- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

‘Twist of history’

Two drummers dressed in 18th-century French military uniforms pounded out a cadence to get the attention of the guests at the French ambassador’s elegant mansion as Ambassador Jean-David Levitte stood on the steps of the sweeping staircase and urged them to gather around.

“Step closer. No one will get shot. That war is over,” he said.

Mr. Levitte was referring to what Americans call the French and Indian War, Europeans call the Seven Years War, French-Canadians call the War of the Conquest, India calls the Third Carnatic War and former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the first world war.

Whatever its title, the conflict between 1754 and 1763 changed world history, as France lost control over its colonies in North America and elsewhere and Britain solidified its status as the 18th-century superpower.

The war started when George Washington, then a 21-year-old lieutenant colonel, led a force from the Virginia militia toward present-day Pittsburgh and attacked a French encampment. Within two years, all the major European powers were engaged on one side or the other. Britain officially declared war on France in 1756.

Prussia and Hanover allied with Britain, while Austria, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Saxony sided with France. In addition to North America and Europe, battles were fought in the Caribbean, coastal Africa, India and the Philippines.

However, Mr. Levitte this week was concerned with only one battle, the French victory in July 1758 when 4,000 French soldiers defending the strategic Fort Ticonderoga, which France called Fort Carillon, defeated a British force of 16,000.

“It was a very special period in American history and in French history,” he said. “It was a terrible but fascinating time. … But unfortunately, it marked the beginning of the end of the French empire in North America.”

Mr. Levitte hosted the president of the Fort Ticonderoga Board of Trustees, Deborah Clarke Mars, who described efforts to restore the privately owned historical site in upstate New York, and Scott Stephenson, curator of the French and Indian War exhibition, “Clash of Empires,” at the Smithsonian Institution’s S. Dillon Ripley Center.

The battle for the fort was “the bloodiest day in American history before the Civil War,” Mrs. Mars said. The British suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, while 350 Frenchmen were killed or wounded.

Mr. Stephenson added that next year will mark the 250th anniversary of the battle.

“The impact of this war could not have been greater,” he said.

Mr. Levitte noted that the French and Indian War added another “twist of history,” as the war debt prompted the British to tax the American Colonies in acts that led to the American Revolution, with France joining rebellious Colonies and ensuring their victory.

Good for Darfur

The selection of President John Kufuor of Ghana over Sudan’s president, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, to lead the African Union is “excellent news” for the victims of genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur, a former high-ranking American diplomat said this week.

Ambassador Lawrence Rossin of the Washington-based Save Darfur Coalition praised the African Union for blocking Gen. Bashir, whose country was scheduled to inherit the bloc’s rotating presidency. Gen. Bashir is widely blamed for the violence in Darfur, where government-backed Arab militias have killed tens of thousands of civilians in a campaign against an armed uprising.

“This is excellent news for the people of Darfur and for the AU itself,” said Mr. Rossin, who served as ambassador to Croatia and Spain during his State Department career.

“Not only did African leaders reject an inappropriate candidacy that would have destroyed the AU’s image and its ability to play a constructive role in Darfur, but they also selected a new president who has been notably outspoken on the need to end the violence that has gone on for too long in Darfur.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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