Panic, Retreat, Retrenchment
The defeat at the Battle of the Wilderness drove many more Indians into the camp of the French and laid English settlements along the length of the frontier open to attack. To make matters worse, the French had captured Braddock’s private papers, which contained his main war plan. French governor Vaudreuil had intended to move against Fort Oswego on the south shore of Lake Ontario; learning from Braddock’s abandoned papers that Forts Niagara and Saint Frederic would be the objects of attack, he reinforced these positions, using the very cannon the routed English had left behind.
While the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia frontiers were convulsed by Indian raids, William Johnson was victorious at the Battle of Lake George and built the strategically important Fort William Henry on the south end of the lake. Washington, returned from the Battle of the Wilderness, persuaded authorities to build more forts, extending from the Potomac and James and Roanoke rivers, down into South Carolina. These forts, Washington said, were the only effective means of combating the widespread Indian raids unleashed by the French.
By June 1756, British settlers in Virginia had withdrawn ISO miles from the prewar frontier. George Washington complained to Governor Dinwiddie: “the Bleu-Ridge is now our Frontier … there will not be a living creature left in Frederick-County: and how soon Fairfax, and Prince William may share its fate, is easily conceived.”