Date of Award

Spring 1989

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Utilizing the period of the early French wars as a whole, this study examines the experience of war on the northern frontier and its impact on the provincial soldier. Part One explores the warfare itself, with chapters on the initiation of war and the New England military system, garrison houses and community defense, provincial forts, patrols and raids, expeditions, and logistical problems associated with weapons and ammunition. The second part discusses the provincial soldiers themselves, including recruiting, officers, training and fighting spirit, the physical experience of combat and the tactical response to Indian warfare, wounds and medical care, and the spiritual and psychological impact of war.

Using recent works in social/military history as a basis of comparison, the author reevaluates the role and effectiveness of the colonial soldier, and concludes that the prevalent impression of the provincial as a poor soldier drawn from the dregs of colonial society is inaccurate. The concentration on major events has fostered the interpretation that provincial war efforts were inept, but this superficial examination ignores the complexity of warfare on the northern frontier.

The governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire had to defend a long frontier while mounting offensives against two enemies, the French in Canada and the Eastern Indians. In order to accomplish their military objectives they had to: raise soldiers; secure the services of specialists such as military engineers, gunsmiths, gunners, pilots and guides, doctors and interpretors; gather provisions and clothing; and contend with shortages of weapons and ammunition. The provincial governments were also dependent on England for logistical and naval support, and the English generally viewed colonial military efforts as a side show to be supported only when convenient to British strategy and plans.

Although decried as amateurs without proper military discipline or training, the New England military system actually tuned to the rhythm of frontier war. With units cemented by the bonds of kinship and community, led by officers known for their integrity and experience, New England soldiers became quite adept at petite querre, where success depended on individual expertise and action, not harsh discipline and mindless automation.