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Class Year

2010

Abstract

The August 10, 1757 massacre at Fort William Henry contradicted eighteenth-century European standards for warfare. Although British colonial opinion blamed it on Native American depravity, France‘s Native American allies acted within their own cultural parameters. Whereas the French and their British enemies believed in the supremacy of the state as the model for conduct, Native Americans defined their political and military relations on a personal level that emphasized mutual obligations. With the fort‘s surrender, however, the French and British attempted and failed to bring European cultural norms into the American wilderness. While the French triumphed in Fort William Henry‘s capitulation, Native Americans required plunder, scalps, and prisoners to prove individual valor and an honorable victory. Denied the spoils of victory with the surrender, they seized the initiative in their assault on the siege‘s survivors. The massacre at Fort William Henry revealed a gruesome divergence between two differing concepts of diplomacy and warfare.

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