A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 3, "Annapolis Royal and Louisbourg (1713-45)"TOC
Chapter 7, The Lead-Up, Annapolis Royal & War (1740-44)

We have seen where the English captured Port Royal in 1710. They renamed the place Annapolis Royal and established a garrison there. So too we have seen were the English authorities, the Board of Trade at London, as part of a larger exercise, took an inventory of the English holdings in America. Thus it was that in 1720, the English carried out a "survey of the location, trade, and structure of government" of each of the colonies from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. Attention was focused on French expansion. South Carolina, New York and Nova Scotia were identified as frontier colonies: Nova Scotia was to receive special attention. The Board wanted four regiments to be stationed in Nova Scotia. Further, it wanted the French residents of Nova Scotia, Acadians, evicted, and, in turn, to transport the English inhabitants of Newfoundland to occupy the agricultural lands of Acadia. However, not one of these suggested courses of action were to be implemented, at least, not for another thirty years.

We will remember too, at Annapolis Royal, during December of 1739, where the English governor, Lawrence Armstrong, "in a fit of despondency," committed suicide by running himself through with his own sword. Because of this event, during March of 1740, Jean Paul Mascarene took over the duties as Acting Governor of Nova Scotia. In this position Mascarene was to remain, until Edward Cornwallis arrived in 1749. Through the early 1740s, leading up to the outbreak of hostilities with the French in 1744, this vigorous and diplomatic1 man, Mascarene, who had such a long standing connection to 18th century Nova Scotia, involved himself fully in the administration of English Nova Scotia. One of the first steps which he took was to make key appointments at "Grand Pre and the places adjacent within the Gut of Mines." In connection with these appointments he gave specific directions in regards to keeping registers, records, books, minutes, etc.2 It is to be remembered that there was no English (Protestant) civilian population during these times, only with the arrival of Cornwallis were there to be any significant number of "English" settlers. Mascarene observed, during November of 1740, that there were only "two or three English families [at Annapolis Royal] besides those of the garrison."3 Overall, the English presence in Nova Scotia was a military one, though there were seasonal visits from traders and fishermen from New England. We see from a contemporaneous report to Whitehall, that in 1743 there were 360 British soldiers in Nova Scotia which would have been found only at two places: Annapolis Royal and Canso: approximately 200 at Annapolis Royal and 160 at Canso ("for the defense of the fishery").

"... these two bodies [the garrisons at Canso and at Annapolis Royal] are so far separated, that one of them cannot possibly support the other, nor can they even communicate their distresses for want of a small Vessel to carry Intelligence. Whereas ... the French at Cape Breton are very strong ... they have several Forts and Batteries ... [and] about 700 regular troops, besides Civil inhabitants. .. this province is entirely flanked on another side by Canada and the River of St. Lawrence, in all probability upon a Rupture with France, the French would be able to possess themselves of it, without any great Difficulty, unless some fortifications were built there in proper places, and a more powerful land & sea Force sent thither to protect the Country."4
Further, we see Mascarene writing the Secretary of State on December 1st, 1743, from Annapolis Royal: "These Inhabitants [the Acadians] cannot be depended on for assistance in case of a Rupture with France ... this Province in the meantime is in a worse condition for defence than the other American Plantations who have inhabitants to defend them whilst far from having any dependence on ours we are obliged to guard against them." Mascarene continues to point out that they have only two holds on the province: Annapolis Royal and Canso. Canso "has no other defence than a Block house built of Timber by the Contribution of the Fishermen who resort there and a few inhabitants settled in that place ..." The soldiers at Canso, Mascarene observed, were quartered in huts. As for Annapolis Royal: "the Fort being built of earth of a sandy nature is apt to tumble down in heavy rains or in thaws after frosty weather. ... the town consists of two streets, the one extending along the river side and the other along the neck of land the extremities whereof are at a quarter of a miles distant from the Fort, has no defence against a surprize from the Indians." Several of the "families belonging to the garrison" were obliged to live on this last described street as there was no room within the fort.5

When word of Canso's collapse reached the small garrison at Annapolis Royal, there was panic. While they had yet to receive official word of the outbreak of war; they soon figured it out: it had come. Rumours came through the local French Acadians that there was a mass of French soldiers and their Indian cohorts gathering together at the head of the Annapolis River, 50 miles away. The English garrison at Annapolis under Mascarene was weak and small; and the English officers, aging and tiring, knew their peril was great. Soldiers and civilians, together with their families, could be seen moving carts and baggage into the confines of the fort. Cramped as they were, they were to feel better behind the protective walls of Fort Anne. As it happened, there were three ships in the basin and they were made ready to sail; a number of children and women were placed aboard and sent off to the safety of Boston, though about 70 remained behind. Another reason for getting the ships under way, was, of course, to keep them out the hands of the invaders; but, importantly, it was to send a special plea to the Royal Governor of Massachusetts -- Send Help! Expecting an onslaught, great activity ensued as the English "engineers and artificers" together with the help of the local Acadians busied themselves; timber was cut and the fort hastily patched up.6 "The hundred soldiers began to realize that they must at least practise their profession, and discovered to their alarm that many of their muskets would not fire. The black-smith and armourers thereupon also ceased to be civilians." Days passed, and only cautiously did any one leave the fort in an effort to supplement their meagre supplies of food and fuel. Nights passed, and sentries looked out beyond the fort walls to see starry skies and the familiar lights of the local Acadians situated in the town below the fort. Time passed. The month of May went, and so did June! Where were the invaders? The first reports received in May that the French were assembling at the head of the river were false; the English were relieved. However, on the first of July the local Acadians, who up to this point had extended their helpful services to the fort, suddenly withdrew. These Acadians just disappeared; they evaporated into the sheltering woods. This disappearance and ensuing silence "signalized the arrival of three hundred Indians sent down from Louisbourg."7

The easy victory at Canso spurred the French at Louisbourg to implement more ambitious plans. Though 34 years had passed, the French continued to relish the idea of pushing the English intruders off of the "Acadian" peninsula. A new war! The time had arrived! It was time for the French to take back their ancient rights; it was time to turn things back to the way they were before the English had taken Port Royal, in 1710. It should have been easy enough, for the French were then acting from a base of considerable strength -- Fortress Louisbourg.

In 1739, the new French governor, Isaac Forant8, on his arrival -- observing the rundown condition of Louisbourg and subscribing, I suppose, to the notion that the best defense is an offense -- set in motion plans for going on the attack.

"Forant wrote to urge the Minister to begin the war by attacking Acadia. With two frigates, two hundred regular troops, two thousand muskets for the Acadians, whom the English would probably disarm, the expedition under his command, he would answer for the result. Acadia joined to Isle Royale would make a flourishing colony, and desiring secrecy he wrote in his own hand a letter, displaying his eagerness to attack: 'I have the honour to say only, that in the situation in which we find ourselves we require fewer forts and less outlay to attack than to defend ourselves'."9
Our one-legged French commander, Prevost, having arrived at Louisbourg in 1740, embraced the plans of his predecessor, and he added details. The regulars would carry 800 muskets, two hundred haversacks and 40,000 livres in cash into the Acadian lands. Further, the raid would be pulled off during the winter when the English would be ill-exercised and low on both morale and on supplies.10

The French knew they had the advantage because the neutral, if not friendly, local population could move without much suspicion right up to the crumbling earthen walls of Fort Anne. Further, the English defenders were few in number and poorly provided for. Their quick, enthusiastic and successful raid on Canso, notwithstanding, the commanders at Louisbourg were slow to press their advantage. Instead of directly and immediately moving on from Canso to Annapolis Royal, the only other English place in Nova Scotia, Duvivier, who was in charge of the French forces which captured Canso in May of 1744, returned to Louisbourg to accept glory and deliver his English prisoners. Discussions at Louisbourg ensued: Prevost, as we have seen, had already settled on plans which if they had been followed would have led to a quick seizure and a return of Acadia to the French. The French plans however were not carried out. The principal reason for this, likely, is because official approval from France was not forthcoming. But also, doubtless, because Commander Prevost was faced with considerable pressure from nervous civilian leaders who did not want to see Louisbourg - poorly equipped and poorly manned as it was - reduced in strength and thus further exposed to an English attack.

Though late and not universally supported, an attack, finally, was launched from Louisbourg with the objective to take Fort Anne at Annapolis Royal. So confident were the French, that they would be able to pick up hundreds of supporters (French Acadian farmers) as they proceeded towards Annapolis Royal, that they thought all that was needed was a seeding force of 50 regulars under Duvivier. Thirty French regulars were embarked at Louisbourg on two vessels (the schooner Succes being one of them); they then called by at the French fort, Port LaJoie on Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) for an additional twenty more.11

Having left Louisbourg during July, Duvivier and his forces landed, on August the 8th, 1744, on the northern shores of peninsular Nova Scotia (Northumberland Strait, as we know it today). This could have been at Baie Verte; but, in my view, more likely at Tatamagouche (another long since established French landing place) which would have given the invaders the shortest marching route, through the Chiganois pass, to Cobequid. Messengers would have been immediately sent to the Acadian communities (especially Beaubassin). (The reader might refer to the map and note in particular numbers 7, 5 & 4.) Duvivier's best chance to pick up additional help on the mainland for the attack on Annapolis would have been at Beaubassin.12 However, as seems clear now from history, the Acadians had little liking for outwardly attacking anyone, including the English. Only a dozen or so13 went along with Duvivier for the attack. Generally, it would appear, Duvivier's approach in handling the Acadians was lacking: to their refusals for help, all he could do was to retaliate with threats.14

Duvivier did not apparently spend much time in any of the Acadian communities; he and his number pushed on over the Cobequids (a mountainous range), passing through the community of Cobequid (see #4 on map) and then, fording rivers, he would have passed through Piziquid (see #3 on map) and have arrived at Minas (#2), the place of rendezvous, there to pick up expected supplies from the Acadians. And this Duvivier did towards the end of August, 1744. But, I run ahead of my story.

It would appear that the allies of the French, the Indians, had enthusiastically embraced the French plans to attack Acadia. They were there with Duvivier when Canso was taken during May of 1744. I surmise: that they were told, after the successful capture of Canso, to push ahead and to gather up more of their friends both on the St. John River (the Malicites) and at Stewiacke on the Shubenachdie River (the Micmacs, whose native ancestral home was Stewiacke, a place Le Loutre had picked for his headquarters in 1738). Duvivier had to deliver English prisoners to Louisbourg and arrange for additional support, especially naval support, for the intended attack on Annapolis Royal. His Indian allies would have been told to gather their forces, and, though it may be a few weeks, they were to wait for him and his regulars. I think the likely rendezvous point for the Indians would have been Stewiacke. It is an ancient fording place and a place to which, being on foot, Duvivier would have had to come.

The Indian contingent consisted of Malicites and Micmacs. This native detachment was under the guidance of "two or three white men," Le Loutre, most certainly, being one of them. These fired-up warriors were under instructions to hold-up until Duvivier arrived from Louisbourg with his regular soldiers. However, impatience got the best of this native force and their leaders; a decision was made to strike out on their own to take both the fort at Annapolis Royal and the glory that would come with such a feat.15

I have already brought you, dear reader, to this point: we saw that on the first of July, 1744, where the Acadians around about Annapolis Royal, as the English at Fort Anne were to immediately observe, suddenly withdrew, evaporated into the sheltering woods. As I have stated, this disappearance and ensuing silence "signalized the arrival of three hundred Indians." As they emerged from the woods surrounding Annapolis Royal, they caught a couple of soldiers who were outside the fort doing some gardening; these unsuspecting soldiers were soon dispatched with a shower of musket balls. The Indians advanced bravely up to the walls of the fort but were immediately discouraged with discharging cannon ("the mother of the musket"). Then, out of the range of the fort guns, the Indians started to lay siege to a small block-house situated in the lower town. There were but two soldiers in the block-house and it appeared to those behind the walls of Fort Anne that they would not long be able to hold out; they needed help. Also, it was recognized by the English that a force should be sent out to tear down certain of the surrounding structures which were giving cover to the invaders. A bold plan was struck upon.

"They [the attacking indians] retreated towards a small blockhouse in the middle of the street in the lower town, about a quarter of a mile from the fort. There they amused themselves by setting fire to several houses. The blockhouse was manned only by a small guard in charge of a serjeant. Realizing the peril of his position, the serjeant asked leave to withdraw to the fort. Permission was granted by Mascarene, since he was unable to relieve him. Before this could be effected however, the Fort Engineer made the proposal that Mr. How, with a party of Artificers be placed on board the Ordnance tender to strengthen the crew, and fall down opposite to where the Indians were located in the town, and scour the street with gunfire. This was done immediately and was successful. The Indians were driven back, the guard was replaced and several buildings and fences which gave cover to the enemy were either burned or pulled down. The party returned to the fort in very high spirits."16
And Hannay's version:
"Mr. How and a party of workmen, with a detachment of soldiers, dropped down the river in the ordnance tender, and, supported by her cannon, drove off the Indians, replaced the guard, and tore down the houses and fences which threatened the block-house with destruction. They then pulled down all the houses that obstructed the fire of the fort, and the Indians, not being able to approach within the distance of a mile, gave no further trouble, except by stealing some sheep and cattle. On the 5th July, the Massachusetts galley arrived with seventy auxiliaries, which Governor Shirley had promptly sent to strengthen the garrison. The Indians immediately became disgusted with the siege, and the very same day marched off towards Minas."17
As an aside I write of Edward How, the hero of the 1744 siege of Annapolis Royal. He had been, as we have seen, instrumental in the build up of the English presence at Canso. He was not at Canso when the French, in May of 1744, captured and destroyed the place. At this time, when the French were putting the torch to Canso, and in the process his personal property, Edward How was rendering a service to the English at Annapolis Royal by reconnoitering the French establishments on the St. John River. By June, however, the 42 year old How was back at Annapolis Royal attending a wedding -- his own. His first wife, as can be seen from his short biography, had been with him earlier at Canso, but had returned to Boston, where she died. His new bride was one of the Winniett girls, 29 year old Marie-Madeleine. The attacks on Annapolis Royal during 1744 is yet another point in our history during which Edward How was to play a significant role. In addition to his earlier important commercial activities at Canso and his heroic acts at Annapolis Royal as have just been described, Edward How, as we will see (Part 5), was to play a role in other critical events: The Battle at Grand Pre, 1747 and the negotiations at the Isthmus of Chignecto, 1750.

So, we see, that Annapolis Royal was first attacked by the Indians of Acadia in July. They had given the matter their best effort; it is just that they came to the realization, that, when it came to a whiteman's fort, both technique and cannon were needed. The 400 Indians, or so, retreated to Minas and it was there that they met the advancing French forces, numbering, I think, about 75. With new resolve they all advanced together down the valley. They soon made camp within a mile of Fort Anne and invested the British fort for the second time that year, on the 7th of September, 1744.

This first attack by the Indians did not make much of a dent in the English at Annapolis Royal, indeed, in the testing of the defences, the English were better prepared to deal with the full French force which arrived before the walls some weeks later. As it was, Duvivier marched right up to the fort with colours flying; his fifty French soldiers and "some 450 Indians" with him.18 All was silent at the fort, when, suddenly a cannon roared out sending a cannon ball, it is said19, whistling by Duvivier's ear, an event which unnerved him considerably. The French broke ranks and made a hasty retreat to their encampment about a mile back. "His Indians made disquieting attacks, night after night, on the little garrison, the commander of which had no intention of troubling the Acadians, who were left to gather in their harvests, which Prevost feared they would not be permitted to do."20

Duvivier figured that if the fort could not fall by the exterior pressure of fighting forces21, then may be it would fall if the forces within could be broken up and turned on one another. In the days of sieges and forts, frequently during the contest, time was called out for a parley. So, it was with the siege of Fort Anne in 1744. During one of the very early parleys, Duvivier told Mascarene that he expected ships, cannon and more men, urging him to conditionally surrender so that both sides could quit fighting. If these additional forces did not arrive, why then, the English, staying alone behind their fort walls, would lose nothing until the expectant French naval forces were to arrive; if these additional forces did not arrive, why then, nothing would be lost by the English. Mascarene suspected a ruse and did not want his hands tied, though his officers thought it to be a good deal. Arguments broke out among certain of the English officers and the regular English soldiers became disgusted and impatient with their leadership.22 Duvivier's plan almost worked, when during one of the parleys a French officer23 started screaming at the English officers, the effect of which, was only to reunite the English officers. The guns of war were soon booming once again.

The fighting renewed and carried on for about three weeks: when, much to the delight of the penned up English and the disappointment of the besieging French forces, there arrived further proof of the concern which the people of Massachusetts had for their outpost. Two ships, "an armed brigantine and a small sloop," sailed into the Basin from Boston under the command of Captain Edward Tyng. There now arrived badly needed succor and some seventy or eighty newly-raised volunteers and "fifty Indian rangers." The garrison at Annapolis Royal was now at a strength which it probably had not been at for a long time: the arrivals from Boston in July and then again in September brought the number of fighting men up to 270. The most important addition, however, was an eager captain by the name of John Gorham and a group of full blooded Mohawks which Gorham had under his charge. Gorham's Rangers put matters on an entirely different footing than what had been established over the 34 year holding position of the British in Nova Scotia: Gorham's Rangers were an offensive bunch who knew exactly how to apply frontier techniques to their benefit.24

With the arrival of a second load of English reenforcements the spirits of the attacking French forces went quickly downhill. Duvivier had expected naval support but it had yet to arrive. This was his second big disappointment in the campaign (the first being the almost total lack of Acadian fighting men at his side). It was in this state of disappointment that de Gannes, one of Duvivier's fellow officers at Louisbourg, showed up, likely at the very end of September, fresh in from Louisbourg; and, there upon, produced papers which effectively required Duvivier to hand over command of the expedition to de Gannes. I shouldn't think that Duvivier was too happy with this development (de Gannes and Duvivier had spent their entire army careers at Louisbourg, were in strict competition with one another, and could barely tolerate one another's company). Now, I don't know why it was that de Gannes was sent to relieve Duvivier. It was not because he was to take a more effective approach in the siege; because, apparently, a couple of days after de Gannes arrival the French retired from the field altogether.25

And, so, we would have seen at the first of October, 1744, these disappointed Frenchmen and their Indian allies, in turns, paddling and marching up the Annapolis River; tracing her alluvial meanderings, the cool fall breezes pushing a light rain which rustles the golden grasses and the brilliant hardwoods behind; memories of home and hearth on the mind of every trudging individual.

As it happened, three French war vessels arrived in the Basin of Annapolis Royal on the night of October 25th. In addition to the standard crews there were on board 50 French soldiers to assist in the taking of Fort Anne. The French naval commanders were not to see a sign of the their land forces.26

"Bonaventure went ashore. He, to find out the situation, aroused an inhabitant and brought him and a companion on board the frigate, and from him hears the astonishing story that de Gannes had remained only two days at the camp. The Acadians said that the fort, which contained only provisions for eight days, was ready to surrender, and that the women and children were prepared to fly to the head of the river, at the time the situation was relieved by the departure of the French. After a stay of three days the expedition returned to Louisbourg, taking with them their captures, two small vessels with supplies from Boston. The deputies of the Acadians promptly made their peace with Mascarene."27
Why did the French not support their land forces at Annapolis in a more determined fashion? There were armed French ships at Louisbourg that summer and they simply were not deployed.28 Presumably, the French at Louisbourg were awaiting a French man-of-war to arrive. Indeed, the Ardent, an impressive sixty-four gunner was on her way, but she was to do double duty. The Ardent was to first shepherd a convoy of twenty-six vessels to the West Indies and Canada. While her departure was planned for April she never got under way with her charges until June 18th. After seeing to the safe delivery of the merchant ships she arrived at Louisbourg on August 18th with a broken bowsprit, the result of having encountered a gale. By September, however, the Ardent was ready to take up her station off of Annapolis Royal, but she was held back by governor Prevost to "protect" Louisbourg.29 The Ardent then went hunting English privateers30 along the Cape Breton coast; she took one into Louisbourg. Finally, on October 11th, the governor was content to let her go to Annapolis Royal, rather late in the season, but the Captain of the Ardent was willing. The Ardent, however, did not go to Annapolis Royal. Apparently, at this time, there were at Louisbourg, numerous vessels of the Compagnie des Indies which, with the outbreak of war, had scurried into the safety of the French port of Louisbourg; they implored the officials that they should be properly escorted out of Louisbourg, back to safety, back home, back to France. "It was decided that he should take them [the merchant fleet] to France, but, as the voyage turned out, he [the Captain of the Ardent] might as well have gone to Acadia, for the fleet of fifty-two sail which had left Louisbourg under his convoy became dispersed, and he arrived towards the end of December without any of them."31

As for Duvivier and de Gannes, they and their forces, being of the belief that the promised naval forces were not to come, as of Oct 1st, were on their northeastern retreat up the valley. By October 9th, they were at Minas, by the 19th they were handy their embarkation point on the shores of the Northumberland Strait (so-called today).32 There seemed to be some intention to winter over at Minas with the "neutral" Acadians and thus be in a position to get an early spring start on another attempt to take Fort Anne. The Acadians, upon seeing the retiring French attackers in their midst, on October the 10th spoke as plainly as they could. Supplies were insufficient and wintering over would, as a fair prospect, bring on starvation for all.33 The French commanders therefore spent little time in these Acadian farming communities and moved their men along.

Prevost -- the commander at Louisbourg, a tired sea officer suffering from ill health and one who was always of "uncertain temper"; and, who (there were those who complained) was unreasonable and uncivil -- waited for Duvivier's return. Duvivier was bound to think as he marched and sailed his followers back, and, to wonder at what kind of a reception he was to meet once back at Louisbourg. He must have been turning over in his mind what he was to say, as to, what the reasons were for the failure of the French to take Annapolis Royal. It was, he formulated in his mind: the lack of Acadian support34 and the lack of promised naval support. He need not have wondered or worried about what Prevost might say about the matter, for, you see, Prevost, the one legged French commander at Louisbourg, was beyond caring -- he had died on October 9th. Duvivier arrived back to a Louisbourg which was now under the command of Louis Du Pont Duchambon, Duvivier's uncle. Prevost's death did not stop the enquiries that were conducted on the aborted affair; discussions were conducted and were undoubtedly to continue into the long winter nights which were now to set in. There would be time enough to discuss the events of 1744 and to make plans for 1745, as the French officers puffed on their long white clay pipes and stared into the fire-places before them. The ruminating officers reflected: on the mixed results of their military efforts during 1744; on their bad luck; on their short supplies; on their mutinous troops; on the their cold and damp quarters; on the lack of support and direction from home.

Back at Annapolis Royal a winter's quiet descends along with a light blanket of snow now covering the denuded countryside and the roofs of the little Acadian village and those of Fort Anne. All the chimneys have smoke curling away from them. Inside Fort Anne, the English soldiers have settled in for their long winter's nap, now that the disturbances and tumults of the season had passed. It is December, and one would have seen, in Mascarene's small and dimly lit quarters within this early 18th century fort, the dancing flickers coming from the fireplace, and, off to one side, Mascarene at his small table thoughtfully dipping his plumed pen in the nearby inkwell and writing out his report to Governor Shirley.35

Louisbourg and Annapolis Royal were experiencing, as Shelly put it, but a smooth spot "Of glassy quiet mid battling tides."


[NEXT: ACADIA: Part 4 - The First Siege of Louisbourg (1745).]

(Now Available As A Book)

Found this material Helpful?

[The Lion & The Lily -- Book 1 (1500-1763)]
[Settlement, Revolution & War -- Book 2 (1760-1815)]
[The Road To Being Canada -- Book 3 (1815-1867)]

2011 (2020)
a surepptious