The Conquest

Military Situations at the Start of the War

A Colonial Way of War

It may seem surprising that barely 1,000 soldiers posted along the Mississippi and in the Great Lakes area should be enough to give France control over the vast central regions of the continent. But the goal of the French was not to chase away the Amerindians to replace them with French colonizers, but to control trade through alliances. If on occasion some Amerindians proved to be recalcitrant or hostile, an expeditionary force was simply sent in to subdue them.

At this time, the French-Canadian population had a strong military tradition. All able-bodied men from 16 to 60 years of age were automatically members of their parish militia company. In addition, under the influence of the Natives and drawn by the country's outstanding natural attractions, many Canadians were accustomed to long canoe trips and to living in the woods. These people were sturdy, able to deal with considerable fatigue and familiar with Amerindian techniques, and they had a reputation as excellent marksmen.

From the late seventeenth century onward, New France kept its enemies at bay through war tactics that combined indigenous methods with European organization and discipline. During conflicts, the Canadians maintained constant pressure through raids that struck deep into enemy territory. Although they were superior numerically, the American colonies of Great Britain feared that at any moment the "French and Indians" would strike. The large and well-armed colonial American militias had no skills at combat in the forest, however, and were content to remain on the defensive.