It will be recalled that during March of 1744 war broke out between France and England, The War of The Austrian Succession. For thirty years prior, there had been peace, one secured in 1713 by The Treaty of Utrecht, and which, by its terms, peninsular Nova Scotia was to be English and Cape Breton was to be French. In the intervening years, a fortress was built by the French on Cape Breton, one unequaled in all of English America. This was Louisbourg, the eastern citadel of New France. During these years, 1713 to 1744, the English held their peninsular part of Nova Scotia with but two ragged and forgotten garrisons: Canso and Annapolis Royal. Annapolis was then the English capital of Nova Scotia and situated at a well established civilian community of French farming inhabitants, the Acadians.
In May of 1744, before they were even aware that they were at war, the English were rudely awakened at Canso when a French force, dispatched from Louisbourg, suddenly arrived and overpowered the small English garrison. It was on this date that war between these two European powers, after a relatively peaceful thirty years, was to break out in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia was no stranger to conflict; she was born to conflict. Many of the senior French and Indian fighters, who now took to the field in 1744 with their sons, knew of these old conflicts and feelings of hatred for the English which continued to burn deeply in their souls.
During these days, an English civilian population was practically non-existent in Nova Scotia. During the 17th century Nova Scotia was settled, and exclusively so, by the French. The French settlers which came over beginning in the mid-century came to be known as Acadians. The Acadian families prospered, grew, and expanded their territory throughout the farming lands of peninsular Nova Scotia, being, for the most part, those lands which had been washed by the waters of the Bay of Fundy: from Port Royal, to Minas, to Cobequid and around to Beaubassin. (see map). The Acadians were to remain, by and large, neutral in the French/English conflict during these years. The natives, the Micmac, whose population was small and spread out, were united under their French missionaries and ready, in most engagements, to help their French friends.1
In addition to the taking of Canso and to a number of French raids on Annapolis Royal2 the major engagement during the War of the Austrian Succession was that at Louisbourg, when, much to the surprise of many, an army of New Englanders with the help of the British navy were to take the place in 1745, The First Siege of Louisbourg, an engagement which I have already treated in some detail.
We will, in this part, deal with the major concluding events of the War of the Austrian Succession which unfolded in Nova Scotia, being: the d'Anville's Armada (1746) and the Massacre at Grand Pre (1747). Then we shall see how the War of the Austrian Succession came to an end with the signing, in Europe, of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. By its terms, Louisbourg was returned to the French; and how, in the result, Halifax was founded in 1749. With the conclusion of the war, one would have thought that this period of time which we are about to review, between 1748 and 1756, would have been years of peace. However, all that the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was to accomplish was to return things back to the status quo anti. The questions in North America, in respect to territorial rights, had not been resolved: they just became more pressing: matters continued to seethe.3 Historians have expressed the view that the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was less a treaty of peace then a treaty of truce. War, this time a decisive one, was to break out in 1756, The Seven Years War. The Seven Years War is something I deal with in a future part of my history, this part deals with those events leading up to The Seven Years War, including: Fights at the Isthmus of Chignecto (1750-54), The Burning of Beaubassin (1755) and The Taking of Beausejour (1755).
Before we start into describing the events of this part, let me remind you of the dreadful situation which had existed in Louisbourg during the winter of 1745/1746. Hundreds of New Englanders had died due to sickness and starvation. They were relieved with replacements in April of 1746, both by regular British troops and new colonial volunteers. These British troops were the first sizable group of English regulars yet to come -- Nova Scotia was to see many, many more in the next fifteen years. On the news that Louisbourg had capitulated, the English authorities had sent out orders to Gibraltar to board a couple of the regiments located there onto transports and to send them to America. A considerable amount of time passed before the transports were rounded up in England, and then, sent with their escorts over to Gibraltar; and then more time to provision and embark the troops. So too, on account of bad weather, the crossing was delayed. The best they could do was to make it to Virginia and New York. At these places they wintered over, renewing their trip in the early spring. These "Gibraltar troops" were of the 29th Foot (Fuller's) and the 56th Foot (Warburton's) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Peregrine Thomas Hopson and Lieutenant Colonel John Horsman, respectively.4 In addition, somewhere near a 1,000 New colonial volunteers, which Pepperrell and Shirley had raised back in Massachusetts, were sent up at this time to Louisbourg. Thus, as of spring, 1746, there were 2524 fresh troops at Louisbourg. The British navy, which played a critical role in its capture in the previous year, was also to be found at Louisbourg, and, in considerable force. To begin with, there was the Dover (44 guns) and the Torrington (44 guns) which had convoyed the Gibraltar regiments up from New England during April. Then, on the 9th of May, Vice-Admiral Townsend arrived from Antigua in the Pembroke (60 guns), with the Kingston (60 guns) and Kinsale (44 guns). These were, on the 23rd of May, to be joined by the Norwich (50 guns) and the Canterbury (60 guns). Both of these last mentioned men-of-war came in directly from England. Aboard the Canterbury would have been found Commodore Knowles who succeeded Admiral Peter Warren as the governor of Louisbourg.5 The royal navy, with their seven men of war, would have doubled the manpower at Louisbourg, manpower that was badly needed during this critical period. Both Knowles, Townsend, and their men focused exclusively on getting Louisbourg ready for the expected onslaught, such that on October 13th, Townsend reported that "very little remains to be done at Louisbourg. It is now in a much better state of defence than ever it was."6
Other than Louisbourg, Annapolis Royal, during these years, was the only fortified place in Nova Scotia and, as such, the theater in which conflicts between the English (as defenders) and the French (as attackers) were played out. Pretty Annapolis Royal was the scene of more battles through the years than any other contested place in North America.7 Mascarene, who had come in with the invading British forces in 1710 to take the place, continued to be in charge at Annapolisis Royal. It is Mascarene whom we are to thank for holding Annapolis Royal and keeping the French population, the Acadians, generally quiet and neutral throughout the succeeding and lonely years between 1710-1745. In 1746, however, Mascarene and his forces came close to being totally overpowered by a massive French invasion fleet; but, the forces of fortune (good for the English and bad for the French) was to keep Annapolis Royal, English; and, it is to this day, peculiarly so.
[NEXT: Pt. 5, Ch. 2 - The d'Anville Armada.]