Battle for a Continent
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Battle for a Continent
War Begins
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Attack on British forts and settlements
In May 1756 Britain declared war on France.
Three hundred Canadians and their native allies attacked settlers at German Flats in the Mohawk Valley at the start of the Seven Years War.
Three hundred Canadians and their native allies attacked settlers at German Flats in the Mohawk Valley at the start of the Seven Years War.
France's General in North America, the Marquis de Montcalm, was ready. He moved into the wilderness with massive siege guns, transforming the brutal border war into a European battlefield.

In the first battles of the war, Montcalm took the British forts of Oswego on Lake Ontario and Fort William Henry on Lake Champlain using traditional tactics. At Fort Carillon he defeated Major-General James Abercromby's force of close to 16,000 with an army of 3,600 men, a stunning tactical rout.

By contrast, Governor Marquis de Vaudreuil assigned sorties conducted by Canadians and Indians that were designed to destroy the enemy's morale. They attacked a settlement of German immigrants in the Mohawk Valley who wished to be neutral. Three hundred raiders descended on the community of German Flats.
Fifty settlers were killed and 150 people taken prisoner in the French attack on German Flats.
Fifty settlers were killed and 150 people taken prisoner in the French attack on German Flats.
They burned down 60 dwellings and granaries, killed 50 people and took 32 scalps. One hundred and fifty people, mostly women and children were taken prisoner.

Vaudreuil and Montcalm would never agree on how to conduct the war. Vaudreuil's war was a war of attrition. But Montcalm hated the guerrilla tactics.

"It is no longer the time," he said, "when a few scalps, or the burning of a few houses is any advantage or even an object. Petty means, petty ideas, petty councils about details are now dangerous and a waste of materiel and time."

There was also the worry that the Canadian style of war might catch on; that the Europeans would abandon the gentleman's pretense that marked warfare and embrace the brutality of the new landscape.
Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Montcalm's aide-de-camp, noted this worry in the journal he kept of his experience in Canada. "It is an abominable way to make war," he wrote of the Indian raids, "the retaliation is frightening, and the air one breathes here is contagious of making one accustomed to callousness."


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Battle for a Continent
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