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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!

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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Canadian-related Links, Longer Entries

 

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The Day Louisiana Was Sold To The U.S.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One story that isn’t well-known is that Napoleon planned to recapture Canada for France.  He made himself dictator of France in 1799, on the pretext of “saving the Revolution,” but then went on to conquer most of Europe.

Napoleon’s plan to recapture Canada was inspired by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who in 1793 became the first man to cross the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Mackenzie wrote a book about his trip which Napoleon had translated into French to help him plan his campaign.

His first step was to regain Louisiana.  France had owned the Mississippi Valley all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but had handed over this territory to Spain before signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763 so that Britain would not acquire it.

In 1800, Napoleon regained Louisiana from Spain as part of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso.  He planned to move his troops up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.  In order to do this, he sent a large navy and army to recapture the former French colony of Haiti, which had been lost in a rebellion led by a mighty black warrior, Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was to be the base for the attack up the Mississippi, led by Napoleon’s favourite general, Count Bernadotte. His campaign was defeated by the same elements that beat the Scotsmen who wanted to set up a colony in Panama and make it New Scotland.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce.    They killed 60,000 French troops in two years!

In the meantime, the British fleet had moved powerful units to the West Indies, and Napoleon knew that it would be too risky to try to move an army to the mouth of the Mississippi.  He abandoned the plan to recapture Canada, and sold Louisiana on April 30, 1803, to the United States for $27 million between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Spain still retained claims on the Pacific coast as far north as Oregon, which had an important bearing on the future development of British Columbia.

Want to read more about what became known as the Louisiana Purchase? I suggest National Archives & Records Administration for the transcripts, and a site I just found is Booknotes.org that you just have to check out! Oh, and don’t forget Wikipedia

 

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