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From the first there were conflicting claims to the land between, and a series of wars between England and France in Europe during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries led to border raids and massacres in America. However, it was almost 150 years after the founding of Jamestown and Quebec before either country saw the other as a menace to her colonies.

In 1749 King George II of England granted a vast tract of land in the Ohio Valley to a group of Virginians. The Governor General of Canada, hearing of this grant and regarding it as an encroachment on French territory, sent a party of soldiers and Indians to take formal possession of the Ohio Valley for France. In 1753 he sent a thousand men to build three forts in the upper Ohio Valley to protect French claims.

Acting Governor Robert Dinwiddie, who was determined to hold the disputed territory for Virginia, sent twenty-one year old George Washington, a major in the Virginia militia, to warn the French to withdraw. Washington was received politely, but the French stayed on.

Dinwiddie, hoping at least to block further French advances, sent an expedition to build a fort at the forks of the Ohio River, where the city of Pittsburgh now stands. Before it could be completed, however, the fort was attacked by French soldiers and the Virginians were forced to surrender. A French fort, named Duquesne for the Governor General of Canada, soon rose on the site. George Washington, sent this time as second in command of a garrison for the English fort, arrived too late to take part in its defense, but defeated a small party of French soldiers near Fort Duquesne, then was himself forced to surrender a few days later at Fort Necessity, which he had hastily built.

The English now prepared for a strong expedition against Fort Duquesne, and General Edward Braddock, a veteran of several European campaigns, was placed on command with Washington as his assistant. Unaccustomed to frontier warfare, Braddock ignored the advice of Washington and marched his army into a French and Indian ambush. Braddock was killed and his army routed, leaving France in complete possession of the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Acadia (now Nova Scotia), however, was captured by the English in 1755, the year of Braddock’s defeat. Thus, both sides won victories and suffered defeats during the early stages of war.

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