King William’s War — the First French and Indian War


King William’s War (1688–1697) was the first conflict in North America between England, France, and their respective Native American Indian allies. There was no clear victor in the war, which was an extension of the Nine Years’ War. However, it set the stage for future conflicts in North America between the European powers as they fought for control of the Fur Trade and dominance of the continent.

William of Orange, Portrait, Kneller

King William’s War is named for William of Orange, who was crowned King William III during the Glorious Revolution in England. This painting by Godfrey Kneller depicts William. Image Source: Wikipedia.

King William’s War Summary

King William’s War was the First Intercolonial War fought in North America between the English Colonies and New France. It is also referred to as the First French and Indian War, as it involved the Iroquois Confederacy and the Wabanaki Confederacy.

The war was an extension of the Nine Years’ War, which was fought in Europe for control of the English Crown and to limit French expansion. For the first time, European powers involved their North American colonies, which is why King William’s War is also considered by some to be the first true world war.

King William’s War lasted for nearly a decade and was the beginning of a series of wars fought for control of the eastern half of North America and the Fur Trade. When peace was agreed to, territories and borders were restored to what they were before the war.

A temporary peace was achieved between the French, English, and Indian confederacies, which also helped bring an end to the Beaver Wars in 1701.

However, the battle for control of the East Coast, Canada, and the Louisiana Territory between France, England, and the Indians quickly resumed with Queen Anne’s War in 1702. 

Battle of La Hogue, 1692, Painting, West
This painting by Benjamin West depicts the 1692 Battle of La Hogue. Image Source: Wikipedia.

King William’s War Facts — 10 Things to Know

1. King William’s War lasted from 1688 to 1697 and was the first of the intercolonial wars between New England and New France in North America.

2. King William’s War is considered the First French and Indian War and the Second Indian War, following King Philip’s War.

3. The war was caused by territorial disputes, religious differences, and European power struggles, particularly between England and France.

4. The Dominion of New England, formed in 1686, faced internal disarray, contributing to tensions and hostilities between New England and New France.

5. The Iroquois Confederacy, allied with New England, interfered with the Fur Trade between New France and western tribes, contributing to the escalation of the war.

6. The Wabanaki Confederacy, a union of five Acadian tribes, was formed to consolidate New France’s claim on Maine and stop English expansion into Acadia.

7. Major Benjamin Church played a prominent role in the war, leading several expeditions into Acadia to retaliate against the Wabanaki Confederacy’s attacks.

8. The war saw numerous raids and attacks on both English and French settlements, resulting in casualties, massacres, and captured settlers.

9. Several offensives, including the Quebec and Port Royal expeditions, were undertaken by New England forces.

10. Peace was achieved in 1697 through the Treaty of Ryswick, temporarily ending hostilities between France and England, but conflicts continued in subsequent colonial wars until France’s ultimate defeat in North America in 1763.

Coronation of William and Mary, 1689, Painting, Rochussen
This painting by Charles Rochussen depicts the Coronation of William and Mary. Image Source: Amsterdam Museum.

King William’s War — New England and New France

European Conquest of the Americas — God, Gold, and Glory

Along the East Coast of North America, from Newfoundland in the north to Florida in the south, England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and others worked to establish trading posts and settlements in hopes of finding natural resources that would give them an advantage over their European rivals.

In all cases, efforts at Colonialism were driven by the economic theory known as Mercantilism.

The Spanish moved from South America into Florida and up the Mississippi River. 

The French settled in present-day Canada and moved south into the Ohio Country and down the Mississippi River. 

The English, Dutch, and others settled along the east coast. Over time, the English started moving westward, over the Appalachian Mountains. 

With each movement, Europeans claimed the land as their own, despite the presence of the Indians they encountered. Europeans justified their conquest of the Americas by spreading Christianity to the Indians. Although many Indians converted — known as “Praying Indians” — they were often forced to conform.

The European Conquest of the Americans revolved around three main concepts:

  1. Spreading Christianity
  2. Finding Gold
  3. Achieving Glory

This is often referred to as “God, Gold, and Glory.”

Establishment of New France

France was the first to gain a foothold in the Northeast, establishing Port Royal in 1604 under the leadership of Samuel de Champlain — the “Father of New France.” Port Royal was the first permanent European settlement north of Florida. In 1608, Champlain established another settlement called Quebec.

The government of New France was under the direct control of the French monarchy and did not have representative assemblies elected by the people. The colony’s main resource was beaver pelts and French hunters and trappers successfully built relationships with the Indians. 

However, the French also sent Catholic missionaries, notably the Jesuits, into the region to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Jesuits established missions — small villages — throughout New France in order to educate the Indians about Catholicism.

These missions and the spread of Catholicism were naturally a concern for the English living in New England. 

King Louis XIV, Portrait. Rigaud
Portrait of King Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud. Image Source: Wikipedia.

New England, Catholics, and Indian Confederacies

New England was largely a haven for Puritans who fled Europe in search of religious freedom and to escape the ongoing conflict between Catholics and Protestants, which often fueled wars. 

As far as the English colonists living in New England were concerned, the presence of the French Catholics, and their efforts to convert the Indians, were a threat to the Puritans and other Protestant denominations.

By the time of King William’s War, New Englanders had already fought two destructive wars with Indian confederacies. The first was the Pequot War (1634–1638) and the second was King Philip’s War (1675–1678). Both conflicts resulted in death and destruction throughout New England and led to the expansion of English settlements further inland.

The Wabanaki Confederacy

After King Philip’s War, a group of tribes joined together as the Wabanaki Confederacy. The tribes were: Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Abenaki. All of them lived in the Acadia Region of New France.

King Philip, Metacomet, Paul Revere
This illustration by Paul Revere depicts King Philip. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Growth of New France and New England

Over time, the presence of the English and French grew in the Northeast. The English eventually took control of New Netherland and New Sweden and the 13 Original Colonies started to take shape. 

Both New England and New France started to transition from collections of settlements and outposts to established colonies with large port cities surrounded by towns. 

However, the growth was faster and more organized in New England and throughout the English Colonies.

New France Territorial Possessions at the Time of King William’s War

At the onset of King William’s War, the territorial possessions of New France were vast — much larger than English possessions. New France consisted of four colonies:

  1. Canada — It consisted of the territory along the St. Lawrence River, including Quebec, Montreal, and Trois-Rivieres (Three Rivers).
  2. Acadia — Located to the east of Canada, Acadia ran along the East Coast of the continent, and extended into present-day Maine, where it bordered New England. Although Acadia had been under Scottish control at one time, and was an English territory from 1654–1670, it was French territory in 1689.
  3. Placentia — It was on the Avalon Peninsula in what is the southeast of present-day Newfoundland.
  4. Louisiana — Located to the west and south of Canada, Louisiana was a massive territory that stretched from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Samuel de Champlain, Fighting Iroquois, 1609, Illustration
This illustration depicts Samuel de Champlain fighting Iroquois warriors in 1609, Illustration. Image Source: Wikipedia.

English Territorial Possessions at the Time of King William’s War

By the time of King William’s War, the English Colonies in North America had been established, except for Georgia.

England also had a colony on Newfoundland, which it shared with the French. The English colony was north of Placentia.

Northwest of Canada was another English territory around Hudson Bay. It was under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a significant player in the Fur Trade. This naturally brought it into conflict with both the Indians and French, who also wanted to dominate the business.

Following King Philip’s War, the New England Colonies were unified by the Crown into the Dominion of New England. Sir Edmund Andros was the Governor at the start of King William’s War. Andros was controversial because he enforced the taxes and rules associated with the Navigation Acts and also promoted the Church of England.

What happened during King William’s War? A History of the First French and Indian War

Causes of the Nine Years’ War in Europe

In 1688, Parliament agreed to replace King James II, a Catholic, with William of Orange, a Protestant. James fled to France and allied with King Louis XIV. Together, they planned to restore James to the English throne, reinstate Catholic rule, and expand French borders.

King James II of England, Portrait
Portrait of King James II by Peter Lely. Image Source: Wikipedia.

The Nine Years’ War Begins

The war started when France invaded the Rhineland — present-day Netherlands and Germany. Protestant leaders, including William of Orange, responded by forming a “grand alliance,” known as the League of Augsburg to oppose the French. 

War was declared between England and France in 1689. Commonly known as the Nine Years’ War, it is also known as the War of the Grand Alliance and the War of the League of Augsburg. The Nine Years’ War is also referred to as the first true world war because it spread to Ireland (Willamite War) and to North America — King William’s War.

New England, New France, and Indian Confederacies

After the English defeated the Wampanoag and Narragansett in King Philip’s War, the western frontier of the New England Colonies opened to expansion. As more immigrants arrived in New England, the colonies expanded inland, pushing into the territory of various Indian tribes. 

In response, the Wabanaki Confederacy formed, uniting five Indian tribes together to resist English expansion into Acadia. By then, New France was established and also posed a threat to the English Colonies in New England. 

A major source of contention between the English and the French was a lack of a well-defined border between Acadia and New England. As a result, both the French and English laid claim to some of the same territory.

During the war, the French allied with the Wabanaki Confederacy and the English allied with the Iroquois Confederacy. 

The Iroquois were also battling with the French for control of the Fur Trade, which was part of the ongoing Beaver Wars, a conflict that crossed over with the events of King William’s War.

French Traders at Iroquois Council Fire, Illustration
This illustration by Frederic Remington depicts French traders negotiating with members of the Iroquois Confederacy. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Additional Events Contributing to King William’s War

1672 — Count Louis de Frontenac is named Governor General of New France. Frontenac builds the French Fur Trade, competing with the Iroquois. The French also battled with the Iroquois as part of the Beaver Wars.

1685 — James II became King of England and attempted to convert the nation to Catholicism, leading to unrest among the predominantly Protestant population.

1686 — The French started the Hudson Bay Expedition and attacked trading posts run by the Hudson’s Bay Company. The French captured the trading posts, including Fort Albany in New York.

1686 — First Battle of Fort Albany. French forces battled with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The English surrendered and the French captured their ships.

1687 — William Phips, a native of Pemaquid, led an expedition that discovered a sunken Spanish galleon near the Bahamas. He recovered roughly £300,000 in gold, silver, and jewels. He returned to England where he was knighted — the first American to receive the honor.

Sir William Phips, Governor of Massachusetts, Portrait
This illustration depicts Sir William Phips. Image Source: Stormy Knight: the life of Sir William Phips by Clifford Lindsey Alderman, 1964,

1687 — Attack on Seneca. Marquis de Denonville, the Governor of New France, attacked the Seneca in Western New York and burned the towns of Ganondagan and Totiakton. This attack was part of the Beaver Wars but played a role in the actions of King William’s War.

King William’s War in 1688

Hostilities in North America started in 1688 when the Governor General of New France, Count Louis de Frontenac encouraged the Wabanaki to carry out raids on English settlements. The raids, which were usually surprise attacks, took place along the border of Acadia and New England.

Raid on St. Castin’s Trading House

In April 1688, Sir Edmund Andros, the unpopular Governor of the Dominion of New England, retaliated to the border raids by leading an attack on St. Castin’s Trading House at present-day Castine, Maine.

Castine was an Abenaki village the home of Baron Jean-Vincent de Saint-Castin, a French officer who lived with the Abenaki.

Castin and his Indian allies responded with more raids on English settlements along the border of Acadia and New England. 

They attacked present-day Newcastle, Maine on August 13, 1688. A few days later, they clashed with English settlers at Yarmouth and then attacked Kennebunk.

Andros organized another expedition and went into Acadia. However, he was unable to find the Wabanaki who carried out the raids and returned to Boston.

Edmund Andros, Portrait
Edmund Andros. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Raid on Chedabucto

Four months after the raid at Castin, New England forces raided a fishing village, Chedabucto, at present-day Guysborough, Nova Scotia. 

Events in 1688 Affecting the War

1688 — The Glorious Revolution took place. James II was overthrown, leading to the accession of William and Mary as joint sovereigns of England.

1688 — France invaded the Rhineland, initiating the Nine Years’ War.

King William’s War in 1689

The Glorious Revolution and the Boston Revolt of 1689

On February 13, 1689, the Glorious Revolution culminated in the crowning of William of Orange as King William III. His wife was crowned Queen Mary II and joined him as the new sovereigns of England.

When news of the Glorious Revolution arrived in Boston in April, the citizens arrested Andros and restored the colony’s original charter. This event, known as the “Boston Revolt of 1689,” led to the dissolution of the Dominion of New England. 

Samuel Bradstreet, who had been the Governor of Massachusetts before the Dominion of New England was created, was reinstated by the people of Massachusetts. With the restoration of the colony’s charter, New Hampshire fell under the control of the Massachusetts government. It would remain that way until 1741.

Boston Revolt of 1689, Arrest of Andros, Illustration
This illustration depicts the arrest of Edmund Andros during the Boston Revolt of 1689. Image Source: Pioneers in the Settlement of America Vol. 1, by William A. Crafts,

England Declares War on France

Despite the overthrow of Andros, King William’s War continued. On May 17, 1689, England declared war on France, which escalated the conflict, and hostilities spread south from Maine into New Hampshire. Dover, one of the oldest settlements in New Hampshire, was targeted by the Wabanaki.

Raid on Dover — June 27

In 1689, there were around 50 fortified homes in the area around Dover. Each home was large, so it could be used as a shelter for more than one family and was surrounded by a high wall. 

At night, the neighboring families would go to the fortified house to sleep, knowing they would be safe. At Cocheco, there were five fortified homes, including one owned by Richard Waldron, who was also recognized as the leader of the settlement.

In the aftermath of King Philip’s War, some members of the Pennacook Tribe and other tribes were sold into slavery. By June 1689, some of them had returned to the area and they blamed Waldron for what had happened to them, as they believed he had betrayed them in 1676.

The Indians living near Dover formed an alliance, led by a Pennacook warrior, Chief Kancamagus, and devised a plan to attack the fortified homes at Cocheco.

Although some people in Dover suspected the Indians were planning something, Waldron insisted there was nothing to fear. He was also confident that if there was an uprising, he would be able to gather the militia and easily defend Dover. 

What Waldron was unaware of was the plan for an attack on Cocheco was circulating throughout parts of Massachusetts. At that time, King Wiliam’s War had not spread into New Hampshire, so Waldron considered the English there to be at peace with the Indians.

On the evening of June 27, 1689, two Indian women went to each of the fortified homes at Cocheco and asked for refuge. It was a common practice during peacetime, and four of the five homeowners let them in — including Waldron. 

Raid on Dover, 1689, Attack on Waldron, Illustration
This illustration depicts the attack on Richard Waldron. Image Source: Project Gutenberg.

Early the next morning, the women opened the gates and let in the Indian warriors. Waldron and 22 others were brutally killed and 29 were taken captive and carried off. The Indians burned eight houses and the gristmill and sawmill at Cocheco Falls.

On June 28, in the aftermath of the “Cocheco Massacre,” a letter from Chelmsford, Massachusetts arrived in Dover. 

It included details of the plan to carry out the attack on Waldron and the other fortified homes at Cocheco. Had it arrived a day or two earlier, the settlers living in Dover may have been able to prevent the attack.

First Siege of Pemaquid — August 2–3

In Acadia, Baron Saint-Castin decided to retaliate on his own for the attack on his trading house. Along with Father Louis-Pierre Thury, and an Abenaki chief named Moxus, Saint-Castin led a force of roughly 200 Abenaki warriors to the village of Pemaquid, which is present-day Bristol, Maine.

Saint-Castin’s forces surrounded the trading post, Fort Charles and attacked settlers who approached the fort. Although the garrison was allowed to retreat to Boston, many of the settlers were killed or captured. 

Saint-Castin burned the fort and took the prisoners to Fort Meductic, a fortified Maliseet village near present-day Meductic, New Brunswick. 

One of the captives was John Gyles, who was only nine years old. Gyles survived and later wrote about his experience, publishing an autobiography in 1736 called Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, Etc. in the Captivity of John Gyles.

Lachine Massacre — August 5

As part of the Beaver Wars, Mohawk warriors attacked the settlement of Lachine in New France, southwest of Montreal. It was in response to the French attack against the Seneca in 1687, along with French expansion into Mohawk territory. New England settlers encouraged the Mohawks to carry out the attack, which led to the destruction of Lachine and the deaths of roughly 240 French settlers.

Massachusetts Sends Swaine Into New Hampshire

Massachusetts responded to the Siege of Pemaquid by assembling a military expedition of 600 men to secure the border between Acadia and New Hampshire. Major Jeremiah Swaine led the force into New Hampshire in August.

Despite the presence of Swaine and his men, a party of Abenaki warriors attacked the village of Oyster River — present-day Durham, New Hampshire. Approximately 20 settlers were killed, including children. Most of the others were captured.

When Swaine was alerted, he sent a scouting party to find the Abenaki, but they failed.

Raid on New Dartmouth — August 13

French and Indian forces led by Saint-Castin conducted raids along the frontier, starting at present-day Newcastle.

Benjamin Church and His Rangers

Governor Bradstreet of Massachusetts was furious with Swaine’s failure. He recalled him and sent Benjamin Church, who was recognized as a hero of King Philip’s War, to deal with the Indians.

As a veteran Indian fighter, Church understood traditional European tactics did not work in New England. He trained a group of his own men to use the same tactics as the Indians, generally referred to as “guerrilla warfare.” Church’s men are viewed as the first light infantrymen in U.S. history and eventually became the U.S. Army Rangers.

Benjamin Church, Ranger, Massachusetts, Illustration
This illustration depicts Benjamin Church. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Battle of Bracket’s Wood — September 21

Church and his men moved toward Acadia and traveled to Falmouth, which is present-day Portland, Maine. When Church arrived, he found the town under attack by Wabanaki warriors. He and his men quickly joined the battle.

However, Church and his men found out that the musket balls that were issued to them were too big for the barrels of their guns. They were forced to spend time reshaping the balls by hammering on them. This turned the balls into flatter, cylindrical slugs, but they were usable.

The Wabakai were eventually driven off. Church chased after them but was unable to find them in the forest. Soon after, Church and his men returned to Boston.

Events in 1689 Affecting the War

1689 — The League of Augsburg is formed.

King William’s War in 1690

During the winter of 1689–1690, Count Frontenac developed a plan for an offensive against English settlements in Maine and New Hampshire. 

Joseph-Francois Hertel and his son, Jean-Baptiste, were given command of the expedition, which included around 25 French Canadian soldiers and a party of Abenaki, Mi’kmaq, and Maliseet warriors.

Schenectady Massacre — February 8

A French contingent led by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville attacked the New York settlement of Schenectady in retaliation for the Lachine Massacre. The French were joined by Mohawk and Algonquin warriors, who were aligned with the French, instead of the Iroquois Confederacy and the English.

Schenectady was destroyed, and most of the settlers were killed or captured, including a number of enslaved blacks living in the village. Survivors, including a handful of slaves, were taken to a Mohawk village near Montreal where they were assimilated into the tribe.

 The attack is also related to the ongoing Beaver Wars.

Schenectady Massacre, 1690, Settlers Escaping, NYPL
This illustration depicts settlers escaping from Schenectady. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Raid on Salmon Falls — March 27

On March 27, 1690, the French force led by the Hertels surrounded the settlement of Salmon Falls at present-day Berwick, Maine. They burned the village and killed or captured most of the settlers. Portsmouth sent its militia to engage the French and a brief skirmish ensued, but the French drove them off. It is estimated that more than 50 women and children were taken to Acadia as prisoners.

Battle of Port Royal — May 16

Port Royal, one of the oldest French settlements in Acadia, was located on the Acadian Peninsula, on the Bay of Fundy. It was located on the site of present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Determined to protect its borders against the French and Indian attacks, Massachusetts organized an expedition that included 7 ships and around 700 soldiers. The expedition, led by Sir William Phips, sailed to Port Royal and attacked on May 16.

The French defenses were weak, disorganized, and easily defeated by Phips and his men. The Governor of Acadia, Louis-Alexandre des Friches de Meneval, was taken prisoner, as were most of his soldiers.

Before leaving for Boston, the English plundered the town and forced the French to swear to an Oath of Loyalty to both the English Crown and Massachusetts. However, when Phips left, he failed to leave a garrison to maintain English control of Port Royal.

However, with Port Royal in ruins, the capital of Acadia was moved to Fort Nashwaak, near present-day Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Battle of Fort Loyal at Falmouth — May 16–20

Following the Raid on Salmon Falls, the Hertels were reinforced by Saint-Castin, leading a force of 200-300 Abenaki warriors. Together, they advanced on Falmouth (Portland, ME), and attacked on May 16.

The settlers took shelter in Fort Loyal, under the command of Captain Sylvanus Davis, and held out for four days. The French forces took shelter in a gully that protected them and then dug a trench toward the fort in a zig-zag fashion. Eventually, they were close enough to the fort that they were able to throw grenades over the walls.

The settlers surrendered on May 20, after the French promised they would be safe from the Indians. However, as soon as the settlers came out of the fort the Wabanakis attacked them and killed most of them. Captain Davis was one of the few survivors, and he, like the others, was taken to Quebec.

With Fort Loyal eliminated, the Wabanaki were free to travel throughout the region and attack settlements along the border of Acadia and New Hampshire at will.

Battle of Chedabucto at Fort St. Louis — June 3

Following Port Royal, Phips sent Captain Cyrian Southack to attack Fort St. Louis, which was in the fishing village of Chedabucto (Guysborough, Nova Scotia).

Southack led nearly 90 men in an attack on the fort, which was garrisoned by about a dozen French soldiers. Despite being outnumbered, the French held out for six hours, before surrendering.

Southack allowed the French to leave Chedabucto and then destroyed a valuable amount of cod that had been harvested by the Company of Acadia, the village’s fishing operation.

Phips Returns to Boston

Phips returned to Boston and received a hero’s welcome. It was soon determined to send another naval expedition to capture Quebec. Meanwhile, New York organized an overland expedition to capture Montreal.

Benjamin Church’s Second Expedition — September 1690

In September, Church led a second expedition into Acadia. This time, he took 300 men, including his rangers, volunteers, and Indians, and went to Falmouth (Portland, ME). When he arrived, he and his men buried the dead who had been killed during the attack in May. Many of the dead were the same settlers he had saved at the Battle of Bracket’s Wood.

After burying the dead, Church went in search of the Wabanaki who were responsible for the deaths. He led the expedition to Pejepscot, which is present-day Brunswick, Maine, arriving on September 11.

Capture of Pejepscot

His goal was to recapture Fort Pejepscot, which had been taken by the Wabanaki. When he arrived, he found the fort in ruins, and the Wabanaki in the town fled north. Church occupied Pejepscot and found some Abanaki wigwams. 

In them were elderly Abanaki, including women and children, along with English settlers who were being held captive. Church freed the settlers and then had some of the Abanaki brutally killed. The others were taken as prisoners.

Two elderly women were spared so they could deliver a message to the Abanaki warriors when they returned to Pejepscot.

The message was the Abanaki should meet him in two weeks at Salmon Falls (Berwick, ME), with all of the English settlers who had been taken as prisoners. If they failed to meet him, he threatened to execute his Abanaki prisoners.

Fight at Cape Elizabeth

Church only had three boats for his expedition. Between his troops and the settlers he had rescued, they were crowded. He sailed roughly 35 miles south and stopped at Purpooduck Point — present-day Cape Elizabeth, Maine — where they set up a camp for the night.

Unknown to Church, the Abanaki warriors were following him and surrounded the camp during the night. The Abanaki attacked in the morning, but their muskets were ineffective due to wet gunpowder.

The Englishmen in the camp retreated to the shore, where they were joined by their counterparts who spent the night on the boats. Together, they were able to repel the Abanaki attack.

The Wabanaki retaliated within a few days and attacked Church at Cape Elizabeth, roughly 35 miles south of Salmon Falls. Church also attacked a nearby settlement called Purpooduck.

A Truce and Prisoner Exchanges

In October, the Abenaki representatives went to the town of Wells, Maine, carrying a white flag of truce. They agreed to a prisoner exchange, which was set for November.

When it came time for the prisoner exchange, the Abanaki only brought 10 settlers with them — significantly less than had been taken away up to that point.

After six days of negotiations, the Abanaki agreed to a truce and to bring more prisoners to another exchange, which would take place in May 1691.

Failure to Capture Quebec and Montreal

While Church was dealing with the Indians along the coast of Maine, the Massachusetts Colony and the New York Colony planned to launch separate attacks on Quebec and Montreal. 

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Mayland, and Plymouth provided militia forces for these expeditions. The Iroquois also provided men. Unfortunately, no party was able to provide as many men as they promised. The lack of men, resources, and bad weather led to the failure of both expeditions.

While New York and Connecticut paid for the Montreal expedition, Massachusetts paid for the full amount of the Quebec expedition, which was led by Sir William Phips.

Battle of Quebec — October 16–20

The Massachusetts expedition left Boston in August, arriving at Quebec in October. On the 16th, the attack started — the first time in the long history of the French and Indian Wars that English forces attacked the fortress city. However, the attack was poorly coordinated and the French were able to withstand the attack. Phips was forced to withdraw and return to Boston.

Battle of Quebec, 1690, Frontenac Refuses Surrender, Jefferys copy
This painting by Charles William Jefferys depicts Frontenac (right) refusing so surrender to an envoy sent by Phips. Image Source: Wikipedia.

King William’s War in 1691

Battle of La Prarie — August 11

As part of the expedition against Montreal, Major Peter Schuyler led a force of English soldiers and Indian warriors into Canada. He intended to target French settlements along the Richelieu River, south of Montreal.

Louis-Hector de Callière, the French Governor in the region, responded by assembling a force that included nearly 800 French marines, militia, and Indians at La Prarie, which is on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River.

On August 11, Schuyler launched a surprise attack on La Prarie. Schuyler was forced to retreat when French reinforcements arrived, trapping Schuyler’s men, and forcing them into hand-to-hand combat. After roughly an hour, the English forces were able to push through and escape.

Schuyler decided to abandon further attacks in the region and returned to Albany, New York.

Naval Battle at St. John — September 22

Following the Battle of Port Royal, England believed Acadia was under its control and Edward Tyng was appointed Governor. 

On September 22, an English sailboat carrying Tyng was attacked by a French ship under the command of Joseph Robineau de Villebon, the French Governor of Acadia. The battle takes place in the Bay of Fundy near present-day Saint John, New Brunswick. Both Tyng and the captain of the sailboat, John Nelson, were captured and taken as prisoners.

At the time, Captain John Alden — the son of the Pilgrims John Alden and Priscilla Alden — was himself a prisoner of the French. 

The French decided to offer a prisoner exchange to Massachusetts officials. Alden was sent to Boston to negotiate the exchange. The French offered to return Tyng if the New Englanders released 60 soldiers who had been captured by Phips during the Battle of Port Royal.

While Alden was in Boston, the French held one of his sons, likely John Alden IV, and Tyng at Port Royal. Nelson was also held captive, but he was sent to Quebec.

While he was in prison, Nelson gathered intelligence on the French forces. He was caught and sent to France, where he was held in the Bastille. He returned to his home on Long Island in 1701 and received a hero’s welcome.

Unfortunately, Massachusetts only gave Alden six prisoners to exchange. The French responded by sending his son and Tyng to France. Tyng died there, at La Rochelle. The fate of Alden’s son is unclear.

King William’s War in 1692

The Candlemas Massacre — January 24

On January 24, 1692, French forces carried out a raid on York, Maine. It is estimated that 300 settlers were killed or taken as prisoners. This event, known as the “Candlemas Massacre,” was soon followed by an outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Massachusetts, which spread throughout New England.

Candlemas Massacre, Historical Marker
Historical marker for the Candlemas Massacre. Image Source: Waymarking.

Mohawk Valley Raid — February

A combined force of French and Indians under the command of Nicolas d’Ailleboust de Manthet attacked three Mohawk villages. These attacks were also part of the Beaver Wars.

All three villages — also known as “castles” — were destroyed, along with their food stores. Survivors of the attacks were taken as prisoners and sent to the “Christian Indian” villages near Montreal.

Major Peter Schuyler assembled a combined force of militia and Iroquois and pursued the French and Indian party. Schuyler caught up to them and a skirmish ensued. Most of the prisoners were released and de Manthet’s party returned to Montreal.

The consequences of the raids on the Mohawk tribe were significant. Not only did they lose their homes and food, but their standing within the Iroquois Confederacy was weakened. The weakness contributed to the 1701 agreement known as the Great Peace, which ended the Beaver Wars.

Economic Hardship in Massachusetts

The failure of the expeditions to capture Quebec took a severe financial toll on Massachusetts. The colony was around £40,000-50,000 in debt and was forced to issue paper money and raise taxes, leading to an economic depression. 

The Salem Witch Trials Begin

Small towns on the frontier suffered. Some towns were abandoned, while others struggled. In some of them, people turned to blaming the Devil for their troubles. This is considered to be one of the causes of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, which led to the deaths of 20 people who were accused of practicing witchcraft.

Salem Witch Trials, George Jacobs Sr, Matteson
This painting depicts the trial of an accused witch during the Salem Witch Trials. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Governor William Phips

William Phips was named Governor of Massachusetts in 1692 and arrived in Boston on May 14. Phips carried with him the new Massachusetts Charter of 1689, which made Massachusetts a Royal Colony.

Phips was informed of the situation in Salem and he ordered a special court to be set up to hear the cases. William Stoughton, the Lieutenant Governor, was appointed to oversee the court. Phips then returned to the business of dealing with the French and focused on building Fort William Henry at present-day Bristol, Maine.

Phips returned to Massachusetts on September 29 and found a total of 20 people had been executed due to the trials. Phips replaced the Court of Oyer and Terniner with a new court and cleared eight people of the accusations.

Stoughton Replaces Phips

The moves damaged Phips’ reputation. He was also accused of misconduct by his political enemies. He was recalled to England by the Lords of Trade on July 4, 1694. However, Phips spent most of the summer in Maine, brokering peace with Indians and overseeing the construction of the fort.

As Phips prepared to leave for England in November, he pardoned everyone that had been accused of witchcraft. William Stoughton replaced him as Governor of Massachusetts.

Raid on Wells — June 10–13

French forces attack Wells, but Captain James Converse leads the defense of the town, driving the attackers away.

Battle of Placentia — September 16–21, 1692

English forces attack Fort St. Louis. The battle lasts for five days and the French are able to repel the attack. The English withdraw on the 21st.

Benjamin Church’s Third Expedition into Acadia

Benjamin Church led his third expedition into Acadia, attacking the settlements of the Penobscot Tribe and the Taconock Tribe.

King William’s War in 1693

French Attacks on Mohawk Villages — February 6

In January, a French expedition departed from Chambly, intending to attack Mohawk villages on the north bank of the Mohawk River, near present-day Amsterdam, New York. The French forces moved into position on February 5 and launched the first attack on February 6. Word was sent to Peter Schuyler in Albany, who called up the militia. He moved out on February 13 and was joined by nearly 300 Mohawks who survived the attacks.

Battle of Wilton — February 17

Schuyler caught up to the French near present-day Wilton, New York. The French took refuge in a nearby fort and Schuyler built his own fort. The French attacked the English fort three times but failed to capture it or force the English to evacuate. 

After several days, both sides were running low on supplies and food. The French abandoned their fort and headed toward Montreal. 

Schuyler pursued them. When he caught up, the French threatened to kill their prisoners if he attacked. The French released around 50 of their prisoners and then climbed onto sheets of ice, which they used to float across Lake George to safety.

Events in 1693 Affecting the War

1693 — New England raided Port Royal again, causing destruction to residences and food stores.

1693 — English forces recaptured Fort Albany, winning the Second Battle of Fort Albany.

King William’s War in 1694

Raid on Oyster River — July 18

For a second time, French forces attacked the English settlement at present-day Durham, New Hampshire, along the Oyster River. The village was destroyed while at least 100 settlers were killed and nearly 30 were taken as prisoners.

Raid on Groton — July 27

After the attack at Oyster River, the French attacked the town of Groton. It is estimated that 20 settlers were killed and around 15 were taken as prisoners.

Capture of York Factory — October 14

Count Frontenac sent Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville to capture York Factory, which surrendered on October 14. The fort was renamed Fort Bourbon but was recaptured by the English roughly 10 months later.

King William’s War in 1695

By all accounts, the war continued in 1695 but was likely nothing more than raids and skirmishes along the frontier of New France and New England. No major battles or incidents appear to have taken place.

King William's War, Map of Campaigns, 2023
This map shows the campaigns carried out by the French and English during the war. Image Source: Wikipedia.

King William’s War in 1696

New France Fails to Capture Boston — July

In July 1696, the French attacked Fort William Henry. The English garrison surrendered without a fight. With the fort under French control, Frontenac assembled an expedition to attack Boston. 15 French ships sailed for Boston but struggled due to storms and bad weather. Most of the ships ran low on provisions and returned to France. A single ship returned to Quebec to inform Frontenac of the failed expedition.

Second Naval Battle off St. John — July 14

In July, a small fleet of English ships was dispatched to the Bay of Fundy, near present-day Saint John, New Brunswick, to intercept a French supply fleet. The French ships were returning from France to Fort Nashwaak.

On July 5, a Wabanaki party, consisting of Mi’kmaq and Maliseet warriors, attacked the English ships. The attack was coordinated by a Jesuit missionary, Father Florentine. Despite suffering casualties, the English ships were able to continue to the Bay of Fundy.

Nine days later, on the 14th, the French fleet sailed into the bay, under heavy fog. When the two fleets finally saw each other, the battle ensued. The French outgunned the English and won the battle. One English ship was captured and another escaped.

Following the battle, the French ships sailed to Penobscot (Castine, ME), gathered reinforcements, and then sailed to Pemaquid (Bristol, ME) to attack the English garrison at Fort William Henry.

Second Siege of Pemaquid — August 14–15, 1696

The French fleet arrived at Pemaquid and laid siege to the English garrison at Fort William Henry. Wabanaki warriors surrounded the fort, trapping the English inside, allowing the French to move cannons from their ships onto land and place them around the fort.

The English surrendered and the commander of the fort, Captain Pasco Chubb, arranged for his garrison to be escorted to Boston and exchanged for French and Indians who were being held there.

Raid on Chigneto — September 20–29

Responding to the Siege of Pemaquid, Benjamin Church led his fourth expedition into Acadia and attacked Chignecto. His forces laid siege to the town of Beaubassin for 9 days.

Siege of Fort Nashwaak — October 18–20

After the Raid on Chigneto, Church sailed to the French capital of Acadia at present-day Fredericton, New Brunswick. He attacked Fort Nashwaak, but French reinforcements arrived, forcing him to end the siege.

Avalon Peninsula Campaign — November 10, 1696–April 19

Following the destruction of Fort William Henry in August, the French fleet carried out attacks along the coast of Newfoundland, known as the Avalon Peninsula Campaign.

King William’s War in 1697

Raid on Haverhill — March 15

French forces attacked Haverhill, Massachusetts. 27 settlers were killed and 13 were taken as prisoners, including Hannah Duston, Mary Neff, and Samuel Lenorson. They escape one night after killing 10 of their captors. Hannah Duston scalped the victims and the three returned to Haverhill. Duston was awarded £50 for each scalp she carried.

Battle of Hudson Bay — September 5

Also known as the Battle of York Factory. English ships from the Hudson’s Bay Company fought with a small French fleet. The French won and recaptured York Factory.

Battle of Damariscotta — September 9

In the last significant battle of King William’s War, English forces led by Captain John March engaged Wabanaki warriors and defeated them.

The Treaty of Ryswick Ends the Nine Years’ War

Peace was achieved between England and France on September 20, 1697. The two nations agreed to the Treaty of Ryswick, which was just one of a series of treaties that ended the war in Europe.

The provisions of the treaty restored the borders of New France and New England to what they were before the war. Unfortunately, it did not address the border issues between Acadia and New England that contributed to King William’s War.

Although the Nine Years’ War was over, and hostilities ended between the English and French, King William’s War continued. Both the English and French continued to have conflicts with the Wabanaki and the Iroquois.

Peace of Ryswick, 1697, Painting, Wijnveld
This painting by Barend Wijnveld depicts the negotiations at Ryswick. Image Source: Amsterdam Museum.

King William’s War in 1698

Raid on Andover — March 4

Wabanaki forces attacked Andover, Massachusetts. Pasco Chubb, who survived the Siege of Pemaquid in 1696, was living in Andover. The Indians tracked him down and killed him, along with his family.

Raid on Hatfield — July 15

Four Indians attacked a group of men and boys working in fields, killing several of them.

King William’s War Ends in 1699

King William’s War continued until January 7, 1699. On that day, Massachusetts and the Wabanaki agreed to restore peace.

The Iroquois continued to fight the French until 1701, when the Great Peace of Montreal was achieved, ending the Beaver Wars. The treaty was signed by representatives of New France, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, and 35 additional Indian tribes.

The Next French and Indian War

A year later, the English throne passed to Anne, the younger sister of Mary, when King William III died. 

King Louis XIV, declared the son of James I, who was known as “James the Pretender.” to be the rightful King of England. Louis followed by placing his son, Philip of Anjon, on the throne of Spain. This increased the influence of France in Europe, which was opposed by England.

Europe was once again engulfed in war — the War of Spanish Succession — in 1702. As with King William’s War, the fighting spread to North America and is known as Queen Anne’s War.

King William’s War Significance

King William’s War is important to United States history because it was the first war between England and France for control of North America. It involved the Iroquois Confederacy and the Wabanaki Confederacy. It also crossed over with the Beaver Wars, which were fought to control the Fur Trade in North America. Although the outcome of the war was essentially a stalemate, it set the stage for half a century of wars that would be fought between the English, French, and Indians for control of New England, Canada, and the Ohio Country.

Common Questions About King William’s War

What was King William’s War in simple terms?

King William’s War was a conflict that took place from 1688 to 1698 in North America. It was fought between New England and New France, along with their respective Native American Indian allies. The war had its roots in the struggle for control over the English throne and religious differences between Catholic New France and predominantly Protestant New England, along with a desire to control the Fur Trade in North America.

How is King William’s War related to the Nine Years’ War?

King William’s War is the North American theater of the larger conflict known as the Nine Years’ War or the War of the League of Augsburg. While the Nine Years’ War encompassed several European countries, King William’s War specifically refers to the battles and hostilities that occurred between New England and New France, along with their Native American allies. The conflicts were interconnected, with King William’s War being an extension of the war in Europe.

Was King William’s War a French and Indian War?

King William’s War is considered to be the First French and Indian War. It involved the French and their Native American allies, the Wabanaki Confederacy, fighting against the English colonists and their Native American allies, the Iroquois Confederacy. The French and Indian Wars were a series of extensive conflicts fought between the English, French, and Indians for control of the eastern portion of North America.

King William’s War APUSH Notes and Study Guide

Use the following links and videos to study the Colonial Era and the 13 Original Colonies for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.

King William’s War APUSH Definition

King William’s War was a conflict that took place primarily from 1689 to 1697, between the English colonies in North America and the French colonies, with involvement from Native American Indian Tribes. It was part of the larger struggle between England and France for dominance in the New World. The war was triggered by King William III’s ascension to the English throne and his alignment with the League of Augsburg against France. The conflict witnessed brutal raids, sieges, and territorial disputes, impacting the trajectory of North America. Despite several attempts to negotiate peace, the war concluded with the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, reinstating the territorial status quo ante bellum. However, underlying tensions persisted, setting the stage for future conflicts like Queen Anne’s War.

King William’s War Video for APUSH Notes

This video provides an overview of King William’s War.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title King William’s War — the First French and Indian War
  • Date 1688–1697
  • Author
  • Keywords King William's War, New England, Iroquois Confederacy, New France, Wabanaki Confederacy, Edmund Andros, William Phips, Benjamin Church, Count Louis de Frontenac, Baron Jean-Vincent de Saint-Castin, Nine Years' War, Glorious Revolution, King William III, Queen Mary II, War of Grand Alliance, War of the League of Augsburg, French and Indian Wars, Beaver Wars, Intercolonial Wars
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 22, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 17, 2024