The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years' War. The war was fought between the colonies of British America and New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France, as well as Native American allies. At the start of the war, the French North American colonies had a population of roughly 60,000 European settlers, compared to 2 million in the British North American colonies. The outnumbered French particularly depended on the Indians. Long in conflict, the metropole nations declared war on each other in 1756, escalating the war from a regional affair into an international conflict.
The name French and Indian War is used mainly in the United States and in English-speaking Canada, and refers to the two main enemies of the British colonists: the royal French forces and the various indigenous forces allied with them. British and European historians use the term the Seven Years' War, as do many Canadians. French Canadians call it La guerre de la Conquête (War of Conquest).
The war was fought primarily along the frontiers between New France and the British colonies, from Virginia in the South to Nova Scotia in the North. It began with a dispute over control of the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, called the Forks of the Ohio, and the site of the French Fort Duquesne and present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The dispute erupted into violence in the Battle of Jumonville Glen in May 1754, during which Virginia militiamen under the command of 22-year-old George Washington ambushed a French patrol.
In 1755, six colonial governors in North America met with General Edward Braddock, the newly arrived British Army commander, and planned a four-way attack on the French. None succeeded and the main effort by Braddock was a disaster; he was defeated in the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755 and died a few days later. British operations in 1755, 1756 and 1757 in the frontier areas of Pennsylvania and New York all failed, due to a combination of poor management, internal divisions, and effective Canadian, French regular forces, and Indian offense. In 1755, the British captured Fort Beauséjour on the border separating Nova Scotia from Acadia; soon afterward they ordered the expulsion of the Acadians. Orders for the deportation were given by William Shirley, Commander-in-Chief, North America, without direction from Great Britain. The Acadians, both those captured in arms and those who had sworn the loyalty oath to His Britannic Majesty, were expelled. Native Americans were likewise driven off their land to make way for settlers from New England.
After the disastrous 1757 British campaigns (resulting in a failed expedition against Louisbourg and the Siege of Fort William Henry, which was followed by Indian torture and massacres of British victims), the British government fell. William Pitt came to power and significantly increased British military resources in the colonies at a time when France was unwilling to risk large convoys to aid the limited forces it had in New France. France concentrated its forces against Prussia and its allies in the European theatre of the war. Between 1758 and 1760, the British military successfully penetrated the heartland of New France, and took control of Montreal in September 1760.
The outcome was one of the most significant developments in a century of Anglo-French conflict. France ceded its territory east of the Mississippi to Great Britain. It ceded French Louisiana west of the Mississippi River (including New Orleans) to its ally Spain, in compensation for Spain's loss to Britain of Florida. (Spain had ceded this to Britain in exchange for the return of Havana, Cuba). France's colonial presence north of the Caribbean was reduced to the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, confirming Britain's position as the dominant colonial power in eastern North America.