A Blupete Biography Page

Captain John Rous
(1702-1760).

John Rous was born at Boston, May 21, 1702.1 Our first notice of him is made as the second in charge of the provincial fleet (90 transports and 13 armed vessels)2 which came up the coast from Boston to lay siege to Louisbourg in 1745. It is likely that he was familiar with the coast because of his previous trading and privateering activity. It will be seen from our accounting of the 1745 siege that Rous played an important role in the capture of the French man-of-war, Vigilant.3 Certainly Rous made his mark as a result of his involvement of the 1745 capture of Louisbourg; Warren's assessment of Rous was that he was a "brisk and gallant man" and gave him a commission as a third lieutenant of the Vigilant (as was the custom, she was to be turned into a British man-of-war). Rous, however, saw little service on the Vigilant, as he continued on with his provincial duties as the captain of the Shirley, a vessel belonging to the colony of Massachusetts.

After the capture of Louisbourg, now a commissioned officer, Rous was sent to Annapolis Royal in the Shirley, there to assist in its defense. Towards the end of the war he was sent to England, arriving there in April of 1748. The authorities consulted him in regards to the colonization of Nova Scotia and in 1749 he was put in charge of the 14-gun sloop Albany and charged to assist in the protection of the convoy which was to bring the settlers over from England to Halifax. He was to work closely with Cornwallis and served on the first council set up at Halifax. Though he had no large ships at his command between 1749 and 1755, Rous was the senior naval officer on the Nova Scotia station; and, as such, was active in running his "three 14 gun sloops of the Royal Navy"4 between Halifax and Annapolis Royal, and up to the head of the Bay of Fundy. For instance, he was with Charles Lawrence when attacks were made against the French at Chignecto in April and September of 1750.

Rous was to play a major role when Monckton was sent to capture Fort Beausejour in 1755. He was put in charge of the convoy, which, in 33 transports, brought 2,100 provincials from Boston. The convoy was protected by three 24-gun frigates5 and an armed sloop. Later that year, 1755, still being on council, Rous attended the fateful meeting chaired by Charles Lawrence when the decision was made to deport the Acadians out of Nova Scotia. According to Brebner, Rous was on service "in the Bay" and just managed to get back (July 15th) to attend the meetings of July 25th and 28th. Indeed, Rous sailed back to Chignecto and assisted Monckton in rounding up the French Acadians, seeing them onto the transports and then escorting the transports, at least to the mouth of the Bay of Fundy.

Rous continued to be active in his naval duties working out of both Boston and Halifax during the years 1756-8, which duties included working on the plans for the second invasion of Louisbourg. During the second siege Rous was the captain of the 50 gun British man-of-war, Sutherland; and, thus, was one of the few officers which were active in both the 1745 and 1758 sieges of Louisbourg. He also, still as the captain of the Sutherland, was with Admiral Charles Saunders and General James Wolfe when Quebec was taken in 1759.

Rous was said to deal with people with a firm hand, which likely pleased his superiors, but likely displeased those who ran afoul of him.6 Indeed, in 1755, after he had returned from duties of arranging for the transportation of the Acadians out of the Chignecto area he was court marshalled on charges of "abusing his authority" while in Halifax; the charges were dismissed. The historian, Beamish Murdoch described Edward Rous as one who "on all occasions was active, skillful and fully to be relied upon." After the capture of Quebec, Rous found himself in Portsmouth, England, having just convoyed a "mast fleet" from America, when, on April 3rd, 1760, he died. He was buried from the Portsmouth Cathedral. He left a widow, Rachel, his second wife, two sons and three daughters.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] One of my readers advises that Rous "was born in Charlestown (now part of Boston) May 21, 1702 according to that town's vital records. John was the third of four sons of William Rous, himself a sea captain, and Mary Peachie or Peachy. First son William is characterized as a "mariner" according to old documents, second son Thomas died in Falmouth, Nova Scotia in 1781, and appears to have been a "Lieutenant" (naval?) of some sort and perhaps associated with the provincial assembly, and fourth son Joseph was also a sea captain and privateer while also being the lighthouse keeper on Sambro Island from 1759 to 1769."

[2] Rous reported to Captain Edward Tyng.

[3] See the accounting given by the Anonymous Habitant by Wrong, pp. 46-9.

[4] See DCB, vol. iii, p. 572. In 1753, Rous was given the 24 gun frigate Success.

[5] The Success, the Mermaid, and the Siren.

[6] Rous could be quite humorous when dealing with his fellow officers, for example, there is the time that he wrote Colonel Winslow, an English colonial officer who was Monckton's second in command at Chignecto. The letter is dated June 12th, 1755, just one day before the fall of the French fort, Fort Beausejour. The English were sweeping up within days of their landing in the area, as John Thomas, a surgeon who was in Winslow's division, wrote in his diary under the date of June 6th, "We catch cattle, horses & hogs in plenty." ("Thomas' Diary of the Expedition of 1755 against the Acadians"; NSHS#1, p. 121.) This was what Rous was to write: "I [Rous] often hear of your [Winslow's] success on plunder both by land and water particularly a coach. I hope you have some fine horses for it at least four to draw it, that it may be said a New England Colonel [has] his coach & four in Nova Scotia [a very sophisticated manner in which the well-to-do made their rounds in England]. I am also informed that you have got a birch bark canoe; I think I have some title to what you take on the water [Rous was in charge of the invasion fleet of 'forty-one sail']. If you have any good saddle horses in your stable I should be obliged to you for one to ride round the ship's deck for exercise, for I am not likely to have any other." (NSHS#4, p. 157.)

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Peter Landry
(2012)