History of King William’s War

King William’s War, also known as the Second Indian War and the First French and Indian War, was an armed conflict between England and France in North America in the 17th century.

The war was a battle over control of North America, particularly over the fur trade in North America.

The war was an extension of the Nine Year’s War in Europe, also known as the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg, which was a battle for the English throne.

Who Fought in King William’s War?

  • England
  • Iroquois Confederacy
  • France
  • Wabanaki Confederacy

When Did King William’s War Take Place?

King William’s War was fought between 1688 and 1699.

Where Did King William’s War Take Place?

The battles of King William’s War took place in the following locations in North America:

What Caused King William’s War?

The Nine Year’s War was essentially a power struggle between the King of France, Louis XIV, and the King of England, William III, after William III overthrew the former King of England, James II, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and James escaped to France, where he and Louis XIV joined forces to take back the English throne and reinstate Catholic rule.

King William III, illustration published in The Border Wars of New England, circa 1897
King William III, illustration published in The Border Wars of New England, circa 1897

The Nine Year’s War began when French forces invaded the Rhineland (what is now modern day Germany and the Netherlands) in late 1688.

In response, England, the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Emporer Leopold formed an anti-French coalition in 1689, known as the League of Augsburg, to combat the French military aggression.

The fighting between France and England then spilled over into North America, where both France and England had colonies and had long been struggling for control of the continent.

According to Michael Laramie in his book King William’s War: The Contest for North America, there were actually a number of ongoing problems in the North America colonies at the time that led to the outbreak of war:

“King William’s War was actually three conflicts. The first of these was a long-running feud between the Iroqouis Confederacy, New France, and New France’s native allies. Fueled by English guns and money as well as the confederacy’s desire to divert the French fur trade toward their English trading partners in Albany, this conflict had started with the opening pages of the French colony. To the east another conflict would be captured under the banner of King William’s War. The pro-French Wabanaki of Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick had previously fought in the New England. English expansion and French urgings, aided by foolish moves and political blunders on the part of New England, erupted into a second Wabanaki war on the eve of King William’s War. Thus, these two proxy wars fought by the English and the French through their native allies officially became one with news of a declaration of war between France and England in 1689.”

In April of 1688, St. Castin’s Trading House in Maine was plundered by English Governor Andros, which is believed to be one of the major events that kicked off the war, according to the book The Collections of the Maine Historical Society:

“Of the several causes assigned for the commencement of the second Indian War, the more immediate one was the plundering of the Baron de St. Castine’s trading-house by Gov. Andros. The governor pretended that it was situated within the limits of the English jurisdiction; this, Castine would not acknowledge. He was a Frenchman, and son-in-law of Madockawando Chief Sachem of the Eastern Indians, and was therefore possessed of an influence, with both the French Missionaries, and the Indians, which he might at any moment exert against the English settlers. By Castine and his party the Indians of Maine were soon induced to take arms against the English” (Maine Historical Society 135).

What Happened During King William’s War?

In response to Andros’ raid, the Baron de St. Castin, Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, and the Wabanaki Confederacy began a military campaign along the border of New England and Acadia (a colony of New France in modern-day Maine and Quebec.)

The campaign began on August 13, 1689 when Castin attacked New Dartmouth (Newcastle) and killed a few settlers. A few days later they killed two people in Yarmouth, in what became the first battle of King William’s War. Then in Kennebunk, in the fall of 1688, they killed two families.

On February 13, 1689, King William III and Mary II officially replaced James II as the rulers of England.

King William III and Queen Mary II, engraving, circa 1703
King William III and Queen Mary II, engraving, circa 1703

When news of the Glorious Revolution reached New England in March of 1689, talk of an uprising against the Dominion of New England began and, in April, a mob finally rose up in Boston and overthrew the Governor of the Dominion of New England, Sir Edmund Andros.

Then, on May 17, 1689, England officially declared war on France, which changed the tone of the conflict in North America, according to Howard H. Peckham in his book The Colonial Wars:

“When news reached the English colonies during the summer of 1689 that Britain had declared war on France, Massachusetts and New York had already exchanged blows with their popish neighbors to the north. Yet these forays had been localized hostilities, like fights between neighboring children, which the parent countries could smooth over. This time, however, the parents were fully committed. The enemy was common on both sides of the Atlantic for both Englishman and Frenchman.” (Peckham 25).

On June 27, 1689, Abanaki and Pennacook Indians under the command of Kancamangus and Mesandowit raided Dover, New Hampshire, where they killed more than 20 people and took 29 captives that they later sold into slavery in New France.

In August of 1689, Castin and Father Louis-Perry Thury led an Abanaki war party that captured and destroyed the fort at Pemaquid in Acadia.

Fort at Pemaquid, map published in The Border Wars of New England, circa 1897
Fort at Pemaquid, map published in The Border Wars of New England, circa 1897

Also in August of 1689, Iroqouis warriors attacked the French settlement at Lachine in Quebec. In response, Governor General Count Frontenac then attacked the Iroquois village of Ononaga in New York.

In response to the raids in Acadia, Major Benjamin Church led four war parties on a series of expeditions into Acadia.

The first expedition occurred in September of 1689, when Church led a war party of 250 soldiers to defend a group of English settlers at Falmouth from the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Wabanaki killed 21 of Church’s soldiers in the conflict, but Church was successful in forcing the natives to retreat.

In the winter of 1690, Count Frontenac of New France planned three expeditions, one in New York one in New Hampshire and one in Maine, and began attacking English frontier settlements in these colonies, according to Charles Augustus Goodrich in his book A History of the United States of America:

“Count Frontenac, a brave and enterprising officer, was now the governor of Canada. Inflamed with the resentment which had kindled in the bosom of his master, Louis XIV, of France, against William, for his treatment of James, he fitted out three expeditions, in the dead of winter, against the American colonies – one against New York, a second against New Hampshire, and a third against the province of Maine. Each of these parties, in the execution of their orders, marked their progress with plunder, fired and death.” (Goodrich 68).

The expeditions resulted in the Schenectady Massacre in New York on February 8, during which 60 people were killed, the Raid on Salmon Falls in New Hampshire on March 27, during which 34 people were killed, and the attack on Falmouth in Maine on May 16, during which 200 people were killed, most of whom were survivors of the earlier massacre in 1689.

In response to the massacres, Sir William Phips retaliated by leading an attack on Port Royal, the capital of Acadia, on May 9, 1690. Phips captured and destroyed the newly constructed fort there, forced the French settlers to declare their allegiance to the King of England and took control of the capital.

On May 16, 1690, the Battle of Falmouth took place in Casco Bay, during which the Wabanaki Confederacy and French forces led by Baron St. Castin and Joseph-François Hertel de la Fresnière attacked and captured an English fort there named Fort Loyal, killing 200 English settlers in the process.

Benjamin Church’s second expedition in Acadia occurred in September of 1690 when he led 300 troops on a mission to reduce the Indian population in Acadia. Church and his troops attacked Fort Pejepscot in modern-day Burnswick and then attacked another settlement known as Purpooduck at Cape Elizabeth in Maine before returning to Massachusetts.

Encouraged by their success at Port Royal, Massachusetts led a two-pronged attack on French Canada in the fall of 1690. Phips led 2,200 Massachusetts troops in an assault on Quebec while Fitz-John Winthrop attacked Montreal with a force of New York and Connecticut militia and Native-American allies. Unfortunately, both attacks failed.

On January 24, 1692, the Candlemas Massacre, also known as the Raid on York, took place when Chief Madockawando and Father Louis-Perry Thury led 200-300 indians on an attack on York, Maine, killing about 100 English settlers and taking another 80 captive.

On June 10, 1692, around 500 French and Indians attacked Wells, Maine but were defeated after a 48-hour-long siege.

Benjamin Church embarked on his third expedition into Acadia in 1692, when he led 450 troops in various raids in the Penobscot region.

In the midst of the war, during the spring of 1692, the Salem Witch Trials began in Massachusetts, which many historians believe was partly caused by tension and stress due to King William’s War.

Historian Howard H. Peckham even suggests in his book, The Colonial Wars, that the colonists were naturally gullible and this may have been what led them to accuse each other and also may have been what led them into war with the French in the first place:

“Massachusetts was now distracted by its witchcraft delusion. Inspired by their religious leaders, the less educated readily succumbed to the preposterous hysteria. Innocent if at times eccentric persons were accused of fantastic crimes and influence, and twenty were executed – for their own good, of course. After the terror had run its course and rational minds prevailed again, the presiding judges in several of the cases recanted his action, but the local clergy were unwilling to concede that the devil had not been active in their midst. So credulous a people would readily believe any partial truth about the French” (Peckham 45).

After it was all said and done, 19 people were hanged, one person was pressed to death and a handful of people died in jail before the trials finally ended in 1693.

Meanwhile, the war raged on and, on July 18, 1694, French soldier Claude-Sébastien de Villieu and about 250 Abenakis raided the English settlement of Durham, New Hampshire, killing and capturing around 100 people and burning half the dwellings, including five garrisons, in what later came to be known as the Oyster River Massacre.

On August 15, 1694, a peace treaty was signed between representatives from the colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts-Bay, New Jersey and New York and the Iroquois League at Albany.

In 1696, Castin and Wabanaki warriors returned to Acadia where they fought a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy, raided Pemaquid and then began the Avalon Peninsula Campaign, during which they destroyed almost every English settlement in Newfoundland.

In retaliation, Church’s embarked on his fourth expedition into Acadia in 1696, when he led his troops in an attack on Fort Nashwaak, which was then the capital of Acadia, and also raided Chignecto, killing the inhabitants of the settlement in the process.

The following spring, the French and their Indian allies attacked the village of Haverhill in the Province of Massachusetts Bay on March 15, 1697.

On September 5, 1697, the Battle of Hudson Bay, one of the war’s major naval battles, took place in Canada when a single French ship defeated three English ships and went on to capture York Factory, a settlement and trading post in Canada.

The last battle of the war, the Battle of Damariscotta, occurred on September 9, 1697 in Maine during which 25 indians were killed.

How Did King William’s War End?

The Nine Year’s War ended on October 30, 1697, when the Treaty of Ryswick was signed.

The treaty stipulated that the borders of New France, New England, and New York remain unchanged but claims to some of the disputed territories were left unresolved, which later led to more unrest and caused the outbreak of Queen Anne’s War in 1702, according to Goodrich:

“By the treaty of Ryswick, it was in general terms agreed, that France and England should mutually restore each other all conquests made during the war. But the rights and pretensions of either monarch to certain places in Hudson’s Bay, & c, were left to be ascertained and determined at some future day, by commissioners. The evil consequences of leaving boundaries thus unsettled were soon perceived. Disputes arose, which, mingling with other differences of still greater importance, led England to declare war against France and Spain, May 4, 1702.” (Goodrich 73).

The North American theatre of the Nine Year’s War, King William’s War, did not end until January 7, 1699, when a peace treaty was signed between the Abenaki and the colony of Massachusetts-Bay in Casco Bay, Maine.

After the English and French made peace in 1697, the Iroquois remained at war with New France until 1701 when the French signed a peace agreement, known as the Great Peace of Montreal, in Montreal between New France and the Five Iroquois Nations and more than 35 Native nations.

Resentment and border disputes between the English colonists, French colonists and the Native-Americans continued though and eventually resulted in another French and Indian war, known as Queen Anne’s War, in 1702.

How Did King William’s War Affect the Colonies?

According to the New Hampshire Roots website, the war resulted in the death of between 500-600 people in New England and many more were taken captive:

“During this contest as many as sixty attacks had been made on New England settlements by the French and Indians, and between five and six hundred had been slain, not taking into consideration those captured and taken to Canada.”

Sources:
Collections of the Maine Historical Society. Vol. III, Maine Historical Society, 1853.
Goodrich, Charles Augustus. A History of the United States of America. James Cutler & Co, 1832.
Packham, Howard H. The Colonial Wars 1689-1762. University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Drake, Sir Frances. The Border Wars of New England: Commonly Called King William’s and Queen Anne’s Wars. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897.
Lossing, Benson John. Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History from 458 A.D. To 1909. Vol. IX, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1905.
“Chapter X: Early Indians Wars.” New Hampshire Roots, www.nh-roots.org/hillsborough/goffstown/book/chap10.html
“The Candlemas Massacre and the Salem Witch Trials.” New England Historical Society, www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/candlemas-massacre-salem-witch-trials/
Kences, James. “King William’s War and the Candlemas Raid of January 1692.” Seacoast Online, 10 April. 2018, www.seacoastonline.com/news/20180410/king-williams-war-and-candlemas-raid-of-january-1692

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The History of King William’s War

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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