History French

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History – French Flag

Think back in time to 1754 – more than 20 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. At this time the future United States was divided into areas claimed by France, Great Britain & Spain – and caught in the middle were the native Americans, or “Indians.” The place we now call Jumonville, located in the Ohio Valley, was claimed by both Great Britain and France.

On the morning of May 28, 1754, Major George Washington and 40 of his men, joined Seneca Chief Tanacharison (“the Half King”) and several Indians to attack a small French force camped at Jumonville Glen. France and England were not at war, but Half King urged the attack, arguing that the French force planned to ambush Washington. The French commanded by Ensign Coulon de Jumonville, were caught by surprise, and after a 15 minute skirmish, surrendered. Jumonville and nine of his men were killed, and twenty-one captured. One French solidier escaped and was able to report what had happend at Fort Duquesne. In retaliation, a French force led by Jumonville’s half-brother pursued and defeated Washington’s army at Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754. Washington and his men were permitted to return to Virginia, but only after he had signed a surrender document admitting to the “assassination” of Jumonville.

The skirmish at Jumonville has been the subject of controversy among historians ever since. The French maintained that Jumonville’s column was on a diplomatic mission, and pointed to Washington’s admission that he had murdered Jumonville. The English claimed that the French party was on a military patrol, and questioned why, if it was on a diplomatic mission, it was hiding in the Glen? Whatever the truth of the matter, the events here led to the Seven Years war in Europe. As one British stateman wrote, “A volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.”