Narrative and critical history of America

“ALL through its early history Acadia, or Nova Scotia, suffered from the insecurity to life and property which arose from its repeated changes of masters. Neither France nor England cared much for a region of so little apparent value ; and both alike regarded it merely as debatable ground, or as a convenient make-weight in adjusting the balance of con quests and losses elsewhere. Nothing was done to render it a safe or attractive home for immigrants ; and at each outbreak of war in the Old World its soil became the scene of skirmishes and massacres in which Indian allies were conspicuous agents. Whatever the turn of victory here, little regard was paid to it in settling the terms of peace. There was hardly an attempt at any time to establish a permanent control over the conquered territory. In spite of the capture of Port Royal by Phips in 1690, and the annexation of Acadia to the government of Massachusetts in 1692, it was only a nominal authority which England had. In 1691, the French again took formal possession of Port Royal and the neighboring country. In the next year an ineffectual attempt was made to recover it ; and this was followed by various conflicts, of no historical importance, in different parts of this much-harassed territory. In August, 1696, the famous Indian fighter, Captain Benjamin Church, left Boston on his fourth eastern expedition. After skirting the coast of Maine, where he met with but few Indians and no enemies, he determined to proceed up the Bay of Fundy. There he captured and burned Beaubassin, or Chignecto, and then returned to St. John. Subsequently he was superseded by Colonel John Hathorne, a member of the Massachusetts council, and an attack was made on the French fort at Nachouac, or Naxoat, farther up the river ; but for some unexplained reason the attack was not pressed, and the English retreated shortly after they landed. “No notice,” says Hutchinson in his History of Massachusetts Bay, “was taken of any loss on either side, except the burning of a few of the enemy’s houses; nor is any sufficient reason given for relinquishing the design so suddenly.” By the treaty of Ryswick in the following year (1697) Acadia was surrendered to France.” The French were not long permitted to enjoy the restored territory. In May, 1704, Church was again placed in command of an expedition fitted out at Boston against the French and Indians in the eastern country. He had been expressly forbidden to attack Port Royal, and after burning the little town of Mines nothing was accomplished by him. Three years later, in May, 1707, another expedition, of one thousand men, sailed from Boston under command of Colonel March. Port Royal was regularly invested, and an attempt was made to take the place by assault ; but through the inefficiency of the commander it was a total failure. Reembarking his little army, March sailed away to Casco Bay, where he was superseded by Captain Wainwright, the second in command. The expedition then re turned to Port Royal ; but in the mean time the fortifications had been diligently strengthened, and after a brief view of them Wainwright drew off his forces. In 1710 a more successful attempt for the expulsion of the French was made. In July of that year a fleet arrived at Boston from Eng land to take part in a combined attack on Port Royal. In pursuance of orders from the home government, four regiments were raised in the New England colonies, and sailed from Boston on the 18th of September. The fleet numbered thirty-six vessels, exclusive of hospital and store ships, and on board were the four New England regiments, respectively commanded by Sir Charles Hobby, Colonel Tailer, of Massachusetts, Colonel Whiting, of Connecticut, and Colonel Walton, of New Hampshire, and a detachment of marines from England. Francis Nicholson, who had been successively governor of New York, Virginia, and Maryland, had the chief command. The fleet, with the exception of one vessel which ran ashore and was lost, arrived off Port Royal on the 24th of September. The garrison was in no condition to resist an enemy, and the forces were landed without opposition. On the 1st of October three batteries were opened within one hundred yards of the fort ; and twenty-four hours afterward the French capitulated. By the terms of the surrender the garrison was to be transported i to France, and the inhabitants living within cannon-shot of Port Royal were to be protected in person and property for two years, on taking an oath of allegiance to the queen of England, or were to be allowed to remove to Canada or Newfoundland.1 The name of Port Royal was changed to Annapolis Royal in compliment to the queen, and the fort was at once garrisoned by marines and volunteers under the command of Colonel Samuel Vetch, who had been selected as governor in case the expedition should prove successful. Its whole cost to New England was upward of twenty three thousand pounds, which sum was afterward repaid by the mother country. Acadia never again came under French control, and by the j treaty of Utrecht (1713) the province was formally ceded to Great Britain u according to its ancient limits.” As a matter of fact, those limits were never determined ; but the question ceased to have any practical importance after the conquest of Canada by the English, though it was reopened long afterward in the boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States.

By the treaty of Utrecht, France was left in undisputed possession of Cape Breton ; and in order to establish a check on the English in Nova Scotia, the French immediately began to erect strong fortifications at Louisbourg, in Cape Breton, and invited to its protection the French inhabitants of Acadia and of Newfoundland, which latter had also been ceded to Great Britain. Placentia, the chief settlement in Newfoundland, was accordingly evacuated, and its inhabitants were transferred to Cape Breton ; but such great obstacles were thrown in the way of a voluntary removal of the Acadians that very few of them joined their fellow countrymen. They remained in their old homes, to be only a source of anxiety and danger to their English masters. At the surrender of Acadia to Great Britain, it was estimated by Colonel Vetch, in a letter to the Board of Trade, that there were about twenty-five hundred French inhabitants in the country ; and even at that early date he pointed out that their removal to Cape Breton would leave the country entirely destitute of inhabitants, and make the new French settlement a very populous colony, ” and of the greatest danger and damage to all the British colonies, as well as the universal trade of Great Britain.” l Fully persuaded of the correctness of this view, the successive British governors refused to permit the French to remove to Canada or Cape Breton, and persistently endeavored to obtain from them a full recognition of the British sovereignty. In a single instance — in 1729 — Governor Phillips secured from the French inhabitants on the Annapolis River an unconditional submission ; but with this exception the French would never take the oath of allegiance without an express exemption from all liability to bear arms. It is certain, however, that this concession was never made by any one in authority ; and in the two instances in which it was apparently granted by subordinate officers, their action was repudiated by their superiors. The designation ” Neutral French,” sometimes given to the Acadians, has no warrant in the recognized facts of history.

Meanwhile the colony remained almost stationary, and attracted very little notice from the home government. In August, 1717, General Richard Phillips was appointed governor, which office he retained until 1749, though he resided in England during the greater part of the time. During his absence the small colonial affairs were successively administered by the lieu tenant-governor of Annapolis, John Doucette, who held office from 1717 to I726, and afterward by the lieutenant-governors of the province, Lawrence Armstrong (1725-1739) and Paul Mascarene (1740-1749). Phillips was succeeded by Edward Cornwallis ; but Cornwallis held the office only about three years, when he resigned, and General Peregrine Thomas Hopson was appointed his successor. On Hopson’s retirement, within a few months, the government was administered by one of the members of the council, Charles Lawrence, who was appointed lieutenant-governor in 1754, and governor in 1756.

In 1744 war again broke out between England and France, and the next year it was signalized in America by the capture of Louisbourg. Immediately on learning that war had been declared, the French commander despatched a strong force to Canso, which captured the English garrison at that place and carried them prisoners of war to Louisbourg. A second expedition was sent to Annapolis for a similar purpose, but through the prompt action of Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, it failed of success. Aroused, no doubt, by these occurrences, Shirley formed the plan of capturing Louisbourg ; and early in January, 1745, he communicated his de sign to the General Court of Massachusetts, and about the same time wrote to Commodore Warren, commanding the British fleet in the West Indies, for cooperation. His plans were favorably received, not only by Massachusetts, but also by the other New England colonies. Massachusetts voted to raise 3,250 men ; Connecticut 500 ; and New Hampshire and Rhode Island each 300. The chief command was given to Sir William Pepperrell, a wealthy merchant of Kittery in Maine, of unblemished reputation and great personal popularity ; and the second in command was Samuel Waldo, a native of Boston, but at that time also a resident of Maine.1 The chief of artillery was Richard Gridley, a skilful engineer, who, in June, 1775, marked out the redoubt on Bunker Hill. The under taking proved to be so popular that the full complement of men was raised within two months. The expedition consisted of thirteen armed vessels, under the command of Captain Edward Tyng, with upward of two hundred guns, and of about ninety transports. They were directed to proceed to Canso, where a block house was to be built, the stores landed, and a guard left to defend them. The Massachusetts troops sailed from Nantasket on the 24th of March, and reached Canso on the 4th of April. The New Hampshire forces had arrived four days before ; the Connecticut troops reached the same place on the 25th. Hutchinson adds, with grim humor, “Rhode Island waited until a better judgment could be made of the event, their three hundred not arriving until after the place had surrendered.”

The works at Louisbourg had been twenty-five years in construction, and though still incomplete had cost between five and six millions of dollars. They were thought to be the most formidable defences in America, and covered an area two and a half miles in circumference. A space of about two hundred yards toward the sea was left without a rampart ; but at all other accessible points the walls were from thirty to thirty-six feet in height, with a ditch eighty feet in width. Scattered along their line were six bastions and three batteries with embrasures for one hundred and forty-eight cannon, of which only sixty-five were mounted, and sixteen mortars. On an island at the entrance of the harbor was a battery mounted with thirty guns ; and directly opposite the entrance of the harbor was the grand battery, mounting twenty-eight heavy guns and two eighteen-pounders. The entrance to the town on the land-side was over a draw-bridge defended by a circular battery mounting sixteen cannon. It was these strong and well-planned works which a handful of New England farmers and fishermen undertook to capture with the assistance of a small English fleet.

Pepperrell was detained by the ice at Canso for nearly three weeks, at the end of which time he was joined by Commodore Warren with four ships, carrying one hundred and eighty guns. The combined forces reached Gabarus Bay, the place selected for a landing, on the morning of the 3Oth of April ; and it was not until that time that the French had any knowledge of the impending attack. Two days later the grand bat tery fell into Pepperrell’s hands through a fortunate panic which seized the French. Thus encouraged, the siege was pressed with vigor under very great difficulties. The first battery was erected immediately on landing, and opened fire at once ; but it required the labor of fourteen nights to draw all the cannon and other materials across the morass between the landing-place and Louisbourg, and it was not until the middle of May that the fourth battery was ready. On the iSth of May, Tyng in the ” Massachusetts ” frigate captured a French ship of sixty-four guns and five hundred men, heavily laden with military stores for Louisbourg. This success greatly raised the spirits of the besiegers, who, slowly but steadily, pushed forward to the accomplishment of their object. Warren’s fleet was reinforced by the arrival of three large ships from England and three from Newfoundland ; the land-gate was demolished ; serious breaches were made in the walls ; and by the middle of June it was determined to attempt a general assault. The French commander, Duchambon, saw that further resistance would be useless, and on the i6th he capitulated with the honors of war, and the next day Pepperrell took possession of Louisbourg.

By the capitulation six hundred and fifty veteran troops, more than thirteen hundred militia, and other persons, to the number in all of upward of four thousand, agreed not to bear arms against Great Britain during the war, and were transported to France in fourteen ships. Seventy-six cannon and mortars fell into the hands of the conquerors, with a great quantity of military stores and provisions. The number killed on the side of the French was three hundred, and on the side of the English one hundred and thirty ; but subsequently the latter suffered heavily by disease, and at one time so many as fifteen hundred were sick from exposure and bad weather. Tidings of the victory created great joy in New England, and the news was received with no small satisfaction in the mother country. Pepperrell was made a baronet, Warren an admiral, and both Shirley and Pepperrell were commissioned as colonels. Subsequently, after a delay of four years, Great Britain reimbursed the colonies for the expenses of the expedition to the amount of £200,000.

The capture of Louisbourg was by far the most important event in the history of Nova Scotia during the war, and the loss of so important a place was a keen mortification to France. As soon as news of the fall of Louisbourg reached the French government, steps were taken with a view to its recapture and to the punishment of the English colonists by destroying Boston and ravaging the New England coast. In June, 1/46, a fleet of eleven ships of the line, twenty frigates, thirty transports, and two fireships was despatched for this purpose under command of Admiral D’Anville ; but the enterprise ended in a disastrous failure. Contrary winds prevailed during the voyage, and on nearing the American coast a violent storm scattered the fleet, driving some of the ships back to France and others to the West Indies, and wrecking some on Sable Island. On the 10th of September D’Anville cast anchor with the remaining vessels -two ships and a few transports — in Chebucto ; and six days later he died, of apoplexy, it is said. At a council of war held shortly afterward it was determined to attack Annapolis, against the judgment of Vice-Admiral D’Estournelle, who had assumed the command. Exasperated, apparently, at this decision, he committed suicide in a fit of temporary insanity. This second misfortune was followed by the breaking out of the small-pox among the crews ; and finally after scuttling some of the vessels the officer next in command returned to France without striking a single blow. In the spring of the following year another expedition, of smaller size, was despatched under command of Admiral De la Jonquiere ; but the fleet was intercepted and dispersed off Cape Finisterre by the English, who captured nine ships of war and numerous other vessels.

Meanwhile, and before the capture of Louisbourg, the French had made an unsuccessful attempt on Annapolis, from which the besieging force was withdrawn to aid in the defence of Louisbourg, but they did not arrive until a month after its surrender. In the following year another army of Canadians appeared before Annapolis ; but the place seemed to be so strong and well defended that it was not thought prudent to press the attack. The French accordingly withdrew to Chignecto to await the arrival of reinforcements expected from France. While stationed there they learned that a small body of New England troops, under Colonel Noble, were quartered at Grand Pre, and measures were speedily adopted to cut them off. The attack was made under cover of a snow-storm at an early hour on the morning of the 4th of February, 1747. It was a complete surprise to the English. Noble, who was in bed at the time, was killed fighting in his shirt. A desperate conflict, however, ensued from house to house, and at ten o’clock in the forenoon the English capitulated with the honors of war.1 This terminated active hostilities in Nova Scotia, from which the French troops shortly afterward withdrew. By the dis graceful peace of Aix la Chapelle (1748) England surrendered Louisbourg and Cape Breton to the French, and all the fruits of the war in America were lost.

After the conclusion of peace it was determined by the home government to strengthen their hold on Nova Scotia, so as to render it as far as possible a bulwark to the other English colonies, instead of a source of danger to them. With this view an advertisement was inserted in the London Gazette, in March, 1749, setting forth “that proper encouragement will be given to such of the officers and private men, lately dismissed his Majesty’s land and sea service, as are willing to accept of grants of land, and to settle with or without families in Nova Scotia.” Fifty acres were to be allotted to every soldier or sailor, free from the payment of rents or taxes for the term of ten years, after which they were not to be required to pay more than one shilling per annum for every fifty acres ; and an additional grant of ten acres for each person in a family was promised. Larger grants, with similar conditions, were to be made to the officers; and still further to encourage the settlement of the province the same inducements were offered to ” carpenters, shipwrights, smiths, masons, joiners, brickmakers, bricklayers, and all other artificers necessary in building or husbandry, not being private soldiers or seamen,” and also to surgeons on producing certificates that they were properly qualified. These offers were promptly accepted by a large number of persons, but apparently by not so many as was anticipated.

In the following May Edward Cornwallis, then a member of Parliament, and uncle of the first Marquis of Cornwallis, was appointed captain-general and governor in chief, and at once embarked for Nova Scotia with the new settlers. On the 21st of June he arrived in Chebucto harbor, which all the officers agreed was the finest harbor they had ever seen ; and early in July he was joined by the transports, thirteen in number, having on board upward of twenty-five hundred immigrants. The shores of the harbor were wooded to the water’s edge, ” no clear spot to be seen or heard of.” But by the 23d of the month more than twelve acres were cleared, and preparations were made for building. A month later the plan of the town was fully laid out, and subsequently a line of palisades was erected around the town, a square fort was built on the hill, and a space thirty feet wide cleared outside of the defensive line. By the end of October three hundred houses had been completed, a second fort had been built, and an order had been sent to Boston for lamps to light the streets in the winter nights. Halifax, as the new town was called, had already begun to wear the appearance of a settled community ; and in little more than a year its first church was opened for religious services. From the first, the growth of Halifax was strong and healthy ; and it soon became a place of considerable importance. So early as 1752 the number of inhabitants amounted to more than four thousand. Stringent rules were adopted to insure public order and morality ; and very soon the governor and council proceeded to exercise legislative authority. But their right to do this was expressly denied by the law officers at home. Accordingly, in the early part of 1757 a plan was adopted for dividing the province into electoral districts, for the choice of a legislative body, and was sent to England for approval. Some exceptions, however, were taken to the plan ; and it was not until October, 1758, that the first provincial assembly met at Halifax, nineteen members being present.

In the mean time, in 1755, occurred the most memorable and tragic event in the whole history of Nova Scotia. Though England and France were nominally at peace, frequent collisions took place between their adherents in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in America. Early in 1755 it was determined to dispossess the French of the posts which they had established on the Bay of Fundy, and a force of eighteen hundred men was raised in New England, for that purpose, under Lieutenant-Colonels Scott and John Winslow. The chief command of the expedition was given to Colonel Robert Monckton, an officer in the .English army. The first and most honorable fruits of the expedition were the capture of the French forts at Beausejour and at Gaspereau, both of which surrendered in June. A few weeks later Winslow became a chief instrument in the forcible removal of the French Acadians, which has given his name an unenviable notoriety. It was a task apparently at which his whole nature relucted ; and over and over again he wrote in his letters at the time that it was the most disagreeable duty he had had to perform in his whole life. But he did not hesitate for a moment, and carried out with unfaltering energy the commands of his superior officers.

For more than a generation the French inhabitants had refused to take the oath of allegiance to the king of England, except in a qualified form. Upon their renewed refusal, in July, 1755, it was determined to take immediate steps for their removal, in accordance with a previous decision, ” to send all the French inhabitants out of the province, if they re fused to take the oath ; ” and at a meeting of the provincial council of Nova Scotia, held July 28th, ” after mature consideration, it was unanimously agreed that, to prevent as much as possible their attempting to return and molest the settlers that may be set down on their lands, it would be most proper to send them to be distributed amongst the several colonies on the continent, and that a sufficient number of vessels should be hired with all possible expedition for that purpose.” Accordingly orders were sent to Boston to charter the required number of transports ;and on the nth of August Governor Lawrence forwarded detailed instructions to Lieutenant-Colonel Winslow, commanding at Mines, and to Major John Handfield, a Nova Scotia officer, commanding at Annapolis, to ship off the French inhabitants in their respective neighborhoods. As the crops were not yet harvested, and there was delay in the arrival of the transports, the orders could not be executed until the autumn. At that time they were carried out with a sternness and a disregard of the rights of humanity for which there can be no justification or excuse. On the same day on which the instructions were issued to Winslow and Handfield, Governor Lawrence wrote a circular letter to the other English governors in America, expressing the opinion that there was not the least reason to doubt of their concurrence, and his hope that they would receive the inhabitants now sent ” and dispose of them in such manner as may best answer our design in preventing their reunion.” According to the official instructions five hundred persons were to be transported to North Carolina, one thousand to Virginia, five hundred to Maryland, three hundred to Philadelphia, two hundred to New York, three hundred to Connecticut, and two hundred to Boston.

On the 4th of September Winslow issued a citation to the inhabitants in his immediate neighborhood to appear and receive a communication from him. The next day, he recorded in his journal, ” at three in the after noon, the French inhabitants appeared, agreeably to their citation, at the church in Grand Pre, amounting to four hundred and eighteen of their best men ; upon which I ordered a table to be set in the centre of the church, and, having attended with those of my officers who were off guard, delivered them by interpreters the king’s orders.” After a brief preamble he proceeded to say, ” The part of duty I am now upon is what, though necessary, is very disagreeable to my natural make and temper, as I know it must be grievous to you who are of the same species. But it is not my business to animadvert, but to obey such orders as I receive, and therefore without hesitation shall deliver you his Majesty’s orders and instructions.” He then informed them that all their lands, cattle, and other property, except money and household goods, were forfeited to the Crown, and that all the French inhabitants were to be removed from the province. They were, however, to have liberty to carry their money and as many of their household goods as could be conveniently shipped in the vessels ; and he added, “I shall do everything in my power that all those goods be secured to you, and that you are not molested in carrying them off, and also that whole families go in the same vessel, and make this remove, which I am sensible must give you a great deal of trouble, as easy as his Majesty’s service will admit, and hope that in whatever part of the world you may fall you may be faithful subjects, a peaceable and happy people.” Mean while they were to remain under the inspection of the troops. Toward night these unhappy victims, “not having any provisions with them, and pleading hunger, begged for bread,” which was given them, and orders were then issued that for the future they must be supplied from their respective families. ” Thus ended the memorable 5th of September,” Winslow wrote in his journal, ” a day of great fatigue and trouble.”

Shortly afterward the first prisoners were embarked ; but great delay occurred in shipping them off, mainly on account of the failure of the con tractor to arrive with the provisions at the expected time, and it was not until November or December that the last were shipped. The whole number sent away at this time was about four thousand. There was also a great destruction of property ; and in the district under command of Winslow very nearly seven hundred buildings were burned. The presence of the French was nowhere welcome in the colonies to which they were sent ; and they doubtless experienced many hardships. The governors of South Carolina and Georgia gave them permission to return, much to the surprise and indignation of Governor Lawrence ; 2 and seven boats, with ninety unhappy men who had coasted along shore from one of the Southern colonies, were stopped in Massachusetts. In the summer of 1762 five transports with a further shipment of these unfortunate people were sent to Boston, but the General Court would not permit them to land, and they were ordered to return to Halifax.

The removal of the French Acadians from their homes was one of the saddest episodes in modern history, and no one now will attempt to justify it ; but it should be added that the genius of our great poet has thrown a somewhat false and distorted light over the character of the victims. They were not the peaceful and simple-hearted people they are commonly supposed to have been ; and their houses, as we learn from contemporary evidence, were by no means the picturesque, vine-clad, and strongly built cottages described by the poet. The people were notably quarrelsome among themselves, and to the last degree superstitious. They were wholly under the influence of priests appointed by the French bishops, and directly responsible to the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church at Quebec. Many of these priests were quite as much political agents as religious teachers, and some of them fell under the censure of their superiors for going too much outside of their religious functions. Even in periods when France and England were at peace, the French Acadians were, a source of perpetual danger to the English colonists. Their claim to a qualified allegiance was one which no nation then or now could sanction. But all this does not justify their expulsion in the manner in which it was executed, and it will always remain a foul blot on the history of Nova Scotia. The knowledge of these facts, however, enables us to understand better the constant feeling of insecurity under which the English settlers lived, and which finally resulted in the removal and dispersion of the French under circumstances of such heartless cruelty.

In May of the following year, war was again declared between France and England ; and two years later Louisbourg again fell into the hands of the English. In May, 1758, a powerful fleet under command of Admiral Boscawen arrived at Halifax for the purpose of recapturing a place which ought never to have been given up. The fleet consisted of twenty-three ships of the line and eighteen frigates, beside transports, and when it left Halifax it numbered one hundred and fifty-seven vessels. With it was a land force, under Jeffery Amherst, of upward of twelve thousand men. The French forces at Louisbourg were much inferior, and consisted of only eight ships of the line and three frigates, and of about four thousand soldiers. The English fleet set sail from Halifax on the 28th of May, and on the 8th of June a landing was effected in Gabarus Bay. The next day the attack began, and after a sharp conflict the French abandoned and destroyed two important batteries. The siege was then pushed by regular approaches ; but it was not until the 26th of July that the garrison capitulated. By the terms of surrender the whole garrison were to become prisoners of war and to be sent to England, and the English acquired two hundred and eighteen cannon and eighteen mortars, beside great quantities of ammunition and military stores. All the vessels of war had been captured or destroyed ; but their crews, to the number of upward of twenty-six hundred men, were included in the capitulation. Two years later, at the beginning of 1760, orders were sent from England to demolish the fortress, render the harbor impracticable, and transport the garrison and stores to Halifax. These orders were carried out so effectually that few traces of its fortifications remain, and the place is inhabited only by fishermen.

A year after the surrender of Louisbourg a fatal blow was struck at the French power in America by the capture of Quebec ; and by the peace of Paris, in February, 1763, the whole of Canada was ceded to Great Britain. The effects of this cession, in preparing the way for the independence of the principal English colonies, cannot easily be overestimated ; but to Nova Scotia it only gave immunity from the fear of French incursions, without in the slightest degree weakening the attachment of the inhabitants to England.”

Winsor, Justin. “Narrative and critical history of America”. Boston, New York : Houghton, Mifflin and Company; etc., etc. 1884.