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Tanaghrisson (unknown–1754) was born a Catawba but was adopted by the Senecas, a member of the Iroquois League. He became a chief, but was labeled the "Half King" because all of his decisions had to be approved by the Iroquois Council.
Around 1750, Tanaghrisson was sent by the Council to restore Iroquois control over the Ohio Valley. Iroquois domination was threatened by the Ohio Indians, a subordinate tribe, who'd begun trading and negotiating directly with the British, and also by French threats to increase their own presence in the valley if the Iroquois failed to prevent British expansion.
To achieve these goals, Tanaghrisson forged an alliance with the British and took steps to provoke a war between the British and the French by slaughtering French soldiers after they surrendered to George Washington and his provincial militia at the Great Meadows in 1754.
Ange Duquesne de Menneville, Marquis Duquesne (1700–1778) was the Governor-General of New France from 1752 to 1755.
Believing that French interests in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Valley were threatened by British colonial advances in the Ohio Valley, he built a string of forts between Lake Erie and the Ohio Valley. The last of these, Fort Duquesne, was built at the Forks of the Ohio River, the site of present-day Pittsburgh.
Duquesne's aggressive response to British expansion triggered an equally aggressive response from Britain. London ordered Virginia's colonial governor, Robert Dinwiddie, to remove the French from the Ohio Valley. Dinwiddie assigned this task to 21-year-old George Washington.
George Washington (1732–1799) was an officer in Virginia's provincial militia, the Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and the first President of the independent United States of America.
As a young officer in the Virginia provincial militia, Washington was dispatched in 1753 and 1754 to warn the French out of the Ohio Valley. The second mission led to his defeat at Fort Necessity. In 1755, he returned with General Edward Braddock and the army of British Regulars that would be defeated at the Battle of the Wilderness (Battle of Monongahela). For the next three years, Washington served as the Commander of the Virginia Regiment, defending British settlements in the Shenandoah Valley.
Washington earned recognition in America and England for his bravery during the British defeat at the Battle of the Wilderness. By the war's end, he had become a symbol for American colonists of the military prowess of their militia.
Edward Braddock (1695–1755) was major-general in the British Army. He was dispatched to America in 1754 to restore and strengthen British positions in the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region after the defeat of George Washington at Fort Necessity.
Overestimating the abilities of his British Regulars, and underestimating the importance of building alliances with the Native Americans of the Ohio Valley, he suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of the Wilderness (Battle of Monongahela) in July 1755.
Braddock was mortally wounded in the battle. This defeat was the first in a series of major military setbacks for the British in 1755.
Pierre Francois de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal (1698–1778) was the Governor of French Louisiana from 1743 to 1752 and Governor-General of New France from 1755 to 1760. He was born in Canada, attained the rank of major in the French troupes de la marine, and fought against Native Americans in wars on the Canadian frontier.
As Governor-General of New France, his military tactics led to early success against the British in the first years of the French and Indian War. By enlisting Canadian Indians as allies, supplying them with weapons, and giving them free rein to attack British frontier settlements, Vaudreuil was able to concentrate his French troops at a few critical posts and prevent British invasion of French territory.
His strategy was criticized by the Marquis de Montcalm, the commander of French forces appointed in 1756, who complained that this unregulated use of Canadian Indian allies led to "uncivilized" military behavior including the seizing of prisoners for ransom after the capture of Fort Oswego and the massacre of British soldiers and civilians after the capture of Fort William Henry.
Louis Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Montcalm (1712–1759) was a major general in the French military. He received a commission at age nine, began active duty at 20, and fought and was wounded in numerous battles before being named commander of all French forces in New France in 1756.
As commander of French forces in North America after 1756, he was initially subordinate to the governor-general, the Marquis de Vaudreuil. But he disagreed with the governor-general's unregulated use of Canadian Indian auxiliaries. He preferred the conventional tactics of European warfare to the Canadian Indians' guerrilla tactics that were permitted by Vaudreuil.
After the massacre of British soldiers and civilians following the capture of Fort William Henry, Montcalm's criticism of Vaudreuil's tactics led the king of France to name Montcalm the supreme authority over all military matters in New France in 1759.
Montcalm personally commanded the French forces at Quebec when the city was attacked by the British under Brigadier General James Wolfe in 1759. Caught off-guard by Wolfe's attack from the west, the French were forced to flee to Montreal. During the battle, Montcalm received a mortal wound and died the next day.
William Pitt (1708–1778) was British Secretary of State during the French and Indian War and later served as Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Named secretary of state in 1757, Pitt resolved to commit whatever resources were necessary to defeat the French in North America and on the European continent. He provided generous funding to Prussia, Britain's ally in the Seven Years' War, for troops to tie down French forces in Europe. He also funded the expansion of provincial militias in North America.
By the summer of 1758, the British had 50,000 men in uniform in North America, serving as British Regulars or in colonial provincial regiments—a number equal to the entire white population of New France. Pitt resigned in 1761 when the king refused to pursue a more complete defeat of France or to declare war against Spain.
Pitt's policies led to British success in the French and Indian War. But they also left Britain with a tremendous debt, and a larger empire to administer. During the ensuing controversies between Britain and its America colonies, Pitt sympathized with the Americans, especially in their opposition to the Stamp Act. But as Prime Minister (1766–1768), he was unsuccessful in crafting a policy that could reconcile the ambitions of Britain and America.
James Wolfe (1727–1759), a colonel in the British Army, led the successful attack against Quebec in 1759, all but ending the French and Indian War.
Born into a military family, he joined the army at age 14, and saw combat at 16. Posted to North America in 1757, he was given the local rank of "Brigadier in America" in 1758 and assigned the task of capturing Quebec, the most secure French position in North America.
Wolfe's risky decision to attack the western side of the city by scaling the poorly defended cliffs along the Saint Lawrence River caught the French by surprise. Forced to abandon the security of the city walls, the less disciplined French forces were quickly defeated. In the battle, Wolfe received injuries to his wrist and chest, and died on the battlefield. He subsequently became a British national hero.