The First Nations in the French and Indian War
In April, 1756, about a month after the French victory at Fort Bull, the British colonial militia fought a brief skirmish near Sideling Hill, in Western Pennsylvania with a band of Delawares under the command of the Delaware war chiefs Teweas and Shingas. Teweas and Shingas attacked the British at Fort McCord, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where they killed and scalped 27 British settlers. In response to this raid, three militia bands were sent in pursuit of the Delaware. The British militia caught up with the Delaware three days later at Sideling Hill. Both sides suffered significant losses, however the death of the militia force’s commander, along with 16 others, coupled with the arrival of Delaware reinforcements caused the militia to withdraw.
The British defeat at Sideling Hill encouraged other Delaware and Shawnee tribes to begin raiding along the colonial frontier.
The Battle of Great Cacapon
Following the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754 and the failure of the Braddock Expedition in 1755, the French garrison commanders in the Ohio Country encouraged their First Nation allies to begin raiding along the British frontier. Northwest Virginia, which now comprises parts of the state of West Virginia, was one of several areas prone to Indian raids. In an attempt to defend the colony from attack, Governor Robert Dinwiddie ordered the construction of a string of forts, that were to be garrisoned by the Virginia Militia and placed under the command of Colonel George Washington.
On April 18, 1756, the Delaware war chief Killbuck laid an ambush for the Virginia Militia. He laid a trail of cornmeal and established a position on the banks of Great Cacapon River. Meanwhile Captain John Mercer, in command of a militia band, led his troops right into Killbuck’s trap. Mercer and his men passed Killbuck’s position, only to be caught in a withering crossfire. Mercer and all but six of the men under his command were killed.
The Battle of Lunenburg
Raiding along the frontier continued in May, 1756, with a raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia was the scene of conflict before the start of the French and Indian War. Between 1750 and 1753, the British established colonies at Halifax, Dartmouth and Lunenburg. They also settled Protestants in areas formerly occupied by the Catholic Acadians. However, the settlers of Lunenburg, although Protestant, were primarily of French, German and Swiss extraction. In order to thwart the growth of these settlements, the Acadians, in conjunction with the Mi’kmaq and the Maliseet, attacked Halifax, Dartmouth and Lunenburg numerous times.
Following the Battle of Fort Beausejour, on the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the frequency of native and Acadian attacks increased. In 1756, the Governor of New France, Pierre Francois de Vaudreuil, ordered Charles Deschamp de Boishebert to send a Maliseet war party to attack Lunenburg. The Maliseet left St. Anne’s Point and arrived on the outskirts of Lunenburg on May 8, 1756. The Maliseet killed and scalped 20 settlers, burning their homes. The Maliseet also took Marie Payzant hostage, along with her four children.
In response to this, the Governor of Nova Scotia placed a bounty on the head of every Mi’kmaq and Maliseet in Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, the Maliseet marched their prisoners back to Quebec. Marie Payzant and her children remained in captivity until 1760.
In spite of the harsh measures instituted by the governors of the British colonies the First Nations continued raiding along the colonial frontier.
Layton, Linda G. A Passion for Survival: The True Story of Marie Ann and Louis Payzant in Eighteenth-Century Nova Scotia. Nimbus Publishing, 2003
Bothwell, Robert. The Penguin History of Canada. Penguin Canada.2006
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