King William’s War was the first in a series of colonial conflicts between France and England for supremacy in North America. The major goal, other than prestige, was the control of the fur trade. All of these struggles had European counterparts that were often of greater significance than the American events.
“King William” refers to William III of England, the new monarch imported from the Netherlands at the time of the Glorious Revolution in 1688-89. The new king allied himself with the League of Augsburg (certain German states, Spain and Sweden) to oppose the French expansion. The Austrians and the Dutch also joined the fray against Louis XIV in the European phase of the conflict.
Conflict was already smouldering on the New England frontier at the time of the English declaration of war against France in May of 1689. Angered over the plundering of St. Castine's Trading House, the French had incited the Abernaki Indians of Maine to destroy the rival English post of Pemaquid, and also to attack frontier settlements.
When Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, arrived in 1689 for his second term as governor, he found the colony terrified from Iroquois raids. In order to restore the courage of his populace and regain the support of his Indian allies, Frontenac sent out three war parties during the winter of 1690. The first destroyed Schenectady, the second burned down the small settlement of Salmon Falls on the New Hampshire border, while the third forced the surrender of Fort Loyal, now the site of Portland.
In response, Massachusetts raised a fleet of seven ships, which captured and plunder Port Royal. In May 1690, representatives of New York, Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut met in New York City and planned an attack on Montreal. Attacks were planned by land and sea, both of which were failures.
Later French and Indian raids were made against Falmouth (later Portland, Maine) in July 1690; Durham, New Hampshire in June 1694; and Haverhill, Massachusetts in March 1697.
Peace was temporarily established in the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, ending King William's War. North American territorial gains were returned to the original holders, establishing a status quo ante bellum.
Fighting was renewed in the New World in Queen Anne's War in 1702.
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