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“Join, or Die” – A French Influence

 

Join or Die“Join, or Die” was the famous first political cartoon ever penned by Benjamin Franklin and inspired by the French! I just love how integrated the French are into American history! This cartoon was the first of its kind; printed in Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754.

So how did the French arouse this drawing? Well, due to their continuous argument over landholdings in America, Benjamin Franklin started to see his fine country as fragmented; a country that needed putting back together to be at full strength. And well, he had a point! How can you expect to thrive as a country whilst someone else is claiming big chunks of it?

Franklin decided enough was enough. A bold message needed to be sent to wake the USA up. Franklin was a fascinating man and was way before his time. He had a passionate dream and vision for the independence of America and to thrive on their own steam. More importantly, he understood that in order to convince the colonies of this idea, he needed to first convince the public.

It goes without saying that the French were in for serious trouble. Franklin’s slogan was being adopted as a battle cry throughout the colonies and his plan was working. The “Join, or Die” slogan was being reprinted in many newspapers, paraded on flags and displayed in shop windows everywhere. This was terrible news for the French.

But why a snake? At that point in time, there were myths about severed snakes coming back to life if put together before sunset. It was quite clever really. The separate parts of the snake represent different colonies: New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia etc. His plan worked and it was used again when they fought for independence again, but this time from the British.

How astonishing is it that a doodle from one of the most fascinating men in history created such change?

 

The 15 Minute Battle

15 Minute Battle

 

Fifteen minutes was all it took to destroy hundreds of years of French claim and history in America. In 1759, General James Wolfe led the British to a victory that trumped all other victories in America so far. He had successfully defeated France after many attempts by other troops. But how did he manage to do it in such a short period of time?

The battle technically started 3 months prior to Wolfe’s victory. They made their way into the St. Lawrence River, holding off French fire impressively to land his fleet on the outskirts of Quebec. Because Quebec had such an imposing and extraordinary defence, Wolfe decided to starve the French. This went on for two and a half months to no avail. The city of Quebec was just too large for the British troops to surround also so Wolfe had to be clever if starving them out wasn’t going to work.

Eventually, Wolfe decided on a plan. He deployed a small troop of soldiers to a small town upstream from the city. There, Wolfe was able to trick a French General by speaking French and this gave him time to assemble the rest of his troops. The leader of the French troops, Marquis de Montcalm, was completely disorientated by such a quick and clever move from the British and from there, the French were led by him to their defeat.

In the confusion, he made mistakes. He gathered his troops in the wrong town. It was downstream – completely the other direction away from the British. When he did eventually find the British, he made the crucial mistake of engaging without waiting for the rest of his men. This delivered the fatal blow to the French and the whole battle lasted 15 minutes. I wonder how they looked after the fight! A little beauty cream never hurt anyone!

Both Wolfe and Montcalm died due to injuries sustained from the battle: Wolfe on the battlefield and Montcalm in a house nearby. This victory by Wolfe was the beginning of the retreat of France from America. It makes you wonder how different things would have been had Montcalm’s men marched upstream instead of down. I guess we’ll never know.

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Overshadowed Soldiers: The Native Americans

Native Americans

When the French American war started, it was inevitable that the America’s residents would end up being involved someway as their territory was fought over. The Native Americans have a strong history of survival so they decided it was in their interest to join the war in order to have some discipline over who would rule their land, and ultimately, give them the best living conditions.

They were careful strategists as well as they recognised that the Americans were gradually listening to the British more and more. As a result, the Native Americans were being given less and less land to live on. Fortunately for the French Major, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal, this was an opportunity he wasn’t going to miss in giving the Native Americans one more reason to join them in their fight.

Really interestingly, to build bonds with the Native Americans, the Major dressed as they did and even learnt their language! In return for their service, they were promised free control to attack British settlements and take their weapons for their own use. Unfortunately for them, neither the French nor the British considered the needs or wants of the Native Americans.

This became apparent when there were more and more arguments about the Native Americans wanting to take not only weapons, but personal possessions of captured British and Americans, which they saw as their right. After all, without them, the French would never have been able to navigate the harsh North American landscape.

The Native Americans expertise taught the French how to hunt for food and to utilise the surrounding land in their battle plans. After all, this knowledge saved the French from ambush on many occasions. One in particular was an attack from a British troop led by a young George Washington! They taught them how to use dogs to help them hunt and how to keep them healthy with pet supplements found around the area, check it out here.

Unfortunately, after they were again denied access to the personal possessions of George Washington’s troop, the Native Americans massacred many of the prisoners. It was after this that their alliance ended and I can’t help but wonder how different the war would have been for the French if the Native Americans had stayed.

 

Quebec: The Birth of a New French Colony

New French Colony

In July 1608, Samuel de Champlain sailed the St. Lawrence River in search of a suitable trading post for the fur trade. He originally planned on settling in Stadacona where Jacques Cartier had advised him to but when he arrived there, it was baron. The Native American Tribe that lived there, Iroquois, had gone and still to this day, the reason is a mystery!

Champlain settled on the safe harbour along the coastline, which he called Quebec. He stepped off his boat, unfurled the fleur-de-lys and claimed the land that was the beginning of Canada but most importantly, a new colony for France. Quebec turned out to be an even more suitable replacement with Cape Diamond offering uninterrupted views of the comings and goings on the St. Lawrence River.

Champlain ran into many troubles in the first year of Quebec. He had to put down a mutiny that had formed against him, which resulted in four people being sent back to France in chains and the leader being hung, then his head put on a spike. Quebec then experienced a harsh winter that took the lives of 10 men. When spring finally came around the following year, there were only 8 men left of the original 24 that came to Quebec! Maybe if they took better care of themselves they would of lasted longer! Diet and health supplements would of been useful way back then for sure.

The British continuously attacked Quebec. First in 1629 but then was given back to the French 3 years later in a treaty agreement. Continuous attacks ensued until 1759 when General Wolfe led a final British victory over Montcalm in the Battle of Quebec. It was the battle to end the war between France and England.

The final claim came to Britain in 1763 in the Treaty of Paris and it stayed under British control until 1867 when it became what we know today as Canada.

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A Closer Look at New France

New France

74 years after Jacques Cartier tried and failed to find a route to the Indies through America, New France was born. He had given up on this part of the world but one man dreamed of the potential of this place. His name was Samuel de Champlain and he is considered to this day as the “founder of New France”.

Champlain, like Cartier, dreamed of the riches of the Orient but he saw that it was only one of much potential New France had. He was also in this part of the world to utilise on creating a fur trade between America and France. So it was here that Champlain formed Quebec in the spring of 1608.

The main problem that this region ran into was the lack of residents. To counteract this problem, the chief minister of France proposed that in exchange for having the monopoly of the fur trade, they would send 200-300 new residents every year. So they created the Company of New France.

But it got me thinking: why would France not want to send their own people to expand across the globe? Surely restricting fur trade to them would restrict New France’s long-term survival. France at that time had holdings in the Far East and sugar islands of the Caribbean, and they deemed them more valuable than the immigration to North America. However, the population problem subsided when King Louis XIV made New France into a Royal Province in 1663 and by the time the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, a whopping 60,000 French Canadians became British.

New France was impressive by the pure scale increase and then eventual defeat to the English. Over a relatively short period, they managed to create an extension civilisation of France complete with trade, business and a cultural society. Regardless that they were invaded and defeated, I think New France did something impressive in her short life.

The Greatest Real Estate Deal in History

LouisianaI read an article this week dubbed “The Greatest Real Estate Deal in History”. Any clues to what that might be? Well, what was known as the Louisiana Territory (a whopping 828m square miles) was sold to America from its’ French owners in 1803 for a mere… $15m! That’s a few cents an acre! So why did they sell it so cheap?

Since around the 1780s, the Mississippi river and the port of New Orleans had become increasingly important to America in order to thrive as a country. Now at this time in France, Napoleon was in all his glory and naturally, the Americans were sceptical. France hadn’t paid any attention to their land here but Thomas Jefferson was quoted saying, “The day that France takes possession of New Orleans… we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.” Yikes! They may want to lose weight before they try to fleet!

In January 1803, Jefferson sent James Monroe (the ex Minister to France) to Paris to negotiate for this huge vast piece of land. Monroe was sent with instructions to buy New Orleans and parts of Florida for no more than $10m. But when the negotiations started, Frances’ Foreign Minister stated they were willing to sell all of the territory for the bargain price of $15m.

So why sell land of that proportion so cheap? It would mean doubling the size of the United States. Well Napoleon’s army sent to Saint Domingue (what we now know as Haiti) had been struck with yellow fever. He was also expecting a new war with Britain in his quest to re-establish France in the New World.

He thought, if anyone tried to claim the Louisiana Territory, would he really want to defend it? Was it worth it? He deemed it not. So that’s why America got a cracking deal! Even then, $15m was too steep for America and they were forced to loan the money from two European banks.

The purchase of the Louisiana Territory was noted as one of President Jefferson’s greatest achievements. In 1812, 9 years after the Louisiana Purchase agreement was made, the US shaped their first state from the territory: Louisiana. This was the 18th state for the US and from there, America expanded westward into the new lands. The rest is history as they say.

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The Forts of ‘The French and Indian War

French WarI’ve always wanted to visit one of the civil war re-enactments. To see history come to life in front of you, well I couldn’t image anything more amusing to do with a Sunday afternoon. I saw an advertisement for the re-enactment of the Battle of Lake George at Fort William Henry, which was one of the forts used during the French and Indian War.

It got me thinking about the stories some of these forts hold. I knew of a few key forts during the French and Indian War so I dug a little deeper and want to share with you, my fellow history buffs, what I found!

Fort George/Fort Duquesne/Fort Pitt

Fort George

This fort exchanged hands many times during the war but it’s most famous story was whilst it was named Fort Duquesne. Here, the British lost their first catastrophic conflict and was the final hoorah for General Edward Braddock.

Braddock was very much an anomaly in the British Army at the time: he’d never led any troops or seen any combat himself. Yet he was a General leading a campaign to rid America of their French inhabitants. What makes Braddock poignant however is the relationship he had with a certain George Washington.

When the pair met, a young ambitious Washington was hoping for a commission in the British Army. However, it was unorthodox to do so Braddock offered him a volunteer position on his personal staff. Washington, the original leader of the free world, went on to become his most trusted advisor.

Fort Necessity

Fort NecessityWhilst Washington was a Lieutenant Colonel on a campaign to rid the Ohio region of French, they were stalking his men one night. Washington had allied with Tanaghrisson, a Mingo Indian who had agreed to scout for him, and it was this night he forewarned Washington of his being stalked.

Washington ambushed them with a surprise attack and one of Frances’ commanders was killed during combat. Naturally, Washington expected retaliation so they retreated the Great Meadows, PA, where they built what is now known as Fort Necessity.

Unfortunately, the French did come looking for them, outnumbered them and took the Fort not even a month later. After such a humiliating defeat and having to explain his errors to the Virginia council, Washington resigned from his post and then went on to join Braddock.

Fort William Henry

This Fort is unfortunately a site of sadness, where a massacre took place. The British had hold of the Fort with 2,300 men but were outnumbered by the French and Indian invaders with 7,000 men. As the British were marched out, as per the agreement of surrender, the Indians began to slaughter them.

Their reason for doing this? When the French negotiated on the British surrender, no Indians were present. The French agreed to let the British go with their personal possessions. However the Indians had a different idea and were planning on salvaging supplies left behind. They wanted to take as much as they could, including anything that would help them survive like vitamins and healthy supplements, check this site out.

When the British were marching out, the Indians believed they were being cheated and in their rage, massacred the departing. Unfortunately, it was this occasion that British and colonials used in the future when describing the Indian’s ‘brutality’ and their reasoning for capturing their lands.

 

The Hermione: A Beauty Restored.

American History

Twenty years ago, a small group of people with a passion for French American history decided to take on a challenge, a challenge that isn’t for the faint hearted. They decided they would reconstruct a replica of the General Lafayette’s 18th Century ship called the Hermione.

Who was Lafayette? He is one of the most extraordinary figures in modern history in my opinion. He was one of the key people in securing America’s independence and was treated as a hero for the rest of his days. His legacy lives on in the many towns and villages named after him.

Skip to Summer 2015 and this dream became reality when they sailed it from France to Boston, the original route taken by Lafayette and his men in 1780. Back then, the crossing took them 38 days and they had to avoid confronting military action en route. It only took them 27 days this time! The crew is made up of 18 professional sailors and more interestingly, 54 volunteers with whom most of them have never been out at sea before! I love the enthusiasm and passion!

Back in 1779 when this beautiful ship was completed, she was the pride of the French Navy and I can see why! She was smaller than her fellow ships but she was sleek and fast, and that played well into her advantage.

The replica Hermione was sailed into Yorktown, symbolically important because it was the place where the British finally surrendered to George Washington at the end of the American Revolution.  Not only did this fantastic ship carry a young Lafayette across the Atlantic, where he proved to be a great asset to America, but she also played a part in a blockade that finally sealed the fate of Britain. To maintain this voyage she tried to stay as healthy as possible by finding health supplements that were at sea.

It took 17 years and $30m in public and private funding to replicate the Hermione to her original glory and it must have been a resounding job well done when she sailed into Chesapeake Bay this summer.

 

Fun Little Fact of the Day

Fun little fact of the day: the Statue of Liberty was a gift to the US from France. What about that! As if to illustrate even further the connection France and the US share, one of the most iconic landmarks in the States was a present from their friends ‘across the pond’.

The statues official name is actually “Liberty Enlightening the World”, which seemed fitting in reflecting the French support the US received in their revolution against the British. It was originally intended to be a centennial anniversary gift of the States independence but after many problems, mainly funding, it was completed ten years after that deadline.

In 1875, sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was asked to design the sculpture. The French Statue de la Libertehad agreed to build the sculpture, transport it and build it on the other side; the US just had to build the pedestal. That in itself proved to be a problem because of funding.

They threw benefits galore and auctions but still there wasn’t enough money. It was only when Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the newspaper ‘The World’, wrote an article condemning the American public for not doing their part. He said the rich weren’t offering any financial help for the pedestal and the middle class were relying on the rich to do so.

France was struggling as well financially but many people believed in the dream of the Statue of Liberty. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was one of those people and he played a big role in design of the statue; creating the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework (which to you and me means he created the framework underneath the copper skin in a way that let it stand independently).

I always find construction of landmarks like these astounding when I think of how far forward technologically we are now in such a short space of time. It amazes me that they shipped 350 individual pieces of the statue in 214 crates across the Atlantic and that it was constructed in only 4 months.

It really is a magnificent cultural landmark that definitely competes with the beautiful Eiffel tower any day. I think I might even have to call it a draw!

Everybody Loves an Underdog

Everybody loves an underdog: Forrest Gump, Billy Elliott and even Seabiscuit. Well, I think French America history is the underdog of our past! It wasn’t always on my radar however. It was only when I moved to Brittany that I started to learn more about early colonial history of this area and from there, I was hooked!

My name is Christine and I was born and raised in Brittany, France. I then lived in Montreal, Quebec, for 25 years and now find myself in Vermont, USA, after a short stint in China. My day job is nowhere near related to the topic of this blog; it’s a subject I write about for pure passion!

French America history is a subject less talked about, which makes it a lot more mysterious and intriguing to me! When we learn about history, we hear about the heroes and the legends of our past. We never hear about the defeated. The more I read, the more I felt connected to these people who were from the place I grew up. I felt their heritage, how they took our land and expanded our culture hallway around the world.

I love reading about obscure, untold stories so expect to find a few of them! You’d be surprised what you find out when you really start looking for something. I don’t restrict to a certain era either. I love the 1500s as much as the present day!

The French in America were very much defeated by the British all the way back in 1763. Ignored by historians, behind their defeat is a rich and varied civilisation that’s gone untold. Generations of families lived here and yet, we don’t really know their story. I want to tell their story to you.

So come along and rediscover this fascinating part of history with me!