Useful Notes / Seven Years' War

Come cheer up my lads, tis to glory we steer
To add something new to this wonderful year
Hearts of Oak are our ships, Jolly Tars are our men
We always are ready, steady boys steady
-British Patriotic Song, written by David Garrick

I'm Frederick the Great, I am. Frederick the Great I am, I am.
I got married to a woman I don't love. 'Cause war is all I've time for thinking of
-satirical lyric from a history website

From 1756-1763 this was one of the most important wars in history and the largest of the classical eighteenth century style power struggles. It was in a way a bipolar war, consisting of the struggle between various families (and the realms they ruled) for control of Central Europe and the struggle between Britain and France for control of overseas markets and colonies. Its result led to the founding of The British Empire and a secessionist British state that would, two centuries later, become more populous and richer than her (via The American Revolution). On the other hand, it also marked the end of the first French Colonial Empire overseas and arguably caused her to turn inward to Europe again during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Most notably, the war marked the ascent of Prussia to Great Power status when she finally managed to conquer just enough territory (from the Austrian Habsburgs) to be able to put up a decent fight against the other Great Powers. However, on the Prussian part, the war was a very dangerous wager that it could not possibly have survived, let alone won - they only came out on top because nobody was willing or able to test whether Prussia was still up for a fight after the war. This has been referred to as the "Miracle of the House Brandenburg", which may or may not have caused a Prussian belief in a invincible military, which was further reinforced through the Franco-Prussian War and would prove disastrous for Germany in both world wars.

There was fighting in several theaters including Central Europe, North America, and India. (Minor theaters included Brazil, the Caribbean, West Africa, and the Philippines.) Given the nicely global spread of the fighting this has been posited as the first 'world' war, though why exactly it should get this designation when the War of the Austrian Succession, War of the Spanish Succession, or various Anglo-French colonial spats don't isn't clear. The way all three major theatres were seeing action at the same time is a biggie, though.

Often referred to in the US as the 'French and Indian War', what with the British North American colonies being restricted to - you guessed it - raising handfuls militia to defend against small-scale French and Indian raids and launch little raids of their own. It also marked a crucial turning point in the history of Canada, as the colony of New France was ceded to the British by France - setting the stage for Canada's later development as a bilingual country and (with the introduction of lots of fresh immigrants to sideline them) loyalty to the national government during the next British Civil War (aka 'The American Revolution').

Tropes related to the Seven Years War include:

  • Accidental Misnaming: British soldiers fighting the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, couldn't pronounce his name and hilariously anglicised it to "Sir Roger Dowlett", making him sound like a Quintessential British Gentleman. Considering the Nawab was guilty of Obligatory War Crime Scenes like the Black Hole of Calcutta, this might be inappropriate; but on the other hand, considering some of the things other supposed British "Gentlemen" did in this war...
  • Back in the Saddle: Many of the Seven Years War veterans in North America would pick up weapons again during the American Revolution.
    • That would also happen in later European wars. For instance Field Marshal Blücher, victor of Waterloo (1815), was a Seven Years War veteran.
  • Badass Army: Prussia
  • Big Brother Instinct: England, curiously enough, had this for Hanover. This was largely because King George II was Elector of Hanover as well.
    • From a British point of view, perhaps, from that of Hanover it would be just as realistic to say that without being asked its army was told to fight for Britain's interests and the population to suffer the incursions of Britain's enemies which might not even have occurred if its monarch did not also happen to be the king of England, Scotland and Ireland.
      • From a third point of view it would also be realistic to say that All the Little Germanies were a hotbed of war and turmoil vulnerable to each other and Bigger Fish. Even if Hanover avoided fighting Britain's enemies it probably would have fought others. As long as Hanover kept the alliance and fought for British interests, Britain fought to prevent her from being gobbled up by more powerful neighbors like the French Invasion that happened in this year. And coincidentally enough, when the alliance fell apart Otto von Bismarck conquered and annexed the country in 1866...
  • Catch-Phrase: At the hard-fought battle of Torgau (1760), Frederick the Great famously or notoriously shouted to his retreating grenadiers: "Dogs, do you want to live forever? Cheaters!" Less well remembered is the soldiers' response: "Old Fritz, no cheating, for 15 Pfennigs (then the daily pay) it's enough for today."
  • The Cavalry: In the Seven Years' War it played a major role, with e. g. a few major battles such as Rossbach (1757), Zorndorf (1758), and Freiberg (1762) being decided by the well-timed charges of General von Seydlitz' Prussian cuirassiers.
  • The Chessmaster: William Pitt The Elder—who contrary to popular belief was not Great Britain's Prime Minister at the time, but rather Secretary of State for the Southern Department (though he was the main power in the government, the PM being a figurehead). He didn't become Prime Minister until years later.
    • Pitt actually had nothing on Maria Theresia's foreign minister Wenzel Anton Count Kaunitz, who engineered the "Reversal of Alliances" before the war and managed to sustain an alliance containing partners of widely diverging if not conflicting interests (which contained two sets of traditional enemies, Austria and France, and Russia and Sweden) almost to the end.
  • Cowboy: Hussars were originally recruited from Hungarian cowboys.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: just pick. But Quiberon Bay was arguably the Royal Navy's Crowning Moment of Awesome of the century.
    • After the battle of Leuthen (arguably his greatest victory), Frederick II rode ahead with a few officers to look for a place to sleep. He came to the castle of Lissa, which he found as he entered, was filled to the brim with Austrian Officers and soldiers. With complete sang froid, he said: "Bonsoir, messieurs. Is there still room here?" The Austrians, thinking that the king had come with his army quickly fled, missing an easy chance to capture him.
    • After winning major battles in Germany (Minden), Canada, India and Quiberon Bay, 1759 became known as a Crowning Year of Awesome for Britain (hence 'Heart of Oak', see page quote). It was named the Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Miracles or Year of Victories. HMS Victory, future flagship of Lord Nelson, was laid down at the time and named after the year.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: "Come Cheer up my lads 'tis to glory we steer..."
    • The Prussian army spontaneously singing the chorale "Now Thank We All Our God" after the battle of Leuthen (1757). Hey, coming out of a heavily-fought fight against an army three times your size and utterly defeating it, you'd feel grateful to the Almighty!
  • Cold Sniper: Jaegers, Croats, Indians, Roger's Rangers.
    • The word Jaeger means hunter because they were light infantry recruited from German hunters, gamekeepers, and the like.
      • Rangers were small bands of frontiersmen recruited by the English provinces as border guards. Roger's Rangers were one of the most famous of these.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: British Red coats, French White, Austrian White, Prussian Blue, Russian Green, etc. And Yankee whatever they could bring...
  • Corporal Punishment: It was said only 2 things kept the British Army moving: rum and the lash. (They left the sodomy to the Navy, which didn't mind rum and the lash, either.)
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga. One would expect it to have been such in favor of the British (who brought 18,000 troops, 6000 of which were professional soldiers, to face France's 3,600 strong force of regulars, militia, and indians). It went in favor of France by a large margin. A popular British officer was killed in the opening skirmishes and this led to the British losing nearly 4 times as many men as the French.
    • The battle of Rossbach (1757), in which Frederick's army caught an army composed of French troops and the ill-assorted army of the Holy Roman Empire while it was deploying and drove it into headlong flight.
  • Deus ex Machina: The "Miracle of the house of Brandenburg" where Prussia was saved by a Succession Crisis in Russia
    • Nope. The term "Mirakel des Hauses Brandenburg" was actually coined more than two years earlier, when the Russian army, after having devastated the Prussian army at Kunersdorf on the 12th of August 1759, hesitated to march against Berlin and gave Prussia enough time to consolidate its scattered forces.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Empress Maria Theresa was really mad about Frederick taking Silesia earlier
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Montcalm and Wolfe dying on the Plains of Abraham.
    • For the Prussians the death of Field Marshal Schwerin in the battle of Prague (1757).
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: The closest any war would be until World War I.
    • The wars of Napoleon Bonaparte could make a try for that though.
    • The American War of Independence also involved battles in the West Indies, Africa, Europe (Gibraltar and Minorca) and the Indian Ocean even though it involved fewer major powers.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Officers competed for positions in the grenadier and light infantry companies as they were perceived as more elite and thus more likely to fuel advancement.
  • A Father to His Men: Lord Howe was one, killed during the opening skirmishes of the first battle of Ticonderoga. He was immensely popular with the enlisted men. He got the highlanders to wear pants.
  • Fast-Roping: The Assault on Quebec
  • Folk Hero: The town of King of Prussia Pennsylvania was named after Frederick. One story is that it was a tribute to an allies success. Another is that there was a tavern their that had served a lot of German auxiliaries during The American Revolution and some of these had served with Frederick.
  • For Want of a Nail: The particular spark that set off the powderkeg in North America was the killing of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, a French diplomat, by the Iroquois chief Tanaghrisson, while Jumonville was in British custody. The killing was completely unexpected, unsanctioned by the British, and in direct violation of the Diplomatic Impunity Jumonville claimed. The fallout from this event led to open war between Britain and France. Had Tanaghrisson not been there, or had the British been able to stop him, would hostilities have broken out? We'll never know...
    • Unfortunately, that would have probably postponed the hostilities at best. War may not have been exactly inevitable, per se... but the long-term territorial ambitions of both sets of colonists made it pretty close.
    • Exacerbating matters is the fact that George Washington, the leader of the British colonial militia sent to scout the Ohio Territory, was tricked into accepting responsibility for the 'assassination' of Jumonville. Following the Jumonville Affair, Washington was defeated at Fort Necessity by a French and Indian force, and he signed the terms of surrender. Washington, who did not speak French, did not realize that the document he signed also included an admission that the death of Jumonville was an assassination. This became a cause celebre for the French and was one of the major factors instigating the conflict.
    • The Prussian military escaped total destruction by the skin of their teeth. Given how important Prussia (and a Prussian-led Germany) would later become, one can't help but wonder what would have happened had the Austrians and/or Russians marched for Berlin after Kunersdorf or had Elizabeth of Russia not died when she did, or had someone attacked Prussia immediately after the war, when it was bankrupt and devastated. It's really a wonder Prussia survived the war at all, let alone came out on top.
  • Gambit Pileup: The most concise way to describe the causes.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Between the British regulars in America and the colonial troops, the former mostly regarding the latter as backwoodsy, self-interested incompetents (claimed by some to be the origin of the song "Yankee Doodle", which was originally meant to mock colonial Americans). Of course, this can be seen as Foreshadowing for what came later...
  • Lady of War: Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa
  • Prequel: to The American Revolution
    • Also to Pontiac's Uprising.
  • Made a Slave: Putting a Mickey in people's drinks was a well known recruitment method then.
  • Maximum Fun Chamber: The infamous Black Hole of Calcutta, a tiny guardroom in which over a hundred British and allied troops were crammed by the rebellious Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah; nearly all of them died.note 
    • Revenge: The Battle of Plassey, in which Clive of India defeated Siraj's army despite being outnumbered 18 to 1.
      • Though the fact that the Nawab's commander-in-chief Mir Jafar betrayed him & refused to order the bulk of his army into the battle had more to do with the victory than Clive's military genius or the valour of the British. Truthfully, by the time of the battle almost the entire aristocracy of Bengal & the Nawab's leading officers were conspiring against him with the British.
  • Mega Corp.: The British East India Company, and its French counterpart, the "Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales", both of which had their own armies and fleets. When Britain and France declared war, the two companies dutifully took up arms against one another.
  • Mildly Military: Colonial troops often had the outrageous idea that the King should actually pay them. And were apt to just march off when they weren't paid.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: As Old Fritz found
  • More Dakka: The Prussian army did not believe in aiming. Instead, they opted to fire as quickly as possible to unnerve the opposing lines.
    • Given the inaccuracy of smooth-barreled muskets at distances over 50 or 100 paces, this was a quite realistic attitude to take. At close range given the close formations of the day, Prussian rapid fire was so unnerving because it was so deadly. But things were different with the Prussian Jägers who were armed with rifles.
  • Non-Indicative Name: It's arguable hostilities between the British Colonists and the French kicked off with an unsuccessful attack by the British on French forts in Farmington PA in 1754, which would mean the Seven Years War lasted for Nine years.
  • Older Than They Think: A war with countries grouping together to form alliances and fighting battles in several regions of the world simultaneously. Many historians argue that this war can be considered the actual First World War—meaning World War I is really World War II.
    • Or at least World War V, given the global scale of the War of the Austrian Succession, the War of American Independence, the Wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Partly depending on whether you count the latter as a single war or several separate wars.
  • One Last Job / Retirony: Montcalm was brought out of retirement to command the French forces in North America, which wasn't considered important at the time he accepted the post. He died during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which ensured British control of the French colonies.
  • Plunder: Practically the entire French Empire. Which is why it became The British Empire.
  • Pet the Dog: Frederick would make plans while feeding his famous hounds.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Just to start with, the Scottish Highlanders. Who would actually take service with the "Sassenaches" rather then miss out on all the fun.
  • River of Insanity: much of the war centered on the half unknown rivers and lakes in North America which were the main traffic routes through the wilderness.
  • Sequels: For Britain, France and Spain: The American War of Independence, for Prussia and Austria the War of Bavarian Succession (also called the "Potato War") of 1778/79.
  • The Siege: The form of most of the fighting in America took.
    • Also quite a few in the European theatre of operations; many fortresses in Silesia changed hands a few times over. In 1758 Frederick wasted precious forces and resorts in the unsuccessful siege of Olmütz (Olomouc). The Pomeranian fortress of Kolberg (Kolobrzeg) sustained two sieges before finally being forced to surrender in the third.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Wolfe quoting poetry during the assault on Quebec.
    • Of course he did have a long boring wait ahead of him and needed something to do.
    • This would also be Warrior Poet .
    • Frederick the Great wrote poetry before his battles.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: What happened to Rogers Rangers after the St. Francis raid. Indians had captured their boats and many men chose to plunder valuables from the attack instead of food which left them with no quick way home and starving until Rogers took a desperate gamble and managed to reach a fort to send aid back to his men.
  • Urban Warfare: Many of the battles in the Caribbean took this form.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Glasgow was a completely unremarkable fishing village at this time, though it was becoming less poor as a result of the intercontinental trade to Africa, The Americas, and India. The Highland Regiments of the British army, though, were every bit as bloodthirsty and then some.
  • Warrior Prince: Frederick, but he was not the only one:
    • Charles de Rohan, Prince of Soubise, led his army to ignominious defeat at Rossbach.
    • Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine, an Austrian commander, laid down his command after being defeated at Leuthen.
    • Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, commander of the Allied Army in Northwestern Germany (British, Hanoverian, Hessian, Brunswick, Prussian etc. troops). He was successor to the rather less than successful Duke of Cumberland.
    • Prince Henry of Prussia, another independent army commander, whom his brother Frederick described as the only general of the war who did not make a single mistake.
    • Marshal Victor Francois, Duke of Broglie, one of the more successful French commanders who was one of the first to organize his forces into permanent divisions instead of ever-changing ad hoc formations.
    • Count William, ruler of the tiny principality of Schaumburg-Lippe, considered the supreme artillery commander of the era, first served under Ferdinand of Brunswick, then went on to command the Portuguese army in its successful defense against the Spanish invasion.
  • We Have Reserves: Russia always has reserves.
  • Wham Episode: Compared to the previous wars of the 18th century, especially the War of the Austrian Succession about a decade before, which was almost as global in scale yet hit the Reset Button at the peace. The Seven Years' War on the other hand changed the world forever.
    • Though really mainly from a British and American point of view, and even there the results were appreciably revised in the sequel.
    • In Europe it was the other way around, the result was a confirmation of the changes caused by the War of Austrian Succession, Prussia keeping Silesia and maintaining its position as the fifth major European power. And Britain losing its base on Minorca.
  • The Wild West: the old Wild West.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men
  • Worthy Opponent: Montcalm
    • John Manners, Marquess of Granby, who impressed the French general the Duc de Broglie so much that de Broglie commissioned Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint his portrait.
  • You Have Failed Me: English Admiral John Byng managed to lose Minorca to the French, mainly by sticking too closely to the official Fighting Instructions. He was promptly convicted by the Admiralty of "failing to do his utmost" and executed on his own quarterdeck.
    • Cue Voltaire: "In this country we find it pays to shoot an admiral from time to time to encourage the others."
    • The same thing happened to Thomas Arthur, Count of Lally, Baron of Tollendal, who was beheaded for havng lost most of (then) French India to the British. Voltaire played a big part in his rehabilitation. One might say that Montcalm, who died during the Siege of Quebec, was lucky.
  • You Killed My Father: The Marquis de La Fayette's father was killed fighting against a British-Hanoverian army in the battle of Minden (1759); he decided to get his own back in the next war against Britain.
  • Young Future Famous People: George Washington got an Early-Bird Cameo.

Fiction set in this time period includes:

  • The war provides the backdrop to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's classic comedy Minna von Barnhelm.
  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • Frederick the Great's soldiers and generals are commemorated in many ballads by Theodor Fontane.
  • Kenneth Roberts' Northwest Passage deals with the fighting in North America.
  • Der Große König: A German film made in 1942 to inspire morale by associating Prussian tradition with guess who. Ironically the real "Great King"(Frederick the Great) of the title would have thought his alleged spiritual descendants were overlate for an appointment with the Knoutmaster.
    • Between the World Wars, films involving Frederick the Great were a boom genre in Germany. Some of the ones involving the Seven Years' War include
      • Fridericus Rex (1920-1923). A silent four-parter, part IV is about the Seven Years' War.
      • Der alte Fritz (1927-1928). A two-parter, part I covering the end of the Seven Years' War and its aftermath.
      • Das Flötenkonzert von Sanssouci (1930, "The Flute Concert of Sanssouci"), a comedy set at the eve of the war.
      • Kadetten (1931). Young military cadets fighting the Russian invaders. This film was remade in 1941 with pupils from a Napola (elite Nazi school).
      • Der Choral von Leuthen (1933), about one of Frederick's greatest victories.
      • Fridericus (1936). Set in the closing stages of the Seven Years' War.
      • Das Fräulein von Barnhelm (1940). A movie adaptation of Lessing's play Minna von Barnhelm.
  • Barry Lyndon
  • Sachsens Glanz und Preußens Gloria (Saxony's Lustre and Prussia's Glory, 1985-1987), a sumptuous six-part TV series produced in the GDR. The Seven Years' War is covered in parts 5 and 6.
  • Age of Empires III: Covers a small portion of it.
  • "Acadian Driftwood", a song by The Band
  • Empire: Total War features the North American theatre of this conflict in its story mode.
  • Alluded to, if not outright covered, in Axis Powers Hetalia.
  • Assassin's Creed III features a prologue set during the French and Indian War, showing its importance in the birth of the real subject of the game, The American Revolution. It features an Early-Bird Cameo with George Washington during his service under the notorious General Braddock on his doomed expedition.
    • Assassin's Creed: Rogue features this conflict in fuller detail, and returns to the same settings with returning characters from III.
  • While none of the titular Revolutions of Revolutions happened during the Seven Years War, Mike Duncan shows how the war in its various theaters affected the situation ahead of the revolutions - it would set the ground for the American Revolution, the geopolitical situation ahead of the French Revolution and ultimately would also affect the Haitian and Latin American revolutions

Alternative Title(s): French And Indian War