Germany.[11]

The British had suffered further defeats in America, particularly at Fort William Henry. At home however stability had been established. Since 1756 successive governments led by Newcastle and William Pitt had both fallen. In August 1757 the two men agreed to a political partnership and formed a coalition government which gave new, firmer direction to the British war effort. The new strategy emphasised both Newcastle's commitment to British involvement on the European continent particularly in defence of Germany and William Pitt's determination to use British naval power to launch expeditions to seize French colonies around the globe. The "dual strategy" would dominate British policy for the next five years.

1758–60

Into late 1758 the general tide of the war continued to be in favour of the Prussians and British. In the west, the French were beaten in the Battle of Krefeld by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick. Finally later in 1758 in the east, at the Battle of Zorndorf in Prussia, a Prussian army of 35,000 men under Frederick fought to a standstill with a Russian army of 43,000 commanded by Count Fermor. The Russians withdrew from the field. In the undecided Battle of Tornow on 25 September, a Swedish army repulsed six assaults by a Prussian army.

File:7yearswar.PNG
Operations of Russian army from Polish territory during Seven Years' War 1756–1762. The green arrows are Russian movements, and green circles are Russian bases

The back-and-forth nature of the war continued as on 14 October, Marshal Daun's Austrians surprised the main Prussian army at the Battle of Hochkirch. Frederick lost much of his artillery but retreated in good order, helped by the densely wooded landscape.

The year 1759 saw some severe Prussian defeats. At the Battle of Kay, or Paltzig, the Russian Count Saltykov with 47,000 Russians defeated 26,000 Prussian troops commanded by General Carl Heinrich von Wedel. Though the Hanoverians defeated an army of 60,000 French at Minden, Austrian general Daun forced the surrender of an entire Prussian corps of 13,000 men in the Battle of Maxen. Frederick himself lost half his army in the Battle of Kunersdorf, the worst defeat in his military career, and one that drove him to the brink of abdication and suicide. The disaster resulted partly from his misjudgment of the Russians, who had already demonstrated their strength at Zorndorf and at Gross-Jägersdorf.

The French planned to invade the British Isles during 1759 by accumulating troops near the mouth of the Loire and concentrating their Brest and Toulon fleets. However, two sea defeats prevented this. In August, the Mediterranean fleet under Jean-François de La Clue-Sabran was scattered by a larger British fleet under Edward Boscawen at the Battle of Lagos. In the Battle of Quiberon Bay on 20 November, the British admiral Edward Hawke with 23 ships of the line caught the French Brest fleet with 21 ships of the line under Marshal de Conflans and sank, captured or forced aground many of them, putting an end to the French plans.

1760 brought even more disasters to the Prussians. The Prussian general Fouqué was defeated in the Battle of Landshut. The French captured Marburg, and the Swedes part of Brandenburg-Prussian Pomerania. The Hanoverians were victorious over the French at the Battle of Warburg, their continued success preventing France from sending troops to aid the Austrians against Prussia in the east. Despite this the Austrians, under the command of General Laudon captured Glatz in Silesia. In the Battle of Liegnitz Frederick scored a victory despite being outnumbered three to one. The Russians under General Saltykov and Austrians under General Lacy briefly occupied his capital, Berlin, in October. The end of that year saw Frederick once more victorious, defeating the able Daun in the Battle of Torgau, but he suffered heavy casualties and the Austrians retreated in good order.

1761–62

Prussia began the 1761 campaign with just 100,000 available troops, many of them new recruits.[12] 1762 brought two new countries into the war. Britain declared war against Spain on 4 January 1762; Spain reacted by issuing their own declaration of war against Britain on 18 January.[13] Portugal followed by joining the war on Britain's side. Spain launched an invasion of Portugal and suceeded in capturing Almeida. The arrival of British reinforcements stalled a further Spanish advance, and the Battle of Valencia de Alcántara saw British forces overrun a major Spanish supply base.

At the Battle of Villinghausen Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick defeated a 92,000-man French army. The Russians under Zakhar Chernyshev and Pyotr Rumyantsev stormed Kolberg in Pomerania, while the Austrians captured Schweidnitz. The loss of Kolberg had seen Prussia lose its last port on the Baltic Sea.[14] In Britain, it was speculated that a total Prussian collapse was now imminent.

Britain now threatened to withdraw its subsidies if Prussia didn't seriously consider offering to make concessions to secure peace. As the Prussian armies had dwindled to just 60,000 men Frederick's survival was severely threatened. Then on 5 January 1762 the Russian Empress Elizabeth died. Her Prussophile successor, Peter III, at once recalled Russian armies from Berlin (see: the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1762)) and mediated Frederick's truce with Sweden. In the aftermath, Frederick was able to drive the Austrians from Silesia in the Battle of Freiberg (29 October 1762), while his Brunswick allies captured the key town of Göttingen and compounded it by taking Cassel.

The long British naval blockade of French ports had sapped the morale of the French populace. The French will to continue collapsed yet further when news of a French failure in Newfoundland reached Paris.[15] Feelers for peace were now extended to the British.

1763

By 1763 Frederick had Silesia under his control and had occupied parts of Austria. The British subsidies had been withdrawn by the new Prime Minister Lord Bute, and the Russian Emperor had been overthrown by his wife Catherine the Great who now switched Russian support back to Austria and launched fresh attacks on Prussia. Austria, however, had been weakened from the war and like most participants they were facing a severe financial crisis. In 1763 a peace settlement was reached at the Treaty of Hubertusburg ending the war in central Europe.

British amphibious "descents"

Great Britain planned a "descent" (an amphibious demonstration or raid) on Rochefort, a joint operation to overrun the town and burn the shipping in the Charente. The expedition set out on 8 September 1757, Sir John Mordaunt commanding the troops and Sir Edward Hawke the fleet. On 23 September, the Isle d'Aix was taken, but due to dithering by military staff such time was lost that Rochefort became unassailable,[16] and the expedition abandoned the Isle d'Aix, returned to Great Britain on 1 October.

William Pitt, lauded British leader during the war, confirming Britain's status as the world's dominant colonial power

Despite the operational failure and debated strategic success of the descent on Rochefort, William Pitt — who saw purpose in this type of asymmetric enterprise — prepared to continue such operations.[16] An army was assembled under the command of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough; he was aided by Lord George Sackville. The naval escorts for the expedition were commanded by Anson, Hawke, and Howe. The army landed on 5 June 1758 at Cancalle Bay, proceeded to St. Malo, and burned the shipping in the harbor; the arrival of French relief forces caused the British to avoid a siege, and the troops re-embarked. An attack on Havre de Grace was called off, and the fleet sailed on to Cherbourg; but the weather being bad and provisions low, that too was abandoned, and the expedition returned, having damaged French privateering and provided a further strategic demonstration against the French coast.

Pitt now prepared to send troops into Germany; and both Marlborough and Sackville, disgusted by what they perceived as the futility of the "descents", obtained commissions in that army. The elderly General Bligh was appointed to command a new "descent", escorted by Howe. The campaign began propitiously with the Raid on Cherbourg. With the support of the navy to bombard Cherbourg and cover their landing, the army drove off the French force detailed to oppose their landing, captured Cherbourg, and destroyed its fortifications, docks, and shipping.

The troops were re-embarked and the fleet moved them to the Bay of St. Lunaire in Brittany where, on 3 September, they were landed to again operate against St. Malo; however, this action proved impractical. Worsening weather forced the two armies to separate: the ships sailed for the safer anchorage of St. Cast, while the army proceeded overland. The tardiness of Bligh in moving his forces allowed a French force of 10,000 men from Brest to catch up with him and open fire on the re-embarkation troops. A rear-guard of 1,400 under General Dury held off the French while the rest of the army embarked; they could not be saved, 750, including Dury, were killed and the rest captured.

Colonies

The colonial conflict mainly between France and Britain occurred in India, North America, Europe, the Caribbean isles, the Philippines and coastal Africa. During the course of the war, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence at the expense of the French.

Great Britain lost Minorca in the Mediterranean to the French in 1756 but captured the French colonies in Senegal on the African continent in 1758. The British Royal Navy captured the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762, as well as the Spanish cities of Havana in Cuba, and Manila in the Philippines, both prominent Spanish colonial cities.

North America

The campaign began with the victory of George Washington, then a lieutenant colonel in the British colonial militia Virginia Regiment, at Jumonville Glen in 1754 and his surrender at the Battle of Fort Necessity. In 1757, following three years of warfare in the Ohio Valley, the British mounted an attack on New France by land as well as sea. French forces defeated British attacks in the Hudson Valley and French naval deployments successfully defended the key fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, as well as the approaches to Quebec. However, a renewed British offensive in 1758 succeeded in taking Louisbourg. Then on 13 September 1759, following a three-month siege of Québec, General James Wolfe defeated the French forces at the Plains of Abraham outside the city. The French staged a counteroffensive in the spring of 1760 with some success, but failed to retake Québec due to a lack of naval support. French forces retreated to Montréal, where on 8 September they surrendered in the face of overwhelming British numerical superiority. This defeat has serious ramifications in Canada to this day, as the Quebec sovereignty movement continues to see this as their "nation's" defining moment.

In 1762, toward the end of the war, French forces attacked St. John's, Newfoundland. If successful, the expedition would have strengthened France's hand at the negotiating table. Though they took St. John's and raided nearby settlements, the French forces were eventually defeated by British troops at the Battle of Signal Hill. This was the final battle of the war in North America, and it forced the French to surrender to the British under Lieutenant Colonel William Amherst. The victorious British now controlled all of eastern North America.

The history of the Seven Years' War, particularly the siege of Québec and the death of Wolfe, generated a vast number of ballads, broadsides, images (see The Death of General Wolfe), maps and other printed materials, which testify to how this event continued to capture the imagination of the British public long after Wolfe's death in 1759.[17]

India

Lord Clive meeting with Mir Jafar at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, painted by Francis Hayman

In India the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe resulted in a renewal of the long running conflict between French and British trading companies in the region for influence. The war spread beyond southern India and into Bengal, where British forces under Robert Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, a French ally, and ousted him from his throne at the Battle of Plassey. In the same year the British also captured the French settlement in Bengal at Chandernagar.

However, the war was decided in the south. Although the French captured Cuddalore, their Siege of Madras failed, while the British commander Sir Eyre Coote decisively defeated the French under the Comte de Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760 and overran the French territory of the Northern Circars. The French capital of Pondicherry fell to the British in 1761; together with the fall of the lesser French settlements of Karikal and Mahe this effectively eliminated French power from India.

West Africa

In 1758 at the urging of an American merchant Thomas Cumming, Pitt despatched an expedition to take the French settlement at Saint Louis. The British captured Senegal with ease in May 1758 and brought home large amounts of captured goods. The success of the mission convinced Pitt to launch two further expeditions to take the island of Gorée and the French trading post on the Gambia. The loss of these valuable colonies further weakened the French economy.

Outcome

The Anglo-French hostilities were ended in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, which involved a complex series of land exchanges, the most important being France's cession to Spain of Louisiana, and to Great Britain the rest of New France except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. France was given the choice of retrieving either New France or its Caribbean island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and chose the latter to retain these lucrative sources of sugar,[18] writing off New France as an unproductive, costly territory.[19] France also returned Minorca to the British. Spain lost control of Florida to Great Britain, but received New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River from the French. The exchanges suited the British as well, as their own Caribbean islands already supplied ample sugar, and with the acquisition of New France and Florida, they now controlled all of North America east of the Mississippi, with the exception of New Orleans.

In India, the British retained the Northern Circars, but returned all the French trading ports. The treaty, however, required that the fortifications of these settlements must be destroyed and never rebuilt, while only minimal garrisons could be maintained there, thus rendering them worthless as military bases. Combined with the loss of France's ally in Bengal and the defection of Hyderabad to the British side as a result of the war, this effectively brought French power in India to an end, making way for British hegemony and eventual control of the subcontinent.

European boundaries were returned to their status quo ante bellum by the Treaty of Hubertusburg (February 1763). Prussia thus maintained its possession of Silesia, having survived the combined assault of three neighbours, each larger than itself. Prussia gained enormously in influence at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire. This increase in Prussian influence, it is argued, marks the beginning of the modern German state, an event at least as influential as the colonial empire Great Britain had gained. Others, including Fred Anderson, author of Crucible of War, believe the war was needless and overly costly.[20]

The French Navy was crippled by the war, which meant that only an ambitious rebuilding program in combination with the Spanish fleet would see it again able to challenge the Royal Navy's command of the sea.[21]

However, the British now faced the delicate task of pacifying their new French-Canadian subjects, as well as the many American Indian tribes in the western lands who had supported the French. George III's Proclamation of 1763, which forbade white settlement beyond the crest of the Appalachians, was intended to appease the latter, but led to considerable outrage in the Thirteen Colonies whose inhabitants were eager to acquire native lands. The Quebec Act of 1774, similarly intended to win over the loyalty of French Canadians, also spurred resentment among American colonists. Victorious in 1763, Great Britain would soon face another military threat in North America — this time from its longtime subjects.

It should be noted, that while Frederick the Great's earlier acts of aggression towards Austria can to some degree be blamed for the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the war was waged against him by a far stronger coalition of the largest European powers intent on reversing Prussia's fortunes. The nations and empires allied against Prussia during most of the war comprised over half of Continental Europe, and Frederick's forces were compelled to fight at times on four fronts. To maintain the defense of Prussia "against the greatest superiority of power and the utmost spite of fortune" in the words of Lord Macaulay,[22] while retaining Prussia's earlier territorial gains, stands as a significant accomplishment of leadership in itself. The Austrian army also performed well and sometimes successfully against a Prussian army led by a man later acknowledged by Napoleon Bonaparte as a greater military leader than himself, and thanks to Maria Theresa's leadership the war was not such a great loss for Austria that Austrian prestige or internal stability were seriously harmed. However, the same cannot be said of France.

The Seven Years' War was the last major military conflict on the European continent before the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792.

Cultural references

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ The Treaty of Paris in Corbett, Julian (1918). England in the Seven Years' War: A Study in Combined Strategy Vol. II. (Second Edition ed.). London: Longman, Green and Co.. 
  2. ^ Bowen, HV (1998). War and British Society 1688–1815. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-521-57645-8. 
  3. ^ Bowen, HV (1998). War and British Society 1688–1815. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-521-57645-8. 
  4. ^ Tombs, Robert and Isabelle. That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present. London: William Heinemann, 2006.
  5. ^ West p.129
  6. ^ Rodger p.265–67
  7. ^ West p.170
  8. ^ Carter p.84-102
  9. ^ West p.176
  10. ^ West p.211–12
  11. ^ West p.176–77
  12. ^ West p.491
  13. ^ Fish 2003, p. 2
  14. ^ West p.492
  15. ^ West p.498
  16. ^ a b Julian Corbett, England in the Seven Years' War: A Study in Combined Strategy, 2 Vols., (London, 1918).
  17. ^ Virtual Vault, an online exhibition of Canadiana at Library and Archives Canada
  18. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia, retrieved 17 June 2006.
  19. ^ E.g., Canada to Confederation p. 8: Barriers to Immigration, mentioning mother country's image of New France as an "Arctic wasteland with wild animals and savage Indians".
  20. ^ According to Anderson, "Beyond the inevitable adjustments in the way diplomats would think of Prussia as a player in European politics, six years of heroic expenditure and savage bloodshed had accomplished precisely nothing." (p. 506)
  21. ^ Kennedy, Paul (2004) [1976] (book). The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (new introduction ed.). London: Penguin Books. 
  22. ^ Essay on Frederic the Great, Essays vol. 5 (1866) Hurd and Houghton

Bibliography

  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. Faber and Faber, 2000.
  • Carter, Alice Clare. The Dutch Republic in Europe in the Seven Years War. MacMillan, 1971.
  • Fish, Shirley When Britain ruled the Philippines, 1762–1764: the story of the 18th century British invasion of the Philippines during the Seven Years War. 1stBooks Library, 2003. ISBN 1410710696, ISBN 9781410710697
  • Fowler, William H. Empires at War: The Seven Years' War and the Struggle for North America. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005. ISBN 1553650964.
  • Keay, John. The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. Harper Collins, 1993
  • Marston, Daniel. The Seven Years' War. Essential Histories. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 1841761915.
  • McLynn, Frank. 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. London: Jonathan Cape, 2004. ISBN 022406245X.
  • Rodger, N.A.M. Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649–1815. Penguin Books, 2006.

External links

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Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North A (6.93 USD)

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28mm Seven Years War DPS painted Russian Musketeer Btln WP6684 (128.0 USD)

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28mm Seven Years War DPS Painted Prussian Hussar WP5229 (144.0 USD)

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LEUT-02 - Prussian Grenadier Advancing #2 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (39.0 USD)

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LEUT-01 - Prussian Grenadier Advancing #1 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (39.0 USD)

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28mm Seven Years War DPS Painted Prussian Musketeer Btln WP3356 (72.0 USD)

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LEUT-12 - Prussian Officer - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (40.0 USD)

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LEUT-04 - Prussian Grenadier Casualties #1 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (76.0 USD)

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LEUT-05 - Prussian Grenadier Casualties #2 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (76.0 USD)

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LEUT-07 - Prussian Grenadiers Advancing #5 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (76.0 USD)

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LEUT-03 - Prussian Grenadier Advancing #3 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (39.0 USD)

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LEUT-09 - Prussian Grenadiers Assault - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (78.0 USD)

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LEUT-06 - Prussian Grenadiers Advancing #4 - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (76.0 USD)

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Empire Of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America (1.54 USD)

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28mm Seven Years War DPS Painted Russia Foot Aritllery WP6430 (41.25 USD)

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ROT-03 - Roth Wurzburg Infantry 2 Figures - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (78.0 USD)

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LEUT-08 - Prussian Grenadiers Firing - Seven Years War - John Jenkins (76.0 USD)

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28mm Seven Years War DPS painted French Fusilier Battalion WP6476 (96.0 USD)

Commercial use of this term