A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 2, "The English Takeover: 1690-1712"TOC
Chapter. 3, "The Taking of Port Royal (1690)."

On December 17th, 1689, at Boston, war between France and England was declared.
1 The matter had been brewing for some time. On February 13th, 1689, James (VII of Scotland and II of England) was defeated in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne, on the very date that the reign of William and Mary began.2 With the election of William and Mary, the claim of divine right or hereditary right, independent of law, was formally brought to an end. Further, the British Empire was to be Protestant, just as sure as the French empire was to be Roman Catholic. William, due to the help which the French king had extended to James, declared war on France.

Annapolis Valley:
Today, one can stand on the grassy slopes covering the ramparts of old Fort Ann at Annapolis Royal (as the English were to call Port Royal) and look out into the basin of Port Royal. This historic spot is located at a point just at the mouth of the Annapolis River and marks the eastern end of this tidal basin. The Annapolis Basin is in the shape of a stubby carrot thirteen miles long and four miles wide. Off from its southwestern shoulder, tides of sea water ebb and flow through a narrow two mile cut, Digby Gut, a portal through the North Mountain range from the greatest bay of the northwestern Atlantic ocean, the Bay of Fundy. This range, a mere echo of an eastern mountain range, forms the backbone on which the larger part of peninsular Nova Scotia hangs. The cold north winds meet this sweeping range and are veered up, sheltering the southeastern valley beyond. This ensconcing hump of land extends itself northeastward, covering the continuing valley below, until it dazzlingly drops itself off from the precipitous purple heads of Cape Blomidon -- down, out of sight, through the jeweled shores of the Minas Channel. This capturing hollow, the Annapolis Valley is filled with something, not much of which is to be found along the rocky northwest coast of the Atlantic: sweet alluvial soil. Meandering along the valley's hundred mile length, and splitting its ten mile width, are two principal rivers; the one flowing southwest, the other northeast: today we know them as the Annapolis (previously known as the Rivière Dauphin by the French) and the Cornwallis (the Antoine). (See

Acadia Pays for the Sins of Quebec:
Port Royal, being a harbourage to French cruisers and a place from which hostile Indians drew supplies, in 1689, was a place marked by New Englanders to be destroyed. New Englanders were driven to action by: the Abenakis raids on their New England outposts, the confiscation of English fishing boats off the Acadian coast, and the raids which
Frontenac was launching. We see from Hannay3 that, in 1690, Frontenac sent three war parties out from Canada: from Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. Their destinations, respectively: New York, New Hampshire and Maine. The blood of English settlers along the western and northern borders of New England flowed. This business simply horrified New Englanders and something just had to be done about it.4 It was limp, but it was reason enough to destroy Acadia. Throughout her history, we see, again and again, how Acadia was to answer for the decisions taken at Quebec. It was simply easier to get at Acadia, then it ever was to get at fortress Quebec, safe as it generally was behind the Alleghenies to be got at only through two dangerous funnels of access: one being that over a treacherous land march via Lake Champlain, the other a treacherous sea journey up the St. Lawrence. Much easier, just to go up and kick the stuffing out of Acadia.

Sir William Phips was a most interesting and colourful character of history. He was supported by subscriptions taken by the merchants of Salem and Boston. Phips was outfitted with "7 ships, armed with 78 cannon and carrying 736 men, 446 of them being militiamen."5 Arriving off of Digby Gut on the 19th of May, 1690, the New England fleet proceeded through the portal and into the Basin of Port Royal. The French garrison consists of around only 80 men,6 the fortifications, as we have seen, were in an unsatisfactory state and no cannons were mounted: it should not be surprising therefore, to read, that the French, after having made an assessment of the English forces, capitulated in short order.7

The Term of Capitulation - Broken:
The terms of capitulation were that the French governor and his soldiers should leave the fort with arms and baggage and be sent to Quebec by sea; the inhabitants should remain in peaceful possession of their property, and the females should not be molested; and that the inhabitants should not be interfered with in their religion and that the church should not be touched.
8 In spite of these promises made before the capitulation, the New Englanders spent, after the surrender of the French, twelve days pillaging the community. They removed the cannon and leveled anything that looked like a fortification (they cut the palisades in two). After doing all of that, Sir William called the peasant Acadian farmers together and had them take an oath of allegiance to William and Mary of England, which they did without demur. Phips then determined to obliterate all existing authority (religious, civil and military) by taking away with him to Boston the two priests (Petit and Trouvé), Governor Meneval, and 58 soldiers. Before leaving Port Royal (not an Englishman was left behind) Phips attempted to organize a provisional government by appointing selected French Acadian leaders to form a council.9

In addition to capturing Port Royal, Phips dispatched certain of his officers and ships to seize the posts at Castine, La Harve, Chedabucto10 and all those settlements at the head of the Bay of Fundy. "Massachusetts had made an easy conquest of all Acadia; a conquest, however, which she had neither the men nor the money to secure by sufficient garrisons." By the end of May, 1690, Phips was back in Boston basking in his glory.11

[NEXT: Pt. 2, Ch. 4 - French Flag on the St. John: 1690-98:]

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