The Military Empire

The Ohio Valley

A Sore Point

Possession of the Ohio Valley was another sore point between Britain and France. The French based their claims on the explorations of La Salle during the previous century, while the British claimed that it was part of Iroquois country, and since the Iroquois were British subjects, the land belonged to them. Although the French had no doubts about the legitimacy of their cause, they had built only one post, Fort Vincennes at the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash rivers, to protect this river route. Meanwhile, the number of American traders in the region increased steadily during the 1740s.

In June 1749, about 30 soldiers and 180 militiamen, accompanied by a few Amerindians, left Montreal on a reconnaissance mission. Under the command of Captain Céloron de Blainville, they followed the Allegheny River to Ohio. Along the way, they buried lead plaques to indicate that this territory belonged to the king of France. After six months of travel, Céloron brought back alarming news: he had been unable to reach any agreement with the American traders, whose intransigence had only increased during his negotiations with them. Furthermore, the Amerindians living in the region seemed to support the English. The only hope, therefore, was military occupation.