British Detroit 1760-1796
For many years, the French maintained a huge fort at Louisburg to protect the mouth of the St. Lawrence River from the British. They knew that closing the waterway to the British would make it very difficult for them to takeover settlements and trade in the west. On April 30, 1745, 100 New England ships, along with 3600 men, under the command of Colonel William Pepperell, met a British squadron, commanded by Commodore Warren, at the fort at Louisburg and began a 10-week assault against the post. In the end, the French surrendered the post (the British victory was short lived as the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle, signed in 1748, put the fort back in the hands of the French).
In order to try to circumvent any further attacks, the French developed a string of fortifications in present day Pennsylvania and Ohio to extend coverage that already existed from the Niagara River to the head of the Ohio River. The British, in response made an offer of 500,000 acres of land to any New England colonist who would build and maintain a fort in the same area. When the men arrived in the area to establish the post, they found the French were already there. The British sent a surveyor named George Washington to try to convince the French to concede some of the territory. They refused.
In 1745, both the French and the British dispatched men to found a post near present day Pittsburgh. When the two groups met, a fight broke out, and the British group, led by George Washington, killed several of the Frenchmen. Despite the apparent victory, the British knew that another group of Frenchmen were on their way to the area. Wisely, they retreated - for the time.
In 1754 the French successfully established Fort Duquesne in the area where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join. The same year marked the beginning of the French and Indian War. (In All Our Yesterdays, Woodford says that Washington led an attack on Fort Duquesne in 1754. Whether this is the same as the battle above which Burton attributes to 1745, or if Washington attacked the area twice, is not clear). In 1755, General Braddock led a failed British attack on the fort.
In June of 1758, General Jeffrey Amherst led the British in another attack on Louisburg. The move was successful and Louisburg fell to the British once again. On October 28 (or November 23) of the same year, the British again attacked Fort Duquesne. the French retreated, destroying the fort on the way out. The British immediately began construction of Fort Pitt in Fort Duquesne's place.
Fort Niagara was taken by the British in July of 1759, forcing the French to abandon all of their posts east of Detroit.
At this time, the significance of the post at Detroit grew dramatically. Detroit was, in a sense, the last chance the French had to hold on to at least part of New France. To try to insure the survival of Fort Ponchartrain, the size of the fort was increased and some much needed repairs were completed. To reinforce the soldiers at the fort, the Canadian Governor offered free land, tools and livestock to anyone who would settle in Detroit.
Despite these measures, the odds were heavily against the French. Most of the settlers who accepted the governor's offer used or sold their "incentives" and returned to Quebec where life was more secure and stable. The Iroquois and some Wyandotts allied themselves with the British and immediately began random, individual attacks on settlers and soldiers.
Incidentally, Detroit's fate did not depend on the garrison and its ability to defend the fort. Rather, Detroit's fate was decided on September 8, 1760, when General Amherst captured Montreal and the Articles of Capitulation stipulated that all remaining French holdings, including Detroit, were to be part of the spoils. With Quebec having been taken by British forces on September 13, 1759, there was little point to trying to defend Detroit.