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The Sixty Years’ War for the Great Lakes, 1754–1814

David Curtis Skaggs

Publication Year: 2001

The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes contains twenty essays concerning not only military and naval operations, but also the political, economic, social, and cultural interactions of individuals and groups during the struggle to control the great freshwater lakes and rivers between the Ohio Valley and the Canadian Shield. Contributing scholars represent a wide variety of disciplines and institutional affiliations from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.
     Collectively, these important essays delineate the common thread, weaving together the series of wars for the North American heartland that stretched from 1754 to 1814. The war for the Great Lakes was not merely a sideshow in a broader, worldwide struggle for empire, independence, self-determination, and territory. Rather, it was a single war, a regional conflict waged to establish hegemony within the area, forcing interactions that divided the Great Lakes nationally and ethnically for the two centuries that followed. 

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Contents [Includes Maps]

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pp. v-xv

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Preface to the Paperback Edition

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pp. xvii-xxii

When a collection of papers from a scholarly conference held a dozen years ago merits a republication, it is indeed a privilege and a pleasure both to the editors and to the authors of the various pieces contained therein. The articles within this volume anticipated future investigations undertaken by their authors, revised scholarship on a number of issues, and continue to point to new directions for further research....

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pp. xxiii-xxxiii

In the introduction to her Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History, historian and demographer Helen Hornbeck Tanner tells that her interest in Great Lakes Indian history began in 1963 when she was casually asked to find out what Indians had lived near her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That initial request began a period of protracted, original research that would eventually...

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The Sixty Years’ War for the Great Lakes, 1754–1814: An Overview

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pp. 1-20

You can blame the conference and this book on the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. His famous History of the Peloponnesian War written in the fifth century B.C. is not only one of the great historical treatises, but also is one of the great commentaries on the nature of political power and the way state policies are made. This great war between Athenian and Spartan...

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French Imperial Policy for the Great Lakes Basin

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pp. 21-41

In 1663, Louis XIV decided to take control of the French colonies in North America into his own hands, out of the hands of the private companies that had been exploiting them. The man placed in charge of this endeavor was the minister of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. His plan was that the French should adopt England’s colonial policy. The French colonies would thus provide France with the...

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Henry Bouquet and British Infantry Tactics on the Ohio Frontier, 1758–1764

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pp. 43-61

On the afternoon of 5 August 1763, a four-hundred-man British force under the command of Colonel Henry Bouquet was on the march in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania. The Swiss colonel was bringing supplies and reinforcements to Fort Pitt, whose garrison had been under siege from hostile Indians since late June. Twenty-six miles from its objective, near...

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The Microbes of War: The British Army and Epidemic Disease among the Ohio Indians, 1758-1765

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pp. 63-78

Between 1755 and 1815 Britain and the United States took possession of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region from its Native American inhabitants. That they were able to do so bears witness not only to American and European military superiority, but also to the population decline of the Indian peoples. During the “Sixty Years’ War for the Great Lakes” Indian...

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Charles-Michel Mouet de Langlade: Warrior, Soldier, and Intercultural "Window" on the Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes

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pp. 79-103

In 1752, Governor Duquesne of New France described Charles-Michel Mouet de Langlade (1729–circa 1801) as “very brave, to have much influence on the minds of the savages, and to be very zealous when ordered to do anything.” Thus, at age thirty-three, Langlade earned his first commendation for his crucial role as cultural intermediary between French imperial...

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The Iroquois and the Native American Struggle for the Ohio Valley,1754–1794

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pp. 105-124

Until recently, few historians bothered much with the history of the Ohio Indians. Older paradigms of writing Native American history focused on what scholars deemed to be “important tribes,” such as the Cherokees, the Sioux, or the Iroquois.1 Looking into the Native American towns of the eighteenth-century Ohio Valley, these earlier researchers found a confusing medley...

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The French Connection: The Interior French and Their Role in French-British Relations in the Western Great Lakes Region, 1760-1775

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pp. 125-143

French-speaking people played a vital role in the dynamic and often turbulent world of the western Great Lakes following the British conquest of Canada in 1760. Historians, however, have not always adequately analyzed the diversity of the French, who were anything but a homogeneous group. A full understanding of the complicated relationships between French and British...

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“Ignorant bigots and busy rebels”: The American Revolution in the Western Great Lakes

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pp. 145-165

England’s attempt to govern the western Great Lakes, following the conquest of Canada, proved far from successful. Neither Native people nor their French fur-trader kin were receptive to the English. Pontiac reminded England that the French, not the Indians, lost the recent war. Many English officers often displaced blame for the uprising on French fur traders and,...

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Fortress Detroit, 1701-1826

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pp. 167-185

Of the many places that figured in the Sixty Years’ War for the Great Lakes, none was more consistently near the epicenter of events than Detroit. Although the city is today more likely to be remembered for its significance to industrial, automotive or entertainment history, Detroit was a well-established agricultural and commercial center by the outbreak of the Seven...

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Rethinking the Gnadenhutten Massacre: The Contest for Power in the Public World of the Revolutionary Pennsylvania Frontier

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pp. 187-213

In early 1782, the town of Pittsburgh and the garrison of Fort Pitt together formed one of the westernmost redoubts of the American Revolution. Although the October 1781 victory of General George Washington, Admiral the Count de Grasse, and General the Count de Rochambeau at Yorktown had all but ended the American War for Independence, the armed...

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War as Cultural Encounter in the Ohio Valley

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pp. 215-225

In his 1827 memoir, Kentucky migrant and former militia captain Daniel Trabue described the treaty negotiations at Fort Greenville as an impressive and colorful aff air. The summer of 1795 had brought together Major General Anthony Wayne and his United States Legion with members of the confederacy of western Indians they had defeated one year before at the...

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Liberty and Power in the Old Northwest, 1763-1800

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pp. 227-242

The most familiar political legacies of the American Revolution relate to the intertwined concepts of power and liberty. In the British monarchy of the eighteenth century, power theoretically flowed from the top of society downward, from God’s chosen regent the king, through his appointed noble authorities, until it finally settled in a residual form among...

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Supper and Celibacy: Quaker-Seneca Reflexive Missions

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pp. 243-274

Far from home in the late summer 1803, Isaac Bonsall and the emissaries from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting stopped for supper on the banks of the Allegheny River. Their guides, Seneca Indians from the Allegany reservation, joined them as chocolate and chicken were prepared for eating, and even without the ability to communicate easily across the language barrier...

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The Mohawk/Oneida Corridor: The Geography of Inland Navigation Across New York

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pp. 275-290

Two hundred years ago, New York State stood at the crossroads of westward migration; spanning the distance that separated the Atlantic Ocean from the Great Lakes. Across this interval passed innumerable merchants and settlers as the new nation took advantage of a natural gateway to the West in the decades following the American Revolution....

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Iroquois External Affairs, 1807-1815: The Crisis of the New Order

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pp. 291-302

When historians study Aboriginal participation in the War of 1812, they usually focus on the people in the Old Northwest— the Shawnee, Ottawa, and others—who still exercised a considerable degree of independence from Euro-Americans, and who had not yet been forced off their lands or confined to reservations. Largely ignored is the story of the Six Nations...

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The Firelands: Land Speculation and the War of 1812

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pp. 303-323

After the War for American Independence, the Ohio Country lured men and women like the sirens of Greek mythology. Many were small-scale farmers who crossed the Ohio River as early as 1785, squatted on government land and hoped for the best, either to make their claims good through lawful purchase or to bide their time until the owners and the law...

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Reluctant Warriors: British North Americans and the War of 1812

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pp. 325-336

The ballad, like many others of its kind, extolled the glorious victory of a heroic and patriotic people. And the sentiments expressed in this particular campfire song have become, if only unconsciously, part of the Canadian legacy of the War of 1812. In popular culture, the War of 1812 is often characterized as the first real test of the new peoples and of their earlier decision to remain loyal to the Empire and the British...

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Forgotten Allies: The Loyal Shawnees and the War of 1812

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pp. 337-351

For most historians, the association of Indian people with the War of 1812 conjures up images of Native American resistance. From Tippecanoe to the Thames, from Fort Mims to Horseshoe Bend, historians have concentrated upon this last, futile attempt by Native American people to solicit foreign assistance in defending their homelands east of the Mississippi....

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“To Obtain Command of the Lakes”: The United States and the Contest for Lakes Erie and Ontario, 1812-1815

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pp. 353-371

Madison had good reason to be rueful. In a war filled with missteps and blunders, the American failure to secure control of Lakes Erie and Ontario in the summer of 1812 has to rank as one of the costliest. The absence of an American squadron on Lake Erie allowed the British to concentrate quickly against Hull, severing his lines of communication and panicking him into surrendering his entire force of 1,600...

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The Meanings of the Wars for the Great Lakes

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pp. 373-390

Neither American popular culture nor American history has attached much significance to the Wars for the Great Lakes. While their importance seems obvious to scholars who devote themselves to studying various aspects of the long and episodic struggles among Indians, French, British, and Americans, most people ignore them. Even historians tend to view the wars as...

About the Editors and Contributors

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pp. 391-395

Index of Places and Names

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pp. 397-414

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172183
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870139727

Page Count: 446
Publication Year: 2001

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • France -- Colonies -- America -- History -- Congresses.
  • Indians of North America -- Wars -- Great Lakes Region (North America) -- Congresses.
  • United States -- History -- French and Indian War, 1755-1763 -- Congresses.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- America -- History -- Congresses.
  • United States -- History -- War of 1812 -- Congresses.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Congresses.
  • Great Lakes Region (North America) -- History, Military -- Congresses.
  • Indians of North America -- Wars -- 1750-1815 -- Congresses.
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