French & Indian/Seven Years' War: 1760-1763

1760-1763: The Closing Campaigns

Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick-Wolfenb├╝ttel. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Victory in North America

Having taken Quebec in the fall of 1759, British forces settled in for the winter. Commanded by Major General James Murray, the garrison endured a harsh winter during which over half of the men suffered from disease. As spring approached, French forces led by the Chevalier de Levis advanced down the St. Lawrence from Montreal. Besieging Quebec, Levis hoped to re-take the city before the ice in the river melted and the Royal Navy arrived with supplies and reinforcements. On April 28, 1760, Murray advanced out of the city to confront the French but was badly defeated at the Battle of Sainte-Foy. Driving Murray back into the city's fortifications, Levis continued his siege. This ultimately proved futile as British ships reached the city on May 16. Left with little choice, Levis retreated to Montreal.

For the 1760 campaign, the British commander in North America, Major General Jeffery Amherst, intended to mount a three-pronged attack against Montreal. While troops advanced up the river from Quebec, a column led by Brigadier General William Haviland would push north over Lake Champlain. The main force, led by Amherst, would move to Oswego then cross Lake Ontario and attack the city from the west. Logistical issues delayed the campaign and Amherst did not depart Oswego until August 10, 1760. Successfully overcoming French resistance, he arrived outside of Montreal on September 5. Outnumbered and short on supplies, the French opened surrender negotiations during which Amherst stated, "I have come to take Canada and I will take nothing less." After brief talks, Montreal surrendered on September 8 along with all of New France. With the conquest of Canada, Amherst returned to New York to begin planning expeditions against French holdings in the Caribbean.

The End in India

Having been reinforced during 1759, British forces in India began advancing south from Madras and recapturing positions that had been lost during earlier campaigns. Commanded by Colonel Eyre Coote, the small British army was a mix of East India Company soldiers and sepoys. At Pondicherry, the Count de Lally initially hoped that the bulk of the British reinforcements would be directed against a Dutch incursion in Bengal. This hope was dashed in late December 1759 when British troops in Bengal defeated the Dutch without requiring aid. Mobilizing his army, Lally began maneuvering against Coote's approaching forces. On January 22, 1760, the two armies, both numbering around 4,000 men, met near Wandiwash. The resulting Battle of Wandiwash was fought in the traditional European style and saw Coote's command soundly defeat the French. With Lally's men fleeing back to Pondicherry, Coote began capturing the city's out-lying fortifications. Further reinforced later that year, Coote laid siege to the city while the Royal Navy conducted a blockade offshore.

Cut off and with no hope of relief, Lally surrendered the city on January 15, 1761. The defeat saw the French lose their last major base in India.

Defending Hanover

In Europe, 1760 saw His Britannic Majesty's Army in Germany further reinforced as London increased its commitment to the war on the Continent. Commanded by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, the army continued its active defense of the Electorate of Hanover. Maneuvering through the spring, Ferdinand attempted a three-pronged attack against Lieutenant General Le Chevalier du Muy on July 31. In the resulting Battle of Warburg, the French attempted to escape before the trap was sprung. Seeking to achieve a victory, Ferdinand ordered Sir John Manners, Marquess of Granby to attack with his cavalry. Surging forward, they inflicted losses and confusion on the enemy, but Ferdinand's infantry did not arrive in time to complete the victory.

Frustrated in their attempts to conquer the electorate, the French moved north later that year with the goal striking from a new direction. Clashing with Ferdinand's army at the Battle of Kloster Kampen on October 15, the French under the Marquis de Castries won a protracted fight and forced the enemy from the field. With the campaign season winding down, Ferdinand fell back to Warburg and, after further maneuvers to expel the French, entered into winter quarters. Though the year had brought mixed results, the French had failed in their efforts to take Hanover.

Prussia Under Pressure

Having narrowly survived the previous year's campaigns, Frederick II the Great of Prussia quickly came under pressure from Austrian General Baron Ernst von Laudon. Invading Silesia, Laudon crushed a Prussian force at Landshut on June 23. Laudon then began moving against Frederick's main army in conjunction with a second Austrian force led by Marshal Count Leopold von Daun. Badly outnumbered by the Austrians, Frederick maneuvered against Laudon and succeeded in defeating him at the Battle of Liegnitz before Daun could arrive. Despite this victory, Frederick was taken by surprise in October when a combined Austro-Russian force successfully raided Berlin. Entering the city on October 9, they captured large amounts of war materials and demanded monetary tribute. Learning that Frederick was moving towards the city with his main army, the raiders departed three days later.

Taking advantage of this distraction, Daun marched into Saxony with around 55,000 men. Splitting his army in two, Frederick immediately led one wing against Daun. Attacking at the Battle of Torgau on November 3, the Prussians struggled until late in the day when the other wing of the army arrived. Turning the Austrian left, the Prussians forced them from the field and won a bloody victory. With the Austrians retreating, campaigning for 1760 came to an end.

A War Weary Continent

After five years of conflict, the governments in Europe were beginning to run short of both men and money with which to continue the war. This war weariness led to final attempts to seize territory to use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations as well as overtures for peace. In Britain, a key change occurred in October 1760 when George III ascended to the throne. More concerned with the colonial aspects of the war than the conflict on the Continent, George began to shift British policy. The final years of the war also saw the entry of a new combatant, Spain. In the spring of 1761, the French approached Britain regarding peace talks. While initially receptive, London backed out upon learning of negotiations between France and Spain to widen the conflict. These secret talks ultimately led to Spain entering the conflict in January 1762.

Frederick Battles On

In central Europe, a battered Prussia was only able to field around 100,000 men for the 1761 campaign season. As most of these were new recruits, Frederick changed his approach from one of maneuver to one of positional warfare. Constructing a massive fortified camp at Bunzelwitz, near Scheweidnitz, he worked to improve his forces. Not believing the Austrians would attack such a strong position, he moved the bulk of his army toward Neisee on September 26. Four days later, the Austrians assaulted the reduced garrison at Bunzelwitz and carried the works. Frederick suffered another blow in December when Russian troops captured his last major port on the Baltic, Kolberg. With Prussia facing complete destruction, Frederick was saved by the death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia on January 5, 1762. With her demise, the Russian throne passed to her pro-Prussian son, Peter III. An admirer of Frederick's military genius, Peter III concluded the Treaty of Petersburg with Prussia that May ending hostilities.

Free to focus his attention on Austria, Frederick began campaigning to gain the upper hand in Saxony and Silesia. These efforts culminated with a victory at the Battle of Freiberg on October 29. Though pleased with the victory, Frederick was angered that the British had abruptly halted their financial subsidies. The British separation from Prussia began with the fall of William Pitt and the Duke of Newcastle's government in October 1761. Replaced by the Earl of Bute, the government in London began to abandon Prussian and Continental war aims in favor of securing its colonial acquisitions. Though the two nations had agreed not to negotiate separate peaces with the enemy, the British violated this pact by making overtures to the French. Having lost his financial backing, Frederick entered into peace negotiations with Austria on November 29.

Hanover Secured

Eager to secure as much of Hanover as possible before the end of fighting, the French increased the number of troops committed to that front for 1761. Having turned back a winter offensive by Ferdinand, French forces under Marshal Duc de Broglie and the Prince of Soubise began their campaign in the spring. Meeting Ferdinand at the Battle of Villinghausen on July 16, they were soundly defeated and forced from the field. The remainder of the year saw the two sides maneuvering for advantage as Ferdinand again succeeded in defending the electorate. With the resumption of campaigning in 1762, he soundly defeated the French at the Battle of Wilhelmsthal on June 24. Pushing on later that year, he attacked and captured Cassel on November 1. Having secured the town, he learned that peace talks between the British and French had begun.

Spain & the Caribbean

Though largely unprepared for war, Spain entered the conflict in January 1762. Promptly invading Portugal, they had some success before British reinforcements arrived and bolstered the Portuguese army. Seeing Spain's entry as an opportunity, the British embarked on a series of campaigns against Spanish colonial possessions. Utilizing veteran troops from the fighting in North America, the British Army and Royal Navy conducted a series of combined-arms attacks that captured French Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Granada. Arriving off Havana, Cuba in June 1762, British forces captured the city that August.

Aware that troops had been withdrawn from North America for operations in the Caribbean, the French mounted an expedition against Newfoundland. Valued for its fisheries, the French believed Newfoundland to be a valuable bargaining chip for peace negotiations. Capturing St. John's in June 1762, they were driven out by the British that September. On the far side of the world, British forces, freed from fighting in India, moved against Manila in the Spanish Philippines. Capturing Manila in October, they forced the surrender of the entire island chain. As these campaigns concluded word was received that peace talks were underway.