7 Years War
The long inter-colonial struggle had brought Britain less success in America than might have been expected. The English in America outnumbered the French twelve to one, but their fourteen disunited and uncooperative colonies were ill organized for war by comparison with New France. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) had given the British Nova Scotia, but they had failed to make headway against the colony on the St. Lawrence. As the Seven Years' War rolled on, the rival empires were struggling for the control of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. The British colonies were exposed to the imminent danger of being contained, between the Alleghenies and the Atlantic coast, by a chain of French military posts connecting Canada with Louisiana. The very first shots of the war were fired in the Ohio Valley in 1754, between French outposts and troops commanded by Colonel George Washington, who had been sent by the governor of Virginia to warn the French off. Washington attacked a French patrol and then was forced to surrender to the main body of the French forces and return to Virginia.
In 1755 the British government intervened on a large scale in the inter-colonial conflict. Edward Braddock was sent out as Commander in, Chief, and the British Army, represented by two regular infantry battalions, made its first attempt at operating actively in America. The expedition, advancing on Fort Duquesne, was disastrously defeated at the hands of an inferior French and Indian force. The next two years witnessed a largely unrelieved series of British disasters. The French commander Dieskau did meet defeat on Lake George a couple of months after Braddock's reverse, but in 1756 a new general, the Marquis du Montcalm, arrived from France. His first move was against Oswego, the only British post on the shores of the Great Lakes, which he captured quickly. In 1757 he took Fort William Henry, on Lake George, and ended for that year any idea of a British advance on Montreal. The British commander in-chief, Lord Loudoun, did not venture to deliver an attack on the great French naval fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton Island because he was doubtful whether his naval support was equal to mastering the French ships based there.