This Week in Canadian History: December Week 1

Virginia colonial governor Robert Dinwiddie, b...
Virginia colonial governor Robert Dinwiddie, by unknown artist. See source website for additional information. This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetzee from the National Portrait Gallery, London website using a special tool. All images in this batch are listed as “unknown author” by the NPG, who is diligent in researching authors, and was donated to the NPG before 1939 according to their website. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Washington is so revered as “the father of the United States” that it is difficult to remember that he was once Colonel George Washington, a British officer.  Former officers like Sir Guy Carleton and John Graves Simcoe regarded him as a traitor.

Washington came into prominence when he was only twenty-one years old.  In 1748, the Virginians had organized the Ohio Company to develop the interior, and in 1753, they were disturbed to hear stories that the French from Canada were developing trading posts there.  Young Washington, whose career was being promoted by a wealthy British resident of Virginia, was sent to investigate.

On December 4, 1753, at a place called Venango, 96 kilometre (60 miles) north of the present city of Pittsburgh, Washington and his companions noticed a French flag over a post which belonged to a British trader.  Washington investigated, and found that it was occupied by Chabert de Joncaire, a French officer.  Britain and France were not at war so Washington and Joncaire were able to meet sociably, and they engaged in some heavy drinking.  Washington told Joncaire that he would have to get off British territory, but Joncaire refused to move, and was incautious enough to disclose French  plans to take possession of the Ohio Valley and link Canada with Louisiana.

When Washington reported the French plans to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, it was decided to build a fort where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers met, to block the entrance to the Ohio River.  It was begun in the spring of 1754, but was quickly captured by the French even though there was supposed to be peace.  Dinwiddie then sent out a force of 300 men led by Colonel Joshua Fry, with Major George Washington as second-in-command.  There was fighting at Great Meadows and Fort Necessity, during which Washington took command.  He was defeated and forced to retreat, having lost 100 men.  Horace Walpole, British author, wrote later:  “A volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.”  The Seven Years’ War, in which France lost Canada, was to follow.  George Washington helped Britain seize Canada from France, but soon needed the help of France to acquire the States from Britain!

To read more about this post, I have a few suggestions.  There’s the Hogshead Wine blog, and then the Venango County Historical Society (I think), and then the Frontier Forts for another interesting article. Lastly, I would highly recommend reading an 11-page .pdf report for the Cochraneton Region.

Enjoy your week everyone!

7 comments

  1. Britain-France-Germany-Prussia-Russia…. Those darned monarchies! I have wondered about how we (Britains) fought against France, then asked for help from the French to fight against the British in our Revolution/Rebellion… Once, when visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, I inquired of the historic interpreters portraying General Washington and Marquis de Lafayette this question. They claimed that the American and French always got along well. Hmph.
    Oscar

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    • We got along, we fought where people died, we made alliances … And so the world changes and moves on …. Politics, for me, is a game that I don’t fully understand. I get your frustrations! 🙂

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