2007-01-01

The Seven Years War

Happy new year, all. I had a pretty good New Year's Eve this year. I spent it at a bar with some friends.

I've been reading a history of the Seven Years war in colonial North America. The author, Francis Parkman, was a meticulous scholar and horticulturist who lived in the 19th century.

I enjoy reading history because it puts things in perspective. The social customs and standard of living that we enjoy now, are recent inventions, and it's all too easy to forget that. It's also interesting to see how different the politics of the past were.

Parkman wrote about history as a narrative, putting political decisions and military battles in chronological order. This contrasts with the modern historical style, in which historians tend to pick a time period and place, and then write exhaustive analyses of different aspects of that.

There's something very charming about the old style though, especially when applied to military history. It's like reading a novel, except that the events really happened. By definition, the plot is always believable, at least in its important outlines.

Pittsburgh in particular was a battleground in this war.
An excerpt:

During the last three miles they had passed the scattered bodies of those slain two months before at the defeat of Grant; and it is said that, as they neared the fort, the Highlanders were goaded to fury at seeing the heads of their slaughtered comrades stuck on poles, round which the kilts were hung derisively, in imitation of petticoats.

Their rage was vain; the enemy was gone from Fort Duquesne... the [French] garrison... had retreated, some down the Ohio, some overland towards Presquisle, and the rest, with their commander, up the Alleghany to Venango.

The first care of the victors was to provide defense and shelter for those of their number on whom the dangerous task was to fall of keeping what they had won. A stockade was planted around a cluster of traders' cabins and soldiers' huts, which Brigadier John Forbes named Pittsburgh, in honor of the great minister.

No sooner was his work done, than Forbes fell into a state of entire prostration... On the way back, a hut with a chimney was built for him at each stopping-place... At length, carried all the way in his litter he reached Philadelphia, where, after lingering through the winter, he died in March.

So that's why we have Forbes Avenue, one of the most important streets in town, and Duquesne College. [As a note, highlanders were instrumental in defeating France later. So in some sense, they were avenged.]

Unfortunately, the volume that I have is an abridged version which combines together "Montcalm and Wolfe," "The Conspiracy of Pontiac," and "A Half-Century of Conflict." I'll have to check out the unabridged versions of some of Parkman's other books later.

1 Comments:

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Salene said...

Good for people to know.

 

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