Because of suddenly developed interest in Seven Year War sideshow of Northern America, I had to follow an recommendation and look through Tomahawk and Musket, French and Indian Raids in the Ohio Valley 1758 by Rene Chartrand. Book is related to somewhat obscure theatre of operations, eastern seaboard of Atlantic and colonial disagreements between Britain and France. What stirred up in the rather remote colonial corner at the time became to be known as French Indian war, or perhaps somewhat ominously, a Wilderness War.
Of course there is reason for my sudden interest – for some time I have looked for a copy of GMT’s Wilderness War – at title which has always stirred imagination. Now that GMT has finally decided to have yet another reprint I thought that missing the window again would not be an option. I have to admit that since I am fan of conflicts that have build it disparity of forces, there is all the potential for a good fun.
So, why to bother with the book then? Surely GMT’s Wilderness War is some distance call from historical simulation – would it be so, it would perhaps be too hopelessly one-sided. However, I have to admit that Seven Year War multitude of troops – albeit mostly unmounted in that corner of the world, do have certain appeal for miniature warfare. More so when conflicts are limited in numbers, and even big engagements only have handful of troops. So, it is a hunt for background material. (Additionally, it is not too far away from the declaration of independence that anyone would notice the differences in uniforms at 6mm…)
Tomahawk and Musket concentrates to rather narrow piece of history and to the key region of Ohio Valley (and Ohio Forks). There aren’t really many avenues around from the British colonies on the eastern seaboard to inland towards the key towns of New France, and the book does illustrate the strategic difficulties quite well. However, albeit there was a significant differences in the size and capacity of each opposing side, British did not have it very easy. In fact, adaptation to the war took much longer and much more effort than from their counterparts.
War in the wilderness would not be straight forward linear affair of continental Europe, but rather one sided affair where opponent would rather avoid direct confrontation and seek weak spots to strike. Something British needed to learn in a hard way. French regular contingents were limited, and they needed to rely on Indians and other irregulars heavily while Britain basked in ample supplies and manpower and strong regular contingents from Europe, and provincials from the colonies under Washington. While building up and making a slow and tedious process towards Ohio Forks, British Forbes also attempted to undermine the French Indian alliances – a strategy that did eventually bear fruit.
Author goes to some length describing the plan, strategy and central events that occurred during the building of Forbes Road to Fort Duquesne and does so with very limited sources. However, I would think that the subject could have been somewhat wider – considering that author does include a lot of pages that cover other than plan against Fort Duquesne and source material does not perhaps warrant such a narrow treatment. Unfortunately there is not whole lot more information that would not be available elsewhere and I have to admit that books value was a bit of disappointment. Couple of raids were described in decent detail – of of the utter failure that was carried out by Grant against Fort Duquesne, and another brilliant success carried out by Aubry against Fort Ligonier.
So, yes if one is interested in the specific affair of Forbes Road and the fate of Fort Duquesne during the French Indian War, it is a pretty nice book about that very narrow topic. However, if the interest lies in somewhat larger context, then there are perhaps better volumes available. As for reference material, there are some that is of use, and effect for GMT’s Wilderness War remains to be seen.