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King George`s War: The Third of the French and Indian Wars

King George's War was the third in a series of Anglo-French colonial conflicts in North America. Although nominally at peace, Britain and France had been in conflict over colonial boundaries in Acadia, northern New England, and the Ohio Valley. King George’s War had been preceded by an outbreak of fighting in Europe. The death of Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, had touched off a succession crisis that pitted France, Prussia and Spain against the British.

Warfare developed in the American colonies in 1744 when the French first learned on May 5, of the declarations of war on March 15, and attacked a British position at Canso, Nova Scotia, on May 13 destroying a fortification and transporting prisoners to the French stronghold at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. The French also attempted to recapture Port Royal (Annapolis Royal), but failed.

Hatred of the French was stronger in New England and New York than in the other colonies. Maritime interests felt especially imperiled by the French strength at Louisbourg, a base for privateers. In addition, many staunch New England Protestants harbored a natural antipathy toward the Roman Catholic French.

In 1745, a force of more than 4,000 men was raised under William Pepperrell, a wealthy merchant from Maine. Assigned the daunting task of taking Louisbourg, they would shortly assault what was regarded as the most secure position in North America. Sir Peter Warren and his naval contingent provided valuable assistance by preventing reinforcements from reaching the French fort. A two-month siege ended in June when British soldiers staged an heroic (and almost comic) raid on the fortress, forcing its capitulation. George II later rewarded Pepperrell with a baronetcy, the first American colonist so honored.

The French fared somewhat better on the western frontier, where their position at Crown Point on Lake Champlain was used as a staging area for Native American attacks on English settlements. Sir William Johnson responded by organizing the Iroquois to strike back against French positions. French counterstrikes fell against Saratoga and Albany in late 1745. Losses on both sides were extremely high, but no clear victor emerged from the fighting in the West.

In 1746, the French planned a great offensive that was intended first to retake Louisbourg, then move south for an attack on Boston. However, a major storm intervened, scattered the French fleet and ended their hopes for victory.

Peace was achieved with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. In return for receiving Madras in India, the British returned Louisbourg to the French, thus nullifying the greatest victory American forces had ever won. Anger in the colonies was so great that London responded by reimbursing the colonial governments for funds spent earlier on the Pepperrell campaign.

King George’s War did not finally resolve the North American rivalry between France and Britain; that resolution would not occur for another 15 years.