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Empires at War : The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763
Empires at War captures the sweeping panorama of this first world war, especially in its descriptions of the strategy and intensity of the engagements in North America, many of them epic struggles between armies in the wilderness. William M. Fowler Jr. views the conflict both from British prime minister William Pitt's perspective-- as a vast chessboard, on which William Shirley's campaign in North America and the fortunes of Frederick the Great of Prussia were connected-- and from that of field commanders on the ground in America and Canada, who contended with disease, brutal weather, and scant supplies, frequently having to build the very roads they marched on. As in any conflict, individuals and events stand out: Sir William Johnson, a baronet and a major general of the British forces, who sometimes painted his face and dressed like a warrior when he fought beside his Indian allies; Edward Braddock's doomed march across Pennsylvania; the valiant French defense of Fort Ticonderoga; and the legendary battle for Quebec between armies led by the arisocratic French tactical genius, the marquis de Montcalm, and the gallant, if erratic, young Englishman James Wolfe-- both of whom died on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759.
In this solid narrative history of a once neglected conflict, historian Fowler, author of The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Adams, glances occasionally at the European and Caribbean theaters of this "first world war," but concentrates on the North American operations that determined Britain's victory over France in the struggle for imperial supremacy. The outcome, he makes clear, was a foregone conclusion given the British colonies' vast population and economic base in comparison with French Canada, British control of the seas, the high priority Prime Minister William Pitt assigned to the conquest of Canada and the indifference the people of Paris felt toward its "few acres of snow." But the French and their Indian allies fought well under competent commanders, administering bloody defeats to the redcoats and colonial militias until they were swamped by superior British numbers and logistics. Fowler's lucid account details the strategic, political and personal dynamics behind the campaigning and conveys the color and drama of this arduous struggle, in which the genteel etiquette of 18th-century warfare sometimes gave way to massacre and counter-massacre and the harsh wilderness terrain reduced combatants to starvation and cannibalism. The result is a judicious, well-paced and engaging introduction to a turning point in American and world history. Photos.
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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
January 09, 2006
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