What if the French had won? Almost 250 years ago, French and English armies clashed in the primeval forest of western Pennsylvania as they struggled to control the most important piece of real estate in 18th century North... more » America. The army that controlled the forks of the Ohio, a confluence of mighty rivers that would one day become Pittsburgh, held the gateway to the entire continent. Native Americans boldly tried to manipulate the balance of military power between the English and the French. It was the French and Indian War, and an inexperienced Virginian soldier named George Washington, serving under the British flag, learned battle-scarred lessons that would indelibly shape his life.« less
"WOW! To many Americans, the French and Indian War, was a casual footnote in a long ago history class. Ditto for references to Braddock's Defeat, Fort Duquesne, and Geo. Washington's initial exposure to warfare. To a few more, it might generate a recollection that, if they ever read it, "The Last of the Mohicans" by James F. Cooper, was set during this war. It also inspired Longfellow's epic poem, "Evangeline". A reference to the Siege of Louisbourg or the Plains of Abraham will likely result in a blank look. My experience over the years has been that our Canadian neighbors and friends have, in many ways, a better understanding of what this war meant to North America than we Americans do. I refer not only of the loss of Canada by France to Britain, but the planting and sprouting of issues during this war, that would fuel and feed the sparks of the American Revolution. This series does a wonderful job of taking much history, keeping it factual, chronilogical, understandable, AND, above all, INTERESTING. It somewhat came across as if I were watching an action/adventure/war movie EXCEPT that I've read several dozen books about the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years War) and the historical accuracy is generally here. To those of you with an Ph.D. in history I say, relax, enjoy, and remember; to those without, view, enjoy, and learn. Your time will be well spent."
Interesting, but Uneven Film
Jean-Luc Glorieux | 02/14/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Like many western Pennsylvania history buffs, I had been really looking forward to this much-heralded PBS program that was produced by Pittsburgh's WQED. However, I must say now that I was somewhat dissapointed. On the positive side, I believe that overall this film did a fair job of explaining the main issues and describing the events of the so-called French and Indian war. In particular, its emphasis on the Indians' point of view was somewhat new and interesting, although it certainly was at time over-emphasized. Also on the positive side, the blend of narrative and action scenes was well done and came accross somewhat better than many of these typical documentaries made up of "experts" interviews and picture stills (a la Ken Burns). On the negative side, I share many of the criticisms of the sacthing review by "The Highlander", although he too does not have all of his facts straight when he says for example that William Pitt (The Elder) was NOT the British Prime Minister durin the war, although he was, first from 1757 to 1761 and again from 1766 to 1768. I agree that many of the battles did have a somewhat "staged" look. Most of all I was very dissapointed and frustrated by how little importance was given to Forbes's successful campaign of 1758 against Fort Duquesne as compared to the earlier failures of 1754 by Washington and 1755 by Braddock. In particular, I was somewhat incredulous that there was NO mention of Col. Henry Bouquet, the Swiss mercenary in the British service who was most responsible for Forbes' success. Finally I could not believe the complete omission of the 1763 Battle of Bushy Run that started as a re-run of Braddock's defeat but ended up as the victory that decided the outcome of Pontiac's War thanks to the wiles of the same Col. Bouquet who certainly must rank as one of the most successful British commanders of this war."
A nicely done overview.
M. Keogh | New York, NY | 03/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The War that Made America" is an overview of most of the major events, and the people involved in them, of the French and Indian War. It's sort of documentary/miniseries hybrid. Like a documentary, it's narrated by an actor- Graham Greene, occasionally shows paintings and drawings from the era, and presents maps to highlight where the historical events took place. However, unlike most documentaries, there are no historians discussing the subject or modern scenes of areas where the battles took place. Instead, the film attempts to bring the main events of the war to life by "re-enacting" them through the use of actors. I'm hestitant to use the word "re-enactment" to describe the live-action scenes because that conjures up images of middle-aged, overweight folks waddling about in period costumes and "dying" melodramatically for the camera. The "War that Made America," although obviously constrained by a low budget, appeared to have made attempts to to avoid the image of "old guys playing army" that unfortunately attaches to most documentaries that rely heavily on the services of amateur historical enthusiasts. The live action scenes are fairly subdued and I didn't notice any 300lb fifty-year old privates or corporals.
For its historical viewpoints, the documentary appears to have relied heavily upon the work of historian Fred Anderson- the author of the "Crucible of War" which is a terrific book on the Seven Years War. Thus, just as Anderson portrayed in his book, the American Indian tribes are shown as serious political players in the struggle and not just peripheral allies as they are usually portrayed by other historians. Further, since Anderson thinks that the guerilla warfare of expertise of American ranger outfits is nothing more than a myth, Robert Rogers and his rangers are not even mentioned which may surprise some people. However, the film does avoid one of Anderson's more loopy beliefs- James Wolfe was suicidal and that battle of the Plains of Abraham was simply a way for him to kill himself.
The documentary focuses on most of the famous events of the war- the attack on Jumonville's glen, the battles of Fort Necessity, Monogahela, the Bloody Morning Scout and Lake George, Fort William Henry, Ticonderoga, and the Plains of Abraham. It also discusses the problems that the British high command had with the colonial assemblies (something Anderson focused heavily on in his book). Near the end, it show some of the events of Pontiac's uprising. Also, the film constantly reminds the viewer that the French and Indian War is crucial to understanding why the American Revolution occured.
That link between the French and Indian War and the American Revolution is mostly demonstrated by the film's portrayal of the key role that young George Washington played in the F&I war and how it shaped his development as a man and as a commander. The role of George Washington is nicely played by Larry Nehring- a Cleveland stage actor who has Washington's imposing height and auburn hair. (Although he's a little too old to be playing a man who was just in early 20's when most of the events of the film take place. The film also has an incredibly overaged "Mary Jemison.)
The film is fairly even handed. It does not pretend that the Indians were not responsible for atrocities such as the Fort William Henry massacre or for what Shawnee raiders did to the Jemison family. Thus, it's not as "PC" as some have complained here especially in light of the fact that there are "historians" out there who have attempted to whitewash every Indian atrocity.
Overall, this was a very nicely done documentary on a fascinating subject. Yes, it had a public TV documentary budget and looks it, but it does appear that the producers tried hard to make every cent count. It provides a nice overview for people not really familiar with this period of history. It probably going to be shown in a lot of schools.
Fine set on French and Indian War
Dr J | Salem, OR United States | 06/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This long-awaited DVD on the French and Indian War is very good in some respects, but there are some serious setbacks. I don't think it delivers or lives up to what I expected. It's the first mini-series on the entire French and Indian War. There are other videos/DVDs on parts of the war (see my reviews of _When the Forest Ran Red_ and _George Washington's First War_), but this is the first that attacks the whole war. However, I never felt like the series was tied together very well. It just seemed that I was watching four separate DVDs that were somehow related. I never got a sense of the entire war. In all, I felt like I was watching the above-mentioned DVDs again. Second, it's interesting to watch, as there are very well-done reenactments. It's almost like watching a movie. However, many of the scenes are quite intense and violent. Some scenes (there is even a disclaimer at the beginning of each DVD) are not appropriate for young children. Yes, war is violent, but some of the scenes seemed to be included for shock value.
As far as the content goes, I have many issues. Grant's raid on Fort Duquesne is not mentioned. The fall of Frontenac and Louisbourg are given only cursory treatment, which is surprising after the very detailed treatments of Braddock's defeat, Washington's early battles, and the fall of Fort William Henry. The massacre after William Henry gets a lot of time and the DVD tries to downplay the whole incident by stating that not many people were actually killed with respect to the number reportedly killed. I'm not sure why so much time is devoted to this (certainly because of the Last of the Mohicans movies). But it's really not an important episode to the entire war--it should be a footnote.
The role and portrayal of the Indians is almost unbelievable. It starts off with the 'happy Indian' idea, "Dozens of Indian nations coexist in Eastern North America." There is no mention of the discord among the various tribes. Many tribes suffered greatly at the hands of the Iroquois and wanted to throw off their yoke of oppression. Tribes sometimes aligned themselves with one side based on whom their enemies sided with. Another claim is almost stupid, "Captives often had less to fear than they thought." One captive is shown running a gauntlet; but the gauntlet is shown as being a very kind thing. Would that the hazing I got in highschool would have been so tame! The claim is made that the Indians sided with the French because the French were less likely to take the land from them (It's the old "French traders vs. English settlers" idea). This claim is later contradicted, "Without gifts, the Indians will abandon the French." This statement really makes the Indians look like mercenaries who sell their souls for a few trinkets. Unlikely. The Indians were not so stupid--they jumped ship because the English started winning and they wanted to be on the winning side. The final claim about the Indians is just too much, "The support of the Indian nations is necessary for ultimate victory." This is simply not true. In the early stages of the war, every betting man would have put his money on the French. The English were so inept it stupifies the imagination. However, by 1759, the English had shipped the largest army North America had ever seen and turned this into a European-style war. The 'little war' with small bands guided by Indian scouts and allies was a thing of the past. The frontier was simply a sideshow for the big battles of the North. Quebec, the real nail in the coffin for the French, was a classic European-style battle. The Indians by this time had become nearly irrelevant (consider their treatment by the English after the war which led to Pontiac's Rebellion). The West was nearly forgotten by this time. Unfortunately, the set gives much more time to the early West and treats the later battles in the North only as a nuisance that must be given some coverage.
My final criticism: this set really is the story of George Washington, not about the war itself. It seems like a retelling of the other two DVDs I mentioned--that's not bad, but not much is new.
Well, is there anything that really stands out in this set? Yes, the section on the after war years leading up to the Revolution is fantastic. I can't say enough good about it. It really underscores the differences in goals between the British and Americans. The Americans wanted land and the British, well, I don't think they really knew what they wanted. The Break seems almost inevitalbe. This part is very well done.
Is this set worth watching? Yes, but just keep in mind that it's a bit unbalanced and has some problems."
The Best French and Indian War Documentary Ever Made--And It
J P. Rich | Los Angeles, California United States | 08/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I eagerly anticipated this series, and installed HDTV in part because of it. Considering the limits of public TV (you cannot have battles involving thousands of extras and there are few if any F&I War reenactors, it is superb. I know something about the production quality, and the producer took extraordinary steps to achieve authenticity, down to the most minor details of the costumes. There will always be quibbles (see other posts) but there is no more accurate depiction. And you simply cannot take your eyes off of the glorious HD picture!"