The French and Indian War in Pennsylvania
"...they said they would go speak to their Chiefs and come and tell us what they said, they returned and said they would hold fast of the Chain of friendship. Out of our regard to them we gave them two Blankets and a Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect." From, William Trent's Journal, 1763
In 1754, when George Washington unknowingly granted the French possession of the Ohio River Valley, he set in motion a series of military events that would come to be known as the French and Indian War among British colonists, and would grow into the Seven Years War around the world. Although the British war effort began slowly, the strategies of William Pitt beginning in 1757 to wage a full-fledged war in the western territories of Pennsylvania would come to define Britain’s imperial policy. In the middle of these proceedings, the Native American tribes inhabiting the contested areas denied both the French and British “right” to occupy the land. The myriad of players in this war offer contrasting perspectives used by historians to analyze these events. This unit offers students the opportunity to historically analyze the war from these perspectives, informing their understanding of how wars are remembered as well as the important role primary sources play in historical research.
- Methods of historical research, critical thinking, problem-solving, and presentation skills provide expertise for effective decision making.
- Biography is a historical construct used to reveal positive and/or negative influences an individual can have on Pennsylvania’s society.
- Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding the history of Pennsylvania.
- Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.
- Construct a biography of a Pennsylvanian and generate conclusions regarding his/her qualities and limitations.
- Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time and place in Pennsylvania.
Background Material for Teacher
- “Reluctant Imperialist? William Pitt, Pennsylvania, and the First Global War” by Matthew C. Ward
- “The Braddock Expedition of 1755: Catastrophe in the Wilderness” by Frank A. Cassell
- “Gloomy and Dark Days” by Daniel K. Richter
- “Pennsylvanians at War: The Settlement Frontiers during the Seven Years War” by David L. Preston
- “Food for Thought: Reflections on the Study of War” by Holly A. Mayer
- “Window on the Collections: William Trent’s Fort Pitt Journals” by Kimberly Burton
- Anderson, Fred. Ed. George Washington Remembers: Reflections on the French and Indian War. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004.
- Anderson, Fred and Cayton, Andrew. The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000. New York: Viking, 2005.
- Dixon, David. Fort Pitt Museum. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004.
- Miller, Randall M. and Pencak, William ed. Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.
- Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
- Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.
- Waddell, Louis M. and Bomberger, Bruce. The French and Indian War in Pennsylvania 1753–1763: Fortification and Struggle during the War for Empire. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1996.
- Ward, Matthew C. Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.
End of Unit Assessment
One common way of communicating in the 18th century was with a “broadside” pasted onto walls for everyone to see. Have students create a broadside based either on their fictional character’s view of the war or the essential questions. The broadside should include:
- An indication of who the student represents French soldier, Philadelphia Quaker, etc.
- A title, or name for the war based on the character’s perspective,
- Three specific reasons or arguments to support the name proposed for the war
- A persuasive argument to convince the viewer to remember the war as that character would wish.
About the Author
This lesson was created by Donna Sharer. Updated for SAS by Amy Seeberger, Education Intern, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.