Nov. 14, 2023

Episode 3: The Triumph

Following three years of stinging defeats in the Seven Years' War, the British begin to turn the tide against the French in North America in no small measure because Indigenous peoples decided the war should end.  Featuring: Fred Anderson, Christian...

Following three years of stinging defeats in the Seven Years' War, the British begin to turn the tide against the French in North America in no small measure because Indigenous peoples decided the war should end. 

Featuring: Fred Anderson, Christian Ayne Crouch,  Matthew Dziennik, Julie Flavell, John McCurdy, and Serena Zabin.

Voice Actors: Dan Howlett, Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Michael Newton, Brandon Tachco, and Emmanuel Dubois.

Narrated by Jim Ambuske.

Worlds Turned Upside Down is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Further Reading:

Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2001).

Stephen Brumwell, Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 (2006).

Christian Ayne Crouch, Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France (2014).

Rose Durand, "The Historical and Personal Importance of Engraved Powder Horns," Museum of the City of New  York, 13 December 2018,

Matthew P. Dziennik, The Fatal Land: War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America (2015).

Julie Flavell, The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women Behind Britain's Wars for America (2021).

Paul Kelton. “The British and Indian War: Cherokee Power and the Fate of Empire in North America.” The William and Mary Quarterly69, no. 4 (2012): 763–92.

John McCurdy, Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution (2022).

Donald W. Olson, William D. Liddle, Russel L. Doescher, Leah M. Behreds, Tammy D. Silakowski, and François-Jacques Saucier, “Perfect Tide, Ideal Moon: An Unappreciated Aspect of Wolfe’s Generalship at Québec, 1759,” William & Mary Quarterly 59 No. 4 (Oct. 2002): 957-974.

Matt J. Schumann, "British Foreign Policy During the Seven Years' War (1749-63)," State Papers Online, Eighteenth Century 1714-1782, Cengage Learning (EMEA) Ltd, 2018.

Nathan L. Swayze, Engraved powder horns of the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War era (1978).

Samuel Venière, "François-Gaston de Lévis." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published January 21, 2008; Last Edited April 12, 2021.

Serena Zabin, The Boston Massacre: A Family History (2020).

Primary Sources:

Connecticut Historical Society, Rolls of Connecticut Men in the French and Indian War, 1755-1762  (1905).

Gertrude Selwyn Kimball, ed., Correspondence of William Pitt, when secretary of state, with colonial governors and military and naval commissioners in America (1906), vol. 1.

James McLagan, “To the Highlanders Upon Departing for America (1756),” in Michael Newton, We’re Indians Sure Enough: The Legacy of Scottish Highlanders in the United States (2001).

The Minutes of a treaty held at Easton, in Pennsylvania, in October, 1758. By the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and the governor of New-Jersey; with the chief sachems and warriors of the Mohawks, Oneydos, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, Tuscaroras, Tuteloes, Nanticokes and Conoys, Chugnuts, Delawares, Unamies, Mohickons, Minisinks, and Wapings (1758). University of Michigan;idno=N06429.0001.001;rgn=div2;view=text;cc=evans;node=N06429.0001.001:2.7

Timothy J. Shannon, The Seven Years' War in North America: A Brief History with Documents (2013).

Museums and Cultural Heritage Sites:

Citadelle de Québec

Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site

Fort Pitt Museum

Fort Ticonderoga Historic Landmark

Fort William Henry Museum



Worlds Turned Upside Down

Episode 3: "The Triumph"
Published 11/14/2023

Written by Jim Ambuske


JIM AMBUSKE: A quarter-moon rose over the Plains of Abraham, a plateau just outside the fortified walls of Québec City, on the night of September 12, 1759.

AMBUSKE:  Québec was the capital of New France. For more than 150 years the city had grown up along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, not far from where the river begins to widen as it journeys northeast toward the Atlantic Ocean. It was the heart of a Catholic French empire in America. New France claimed lands stretching from eastern Canada down into the Ohio River valley. To the east lay British America, a constellation of colonies more populous and Protestant than their colonial French rival.

AMBUSKE: The city was one of the gateways to the interior of North America, along with the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island and Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio River, in western Pennsylvania.

AMBUSKE: And for months, a British army and naval force under the command of Major General James Wolfe had been struggling to capture it.

AMBUSKE: Since 1754, the British, the French, their colonies, and their Indigenous allies had been locked in a titanic struggle for imperial domination. Historians call that conflict “The Seven Years’ War.” Americans then and now refer to the war in North America as “The French and Indian War.”

AMBUSKE: For the British, it had been a long road to Québec. The stumble into war at Jumonville Glen in 1754; the disaster along the Monongahela River in 1755; the “massacre” at Fort William Henry in 1757; squabbles with colonial governments over money, supplies, and soldiers; pompous, inexperienced, and stubborn military commanders; and seemingly uncooperative Indigenous allies.

AMBUSKE: But, in 1758, the Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Duquesne fell into British hands, and in 1759, in what the British would remember as Annus Mirabilis, “The Year of Miracles,” the tide began to turn.

AMBUSKE: Around midnight, on September 13th, the ebb tide began to flow in the St. Lawrence River. By the early morning hours, the water was moving fast enough to carry the vanguard of a British army under General Wolfe’s command toward the city. The quarter moon illuminated their path as they silently approached the cliffs, just below the city’s walls. Amazingly, the moon’s angle above the horizon that night all but concealed the British from their French enemies. This precise combination of moon and tide would not occur again for decades.

AMBUSKE: All through the night the king’s soldiers - a mix of Englishmen, Scots Highlanders, provincial Americans, and Irishmen– scrambled up the cliffs to the plains, overwhelming French defenses.

AMBUSKE: By the morning the French commander, the Marquis de Montcalm, looked out of the fortified city across the plains only to see a double line of Scarlet Redcoats. Montcalm knew his supplies would not last and his own forces, composed of French soldiers, Canadian militia, and some Indigenous peoples were ill prepared to face a disciplined British army. Yet, Montcalm believed he had little choice but to attack now. And 18th century notions of honor demanded that he give battle.

AMBUSKE: The battle lasted about an hour. The city itself would surrender within days. Wolfe was killed almost immediately. Montcalm succumbed to his own wounds the next day.

AMBUSKE: Wolfe had no way of knowing that his victory at Quebec, and much more importantly, Britain's ultimate success in the war; would have unintended, even revolutionary, consequences in the years ahead.

AMBUSKE: Wolfe had acted against the advice of his fellow officers that night. Historians still debate why. He didn’t get along with his fellow officers. Did he do it just to spite them? Was he, in fact, a bold strategist? Did he simply get lucky? Or, did a man, who was often unwell long to die, gloriously, on the field of battle, in service to his country, his king, and a Protestant Empire?

AMBUSKE: As he lay dying on the Plains of Abraham, choking on the blood pooling in his throat, Wolf lived just long enough to learn that his reckless gamble had altered the course of the campaign against Quebec.

AMBUSKE: What we cannot know is, whether in his last moments, as all turned to silver glass, he came to terms with what so many British and French officers before him had struggled to understand: Fortunate finally favored the British in North America in no small measure, because Indigenous people decided it would.

AMBUSKE: I’m Jim Ambuske, and this is Worlds Turned Upside Down, a podcast about the history of the American Revolution.

AMBUSKE: Episode 3: “The Triumph”

AMBUSKE: Lord Loudoun, the cantankerous British general who had succeeded Edward Braddock as commander-in-chief in North America, was not long for this war.

AMBUSKE: In August 1757, Loudoun was aboard a warship off the coast of Cape Breton Island. He was contemplating an attack on Fortress Louisbourg, just as the Marquis de Montcalm, his French army, and his Indigenous allies were laying siege to Fort William Henry in northern New York.

AMBUSKE: Taking Louisbourg would disrupt French supply lines, crippling their ability to wage war in the Ohio Country and beyond. But, it was too late in the campaign season. The weather would soon turn cold and the Atlantic storms fierce. On the advice of the commanding British admiral, Loudoun called off the attack.

AMBUSKE: So, he returned to his headquarters in New York City. There he would once again deal with colonists and provincial governments who resisted his power to command them. Loudoun would do so having suffered defeat at Fort Oswego in 1756 and now, a year later, with Fort William Henry in ruins.

AMBUSKE: Although he would not know it for months, Loudoun was relieved of his command 10 days before Christmas.

AMBUSKE: The year 1757 was the lowest period of the war for Britain and its American empire. Nothing had really gone right up to this point. Colonists and commanders-in-chief argued over who should pay for the war; what rules should govern the relationship between provincial forces and the regular army, and how to break New France’s ability to ally with Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: For the French and their American empire, the year 1757 had all the appearances of a triumph.

CHRISTIAN AYNE CROUCH: The campaign to Oswego in 1756, and the campaign against Fort William Henry in 1757 at the surface, and on paper, they are extremely successful, they are French victories, and French victories at a moment when France is not doing well in continental Europe.

CROUCH: My name is Christian Ayne Crouch. I am the Dean of Graduate Studies and associate professor of history and American and Indigenous Studies at Bard College.

CROUCH: These are important French victories because they help bolster the resolve of the nation where at least something is going well somewhere. But they're really the first moment that Indigenous fighters experience what it is like to work with French army officers who have come from Metropolitan France.

AMBUSKE: The Marquis de Montcalm’s dismissive attitude towards his Indigenous allies, and his attempt to prevent them from taking captives and treasure after these battles, eroded the bonds of trust between France and its native partners. Relationships that provincials like the Marquis de Vaundreuil, the Governor of New France, had worked hard to maintain.

CROUCH: When the battles are concluded, they are prevented from getting the material evidence of their participation that are not just important for these individuals as individuals right showing their personal bravery and their fortitude in these contexts. But these are also materials that go back into their communities. So, they're being denied access to the very things that their community expected them to come back with. That's obviously incredibly grating. And on top of that they're being constantly moralized by these French officers. Who are, if you take the textual record, as any example, clearly eye rolling every five minutes, and walking away, and just generally behaving really badly. And I think they become increasingly concerned that something is wrong with the French, quote unquote, the French generally. But the core of what happens in these two campaigns is it seems like France is revising the terms of what that reciprocity and engagement is going to look like. And that is very alarming to them.

AMBUSKE: So, what did Montcalm’s arrogance cost the French? What choices did the British make to recover from the precipice of defeat, and how did Indigenous peoples decide the fate of the war in North America?

AMBUSKE: To begin answering these questions, let’s head first to London, to the capital of British America, where a change in the ministry has returned an ambitious politician to power. We’ll then sail back to North America with the men and women who served in the campaigns of 1758, before we consider why once neutral Indigenous peoples like the Haudenosaunee, decided to go to war.

AMBUSKE: In the summer of 1757, a man of astonishing oratorical power, matched only by his ego and ambitions, regained control of the British ministry. William Pitt was on the verge of turning fifty-years-old that June when he formed a coalition government with the Duke of Newcastle, his sometime political rival.

AMBUSKE: Pitt was most comfortable in the Opposition. He belonged to a political faction known as the Patriot Whigs, who believed that patronage had led to government corruption in the early eighteenth-century. He spent the majority of his early years in Parliament lobing sharp attacks at the government of the day.

AMBUSKE: In the mid-1740s, however, a change in ministries made it possible for Pitt to enter government himself, despite King George II’s dislike for the man. By the mid-1750s, Pitt had become leader of the House of Commons. He was confident that only he could save Britain from certain defeat in the Seven Years’ War.

AMBUSKE: In the coalition government that took shape in June 1757, the Duke of Newcastle would be prime minister in name, but William Pitt - now the Secretary of State for the Southern Department – would be the power behind it.

AMBUSKE: And from Pitt’s perspective, Britain needed a new strategy. He assumed power in 1757 with a two-front war on his hands. And it was going poorly for the British in both Europe and in North America.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Fred Anderson, professor of history emeritus at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

FRED ANDERSON: Now we're in the middle of the war, the very darkest time for [2]Britain. The new parliamentary leader who's taken over as de facto Prime Minister, William Pitt understands that this is going nowhere.

AMBUSKE: The French army was much stronger in Europe. And in North America, where the British were numerically superior, Indigenous alliances had made it possible for the French to inflict a series of stinging defeats on the British and their American colonies.

AMBUSKE: North America had never really mattered much in the European wars of the past. But, as Pitt recognized, the Seven Years’ War was both vastly different and an opportunity for Britain to dominate the Atlantic world.

AMBUSKE: For Pitt, the solution was somewhat simple: maintain the balance of power in Europe by holding the line against the French where they were strongest, and destroy the French in North America where they were weakest.

AMBUSKE: And how would Pitt put his new plan in motion?

AMBUSKE: In a word: money.

AMBUSKE: In Europe, the British began paying enormous subsidies to their Prussian and German allies to keep the French and their Austrian allies preoccupied. In an April 1758 treaty, the British agreed to send Prussia £670,000 per year for the duration of the war.

AMBUSKE: In North America, Pitt did much the same. The British would spend equally enormous sums of money in the colonies, and use its far superior Royal Navy to sever French supply lines in the Atlantic.

AMBUSKE: Most importantly, Pitt took into account colonial grievances with how the British tried to prosecute the war in the first place.

ANDERSON: He's getting advice from people who know about the interior politics in North America who were saying, the time has come to sort of back off.

AMBUSKE: In the early years of the war, the British had tried to impose colonial unity through the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. First Edward Braddock, and then Lord Loudoun, had been authorized to command provincial assemblies, only to be met with resistance, if not outright unwillingness, to participate in the war effort.

AMBUSKE: Pitt rewrote the job description. Future commanders-in-chief would no longer have viceroy-like powers in the colonies.

ANDERSON: So, how do you get the colonists to cooperate after that? Well, obviously, the way you do it, is not by giving them orders, but by giving them money.  And so the promises of subsidies, in return for Colonial cooperation in fighting campaigns and provisioning armies and so forth, comes into being under the commander in chief reign of Jeffery Amherst, who everybody turns out to love, because he's not trying to take things from them.

AMBUSKE: Pitt’s promise of money in exchange for provincial cooperation was a soothing balm after three years of demands from the likes of Braddock and Loudoun. Their battles with provincial assemblies over money, men, and material had left the colonists feeling more like tools of rather than partners in empire.

ANDERSON: Pitt wasn't concerned about, you know how much he had to borrow, as long as bankers were willing to lend it to the government, he was willing to take it. And his partner, the Duke of Newcastle, who was able to, keep the money flowing, keep the tap open, as long as as, as Pitt was in, power, and things are going well, in the war, there's nothing that the British investors liked better than lending to the government. So, there was no problem with that, until the end of the war.

AMBUSKE: Pitt also ditched the policy that made provincial officers junior to officers in the regular army, regardless of rank. Going forward, provincial offices would be junior only to regular officers of the same rank. That meant that a colonel from Charleston, South Carolina would no longer be inferior to an ensign from Cardiff, in Wales.

ANDERSON: Pitt realizes that it may be a little bit fishy, legally, but what the heck gets the colonists on board? And that's what he cares about.

AMBUSKE: Pitt’s decisions won over British Americans. The money helped, of course, but more than that, Pitt appeared willing to validate their view on how power and authority should be shared within the empire.

ANDERSON:  He's subsidizing their war effort by reimbursement. And the colonists love it because that's an accommodation to their understanding of the world.

AMBUSKE: In a letter sent in December 1757 to the governors of the New England colonies, New York, and New Jersey, Pitt wrote:

WILLIAM PITT: “The Whole, therefore, that His Majesty expects and requires from the several Provinces, is, the Levying, Cloathing, and Pay of the Men; And, on these Heads also, that no Encouragement may be wanting to this great and salutary Attempt, The King is farther most Graciously pleased to permit me to acquaint You, that strong Recommendations will be made to Parliament in their Session next Year, to grant a Proper Compensation for such Expences as above, according to the active Vigour and strenuous Efforts of the respective Provinces shall justly appear to merit.”

AMBUSKE: When Pitt’s letter with the promise of reimbursement arrived in mid-March 1758, the once obstinate provincial assemblies changed their tune, literally overnight.

AMBUSKE: Massachusetts Bay legislators voted unanimously to raise 7,000 men, more than double the number they had resisted raising under Lord Loudoun’s reign. Connecticut voted for 5,000 men. Virginia doubled its military forces. Within a month, the mainland British American colonies had agreed to raise 23,000 men.

ANDERSON: The Americans did love the Empire. They loved it enough to give their lives for it. They loved it enough to tax themselves up to the eyeballs in order to send provincial troops off to serve their king. Only in response to a promise of reimbursement, I mean, they, they expect they were going to get paid back and they were paid back for much of it. But they did it for love.

 AMBUSKE: As the money began to flow across the ocean, so, too, did some British officers who were more willing to learn what it took to wage war in the American woods.

AMBUSKE: One of these men was Brigadier General George Augustus, 3rd Viscount Howe.

 JULIE FLAVELL: The Howes were an aristocratic family. But they weren't, weren't terribly wealthy by aristocratic standards.

AMBUSKE: That’s Julie Flavell, an independent scholar and Fellow at the Royal Historical Society of Scotland.

FLAVELL: George was the oldest boy. And normally, with families with landed estates, the oldest boy stayed at home safely, and that was a younger boys who went off into the army or if they were unlucky, became clergymen or whatever, but because the Howes were badly in debt, all the boys had to earn a living as it were. So, at the age of 20, George joined the prestigious Regiment of Foot Guards in 1745.

AMBUSKE: Twelve years later, Howe was sent to North America. By now, he was thirty-three years old and a veteran of the War of Austrian Succession, where he had gained experience with light infantry.

JULIE FLAVELL:  In 1757, he was a good choice for going to America as a brigadier general, because the British army needed to learn American style wilderness warfare. The French were much better at getting along with Indian warriors and bringing them onside than the British were. And the British really hadn't mastered wilderness warfare, and they needed to do this and George was sent to pioneer this effort. And by the summer of 1757, he was in upstate New York at Fort Edward with the 55th Regiment of Foot, and there he went out ranging with Rogers Rangers.

AMBUSKE: Like Lord Howe, Robert Rogers was also a veteran of the Austrian War, but of its North American variant known as King George’s War. In 1755, Rogers began recruiting New Hampshire men for a company that would become known as Rogers Rangers. The company practiced a blend of Indigenous and European light infantry tactics to conduct reconnaissance missions and strike against enemy targets. They used the American landscape to their advantage. And in 1757, Rogers introduced Howe to his “Rules of Discipline.”

FLAVELL: Major Rogers actually put on a course that summer for British officers so that they could learn light techniques and took them out ranging. George because he was a brigadier general, couldn't be a student, but he went along. He sat in on the course as it were, and it Rogers liked him very much. And George then introduced these techniques into his regiment, he created a basically a light regiment, and he insisted that the officer class do without luxuries, so they had to discard excessive baggage they had to cut their hair, long hair was considered It aristocratic looking. They really hated doing this. They had to get rid of gold braid and lace, if you can believe it in earlier wars, some officers had been killed because they had such big cuffs.

AMBUSKE: British officers wearing red coats, trimmed in gold had made for easy targets at the Battle of the Monongahela two years earlier.

FLAVELL: So, if you think it's worth dying for a cuff, if you ever look at light infantry uniforms later in the 18th century, they're much more close fitting. And George had a very egalitarian manner, that that made him very, very popular with the colonial troops who were serving alongside of the British regulars. There's a record of one colonial American saying, and when he talks to you, you don't feel abashed and afraid. And as if you have to look down the way you do with most, you know, upper class people, which actually shows that New Englanders carried some of these deferential attitudes towards aristocratic figures at this time, but George Howe overcame that.

AMBUSKE: By the spring of 1758, George Howe was one of 24,000 British regulars in North America. As an officer with a commission from the king, his pathway into the army was very different from enlisted men.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Fred Anderson.

ANDERSON: When you enlist in the British Army, you're enlisted by somebody who's set up a table on the common, a drummer is beside him who beats the drum and gets everybody's attention. And you've got a sergeant who's got a big bag of money. And you come up, and give your name to the clerk who's there to put your name down, the sergeant gives you a shilling, which is the King's Shilling. And then you're obligated by the acceptance of that, that money as a contract to serve for the term of the service that you've agreed to, which is usually life, which is identified as a term without limit. But typically, it means about 20 years, until you're too broken down to do anything else. And then they let you retire. That or the duration of the war.

AMBUSKE: Men from all corners of the British Isles – and beyond –  served in the army and navy during the Seven Years’ War. They lived in a world of rigid hierarchy and discipline.

AMBUSKE: And perhaps none served more prominently and in such numbers than soldiers from the Highlands of Scotland.

AMBUSKE: Of the 24,000 British regulars in North America in 1758, 4,200 of them were Highland soldiers.

DZIENNIK: The thing about the Highlands and the second half of the 18th century is it's dealing with the consequences of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. And the kind of imposition of strong British authority in the region, following the collapse of the rebellion.

DZIENNIK: I'm Matthew Dziennik. I'm an associate professor of British and British imperial history at the United States Naval Academy

DZIENNIK: The typical reading of this is when the rebellion collapses, when the British army marches in the British state enforces its authority through the barrel of a musket. So there is a brutal campaign of pacification that goes on in the aftermath of the final battle of the rebellion, which was Culloden. And the British Army sweeps through the Glens burning pillaging. And that's the typical understanding of how Highlanders fit into the British state, almost as a sort of conquered people.

AMBUSKE: The Jacobite Rebellion of the mid-1740s, and the British government’s repressive campaign in its wake, looms large in Scotland’s collective memory. It often shapes how many Scots, and some historians, view Scotland’s past.

DZIENNIK: The way I've tried to suggest this process is that it's a little more complicated. And the British state quickly realizes that the Highlands possess an untapped source of manpower. And so rather than rather than the main interaction between the Highlands and the British state, being through this kind of aggressive military campaign after 1746, the interactions are actually more focused and more prominent through the British state wanting to recruit soldiers into the army.

AMBUSKE: For Gaelic-speaking Highlanders or Gael Britain’s empire offered new opportunities in the mid-eighteenth century.

DZIENNIK: The Highlands are kind of incorporated into the British Empire. But they try to find ways in which they can use the British Empire to their advantage. And one of those is North America. North America is in this period for Gales a land of opportunity. It's a place where they can go out they can acquire land, there's opportunity, there are investment opportunities, these are all things that Highlanders can engage with, and turn to their own advantage.

DZIENNIK: These are sophisticated individuals. Most of them are largely agricultural laborers. The economy of the highlands isn't all that a diverse. The reality is, these are people who are facing grim prospects at home, and who make very careful decisions about what they want to do.

AMBUSKE: Enlisting in the army was a means to take advantage of all the empire had to offer.

DZIENNIK: Generally speaking, Highlanders are being recruited in much higher proportions than the rest of the country. The general consensus is that about, one in eight British males, ended up serving in the armed forces in the period of kind of the Seven Years War, leading up to the War of Independence. In the Highlands, we're maybe looking at as many as one in five, and that's significant because it's almost exclusively the regular army.

AMBUSKE: Besides the potential for land in North America, Highlanders were also attracted to the official – and unofficial – bounties the army offered to new recruits.

DZIENNIK: Officially in the 18th century, the British army can provide a five-pound bounty to a recruit to the British art day that the recruiting party marches in the golfer five pounds, a lot of that money ends up actually going back into the Army because bits of it are taken out for clothing and food, you know, all of those things. But that's the official level.

DZIENNIK: The bounty of five pounds would have been a phenomenal amount of money to most people living in the highlands, in the 18th century, the rent of a decent farm with decent land, annually in this period was usually about 15 to 20 pounds, to a five-pound bounty for agricultural laborer, easily represents two, maybe even three years’ worth of pay.

DZIENNIK: There is, however, an unofficial economy, because recruiters know they need men so instead of just offering the five-pound bounty, they say, Well, how about that five pound bounty, and another five pounds on top of that, and Highlanders because the demand for manpower is so high, because of the reputation of of Highlanders as potentially good soldiers. A lot of Highlanders who have a little bit of experience of the market economy, who are the ex-soldiers themselves, or certainly familiar with the kind of the increasing commercialization of British society. They're demanding bounties of 15-20 pounds in this period, and even going so far, even though many of them are illiterate, demanding written promises from recruiters that that money will be theirs, that their families will get it in the event of their deaths, that this is, you know, promised to them.

AMBUSKE: Gaelic poets captured the sense of adventure and martial valor that Highlanders might find in North America.

AMBUSKE: In 1756, as the 42nd Regiment of Foot prepared to sail for America, the bard James McLagan composed a poem to honor the regiment’s departure.

AMBUSKE: Here’s part of that poem, sung by Gaelic scholar Michael Newton:

JAMES MCLAGAN [Michael Newton]:


Leoghnaibb garga de’n fhuil Albannaich
Leanaibb ri’r n-airm ‘s ri’r
Faighibh targaid eutrom
Ghabhas dearg’ thuagh Choillteach;
‘S cuilbheir earr-bhuidh’ n láimh
gach sealgair,
Seòd a’ marbhadh chaol-damh;
O ‘s mitchich dh’Albannaich dol a
Air Frangaich chealgach ‘s



Fierce lions of Scottish descent,
Be loyal to your arms and to your uniform;
Get light brightly decorated shields,
That will take the blow of tomahawks,
A bright-ended musket in every hunter’s hand, Gallant
Youths killing slim stags;
Oh it is time for Scots to go hunting,
After treacherous Frenchmen and Forest-folk


AMBUSKE: The reality that Highlanders encountered in North America was quite different.

DZIENNIK: This is a brutal, hard experience for these young men. They're stuffed aboard ships that are deployed, they are quite quickly sent to the frontlines. For some of them, their first combat experience is marching straight into French musket and cannon or being sent into a forest surrounded by French militiamen and Indigenous people. It's pretty terrifying. It must have been truly, truly appalling.

AMBUSKE: Men didn’t face these dangers alone.

DZIENNIK: The reality in the 18th century is that women share the privations, dangers, and horrors of the front line of the campaigns alongside men.

AMBUSKE: Nearly 50 women were killed or taken captive at the Disaster of the Monongahela in 1755. They were with General Braddock’s army because they played an essential role in supporting it.    

DZIENNIK: Women sustain armies in the 18th century, in ways that are kind of unfamiliar to us.

SERENA ZABIN: The army is an organization that employs both men and women.

ZABIN: I'm Serena Zabin. I'm professor of history at Carleton College in Minnesota.

ZABIN: Every regiment has a set number of women who actually get rations and get pay to do some of the work of the army. Those women are almost entirely married to the privates in that regiment, very occasionally, their daughters instead, but they're largely wives, there are official rules about how many women are allowed to be paid as part of any regiment. Much of the time, commanding officers ignored those rules, because men were likely to desert if their wives were not allowed to be part of the regiment that they're traveling in.

ZABIN: Women who are being paid by the army are overwhelmingly doing laundry. So that's the one thing that men really won't do in the 18th century, they'll cook there's very little issue with men cooking. There are plenty of male tailors, although there are also women who, you know, who will make uniforms. But what men will not do is wash clothing. And that is an an enormous, hygienic problem for the army. That is one reason why it's important for them to have women who will do that very hot and heavy work.

AMBUSKE: But where to put all these men, women, and yes, even children who were sent from Britain to defend the king’s dominions?

AMBUSKE: Although provincial assemblies had resisted Lord Loudoun’s requests for money and spaces to quarter soldiers and their families, the arrival of tens of thousands of people in the colonies forced the issue. Colonists objected to troops quartered in their homes, and there were not enough taverns and other public houses to hold everyone. So, building barracks became a necessity, especially when the fighting stopped for the winter.

JOHN MCCURDY: The issue for most Americans, during the Seven Years War isn't usually an issue during the war itself. Because the war takes place, of course, during from the spring to the fall.

MCCURDY: I'm John McCurdy. I'm a professor of history at Eastern Michigan University.

MCCURDY: But where do you put soldiers between roughly October and April when it's too cold to fight? Where do you put them? Well, Loudoun and his successors say, well, we'll take the soldiers out of Canada or out of the frontier, and we'll send them to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, we'll send into these major American cities, because these will be places with a lot of civilians, which can produce money to help pay to quarter of these men. This is also a good place to recruit new troops. And so it's this period between October and probably March, where the soldiers are a constant presence in every major American city. And it's at this moment, and it's for this reason that they built these barracks.

MCCURDY: It's a massive infrastructure project, really, we hadn't seen anything like this before in the colonial period And so it's between 1756 and 1758, that we see barracks arise in every major American city, except for Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, the five cities and New Jersey, Albany, and a couple of other places, as well, you see these massive barracks rise. All the barracks that are built in about a two-to-three-year period, it'd be enough space to house probably about 7000 Men, just in the American colonies to become the United States.

MCCURDY: A typical barrack room would be probably enough for maybe 10 to 20 men in one room, there'd be a series of births are basically beds nailed to the wall, there might be bunk beds, and these are all designed to sleep two men to a bed. In the room, there would also be a hooks where men could hang their uniforms, or there would be a fireplace, and a table and benches.

AMBUSKE: The construction of barracks changed the surrounding urban landscape and gave rise to new economic opportunities for men and women.

MCCURDY: They build them wherever they can, which for a lot of places is their public land. And I think a good example is New York. So if you know where City Hall is in New York today, that's where a massive barracks is built a barracks capable of holding 2000 Men, it's about a city block long. It'd be larger than the city hall that stands there today. But that's that at the time was the common for the city of New York where you could raise your animals where military militia musters would take place where George Whitfield gave sermons during the Great Awakenings with the most public spaces, and this land has taken over and a barracks is built there. Of course, once you build a barracks, you change everything around it. Because if you do have 500 men or 1000 Men, when uniform with weapons and that changes how people feel about that neighborhood. It also causes the erection of new businesses. So, in New York, for example, a series of public houses are basically cheap taverns open up all around the barracks to supply the men with alcohol, but also to supply the men with prostitutes. So, we know prostitution really takes off in these places, right around the barracks.

AMBUSKE: Colonial men and women shared in the hard, brutal experience of war alongside their fellow subjects from Britain.

AMBUSKE: But the route for men into provincial companies and regiments was different from the soldiers who served in the regular army. Fred Anderson explains:

ANDERSON: The provincial armies are built from the ground up by consent.

AMBUSKE: To understand how, let’s use the more egalitarian New England colonies as examples. From 1756 to 1762, at least as many as 15,000 men served from Massachusetts alone.

ANDERSON: This New England system is one that creates an army which doesn't work like it's supposed to from the perspective of British officers who understand it as a departure from the ideal system, which is the one that they operate within where lines of authority are clear for hierarchies are absolutely set in stone.

ANDERSON: The system is called Raising for rank. A Colonel who's commissioned by the governor is given the authority and the money to raise men. And he can distribute it to others, in return for promises for that they will raise the men who are going to populate this regiment. The colonel who has charge of this fund can then agree with a lieutenant colonel who can go out and do the actual praising of men who will agree with a major who will agree in turn with a set of captains who will in turn agree with the set of lieutenants, and even ensigns. Or even Sergeant's whom he says, you know, if you sign up five guys, as privates and have’em come to Worcester, and put their names on the on the roll on Saturday, I'll make you have sergeant, bring me five guys, I'll make you a sergeant. To Lieutenant he would say, you know, bring me 20, guys, and I'll make you a lieutenant. And they'll do that. Because they've got kinsmen, they've got friends, they've got people that they can make promises, too, and so on. And when you're taking on that kind of relationship with people is not a direct royal to private line of authority. It's all really muddled by real down to earth loyalties of people who are enlisting because that's my uncle, or my cousin, or my neighbors’ brother-in-law. You have a kind of understanding of who the person is you're signing up to serve under. And that's rather different. You can't take people out of that social setting a community social setting.

AMBUSKE: In 1758, Edward Cogswell was one of these New England men who enlisted in the provincial forces.

AMBUSKE: Cogswell was born in Connecticut. He had just turned twenty-three years old when on March 31, 1758, he joined Captain Canfield’s Company of the 4th Connecticut Regiment as a drummer.

AMBUSKE: His brother Asa enlisted as a private, just four days later.

AMBUSKE: As was typical of New England regiments, Captain Canfield’s Company was a community affair. Besides the Cogswell brothers, the muster rolls for the company include many men with family names like Canfield, Hitchcock, Hurlbutt, Brownson, and Divine.

AMBUSKE: We don’t know much about Edward Cogswell’s life aside from a few family histories. And his experiences in 1758 are even murkier. But a relic from his time in the 4th Connecticut Regiment offers us some tantalizing clues.

AMBUSKE: Like so many soldiers, Cogswell spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting for orders; waiting to march; waiting in camp; waiting for something to alleviate the boredom. And so, like many of his fellow soldiers, Cogswell carved a powder horn to pass the time.

AMBUSKE: As the name implies, powder horns carried gun power. They were made by hollowing out the horn of a cow or an oxen. A wooden plug capped the horn’s base, where it once met an animal’s skull, and a wooden stopper was fitted into the horn’s sharp end. A leather strap made it easier to carry.

AMBUSKE: During the Seven Years’ War, soldiers in North America began carving their powder horns to whittle away the hours. These horns are like cylindrical maps, with etchings that record journeys through space and time. Sometimes, they are among the only personal records we have of a soldier’s service in the war. They tell us stories that muster rolls cannot.

AMBUSKE: Edward Cogswell’s powder horn tells us much about the war in 1758 and how he imagined his place in the British Empire. The horn has the color of dried tobacco. Near its base, Cogswell carved the image of King George II’s royal coat of arms, with the English Lion and the Scottish Unicorn supporting an orb bearing a crown. Cogswell placed these powerful symbols of British power and royal authority just above his own name, which he carved in large capital letters. The ordering suggests his own sense of place in the empire - as subject subordinate to a king in a world governed by hierarchy.

AMBUSKE: The map Cogswell made on his powder horn depicts the limits of British territorial authority in the northern borderlands of New York in 1758.

AMBUSKE: The map begins near the horn’s base, in Lower Manhattan, with an elaborate carving of the city’s urban landscape. A depiction of the Hudson River carries the viewer north, past the smaller town of Albany, and farther north still, to Fort Edward, twenty miles away from Lake George, not far from the site of the Fort William Henry “massacre.”

AMBUSKE: From Fort Edward, Cogswell’s skilled use of a knife directs us some 15 miles northeast to Fort Ann, where the map ends.

AMBUSKE: If events had played out differently in the summer of 1758, Cogswell might have added one more fort to his horned map.

AMBUSKE: Drummer Cogswell was likely one of the 16,000 British regulars and provincial soldiers who had assembled by the wreck of Fort William Henry in early July 1758. Besides Cosgwell’s 4th Connecticut Regiment, the 42nd Highland Regiment was also there.

AMBUSKE: They were under the overall command of Major General James Abercrombie. Like Lord Loudoun, Abercrombie was a Scot. He had replaced Loudoun as commander-in-chief after his predecessor’s less than successful tenure. Abercrombie’s tour of duty would be even briefer.

AMBUSKE: In the summer of 1758, the British had four objectives. An army and naval force under General Jeffrey Amherst would attack Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, another army under Colonel John Bradstreet would move against Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario, Brigadier General John Forbes would attempt to take Fort Duquesne, and Abercrombie himself would lead his 16,000 men against Fort Carillon, at the south-end of Lake Champlain in northern New York.

AMBUSKE: The British called this place “Ticonderoga,” after the Haudenosaunee word for “where the waters meet.”

AMBUSKE: Abercrombie had a clear numerical advantage over the French at Fort Carillon. The Marquis de Montcalm had a little more than 3,500 French soldiers under his command.

AMBUSKE: Even worse for the French, only 15 native warriors had joined them. The cost of Montcalm’s disregard for his Indigenous allies, for the reciprocity required to sustain the relationships on which New France’s very survival depended, and his overconfidence in the superiority of French masculinity and martial valor, had begun to mount.

AMBUSKE: Even so, the British campaign against Fort Carillon began on an ominous note.

AMBUSKE: Lord George Howe was William Pitt’s preferred choice to serve as Abercrombie’s second in command for the expedition. Howe’s youth, vigor, and willingness to learn American ways of war stood in stark contrast to the corpulent commander-in-chief, whom many soldiers privately called “Granny.”

AMBUSKE: On the afternoon of July 6, Lord George Howe was leading a column of provincial soldiers and rangers some four miles south of the Fort. They were in pursuit of the French advanced guard through the woods.

AMBUSKE: When Howe’s men and the French guard began to exchange fire, Howe rushed toward the sound. Just as he crested a hill, a French musket ball tore through his heart, lungs, and backbone. Howe collapsed to the ground, his quivering hand the only sign of any remaining life, before it too, went still.

AMBUSKE: Howe’s death cast a pall over the army. One officer wrote that “the soul of General Abercrombie’s army seemed to expire” with the young lord. 

AMBUSKE: British Americans of the revolutionary generation never forgot George Howe.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Julie Flavell:

FLAVELL: He was buried in Albany, New York. And there's a monument, which still stands in Westminster was raised to him at the expense of the colony of Massachusetts. And this meant a great deal to the Howe family that became their monument in Britain to their brother.

AMBUSKE: In the hours and days that followed Lord Howe’s death, Abercrombie struggled to restore his army’s morale and prepare for the attack on Fort Carillon. This gave the Marquis de Montcalm precious time to ready his defenses. The French quickly built defensive works outside the fort. Montcalm and his much smaller army caught a much-needed break when an inexperienced British engineer informed Abercromby that his army could easily overcome the French works.  

AMBUSKE:  On the morning of July 8, Abercromby ordered a frontal assault on Fort Carillon by one of the largest British armies ever amassed in North America. To the beat of drums and the wail of bagpipes, British and provincial soldiers advanced toward the fort. By the end of the day, Abercrombie’s army had suffered a defeat even worse than Edward Braddock’s disaster at the Monongahela three years earlier.

AMBUSKE: Sixteen-year-old David Perry, a soldier in Massachusetts provincial forces, described the scene this way:

DAVID PERRY [Dan Howlett]: “Our orders were to “run to the breast-work and get in if we could.” But [the French] lines were full, and they killed our men so fast, that we could not gain it. We got behind trees, logs, and stumps, and covered ourselves as we could from the enemy’s fire. The ground was strewed with the dead and the dying. It happened that I got behind a white-oak stump which, was so small that I had to lay on my side, and stretch myself; the balls striking the ground within a hand’s breadth of me every moment, and I could hear the men screaming, and see them dying all around me.”

AMBUSKE: Some of the Highland soldiers from the 42nd Regiment managed to reach the fort’s walls before they, too, were cut down or driven back. Abercromby’s army suffered more than 2,000 casualties.

AMBUSKE: For the Catholic Montcalm, the hand of Providence was evident in his defeat of his Protestant foes. In the weeks after the battle, he ordered a cross to be raised on the defensive works. Montcalm had it inscribed with an adulation composed by his own hand to honor God for his miraculous victory:

MONTCALM [Emmanuel Dubois]:


“To whom belongs this victory?
Commander? Soldier? Abatis?
Behold God’s sign! For only He
Himself hath triumphed here”


AMBUSKE: Montcalm may have reveled in God’s grace in the days and weeks after the battle, as he ordered the fort repaired and prayed for a good fall harvest that would feed his army, but what the Lord Giveth, the Lord taketh away.

AMBUSKE: As Montcalm would not learn until early September, Jeffrey Amherst had captured Louisbourg, just days after the French victory at Fort Carillon. John Bradstreet’s army took Fort Frontenac in August. The fall of Louisbourg and Frontenac seriously compromised French supply lines via the St. Lawrence River.

AMBUSKE: Worse, still, for a French-born officer like Montcalm, who believed in honor and martial valor above all else, the British had avenged Fort William Henry in the most damning of ways. Christian Ayne Crouch explains how:

CROUCH: In 1758, Jeffery Amherst denies the French army the honors of war, when Louisbourg capitulates, and claims that this is because of the debacle after the successful siege of Fort William Henry. The denial of honors at Louisbourg becomes a real focal point for the Ministry of War. This is something that Montcalm receives in writing, you must make sure that this neve r happens again. We're disappointed the king is horrified. The honor of the army is at stake. And so, this is really taken to heart.

AMBUSKE: Montcalm now faced the prospect of defending a weakened New France and defending the king’s honor in the face of Amherst’s great insult. And he would have to do it while trying to cooperate with the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the governor of New France, a man he had grown to despise.

AMBUSKE: The feeling was mutual.

AMBUSKE: Montcalm’s and Vaudreuil’s collaboration would have been difficult even in the best of circumstances. Their competing ideas about how best to defend Louis XV’s honor in New France, Vaudreuil’s insistence that Indigenous people were the key to New France’s survival, a web of French bureaucracy, and an attempt on the king’s life in early 1757, had made their relationship less than cordial.

CROUCH: For much of the war they are reporting to two different ministries, so Vaudreuil, to the Ministère de la Marine to the Navy, and McCallum, to the Ministry of the Army. So, they have their own patronage networks, their own grievance processes, right, they don't really have to interact.

CROUCH: Neither of them could have predicted that there was going to be an attack on the king's life, in 1757, the king would really withdraw, leaving everything in the hands of bureaucrats.

CROUCH: Montcalm is very fortunate that his patron, the Duke to Bailey ascends to become the Minister of War, and has a very respected position at court.

CROUCH: And Montcalm in the service of performing the honor that he believes the army needs to assert, Vaudreuil loses the battle in patronage and ultimately, is left without an advocate at Versailles, who really understands the situation of the colony.

CROUCH: By the time that they're forced to get along, and have to think about the colony's safety, collectively, things are very bad. They've already alienated their indigenous allies. There's no more help coming from France. There has been an increased presence of British naval activity in the Atlantic. And the British commanders who are being sent to defend British North America are willing to do whatever it takes to win.

CROUCH: And the British are willing to pour resources, pour resources into their war effort that the French simply cannot match.

CROUCH: It would have been a challenging situation, even if they had been the best of friends and completely like-minded on strategy. The fact that they were diametrically opposed, just met this was going to accelerate disaster.

AMBUSKE: Montcalm’s alienation of New France’s native allies opened the door for a British officer more willing to recognize that Indigenous power and self-interest could turn the tide of the war.

AMBUSKE: John Forbes was no General Braddock. The Scottish-born former surgeon was in wretched health in the fall of 1758, when Abercromby gave him command of an army to drive the French from Fort Duquesne. Forbes knew he had little hope of taking the fort unless and until Indigenous people like the Delawares broke with the French.

AMBUSKE: And Forbes, whose skin condition and bout with the blood flux left him in agony as he prepared to march to the Forks of the Ohio River, had no intention of dying incompetently, like Braddock.

AMBUSKE: Forbes briefly succeeded in securing the support of the Cherokee for the campaign, but after a series of delays, his allies grew impatient. And they were offended when Forbes tried to treat them as subordinates. Many Cherokee eventually turned south and went home, with some warriors choosing to remain with Forbes’ army. 

AMBUSKE: Forbes perhaps never fully appreciated the crucial role the Cherokee had already played in weakening the bonds between the French and native peoples in the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: In 1757, and in the spring and summer of 1758, Cherokee warriors raided the Delawares, Shawnee, and the Ohio Iroquois, whom settlers knew as the Mingos. The Cherokee warriors took scalps, captives, and trade goods. They disrupted the flow of French goods into the Ohio Country and compromised French efforts to rally native allies to the Forks of the Ohio. Through diplomatic channels with the Haudenosuanee, the Cherokee passed messages to Ohio native peoples, warning them of continued raids unless they abandoned the French.

AMBUSKE: If Forbes underappreciated the role of the Cherokee in altering the balance of power in the Ohio Country, he did, however, have enough sense to realize what Montcalm had long struggled to understand: that Indigenous peoples view alliances as partnerships, not as command relationships.

AMBUSKE: Now somewhat desperate following the departure of most of the Cherokee warriors, Forbes asked Abercromby for permission to negotiate directly with Ohio Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: It was a remarkable request.  To do so would challenge the fundamental tenets of Indigenous diplomacy in this part of North America. Forbes would bypass the Haudenosaunee, who claimed authority over the Delaware and many other peoples in the Ohio Country, and he would ask the Ohio nations to make their own decisions.

AMBUSKE: The powerful Haudenosaunee had remained relatively neutral in the war since 1755. And Forbes and Abercromby had grown impatient with the now Sir William Johnson, the Anglo-Irishmen appointed to oversee Indigenous diplomacy in the northern colonies, for his apparent failure to convince the Six Nations Iroquois to join the British cause.

AMBUSKE: Abercromby agreed to the request. A Delaware chief named Teedyuscung laid the groundwork for Forbes’s negotiations.

AMBUSKE: In 1757, Teedyuscung, who spoke for Delaware communities in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, had succeeded in gaining a promise from the Pennsylvania government to investigate a fraudulent land deal from twenty years earlier known as the Walking Purchase. Pennsylvania officials also agreed to build houses for the eastern Delaware in the colony’s Wyoming Valley.

AMBUSKE: Forbes recognized that Teedyuscung was also the way to pass messages to the western Delaware in the Ohio Country, who were allied with the French.

AMBUSKE: In early July 1758, just as Abercromby and his army were breaking against the French defenses at Fort Carillon, Teedyuscung brought two western Delaware chiefs to Philadelphia to meet with Governor William Denny.

AMBUSKE: Denny convinced the western Delaware chiefs that the British wanted peace. He sent them back with a Moravian missionary named Christian Frederick Post, who spoke the Delaware language, to preach the good news of peace among the Ohio nations

AMBUSKE: By mid-October, over 500 Indigenous peoples from thirteen different nations, including the Delawares and Shawnee, had gathered at Easton, Pennsylvania for a peace conference, to hear what the British had to say.

AMBUSKE: Whatever influence Teedyuscung hoped to wield proved fleeting, for the Haudenosaunee would not let the challenge to their authority go unanswered. They attended in force, with each of the Six Nations sending delegates, and reasserted their right to speak for the Delawares and the peoples of the Ohio Country. Teedyuscung was left with little choice but to acknowledge his Haudenosaunee “uncles” who would negotiate on the Delawares’ behalf.

AMBUSKE: Over the course of a week, negotiations proceeded slowly and deliberately, as Indigenous diplomatic protocols demanded. The Delaware agreed to give up their remaining land claims in New Jersey for one thousand Spanish dollars. Pennsylvania returned land to the Six Nations, and the British agreed to prevent settlers in the Ohio Country once the war was over.

AMBUSKE: On October 12th, the Seneca delegate Tagashata rose to deliver a speech on behalf of the Delawares. Using the language of Indigenous diplomacy, of family and kinship, Tagashata offered words that surely delighted Forbes and the provincial officials present. An interpreter translated his spoken words from the Seneca dialect into English, which were then recorded by a colonial official. Tagashata said, in part:

TAGASHATA [Brandon Tachco]:


I now speak at the Request of Teedyuscung, and our Nephews the Delawares, living at Wyomink and on the Waters of the River Sasquehannah.


We now remove the Hatchet out of your Heads, that was struck into it by our Cousins the Delawares: It was a French Hatchet that they unfortunately made use of, by the Instigation of the French: We take it out of your Heads, and bury it under Ground, where it shall always rest and never be taken up again. Our Cousins the Delawares, have assured us they will never think of War against their Brethren the English any more, but employ their Thoughts about Peace, and cultivating Friendship with them, and never suffer Enmity against them to enter into their Minds again.


We let you know, that we have not only brought about this Union with our Nephews on the Waters of the River Sasquehannah, but also have sent Messages to our Nephews the Delawares and Minisinks, and to those likewise of our own Nations who are on the Ohio, under the Influence of the French. We have told all those, that they must lay down the French Hatchet, and be reconciled to their Brethren the English, and never more employ it against them. And we hope they will take our Advice. We the Mohawks, Senecas, and Onondagas, deliver this String of Wampum to remove the Hatchet out of your Heads, that has been struck into them by the Ohio Indians; in order to lay a Foundation for Peace.”

AMBUSKE: According to custom, Tagashata presented his white counterparts with belts of Wampum, the finely-tooled shell beads that were arranged in elaborate patterns on strings, to confirm the seriousness of his words.

AMBUSKE: A few days later, the parties concluded the conference, having agreed to the Treaty of Easton, and brightened the chain of friendship between the British and the Ohio nations. Whether the British or British Americans intended to honor that friendship, remained to be seen.

AMBUSKE: In the public’s imagination, the Battle of Quebec, and the death of General James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham in September 1759, nearly a year after the peace talks at Easton, was the decisive battle and turning point of the Seven Years’ War.

AMBUSKE: Except it wasn’t.

AMBUSKE: The Treaty of Easton of 1758, and the choices the Haudenosaunee made in its wake, changed the course of the war.

AMBUSKE: Fred Anderson explains why:

ANDERSON: The Battle of Quebec was not a decisive battle. Everybody wanted it to be in because the war ended in North America in the following year. Everybody could kind of think it was, but it wasn't. It wasn't at all, what really decided the outcome of the war in North America was the Indians. Because in late 1758, after the Delawares had decided that they would leave the French Alliance at the forks of the Ohio, that meant that the French could no longer hold the forks of the Ohio under the circumstances against General John Forbes, whose forces had built a road to take the place he could just walk in, there was no battle, because the French had no choice but to blow the place up and get out. They couldn't hold it without Indians.

AMBUSKE: Since the summer of 1758, Forbes’s engineers had been carefully cutting a road and establishing supply depots from Fort Lyttleon in southern Pennsylvania toward the Forks of the Ohio. In September, the French repulsed an attempt by an advanced force to take Fort Duquesne, but once the Ohio nations abandoned them following the peace talks at Easton, the French were living on borrowed time.

AMBUSKE: On November 24, 1758, with Forbes’s army 10 miles from Fort Duquesne, the French garrison blew up the fort and evacuated the area. Near its ruin, the British built a new fort. They named it “Pitt,” to honor the de facto prime minister who had been borrowing money on the government’s behalf with abandon, to conquer the French in North America.

AMBUSKE: For the Haudenosaunee, the decision by the Delawares, Shawnee, and other Ohio peoples to abandon the French was more than just a prelude to peace. To them, it signaled that the Ohio natives intended to reject Haudenosaunee authority and become independent of the Six Nations altogether.

ANDERSON: The really important event is that the Iroquois Confederacy, realized now if we're going to come out of this war on top of our game in the in the interior of North America, as we always have been, we're going to have to reassert control over the people of the forks of the Ohio. In that moment, late 1758, after the fall of Fort Duquesne, the Iroquois Confederacy abandons its stance of neutrality between the French and British.

AMBUSKE: In late 1758, the Haudenosaunee began signaling to Sir William Johnson and colonial officials that they were willing to break their neutrality and ally with the British. They played on British fears that Ohio peoples might rejoin the French, and, they conveyed a willingness to assist the British in an attack on Fort Niagara, built where the Niagara River empties into Lake Ontario.  

AMBUSKE: In their cautious euphoria and confusion over this sudden turn of events, Johnson and other colonists may not have fully understood the calculation the Six Nations had collectively made: With French power waning, using the British was the best way for the Six Nations to maintain their sovereignty, and their authority over the Ohio Country.

ANDERSON: The Iroquois operating out of their own sense of self interest for the post war era, their own ability to control what happens in the interior of North America. That decision made at the end of 1758. That's what really sets in motion all these miraculous events of 1759 and 1760 when the British can take over.

ANDERSON: That's what's decisive in the winning of the Seven Years War, it's that the Indians decided that the war should now end.

 AMBUSKE: In July 1759, two months before General Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm met their mortal ends at Quebec, nearly 1,000 Haudenosaunee warriors joined the British expedition against Fort Niagara. They convinced the French-allied Iroquois to withdraw from Niagara, and thus upheld the dictates of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, which forbade the shedding of a brother’s blood. The French surrendered the fort on July 26th, the same day that General Amherst, now the British commander-in-chief, captured Fort Carillon.

AMBUSKE: As the French began withdrawing west from the borderlands to defend first Quebec, and then Montreal, Haudenosaunee warriors and diplomats made it possible for the British to advance swiftly.

ANDERSON: In the following year. General Amherst can plan a massively complex campaign of three different moving parts, all to converge on Montreal. Well, it works right when they get to Montreal, they trap the French. The reason they can do that is because the Iroquois who were accompanying these expeditions are busily neutralizing any possible opposition by new by negotiation ahead of the arrival of the British forces. So, by the time the British converge on Montreal there's no way that the French can hold out because the Indians have all made peace.

ANDERSON: There was no battle. There were no decisive battles there. No orgiastic explosion of violence and dead generals and, all that glorious stuff, none of that death of Wolf stuff.

ANDERSON: And so, we miss who actually won the Seven Years’ War as a consequence in North America. Because the Europeans who wrote this history, were obsessed with decisive battles.

ANDERSON: It's just a deal done by Indians who figured time to get this folly over with and get back to life.

AMBUSKE: The three elements of General Jeffrey Amherst’s army converged on Montreal on September 6, 1760. The British prepared to lay siege to a city and a colony whose supplies were running low, whose French and Canadian defenders were deserting by the hour, and whose Indigenous allies had abandoned them.

AMBUSKE: From inside the city, Governor Vaudreuil of New France and François-Gaston de Lévis, the new French commander-in-chief, could see English soldiers, Scottish Highlanders, Irish regiments, and provincial Americans. They may have caught sight of some of the 700 Haudenosaunee warriors who had accompanied Amherst’s army as well.

AMBUSKE: In another life, Amherst and the late Marquis de Montcalm might have commiserated over their mutual disdain for Indigenous peoples. Both generals considered such alliances mostly unnecessarily and terribly expensive. Amherst had been horrified by the £17,000 that Sir William Johnson had spent to brighten the chain of friendship with the Haudenosaunee. Yet, the king’s money had been well spent. The gifts and the goods demonstrated British regard for their native allies. Haudenosaunee warriors and diplomats had sped Amherst’s advance, even if the British general barely acknowledged it. 

AMBUSKE: But Montcalm was dead. There would be no communing with ghosts. Amherst had the high ground at Montreal, and his men were mounting siege guns.

AMBUSKE: Hoping to buy time, on the morning of September 7th, Governor Vaudreuil sent his aide-de-camp under a flag of truce to treat with Amherst. He asked the British general for a delay until they knew whether peace had broken out in Europe. That news could take months to arrive.

AMBUSKE: Amherst gave the French six hours. He had come to take Canada, he said, and he did not intend to take anything less.

AMBUSKE: With no better options, at noon, Vaudreuil sent Amherst a list of proposed articles of capitulation. Amherst accepted many of them, including provisions that committed the British to protect the right of Catholic worship in New France, and the property of French settlers, including their human, enslaved property.

AMBUSKE: But on one article in particular, Amherst would not relent. 

AMBUSKE: Amherst’s refusal in 1758 to grant the honors of war to the French who had surrendered at Louisbourg had enraged Lévis and French nobles like him.

AMBUSKE: Now, in New France’s last moments, Lévis wanted to avoid further disgrace. He might well surrender a colony, but he wanted to preserve French honor and his king’s noble dignity. 

AMBUSKE: The French asked Amherst for the honors of war, to march out with regimental colors, flags unfurled, and a symbolic cannon, all as testaments to their honorable conduct.

AMBUSKE: Amherst said, “no.”

AMBUSKE: He would require the French to “lay down their arms and …not serve during the present war.”

AMBUSKE: On September 8th, when Lévis learned of Amherst’s stipulation, and Vaudreuil’s willingness to accept it, he sent a protest to the governor, demanding on behalf of himself and his fellow French officers that Vaudreuil break off negotiations with the British. Better to have the enemy reduce Montreal to rubble than surrender on dishonorable terms.

AMBUSKE: As Lévis argued to Vaudreuil:

LÉVIS [Emmanuel DuBois]: “[S]uch Article of the capitulation could not conflict more with the King’s service and the honor of his arms, and must be accepted only at the last extremity….If the Marquis de Vaudruil, through political motives, thinks himself obliged to surrender the Colony now, we ask of him permission to retire with the land forces to St. Helen’s island, in order to sustain there, in our own name, the honor of the King’s arms, resolved to expose ourselves to every sort of extremity rather than submit to conditions which appear to us so contrary thereto.”

AMBUSKE: Lévis thought it better to die, gloriously, on the field of battle in service to his country, his king, and a Catholic French empire rather than live with the shame of having lived.

AMBUSKE: But New France was not Europe. Honor and power operated differently in North America. And the ever-pragmatic Vaudreuil was unwilling to throw away even more lives to satisfy the French-born nobility’s obsession with honor, masculinity, and martial valor.

AMBUSKE: He sent Lévis a two-sentence reply:

VAUDREUIL [ALEXANDRE RIOS-BORDES]: “Whereas the interest of the Colony does not permit us to reject the conditions proposed by the English General, which are favorable to a country whose lot is confided to me. I order Chevalier de Levis to conform himself to the said Capitulation and to make the troops lay down their arms.”

AMBUSKE: Lévis ordered his men to burn their regimental colors. They would not become a spoil of war for the British. And then the last commander-in-chief of New France snapped his sword in two.

AMBUSKE: And so New France was broken as well.

AMBUSKE: The surrender of Montreal marked the end of New France, and the end of the war in North America, but not the end of the Seven Years’ War itself.

AMBUSKE: The war raged on for three more years in places like Cuba, Portugal, Prussia, the Philippines, West Africa, and India.

AMBUSKE: When peace came in 1763, Great Britain became the dominant European power in eastern North America. For the British, it was a new beginning. A chance to remake their American empire into what they thought it should be. For the British Americans, peace foretold of a bright future, with new possibilities in lands that lay west of the Appalachian Mountains. For Indigenous peoples, it was a time of uncertainty, when brightened chains of friendship could so easily rust.

AMBUSKE: But In North America, in a land of dreams and madness, none of them could see the future any more than they could see shadows in the starlight.

AMBUSKE: Thanks for listening to Worlds Turned Upside Down. Worlds is a production of R2 Studios, part of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Head to for a complete transcript of today’s episode and suggestions for further reading.

AMBUSKE:  I’m your host, Jim Ambuske.

AMBUSKE:  Worlds is researched and written by me, with additional research, writing, and script editing by Jeanette Patrick.

AMBUSKE:  Our lead audio editor is Curt Dahl of CD Squared.

AMBUSKE:  Rachel Birch and Amber Pelham are our graduate assistants.

AMBUSKE: Our thanks to Fred Anderson, Christian Ayne Crouch, Matthew Dziennik, Julie Flavell, John McCurdy, and Serena Zabin for sharing their expertise with us in this episode.

AMBUSKE: Special thanks to our voice actors, including Dan Howlett, Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Brandon Tachco, Michael Newton, and Emmanuel Dubois. Be sure to check out Dubois’s French History podcast, Lafayette, We are Here!

AMBUSKE: Special thanks also to Jessica Otis.

AMBUSKE: Subscribe to Worlds on your favorite podcast app. Thanks, and we’ll see you next time.






[1] Donald W. Olson, William D. Liddle, Russel L. Doescher, Leah M. Behreds, Tammy D. Silakowski, and François-Jacques Saucier, “Perfect Tide, Ideal Moon: An Unappreciated Aspect of Wolfe’s Generalship at Québec, 1759,” WMQ 59 No. 4 (Oct. 2002): 957-974; Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (New York: 2000).

[2] British Foreign Policy During the Seven Years’ War (1749-63)

Matt J. Schumann  |  Eastern Michigan University's%20commitments%20was,of%20%C2%A3670%2C000%20per%20year.

[3] William Pitt to the Governors of Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey, 30 December 1757, Pitt and Kimball, The Correspondence of William Pitt, vol. 1: 138-139.

[4] Brumwell, pg. 266 I think

[5]James McLagan, “To the Highlanders Upon Departing for America,” in Michael Newton, We’re Indians Sure Enough: The Legacy of Scottish Highlanders in the United States (2001).


[7] Flavell, 67; Anderson, 241.

[8] David Perry, Shannon, Documents, pg. 84

[9] Paul Kelton. “The British and Indian War: Cherokee Power and the Fate of Empire in North America.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69, no. 4 (2012): 763–92.


[10] 12 October 1758, The Minutes of a treaty held at Easton, in Pennsylvania, in October, 1758. By the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and the governor of New-Jersey; with the chief sachems and warriors of the Mohawks, Oneydos, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, Tuscaroras, Tuteloes, Nanticokes and Conoys, Chugnuts, Delawares, Unamies, Mohickons, Minisinks, and Wapings.;idno=N06429.0001.001;rgn=div2;view=text;cc=evans;node=N06429.0001.001:2.7

[11] Amherst quoted in Anderson, pg. 407

[12]  Chevalier de Lévis to Vaudreuil, 8 September 1780, Ibid. pg. 1106.

Fred Anderson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Fred Anderson, Ph.D.

Professor of History Emeritus | University of Colorado-Boulder

Fred Anderson received his B.A. with Highest Distinction from Colorado State University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1981. He taught at Harvard and at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His publications include Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2000) and, with Andrew Cayton, The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America,1500-2000 (2005).

Matthew Dziennik, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Matthew Dziennik, Ph.D.

Professor of History | United States Naval Academy

Matthew Dziennik is an historian of the eighteenth-century British Empire and received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2011. He is the author of The Fatal Land: War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America (Yale University Press, 2015) as well as over 20 articles and chapters on the history of the Scottish Highlands and the wider history of Britain's global expansion. His current project explores the recruitment of Indigenous peoples into the ranks of the British military in the Age of Revolutions.

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Serena Zabin, Ph.D.

Professor of History | Carleton College

Serena Zabin is a Professor of History and Chair of the History Department (since 2020) at Carleton College; she is also President of the Society of the History of the Early American Republic. Professor Zabin is the author of the prizewinning The Boston Massacre: A Family History (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020), which was also named an Amazon Editor’s Choice for History in 2020. The research for this book covers four countries and was supported by numerous grants, including the National Endowment for the Humanities (twice) and the American Council of Learned Societies.

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Julie Flavell, Ph.D.

Independent Historian

I was born in the United States and grew up in Massachusetts, where I acquired a life-long interest in the American Revolution. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, I gained my PhD in history at University College London. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1999. I now live in Scotland with my husband, who is British. I have lectured in American history at Dundee and Edinburgh Universities, where I specialized in the Revolutionary era. My first book, "When London Was Capital of America", explores the period just before the American Revolution through the experiences of individual colonists in London. "The Howe Dynasty" (2021) was a Finalist for the 2022 George Washington Book Prize, and a New York Times Editor's Choice, August 2021.

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Christian Ayne Crouch, Ph.D.

Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History and American and Indigenous Studies | Bard College

Christian Ayne Crouch is Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History and American and Indigenous Studies at Bard College. She is the author of the award-winning Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France (Cornell 2014). Her scholarship has considered topics in Atlantic military culture, French imperial legacies, intersection in Native and African-American history. Her current book project, "Queen Victoria's Captive: A Story of Ambition, Empire, and a Stolen Ethiopian Prince," explores the human and material consequences of the 1868 Mandala Campaign in Ethiopia in Atlantic context.

Emmanuel Dubois

Emmanuel Dubois was born in France and spent most of their childhood there, but they lived in Canada for most of their life. Dubois studied history, obtaining a Master's Degree from the Université de Montréal. Dubois has been doing the "La Fayette, we are here!" Podcast since April 2022 to offer the American public a Frenchman's perspective on French history.

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Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Ph.D.

Lecturer în Contemporary History | University Paris 7 Diderot

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John McCurdy, Ph.D.

Professor of History | Eastern Michigan University

John Gilbert McCurdy is Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches early America, gender, and sexuality. He is the author of _Citizen Bachelors: Manhood and the Creation of the United States_ (Cornell UP, 2009) and _Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution_ (Cornell UP, 2019). He is currently completing a book on a case of male-male intimacy in the British army in the 1770s as a way of connecting LGBTQ+ to the American Revolution. The book is tentatively titled _Vicious and Immoral: Homosexuality on Trial in Revolutionary America_ and will be out from Johns Hopkins University Press in June 2024.

Michael Newton, Ph.D.

Dr Michael Newton earned a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 1998 and was an Assistant Professor in the Celtic Studies department of St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia 2008-2013. He has written a multitude of books and articles about Gaelic culture and history and is a leading authority on Scottish Gaelic heritage in North America. He was the editor of Dùthchas nan Gaidheal: Selected Essays of John MacInnes, which won the Saltire Society’s Research Book award of 2006, and the author of Warriors of the Word: The World of the Scottish Highlanders, which was nominated for the 2009 Katharine Briggs Award for folklore research. In 2014 he was given the inaugural Saltire Award by the St. Andrews University Scottish Heritage Center (of Laurinburg, North Carolina) for his “outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Scottish history and culture.” His 2015 publication Seanchaidh na Coille / Memory-Keeper of the Forest: Anthology of Scottish Gaelic Literature of Canada, the first anthology of Gaelic-Canadian literature and analysis of it, was nominated for the Scholarly Writing category of the Atlantic Book Prize. In 2018 he was recognized with the International award at the annual Scottish Gaelic awards in Glasgow, Scotland. The book that he co-edited with Wilson McLeod, An Ubhal as Àirde / The Highest Apple: An Anthology of Scottish Gaelic Literature, was awarded with the Best Gaelic Non-Fiction Book of 2020 by the Gaelic Books Council of Scotland.

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Daniel Howlett

History PhD candidate at George Mason University researching early American religion and disability from the 1660s to the 1820s.