The War Of The Austrian Succession
France enters the war.—The European situation had developed along lines by 1743 which brought France into an offensive alliance with Spain. In 1740 the Emperor Charles VI died and his daughter Maria Theresa became Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. Portions of her domains were coveted by Prussia and France. Prussia seized Silesia; this was followed by a French attack, and the War of the Austrian Succession was on. England and Holland feared that France might annex the Austrian Netherlands. France found a ready ally in Spain, and the conflict which had been waged between England and Spain since 1739, by 1743 had developed into a great European war.
French attack on Acadia.—Events in Europe and the Mediterranean were far more important in bringing the struggle to a conclusion than those in America, but it is beyond the scope of this work to deal with them. During the peace the French had fortified Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, making it one of the strongest fortifications in America. The governor of Cape Breton decided to attempt to regain Acadia and sent out an expedition which captured Canso. After destroying the town the French proceeded to Annapolis. The place was saved, however, by the vigilance of the Massachusetts authorities, Governor Shirley and the assembly having despatched a body of volunteers, who arrived before the enemy.
Capture of Louisbourg.—Governor Shirley then proposed to the assembly the quixotic scheme of capturing Louisbourg. Nearly four thousand volunteers from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts were assembled and placed under the command of William Pepperel of Kittery, Maine. Each of the New England colonies furnished war vessels and transports, and Commodore Peter Warren was sent from the West Indies with several ships of war. In April, 1745, the great flotilla appeared before Louisbourg and the place was soon invested by land and sea. After one of the most remarkable sieges in American history, in which the untrained colonials acquitted themselves with bravery and efficiency, on June 28 the place surrendered.
Border warfare, 1746-1748.—The success at Louisbourg encouraged the colonists to attempt the conquest of Canada. All of the colonies as far south as Virginia furnished men, and the Duke of Newcastle promised a large force of regulars. But the English troops were diverted to Europe and the plan came to naught. The failure of the projected conquest spurred the French colonists to attack the outlying settlements; from Acadia to the New York border, bands of French and Indians harried the frontier. Grand Pré and Fort Massachusetts were captured but were soon reoccupied. Until the close of the war, the New England borders were harassed by frequent raids. The New York and Pennsylvania frontiers were protected, mainly through the influence of the Indian agent, William Johnson, who kept the Mohawks friendly, and the Pennsylvania interpreter Conrad Weiser, whose policy of favoring the Iroquois land claims in Pennsylvania at the expense of the Delawares held the powerful New York confederation on the English side.
French and English naval activity, 1745-1746.—In March, 1745, a large French fleet under De Caylus was sent to the West Indies. As soon as the English ministry heard of this, Vice-Admiral William Rowley was sent out with large reinforcements. Though De Caylus's fleet was not engaged, on October 31 Rowley fell in with another squadron of war vessels and supply ships, and captured or destroyed thirty out of forty sail. In 1746 France made an attempt to regain Cape Breton and Acadia. Under D'Anville a fleet of eleven large war vessels, several frigates and small craft, and transports carrying thirty-five hundred troops, arrived off the Acadian coast but the fleet was shattered by a storm, and the enterprise was abandoned.
Decisive battles off Cape Finisterre.—In 1747 another French fleet was sent out to recapture Cape Breton, but an English fleet under Anson and Warren intercepted it off Cape Finisterre and nearly every French vessel was captured. Later in the year France despatched a fleet to the West Indies convoying over two hundred merchantmen, but near the scene of the former battle a second great engagement occurred in which the English were again victorious. These two great victories completed the destruction of the French fighting navy.
Knowles's attack on the Spanish, 1748.—Early in 1748 Rear-Admiral Charles Knowles attacked and captured Port Louis on the southern shore of Española. In April he bombarded Santiago de Cuba. In September an engagement with a Spanish fleet took place off Havana, but he succeeded in capturing only one vessel.
The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.—The long war was drawing to an end, neither side having attained unqualified success. In the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, signed in October, 1748, all conquests were restored. The peace was but a truce. Both England and France realized it and both put forth efforts to strengthen and extend their colonial possessions.
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