Oct. 18, 2023

Episode 2: The Nadir

Following the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in North America, the British and French begin mobilizing for war and appoint commanders-in-chief to lead the war effort, only to clash with colonists over how power, authority, and honor should be used...

Following the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in North America, the British and French begin mobilizing for war and appoint commanders-in-chief to lead the war effort, only to clash with colonists over how power, authority, and honor should be used in the colonies.

Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples like the Haudenosaunee and the Delaware weigh their options as the fighting engulfs eastern North America. 

Featuring: Fred Anderson, Katherine Carté, Christian Ayne Crouch, Patrick Griffin, Hayley Madl, and John McCurdy 

Voice Actors: Alexandra Krebs, Grace Mallon, Spencer McBride, Norman Rodger, Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Nate Sleeter, 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).

Katherine Carté, Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History (2021).

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

Sarah Fatherly, “Tending the Army: Women and the British General Hospital in North America, 1754—1763.” Early American Studies 10, no. 3 (2012): 566–99. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23546694.

Fernand Grenier, “PÉCAUDY DE CONTRECŒUR, CLAUDE-PIERRE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 18, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pecaudy_de_contrecoeur_claude_pierre_4E.html.

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

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

David Preston, Braddock's Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (2017).

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

Primary Sources: 

Charlotte Browne diary, 1754-1757, 1763-1766. Mss Collection - BV Browne, Charlotte. New York Historical Society, https://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A106705#page/44/mode/2up

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

Museums and Cultural Heritage Sites:

Crown Point State Historic Site

Fort Ontario State Historic Site

Fort William Henry Museum



Worlds Turned Upside Down

 Episode 2: “The Nadir”
Published 10/17/2023

Written by Jim Ambuske


JIM AMBUSKE: Charlotte Browne despaired at the news. She hoped it wasn’t true. She hoped it was only a rumor.

AMBUSKE: Browne was the Matron of the General Hospital for the British Army in North America. She was one of many women who served in the Seven Years’ War. In 1755, she was stationed at Fort Cumberland, in western Maryland, where she supervised the nurses who cared for the sick and the wounded. She was a widower, who had left her children behind in England to accompany a British force sent to fight the French and their Indigenous allies in North America. Her post was just over 100 miles to the southeast of Fort Duquesne, at the Forks of the Ohio River, not far from where war began.

AMBUSKE: For more than a month, a combined army of British regulars, provincial soldiers from six colonies, civilian and enslaved teamsters, women laborers, and eight Mingo warriors had been cutting a road from Fort Cumberland over the Allegheny Mountains, and through forests, to reach the French fort at the Forks of the Ohio. It was a hellish, grueling pace. The British column included draft animals, supply wagons, artillery, and other equipment. Sometimes, they were lucky to make 3 miles a day.

AMBUSKE: On July 11, 1755, word of disaster arrived at Fort Cumberland. As Browne wrote in her journal that day:

CHARLOTTE BROWNE (GRACE MALLON): All of us [are] greatly alarm’d. A Boy came from the Camp and said the General was kill’d 4 Miles from the French Fort and that almost all of S’r Peter Hackets Regiment is cut off by a Party of French and Indians who were were behind Trees. Dunbars Regiment was in the rear so that they lost but few Men. It is not possible to describe the Distraction of the poor Women for their Husbands.

AMBUSKE: Two days earlier, on the morning of July 9th, the British Army under the command of Major General Edward Braddock had crossed the Monongahela River. The French knew they were coming.

AMBUSKE: At Fort Duquesne, Captain Contrecoeur had command of 1,600 men. He had French Regulars, and Canadian militia, but more importantly, over 600 Indigenous warriors including Odawas, Mississaugas, Wyandots, and Potawatomis, had chosen to ally with the French.

AMBUSKE: Contrecoeur was born in Quebec. He had decades of military experience in New France. And unlike a European-born officer such as Braddock, he better understood Indigenous motivations for waging war, was aware of their skill in using the landscape to their advantage, and knew that his allies would likely abandon the French if Braddock’s army laid siege to the fort.

AMBUSKE: Native peoples in eastern North America fought to defend their homelands and their sovereignty. They also went to war to take captives, adopt them into their communities, and seize the supplies and trade goods that fleeing enemies left behind. Denying them what Europeans might consider to be the simple spoils of war, but what Indigenous peoples understood in terms of reciprocity, could erode the foundation of their partnership.

AMBUSKE: Knowing that the British were approaching, Contrecoeur sent half his force – including the Indigenous warriors – to ambush the enemy. They encountered each other, somewhat by surprise, just a few miles south of the fort.

AMBUSKE: Although the advanced guard of Braddock’s army, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage, quickly killed the French officer leading the attack, the Indigenous warriors taught British regulars a painful lesson about waging war in the woods.

AMBUSKE: The warriors used the forest for cover and fired at will upon the British column, flanking them from both sides. Officers in coats of scarlet red, mounted on horseback, were easy targets. Fifteen of Gage’s eighteen officers were dead or wounded within 10 minutes.

AMBUSKE: The British soldiers appealed to their European training, and tried to reform into coherent units, but they disintegrated almost as rapidly as they re-formed. As the advanced guard fell back, it collided with the main force, intensifying the confusion.

AMBUSKE: The teamsters fled. Nearly all of the fifty women in the column that morning were killed or taken captive.

AMBUSKE: Braddock was mortally wounded. George Washington, who had volunteered as one of the general’s aide-de-camps for the expedition, managed to salvage something out of the slaughter by organizing a retreat. When Braddock died days later, his army buried him in his road.

AMBUSKE: The French and Indians suffered perhaps 50 casualties that morning.

AMBUSKE: The Indigenous warriors scoured the remnants of Braddock’s column and wagon train for scalps, captives, weapons, and other valuables. Having fulfilled their obligations and gained what was promised to them, the warriors went home, leaving the French to defend Fort Duquesne.

AMBUSKE: More than anything, this was an Indigenous victory.

AMBUSKE: The British left more than 400 dead on the battlefield. And for them, and their American empire, it would only get much worse.

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

AMBUSKE: Episode 2: “The Nadir”

AMBUSKE: The death of Ensign Jumonville near the Forks of the Ohio River in 1754, at the hands of the Haudenosaunee “Half-King” Tanaghrisson, and the responsibility that the Virginian George Washington bore for, the French Canadian officer’s “assassination,” sparked a new conflict between Great Britain and France.

AMBUSKE: The two rival powers began mobilizing for war in North America. 

PATRICK GRIFFIN:  The Seven Years' War is different, not only in scope and scale, but it was fought on every known continent of the world. That's one thing that makes it so big.

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

GRIFFIN: The other thing is, is that for the first time, it's actually the Europeans now have to move armies across the ocean, because they're engaging with the French, in the very interior of North America, this is extraordinary talk about state capacity that's needed.

GRIFFIN: The movements of troops that you had to get across the ocean was something that kind of European powers had not done before. And for the first time, you have this place on the other side of the ocean, that is really kind of the central theater of operations during the war. That takes an extraordinary amount of of treasure. It takes an extraordinary amount of capability, the British and the French had to be very intentional about what they were doing because of the scope and the scale of the war and the fact that it was largely unprecedented.

AMBUSKE: Numbers provide some context. Between 1755 and 1762, roughly 30,000 men served in the British Army in North America. Eleven-thousand of them were colonists who enlisted in the regular army. Perhaps as many as 70,000 British colonists joined provincial units. Between 8,000 and 10,000 women served during the war. They performed domestic labor at forts, hospitals, encampments, and on the march in the American woods.

AMBUSKE: In New France, about 6,500 French regulars served in North America during the conflict. They were joined by nearly 4,700 provincial soldiers and 12,000 militia men.

AMBUSKE: But deploying troops and supplies across 3,000 miles of ocean, or raising regiments in the colonies, would take time. Defending British America’s western borders from French attacks, and maintaining good relations with Indigenous peoples like the Haudenosaunee, were the more immediate concerns.

AMBUSKE: That was easier said than done.

AMBUSKE: So, why did the early years of the war go so poorly for the British? Why did things go so right for the French? And what choices did Indigenous people make as they contemplated their own stakes in the conflict?

AMBUSKE: To begin answering these questions, let’s first head to Albany, New York, where colonial delegates gathered to discuss the crisis. We’ll then turn south to Virginia, to welcome the arrival of a new British commander-in-chief in North America, whose appointment revealed an Empire at odds with itself.

AMBUSKE: In the summer of 1754, the British Board of Trade directed the mainland provinces to send delegates to Albany to coordinate a defensive strategy against New France. The Board of Trade was the government body charged with managing the colonies. Its members, more commonly known as the “Lords of Trade”, included men like Charles Townsend. Their collective work gave them a bird’s eye view of the empire, of what worked, and what didn’t.

AMBUSKE: And in their view, one of the major problems plaguing the colonies was an almost total lack of unity.

AMBUSKE: That the delegates managed to adopt an ill-fated Plan of Union obscures the Albany Congress’s real achievement: The representatives spent as much time competing with each to negotiate with the Haudenosaunee for land, as well as bickering over where forts would be built and who would pay for them, as they did making common cause against the French and their native allies.

AMBUSKE: The Albany Plan of Union would have created a unified colonial government. It went nowhere in the provincial legislatures. Some, like Connecticut, rejected the plan as an intrusion on the colony’s charter rights. Even Virginia and Pennsylvania, the two colonies most immediately threatened by war, dismissed it.

AMBUSKE: The pacifist Quaker majority in Pennsylvania wanted nothing to do with a military alliance, even if a local assemblyman named Benjamin Franklin was its primary author. Virginia was worried about its western land claims. It didn’t bother with the plan at all.

AMBUSKE: Readers of a political cartoon printed by Franklin earlier that spring perhaps found some irony in the Albany Plan’s failure. In The Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin published a drawing of a snake divided into eight parts, with seven representing individual colonies, plus one part for all of New England.

AMBUSKE: The caption read, “Join, or Die.”

AMBUSKE: From the perspective of King George II and his ministers in London, self-interested colonists had chosen the second option.

ANDERSON: The problem of the colonies as Britain conceives it in the 1750s is that they're not behaving in ways that are productive for the Empire. They need to be made into a kind of coherent cooperative partner in Empire so that what has by that point erupted in a frontier war can be managed.

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

ANDERSON: And that's the in that context. British authorities appoint a commander in chief to take over management of the war in North America. That's emerged by accident after 1754. The man they choose, of course, is Edward Braddock, who turns out to be a sort of, bumbler celebrated bumbler in American history is because, he thinks that he can just barge in and give orders to governors of the colonies from Virginia to the north, to manage a war effort on behalf of Whitehall.

AMBUSKE: Major General Edward Braddock was sixty-years-old when he landed in Virginia in February 1755. By that point, he had served in the British Army for 45 years. King George II remarked that he had “a good opinion of Mr Braddock’s Sense and Bravery.” Braddock had been recommended for the American assignment by the Duke of Cumberland, the king’s son. The two regiments under his command, the 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot, arrived from Ireland about three weeks later.

AMBUSKE: The presence of scarlet red in the colony caused quite a stir. Redcoats had not been stationed in Virginia for nearly seventy years. Fredericksburg merchant Anthony Strother remarked, that his “Attention was so taken up with so unusuall a sight.”

AMBUSKE: Braddock’s royal commission gave him nearly viceregal powers. And his orders reflected a growing sense in London that the mainland colonies needed more effective, imperial management.

ANDERSON: The commander in chief are an attempt to create colonial union, which the colonists themselves had tried and failed to do at the Albany conference in 1754. The colonists have been able to create union themselves. So the British tried to impose it by these commanders in chief, which of course blew up in their faces.

AMBUSKE: Braddock had almost total authority to prosecute the war. As such, he came to North America not to negotiate, persuade, or cajole, but to command - be it soldiers in battle or the provincial governments whom he expected to provide the British cause with men, money, and materiél. Braddock had his instructions from London, and they included a directive that colonial governors “observe & obey all such orders,” that he issued to fund and supply the war effort.

ANDERSON: The commanders in chief’s commissions, enable them to give commands to the governors of colonies. And the governors of colonies, of course, had to deal with legislatures and all these other people that, you know, they obviously weren't in command of so that was put them in a lousy position, the very existence of the, commander in chief empowered in that way,  creates a condition within which only opposition is possible from colonial legislatures, because, the colonial legislatures believe that their authority depends on their right to consent to taxation, their right to rule themselves, under under law, as British subjects and subordinates of the crown.

AMBUSKE: Braddock had almost total authority to prosecute the war. As such, he came to North America not to negotiate, persuade, or cajole, but to command - be it soldiers in battle or the provincial governments whom he expected to provide the British cause with men, money, and materiél. Braddock had his instructions from London, and they included a directive that colonial governors “observe & obey all such orders,” that he issued to fund and supply the war effort.

ANDERSON: The commanders in chief’s commissions, enable them to give commands to the governors of colonies. And the governors of colonies, of course, had to deal with legislatures and all these other people that, you know, they obviously weren't in command of so that was put them in a lousy position, the very existence of the, commander in chief empowered in that way, creates a condition within which only opposition is possible from colonial legislatures, because, you know, the colonial legislatures believe that their authority depends on their right to consent to taxation, their right to rule themselves, under under law, as British subjects and subordinates of the crown.

AMBUSKE: Unsurprisingly, the governors and their colonies didn’t rise to meet Braddock’s imperial expectations.

AMBUSKE: Take, for instance, Braddock’s great umbridge at the Pennsylvania assembly’s refusal to provide funds for the army. Writing to Governor Robert Hunter Morris in late February 1755, Braddock condemned:

EDWARD BRADDOCK: “such pusillanimous and improper Behaviour in your Assembly.”

AMBUSKE: Braddock was equally aghast in April when he met with five governors at the home of prominent Scottish merchant John Carlyle in Alexandria, Virginia.

AMBUSKE: British officials expected the provincial assemblies to contribute money to a common fund to help underwrite the war effort and defend the colonies. The governors told Braddock that they had appealed to their respective assemblies without success. They offered their opinion that there could be no such fund unless Parliament directed.

AMBUSKE: There was more. During the conference, the governors:

GOVERNORS (Nate Sleeter): “Likewise declared that having found it impracticable to obtain in their respective governments their proportions expected by his Majesty towards defraying the expense of his service in North America, that they were unanimously of opinion that it should be proposed to his Majesty’s Ministers to find out some method of compelling them to do it and of Assessing the several Governments in proportion to their respective abilities.”

AMBUSKE: For Braddock, British commanders like him, and ministers in London, this was not the time to argue about charter rights, taxation, or provincial land claims. The empire was once again at war with its old enemy, the French. The western edge of the empire was exposed to attack. Did the colonists want to win, or not?

AMBUSKE: British Americans did want to win. They loved the empire. They loved being   British. But if Braddock’s dispute with the governors was any indication, the king’s subjects in Europe and North America had very different ideas about how the empire should work.

AMBUSKE: Were the colonies equal partners in the British Empire, or were they not? Who should rule, and who should rule in the colonies? These disagreements would plague not only the British war effort, but the relationship between the colonies and the Mother Country, in the years to come.

AMBUSKE: But British Americans, and French Americans for that matter, were not the only important players here. Not by a long shot. Much would depend on what Indigenous peoples chose to do for themselves.

AMBUSKE: Besides the commander in chief, a position designed to impose colonial unity where there was none to be had, the British made a second critical imperial change, this time to centralize relations with Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: The British government decided that it would now oversee these relationships directly. British officials had witnessed years of the colonies competing with each other for Indigenous land, a series of suspect if not corrupt treaty negotiations, the infighting at the Albany Congress, to say nothing of the threat posed by France’s ability to gain allies among native peoples.

AMBUSKE: To that end, in 1755 the government created the Indian Department. In North America, it would be led by two Superintendents of Indian Affairs – one each for the northern and southern colonies. They were charged with managing negotiations with Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: To superintend the northern district, Braddock named an ambitious Anglo-Irishmen named William Johnson.

AMBUSKE: Johnson was the ideal choice. The Northern District encompassed the powerful Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois. Johnson had close ties to the Mohawk, the easternmost nation.

AMBUSKE: Since the early eighteenth century, the Haudenosaunne remained relatively neutral between the French and the British. They did so to protect their own sovereignty and their homelands in what is now western New York and the St. Lawrence River Valley. They wanted to trade with both European powers, and they wanted to bolster their claim to speak for native peoples in the Ohio Country.

HAYLEY MADL: They're able to play the French and British off of each other especially when you're looking at the Haudenosaunee as harboring bot h Francophile and Anglophile tendencies like within the group as a whole.

MADL: My name is Hayley Madl. I am a PhD student at George Mason University. And my specialization is in community engaged indigenous history

HAYLEY MADL: Going into the Seven Years’ War, the Iroquois were aiming to employ and to continue to occupy a position of neutrality.

MADL: This is not their fight. This is not their problem, like the interests that they have in the outcome of this conflict is that their lands are not being encroached upon, and that trade is not taking a hit.

AMBUSKE: But everyone understood that the fate of the war in North America could turn on what the Haudenosaunee decided to do. The British would need their support for several planned attacks on French forts in the northern borderlands. It made good sense to brighten the chain of friendship with them.

AMBUSKE: Braddock was also empowered to distribute trade goods as gifts to Indigenous peoples. For native peoples, who weighed the value of relationships in terms of reciprocity, the exchange of gifts was an essential way to signal the measure of their worth. Braddock gave Johnson £2,000 for his diplomatic efforts with the Haudenosaunee.

AMBUSKE: But words mattered just as much as these gifts. Johnson and other advisors counseled Braddock to frame British actions against the French as a defense of Haudenosaunee lands. He ordered Johnson to invoke the Covenant Chain, the treaties of partnership between them, by telling the Six Nations:

BRADDOCK: I am come by his Majesty’s Order to destroy all [the] saied Forts & to build such others as shall protect & Secure the saied Lands to them their Heirs & Successors for ever….& therefore call upon them to take up the Hatchet & Come & take Possession of their own Lands.”

AMBUSKE: Braddock’s more immediate concern, however, was securing the support of native peoples in the Ohio Country. His target was Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio River, not far from where the war had accidently begun. Braddock would need Indigenous allies, or at least draw them away from the French, if he had any hopes of capturing the fort.

AMBUSKE: In May 1755, while the army was at Fort Cumberland, Braddock held talks with the Mingos and the Delawares, hoping to secure their support.

AMBUSKE: For some historians, a speech allegedly given by the Delaware War Chief Shingas is evidence of an arrogant and disdainful Braddock, one who had little use for native peoples despite his orders from the king.

AMBUSKE: There is only one source for Shingas’ speech. It comes from a Pennsylvanian named Charles Stuart. Stuart was taken captive by Shingas and the Delawares in the fall of 1755, long after Braddock was dead and his army was in pieces. Stuart was not at Fort Cumberland, but Shingas later told him about the supposed speech, which he later reported to British authorities.

AMBUSKE: According to Stuart’s account, during the conference Shingas wanted to know what would happen to native lands in the Ohio Country once the war was over.

AMBUSKE: Braddock is said to have replied:

BRADDOCK: “[n]o Savage Should Inherit the Land.”

AMBUSKE: Braddock boasted the British

BRADDOCK: “did not need their Help and had No doubt of driving the French and their Indians away.”

AMBUSKE: The alleged incident conflicts with contemporary accounts of the conference as well as recent research by historians like David Preston, who has a more charitable view of Braddock’s diplomatic approach.

AMBUSKE: George II ordered Braddock to foster good relations with Indigenous peoples. His response to Shingas would seem to contradict those commands. It was also at odds with his overtures to the Haudenosaunee.

AMBUSKE: Importantly, the speeches that Braddock delivered during the conference survive. In one speech, he told the Mingos and the Delawares:

BRADDOCK: “According to the Instructions I have received from the great King, your Father, that if you will unanimously grant me your Assistance, I will put you again in Possession of your Lands, of which you have been dispossessed by French Deceit, and cheating Tricks, and secure unto you free open Trade in America, from the Rising unto the Setting of the Sun. It is very well known, that I have no particular Views, nor Design, but that of serving mutually the Interests of the King of England, your Father, and of the Six Nations, and their Allies; and I promise you, to be your Friend and Brother, as long as the Sun and Moon shall last.”

AMBUSKE: Braddock was careful to recognize Haudenosaunee claims to speak for Ohio native peoples. He also appealed to Indigenous metaphors of family by calling George II their “Father” and himself, their “brother.” It’s difficult to tell, though, how well a European officer like him, one born into an aristocratic and patriarchal society, understood the complex meaning behind words like “Father” and “brother” in an Indigenous context.

AMBUSKE: Nevertheless, only the Mingos pledged their support. And even then, only eight of their warriors accompanied his army on the march to Fort Duquesne.

AMBUSKE: The Delawares chose a different course. Here’s Fred Anderson:

ANDERSON: The Delaware, as the English call them, who are Lenni Lenape, they're originally from eastern Pennsylvania, who had been displaced in the 1730s and 40s, to the west by unscrupulous land deals that have driven them out of their, their previous homeland in the, in the Delaware Valley.

AMBUSKE: Whether they were distrustful of the British after years of broken promises, or they were content to let events play out and wait for a better moment to intervene, the Delawares chose not to join Braddock.

AMBUSKE: If Braddock didn’t have as many Indigenous allies as he wanted, then perhaps God would march with his army instead.

AMBUSKE:  In June 1755, as Braddock and his army cut their road to the Forks of the Ohio, Anglican minister Philip Reading rose to give a sermon at Christ Church in Philadelphia.

AMBUSKE: Reading stressed to his fellow British Americans that there was more at stake than just land, trade, and empire in this war. Protestant Liberty itself faced an existential threat from the Catholic French menace.

PHILLP READING: (SPENCER MCBRIDE) “What Course shall we pursue in Defence of our native Rights and Privileges, when these Dogs of Hell, Popish Superstitions and French Tyranny, dare erect their Heads, and triumph within our Boarders? Shall we not rise up as one Man, and with united Hearts and Hands, vindicate our Religion and Liberties; our Protestant Religion, and our British Liberties?”

AMBUSKE: The “Protestant Religion,” as Reading put it, united most British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic, but it wasn’t always easy to define.

KATHERINE CARTÉ: The late 18th century was a time when the word Protestant meant a lot to people. But what does it actually mean? Well, it means a Western European descended, Christian who's not a Catholic. So it doesn't have a lot of specific theological content. It doesn't have any organizational content. There's no single Protestant church. What it is, is just everyone who's part of a non Catholic Church who sets themselves up in opposition to the Catholic Church.

CARTÉ: I am Katherine Carté. I am a professor of history at Southern Methodist University.

CARTÉ: When those people wanted to come together, they came together as Protestants. And so you'll see sort of pleas to Protestant unity, meaning that all those different denominations should get together usually because they're going to oppose Catholics.

AMBUSKE: Britons believed their Protestant Empire of Liberty was ideal because it accommodated dissenting denominations. The King was the head of the Church of England, but he also swore an oath to defend the dissenting Church of Scotland. Protestantism, above all, was the spiritual glue that held this empire together.

CARTÉ: Within that people were members of specific denominations.  Members of the Church of England who were Anglicans or Presbyterians, who were often members of the Church of Scotland, or Baptists or Congregationalist. Those are kinds of Protestants. 

 CARTÉ: So being a Protestant meant being a part of that kind of a religio-political group that was opposed to the Catholic Church and supported liberty.  British Protestants thought of themselves as particularly free. They associated not being Catholic with having more liberty and so they associated Protestantism with more liberty. Exactly what that Liberty meant isn't necessarily clear. It's often set up in a sort of binary so you have Protestant liberty and Catholic tyranny. 

CARTÉ: Catholics and the papacy are associated with a whole set of conspiracies that are seen as anti British, and also anti-liberty. So on the one hand, there's Catholics are supposed to be susceptible to tyranny, because they are, you know, sort of slavishly devoted to the Pope. And the word slavish is often, comes up in this kind of discourse, so the Catholics will do whatever the Pope says, so they can't be trusted.

AMBUSKE: Reading, the Anglican minister, did not hold back his righteous fury, as he called on Protestants everywhere to join hands against a common enemy.

READING: “Indignation swells our Breasts, Love of Freedom inflames us, while we behold the Slaves of France, and the Inquisitors of Rome approaching to crush us…the Banners of France are now displayed, her Fleets have sailed, her Armies been transported, to establish at once the Thrones of Tyranny and Superstition in this Western World. Efforts black and horrid! Efforts destructive of every Thing sacred and good…

AMBUSKE: M75 Stopping the Pope’s minions in North America and elsewhere would also defeat French ambitions for a universal monarchy in Western Europe.

CARTÉ: The phrase that that British Protestants in the 18th century would have assigned to the, to the French king is not just absolutist, but aspiring to be the universal monarch. And they associate this with narratives of Revelation, and that the end times are going to come about through this conflict between kind of an effort for global tyranny. That's what universal monarchy would lead to. And the French monarchs looked like they were aspiring to be the universal monarch.

AMBUSKE: Britons, by contrast, prided themselves on their constitutional monarchy, one secured by the Glorious Revolution in the late 1680s. They celebrated a British monarch who ruled in tandem with Parliament, with the king’s power constrained by law.

AMBUSKE: As the armies of Britain marched against the French and their Indigenous allies at the Forks of the Ohio, Philip Reading prayed:

READING: M3 "that neither the Gates of Hell, the Gates of Rome, nor the Gates of France, may ever prevail against her. Let there never be wanting a Race of Protestants to sway the British Scepter so long as the Sun and Moon endureth."

AMBUSKE: Unfortunately for General Braddock and his army, the Gates of Hell were wide open and ready to receive them. God - Protestant or not - was nowhere to be found.

AMBUSKE: Fred Anderson explains:

ANDERSON: We all know this what happens to Braddock and his men, he winds up cut to pieces, eight miles from Fort Duquesne never gets there, because he underestimates the French ability to manipulate and maneuver within your native balances of power and interests.

ANDERSON: He doesn't know enough about wilderness warfare, to understand the consequences of what he decides to do, which was to organize a great expedition against Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio the crux of French power in the in the interior. He's going to simply march in with a relatively robust force, but not a huge one, and take that place back.

ANDERSON: All that, he doesn’t get, and he gets killed.

AMBUSKE: Braddock’s defeat did more than just leave the French in command of a key entry point into the Ohio Country. The number of warriors present reflected France’s successful diplomatic efforts with Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: It also compelled the Delawares to make a choice. Wary that French-allied nations might attack them, the Delawares sent representatives to Philadelphia, and asked Governor Morris and the provincial assembly for weapons. The Haudenosaunee half-king Scarouady spoke on their behalf, promising that one word from the governor would join the Delawares to the Pennsylvanians.

AMBUSKE: The Haudenosaunee also made a choice, to defend their sovereignty, and their authority. A letter, written in October 1755 by the Marquis de Vandreuil, the Governor of New France, reveals how:

VANDREUIL (ALEXANDRE RIOS-BORDES):  “Deputies from the Five Nations came to La Présentation, but as they dared not appear before me, they empowered some chiefs of that Nation to bring their Message to me, whereby they announce that, with a view to occupy themselves for the future only with good business, they have rejected the hatchet which they had accepted from the English, and that they will remain neutral in our war with the English. I had no doubt of their being spies; I have, nevertheless, answered their Message; I reproached them for their treason and warned them that, should they continue to mix themselves up with the English, I shall abandon them to the vengeance of the Upper Nations and of those domiciliated among us who have taken up the hatchet against them.”

AMBUSKE: Despite the French governor’s threats, the Haudenosaunee chose to remain neutral in the war….for now.

AMBUSKE: By July 1756, Matron Charlotte Browne was stationed in Albany. The British had relocated Browne and the military hospital to the town earlier that April, as they prepared to campaign against the French in the northern borderlands. 

AMBUSKE: In late July, Browne noted two important events in her journal:

BROWNE: July 26th: this Day War was Proclaimed.

AMBUSKE: Britain and France were officially at war.

AMBUSKE: The other entry came two days later.

BROWNE: July 28th: My Lord Louden [sic] Arrived at Albany.

AMBUSKE: Braddock’s demise and the destruction of his army had left Massachusetts governor William Shirley in temporary command of British forces in North America. But the disaster along the Monongahela River didn’t change how the British thought the war should be managed in the colonies.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Fred Anderson:

ANDERSON: That doesn't kill the idea of Commander in Chief, that should be in charge of the colonies, however, because the colonists who are now embroiled in a massive frontier war, after 1755 are facing collapse on all the frontiers from North Carolina and northward. And they're in a position of great peril, because nobody's kind of in charge nobody with Imperial vision and connections is in charge. So the British send, a replacement as commander in chief, who has, these sort of Viceroy like powers.

AMBUSKE: As Braddock’s replacement, the king appointed John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun. Lord Loudoun was a Scottish nobleman. He had fought for the British government during the Jacobite Uprising in the mid-1740s, when some Scottish clans rose in rebellion against George II, in hopes of restoring a member of the House of Stuart to the British throne.

AMBUSKE: A 1747 portrait of Loudoun by Allan Ramsay offers us a glimpse of the new general’s personality. A youthful-looking Loudoun is turned toward the viewer. His cheeks are rosy, with his graying hair pulled back into a queue. Loudoun is dressed in a resplendent red coat with golden trim. The hint of a paunch suggests his wealth. The slight smirk on his face reveals a confident man in command of himself, and others.

AMBUSKE: But Lord Loudoun’s expression would soon change when arrived in North America to take up his new assignment.

ANDERSON: John Campbell, the Earl of Loudon, who is, he’s just utterly unsuited for this job.

ANDERSON: 49:16 - 49:46 He's a professional officer, extremely concerned, for his own status, and his own power and his position and his authority. All that makes him exactly the wrong person to deal with the colonists.

AMBUSKE: Like Braddock, Loudoun expected British Americans and their governments to follow orders. Also like Braddock, Loudoun encountered resistance from British subjects who had very different ideas about how the empire should operate.

AMBUSKE: Loudoun’s dispute with Governor Shirley – between a member of the British elite and a member of the colonial elite – helps us to understand how and why

AMBUSKE: By the time of Lord Loudoun’s arrival in July 1756, the English-born Shirley had served as governor of Massachusetts Bay for over a decade. Shirely was a veteran colonial politician. He understood that the king’s American subjects believed that legitimate authority rested, in part, on the consent of the governed. He had been at the Alexandria Conference with Braddock in 1755, when the governors informed the doomed general that their assemblies would not contribute money to a common fund without some action from Parliament.

ANDERSON:  Shirley former governor of Massachusetts who understands all that colonial politics stuff very well indeed. But as far as Loudoun is concerned, people like surely are trying to deal with the colonists by political persuasion, are just getting in the way

AMBUSKE: Shirley’s dual role as governor of Massachusetts Bay, and as the interim commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, gave him a unique imperial perspective that simply confounded Loudoun.

AMBUSKE: There were hardly better American soldiers of empire than New Englanders. They were a deeply Protestant and militant sort, especially when it came to waging war against French Catholics and Indigenous peoples. Yet, they also believed firmly that society was organized around a series of covenants that bound community members to each other, to government, and to God. Society functioned best when everyone agreed to the terms of the contract. But not everyone in the empire agreed.

AMBUSKE: To raise money and recruit men for an expedition against Crown Point, where the French had built a fort along the shore of Lake Champlain in northern New York. Governor Shirley knew he had to persuade his colony’s legislature to appropriate funds for the campaign. That was no small task. The legislators wanted guarantees that Parliament would reimburse the colony for its expenses. Shirley promised to ask for them.

AMBUSKE: In the meantime he committed £30,000 from existing military funds. He also appointed a popular officer named John Winslow to lead colonial soldiers on the Crown Point campaign. Satisfied with these developments, the Massachusetts General Court agreed to contribute 3,000 soldiers. They would form the bulk of the 7,500 men raised in the northern colonies in 1756.

AMBUSKE: Shirley also knew that he would struggle to place provincial officers and soldiers under the command of British officers. Convincing them to serve in integrated armies with British regulars would be a tall order as well.

AMBUSKE: Two decisions by the king and his government made either possibility extremely difficult for provincials to stomach.

AMBUSKE: The first was in November 1754, when the king issued a Royal Proclamation that made commissioned British officers superior to colonial officers, regardless of rank.

ANDERSON: The commission then as now is a document that gives a sort of special status directly from the executive authority of the state, to his or her representative in the armed forces. So, if you have a Royal Commission, it means you have a direct relationship to the font of fount of all, sovereign power, the crown, that gives you enormous authority legally over people who are your subordinates. And that makes them in effect subject to you, as a Special Representative of Crown authority.

ANDERSON: To be able to order a man to his death is an incredible power, but that's what regular officers have.

ANDERSON: Colonial governors, as the Royal representative in these colonies, have authority to grant Commission's of an inferior sort to colonists. And that's a very different deal. It's a derivative, secondary form of authority, very different deal from the direct form of authority that the Royal Commission confers. So it makes perfect sense administratively to make a colonel of colonial provincial forces subject to the meanest ensign in the British Army, because the meanest ensign in the British Army is still in a direct relationship to the crown. Whereas it's a lateral relationship that runs through a governor that confers the the Commission on the provincial officer.

AMBUSKE: Provincial officers had the same responsibility for the welfare and discipline of their men as did officers commissioned in the regular British army. To them, it made little sense that a Lieutenant Colonel like George Washington with a commission from the Virginia governor should be subordinate to a young ensign from Windsor, England, who received his commission from the king.

ANDERSON: I mean, their lives are still at as much risk, their fortunes are as much at risk as the British officers are there, they just can't see that a wealthy merchant, who has given up, his trade  in order to become a colonel cannot see that he is or should be inferior, in authority and rank to some pimply faced kid, who's 18 years old, from the British army. In Virginia with no planter who has any self respect, would imagine that his commanding presence, over his men would be subject to somebody who was, what, like, a lieutenant of the British, 44th regiment, that's just crazy, how could that even be?

AMBUSKE: And yet, it was.

AMBUSKE: The second decision came in December 1754. England’s solicitor general determined that provincial officers and soldiers would be subject to the same military discipline as British regulars, when they operated in conjunction with the king’s forces.

AMBUSKE: In other words, provincial officers and soldiers could face the same brutal punishments as men in the regular British army, from severe whippings to execution, should they run afoul of army discipline.

AMBUSKE: Governor Shirley planned the fall 1756 campaigns with these concerns in mind. He decided to send provincial forces to attack Crown Point, and British regulars to strike against Fort Frontenac, built at the head of the St. Lawrence River in what is now Kingston, Ontario.

AMBUSKE: New Englanders and their assemblies found this decision pleasing.

AMBUSKE: Lord Loudoun did not.

AMBUSKE: Lord Loudoun’s second in command asked John Winslow what he thought might happen if he ordered British regulars to link up with provincial soldiers for the attack on Crown Point. Winslow replied that the colonists would probably desert rather than risk facing British military discipline.

AMBUSKE: Like Braddock, Loudoun couldn’t fathom why colonists wouldn’t simply do their imperial duty. He blamed Shirley.

LORD LOUDOUN (NORMAN RODGER): He has been the first contriver and fomenter of all the Opposition, the New England Men make, to being Join'd to the Kings Troops; in order to raise a party for himself, and to shew the King's Ministers, that nobody can serve the Crown in this Country, but himself; and since he has failed in part, of keeping up the difference so wide as he hoped, between the Kings regular Troops, and those raised in the Provinces, he is now endeavouring to raise a Flame, all over the Provinces; and in order to make me personally ill with the New England People, which he shall not be able to do.

AMBUSKE: Loudoun was equally irritated by the colonists' reluctance to supply the means or the money to quarter troops.

JOHN MCCURDY: The Seven Years’ War really just changes everything in terms of quartering. It's a new type of war for most American colonists. This is the first time you have large professional armies swarming the continent. This are 1000s 10s of 1000s of soldiers, and the colonies have no place for the soldiers to go.

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

MCCURDY: In England by this point, they had set of laws soldiers or to go into public houses or taverns, as we might call them. There aren't a lot of taverns in America. There's not enough place to put them in public houses. There are very few public buildings like hospitals or schools. You can't have these guys camping out all winter. And so they ultimately end up in people's houses and they swarm all over, we see evidence of quartering in private homes throughout the colonies, especially early on in the Seven Years’ War in the mid 1750s. We see this in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina. And it really it really surprises the colonists. They really don't quite know what to do with this.

MCCURDY: So Loudoun takes a position which I don't think is an irrational one, which is it's a time of war. In times of war, the rules are different. Yes, there are constitutional protections for the house in England. But if England were at war in France was invading it would be it would be a whole different story in terms of these constitutional protections, and this is Loudoun’s idea with the Americans. He's like, I gotta have some place to put soldiers, you don't you haven't given me any other options. They're going into your houses, this is not permanent. They're not here to stay. They're not here to enforce the law. I just need to have a place to put them while they're here.

MCCURDY: And the Americans of course, they push back, they complain. They don't want to quarter soldiers in their houses. And Loundoun’s response is, this is this is part of the exigencies of war. This is like paying your taxes. This is an obligation you have as a colonial subject to protect the Empire.

AMBUSKE: As Loudoun lamented to the Duke of Cumberland:

LORD LOUDOUN: The delays we meet with, in carrying on the Service, from every parts of this Country, are immense; they assumed to themselves, what they call Rights and Priviledges, totally unknown in the Mother Country, and are made use of, for no purpose, but to screen them, from giving any Aid, of any sort, for carrying on, the Service, and refusing us Quarters.

 ANDERSON: The colonists just dig in their heels, especially the ones in New England, because he's giving directions to Governor's to give him so many men give him so much monetary support and to oblige, you know, his his plans for the next campaign. And the colonists is digging their heels, because for them, that's what they later would call taxation without representation. That's the appropriation of their resources and their men, by the direction of the crown, not by their consent as gift.

ANDERSON: Loudon doesn't understand what he's up against there.

AMBUSKE: British Americans didn’t really either. Neither side was really listening to the other. Their inability to find common ground against a common enemy proved costly. White British subjects may have all believed in a Protestant Empire of Liberty, but the devil was in the details, and the king’s subjects at home and in North America struggled to agree on who exactly the devil was.

ANDERSON: And so during the time he's commander in chief, he can't get the colonists just to acquiesce. He's basically acting in a way that is creating opposition.

ANDERSON: The war effort just grinds to a halt.

AMBUSKE: In the summer of 1756, as Loudoun and British Americans eyed each other with suspicion, another new commander-in-chief arrived in North America to oversee the defense of the king’s dominions. His name was Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, and he had been sent by Louis XV to take command in New France.

AMBUSKE: Lieutenant General the Marquis de Montcalm was in his mid-40s when he disembarked in Montreal. He had been born into a world shaped by ideals of masculinity, honor, and martial valor. These were lodestars for French nobles like him, and he believed they were worth defending.

CHRISTIAN AYNE CROUCH: In the mid-18th century, this is a topic that is provoking a tremendous amount of anxiety among nobleman in part, because they are facing increasing pressure from a globalized trade network that is reallocating resources.

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: People who were part of the Third Estate, which was pretty much everyone who wasn't from the church, or from the traditional nobility, could become incredibly wealthy. Some of that comes out of colonial wealth, some of that comes out of Metropolitan wealth or trans continental trade, Mediterranean trade. But with that wealth comes access to power. And so those individuals who came from hereditary nobility became increasingly concerned with policing the boundaries of what they saw as their right to perform a certain kind of masculinity, rooted in warfare rooted in their grand titles rooted in access to the king, so that they could fend off these immensely wealthy upstarts who had the money, but not the name. And then they're also competing with an increasingly mobile, continental European aristocracy.

CROUCH: One of the things about war is war provides opportunity for ambitious individuals to make careers because ultimately, you want to satisfy the nobility, certainly in the 18th century, but monarchs want to win. And so you want the people who actually know how to command on a battlefield. And so, France, through a series of wars in the 18th century, starts to create space in the army, which is the traditional domain of the nobility, the officer corps, for talented aristocrats who come from other places, and French nobles really see this again as an assault to their masculinity.

AMBUSKE: M112 How did these ideals motivate Montcalm?

CROUCH: The Marquis de Montcalm who is the French military commander, coming from France in the French army tradition, he's a classic example of a French noble who's got the name, and who has an estate in the south of France. But who does not have the access to enormous wealth that is really characterizing French court culture in the 1750s, he is going to have to make it as a military commander. And you really see this in the letters that he sends during the war to his son who's fighting in Europe on the German front, basically giving him advice of how to advance in his career, but also to always attend to his honor and not to reach too far above his station. And really make sure that he's checking all of the boxes dotting every I crossing every T.

AMBUSKE: In New France, French notions of masculinity, honor, and martial valor came into conflict with the realities of governing an American empire. The Marquis de Vandreuil, the colony’s governor, lived in a world that refracted these French values through a colonial lens.

CROUCH:  In New France, you have a much smaller population. And the colonial elite is dominated by a militarized elite.

CROUCH: In this case, they are all affiliated with the Ministry of Marine or the Navy, and crack naval troops were sent in the late 17th century to defend the colony, they really become the dominant social group in the Laurentian Valley.

CROUCH: Governor Vandreuil, he is an elite Canadian, someone who was born in the colony, rest of the colony type of thing. He is the son of a former governor general. He is the son of an extremely ambitious and very capable, noble woman. His brother is a marine officer. He had previously been governor of Louisiana and the other French administrative colony. He is really invested in the New France project.

AMBUSKE:  Governor Vandreuil was a member of this militarized elite. 

CROUCH: They are able to engage in the art of war as a constant demonstration of their prowess. But because this service started with the arching task of defending the King’s claims, they will subordinate everything in the defense of the colony, they understand if there is no colony, then they have no position. And so they are willing to do things that their army counterparts who were born, raised, and socialized in continental France, they're willing to do things that those individuals would consider distasteful.

AMBUSKE: For French-born elites, one of these distasteful activities involved treating Indigenous peoples as valued partners.

CROUCH: Indigenous relationships are a part of life in New France, you cannot function in terms of trade, you cannot function in terms of labor, you cannot function in terms of military alliances, if you do not negotiate and constantly attend to issues of importance to indigenous peoples. And what indigenous actors are very invested in are one, the maintenance of their territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to the maintenance of their own cultural norms of how relationships are built. And this relies on gift giving, reciprocity, consultation, real bonds of kinship, and fictive kinship and actual kinship with colonial authorities. So these are to put it in a very crass way, expensive relationships, that you have to have a tremendous amount of outlay and magnanimity and you have to be willing to negotiate on Indigenous timelines and in cultural terms that are intelligible to these sovereign actors.

AMBUSKE: Proper attention to Indigenous relationships helps to explain why the French enjoyed success over the British in the early years of the war. With a smaller European population and fewer military resources, provincials like Vaundreuil recognized that New France’s survival depended on Indigenous nations. The choices they made could shape the war’s outcome. Honoring the terms of their participation in battle was therefore crucial. So was maintaining alliances through gift giving.

CROUCH: For French nobles engaging in that kind of exchange that looks like trade. And the fastest way to fall out of the nobility is to become a merchant is to become consumed by venal and financial interests. This is not considered to be behavior in defense of the Empire. This is seen as self enrichment or worse yet, leaving aside the very meaning of being French.

AMBUSKE: The different cultural perspectives of continental and colonial elites was a constant source of tension between them in New France. These values help to explain why Vandruil and Montcalm were at serious odds from the beginning.

CROUCH: Neither of these men is particularly nice. I guess that's the easiest way to say it. They're used to being in charge, they're used to getting their way. This was not a good setup from the get go.

CROUCH: This is really what I would argue is the root of rupture during the Seven Years War, because on paper, it seems like they are all embracing the same concept of noble martial masculinity, in practice, they have very different ways of achieving their aims and those two different methods are not easily reconciled.

CROUCH: It automatically gives you a sense of Vandreuil who's more of a pragmatist and is going to do whatever it takes, because that is the French Canadian tradition that he has come out of, and Montcalm, who is going to police the boundaries of behavior and honor.

AMBUSKE: Montcalm’s victory at Fort Oswego in August 1756, his first over the British, illustrates the conflict between these competing notions of French martial masculinity.

AMBUSKE: Fort Oswego sat along the shore of Lake Ontario in northern New York. It began its life as a trading post in the 1720s as part of the fur trade with the Haudenosaunee. In 1755, after the Seven Years’ War began, the British expanded the complex to include Forts Ontario and George, all part of an effort to defend the northern colonies from French and Indian attack.

AMBUSKE: In the summer of 1756, Governor Vaundreuil managed to convince a skeptical Montcalm that striking against enemy forts in the Great Lakes would keep the British on the defensive. It would prevent them, at least for a while, from attacking Quebec or Montreal. His strategy relied heavily on sending colonial soldiers and Indigenous peoples to wage a kind of guerrilla warfare along New France’s eastern border with British America.

AMBUSKE: Raiding was certainly an effective strategy. It was psychologically terrifying for settlers who lived in the western borderlands, and it afforded native peoples the chance to gain captives and treasure.

AMBUSKE: In October 1755, months after Braddock’s defeat, the Delaware attacked a settlement at Penn’s Creek in Pennsylvania. There, they captured two teenage girls, a Swiss immigrant named Marie Le Roy and Barbara Leininger, a German settler. They were taken to a Delaware village called Kittanning. Three years later, after they had regained their freedom, an account of their experiences was published in German. One passage read:

MARIE LE ROY AND BARBARA LEININGER (ALEXANDRA KREBS): The Indians gave us enough to do. We had to tan leather, to make shoes (moccasins), to clear land, to plant corn, to cut down trees and build huts, to wash and cook. The want of provisions, however, caused us the greatest sufferings. During all the time that we were at [Kittanning] we had neither lard nor salt; and, sometimes, we were forced to live on acorns, roots, grass, and bark. There was nothing in the world to make this new sort of food palatable, excepting hunger itself.

AMBUSKE: Indigenous raiding was so effective that Pennsylvania settlers formed their own militia to retaliate, despite the pacifism of the colony’s Quaker majority. In September 1756, 300 Pennsylvania militiamen attacked and destroyed Kittanning.

AMBUSKE: Yet, if General Montcalm had had his way, he would have conducted the entire operation against Fort Oswego using only disciplined French regulars.

AMBUSKE: He had little respect for seemingly degenerate and unreliable provincials.To his mind, and in the minds of other French-born officers, there was something in North America that made colonials lesser men. Nor did he care much for native peoples. In his view, they fought for trinkets in the forest, and the gifts and trade goods required to keep them as allies were an unnecessary drain on the French treasury.

AMBUSKE: In his ideal world, Montcalm would lay siege to Oswego using French soldiers, French tactics, and French bravery. French regulars would display a coolness under fire the provincials did not. They would take cover behind properly constructed defensive works, not fire cowardly from behind the cover of the trees. Above all, they would fight for the honor of France and the king himself.

AMBUSKE: But New France was not Europe. Honor and power operated differently in North America. And so, with only 1,300 French regulars available for the campaign, Montcalm needed the 1,500 provincial soldiers and militiamen that the French could muster as well. They were joined by roughly 250 Indigenous warriors from a number of different nations, mostly from Catholic mission communities around Montreal.

AMBUSKE: Still, Montcalm’s regulars would be given the honor of conducting the siege itself, with eighty cannon at their disposal. He would have the provincials and the warriors weaken the fort’s outer defenses. That suited native warriors just fine.

CROUCH: They don't like assaulting fortified positions, because the loss of life is higher. If you're going to besiege a fort, for instance, they don't want to be set into the worst of the grunt work of digging trenches, fortifying lines hauling water, moving cannons. This is not their understanding of how one goes to war.

AMBUSKE: When Montcalm and his army began their siege on August 11, 1756, there were about 1,700 soldiers, laborers, shipbuilders, women, and children inside Oswego and its surrounding forts.

AMBUSKE: It didn’t last long. Within two days, the French had captured Fort Ontario, and trained their cannon on Fort Oswego. On the 14th, a French cannonball decapitated Oswego’s commanding officer. His successor saw no hope of defending the fort. He quickly asked Montcalm for terms of surrender. 

AMBUSKE: Montcalm replied that there would be none.

AMBUSKE: This might well be North America, but that didn’t mean that Montcalm’s own sense of honor and martial valor had degenerated in the wilds of New France.

AMBUSKE:  In his eyes, the British commander had failed to mount an honorable defense of the fort. He had surrendered far too quickly. Thus, he  denied the British the honors of war. They would not be allowed to march out, with their flags unfurled, nor would they be allowed to take their personal belongings. They would not be given permission to leave in exchange for promising to not resume active duty for a period of time. Instead, they would be taken as prisoners and marched to Montreal.

AMBUSKE: Montcalm’s singular promise, to protect his prisoners from the native warriors, demonstrated how little he understood or regarded his allies. They were partners with, not subordinates of, the French. And the terms of that partnership required fulfillment. The warriors began killing and scalping some of the British wounded, took captives, goods, and personal items, before a mortified Montcalm and his men finally managed to restore order. He had to ransom British prisoners from the warriors, at a significant cost to the French crown.

AMBUSKE: The warriors were appalled by Montcalm’s behavior. When they returned to Montreal, some complained directly to Governor Vaundreuil that the French general had violated the tenets of their alliance by denying them the spoils of war.

AMBUSKE: Now, they had nothing to take back to their communities.

AMBUSKE: Although the governor managed to appease the warriors with expensive gifts, Montcalm’s actions cast doubt in their minds about the value of French honor. Vaundreuil knew that in the months ahead, he would have to work even harder to salvage these relationships.

AMBUSKE: New France’s survival depended on it.

AMBUSKE: Two hundred miles to the east, in Albany, Charlotte Browne was in mourning.

BROWNE: "August 10. This unhappy Day I received an Account of the Death of my dear Child Charlotte in whom my Soul was center’d. God only knows what I suffer. When shall I die and be at rest!"

AMBUSKE: Browne was still in mourning two weeks later, when she wrote in her journal:

BROWNE: "Augt 23: this Day came an Express with an Accont that Oswego was [taken] and the Commanding Offr Col Murser and the Sick Killd. And all the rest takin as Prisoner. Every one hear in the greatest Destress for we Expect that the french will be at Albany soon."

AMBUSKE: No attack came.

AMBUSKE: But all through the fall, and into a bitterly cold winter, as she cared for the sick, battled loneliness, and mourned her daughter, Browne confided in her journal reports of the French drawing near.

AMBUSKE: If the British believed that the return of spring in 1757 would thaw relations between Lord Loudoun and the king’s American subjects, they were mostly wrong.

AMBUSKE: And if Fort Oswego had been a devastating blow; some called what happened later at Fort William Henry a “massacre.”

AMBUSKE: In August 1757, nearly a year after he compelled the British into a dishonorable surrender at Fort Oswego, the Marquis de Montcalm laid siege to Fort William Henry. The fort was at the head of Lake George, in northern New York.

AMBUSKE: Indigenous choices had made it possible for New France to carry the fight to British America. Now, they would do so again.

AMBUSKE: By the summer of 1757, word had spread among nations throughout the Ohio County, the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Valley, and places farther west, of the victories at Forts Duquesne and Oswego. 

AMBUSKE: Nearly 2,000 warriors representing at least 33 nations had made their way to Fort Carillon on Lake Champlain. They included Abenakis and Micmas from Catholic missions, Menominees, Potawatamis, and even warriors from Iowa.

AMBUSKE: Vandreuil had worked hard since the previous summer to smooth over grievances and mend the wounds inflicted by Montcalm’s transgressions. The governor played the role expected of him, of the father who provided the gifts that would show his children the measure of their worth.

AMBUSKE: Even Montcalm had to admit that “in the midst of the woods of America one can no more do without them than without calvary in open country.”

AMBUSKE: The warriors joined a force of some 6,000 French regulars, provincial soldiers, and militia assembled at Fort Carillon.  

AMBUSKE: In early August, Charlotte Browne recorded what would become the last full entry in her journal:

BROWNE: "August 4th: An Express is arrived from Genl. Web at fort Ed[ward]….who Says that fort Hennery is Besieged with 1100 frinch and desires Expresses may be Sent to new York and new England for all the Assistance they can Send."

AMBUSKE: It was already too late.

AMBUSKE: In the late afternoon of August 3rd, Montcalm began the siege by asking Fort William Henry’s commander, George Monro, to surrender. Monro refused. He had just over 2,000 men under his command  –  with companies from the 35th Regiment of Foot, together with New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts provincials, along with some carpenters, women, and children. Monro promised to resist the invaders “to the last extremity.”

AMBUSKE: No doubt Montcalm took satisfaction in Monro’s reply. The Scots-Irish officer would resist with honor.

AMBUSKE: French cannon fire reduced the walls of an already weakened fort to rubble. There was little hope of reinforcements. Once more, on August 7th, Monro declined Montcalm’s request for his surrender. But finally, on August 9th, the fort and its occupants had had enough. Monro agreed to capitulate.

AMBUSKE: Satisfied that Monro, his men, and the civilians inside the had conducted an honorable defense, Montcalm granted them the full honors of war and safe passage under escort to nearby Fort Edward.

AMBUSKE: But Montcalm didn’t tell the Indigenous warriors about the terms of the surrender until after they had been signed. He came to North America not to persuade, cajole, or negotiate, but to command.

AMBUSKE: Once again, he demonstrated how little he understood or regarded his allies. And it would prove costly.

AMBUSKE: In the hours following the British surrender, Indigenous warriors asserted their rights to captives and treasure They entered the fort and began killing and scalping the wounded. They plundered property and taunted the British before French soldiers managed to remove them.

AMBUSKE: As morning dawned on August 10, 1757, warriors attacked the rear of the British column as the soldiers and civilians began their march to Fort Edward.

AMBUSKE: As Montcalm’s aide-de-camp described the scene:

LOUIS ANTOINE DE BOUGAINVILLE (EMMANUEL DUBOIS): The English, instead of showing resolution, were seized with fear and fled in confusion, throwing away their arms, baggage, and even their coats. Their fear emboldened the Indians of all the nations who started pillaging, killed dozens of soldiers, and took away five or six hundred. Our escort did what it could…..Finally the disorder quieted down and the Marquis de Montcalm at once took away from the Indians four hundred of these unfortunate men and clothed them. The French officers divided with the English officers the few spare clothes they had and the Indians, loaded with booty, disappeared that same day.

AMBUSKE: In weeks ahead, both Montcalm and Vandreuil labored to get some of the British captives back. Montcalm because he believed he was honor-bound to enforce the articles of capitulation as best he could, Vandreuil because he wanted to preserve the Indigenous relations that would ensure New France’s survival.

AMBUSKE: As one colonial official who was sympathetic to Montcalm, and who believed in French ideals of martial masculinity, reported to superiors in France:

CANADIAN OFFICIAL (EMMANUEL DUBOIS): This action was portrayed as terrible, and it is, but it should be blamed neither on M. de Montcalm nor on the other generals but instead on the lax discipline that M. de Vaudreuil encouraged among the Indians—a quality he inherited from his father… instead of chastising them and making them undergo repercussions, he showered them with gifts, believing that this would diminish their cruelty.

AMBUSKE: This should have been France’s moment of triumph in North America, in this, the darkest period of the war for Britain.

AMBUSKE: Instead, it became New France’s nadir. 

AMBUSKE: New France would never again command such respect among Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: The damage was done.

AMBUSKE: Thank you 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 r2studios.org 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, Katherine Carté, Christian Ayne Crouch, Patrick Griffin, Hayley Madl, and John McCurdy for sharing their expertise with us in this episode.

AMBUSKE: Special thanks to our voice actors, including Alexandra Krebs, Grace Mallon, Spencer McBride, Norman Rodger, Alexandre Rios-Bordes, Nate Sleeter, and Emmanuel Dubois. Be sure to check out Dubois’s French History podcast, Lafayette, We are Here!

AMBUSKE: Special thanks also to Loren Moulds and Deepthi Murali.

AMBUSKE: 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).

Katherine Carté, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Katherine Carté, Ph.D.

Kate Carté is a professor of history at Southern Methodist University. She is the author of Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History (UNC, 2021), which received the Outler Prize from the American Society of Church History. She is currently engaged in research on women's religion in the revolutionary-era Lower South.

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.

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

Hayley Madl Profile Photo

Hayley Madl

Ph.D. Student | George Mason University

Hayley Madl is a Ph.D. student at George Mason University. She currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and as a Podcast Producer at R2 Studios whose credits include The Green Tunnel podcast. Hayley’s past work has centered on Indigenous expressions of sovereignty in treaty councils during the eighteenth century, particularly among the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations). Her current research focuses on the applications of 3D modeling and digital reconstruction to community memory and lost landscapes, especially within Indigenous communities.

John McCurdy, Ph.D. Profile Photo

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.

Grace Mallon, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Grace Mallon, Ph.D.

Kinder Junior Research Fellow | University of Oxford

Grace Mallon is a historian of the early American republic. She is currently the Kinder Junior Research Fellow in Atlantic History at the University of Oxford.

Spencer McBride, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Spencer McBride, Ph.D.

Associate Managing Historian | The Joseph Smith Papers

Associate Managing Historian, The Joseph Smith Papers

Nate Sleeter, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Nate Sleeter, Ph.D.

Director of Educational Projects | RRCHNM

Nate is the Director of Educational Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. His interests include teaching and learning history with an emphasis on teaching history as a thinking skill. Nate earned his PhD in history at Mason in 2017. His dissertation focused on the cultural history of gifted children in the United States.

Alexandra Krebs, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Alexandra Krebs, Ph.D.

Teaching and research associate | Zurich University of Teacher Education

Alexandra studied history, Latin, and educational sciences at the University of Mainz (Germany) and the University of Palermo (Italy) and has since worked as a high school teacher and as a research assistant and lecturer in theory and didactics of history at the University of Paderborn where she completed her PhD. Her teaching and research focus on digital history learning in cooperation with archives and other institutions beyond the classroom. She has been developing an innovative web-based learning environment, the App in die Geschichte [App into History] which enables students to conduct historical research in digital archives.