Friday, March 18, 2016

Clash of Monarchies: Queen Anne's War

Many people today have an astounding ignorance of their own history. Glorying in themselves they are nonetheless completely disconnected from what it was that made them who they are and how the world we know today came to be. In the United States this is reflected by how relatively little attention is given to colonial history. Thorough studies of history tend to start with the creation of the United States of America and follows the story from there. However, this was, obviously, the culmination of the earlier colonial history of North America and one cannot understand how modern America came to be what it is now without understanding that colonial period. Had things gone differently in the days of the North American colonies of Britain, France and Spain there might not be a United States or, if there had been, it might be populated by a totally different people with a different legal system, a different language and so on. One of the often overlooked periods which illustrates this point was Queen Anne’s War.

Queen Anne, King Louis XIV & King Philip V
What is known in America as Queen Anne’s War is known in Europe as the War of Spanish Succession. The last Hapsburg King of Spain had died and King Louis XIV of France put forward a grandson of his to be the first of a new line of Bourbon monarchs for the throne of Spain. This caused a great deal of opposition. The Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I wanted to maintain his own dynasty on the Spanish throne or at least to retain certain Spanish possessions, particularly in northern Italy, for the Austrian Hapsburgs and other powers such as the British under Queen Anne were concerned that this Bourbon proposal would effectively make Spain and the whole Spanish empire a subsidiary of the Kingdom of France. The British, Dutch and a few others feared this would make France far too powerful and thus a threat to their own security and interests. So it was that the powers of Europe formed up into two warring camps, the most prominent players being France and Spain on one side and Austria and Britain on the other.

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
The war began in America in the south on battlegrounds that many people have crossed since, totally unaware that the ground they walk so casually on was once the setting of a vicious struggle for the control of a continent. The Spanish had long been established in Florida but in 1702 were increasingly alarmed by the growing presence of the British in what is now South Carolina after the establishment of the port city of Charleston. The British, likewise, were concerned by the possibility of the Spanish in Florida joining forces with the French in Mobile, Alabama to attack them from the south. Such concerns were well justified as the noted French explorer, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, had proposed just such an action which he termed the “Project sur la Caroline” which involved uniting the various Indians tribes of the region into a massive offensive to wipe out the southern British colonists. This was a matter of long-standing regional rivalry and had nothing to do with the argument over the Spanish throne in Europe and a campaign to put this project into effect was launched before the war in Europe actually began.

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
Governor Moore decided to take the fight to the enemy and, with the benefit of war having broken out officially, organized a counter-offensive against the Spanish port at St Augustine, Florida. This resulted in the siege of St Augustine, one of the major actions of the war when Governor Moore with (estimates vary) a little over a thousand British and allied Indians (Yamasee, Alabama and Tallapoosa) besieged St Augustine on November 10, 1702. The British were successful in their approach and Spanish resistance was mostly limited to small but hard fought rear guard actions. The Spanish commander, Governor Jose de Zuniga y la Cerda had only a little over 200 professional soldiers plus all able bodied men of 1,500 civilians conscripted into service. However, he learned from two enemy prisoners, captured early on, that Governor Moore had not brought a great deal of supplies with him and was armed only with light artillery. This made the Spanish confident that they could withstand a siege until help arrived from Pensacola, Cuba or from the French at Mobile.

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
The French, being very much lacking in settlers compared to the British, were, by necessity, always a little more aggressive in this regard than their English-speaking counterparts and had worked hard to forge friendly ties with the powerful Wabanaki Confederacy (covering parts of what is now Maine, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec). Throughout 1703 the French governor of Acadia, Michel Leneuf de la Valliere de Beaubassin led about 500 natives from the Confederacy with a handful of French-Canadian militiamen in a series of raids against the British colonies in New England. It would not be possible to relate the details of this entire campaign but it almost wiped out Maine for good and resulted in huge tracts of land being destroyed and hundreds of people being massacred or taken captive (men were generally killed, women and children were often as not taken as captives). The human cost, which measured in the hundreds, may not seem like much today but, given the sparse population of the time, it was immense and had a major impact.

Major Ben Church
This was followed up, in early 1704, by significant raid led by Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville with about 300 men (250 Indians and 50 French, give or take) against Deerfield in the Massachusetts Bay colony. The town was completely destroyed, most of the colonists being killed other than the roughly 100 who were taken captive and brought to a Caughnawaga village near Montreal where most were sold to the Mohawk. Unlike the offensive in Maine (then a detached part of Massachusetts), the Deerfield raid hit closer to home for the British settlers and prompted retaliation. It was simply impossible to defend every frontier cabin and small village with the colonial militia and so, it was reasoned, the only option was to strike at the French in Acadia who were inciting the Indians against them. Major Benjamin Church led a group of roughly 500 militia, including a smattering of Indians allied with the British and raided several French and Indian settlements in what is now Nova Scotia in the summer of 1704. Though perhaps not much remembered today it was Church who established the first foundations of “special forces” later made famous by Robert Rogers from whom the modern U.S. Army Rangers honor as their originator.

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
It was an ugly business to be sure but probably not as bad as the official accounts suggest. Moore likely embellished his “body count” to boost his image as a ‘slayer of savages’ and most of those taken captive probably went willingly as they naturally tended to take the side of whoever was strongest in the region. The Spanish had failed to protect them and so they would go with the English. In any event, as winter came on the focus of the war shifted back to the north where the British colonists were trying to do something in response to the numerous French and Indian raids on their territory. In the winter of 1705 some 275 American/British colonial militia under Colonel Winthrop Hilton raided and sacked the village of Rale where they had hoped to catch a French Catholic priest who had been blamed for instigating the Indians against them. Rale was destroyed but the priest had been alerted and escaped capture. Meanwhile, throughout the year forces of France and the Wabanaki Confederacy continued their attacks on British settlers, particularly in northern Massachusetts. Counter-raids were launched but these usually accomplished nothing as the French forces were based too far away.

Daniel d'Auger de Subercase
Meanwhile, there seemed to be a climax building in the struggle for Newfoundland. In retaliation for the previous English attack, the French and their local Indian allies hit back and in February of 1705 besieged Ft William at the English town of St John’s. The French Governor of Plaisance, Daniel d’Auger de Subercase, led about 450 French/Canadians and Indians of the Mikmak and Abenakis tribes while inside Ft William the British Lieutenant John Moody had only about 50 or 60 men under his command. An effort to take the fort by surprise failed and the siege was just as miserable, if not more so, for the French than for the British who held out quite well. Subercase tried various tricks to undermine his enemy but the harsh winter was ultimately the decisive factor. Waiting for naval support that never arrived, the French were forced to abandon the siege in March and fall back with their captured loot. Down but certainly not out, the French and Indians simply returned to raiding English settlements on the island.

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
Unfortunately for the Franco-Spanish task force, a British privateer had spotted them on their way north and was able to give the British authorities in Charleston advance warning of the attack. Governor Nathaniel Johnson called out all the local militia, assembling about a thousand men under Lt. Colonel William Rhett. They fortified the outer islands and even built a small defensive fleet including one fire ship. All in all, Charleston was about as well defended as possible and would have the advantages of fighting on the defensive as well as having their enemies outnumbered. The first Franco-Spanish invasion force landed on September 9 near the Charleston “neck” and on James Island but were quickly driven off by the American militia, the survivors returning to their ships and retreating. Another ship, which had been delayed, landed her forces on September 12 under General Arbousset but they were quickly beset by the British/American forces and learned too late that they had no support. Their ship was captured and the troops ashore, including the French general, were forced to surrender. Had the attack been successful, and if the element of surprise had not been lost it might well have been, the history of the American south might have unfolded quite differently.

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.

Francis Nicholson
The British and colonial American authorities were bedeviled by the French and Indian raids but at a loss as to a way to stop them. Two notables, Francis Nicholson and Sam Vetch finally enlisted the support of Queen Anne for an offensive into Canada in 1709. One invasion force was to move on Montreal via Lake Champlain while another was to hit Quebec from the sea. However, a lack of naval support (due to the ships being diverted to Portugal) meant that the operation had to be abandoned. Undeterred, Nicholson went to London along with some American officials and Indian chiefs to enlist support for another such attack. The Indians proved a sensation in London society and Nicholson was granted an audience with Queen Anne who was impressed enough by his proposal to agree to support another offensive against the French in Canada. The only other major actions of the year were Indian attacks in the south, instigated by the British, against the French at Mobile, Alabama, though they proved not much more than an irritation.

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.

Pieter Schuyler
One more area, however, must be looked at as it had the potential to be extremely significant. For those paying close attention, you may be wondering about other areas of the British colonies that have not been mentioned alongside New England, the Maritimes and the southern colonies. Well, the middle colonies were far from the action but New York was not. The French/Canadians didn’t want to attack New York for fear that the powerful Iroquois Confederacy, with whom they had recently made peace, would side with the British and oppose them. New York businessmen, likewise, were making a great deal of money on the fur trade with the French and wanted no war with them. Peter Schuyler, the Commissioner of Indians for the British Crown in Albany, New York tried to persuade the Iroquois to join with the British/Americans for an attack on Canada but was rebuffed, the Iroquois deciding to stick to neutrality and sit out the conflict. So, New York was fairly quiet during the course of the war but it was due entirely to the decisions of the Iroquois and it was they who had the potential to change the course of history.

Mohawk chiefs met by Queen Anne
The Iroquois were, if not the biggest, probably the most well-organized and established coalition of Indian tribes in the region, perhaps in the whole of eastern North America at the time. They had been through some hard times recently and feared that if they engaged themselves on one side or the other of the conflict, other competing Indian tribes would take up with their enemies and encroach on Iroquois land. If the Iroquois had decided otherwise, if they had decided to take up arms with the French against the British it would have changed the entire nature of the conflict and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they could have wiped out the British colonies at least in New York and New England, leaving the remainder in a poor position to withstand attacks by the French and Spanish. Further, if they had done so, the British might ultimately have been evicted from North America entirely, leaving only the Spanish and French to deal with who had a much more tenuous hold on their North American possessions due to the far fewer settlers they attracted to the region.

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
Queen Anne’s War thus ended with far more having been decided than most of those who dismiss it as nothing more than a series of ultimately inconsequential Indian raids seem to realize. It secured the southern border with Spain for the British colonies, preserved the British foothold on Newfoundland and British control over Acadia which would prove very important later on. It saw the passing of the last realistic chance the Native Americans had to assert themselves as the dominant force on the continent, severely set back the Spanish presence in Florida, kept South Carolina in British hands and determined the geopolitical battlefield in North America for the next war that was soon to come. During Queen Anne’s War the fate of the European presence in North America, to some degree, hung in the balance, depending on what decisions were taken by the local Indians. In the next conflict, the French and Indian War, would be decided whether the future of North America would belong to people who spoke English or who spoke French.


  1. MM,

    Request: Can you do a politically incorrect truth on the Iranian Revolution?

    It's obvious that he was better, but there are a lot of people that will disregard all the good things because of SAVAK. I'm sure the regime that came afterwards was no better in terms of human rights. I also don't think he was a figurehead for the CIA either. I really think it was a mutual relationship, but it’ll always be “American puppet” from that perspective. It's mostly parroted about the "American Imperialism" crowd. They don't take it into context of the Cold War, and I'm sure Iran had benefited from the alliance as much as we did. It also doesn't stand with me because the Shah kept the nationalization of oil and many other things, for which the “CIA puppet” people will use as the reason for him being a puppet.

    Make it because so many “politically incorrect” people who are so favorable of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    I can suggest reading Answer to History by the Shah of Iran himself.

    Video: Iran’s Industrial Progress

    1. im with you not many people defend the shah and i have been seeing bullcrap comments about him being weak

  2. Great post! The colonial timrs were wonderful, Hawthorne certainly looked back to them a good deal. The colonists certainly had thr blessings of actual self-government along with the good things (trade, a sovereign, a great power to give protection) that came with membership in the British Empire. If George Washington had chosen to become monarch, as was a real possibility, could this have led to a legitimate monarchy in America after the Revolution until the present time? Funny to have had a Whig King George on one side of the Atlantic and a Tory King George III on the other!

  3. Do you happen to know anything about the Okhrana agent Sergei Vasilevich Zubatov? I've read that he actually managed to "reconvert" revolutionaries to Monarchism/ obedience to their Tsar (In War's Dark Shadow/ W. Bruce Lincoln, pg 207).

  4. Thank you for bringing out the lessons of history, Mad Monarchist. I didn't really know anything about this war, apart from the name, and I didn't know that the Native Americans had had such a chance to sway the fate of North America. I often wonder if I tend to "sit things out" too much just because people or groups aren't exactly to my liking. This story, and that of Maximilian in Mexico shows me we can't always be so picky! You have to work with what you've got! Thanks, and many blessings to you this Holy Week.

  5. I wish u could do an article on the Empire of Brazil and the Brazilian monarchy, it seems like they are having a moment which could turn in to a movement.

  6. Mad Monarchist , what is your opinion about universal ( worldwide ) monarchy ?

  7. Hello! Been a while since I've read your work; since I last left I converted to Christianity, and took a year and a half break from the internet. But, I'm glad to be back. keep writing brother.


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