A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 5, "The Intermission"TOC
Chapter. 3, "Battle at Grand Pre (1747)."


The Setting

In June of 1746 we have seen where the French forces had mustered here and abroad. So, too, in the previous chapter, we read of the trials and tribulations of the French naval forces under d'Anville. In order to assist the d'Anville expedition, the French authorities at Quebec had sent Ramezay to Chignecto with "six hundred Canadians, and was joined there by three hundred Malicites, under Lieutenant St. Pierre, and a large body of Micmacs, under Marin."1 Arriving during the month of June, they set up camp and waited at the isthmus (see map) intending to assist in the attacks on Louisbourg and on Annapolis Royal in concert with the French navy.

The Canadian forces at the isthmus were to spend the summer waiting at the isthmus, well positioned as they were to either spring to Louisbourg or to Annapolis Royal depending on the orders that should come. At Baie Verte, supplies continued to come in from Quebec by shuttling sailing vessels. D'Anville's fleet, expected at Chebucto (the Halifax of today; see #11 on the map), due to its string of disasters, did not arrive until September of 1746. Thus the summer months of July and August were idled away by Ramezay's forces mostly at the isthmus, though some at Chebucto. As for the English at Louisbourg and Annapolis Royal, they too idled away their time, in fearful anticipation.

The story of the events of 1746 in Nova Scotia have already been told and I do not intend to repeat the detail at this place. Sufficient to say that the scattered French naval forces were regrouped such that, it was thought, that they might get at least one lick in at the British. Jonquiere had intended to sail around from Chebucto to Annapolis Royal and then to bombard and take the place; but, alas, due to yet another storm which was to severely knock the French fleet, the plans to attack Annapolis Royal did not unfold. In connection with this attack Jonquiere had ordered the Ramezay forces, then divided between Chebucto and the isthmus to converge on Annapolis Royal. At some point in October all of this was put in motion and Ramezay and his limited Canadian forces appeared before Annapolis Royal. Not much could be done until the French naval forces and their cannon were to arrive; again, Ramezay waited, having pitched his camp about two miles above the English fort near the banks of the Annapolis River. On November 4th, 1746 (N.S.), having received the news that the French navy had sailed for France, the Canadian forces broke camp and traveled eastward up the valley towards Minas. It was determined that this French force would winter over in Acadia. They might well have stayed over at Minas, but the pleading Acadians2 convinced them to move on; and, so, they returned back to places they had inhabited since June, at the Isthmus of Chignecto, there to set up their winter camp and make plans.3

The presence of d'Anville's fleet in Nova Scotian waters had given the people of New England quite a fright. Due to the threat, New England had significantly reenforced their outpost at Annapolis Royal. During September, Shirley sent approximately 300 soldiers up from Boston, thus raising the number of men under arms to about 1,000 at that garrison, a level which it had not seen for a number of years.4 With the French fleet having departed North American waters in late fall, the French threat for 1746 disappeared. The English knew that the French would be back, so, the governor at Massachusetts, William Shirley, set his new plans for Nova Scotia, in motion.5


The English March

Shirley's plans included sending a force immediately up from Boston. The force consisted of approximately 500 "Massachusetts men" under Colonel Arthur Noble. In the late fall this force6 sailed into Annapolis Basin and called by at the fort. Not much time passed in exchanging courtesies. The force, it was determined, should go to Minas, particularly that part of it known as Grand Pre, a place that might be considered the middle point of Acadia. It was from Grand Pre that an English fort might be set up, a place from which operations might be launched, likely, for an early spring offensive against the French at the isthmus.7 Part of the forces (100 men under Charles Morris) marched down the valley to get to Grand Pre, some 70 miles distant, I would say a good two day march over a fairly well established roadway. It had been determined that the rest of the English forces with the heavier equipment would sail the distance from Annapolis Royal, down the Bay of Fundy and then into the Minas Basin (see map). There was no thought that by sending vessels down, that time would be saved; as, in those days, the time spent in sailing ships varied depending on the wind and tide experienced. This was December in the Bay of Fundy and it could not have been expected that any great time would be made by sailing. The vessels would have had to buck head winds; and, so too, they had to buck the reversing tides of the Fundy, the fastest and the highest in the world. The land loving men on the sailing vessels, at one point, became nervous and they were put ashore at the "French Cross" (Morden), on the other side of the north mountains; they would simply meet the sailors and their vessels at Grand Pre, when ever they got there. Thus, on Christmas eve of 1746, we would have seen a couple of hundred New Englanders being put ashore; they were to make their way from there, best they can. This second group, while they might have originally thought that they were to have the easier time of it, had a tough eight day march, "without paths or guides," through the winter snow, over the Aylesford mountain and along unmarked sidehills, northeast, down the valley, until, finally, they met the south banks of the River Gaspereau, and there to find their comrades; who, most likely, were by then, well settled in at their destination, Grand Pre. It was now January; the ground would most likely have been frozen and covered with the snows of winter.8

The New Englanders had brought along with them building materials and supplies in order to build two block houses for their defence. These materials and supplies were aboard the vessels, which, while they had some difficulties bucking the tides and the storms of the season, eventually did arrive.9 So, in the background, there would have been seen these two English trading vessels, there in the midstream of the Gaspereau, battened down for the winter. Colonel Noble and his men soon came to terms with the local French Acadians, who, though not pleased, moved themselves around so that some twenty odd houses were taken over by these armed Englishmen. One was quite a large building made of stone,10 the rest made of wood; all, were more or less in a row overlooking the marsh, Grand Pre, which the Acadians had, through the use of dikes, turned, what was once a flooded and silt laded flat, into superior pasture land. Noble might have made the decision to unload the boats and build the defences, as hard as that might have been given the winter weather; he did not; the New Englanders went directly into winter quarters thinking they were completely safe for a couple of months when better weather would allow them to free up their ships and supplies: the intelligence was that the French army was 150 miles away at the isthmus snugged in for the winter: and, between, was nought but a frozen and pathless forest.11 And, so, the New Englanders settled in for a long winter's sleep.


The French March

Now, by whatever means, while at his camp at the isthmus, Ramezay came to know during the course of January, 1747, that English forces had very recently gone into winter quarters at Grand Pre.12 Ramezay had been at the place but two months earlier when he and his Canadians were on their way back from an abortive attempt, in the late fall of 1746, to take Annapolis Royal. When he came through, all that could be seen at Grand Pre was a population13 of Acadians who had pleaded with them (the French soldiers) to keep moving on through. The intelligence that first reached Chignecto, was that, there was two or three hundred New Englanders that had arrived in late December at Grand Pre. This first report did not take into account that there was an equally sized English force on its way; and which, as we have see, had taken a different route and was to arrive a week, or so, later than the group at Grand Pre. Ramezay certainly reckoned that the force reported to him was larger than his and if the French were to wait for the spring for the English to attack them at the isthmus, then they were likely to be in for a hard time, as any such attack might be supported by additional sea-borne forces. The best chance was to march overland and engage the English as soon as possible, and, hope to catch the English napping. Thus the decision was struck to attack and to do so in the dead of an Acadian winter. The French, it should be observed, had a penchant for winter raids; the history books are peppered with them.14

Ramezay was feeling the effects of his 1746 exertions and determined not to lead his men on this arduous winter trek.15 In any event, Ramezay had a very capable officer to lead the attack, Nicholas Antoine Coulon de Villiers; so, too, he had a number of other able lieutenants; in all, possibly the best collection that New France was ever to see. There was, to be under Villiers: Chevalier Louis Francois Chapt de la Corne, second in command; Major Daniel Hyacinthe Marie Lienard Beaujeu (1711-55), the diarist of the mission16; Charles Des Champs De Boishebert, an ensign and nephew of Ramezay's who at this time was but nineteen years of age and who was to fight bravely on for the cause of France in North America straight through to the end, in 1763. These were but a few of the noblesse of New France17 who tramped along through the winter snows with their native friends; intent, as they were, to teach the Bastonnais a lesson.

So it was, that, on January 23rd, 1747, we would have seen a force of a couple of hundred18 snow-shoed Canadians hauling their sledges19 across the Isthmus of Chignecto. They first made their way on a traveled track from Beaubasin, on the western side of the isthmus to the head waters of Baie Verte, on the eastern side. There, likely more men20 and supplies were folded into the larger group. Then they followed along21 the shore of that body of water we now know as the Northumberland Strait - from Tignish to Tatamagouche, arriving on the 26th. (See map.) At Tatamagouche these fur and snow covered soldiers were to replenish at the small French community there located. Next these Frenchmen were to turn inland, their next way-point being Cobequid (Truro). This next way was a well traveled, and, indeed, the principal road into the central lands of Acadia, over which, for many years, cattle had been driven, destined for the French population at Louisbourg (see larger map). A smaller party was sent forward in order to block roadways and to prevent the news of their march from traveling further into the Acadian heartland and thus to warn the New Englanders. These determined French travelers, in order to reach Cobequid, followed up the frozen French River to its head waters, then up and over the Cobequid Mountains to the head waters of the Chiganois River whose frozen ribbon traced the route to the eastern extremity of the Minas Basin. There the Canadians were to reach, on January 31st, the first of a number of Acadian villages located around the Basin, Nijaganiche.22 At Nijaganiche they reprovisioned. They were expected; and fresh supplies had been assembled by Acadians friendly to the cause. The following day they carried east to the next village, Cobequid; more provisions were there available for the troops. Now they were coming closer to their objective; but, immediately ahead, was one of their principal obstructions, the Shubenacadie River. It was to be reached by going a dozen miles west of Cobequid, through another community which the English in later years were to call Old Barns. The Shubenacadie is one of the larger rivers of Nova Scotia (none of which are of continental proportions) and it is open during the winter at its mouth and inland for several miles due to the fast rising Fundy tides that sweep in twice daily. There, on the eastern banks of the Shubenacadie, Villiers and his followers stopped: Could they get enough canoes together? Would they risk a crossing? After conferring amongst themselves and certain of the knowing locals, a determination was made to carry on up the eastern banks 25 miles, or so, until they reached the frozen and crossable upper reaches of the Shubenacadie. A nineteen year old, Ensign Boishebert, a noted boat handler, with ten of his men, volunteered to make the hazardous run across the mouth of the Shubenacadie23. It was important to the mission to get someone over so as to stop up the road to Piziquid (Windsor). Boishebert and his men were to travel along aways and then to stop and wait for the larger group which would take the longer, less riskier route. The crossing of Villiers forces was to take place just above where the Stewiacke River joined the Shubenacadie. This was Indian territory, the Micmacs.

Where the Stewiacke spills into the Shubenacadie, there was then, and there is yet today, a community of Micmac. Le Loutre had established his mission there. These native people were naturally suspicious and could prove to be dangerous to any vulnerable group; however, due to careful French grooming, most all of the natives of North America, including those of the Micmac, were reasonably well disposed to the French. Our Canadian winter travelers, assisted on their way by their friends, were soon plodding towards the head waters of the Kennetcook which they reached on February the 7th. There they met up with Boishebert who reported that no one had passed him, so to give the English advance notice of the approaching French force.24 Then down the frozen course of the Kennetcook to Piziquid (Windsor), the only major Acadian habitation between Cobequid and its objective and but 20 miles away from the mouth of the Gaspereau where the English were lounging the winter away.

Approaching Piziquid had to be done with some caution, as, it might be there that the first English soldiers could be encountered. Slowly, the advance scouts proceeded until the first Acadians houses came into view. The occupants confirmed that there were no Englishmen about at Piziquid and that they had all nested together at Grand Pre. The Acadians at Piziquid, just as it seems all Acadians along the tortuous winter route, were ready to lend assistance. At Piziquid, it is reported, "for the first time leaving Beaubasin, the French slept under a roof, with guards stationed on all the roads."25 By noon the next day, which I believe would have been on the 9th of February, the French were on the move again; now -- but only a few miles from their objective. A winter's snow storm had started; indeed, from all accounts it was to turn into a blizzard. This condition made it difficult for the French to travel; but, it covered their approaches, beautifully. We might then have seen, in his sleepy quarters at Grand Pre, an English officer, who: firsts steals a peek through a snow plastered window; then, yawns; then, meanders across a stone walled room, stepping lightly to avoid several sleeping men; then, over to stoke the fire; then to ladle out another mug of a mulled concoction in a pot hanging nearby; and, then to slump down, so to continued his dreamy existence.


The Prelude

In anticipation of the coming battle, the French forces paused half way between Piziquid and Grand Pre. There, on the banks of a small intervening river, Villiers divided his men into ten squads. The 300, or so, were grouped off, as follows: seven of 25 each26; one of 50 (headed by Villiers); one of 40 (de la Corne, second to Villiers), and another of 21 (Lotbiniere). They then proceeded, carefully through the driving snow. It was in the afternoon of the 9th: they halted, once again: they wanted to come on their targets under the additional cover of the darkness of night. The men remained quiet and still; they became numb with the cold; night gradually fell. Lights in the not too far distance flickered, these were Acadian home fires along the Gaspereau. They moved forward; they stopped. One of the squads, however, continued its cautious approach.

The first house was that occupied by the Melancon family. Inside there was signs of a crowd; music and voices -- why there was a party going on. One of the Melancon girls had been married and a reception for family and friends was taking place. It was dark; and a couple of our French travelers, dressed in leather and furs, all dusted with snow except that part of their beards where their steamy breaths were adding to tiny balls of ice; these desperate looking men, peered through one of two glass windows. Inside, the light made by lamps and a fire coming from an open hearth revealed people: men, women and some older children; all were making merry. No Englishmen were to be seen. These French soldiers went back to the group waiting in the shadows; and, shortly, a delegation went up to the door, their muskets at the ready, Coulon de Villiers, likely being in the lead. Archibald MacMechan described the scene:

"It was Melancon's house where a wedding feast was in progress. The sudden apparition of such a force, in mid-winter, in a tempest, without a word of warning, as if it had dropped from the clouds, was a portent and a terror. At the sight of the armed men, their snow-powdered clothing, their gaunt, unshaven, cold-pinched faces, the music and dancing ceased on the instant."27
After the realization that a great armed force of Frenchmen had arrived in the territory, the initial shock was replaced with considerable excitement. The French officers warned the people to quiet down, that the last thing they wanted was to put the English on notice of their arrival. Now, Melancon's house was one of a number of French Acadian homes along the eastern banks of the Gaspereau River. They were spread apart from one another with farming lands in between. Villiers and his officers were soon to be put into the picture. The entire English force was located on the western side, that is to say, the other side of the Gaspereau River, somewhat beyond its mouth on a ridge over looking a delta (Grand Pre) which had been diked off by the farming Acadians. The houses along the ridge were comparatively close to one another, and, one large one, was made of stone, likely a communal structure used as a mill or for storage28; but which, the English had determined to use as their winter headquarters. The English had completely taken over 24 houses along this ridge putting the regular occupants out of possession. Details of all of this were given out to the French officers.

The column of French soldiers had reached the Melancon house at about 9 o'clock in the evening of February 9th. Within a short period of time the French forces, moving in the platoons which had been made up earlier in the day were gathered around roaring fires in several of the nearby houses. There they warmed themselves and dried out and made ready their powder horns and musket and then carefully wrapped them so that they maybe kept dry until the critical moment should arrive. Zedore Gould, as an old timer, many years later, who had been with the French raiders that night recounted that "the Melancon girls handed round black bread, and cheese and hard cider, a satisfying ration for exhausted men. Two hogsheads of cider laid down in the fall were emptied that night." More and more detail was comprehended by the French officers as certain of the Acadians spoke freely; others, however, held back, wondering what all of this might lead to. Each French platoon had two houses allotted to it.29 At the appointed time, they would creep up and attack: two-thirty in the early morning, a favourite attack time for the French, was the time to strike.

As the appointed hour drew near, the French priest conducted an abbreviated mass and blessed the men. Then, expertly led30 each platoon positioned itself in the snow before one of their two targets. The winds continued to howl and the snow swirled about; it was dark; the houses before them cast out through their small windows and threshold slits, an eerie light.


The Battle

The blinding snow, which while generally favouring them, had the effect of confusing certain of the French and their Acadian guides. Not each platoon ended up in front of their assigned house. Villiers, for example, who had the strongest and most numerous platoon, and who was going to attack the Stone House, somehow, ended up in front of the house which Lotbiniere's smaller platoon was to attack. It was too late, especially in a blinding snow storm, to sort things out: the house before them, was the house they were going to attack. Villiers held up for a bit; he and his officers considered their position. The interior was lit and they could make out some movement inside. While so observing, suddenly, the door was thrown open, and there was an Englishman silhouetted against the square of light where the door had been. The Frenchmen in unison dropped into the snow banks. "Who goes there?" Nothing, but sounds of the storm, and, it well masked the breathing of the 50 Frenchmen but 30 paces away; all face down in the snow. The English guard peered out into the swirling snow and the dark night beyond. He turned, then turned again; and, with a facial expression to indicate he was just hearing the "bumps of a stormy night"; he went inside and closed the door behind him. The French stood once again, and crept closer; then the door swung open for a second time, more abruptly than the first. And a yell went out, "Turn out!" The interior of the house was all a stir as men jumped for their arms and accoutrements. Villiers hesitated. Beaujeu who was by his side whispered loudly, "This is it!" Villiers ran to the door with sword in hand and three shots from the guards rang out: the French saw their leader go down. "Before the guard could reload, the French were upon them, and, in six or seven minutes, they were masters of the first post. Twenty-one of the Bastonnais lay dead, and three were prisoners."31

Villiers and one of his junior officers (Lusignan) were badly wounded.32 They were put on sleds and sent back to the Gaspereau houses from whence they had just come; where the surgeon, Jus, had set up to do his work. Villiers' platoon then fell under the command of Beaujeu, our diarist. Just after Villiers' platoon took this first house, which took but minutes, up trundled, according to plan, Lotbiniere's squad. The two forces combined; and, with the first blow in, they went off to join the thickening fray. The night filled up with flashes and reports, some near, some further away. "The alarm was now general throughout Grand Pre. The crackle of musketry, the war-whoops of the Indians, the crash of axes on wooden doors sounded above the winter storm. Doomed men routed from their deepest sleep to encounter in a daze, the hostile faces and deadly weapons. Their end was speedy; resistance was impossible."33

Not all the English occupied houses folded as simply as the first. Many of the occupants had the notice of distant musket fire. The Stone House, seemingly remained free of attack during the first and critical period time of the battle: it was to become the last, for that matter the only, bastion of the English; many made a run for it. The stone walls would not only stop musket balls, but they would not burn.34 Three hundred and fifty men crowded into it. It "had five small cannon, two of which were four pounders, and three were swivels; but these were probably not in position, as it does not appear that any use was made of them. There was no ammunition except what the men had in their powder horns and bullet-pouches ..."35

It was thought, of course, that Arthur Noble and his chief officers would be in the Stone House; and, indeed, it was Noble's headquarters, but, for some reason, he had, at least for that evening, located himself in a wooden house a few hundred feet to the west of the Stone House.36 Early in the fight la Corne's platoon came up to Noble's house and an axe was put to the door. "Noble sprang from his bed in his shirt, seized sword and pistol and rushed at his foes. He received two flesh wounds. The French offered him quarter, as his soldier servant testified, but he would not heed. A musket bullet through the brain stretched him dead."37 La Corne's men stepped over Noble's bloody body and dealt as mean a blow to a number of other resisting Englishmen, including the commander's brother, Ensign Francis Noble, shot dead. Edward How who was in this house with the Noble brothers was badly wounded in the mellay such that he was to lose the use of his left arm.38 The few left standing were soon to throw their hands up in the air; and, with that, what was Noble's headquarters turned into that of la Corne's; who, because Villiers was put out of action, was now in command of the entire French force.

The noise of the battle started to settle down. The houses which the French took39 were now under their command and the majority of the New Englanders in the confusion managed to get themselves to their principal place of protection, the Stone House, into which they crowded. Visibility continued to be bad and neither side could not make out whether the men moving about were friend or foe.40 The snow laid deep and there was great difficulty getting about. The only real fighting that took place at Grand Pre was that within the houses which the French had succeeded in entering.

When things had settled, somewhat, a decision was made by the French to tramp down to the shore; which, they were to do at about sunrise. They, of course, were interested in securing the two English vessels and their contents for themselves. An English guard of but ten men had been posted at some old ruins of a fort, Vieux Logis, located near the shore. It is not surprising to see that upon four French platoons arriving, the place immediately carried.41 With the capture of Vieux Logis, the French had consolidated their position. If the New Englanders were to be reinforced, they would be able to cut the whole, off from their supplies, indeed, preparations were made to set the two English vessels aflame directly there was any danger of the French forces being overwhelmed. Two of the four platoons (de la Colombie and Boishebert) were left at Vieux Logis the other two joined la Corne.

As February 10th reached its half way point, the situation was this: the French had control of two places, the wooden house a few hundred feet to the west of the Stone House (the English) and Vieux Logis located near the shore a mile or so to the east. Nobody could move within a musket shot of these two houses; in any event, movement in the snow which was high up around a man's waist was very difficult. Generally, though, the French had command of the area extending beyond. Of the 300 or so French that had started in: 22 were dead or wounded42 and about 50 had run off43; la Corne did not have enough to storm the Stone House44 and it could not be burnt down. As for the English: Benjamin Goldthwaite, who had taken over with the death of Noble, tried to organize the crowd in the Stone House, best he could. Upwards to 75 English officers and men were killed, 60 were wounded, and 69 were made prisoners.45 Goldthwaite likely fell quiet on occasion, to think, I suppose, what might have been: if only, they had erected the blockhouses which had been brought with them, framed and ready to go; only if, the pickets had been put up; if only, the powder, ball and cannon had been brought off the vessels and set up; if only, the food provisions had been taken off the vessels and stored in such a fashion so that they could be gotten at in the event of a siege; only if, --; only if, --; only if, --.

The 10th wore on; night fell; and, then daybreak of the 11th came. Both sides were dug in. Nothing was happening, though the occasional musket shot would have been heard. More time passed; and still nothing was happening. If the French would not make a run at the Stone House, then, Goldthwaite determined, the New Englanders would storm the French, after all, it appeared they had the French outnumbered. So, on the morning of the 11th, some 200 Englishmen spilled forth from their hideout with the intentions of storming the French: it aborted almost directly it began. The light snow was up high around their waists; they could not use their weapons; for that matter, they could hardly move.46 The English hastily returned to the safety of their stronghold.

Stalemate! The soldiers of each side were safely bolted into their respective houses, overhead a Fleur de lis on the one and a union jack on the other, both whipped in the wind driven snow. Movement for each seemed impossible.

We have seen where Edward How had been with Noble and was badly wounded. His left arm continued to bleed. Edward How could speak French and he conversed with his captors. The French officer, especially in those days was ever the gentleman; and, at any rate they liked How. How expressed the view that he would bleed to death if he didn't get medical attention. The French surgeon, Jus, was back at Gaspereau attending to the wounded, which, among the number, included Villiers, their commander. How said that he would like the English surgeon to come over under a white flag to attend him. After some consultation between one another the French sent Joseph Marin over with a white flag. Marin remained in the Stone House as a hostage while the English surgeon came over and treated How. While Marin was with the English, discussion was to eventually came around as to how the thing might be ended. Could they not agree to an armistice without submitting entirely to one another? Then we would have seen one Englishmen go over to the French; and, then, a Frenchman go over to the English. At some point a despatch was sent back to Gaspereau to see what the wounded Villiers had to say. The message came back that Villiers was in a world of hurt and that la Corne and his officers would have to work things out for themselves. Now the French -- though they would not let on to the English -- were very near the breaking point. "Three days of marching on empty stomachs, with all the hard fighting at the end, made the convened council-of-war ready enough to meet the Bastonnais half way."47

The shooting was, by agreement, to stop until 9 o'clock the following morning; each were to say put. It was hoped that terms might be in the meantime worked out. In the morning of the 12th, the French observed a number of Englishmen out, towards the brook. "Why! -- those Englishmen were just using the truce so to round up some provisions." Certain of the French were ready to start back to fighting, right-a-way; but, cooler heads prevailed. An English officer, Prebble, arrived at the French house with an interpreter and explained they were out to get water, they were in need of water -- that's all. Thereupon Prebble pulled out pen and paper and sat down and wrote out three terms: first, the prisoners of war and two captured vessels be restored; second, all plunder be given back; third, the English be free to proceed to Annapolis Royal, with honours of war, a pound of powder and ball per man, and six days rations in their haversacks, leaving all artillery, munitions of war, provisions and supplies to the victors.48 La Corne did not accept these terms. First off, he was still uncertain that he had the authority to deal with the English in such a fashion; and, so, he sent another runner back to Villiers. The message received back was somewhat the same as was sent up earlier; whatever la Corne and his officers worked out was going to be OK with Villiers. The French refused to give the vessels back, nor the prisoners of war.49 As for the pillage, the French said there was none except that which was carried off by the Indians and they were long gone. The honours of war were granted. A condition was set (quite normal in those days) that the English, while being allowed to return to Annapolis Royal, could not bear arms up the Bay for six months. The English were in no condition or in any mood to bargain further: the deal was struck. With considerable ceremony the articles were written up and all the officers of both sides signed them. They then broke out a bottle or two, to toast and congratulate one another.


The Aftermath

The first order of business was to bury the dead. The snow was cleared and the ground, likely with considerable difficulty, was opened up.50 Depending on who you want to believe (the French or the English) there was between 80 to 150 men to be buried.

"The grave of the New Englanders was dug near the road which now [c.1930] runs north to Grand Pre station. The Nobel brothers were buried by themselves between two apple trees; the Canadians accorded full military honours, and fired the customary volleys over their grave."51
After the solemn business of burying the dead, all were busy packing provisions for the departing Englishmen who were to march out for Annapolis Royal. The French had agreed to allow the New Englanders to spread out, as they were packed like sardines in the Stone House, 350 of them. But the English did not want to take the time to move, what they wanted to do was to just pack up and go. The evening before they trudged out, however, there was to be a most peculiar gathering of the French and the English.

There was good feelings running between them, though they had been bloody enemies but hours before. The evidence of it appeared directly the parties signed the articles of capitulation. Clearly the English were very impressed by these Frenchmen who had made an unbelievable march in the middle of winter and so to spring a surprise attack. That evening the English officers delivered a formally written invitation to the French officers "requesting the honour of their company to dinner, in order to make their acquaintance over a bowl of punch (en buvant le ponche)." The invitation was accepted with as much courtesy as was extended by it.

We are left to the devices of our imagination to paint in the scene as the French officers came up to the Stone House to be greeted by their English hosts. Each group would have spent some time trying to put their respective uniforms in order: cleaned, polished and brushed as best they could. There was no sparkle and bits and pieces were missing or stitched. These men had just come through the trenches of war; but this was the age of gentlemanly manners and gentlemanly presentation -- there had to be quite a conversion in looks.

"No doubt the Canadians came as a body, shaved and spruced up, wigs in order, with their weather-worn uniforms and accoutrements made as smart as possible. No doubt the New Englanders met them as a body, and there were formal presentations, with graceful French reverences and less courtly English bows. If hosts and guests were imperfectly acquainted with each other's speech, good will on both sides brought mutual understanding."52
The meal proceeded though the fare was simple. The local Acadians must have been prevailed upon to supply certain of that which came to the table; and, likely, there were a few special jars that were retrieved from the two vessels. La Corne and Goldthwaite sat at the two ends of the table and the other officers in between. It had to be a strange dinner party. The French with their extreme courtesies; the English holding back at first then respectfully quizzing their guests. How did you manage such a feat? What route did you take? Broken English was exchanged for broken French and all along the punch was ladled out. At some point during all of this, so MacMechan reports, all the deputies of the surrounding Acadian communities arrived at the Stone House, and, no doubt, were invited to partake of the punch. This was a scene to be painted; the French in their blues; the English in their reds; the Acadians in their homespuns.

The next day was Valentines Day. Despite the merrymaking of the previous evening there was to be an official leave taking. The New Englanders came marching out of the Stone House two by two, haversacks and snowshoes slung over their backs, muskets at the shoulders, to march along a lane made by two blue-coated hedges of French soldiers with shouldered arms; drums beating and colours flying. These winter clad New Englanders tramped through Grand Pre and kept right on going down a snow laden road, headed out, they were, for the English fort at Annapolis Royal, sixty frost bitten miles away, each carrying in their hearts a sad tale of Acadia. As for the French: well, they stood proud. As Parkman was to describe, the overland trek and the resultant Battle at Grand Pre was to become "one of the most gallant exploits in French-Canadian annuals."53


In spite of their victory, the French military did not stay at Grand Pre, indeed, within months, they removed themselves from Acadia. La Corne knew he could not throw his forces onto the local Acadians for their support; they had gone through quite enough. Besides, they were in no position to fortify Grand Pre and for sure the English would be back in the spring.
54 La Corne was to lead his men (many being sick and wounded) out of Grand Pre nine days after the English had left and within two weeks, on March the 8th, 1747, was back at Beaubasin.55 As for Ramezay, who there waited for the return of his forces, and whom we had seen had come to Acadia in June of 1746 with his French Canadian forces in order to put an end to the English presence in Acadia; well, upon hearing of Jonquiere's capture, the authorities sent their runners out: Acadia and the Acadians would have to make out best they can, for the military forces of New France were needed to man the ramparts of Quebec.56 In the fall of 1749, New France was to finally get its promised leader, one of dash and daring, la Jonquiere. He was to hear that the English had in that year established a new citadel at Chebucto and named it, Halifax. This caused Jonquiere, directly he heard the news, to send Chevalier la Corne with a strong detachment to hold Chignecto, build a fort and prevent the English from going beyond the Missaguash River.


[NEXT: Pt. 5, Ch. 4 - The Founding of Halifax (1749).]

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