Sept. 25, 2023

Episode 1: The Balance

In the 1750s, tensions between the British, the French, and Indigenous peoples over control of the Ohio Country in North America lead to the outbreak of a global war with revolutionary consequences.  Featuring: Fred Anderson, Christian Ayne Crouch, Max Edelson, Patrick Griffin,...

In the 1750s, tensions between the British, the French, and Indigenous peoples over control of the Ohio Country in North America lead to the outbreak of a global war with revolutionary consequences. 

Featuring: Fred Anderson, Christian Ayne Crouch, Max Edelson, Patrick Griffin, George Ironstrack, and Maeve Kane.

Voice Actors: Norman Rodger, Alexandre Rios-Bordes, and Emmanuel Dubois.

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

Narrated by Jim Ambuske.

Further Reading:

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

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

W. J. Eccles, “COULON DE VILLIERS DE JUMONVILLE, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–.

S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (2017).

François Furstenberg, “The Significance of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier in Atlantic History, c. 1754- 1815,” The American Historical Review, 113:2 (June, 2008), 647-677.

Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier (2008).

Fort Necessity Articles of Capitulation, July 3, 1754, National Park Service. 

William A. Hunter, “TANAGHRISSON,”  in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–.

George Ironstrack, "From the Ashes: One Story of the Village of Pinkwi Mihtohseeniaki" (2006).

Maeve Kane, Shirts Powdered Red: Haudenosaunee Gender, Trade, and Exchange across Three Centuries (2023).

Matthew C. Ward, Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765 (2004).

Kayanesenh Paul Williams, Kayanerenkó:wa: The Great Law of Peace (2018).

Primary Sources:

John Mitchell, A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations (London, 1755), Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

John Patten, [A trader's map of the Ohio country before 1753], Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

"Fort Necessity Articles of Capitulation," July 3, 1754, Fort Necessity National Battlefield, National Park Service.

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


Worlds Turned Upside Down

 Episode 1: “The Balance”

Publish 9/26/2023

Written by Jim Ambuske


JIM AMBUSKE: The French Canadian officer lay wounded in the Pennsylvania glen that in time would bear his name. The ground was still wet – it had rained all through the night – and his men had barely begun to cook their breakfast when the shots rang out. Perhaps he could still smell smoke from their campfires.

AMBUSKE: Surely, he could smell gunpowder.

AMBUSKE: Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville was thirty-five years old on this, his last morning. It was May 28, 1754.

AMBUSKE: Five days earlier, Jumonville had left Fort Duquesne, built at the Forks of the Ohio River near what is now Pittsburgh, and headed southeast with 35 mostly French-Canadian men. He carried a message for the commander of a Virginia regiment that he knew was nearby. The British and their colonists were to leave the area immediately, the message read. They were intruders in the colony of New France, and these lands belonged to His Most Christian Majesty, Louis XV.

AMBUSKE: Jumonville had lived a soldier’s life, fighting in Europe’s North American wars. He was born in New France, and in the twenty years since he had joined the army, he had fought in places as different as Green Bay, Louisiana, and the New York backcountry. Yet, in many ways, they were all the same. He lived in a world that was never quite at peace.

AMBUSKE: And now, in 1754, six years after the last war formally ended, Jumonville found himself in the Ohio Country, a space between the British and French empires in North America, a space both empires claimed, a space of growing danger, with instructions to avoid conflict.

AMBUSKE: Jumonville succeeded in carrying out his orders to deliver his king’s commands to the Virginians, just not in the way he had imagined. By the time he and his men awoke that morning, they were already surrounded by 40 Virginia provincial troops and their 12 Mingo Indigenous allies. The French colonists had camped in a hollow. The enemy had the high ground.

AMBUSKE: Suddenly, possibly without warning – for the surviving evidence is unclear – the Virginians fired on the French Canadians. Some of Jumonville’s men managed to return fire; others tried to flee. The Mingo warriors blocked their escape and drove them back into the clearing, back into the line of fire.

AMBUSKE: After perhaps 10 minutes – but what must have seemed like a lifetime for the besieged French Canadians – one of their officers called for quarter. The Virginia officer granted his request. The firing stopped; the fear didn’t. Jumonville’s party had suffered fourteen casualties. Three British provincial soldiers were wounded, and another was dead.

AMBUSKE: Through his interpreter, a wounded Jumonville tried to make the opposing commander understand that he and his men were on a mission of peace. We can imagine his labored breathing, and the frustration he must have felt as he tried to explain to a man, who did not speak or read French, that the British had no right to be there, that they must go back to their own colonies. The letter he was carrying would explain everything.

AMBUSKE: If only the translation hadn’t gone poorly.

AMBUSKE: As the Virginia officer, a young and inexperienced Lieutenant Colonel named George Washington, turned to take Jumonville’s letter to his own translator, the leader of the Mingos, a man named Tanaghrisson, moved toward the fallen French officer.

AMBUSKE: The British called Tanaghrisson the “Half King,” a title they bestowed on him to recognize his claim to speak for the Mingos and other native peoples in the Ohio Country. This was a false crown. It was a source of authority and power for him, only so long as European settlers and Indigenous peoples were willing to recognize it.

AMBUSKE: The Mingos were a migrant people from the Six Nations Iroquois who had settled in the Ohio Country in the eighteenth century. But the Six Nations did not recognize Tanaghrisson’s British title. They alone claimed the right to speak for all Ohio peoples. Tanaghrisson was merely their delegate.

AMBUSKE: For their part, Virginians and Pennsylvanians who coveted land in the Ohio Country dealt with the Six Nations directly as a rule, and the Ohio peoples when convenient, giving Tanaghrisson a measure of leverage. But the French presence at Fort Duquesne threatened his influence. 

AMBUSKE: In Jumonville, Tanaghrisson saw the means to remind the French, the British, and Indigenous peoples of his importance. As Washington conferred with his fellow officers, Tanaghrisson approached Jumonville, and spoke to him in French:

TANAGHRISSON: “Tu n'es pas encore mort, mon père!"

AMBUSKE: “Thou are not dead yet, my father”

AMBUSKE: Anyone within earshot who spoke French, and who understood the language of Indigenous diplomacy, would have known what this meant. Native peoples throughout the Great Lakes and the Ohio Country referred to the governor of New France as “father.”

AMBUSKE: Jumonville certainly knew this as well. And at that moment, he surely knew that he was going to die.

AMBUSKE: No sooner had Tanaghrisson mocked Jumonville with these words when he buried his hatchet in the officer’s skull. The Half King hacked until Jumonville’s cranium broke open.  Tanaghrisson reached inside to wash his hands in the dead man’s brains.

AMBUSKE: Washington had little time to register what was happening, when the Mingos fell upon the remaining thirteen wounded French Canadians. They killed all but one man and scalped the dead. Recovering his wits, Washington and his men encircled the surviving enemy soldiers to shield them from harm and move them to safety.

AMBUSKE: As silence descended over the wooded place we now call Jumonville Glen, Tanaghrisson and Washington could have no way of knowing that their actions in the Ohio Country would soon spark a global war on an almost unimaginable scale.

AMBUSKE: We know that war by many names: The Seven Years’ War; The French and Indian War; The War of Conquest, and perhaps most fittingly, The Great War for Empire.

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

AMBUSKE: Episode One: “The Balance”

AMBUSKE: It’s hard to imagine an American Revolution, a Declaration of Independence, or even a United States without The Seven Years’ War. After all, it’s the most important war in American history. And while Britain’s final victory in 1763 created the potential for revolution in the years that followed, a colonial rebellion was far from inevitable.

AMBUSKE: To understand why, our story begins not in London, Paris, Madrid, or some other great European capital, but in a part of North America just south of the Great Lakes in what British Americans knew as “The Ohio Country.” And it begins with the origins of the Seven Years’ War.

AMBUSKE: In the early eighteenth century, Europeans were no strangers to warfare.

PATRICK GRIFFIN: There was a lot of wars that were fought the in the 18th century largely featuring the British and the French.

GRIFFIN: My name is Patrick Griffin I’m the Madden Henebry professor at the University of Notre Dame

GRIFFIN: You have, for example, the war of Austrian Succession, the war, Spanish Succession. These had been known by different names in North America.

AMBUSKE: You may remember learning about the War of Spanish Succession or the War of Austrian Succession in school. They were known in North America as Queen Anne’s War and King George’s War. That last one ended in 1748.

GRIFFIN: The Americans had participated in these wars before, but they were bit players in the wars. And most of these wars were over dynastic rivalries centered on the European continent. And Europe was where most of the important battles were fought, there were some things that were going on, in Canada, in New England, down south of South Carolina, but for the most part, everything was centered in Europe, and it was going to be determined, who was going to kind of reign supreme and power politics of the day, this is kind of like an older understanding of war that most Europeans would have been able to make sense of it.

AMBUSKE: Even though these wars had their American variants, events in North America rarely shaped what happened in Europe.

CROUCH: Until 1754, colonial conflicts do not have an influence on European affairs.

CROUCH: 1:21:46: 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: Even though wars that start in Europe spillover into the colonies, there's not as much concern with sending the resources or assisting the end of that conflict, once peace has been made in Europe, because there's no impact on the Metropole until the Seven Years War, so out of sight, out of mind and some aways.

AMBUSKE: Peace may have been restored in Europe after each of these wars, but in many ways, they never ended in North America. The embers of what one historian has called “The Long War for the West” continued to smolder. In the Ohio Country, British and French colonists competed fiercely for control of land, trade, and influence with Indigenous peoples, and for their empires.

CROUCH: The 18th century witnesses a tremendous expansion of imperial ambitions in the Atlantic world more broadly. And so there is no way to opt out of this conflict. And that's really I would say the experience that New France has, because war never ends for the colony in 1748. It's sort of continues on a low grade.

CROUCH: So by the mid 18th century what changes for the Seven Years’ War is that the war actually begins in North America, and then influences Europe.

AMBUSKE: It’s one of the reasons that made the Seven Years’ War different. It began in North America. In 1754, Virginia Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddie sent a young officer named George Washington on a mission to expel the French from the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: He failed.

AMBUSKE: Washington’s debacle ignited a colonial war that spread to Europe two years later. It quickly became a global war fought on every major continent. In fact, it was the first world war.

AMBUSKE: And most importantly, it was a war for empire.

AMBUSKE: So, what was Washington doing there in the first place? And, why would an encounter in the Ohio Country erupt into a global war that by its end, left the British as the dominant European power in eastern North America?

FRED ANDERSON: This is a complicated question.

ANDERSON: I’m Fred Anderson, professor emeritus, University of Colorado, Boulder.

ANDERSON:  The origins of the Seven Years’ War is within this imperial framework, which differs on the North American side and the European side. And they're, deeply interdependent. As far as Europeans are concerned, the real issue that's at stake in North America, and the reason they behave as they do is because they see an imperial confrontation coming up between France and Great Britain, they see these two competing empires, British, east of the Appalachians and the French, in the interior, beyond the Appalachians and in the north, in the St. Lawrence Valley as territorial disputes, and that this space between them is therefore crucial to the stability of their two empires. If one Empire gains an overwhelming advantage in the intervening on claimed or claimed space between the two that's that becomes a threat.

AMBUSKE: This story is on a scale as vast as it is intimate and small. So let’s take a moment to make a map of eastern North America in the mid-eighteenth century, so that we can learn more about the players involved in an increasingly dangerous game of imperial chess.

AMBUSKE: And let’s begin with New France.

CROUCH: New France in the 18th century comprised a swathe of territory that we know by different names now. So what we would think of today as the eastern half of the modern nation, state of Canada, and the Maritimes, as well as the Great Lakes region, including the side of the Great Lakes that's currently the US side of the border. And what was known in the 18th century as the Ohio Country and would be, most familiar to US audiences as what was the Old Northwest Territory. All of that compromised the jurisdiction of the colony of New France.

CROUCH: And the French also had a colony called Louisiana, which was not just what we think of as the current state of Louisiana, but also the interior all the way up through what we would think of today is current day, Illinois. So these are the two main administrative districts of French holdings in continental North America in the mid 18th century. And this is not by comparison to British North America, a heavily populated colony. At its height, it has a population of about 60,000, settler colonists who are descended from mostly French, but you know, other European immigrants who have come to this place. And by comparison, Boston in 1775, has a population of about 15,000 alone. So this is not a densely populated by settler colonist area.

CROUCH: Most of these individuals live in the St. Lawrence River Valley. In these farms that are these long, narrow kind of rectangular strips that go from the area between Montreal and Quebec City today, that's really where the greatest population density is. And it's organized around three main cities, Montreal on the southern end, Trois-Rivières are three rivers in the middle, and then Quebec, in the north. And it's not a particularly luxurious colony, either the primary modes of trade, are trading with native peoples, or trading amongst the habitants, which is what the colonists called themselves the habitants. They rely on the fur trade, which is something that they need a tremendous amount of support in developing as a colonial commodity amongst their indigenous partners. And also cod. I mean, at this moment, most of continental Europe follows the Catholic liturgical calendar, which means everybody eats fish on Fridays, which means that cod coming from the great banks is incredibly valuable as a resource.

AMBUSKE: New France may have looked enormous on a map, but its European population was small compared to British America. In the 1750s, British America included many colonies that are familiar to us, and some that are not. Think of mainland colonies like Nova Scotia, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, along with Caribbean islands like Jamaica, Barbados, and Antigua.

AMBUSKE: On the mainland, British settlement lay mostly east of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1750, about 1.5 million settlers lived in the so-called “thirteen colonies” that later became the United States. About 150,000 of them were enslaved Africans.

AMBUSKE: Settlers and their enslaved laborers grew crops like wheat, tobacco, and corn for export to Europe. They harvested timber from the forests to build merchant ships and naval vessels. They traded with Indigenous peoples for furs, deerskins, clothing, and other goods.  And they constructed major port towns like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

AMBUSKE: But British claims to the land and the appetite of land speculators did not stop at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. A 1755 map by a Virginian named John Mitchell helps us visualize their ambitions for what lay beyond the mountain peaks, as well as the origins of the Seven Years’ War.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Max Edelson, a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

MAX EDELSON: John Mitchell's 1755 map of North America, that was considered the gold standard of cartography.

AMBUSKE: Mitchell called his finished work A map of the British and French dominions in North America. It was published in London in 1755.

EDELSON: The great maps of North America were largely synthetic enterprises. And what John Mitchell did was he stitched together all the reports all the maps that he found credible, all the new information he got into kind of a Frankenstein's monster of a map that was accurate in some places inaccurate and others. It gave an overview of this vast space, with lots of distortions and areas where good knowledge couldn't be had.

AMBUSKE: The map depicts eastern North America, and it shows the boundaries of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean. These extensive borders were described in their original colonial charters, which were granted by English and later British monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

AMBUSKE: In one stunning copy now owned by the Library of Congress, the map’s engraver used various shades of pink, green, and yellow to make clear what was British, what was French, and what belonged to native peoples including the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois.

AMBUSKE: Mitchell created a map, that imagined a bright future for British America, a future that white settlers were willing to fight for in pursuit of rich, fertile farmlands. It visualized a world in which the British dominated much of the continent from sea to shining sea. And it ran roughshod over the lands claimed in the Ohio Country by the colony of New France, to say nothing of territories also claimed by Indigenous peoples.

EDELSON: Maps are never objective objects. Even though they're scientific, they are never neutral. And so the John Mitchell map is clearly a map that was designed to promote British territorial claims in North America against the claims of the French, you can look at maps by Guillaume de Lille and other great French cartographers that make the opposite claims that show a French vision of space in North America. So the first thing map historians look for is who's making this map? And what's their agenda? Why do they want to show territorial space in this way? Who are they trying to persuade? And what are they trying to show?

AMBUSKE: What Mitchell’s grand map was trying to show was a projection of power with a fragile basis in reality. Politicians in London coffee houses or Paris salons could be forgiven for looking at John Mitchell’s map, or a similar French one, and concluding that Europeans were masters of the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: But they were all of them, deceived. For as colonists and imperial officials only imprecisely understood, it was native peoples who controlled the balance of power in these spaces.

AMBUSKE: The Marquis de La Galissonière understood this better than most. He was a French nobleman and naval officer who had served as governor of New France in the late 1740s. During his tenure, he had worked to stifle British advances into the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: In 1751, La Galissonière wrote a memoir about his experiences in the colony. In it, he made a shrewd observation about Indigenous peoples and the balance of power in the Ohio Country.

La GALISSONIÈRE [Emmanuel Dubois]: “[T]heir interest, which some among them begin to understand, is that the strength of the English and the French remain nearly equal, so that through the jealously of these two nations those tribes may live independent of, and draw presents, from both.”

AMBUSKE: And that made the Haudenosaunee arguably the most powerful people in eastern North America.

AMBUSKE: If we look a little closer at John Mitchell’s map, three English words appear in large, black letters, layered on top of familiar geography. They form an arc beginning at the Wabash River in modern day Indiana, extend into the Canadian province of Quebec, and cover large swaths of lands we now know as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ontario, and New York.

AMBUSKE: These words read “Six Nations Iroquois.” But…

MAEVE KANE: ​​Haudenosaunee is the name that “Haudenosaunee” people use for themselves. In the 18th century, they were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. In the 18th century. They were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. These are all independent nations that make their own internal decisions.

KANE: My name is Maeve Kane I'm an associate professor of early American history at the University at Albany State University of New York

KANE: And after 1722, they are joined by the Tuscarora previous to 1722 had been considered kind of cousins of the Haudenosaunee, or the five nations. But after 1722 they they're forcibly removed from what's now North and South Carolina. And they are adopted into the what's now the Six Nations. And the Six Nations are kind of unique among indigenous nations in North America or Turtle Island. There are some of the only nations that remained in their ancestral homelands, that are continuous from before the revolution.

AMBUSKE: We generally think of the Haudenosaunee homelands as lying in what is now western New York. The Six Nations held their grand council fire in Onondaga, where they met to make collective decisions through consensus. But as Mitchell’s map suggests, what lands the Haudenosaunee possessed and what lands they claimed authority over ebbed and flowed like a tide.

KANE: The lands that the Haudenosaunee call home and that they claim dominion over in the 18th century are both very fraught questions both in the 18th century and in scholarship and inland claims today. In the 17th and 18th century, one of the things that we see is Haudenosaunee settlements move over time, in part this is moving to different agricultural spots. A town will sometimes relocate like every 10 to 20 years to better agricultural ground, as like a field becomes exhausted. And one of the things that you see as these towns move is over the course of the 17th and 18th century during periods of war move to higher ground that's more defensible like the towns of the Seneca will be closer together so that they're it's easier for mutual defense. And then during periods of peace, the distance between towns will expand the move down into river lowlands for the fields in the agricultural land is better. So these territories expand and contract kind of as defense and military and diplomatic needs change. In the mid 18th century, they cover much of what's now upstate New York and southern Canada. The New York settlements are called by the British, the league Iroquois, and then the settlements along the St. Lawrence River are called the French Indians with the French Mohawk.

AMBUSKE: Centuries before the Seven Years’ War, the Haudenosaunee made peace amongst themselves after years of conflict among the different nations.

KANE: The great law of peace is one of the four foundational stories of the Haudenosaunee. These are creation, the Great Law of Peace, the Four Ceremonies, and then later the Message of Handsome Lake. And stories among the Haudenosaunee are not just stories, these four epics are law. They're how people understand the world understand the law in the world around them. The Mohawk legal scholar Kayanesenh Paul Williams argues in his book The Great Law of Peace, that the great law is about building lasting relationships between nations. So it's about respect for the natural world. And it's about building consensus among nations and making and maintaining peace. And that becomes really foundational to how the Six Nations relate to settlers and also how they relate to each other during the period of the Seven Years War and the revolution.

AMBUSKE: The Great Law of Peace governed relations among the Haudenosaunee. And it also influenced how they dealt with Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Europeans sometimes referred to the Six Nations as the “Iroquois Confederacy” or “Iroquois League.” These terms reflected their sense of how the Haudenosaunee coordinated diplomacy as well as claimed authority over other Indigenous peoples, something that Europeans understood only imperfectly.

KANE: One of the major tenants of the great law is that the nations of the Confederacy don't shed brothers' blood. Murdering a brother or a relation is one of the worst things you can do in these foundational stories and consequently, in inherently life in the 18th century. That extends outward into the actual practice of war were Haudenosaunee. don't wage war against one another, they refuse to take up. They refuse to pursue battle against one another. In diplomatic relations, this extends into consensus building and making and maintaining peace and the British and the French, in many ways find this really baffling. Because for much of the 18th century, the Haudenosaunee pursue neutrality, they're one of the most powerful military and diplomatic powers on the continent. But for much of the 18th century, they are very staunchly neutral in conflicts between the French and the British.

KANE: From a Haudenosaunee perspective, this is about protecting their own sovereignty protecting their own neutrality by not getting entangled in settler wars.

AMBUSKE: The Haudenosaunee’s commitment to neutrality was born out of a violent past.

AMBUSKE: In the seventeenth century, they fought in a series of conflicts in the St. Lawrence River Valley and the Great Lakes. We know them collectively as “The Beaver Wars.” In simplest terms, the Haudenosaunee sought to control the fur trade with Europeans and expand their geographic influence into the heart of North America.

AMBUSKE: Over the course of the century, they destroyed French-allied peoples like the Huron and displaced other native peoples from their homelands, like the Shawnee. They also claimed the Ohio Country for hunting grounds and the right to speak for peoples like the Miami, the Delaware, and the Mingos in their dealings with the French and the British

AMBUSKE: During the Beaver Wars, the Haudenosaunee also began negotiating treaties with first the Dutch and then English colonial governments. These laid the groundwork for defending their sovereignty through a policy of neutrality.

KANE: Their philosophy is shaped by earlier treaties known as the Two Row Wampum and the Covenant Chain with the British. The Two Row Wampum is a treaty in the 17th century, in which the Dutch and then later the British affirmed this after 1664. But the Dutch initial agreement is that their relationship with the Haudenosaunee will be like two boats in a river. Parallel, equal but not interfering. One boat doesn't reach over to the other one to interfere or tip over the other boat. And that mentality is very much what shapes Haudenosaunee engagement with both the British and the French.

AMBUSKE: The Covenant Chain served a similar purpose. It was built on the foundation of the Two Row Wampum Treaty.

KANE: And like the two Row Wampum, The Covenant Chain is a metaphor. Metaphors have a lot of weight and significance and Haudenosaunee diplomacy. The Covenant Chain is conceived of as a bright silver chain that binds together the English and the Haudenosaunee in kind of mutual agreement but again, non-interference so they're bound to one another. But neither is subject to one another. And it's silver. So it has to be brightened or polished periodically by renewing the relationship renewing the agreements. So even though the Haudenosaunee are neutral, it's conceived of as this kind of ongoing relationship, between brothers that this is not our relationship between subjects to the British king but between people who are on equal footing and have to renegotiate their relationship over time that it's not something that the British are dictating to the Haudenosaunee.

AMBUSKE: These metaphors embodied a series of relationships that had to be carefully tended. At their heart was the idea of “reciprocity,” something Europeans struggled to understand.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Christian Ayne Crouch on the meaning of reciprocity:

CROUCH: Reciprocity is a core tenet for a lot of indigenous communities in their homelands. And it means that all actions undertaken by an individual or by a community are seen to have a series of relationships that have to be attended to. Within native communities, reciprocity is something that informs your relationship with your family, with your clan, with your village, with neighboring villages, with sugar maples, with beavers, with deer with oysters, these are all reciprocal relationships, because there is an understanding that your survival depends on the articulation of a back and forth, and it in it comprises the natural world, it comprises the cosmos, and it comprises human actors as well. What this means in terms of alliances with colonial powers, is that there has to be a constant manifestation and articulation of that relationship on a regular basis.

AMBUSKE: Attending to these relationships also required a common understanding of the meaning behind words and metaphors, something that also befuddled Europeans at the time and early historians of this period.

CROUCH: One of the most challenging things about working in the interstices of empire in the 18th century is that language is not your friend. What we have from the textual record that is preserved by European sources, and European archives tend to be transliteration for transcriptions, of negotiations, speeches, modes of exchange that were predominantly oral, that then get written down. And this isn't to say that indigenous peoples don't have their own forms of writing or are able to vet these documents. It's that, you know, if you imagine three days worth of speeches, you're only going to get the executive summary at the end, even if it is going to be looked at by the various parties involved. That's problem number one is that the textual sources that remain accessible to historians are imperfect reflections of these kinds of negotiations. Once you're looking at these textual sources, then you have language like father and child, which is very common in the French context, or brother, which is more common in the the British context. For a long time, European or euro American scholars read this in a very literal sense, that was derived from a Euro American understanding of patriarchal hierarchy and paternalism. A father in that construction is head of family, with absolute rights over every dependent in that family, from wife to child to servant to enslaved individual. And a child has no rights. But among Native communities, these words don't carry the same meaning.

AMBUSKE: Think back to the words that Tanaghrission uttered just before he shattered Ensign Jumonville’s skull in 1754: “Thou are not dead yet, my father.”

AMBUSKE: Tanaghrission’s use of the word “father” was no accident. It was the metaphor native peoples used to refer to the governor of New France. They, in turn, were his “children.”

AMBUSKE: But what Europeans often mistook as a literal relationship governed by hierarchy and patriarchy, native peoples understood as a series of obligations required to maintain trust, peace, and prosperity between peoples. A father provides for his children, he does not command them.

AMBUSKE: When he taunted Jumonville, Tanaghrission acknowledged both the Indigenous and European perspectives. The French “father” claimed a power he did not have, and that same “father” somehow had failed his responsibilities to his “children.”

AMBUSKE: Maintaining relations required patience, wisdom, and most importantly, a willing effort.

CROUCH: You can't just sign a treaty and then walk away and be like, well, we signed the treaty, we're good for the next 50 years, that has to be renewed and refreshed.

CROUCH: You wouldn't just leave a chain out in the sun, and the elements to rust, you would maintain it. And those are the terms that Indigenous diplomats are using idioms that they're using to try and make this intelligible to their European counterparts. Reciprocity is a constant process of negotiation and checking in of colonial authorities with their indigenous counterparts.

AMBUSKE: In New France, colonists worked to maintain these relationships just as much as the British did, even as officials in London and Paris sometimes questioned the effort.

CROUCH: Because New France's survival depends on these relationships with the native peoples, to a greater or lesser extent, this is always something that colonial officials are trying to get their heads around, always trying to think through. But it means that the colonial venture is always very expensive. Because French bureaucrats at Versailles, in Paris, in La Rochelle in any of the port cities. They don't understand those terms.

AMBUSKE: It was expensive in the eyes of Europeans because the idea of reciprocity also extended to trade. What Europeans saw as commerce, Indigenous peoples viewed as an exchange of gifts meant to reinforce mutual obligations.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Fred Anderson:

ANDERSON: If you're in trade with another group, if you're allied by trade with another group, you're at peace with them the functional relationship of trade means that you're in a kind of partnership. They construe trade mutual as gift giving and rather than a commercial endeavor. Trade is the peaceful version of human existence. War is competition.

AMBUSKE: In one mission alone, the French spent 30,000 livres in trade goods and gifts for their Indigenous guests.

AMBUSKE: The Beaver Wars came to an end in 1701. The Haudenosaunee and over 30 other Indigenous nations made peace with the French in Montreal. They also had the Covenant Chain with the British. So, what did this mean for them?

ANDERSON: The Iroquois are uniquely in a position to be able to claim alliances with both the English and the French imperial powers, because of the great peace of 1701 which had been their withdrawal from wars between the French and British Empires. So they actually managed to establish themselves as a neutral power in trade with both the French and the English, which to the Iroquois meant at peace with both of them in a geographical region that intervene between the two, which meant that they could control the flow of information between the two, because no European would pass through that country without permission from the or at least the help of the native peoples who live between them, which gave the Iroquois league enormous power over how the Empires construed each other in their actions.

AMBUSKE: With separate peace agreements, Haudenosaunee neutrality confused and unnerved the British and the French.

KANE: The French and the British interpret this as the British think that the Haudenosaunee will ally at any moment with the French that their neutrality means that they are not allies of the British. The French interpret this as at any moment, the Haudenosaunee, will formally ally with the British the French and the British have this mentality of if you're not with us, you're against us.

AMBUSKE: These were not unreasonable fears. During King George’s War in the 1740s, Haudenosaunee neutrality did fracture. The Mohawk, the easternmost nation, sided with New York during the war and conducted raids on Canada.

AMBUSKE: Nevertheless, neutrality gave the Haudenosaunee leverage in other ways.

ANDERSON: Most importantly to the Iroquois, it gave them great access to trade goods from both sides, which they in turn could use to reinforce their authority over people like the Delawares, the Mingos, and the Shawnee, who were not in direct contact with either side for trade, and therefore had to be dependent for their trade relations on the Iroquois.

KANE: The Haudenosaunee the Six Nations claimed the right to control who lives in these territories in the Ohio Country and parts of Pennsylvania.

KANE: The people who live there are mostly not Haudenosaunee. There's groups like the Shawnee, the Lenape, as well as some offshoot groups of the Seneca that become known as the Mingo.

KANE: And they use this as kind of a negotiating token with the British of saying we'll allow British settlement or white American settlement in parts of these lands in order to keep them out of the core homelands, in what, what becomes New York.

AMBUSKE: In 1744, the Haudenosaunee used their claimed authority to speak for peoples in the Ohio Country, when they negotiated with Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia for a land cession. It didn’t go as planned. The Haudenosaunee thoughtthey were only selling some land, namely the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. But in the treaty’s final language, the Haudenosaunee ceded all claims to lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, land that wasn’t theirs, paving the way for the British to make land grants in the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: The land cession mirrored Virginia’s colonial charter, which granted the colony land all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It’s the land claim we see on John Mitchell’s 1755 map, and it gave the Virginians an advantage over their Pennsylvania rivals, who frequently contested Virginia’s land claims. In 1748, the Pennsylvanians signed a treaty with the Miami people to expand their own influence in the region.

AMBUSKE: These actions were major reasons why the British believed they had a right to be in the Ohio Country instead of the French. They called into question both French and Haudenosaunee authority over the land and peoples in the region. And it fed the European illusion that state power alone would decide the fate of their empires in North America.

AMBUSKE: If we look closer at John Mitchell’s map, and zoom in on the Ohio Country, we see evidence of what reignited a long smoldering war, between the British and French in North America. 

AMBUSKE: As Fred Anderson explains:

ANDERSON: There's this notion that stability of the relations between the two empires can be threatened by instability in this zone of Imperial ambiguity between them, in other words, the area that is what we would call the upper Ohio Valley, where neither power can claim to be in real control. But they both have interests. So that ambiguous borderland between the Empires becomes extraordinarily important in the European thinking about what's going on in North America.

AMBUSKE: In the 1740s, British traders from Virginia and Pennsylvania began pouring into the Ohio Country. And the Ohio Company, a group of Virginia land speculators, whose investors would eventually include men like George Washington and George Mason, began petitioning King George II for a land grant. In 1749, the king granted the company 500,000 acres between the Kanawha and Monongahela Rivers in what is now West Virginia.

AMBUSKE: Much to the great alarm of French officials in Quebec and Paris, British traders were welcomed by Indigenous peoples like the Miami, Delawares, Potawatomis, and the Shawnee. The British began building trading forts to exchange metal tools, guns, and cloth for beaver pelts and deerskins.

ANDERSON: All the Europeans think about is the states are the ones who are going to determine which Empire comes out on top, which Empire becomes disadvantaged. Their thinking about the European balance of power, as the principal frame of reference in what happens in North America as being something that they may or may or may not be able to control, but they believe it's ultimately going to be decided by the actions of states.

ANDERSON: When British traders begin to appear in the country between the two that seems to threaten the stability of Indian alliances, on which the French rely for the functioning of their empire. The British, in other words are seen from the poor French perspective as interlopers. Irrespective of the British, the French are a threat, because their Indian allies can easily be turned against settlers or so that British believe. It's a fraught moment in the aftermath of King George's war, when of French diplomatic interests deemed to be rendered suddenly unstable by the appearance of British traders.

ANDERSON: From the North American perspective, it's also an Imperial, except there's this other group, the Iroquois League, which is acting as if they can control outcomes too. And then there's this supporting group beneath the Iroquois umbrella of authority or claimed authority that also wants to behave in ways that benefit them at the same time, that they maintain independence of the Iroquois. So it's an incredibly complex circumstance that the Europeans understand almost nothing of. And that doesn't mean that they are irrelevant to it because of course, the actions of European empires and their colonists in this area are the key to the beginning of the war.

ANDERSON: When these Anglo-American traders begin to appear in the Ohio Valley, and after 1748 The Delawares think, Oh, good, the Mingos think good. Here's a new possible ally. The Iroquois think, oh, that's unstable, we've got to exert what control we can. The French, looking at the English intrusion in the area think Oh, my God, we have to counter this somehow, we need to start building trading posts in this region so that we can draw the Indians directly into our alliance there, rather than expecting them to go all the way up to Detroit, to trade with us, or other, you know, creating posts up on the Great Lakes.

AMBUSKE: British traders offered lower prices and better-quality goods than their French rivals. They could do so because during King George’s War, soldiers from New England captured Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. It stopped the flow of French trade goods into North America, driving up prices.

AMBUSKE: One French officer astutely judged the larger threat posed by British traders when he complained:

FRENCH OFFICER: [Alexandre Rios-Bordes]: “The excessive price of French goods in this post, the great bargains which the English give, as well as the large presents which they make to the tribes, have entirely disposed those tribes in their favor. . . . We have made peace with the English, but in this country they do not cease working to make war on us by means of the Indians and to bring them into a general revolt against the French.”

AMBUSKE: What the French officer measured in commercial value, Indigenous peoples weighed in terms of reciprocity. If the French offered lower quality or higher priced goods, then from a native standpoint, perhaps the French Father did not value his relationship with his children as much as he used to. Maybe their brothers the British would be more willing to brighten the chain of friendship instead.

AMBUSKE: One of the new forts the British constructed was at the confluence of Loramie Creek and the Great Miami River, near a Miami village called Pickawillany, in what is now western Ohio. The village and the fort’s brief history can help us better understand how growing instability in the Ohio Country would soon lead to a major war.

AMBUSKE: For Indigenous peoples like the Algonquin-speaking Miami, the arrival of British traders in the Ohio Country was an opportunity to reassert their independence from both European powers. Since the 17th century, the Myaamia, or Miami, had maintained good diplomatic and trade relationships with New France, but those relationships had begun to fray in the early eighteenth century. From the Miami point of view, the lower quality and higher prices of trade goods meant that the French were failing to nurture the relationship between the two peoples.

GEORGE IRONSTRACK: From Myaamia perspective, this is yet another slight, that when we go to places like Montreal to visit, we're not being gifted the quantity of stuff we were before, when we bring furs and skins for trading, we're not getting the same quantity of goods.

IRONSTRACK: George Ironstrack, citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University.

IRONSTRACK: These are all not simply like signs of declining economics, these are signs of declining regard for our people, and are viewed as insults. These are signs of declining regard for our people, and are viewed as insults. So when the proper exchange doesn't occur, we're being insulted in terms of our relationship with the French. In the same period of time, we are getting access to British trade goods folks are for instance, going all the way to Florida as we go traveling by canoe, and what they're getting from the British is better value which shows more regard and they're getting better quality goods. And both of these things lead them to start leaning away from the French in various regards.

AMBUSKE: Reciprocity and trade as a form of gift giving helps to explain why in the fall of 1747, one Miami community decided to attack a French trading fort in what is now northeastern Indiana.

IRONSTRACK: This leads to like what the French view is a mini conspiracy among the Minami on the wind dock where French forts are attacked in an attempt to demonstrate that folks just aren't going aren't willing to live under these terms anymore with it with the French father.

AMBUSKE: This Miami community took the trade goods and set the fort on fire, although they later gave the goods back. After the assault, some 30 to 40 Miami families migrated southeast to the Great Miami River, what the Miami called the “Rocky River,” where they established a village on lands that had been unoccupied for a century.

AMBUSKE: In just a short time, the Miami built a thriving community there.

IRONSTRACK: Inside the village space is under the control and influence of the women of the village. And so village life was centered on women, they were the heads of household, they constructed and maintain the homes they constructed and maintained the corn fields, and the responsibility of care of children mainly set with women in a community. And the women in each village had their own Women's Council that would help make political decisions when needed.

AMBUSKE: By 1749, when Pennsylvanians constructed a trading post in the village, around 50 Miami warriors and 200 people lived in Pickawillany. The new trading post was built several months after the Miami and other Indigenous peoples negotiated a treaty of friendship with the British at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This treaty gave British traders direct access to the Ohio Country and brought the Miami into the covenant chain with the Six Nations.

AMBUSKE: During those talks, the British asked the Miami to abandon the French entirely. The Miami rejected that request. Even though they had recently attacked a French fort, the Miami wanted the flexibility and freedom to pursue relationships they believed would be beneficial to their community.

IRONSTRACK: It’s not simply a story of French military versus British economic force. Nor is it simply the story of like, breaking away and moving towards the British. But its positionality politically and geographically in terms of cultural geography is central. The idea is they are moving to a central point, both politically and geographically. To try and maintain connection to both, they want to continue to hold both by the hand, and they want to hold the French a little less tight. But they don't want to let go of the British either.

AMBUSKE: Nevertheless, tensions rose with the French. They saw Pickawillany and the Miami partnership with the British as a serious threat to their interests in the Ohio Country. Pickawillany was like a dagger in the heart of French America and a wedge between New France and the colony of Louisiana.

AMBUSKE: In 1750, the British built a small fort at Pickawillany to protect the trading post. The following year, a delegation of French-allied Odawa arrived in the village to demand that the Miami return to their French father. On the first day of negotiations, the village’s civic leader, Meemeehšihkia, abruptly ended talks, in a serious breach of diplomatic protocol. He told the Odawa that the French had neglected their responsibilities. Two days later, the village’s War Chief rose to deliver the community’s final word. He gave the Odawa a string of wampum with white and black beads, symbolizing the balance between peace and war. He was placing that choice in the hands of the Odawa and the French.

AMBUSKE: Christopher Gist witnessed the War Chief’s speech. He was a Maryland-born trader and surveyor who represented the Ohio Company. Gist recorded the War Chief’s words in his journal. The War Chief addressed the French directly. Here’s his speech, read by George Ironstrack:

MIAMI WAR CHIEF [George Ironstrack]: “Fathers, you desire that We may speak our Minds from our Hearts, which I am going to do; you have often desired We should go Home to You, but I tell You it is not our Home, for We have made a Road as far as the Sea to the Sun-rising, and have been taken by the hand by our Brothers the English, and the six Nations, and the Delawares, Shannoahs and Wyendotts, and we assure you it is the Road We will go.”

AMBUSKE: The Odawa diplomats left Pickawillany disappointed, but neither they nor the French were willing to let the village and the British fort become a festering problem. They made several additional failed attempts to persuade the Miami to abandon Pickawillinay and the British. And then, on the morning of June 21, 1752, a force of more than 200 Odawa and Ojibwe warriors, with some French Canadians present, attacked Pickawillany.

AMBUSKE: They caught the village by surprise. By attacking Pickawillany, they wanted to make a bold statement. Most of the men were out hunting when the assault began, but the village's chief, Meemeehšihkia, and his family, were still there. The village and the British fort soon surrendered. The warriors killed one of the wounded British traders and scalped him before ripping out his heart and eating it in a ritual designed to absorb the enemy’s power.

AMBUSKE: They did the same to Meemeehšihkia. As his family and the villagers watched, the warriors killed Meemeehšihkia, boiled his body, and ate him. This was no mere act of cruelty or without purpose. On the one hand, the French may have interpreted the consumption of Meemeehšihkia’s remains as the Miami’s symbolic reincorporation into the French alliance. But for peoples like the Odawa and Ojibwe:

IRONSTRACK: The Odawa, and Ojibwe man who decided to do this, they were taking in his power and bring it into themselves.Taking in a part of your opponent was viewed as imbibing their power. So it was a sign of respect. You didn't do this to enemies that you thought were worthless. And so he was viewed as having power and influence. He probably was a influential warrior in his youth, he probably had a reputation for that as well.

AMBUSKE: The attackers took the trade goods, burned the fort, and marched their British captives to Detroit.

AMBUSKE: Not long after the attack, the Miami appealed to the Virginia government for supplies and weapons. Governor Robert Dinwiddie offered to arrange a conference instead. Disgusted by the governor’s unwillingness to take direct action, most of the villagers left Pickawillany for the main Miami town of Kekionga in what is now Indiana. They ended their cooperation with the British brethren who had failed them.

AMBUSKE: News of Pickawillany’s destruction shocked British traders. They fled the region and the attack fed into larger British fears about French intentions in the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: As Max Edelson explains:

EDELSON: The British were concerned that the French were building a continental empire that would connect their colony in Canada with their more recently settled colony in Louisiana. And as the French began building forts along the Mississippi rivers and its tributaries, those positions were becoming dangerously close to British American territories. It was the Ohio River Valley in the center of the continent, which lay on the western side of Virginia, and was the object of land speculators that really concerned the British right before the Seven Years’ War, it became clear to British authorities that if they didn't take command of territory in the center of the continent that the French would, and that would put pressure and put the British colonies on the Eastern Seaboard at risk.

AMBUSKE: Archibald Kennedy shared in this growing fear. Kennedy was born in Scotland and emigrated to New York in the early eighteenth century, where he became a customs collector. He wrote a series of pamphlets about threats to the colonies. And in one pamphlet, published in 1754, he warned:

 ARCHIBALD KENNEDY [Norman Rodger]: “[T]he French are now drawing a Line along the Borders of our Settlements in every Province, from the Mouth of the St. Lawrence, to the Mouth of the Mississippi, and building Forts to secure the most convenient Passess on the Lakes, that form the Communication; by which they will effectually cut off all Intercourse and Traffic, between us and the Indians inhabiting the inland Countries.”

 AMBUSKE: The Marquis de La Galissonière, the former governor of New France, expressed similar fears about the British. In his 1751 memoir, he challenged French critics who were complaining that New France – what he refers to here as “Canada” – was a wasteland and a drain on French resources. Canada might well be expensive, but La Galissonière asked the colony’s critics to think about the bigger, imperial picture:


LA GALISSONIÈRE [Emmanuel Dubois]: “[I]t cannot be denied that this Colony has been always a burthen to France, and it is probable that such will be the case for a long while; but it constitutes, at the same time, the strongest barrier that can be opposed to the ambition of the English.”

AMBUSKE: For La Galissonière, allowing British power to remain unchecked in North America would have catastrophic results for France itself. Not everyone in France was so sure.

AMBUSKE: But from his perspective, New France:

LA GALISSONIÈRE [Emmanuel Dubois]: “Alone is in a position to wage war against [the English] in all their possessions on the Continent of America; possessions which are as dear to them as they are precious in fact, whose power is daily increasing, and which, if means be not found to prevent it, will soon absorb not only all the Colonies located in the neighboring islands of the Tropic, but even all those of the Continent of America.”

AMBUSKE: In other words, failing to invest in New France risked not only France’s colonies on the mainland, it exposed French Caribbean colonies like Sainte-Domingue to attack. The sugar produced by enslaved people on those islands generated enormous wealth for the French treasury, wealth that could fall into British hands and reshape the balance of power in Europe.

LA GALISSONIÈRE [Emmanuel Dubois]: “[I]t is of the utmost importance and of absolute necessity not to omit any means, nor spare any expense to secure Canada, inasmuch as that is the only way to wrest America from the ambition of the English, and as the progress of their empire in that quarter of the globe is what is most capable of contributing their superiority in Europe.”

AMBUSKE: It was into this increasingly volatile and unstable mix that in December 1753, Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent Major George Washington into the American woods.

AMBUSKE: By now, officials in London were aware of how perilous the situation in the Ohio Country had become. Acting on orders from King George II, the governor directed Washington to deliver a letter to the French commandant of Fort Le Boeuf, one of the newly constructed French forts in the region.

AMBUSKE: Le Boeuf was located 15 miles south of Lake Erie in what the British claimed as western Pennsylvania. George II’s instructions to the governor were explicit: he was to make the king’s claims to the Ohio Country clear to the French, and unless his men encountered hostilities, they were not to be the aggressors.

AMBUSKE: Governor Dinwiddie’s letter to the French commandant read, in part:

DINWIDDIE [Norman Rodger]: “That the lands upon the River Ohio are so notoriously known to be the property of the Crown of Great Britain that it is a matter of equal concern and surprise to me, to hear that a body of French forces are erecting fortresses and making settlements upon that river, within his Majesty’s dominions….in obedience with my instructions, it becomes my duty to require your peaceable departure.”

AMBUSKE: The French politely declined to leave.

AMBUSKE: In Dinwiddie’s mind, however, French persistence in the Ohio Country was a hostile act within the letter and spirit of the king’s instructions.

AMBUSKE: Now he acted without orders from London. Dinwiddie summoned the provincial council. He asked its members to read Washington’s written account of his expedition, and the letter by Fort Le Boeuf’s commanding officer stating his refusal to evacuate.

AMBUSKE: The council agreed with the governor: the French should be stopped by force.

AMBUSKE: It authorized Dinwiddie to raise a regiment of 200 men under the command of a newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Washington. Washington’s instructions were to defend Virginia’s interests – and the king’s – at the Forks of the Ohio, where Ohio Company agents had erected a new fort.

AMBUSKE: Washington only managed to raise 160 poorly trained and ill supplied men. They departed Alexandria, Virginia on April 2, 1754, with little pay. They were promised land grants near the Forks of the Ohio in exchange for their service. Dinwiddie ordered Washington to act on the defensive, but in case anyone tried to obstruct their progress Washington was to:

DINWIDDIE [Norman Rodger]: “restrain all such Offenders, & in Case of resistance to make Prisoners of or kill & destroy them.”

AMBUSKE: It might as well have been a declaration of war.

AMBUSKE: Eighteen days later, Washington and his men learned that the Ohio Company’s fort had surrendered to the French. In its place, the French had built Fort Duquesne. Its commanding officer was aware of Washington’s regiment. French-allied Indigenous scouts had sent him reports on the Virginian’s movements, and updates on his location.

AMBUSKE: With his own orders to avoid conflict, and with mistaken reports that Washington was marching with several hundred men, Fort Dusquense’s commanding officer erred on the side of caution. He wanted to avoid antagonizing the Virginians. So he decided to send a small force to meet the Virginia regiment.

AMBUSKE: And so it was, then, that on May 23, 1754, Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville set out from Fort Duquesne with a message, one that ordered the British to leave French territory. Five days later, he would meet Washington, his men, and Tanaghrission in the Pennsylvania glen that in time would bear his name.

AMBUSKE: For eight-long hours, the French laid siege to Washington and his men inside a hastily constructed palisade called Fort Necessity. It was an understatement of a name if there ever was one. They were just miles from Jumonville Glen. The ground was wet – it had rained all night, and it rained still – leaving Washington’s men soaked and miserable. It was July 3, 1754. Washington now had a much larger force, including British regulars from South Carolina, but their supplies were running low, they were exhausted, they couldn't fit all the men in the fort, some of them were in trenches outside its walls, and native peoples had refused to help them.

AMBUSKE: It had been just over a month since Tanaghrisson smashed open Jumoville’s skull and washed his hands in the Frenchman’s brains. Now the dead man’s older half-brother was in command of a combined force of 600 French regulars and Canadian militia, and around 100 Indigenous warriors. Captain Louis Coloun de Villiers and his men were just outside the fort’s walls, firing relentlessly on the British inside the fort, as well as those condemned to the trenches.

AMBUSKE: At around 8 o’clock in the evening, the firing began to wane. The French Captain called to the fort, inviting Washington to discuss the terms of his surrender. Through his interpreter, Washington learned that the Captain wanted only to avenge his brother’s death and that of his brother’s men. This, in his mind, having been done, he would allow Washington and his men to leave if, among other things, the British agreed to leave the Ohio Country and not return for a year.

AMBUSKE: If only the translation hadn’t gone poorly.

AMBUSKE: Washington and his fellow officers signed a nearly illegible document containing the articles of capitulation. They didn’t realize that he was acknowledging responsibility for Jumonville’s “assassination,” on lands that he now acknowledged belonged to His Most Christian Majesty, King Louis XV of France.

AMBUSKE: The balance had collapsed. The French had the high ground in the Ohio Country.

AMBUSKE: Tanaghrisson had not killed the French father after all. In fact, the Haudenosaunee were sending a delegation to speak with him in Quebec.

AMBUSKE: And from across the ocean, the armies of Europe would soon come.

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, Max Edelson, Patrick Griffin, George Ironstrack, and Maeve Kane for sharing their expertise with us in this episode.

 AMBUSKE: Special thanks to our voice actors, include Norman Rodger, Alexandre Rios-Bordes, and Emmanuel Dubois. Be sure to check out Dubois’s French History podcast, Lafayette, We are Here!

AMBUSKE: And a special thanks also to Loren Moulds for his assistance with French translation assistance. 

AMBUSKE: Don’t forget to subscribe to Worlds on your favorite podcast app. Thanks, and we’ll see you next time.








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).

S. Max Edelson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

S. Max Edelson, Ph.D.

Professor of History | University of Virginia

S. Max Edelson teaches the history of early America, digital humanities, and the history of cartography at the University of Virginia. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina and The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence. His current research explores mapping and empire in early English America.

Patrick Griffin, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Patrick Griffin, Ph.D.

Madden-Hennebry Family Professor of History | University of Notre Dame

I am a professor of history at Notre Dame. Before that I taught at the University of Virginia. I have earned degrees from Notre Dame, Columbia, Northwestern, and Oxford. I have published five solo-authored books and edited a few more. Last year, I was Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford. This year I was admitted as an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Christian Ayne Crouch, Ph.D. Profile Photo

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.

Maeve Kane, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Maeve Kane, Ph.D.

Maeve Kane is an associate professor at the University at Albany, SUNY, where she teaches Indigenous and early American history. Kane received her BA from Macalester College and her MA and PhD from Cornell University. Her first book, Shirts Powdered Red: Haudenosaunee Gender, Trade, and Exchange Across Three Centuries (Cornell 2023), argues that Haudenosaunee women used clothing and material culture to maintain an enduring Haudenosaunee identity in the face of American colonial pressures to assimilate and disappear. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humantities, the Mellon Foundation, the New-York Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the American Philosophical Society. Her other writing has appeared in the journals Ethnohistory and The Journal of Early American History, and she is the co-author of a forthcoming American women's history textbook covering the peopling of the Americas to 2021, American Women: A New Narrative (Wiley-Blackwell 2024).

George Ironstrack Profile Photo

George Ironstrack

George Ironstrack has participated in Myaamia language renewal projects as both a student and a teacher since the mid-1990s. George is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and has assisted in the organization and administration of the Tribe’s Eewansaapita Summer Educational Experience since its inception in 2005. Examples of his work in history and education can be found on the Myaamia Community Blog: Aacimotaatiiyankwi.

Norman Rodger

Norman Rodger started as a History graduate, but after over twenty years playing in bands, working in adventure playgrounds, managing training programs for the long-term unemployed, working in multimedia, and more, playing in bands. Rodger found employment that made direct use of his degree. After over twenty years of working, with more twists and turns for the University of Edinburgh Library, he's about to hang up his boots and retire. We'll see what happens next!

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.

Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Ph.D.

Lecturer în Contemporary History | University Paris 7 Diderot