At the end of May, 1755, 2,000 troops from New England, mustered at Boston, sailed up the coast and came ashore at the Isthmus of Chignecto, there to combine with a few hundred British regulars who, for the most part, had been stationed at nearby Fort Lawrence. From there the combined English force, on June the 2nd, marched on Fort Beausejour. The French fort capitulated on the 16th of June. With the surrender of the subsidiary French fort, Fort Gaspereau, on the 18th and with the routing of the French at the Saint John on 30th, all of the northern parts of Acadia, before the month of June was out, were brought under English control.
The English forces at Chignecto consisted of two battalions of men which were raised up out of the civilian population in New England for up to one year's service in Nova Scotia. One battalion was under Colonel George Scott and the other under Colonel John Winslow, with the combined force having been under Colonel Robert Monckton. It was not expected that the French would have given up their fort in such short order. The English troops were in sufficient number, and so equipped and supplied, that they were ready for a longish siege. However, as it turned out, by mid June, the primary objective, the taking of Fort Beausejour, was achieved. For the balance of the month of June the troops were kept relatively busy putting Fort Beausejour back into shape, filling in the siege trenches, and consolidating their hold by taking the subsidiary forts at the Gaspereau and at the St John. The month of July arrived and with it a question which came to the minds of all the English soldiers, officers and men alike. What's next?
An army of men must be kept busy and generally can be if there is good supervision and an objective which is plainly placed before them. The supervision of the troops at Chignecto was good enough, but there was, as a practical matter, nothing much for the 2500 men to do. John Thomas, a surgeon's mate, one of the men who came in with the English forces to Chignecto kept a diary. On the 5th of July, we see where he wrote, "This evening there is a great disturbance in camp among the people by reason of their not having their allowance of rum. Several were committed to [the guard house] for words tending to mutiny."1 Numerous references are made to trouble in the English camp at the isthmus as the summer of 1755 wore on.2 Time and time again, court martials were held and whippings handed out. At one point we see Winslow reminding his captains: "Whereas divers men from the camp straggle about without orders and in danger themselves. Lievt Colo Winslow acquaints both officers and soldiers that there is a standing order that the roll should be called three times a day in the presence of an officer of each company & expects that order to be strictly obeyed."3
Colonel Monckton was a regular army officer, and, like all regular army officers, had little regard for the average colonial soldier. Why, -- he came right off the farm! Can it be expected, that, in a week or two, he can be turned into a real soldier. This lot at Chignecto, was, to Monckton, all too typical. Monckton was not only upset with their behavour but also with their appearance. In his orders of July 7th, as promulgated by his adjutant, we see: "Col Monckton desires the officers [Winslow and Scott] commanding the two New England battalions take care that their captains provide their men with shirts and other necessarys who having observed many of them who have not changed their shirts since their first putting them on at Boston [six weeks back]. Likewise many of them he has taken notice are in great want of shoes & stockings."4 Monckton's view of the New England officer was not much better. Though these militia officers had standing in their respective communities and some wealth due to their activities, oft as not, as merchants, they were still but rustic colonials. What did they know of military matters: they but pretend they know. There was of course the incident of August 14th which illustrates the point perfectly. Colonel Winslow had been then appointed by Governor Lawrence to take his battalion, at least in part, to Minas and superintend the deportation of the Acadians at that place. He, Winslow, was doing his march pass in front of Fort Cumberland (as the English had renamed Fort Beausejour) when Monckton sent his adjutant, his assistant, Mr. Moncrieffe, to advise Winslow that it was not appropriate to be marching along with his standard unfurled, or some other such problem with the standard, as it didn't appear to suit Monckton's view of proper military protocol.5 Another example, was where, just after the French had signed the articles of capitulation, Winslow wrote Monckton, the next day, advising he "should be glad of the favor of a copy of the capitulation that I [Winslow] may send it to my Col., Governor Shirley who doubtless will expect it from me." To which Monckton, in a rather imperious manner replied, "I shall despatch the vessel to Boston. You will be pleased therefore to send me your letters, and, as through my hands the terms of capitulation ought to be sent. You will be so good as to refer Governor Shirley to me on that head."6
The following day Winslow wrote Monckton, just before he sailed, explaining that he found it surprising that "my colours being struck yesterday" in that Winslow took it that the colours went with "the commanding officer." And, that, it sure looked odd that the conquered French should be allowed to march away with their colours flying "and that we who assisted to conquer them were not permitted." Monckton wasted no time in writing back the same day saying he couldn't see any grounds for him, Winslow, to get upset. He, Monckton, was the commanding officer and no colours were to be removed without the commanding officer's permission. At any rate the colours were to remain where the largest part of the regiment was to be; and, he, Winslow, had simply taken off a small detachment. The fact of the matter is, as Winslow was to confide in his journal, his men were off on several different posts and he had the largest contingent with him.7
I have set forth biographical notes on Winslow and Monckton, and, in comparing these two short sketches, one might better understand why the relationship, as between the 52 year old colonial gentleman and the 29 year old army officer from England to whom he was obliged to report, was, to say the least, strained.8 These feelings of superiority which was generally to be found among all of the regular English military officers that came to America goaded the English colonial leaders, so badly, that by 1776 they had had it with their English cousins and opted for declaring themselves independent. I should say, that this difficulty as existed between colonial militia and regular army officers from the continent was not peculiar to the English, the same kind of problem existed with the French in North America.9
Winslow, though he gave little notice of it, must have wanted to get out from under Monckton's command as soon as possible. He wrote Governor Lawrence at Halifax, arranging to get his letter to him directly rather than through Monckton.10 Lawrence and Winslow had never met and Winslow knew that Monckton was Lawrence's man, so, Winslow chose his words carefully. He thus managed to bring himself to Governor Lawrence's attention in a timely fashion, so that, when the orders went up to Monckton to send a detachment down to Minas to see to the rounding up of the Acadians at that place, Lawrence was to personally ask for Winslow.11
It took a couple of days for a determination as to how large the Minas detachment should be and of whom it should consist. During this time, on August 12th, word of General Braddock's defeat at Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) was received at Chignecto.12 This news, that the general with most all of his army had been killed or wounded due to a trap laid by the French and their allies while on their way to attack a French fort (near present day Pittsburgh), had to have a very depressive effect on all of the officers and troops in Nova Scotia; and, would make them all the more wary in their dealings with the French and their allies in Nova Scotia. In any event, on August the 15th, Winslow's detachment of men and officers went aboard three vessels in order to proceed to Piziquid: the sloop, York; the schooner, Grayhound; and the schooner, Warren. Three hundred and thirteen men were to go aboard: Winslow and three captains (Nathan Adams, Humphrey Hobbs & Phinias Osgood), 6 lieutenants, 4 ensigns, 15 sergeants, 12 corporals, 6 drummers and 264 privates.13
John Winslow was, on leaving Beausejour, due to his run-in with Monckton, and due too, to the news of General Braddock's defeat, as Francis Parkman wrote, "ruffled in spirit."14 He sailed southwest to just out of the mouth of Chignecto Bay and then sharply south east around Cape Chignecto and into the second and largest arm of the Bay of Fundy. (See map.) The vessels held their course southeast while skirting Advocate Bay and around Cape d'Or, then, north-east-east with Cape Split at their bows. Things would have been timed for a slack tide so that the whirling waters of Cape Split might be avoided. Clearing this spectacular head of land, where the north mountain range of Nova Scotia drops off to the sea, Winslow's vessels carried on in, into Minas Basin, a body of water protecting the mariner from all sides. It was mid August and the land was heavy with bounty; indeed the Acadians were in the fields taking in the grains needed for the winter. The entire land was ripe and full, and the short northern growing season was soon to be at an end.15
[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 9 - "Winslow's Arrival At Grand Pre."]