Seven Years' War

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For the 1592–1598 war, see Seven-Year War. For the 1563–1570 war, see Nordic Seven Years' War.

The Seven Years' War (even though it actually lasted 9 years), sometimes referred to as the Pomeranian War or the French and Indian War, (1754 and 1756–1763) pitted Great Britain, the British Colonies in North America, Prussia, and Hanover against France, Austria, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony. Spain and Portugal were later drawn into the conflict, while a force from the neutral United Provinces of the Netherlands was attacked in India.

In Canada and Britain, the Seven Years' War is used to describe the North American conflict as well as the European and Asian conflicts. The conflict in India is termed the Second Carnatic War while the fighting between Prussia and Austria is called the Third Silesian War.

While most U.S.-based historians refer to the conflict as the Seven Years' War regardless of the theatre involved (such as Fred Anderson in A People's Army: Massachusetts Soldiers & Society in the Seven Year's War), non-scholars often use that term to refer only to the European portions of the conflict (1756–1763), not the nine-year North American conflict or the Indian campaigns which lasted 15 years (including Pontiac's Rebellion), which are known as the French and Indian War. Many of the Indians sided with France, although some did fight alongside the British.

Contents

Causes

The Seven Years' War may be viewed as a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession. During that conflict, King Frederick II of Prussia had gained the rich province of Silesia. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had only signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in order to rebuild her military forces and to forge new alliances.

This she had done with remarkable success. The political map of Europe had been redrawn in a few years. Century-old enemies France, Austria and Russia formed a single alliance against Prussia. Prussia had only the protection of Great Britain, which was given because the ruling dynasty saw its ancestral Hanoverian possession as being threatened by France. Great Britain's alliance with Prussia was a logical complement. The British already had the most formidable navy in Europe, while Prussia had the most formidable land force on continental Europe and thus allowed Britannia to rule the seas, as well as exert some influence on mainland Europe. Furthermore, this allowed Britain to focus her soldiers towards her colonies.

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.

The second cause for war arose from the heated colonial struggle between Great Britain and France. Until the war, neither the French, nor the British had claimed the area along the Ohio River in North America. This area was fertile, rich for farming and trading. The primary reason for the beginning of the American theatre of the war was a dispute over the Ohio River banks.

Start of the war

The trouble began in 1753, when France began building a series of forts in the Ohio Country, a region also claimed by the British colony of Virginia. This was part of an overall strategy by the French, with the support of the indigenous population, to destabilize the American frontier and tie up British military forces in the American colonies. Robert Dinwiddie, the governor of Virginia, had Major George Washington deliver a letter to the French commander, asking them to leave. The French refused, and so, in 1754, Dinwiddie sent Washington, now promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, on another mission to the Ohio Country. There, Washington and his troops ambushed a French Canadian scouting party. After a short skirmish, Washington's American Indian ally Tanacharison killed the French commander, Ensign Jumonville. Washington then built Fort Necessity, which soon proved inadequate, as he was compelled to surrender to a larger French and American Indian force. The surrender terms that Washington signed included an admission that he had "assassinated" Jumonville. (The document was written in French, which Washington could not read.) The "Jumonville affair" became an international incident and helped to ignite the Seven Years' War.

The war spread to Europe on May 15,1756, when Great Britain declared war on France. Learning about the intentions of the coalition opposing him, King Frederick determined to strike first. On August 29, his well-prepared army crossed the frontier of Saxony.

European theatre

In the European theatre, Prussia was outnumbered, but not outclassed, by her opponents. Prussia was a small state, but as one historian remarked, it was an army with a country, not the other way around.

At the start of the war, Frederick crossed the border of Saxony, one of the smaller German States in league with Austria. The Saxon and Austrian armies were unprepared, and at the Battle of Lobositz Frederick prevented the isolated Saxon army from being reinforced by an Austrian army under General von Browne. However, Saxony had successfully delayed the Prussian campaign.

In the spring of 1757, Frederick again took the initiative by marching on Prague. After the bloody Battle of Prague the Prussians started to besiege the city, but had to lift the siege after Frederick's first defeat at the Battle of Kolin.

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", Frederick thoroughly crushed both the French at the Battle of Rossbach and the Austrians at the Battle of Leuthen. With these complete victories at hand, Frederick had once again established himself as Europe's finest general and his men as Europe's finest soldiers.

Though Frederick invaded Austria in the spring of 1758, he failed to score an important victory. In the west, the French were beaten in the Battle of Rheinberg and the Battle of Krefeld (Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick).

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 September 25, a Swedish army repulsed six assaults by a Prussian army. On October 14, the Austrians surprised the main Prussian army at the Battle of Hochkirch. Frederick lost much of his artillery but retreated in good order.

1759 saw some severe Prussian defeats. At the Battle of Kay, or Paltzig, the Russian Count Saltykov with 70,000 Russians defeated 26,000 Prussian troops commanded by General von Wedel. Though the Hanoverians defeated an army of 60,000 French at Minden, Frederick lost half his army in the Battle of Kunersdorf. In the Battle of Maxen, Austrian general Daun forced the surrender of an entire Prussian corps of 13,000 men.

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 M. de la Clue 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 disaster to the Prussians. The Prussian general Fouque was defeated in the Battle of Landshut. The French captured Marburg, and the Swedes part of Pomerania. The Hanoverians were victorious over the French at the Battle of Marburg, but the Austrians 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 Berlin. The end of the year saw Frederick once more victorious in the Battle of Torgau.

1761 brought a new country into the war. Spain declared war on Great Britain on January 4. In the Battle of Villinghausen Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick defeated a 92,000 man French army. The Russians under Zakhar Chernyshev and Pyotr Rumyantsev captured more area in Pomerania, while the Austrians captured Schweidnitz.

Great Britain now threatened to withdraw her subsidies, and, as the Prussian armies had dwindled to 60,000 men, Frederick's survival was severely threatened. Then on 5 January 1762 the Tsaritsa died, and her Prussophile successor, Peter III, at once offered peace.

The final major battle between Prussia and Austria was the Battle of Freiberg, fought on 29 October 1762.

Colonial theatre

For North American events, see French and Indian War. Image:French attack St. John's Newfoundland 1762.jpg British battled French across India, North America, Europe, the Caribbean isles, the Philippines and coastal Africa. During the 1750s up to 1763, Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence at the expense of the French. Robert Clive ran the French from India, and General Wolfe defeated the French forces of General Montcalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham leading in the following year to the surrender of Canada to the British. The British navy captured the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762, as well as the Spanish city of Havana in Cuba.

In 1758 the British mounted an attack on New France by land and by sea. The French fortress at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island fell in 1758. And on 13 September 1759, General James Wolfe defeated the French forces at Québec. By the autumn of 1760, French America had become British.

Towards the very end of the war, in 1762, 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 in the Battle of Signal Hill. The battle was the final battle of the war in North America and forced the French to surrender St. John's to the British under the command of Colonel William Amherst.

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763. It contained important clauses including the cession to France of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Peace

Template:Wikisourcepar The British-French hostilities were ended in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, which involved a complex series of land exchanges. France was given the choice of keeping either New France or its Caribbean island colony Guadeloupe, and chose the latter to retain one of its sources of sugar. This suited the British as well, as their own Caribbean islands already supplied ample sugar, but with the handover of New France they gained control of all lands in North America east of the Mississippi River. However, the end of the threat from New France to the British American colonies and the subsequent reorganization of those colonies would later become one of the enabling triggers for the American Revolution. Spain lost control of Florida to Great Britain, but took control of New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River from the French. The British garrison on the island of Minorca was returned to them.

European boundaries were returned to their pre-war states, by the Treaty of Hubertusburg (February 1763). This meant that Prussia was confirmed in its possession of Silesia. Prussia had survived the combined assault of its numerous neighbours, each larger than itself. According to some historians, Prussia gained enormously in influence at the cost of the Holy Roman Empire. This influence marks the beginning of the modern German state, an event at least as influential as the colonial empire Britain had gained. Others, including Fred Anderson, author of "Crucible of War," disagree. 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)

From a military point of view the battles are less interesting than the numerous marches and countermarches in which Frederick excelled. This warfare of mobility would later be admired by Napoleon Bonaparte.

See also

External links


Battles

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