By the middle of the 1700's, the British and the French were the two most powerful nations in Europe and, being bitter rivals, they were vying for control of North America. In 1754, the French and Indian War began, pitting the French and many native Americans against the British and the Iroquois. The French goal was to control the Ohio Valley and to accomplish this, they needed to drive the British out. In 1754, a British force of 200 colonists led by a young colonel marched into the Ohio Valley where they were badly outnumbered and they were soundly defeated. That same young colonel would become famous in the American Revolution twenty years later, leading the colonists against the British in their quest for freedom.
After winning the battle at Fort Duquesne, the French achieved a larger victory against General Braddock as he marched towards the fort. Not heeding Washington's military advice, the French destroyed Braddock's army, killing him in the process. The French continued to enjoy a military advantage for the next two years.
By 1756, the British vastly improved their army, and they began to win the war in North America. By 1763, the British and the French had signed a peace treaty, with the French giving up most of their North American holdings. The British now had control of all the territory between the thirteen colonies and the Mississippi River excluding New Orleans.