Cover image for Breaking the backcountry : the Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765
Breaking the backcountry : the Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765
Ward, Matthew C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Pittsburgh, Pa. : University of Pittsburgh Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
x, 329 pages, 14 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
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E199 .W236 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Even as the 250th anniversary of its outbreak approaches, the Seven Years' War (otherwise known as the French and Indian War) is still not wholly understood. Most accounts tell the story as a military struggle between British and French forces, with shifting alliances of Indians, culminating in the British conquest of Canada. Scholarly and popular works alike, including James Fennimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans, focus on the action in the Hudson River Valley and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Matthew C. Ward tells the compelling story of the war from the point of view of the region where it actually began, and whose people felt the devastating effects of war most keenly--the backcountry communities of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Previous Wars in North America had been fought largely on the New England and New York frontiers. But on May 28, 1754, when a young George Washington commanded the first shot fired in western Pennsylvania, fighting spread for the first time to Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ward's original research reveals that on the eve of the Seven Year's War the communities of these colonies were isolated, economically weak, and culturally diverse. He shows in riveting detail how, despite the British empire's triumph, the war brought social choose, sickness, hunger, punishment, and violence to the backcountry, much of it at the hands of Indian warriors. Ward's fresh analysis reveals that Indian raids were not random skirmishes, but part of an organized strategy that included psychological warfare designed to make settlers flee Indian territories. It was the awesome effectiveness of this "guerilla" warfare, Ward argues, that led to the most enduring legacies of the war:Indian-hating and an armed population of colonial settlers, distrustful of the British empire that couldn't protect them. Understanding the horrors of the Seven Years' War as experienced in the backwoods thus provides unique insights into the origins of the American republic.

Author Notes

Matthew C. Ward is a lecturer in the department of history at the University of Dundee, Scotland.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Monographs about the Seven Years' War in North America, known also as the French and Indian War, have tended to focus on the military campaigns of European officers and the armies under their command. Ward (Univ. of Dundee, Scotland) opts to examine the conflict from a region dotted with isolated frontier settlements and polyglot Native American communities. The author admirably demonstrates how the vicious guerrilla warfare practiced in the backcountry forced terrified colonists to learn how to defend themselves, since it became patently obvious that British armies were unable to provide adequate protection. Not surprisingly, as shown by Ward, these individuals emerged from the conflict as hardened warriors with a general contempt for militarily impotent Great Britain. These views would contribute to the onset of the American Revolution approximately a decade later. This fascinating work complements Fred Anderson's Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, which is the best general survey of the conflict available. Both works are highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Ward (Univ. of Dundee, Scotland) brings the story of the Seven Years' War back from a global or Atlantic Coast focus to its origins. Put into an American historical context, this is the Sevens Years' War as seen from the West, from the perspective of the settlers on the frontier and the backcountry. At the same time, Ward shows how developments during the war set the stage for western expansion, changed attitudes toward Indians, and provided a training ground for revolutionary leaders both military and political, and for a fighting force that would provide the self-confidence necessary to fight the Revolution. In particular, the war gave provincial governments experience in raising and maintaining a fighting force over an extended period of time. This work helps to explain neglected aspects of the pre-Revolutionary experience and joins the growing number of recent works that focus on the backcountry. Ward provides a coherent analysis of Indian strategy and the responses of the settlers to this new threat. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. G. W. Franz Pennsylvania State University, Delaware County Campus

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 The Collision of Worlds: 1700-1755p. 9
2 War Comes to the Backcountryp. 36
3 "Dissatisfact'n, Discontent and Clamours of All Ranks": The Breakdown of Backcountry Society, 1755-1758p. 59
4 "An Extream Bad Collection of Broken Innkeepers, Horse Jockeys, & Indian Traders": The Provincial Forcesp. 91
5 Wars and Words: Political Conflict and the Diplomatic Offensivep. 123
6 Turning Point: The British Drive to the Ohiop. 157
7 The Quest for Security, 1759-1763p. 186
8 Denouement: "Pontiac's War," 1763-1765p. 219
Conclusionp. 255
Appendix Composition of the Provincial Regimentsp. 263
List of Abbreviationsp. 265
Notesp. 267
Bibliographyp. 307
Indexp. 319