|Queen Anne, King Louis XIV & King Philip V
Of course, war in Europe also meant war in America for the colonial subjects of Britain, France and Spain. Since it occurred during the reign of Queen Anne, the conflict was known among the British colonists as “Queen Anne’s War”. Even though the colonial footholds of the various European powers were still rather small at the time it all kicked off in 1702 there was, nonetheless, a rivalry over who would ultimately come to dominate the North American continent. The outbreak of Queen Anne’s War saw the British colonies having more strength at hand than their enemies, British settlement being more rapid and widespread than the French or even the Spanish, at least in North America but the British colonies also had weaknesses of their own. They were potentially surrounded by enemies and with the French and Spanish working together against them, there was a real fear that the colonies of the British Crown might be thrown off the continent altogether at worst or at least be severely restricted to a small strip of the east coast.
In looking at the opposing forces one thing which must be kept in mind is that the Europeans in general were still a small minority of the American population at the time. Somewhat like the Franco-British rivalry in the subcontinent of India, the bulk of most of the fighting forces who participated in Queen Anne’s War would be Native Americans as both the British and the Franco-Spanish factions tried to enlist American Indians to their cause and to encourage them to attack the other side. This also represents a pivotal moment in American history since many of the most advanced Indian tribes did their best to remain neutral in the conflict. Given the circumstances, and the benefit of hindsight, we can see that if some of these powerful native forces had not held themselves aloof but firmly taken a side it might have considerably altered the course of American history and had a significant impact on the eventual fate of the American Indians of the eastern seaboard in particular.
|Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Iberville, in Mobile, had cultivated good relations with the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Natchez and other nearby Indian nations for this very purpose and when France and Spain, previously rivals, found themselves on the same side Iberville approached the Spanish authorities about arming the Apalachee Indians to attack the British in South Carolina. The plan was approved and a Spanish-led expedition under Francisco Romo de Uriza set out in August of 1702 from Pensacola, Florida to strike at British trade posts in the Carolina backcountry. The British Governor of South Carolina, James Moore, was fairly well informed about these plots and had time to organize an effective defense. In October a force of about 400 mostly Creek Indians with a handful of British under Anthony Dodsworth ambushed the Spanish-led force of about 800 Apalachee Indians at the Battle of Flint River in what is now western Georgia. It was a sweeping victory for the British and Creeks with more than half of the Spanish-Apalachee army being killed or captured.
|Spanish artillery in Castillo de San Marcos
The Spanish Governor was right and the few light field pieces that Governor Moore had brought did very little damage at all to the thick stone walls of Castillo de San Marcos (recently built just for this very possibility of an attack out of Charleston). A Spanish relief force from Cuba arrived first and Governor Moore was forced to abandon the siege on December 30. Casualties were light all around but the immense cost of the failed expedition cost Moore his governorship whereas the Spanish governor received thanks and a promotion from the new Bourbon King of Spain Philip V. However, the Spanish had not seen the last of James Moore but, for the time being, the focus of the war shifted to the north. 1702 saw British naval forces under Commodore John Leake attack French villages on Newfoundland around Plaisance. Not unlike today this was an area that was home to a major fishing industry and it was much more economically important in those days and France and Britain would struggle for control of Newfoundland throughout the war. Closer to the bulk of the English-speaking population was the threat to New England. As with the Georgia-Florida frontier in the south, the boundary between French and British territory in the north was ill-defined. Each side claimed much but seizing it and holding it was what really mattered. In the absence of a large population of settlers, this meant that the key was winning the friendship of the natives.
|Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville
|Major Ben Church
It was also in 1704 that the war heated up again in the south as the former Governor of South Carolina, James Moore went on a rampage. His costly invasion of Florida which had failed to take St Augustine from the Spanish was highly unpopular and he found himself out of a job but still determined to take the fight to the enemy. To put a stop to Spanish efforts to unite the southern Indian tribes against the British, Moore set out on a raid aimed at the total devastation of these tribes, particularly the Apalachee who were allied with the French & Spanish. Fighting only one battle, he encountered little resistance and his raid was brutal but effective, breaking the power of the Spanish in the region and bringing British control right up to the Franco-Spanish presence in Florida and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, making Pensacola and Mobile vulnerable to British or, more likely, British-backed Indian attacks. Moore himself claimed to have killed over a thousand natives of all varieties and taken away as captives many more. The Spanish presence, centered on the numerous missions established in the region, was wiped out and the Indian population that survived was forced to relocate or shift allegiance to Britain.
|Col. James Moore on a pillaging expedition
|Daniel d'Auger de Subercase
The bloodshed in Newfoundland continued into 1706 when the British retaliated by sending a Royal Navy task force to destroy the French fishing industry on the north coast. The most critical action of the year though, would be in the south where the Spanish launched another offensive, more serious this time, aimed at Charleston, South Carolina itself. A Franco-Spanish attack force, primarily organized and funded by King Louis XIV, assembled in Havana, Cuba, departed for St Augustine, Florida where they picked up reinforcements and then proceeded to Charleston, arriving in September. The force consisted of 330 French & Spanish regular troops, 200 Spanish militia and about 50 Indians carried by six privateers. Again, the primary instigator of the operation was d’Iberville who received permission for the offensive from King Louis XIV late the previous year but, while the King dispatched some troops, he required d’Iberville to front most of the money for the expedition. However, most of his forces had been used to attack the British West Indies and he was only able to enlist minor Spanish support for the Carolina offensive.
|Colonel William Rhett
The following year, the British in South Carolina, building on the advances made by former Governor Moore, struck back in retaliation by instigating Indian attacks on the Spanish in Pensacola. However, 1707 was to be a year of frustration for both sides. In May, Governor Joseph Dudley of Massachusetts dispatched 1,600 men under John March to besiege Port Royal, the capitol of French Acadia (modern Nova Scotia) but despite having the French vastly outnumbered, the attempted siege failed. In the aftermath, the French planned to retaliate with a massive raid on New Hampshire, however, such an attack depended on local Indian tribes cooperating and few were willing to support it. Instead, the French resumed the raids on northern Massachusetts, eventually leaving the region totally devastated before the war was finally over. The French also struck back on Newfoundland in 1708 when French and Indian forces captured St John’s, however, they lacked the strength to hold such a prize and so simply destroyed everything they could and returned home.
In 1710 Nicholson was finally able to have his attack, this time a more serious effort to take Port Royal, Acadia which he did in September. With 3,600 British and American colonial troops, a considerable army for the time and place, Nicholson was able to capture Port Royal in one week. French Acadia was thus to become Nova Scotia (New Scotland). Buoyed by this success, Nicholson again went to London where he again urged Queen Anne to authorize an attack on Quebec. One again, the Queen is convinced and approves his plan but, once again, the operation had to be called off after the ships critical to the operation were dashed in the dangerous approaches. Minor raids and attacks would continue as the war in Europe carried on until 1714 but the major actions in America came to an end. The last significant engagement being the Battle of Bloody Creek in 1711 when a small group of New England militia were ambushed and wiped out (killed or captured) by a mixed force of Indians allied with the French in Acadia. It was part of the on-going effort by the French to weaken the British hold on the region but France simply lacked the resources in America to make much of an impact.
|Mohawk chiefs met by Queen Anne
Many historians therefore agree that if the Indians, particularly those in or around the Iroquois Confederacy, had managed to come together and took decisive action against the British North American colonies, they might have changed the course of history and established themselves as the dominant force on the continent. Queen Anne’s War is thus regarded by many as the last chance the Native Americans had to stem the tide of European colonization and the countries we know today as the United States and Canada might not ever have come into existence at all. It is a worthwhile lesson in the basic facts that actions have consequences and that the world we know exists because of the decisions made by people in the past, decisions which determined what they would do and what they would not do. Sometimes taking no action at all can have major repercussions in the unfolding of history.
|The Peace of 1714, Treaty of Utrecht