The First French Map of the French and Indian War. A French Reply To Henry Overton's Inflammatory "George Washington" Map.
Rare first state of this fascinating broadside map focusing on the recent British and French hostilities in the Ohio Valley, including a reference to Colonel George Washington's skirmish with the French in 1754.
The present map covers the entire Great Lakes region, a significant portion of the Ohio River (nearly to its confluence with the Wabash River) and south to the western part of North Carolina, comprising modern-day Tennessee, the regions which would be the theater of active conflict between 1756 and 1762, during the French & Indian War.
French Response to Overton's "George Washington" Map
The map is a direct response to Henry Overton's 1754 broadside map, the first printed appearance of the name George Washington on a map. The text panels to Overton's map describe the actions of a 22-year old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington in the Battle of Fort Necessity. Overton's broadside includes a contemporary account of the battle, along with a vitriolic rant against the French encroachments and other improper actions in the region. The battle is generally considered to be the first battle of the French and Indian War. The present map is a direct response to Overton's map by the French.
Poilly's map is a very close copy of the Overton, but to argue the French cause, he made the following changes:
- A border marking the farthest-west extent of the British colonies is laid down.
- The chain of mountains that - to the French - marks the limits of British territory is extended through New England and Maine to present-day New Brunswick.
- The site of Washington's battle at the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, which on the Overton reads "Here C. Washington engag'd ye French 1754," simply reads "Fort Contesté" (Contested fort) on the French reply.
- At Lake Champlain, Fort Saint-Frédéric no longer reads "F.S. Frederic now Crown Pt.", as it did on the Overton; it reads only "F.S. Frederic". (There is an earlier state of the Overton, without the reference to Crown Point, it is possible that this explains this discrepancy, as elaborated below.)
- On the Poilly map, Fort du Detroit is so-called, whereas on the Overton it is simply labeled "Fort".
- On the Poilly map, Fort de Contiou de Niagra is labeled in full, whereas on the Overton it is simply labeled "Fort".
Interestingly, Poilly acknowledges English forts west of the supposed French border: at Oswego - "Osneigo F. Anglais", and at the junction of the Pelespi and Cherokee Rivers - "Fort Anglais".
The map was printed on a large sheet of paper so room was left on either side of the copper plate to add a thorough reply, with the text below the cartouche noting that "the small points mark the pretentions of the English, with the dashed lines that of the French."
The present map is known in a single copy at the Bibliotheque National de France (and now the present example).
Dating the Map: The First French Map of the French and Indian War
The Overton broadside on which the present map is based is undated but was almost certainly issued in the Fall of 1754; a reduced-sized version of the Overton was issued in the December 1754 issue of the Universal Magazine. Furthermore, the first state of the Overton map makes no reference to the 1755 British expedition against Fort Saint-Frédéric, later called Crown Point, whereas later states of the map add a reference to that event.
The first state of the Poilly map likewise makes no reference to the British expedition in 1755. In the second state of the French map, Poilly added information from Nolin's 1756 map and gives a dated credit in the upper left margin. Therefore we can reasonably conclude that this first state of the Poilly was issued in late 1754 or 1755.
Having examined the French and Indian War collections of the Library of Congress and Leventhal Center, we can find no earlier French map of the French and Indian War.
States of The Map & Rarity
There are apparently two states of the map. The first state extends only to about 49 degrees west at the top of the map (approximately 4 inches narrower than the second state) and therefore lacks the Explication and all geographical information shown to the north.
A second state adds significantly more geographical information and illustrates the Acadian Boundary Dispute, and adds detail north of the old neatline at the top.
Both states are extremely rare. We located only the following examples;
- First State: Bibliotheque National de France (only known example)
- Second State: Library of Congress, John Carter Brown Library, National Archives of Quebec (acquired from Skinner in 2011).