History of King George’s War

King George’s War was a conflict between England and France in North America during the early 18th century.

The war was the third in a series of French and Indian Wars in North America (the first two were King William’s War and Queen Anne’s War) and was also the North American theater of the War of the Austrian Succession.

Who Fought in King George’s War?

  • Great Britain
  • 13 British Colonies
  • Iroquois Confederacy
  • France
  • New France
  • Wabanaki Confederacy

Who Won King George’s War?

King George’s War was inconclusive.

When Did King George’s War Take Place?

King George’s War took place between 1744 and 1748.

Where Did King George’s War Take Place?

  • Province of New York
  • Province of Massachusetts Bay
  • Province of New Hampshire
  • New France

What Caused King George’s War?

In 1740, Habsburg ruler and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI, died without a male heir to the Austrian throne. Due to the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 (a law that declared the line of succession will be any son of the monarch followed by the eldest daughter) Charles VI’s daughter Maria Theresa inherited the throne.

Male Habsburg leaders resented Maria Theresa for this and claimed Salic law prohibited women from inheriting the throne. They saw Charles VI’s death as a golden opportunity to acquire Habsburg possessions for themselves and limit Austria’s power.

As a result, Frederick II of Prussia, a Habsburg ruler, rejected the Pragmatic Sanction and, on December 16, 1740, claimed Silesia, a Hapsburg province in what is now modern day Poland, for himself and invaded it, finally conquering it in 1741.

Prussia’s victory against the Austrians then prompted France to join an anti-Austrian alliance with Bavaria, Spain, Saxony and Prussia in September of 1741. In November of 1741, France, Saxony and Bavaria then invaded Habsburg territories in Bohemia.

Meanwhile, Britain formed an alliance with Austria because it feared that if France gained control over Europe, Britain’s commercial and colonial empire would be threatened.

In 1742, Britain sent troops to continental Europe in the guise of protecting Flanders from the invading French army but mostly to protect the German state of Hanover since King George II of Great Britain was also elector of Hanover. At this point in the war, both Britain and France were only marching in support of their allies and were not yet officially involved in the war.

King George II, illustration published in A History of the United States of America, circa 1832
King George II, illustration published in A History of the United States of America, circa 1832

This changed in June of 1743 when French troops attacked British troops at the Battle of Dettingen, in southwest Germany, which then prompted France to declare war on England on March 15, 1744. England responded by declaring war on France on April 9. 1744.

What Happened During King George’s War?

News of the declaration of war reached the French colony of New France in North America on May 3, 1744. Colonial French forces immediately began hostilities, attacking the British fishing port of Canso, and then the capital of Nova Scotia, Annapolis Royal, on May 13.

In 1745, Massachusetts governor William Shirley raised money and troops to launch an attack to be led by Maine colonel William Pepperell.

In April of 1745, Pepperell and his 4,000 troops sailed for Fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia and, after a six-week-long siege, captured it on June 28, 1745. This was the most important battle of King George’s War.

In retaliation, the Wabanaki Confederacy embarked on the Northeast Coast Campaign, attacking British settlements along the border of Acadia in Maine.

Meanwhile, various skirmishes and raids took place along the border between the northern British colonies and New France.

On November 28, 1745, a force of 400 French troops and 220 Abanaki and Micmac Indians raided and destroyed the village of Saratoga, New York, killing 30 colonists and taking 100 prisoners.

French troops also attempted to recapture Fortress Louisbourg in 1746 but were unable to do so.

In June of 1746, a large force of 900 French and Indians raided the Hoosic River Valley near Williamstown, Massachusetts, capturing Fort Massachusetts in the process.

In 1747, French and Mi’maq troops raided Grand Pre, Nova Scotia and in 1748, native allies of the French raided Schenectady, New York.

How Did King George’s War End?

The war ended when France, England and the Dutch Republic signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle on October 18, 1748.

The treaty called for all land, places and possessions seized during the war to be returned to its original owners, which displeased the colonists, according to Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen in their book A Patriot’s History of the United States:

“The 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was more of a truce than a true conclusion to the war, and it greatly disappointed the American colonists by returning Louisbourg and other French territories (though not Nova Scotia) to France.” (Patriot’s History 59.)

The treaty also left the boundaries between the French and English colonies unsettled.

Not long after the treaty had been signed, France and England began to quarrel about the boundaries of the British colony of Acadia. France claimed Acadia was limited to the area of Nova Scotia while England claimed it occupied the whole region east of Penobscot and south of St. Lawrence.

Meanwhile, England and France also began to quarrel over control of the Ohio River Valley in modern day Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana, which both England and France claimed as its own.

Essentially, since the war was inconclusive and the treaty failed to settle these boundary disputes, peace did not last long and war broke out between England and France again in 1754 with the French and Indian War.

Sources:
Packham, Howard H. The Colonial Wars 1689-1762. University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Lossing, Benson John. Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History from 458 A.D. To 1909. Vol. IX, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1905.
Tucker, Spencer. Almanac of American Military History. ABC-CLIO, 2013.
Schweikart, Larry and Michael Allen. A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to The War on Terror. Sentinel, 2014.
“Nov. 28, 1745 Historical Marker.” The Historical Marker Database, www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=9298
“Battle of Dettigen, 1743.” The Royal Hampshire Regiment, www.royalhampshireregiment.org/about-the-museum/timeline/battle-of-dettingen/

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About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the writer and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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