Pt.1, Ch.3, The Founding Of Port Royal
Today one can stand on the grassy slopes covering the ramparts of old Fort Anne, at Annapolis Royal, and look out beyond the mouth of the Annapolis River to a widening tidal basin. The Annapolis basin is in the shape of a stubby carrot thirteen miles long and four miles at its widest; and off from its northwestern shoulder, tides of sea water ebb and flow through a narrow two mile cut, Digby Gut, a portal through the North Mountain range to the Bay of Fundy, one of the largest bays of the Atlantic ocean. The North Mountain range forms a backbone on which, it seems, the larger peninsula of 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 in the rocky northeast coast of North America, sweet alluvial soil. Meandering along its hundred mile length, and splitting its ten mile width, are its two main rivers, the one flowing southwest, the other northeast: the Annapolis and the Cornwallis. Standing there today on the grassy slopes of the mouth of the Annapolis River, with the full length of the fertile valley behind, one can imagine a small wooden ship, having passed through the gateway of Digby Gut into the calm expanse of the Annapolis Basin. Let us go back to 1604 and see the sight: a small sailing vessel ghosting along this amphitheater of woody hills, to slowly come up to a spot, not far off, just west of the present day ramparts of Old Fort Anne; to a place back then which was but a head of land marking where the fresh water coming west intermingles with the saltwater of the Atlantic. Here we see our intrepid French explorers, led by de Monts, looking over the rails of their small boat at, what appears to be, unoccupied land; here, they see a place much to their liking. A year later, there on the northern shore of the Annapolis Basin, tucked under the North Mountain range, this group of Frenchmen were to establish one of the first permanent European settlements in North America.
Pt.3, Ch.1, Louisbourg: Its Founding
Our scene opens on the wild and wonderful shores on the Atlantic side of Cape Breton Island, much of it now as it was in 1713. Imagine yourself a soaring gull, beginning your flight at the southern corner of this intriguing island, from Red Island to Red Head, along the quiet reaches of the Grand River and out to the Atlantic shores again. See the brilliant waters, the rocks, the sands, the dunes, the bogs and your fellow gulls. See the rugged beauty, the bird islands such as Esprit and Guyon, and the blinding beaches such as may be found along Framboise Cove; see the swelling Atlantic fetch up on Bull Rock with a low rumble, with stunning sprays reaching up and then down into the sea foam; pass with your fellow gulls over the headlands of Bull Hill and Cape Gabarus and descend down along the waters of Gabarus Bay and along into the quiet waters of what was to be named, Louisbourg Harbor. This long gliding shot of several minutes finishes up with the scene of a band of Indians gazing out over their meager summer settlement, looking somewhat puzzled as a French sailing ship, the Semslack glides into the safety of the harbor.
Pt.3, Ch.3, Louisbourg: Its Trade
Louisbourg was busy; its character was metropolitan and cosmopolitan. How impressed the newly arriving mariner must have been as he first caught sight of Louisbourg from the sea. Stone walls concealing spiraling structures within, and then, as his sailing vessel closed with the land, the scene grew larger, guns and ramparts were made out in detail. This impressive scene, like no other on the North American continent, clears off to his left as he sails through the channel with the island battery bristling with crowning cannon, and then, all before him, with the wind out of the east, the full spectacle, as his fishing or trading vessel rounds and fetches up against her anchor rode. The skyline of the interior is now fully exposed, ensconced within the stone walls and bastions of Louisbourg, and speared through with the spires of the hospital and the Chateau St. Louis. All around beneath are the squared houses and fenced gardens, the docks with their arches and sheds, and the dories, and the coils of rope, the mounds of hay, racks of fish, and everywhere: boxes and contrivances; all of it, animated by soaring gulls, roaming animals and busy people.
Pt.4, Ch.9, Siege Work
At Louisbourg, during the first week of May, 1745, there was a disuniformed collection of Englishmen in charge of the surrounding grounds. The initial success of these reveling invaders, achieved without any loss, had come about more to good luck than to good management. They had many detractors both at home and abroad; many, who would have bet good money (and would continue to do so, despite this initial success) that bunches of farmers and fishermen headed up by lawyers and merchants would not succeed at cracking this French military nut. The boys from New England may have been enthusiastic and excited; more so, now that they were before the walls, standing there back at a safe distance, their mouths agape, marveling at this medieval apparition. The next stage, however, the detractors might well have said, would require some real soldiering. There was no place in all of English North America that could compare to Louisbourg with its European style fortifications. Many of the young colonial boys must have been rudely started by their guffawing elders. There was work to be done; there was a siege to be gotten underway.
Pt.4, Ch.11, The Island Battery
As many New Englanders died that dark night as did die since their arrival. Indeed, as many died of battle wounds within the interval of that bloody hour or two on the shore of that small island at the mouth of Louisbourg Harbor, as did during the entire period of the siege. There was no appreciation of the extent of their losses until morning. It was foggy. And there came drifting in from the direction of the Island Battery along the shores of the harbor lifeless junks of men. Bodies: some headless, some armless, some legless. The count was sixty dead and the French had 116 new prisoners to deal with. ...
On the 29th of May, at Louisbourg, the good spring weather had finally established itself, things were greening up and the lady slippers and trilliums which abound thereabouts were showing themselves. A number of the provincial sailing vessels were slowly swinging on their anchors as the reflections of the sun glittered on the surface of Gabarus Bay. Readily to be seen would have been the Shirley, John Rouse’s vessel, with her 24 guns also picking up the sunlight. Some of her 150 men were aloft gathering in sail — when, suddenly, a crack was heard and seven men fell and three were killed in a moment. Three more bodies are thus to be brought to the New England cemetery which had now been added to the countryside of Louisbourg. A cemetery, at which, on that day, May 29th, there were gathered hundreds of quiet and reflecting men; gathered to see more than 50 of their dead comrades committed to the freshly turned earth. A melancholy scene. For the first four weeks the English invaders were buoyant; they were in charge of the entire countryside; they had smelt success. On the 27th, Pepperrell, in surveying the rumbled remnants of the four hundred which had set out the night before, declared: “Now things looked something dark.”
Pt.4, Ch.13, The Capitulation
Such as is the case in the making of all great historical events, results (winning or losing) come about because of the effects of many events occurring over a period of time all interacting with one another. It is life — is it not! Some events are small at the happening and large in the result; others large in the happening, small in the result. Some predictable, some unpredictable, some as a result of nature, some of a group’s making or even that of an individual. The outcome of the siege of Louisbourg in 1745 was the result of many factors and one can weave their own tapestry of events both minor and major. I have dealt with a number of these events and they are spread throughout this work. The three principal events which brought about the capitulation, I believe, are: the cooperation that existed between William Pepperrell and Peter Warren, the weather and the early desertion of the Royal Battery.
Pt.5, Ch.9, English Fortification
Edward How was “an intelligent and agreeable person.” He ably represented the English claims to Nova Scotia; but, in so doing, he proceeded with “the greatest of fidelity and care.” He was forever mindful that minds, faculties, and manners differed, not only from one race to another, but from one man to another. How, on the day of his death, was doing what he did best, as the DCB describes, he went out under “a flag of truce ... to secure the release of some English prisoners.” This was a regular event for Edward How, as he proceeded out to parley with what he thought was a fellow officer, a French officer, when, but in a brief and for him a last moment, he saw, but not to hear, arise from the cover of the dyke and the tall marsh grass in between, a line of men; and then, along the line, puffs of white smoke. Treacherous men sent their messengers into his chest. And so, we end this part with the scene of Edward How: slain, lying in the deep grass that lines the Missaguash River; there, splayed on his back, lifeless and still, his tunic of homespun serge ripped apart by a score of leaden blunt balls, and his bright red blood oozing its last.
Pt.6, Ch.5, A Long Time Plan
Way before they staked out their respective claims in North America, beginning in the early 17th century, as any reader of European history will know, the French and the English were long time enemies. Very old wounds were to break out as they jostled one another in the wilds of North America. The English claims were rooted in the discoveries of Cabot (1497); the French in Cartier (1534). A European hunger for fish and furs drove mariners and traders, of both countries, to the northern eastern shores of North America. Small wooden sailing vessels made their way out over the broad Atlantic in the spring of the year and with the early autumn westerlies returned to the docks of Europe, their holds filled with product: the ivory and hides of the walrus; the long horn of the narwhal, the down of eider ducks; the skins of the beaver, the otter, the fisher, the martin, the mink, the muskrat and the bear (brown, black and white); and, of course, bundles of dried fish and barrels of pickled fish. These early European venturers likely got on with one another, just as traders usually do. As a practical matter, however, no European settlement of North America was to take place for many, many years.
Pt.6, Ch.9, Winslow’s Arrival
The Bay of Fundy splits itself against a rock like a carrot piercing itself into ill-cultivated ground; the rock in this case is Cape Chignecto, which sends the fast rising tides of water of the Bay of Fundy left and right of the Cobequid Mountains. The cleavage of the Fundy results in two separate bodies of tidal water; the one continuing northeast as the true extension of the larger bay, the Bay of Fundy; and the other which fits its way, twice a day, through a pincered channel and into Minas Basin which runs directly east. The northeast extension of the Bay of Fundy is known as Chignecto Bay, and it splits itself again on Cape Maringouin into two smaller tidal basins, Shepody Bay and Cumberland Basin (which in the days under review was known as Beaubassin). The eastern extension of the Bay of Fundy is known as Minas Basin; it is isoscelar like with its base to the west and its apex to the east; its sides run fifty miles or so, and its base is twenty. It was on the south-western shoulder of Minas Basin that the greatest Acadian population was to occur: below the sheltering highland of Blomidon, areas flooded by their respective rivers: Pereaux, Habitant, Canard, St. Antoine (Cornwallis, these days) and the Gaspereau. This area was populated by the Acadians for a very good reason. They contain flood plains which have been silted up by the high tides of the Fundy system for centuries, and centuries. No back breaking clearing of the land was much required and the soil with a minimum of toil yielded its produce in great abundance, year after year. These are the legendary Acadian lands which we simply know as Minas. ...
So, Winslow’s objective of setting up a camp at the center of one of the major Acadian communities, Grand Pré, was, by the 21st of August, well under way. When Winslow arrived at Grand Pré in 1755 it consisted of a cluster of rustic wooden homes on rising ground south of a flat plain which the Acadians had captured from the sea through the use of dykes. These Acadians, all related to one degree or another, farmed this rich plain that stretched away to the north, towards another rise which was once an island. The Acadians had built and expanded upon dykes leading away from the mainland to each end of the island. Their homes were not on this plain, I repeat, but on the rising lands (thus to be free of potential floods) to the south and north of it. In the background, beyond the dykes, beyond the ensconced green, east and west, will be seen, at low tide, masses of red mud which cover the long shores everywhere in the Fundy system. Beyond again, to the north and east, is the blue of the Minas Basin water; and beyond that, to the north is Cape Blomidon, its red cliffs pincering off the western extremity of Minas basin; and then as one’s eyes scan to the northeast, well over the blue waters and very much in the distance, a line of hills marking the Cobequid range which shelters and closes in the fifty mile long northern shore line of the Minas Basin.
Pt.6, Ch.12, Grand Pré (Part 2)
With most all of the Acadians gone and those that were left, five to six hundred, compressed into their cousins’ homes in the Grand Pré area, the English could proceed with the execution of the final part of their plan without being bothered by “weeping & waling” Acadians. Detachments spread out into the Acadian countryside; and, then, proceeded to torch every standing structure they came upon. Close up, there was the crackle and heat of raging fires; and, in the nearby fields, animals, some on the scurry, others looking on over their shoulders, seemingly wondering; and, in the distance, all about, stretching everywhere, twirling white plumes reach into the blue. Within two weeks, excluding those at Grand Pré, 698 wooden structures went up in smoke.
Pt.6, Ch.17, The Wanderings
During the deportations of 1755, in total, around 6,000 Acadians were shipped out of the province. It might be estimated that close to twice that number constituted the Acadian population at its peak, in 1749. A couple of thousand, through the years 1749- 53, fearing the worst, fled into the French territories that then existed: Île St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) and Île Royale (Cape Breton). The Acadians that did not get caught up in the English net, in 1755, may have amounted to three or four thousand. The bulk of those made their way out of the province: the Chignecto Acadians either to Île St. Jean or up the coast of northern New Brunswick (as we know it today); and, the Cobequid Acadians, likely to Île St. Jean and Île Royale. Certain of the Acadians, those in the areas of Cape Sable and the Annapolis River, having avoided the English, retreated to the woods, whence they waged, for several years, guerilla warfare. By the end of 1755, however, the Acadian strength in Nova Scotia was certainly broken, for all time. The Acadians which were transported in 1755, were distributed down along the eastern coast of North America, beginning with Massachusetts.
Pt.7, Ch.6, Setting & Start (The Second Siege of Louisbourg, 1758)
Prime Minister Pitt had been ever so careful with details. The redundancy of the enterprise was such that if a part of the attack force was missing, even a key officer, then the instructions were that the attack should be gotten underway rather than to sacrifice an early start. Amherst, the appointed leader, was not at Halifax. This detail, too, had been covered off: the next most senior officer in place was to take command. While on May 21st Boscawen issued orders in respect to the departure of the force for Louisbourg, it is to be remembered — that these were the days of sailing ships and their use depended on the right wind and tide. By the 24th, we see Wolfe writing, the “troops have been all embarked there three or four days (except Bragg’s and two hundred men from Lunenburg, who we suppose to be at hand), but the war ships are not quite ready, and, if they were, the wind, rain, and fog of this last week would have kept us here.” By Monday, the 29th, however, the advance was begun. At dawn the signal to unmoor was given from Boscawen’s flag ship, the 90-gun Namur. The whole, 27 thousand men, as James Cunningham, our contemporary witness observed, were in good “harmony, spirit, and confidence.” At nine o’clock in the morning all of the ships of the fleet were underway. From the battery atop Citadel Hill at Halifax there boomed out a seventeen gun salute. A large manoeuvering fleet of square riggers, no matter the copious harbor, meant for tight quarters. The ships moved slowly as there was not much wind. So light was the breeze that crews were put out in their row boats to assist in the movement hoping that the wind would come up once they cleared the land and got themselves into the broad expanse of the sea. By 10:30 the ships’ boats were still towing, and by the afternoon they had not made much head way, being yet only off Cape Sambro.