HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
The Great Republic by the Master Historians
Colonial Hostilities
by Bancroft, Hubert H.

[In previous articles we have briefly reviewed the history of the French in Canada, down to the futile expedition of Denonville against the Iroquois in 1687, and the severe reprisal of the Indians, in which they massacred the inhabitants of the island of Montreal and endangered the very existence of the colony. At this juncture Denonville was recalled, and Count de Frontenac sent out. The succeeding history of the colony is largely one of war with the English colonists, in which the Indian allies of the hostile whites took active part. On the English side were the Iroquois, the most warlike and powerful of all the aborigines, of whom the French had made enemies upon their first entrance into the country. The French were supported by the Hurons and other Indians of Canada, and by the tribes of northern New England, while the southern New England tribes were allies of the English.

The several wars which raged in Europe between France and England roused the colonies to invasions of one another's territory, in which the Indians gave full went to their savage instincts in murdering the helpless settlers. King William's War, which continued from 1689 to 1697, was marked by several such atrocities. At the very opening of the war, Dover, in New Hampshire, was attacked, and revenge taken upon Major Waldron, who had acted treacherously towards the Indians during King Philip's War. During the succeeding year occurred the massacre at Schenectady, which we have already described. Other settlements were assailed, and several of the English forts taken. In reprisal, an expedition under Sir William Phipps captured Port Royal, and essayed to conquer Quebec, but was driven off. At the same time a fruitless land-expedition was sent from New York against Montreal. The Indian depredations upon the English frontiers continued, the latest being an attack on Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1697, in which forty persons were killed or taken captive. Among these latter were a Mrs. Duston, her nurse, and a boy, who on their way to Canada attacked their captors while sleeping, killed ten out of twelve of them, and returned in safety to their friends. During this war the French attempted to punish the hostile Iroquois, and Frontenac marched into their territory, where he committed much damage. On his return, however, he was severely harassed by the Indians.

In 1702 another war broke out between France and England, which continued till 1713. In America it was marked by the same atrocities as the previous war. The Iroquois were neutrals during most of this war, and New York was preserved from danger, the weight of the war falling on the New England colonies. In 1704 the town of Deerfield was captured by a French and Indian force, forty of the inhabitants killed, and one hundred and twelve captured, who were marched through the winter snows to Canada. Throughout the war the frontier settlements were continually harassed by the savage foe. In 1707 the English attacked Port Royal, but were repulsed. In 1710 it was again assailed, and captured, its name being changed to Annapolis, in honor of Queen Anne, and the province of Acadia, or Nova Scotia, was permanently added to the English possessions. In the succeeding year an extensive invasion of Canada was projected, which met with an unfortunate termination. The story of this expedition we select from Andrew Bell's translation of Garneau's "L'Histoire du Canada."]

In spring, 1711, an expedition was got up to act in conjunction with such forces as the plantations could supply for the invasion of Canada. The fleet, under the orders of Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker, had companies of seven regiments of regulars on board, drafted from the army Marlborough was leading from victory to victory. The force was put under the charge of Brigadier-General Hill.

Walker arrived in Boston harbor, June 25, where his presence was impatiently expected. The land-force was now augmented by the junction of the militias of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc., which raised it to a total of six thousand five hundred infantry. The fleet now consisted of eighty-eight ships and transports. The army which was intended to act simultaneously with the ascent to Quebec by an advance on Montreal, and was now reconstituted, got ready to act, under the orders of General Nicholson. It was composed of four thousand Massachusetts and other militia-men, and six hundred Iroquois. Having moved his corps to the banks of Lake George, Nicholson there awaited the event of the attack on Quebec. Meantime, the invading fleet sailed from Boston, July 30.

The opposing force of the Canadians was proportionally small, in number at least. It did not exceed five thousand men of all ages between fifteen and seventy, and included at the most five hundred savages. But Quebec was now in a better state for defence than ever it had been before, there being more than one hundred cannons mounted upon the works. The banks of the St. Lawrence immediately below the city were so well guarded that it would have been perilous to an enemy to land anywhere; above it the invaders would hardly adventure. The garrison was carefully marshalled, and every man assigned to an appointed place, with orders to repair to it as soon as the enemy's fleet appeared.

But the elements were now the best defenders of Canada, which Providence seemed to have taken under his special protection. During the night of August 22, a storm from the southwest arose, accompanied by a dense fog, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and the hostile fleet was put in imminent jeopardy for a time. The admiral's ship barely escaped wreck upon breakers. Eight of the transports were driven ashore on the Ile-aux-CEufs, one of the Seven Islands, and nine hundred out of seventeen hundred persons on board perished in the waves. Among the corpses strewed on the beach afterwards were found the bodies of a number of emigrants from Scotland, intended colonists for Anglicized Canada; and among other waifs found at the same time were copies of a proclamation to the Canadians, in Queen Anne's name, asserting the suzerainty of Britain, in right of the discovery of their country by Cabot.

Admiral Walker now altered his course, and rendezvoused with his scattered fleet, as soon as it could be collected, at Cape Breton, where he called a council of war, in which it was decided to renounce the enterprise. The British division of the fleet left for England, and the colonial vessels returned to Boston. But disasters ceased not to attend this ill-starred expedition; for the Feversham, an English frigate of thirty-six guns, and three transports, were lost when still in the Laurentian gulf; while the Edgar, of seventy guns, Walker's flag-ship, was blown up at Portsmouth, October 15, with four hundred men on board.

[A strong Canadian force was now collected at Montreal, in preparation for Nicholson's advance. No advance was made, however, though the militia were kept under arms, on guard against a Canadian invasion. But the Canadians, just now, had work enough at home. The Outagamis, a warlike tribe from beyond Lake Michigan, had moved eastward to the locality of Detroit, under British instigation. It was their purpose to burn the settlement and kill all the French. In this they were joined by the Mascoutins. On the other hand, some six hundred warriors of friendly tribes were banded in defence of the French, and forced the hostiles to take a defensive attitude.]

The Outagamis and Mascoutins took refuge in an intrenched camp they had formed near the French fort. M. Dubuisson, the governor, finding that they presented so imposing a front, was willing that they should retire peacefully to their villages on seeing that their hostile intents were anticipated and provided against; but his native allies would not allow of this, and proceeded to invest their fastness. This was so well defended, however, that the assailants became dispirited, and wished to retire from the contest; but Dubuisson, now encouraging them to remain, turned the siege into a blockade. In a short time provisions, even water, failed the besieged; and when any of them issued from the enclosure to procure the latter, they were set on by their foes, killed on the spot, or burnt alive to make a savage holiday.

The beleaguered tried, by every means, to detach the native auxiliaries present from the French interest; but all in vain. They then sent envoys to the governor to crave a truce of two days, to enable their foragers to procure food. This singular request was refused, but had better been accorded; for in revenge the Outagamis shot fire-arrows against the straw-roofed houses of the village, which were thereby entirely consumed. The cannon of the fort avenged this act of desperation. Already from three to four score of the besieged were dead of hunger and thirst, and the air was tainted with putrefaction. A third deputation came to implore quarter. Pemousa, a chief, who brought with him his wife and children as hostages, adjured the governor to "take pity on his flesh" and on the other women and children about to be put at French discretion. Some of the allied chiefs present at this piteous scene, instead of being moved by it, coolly proposed to Dubuisson to cut down four of the envoys, who, they alleged, were the chief defenders of the place. This much, at least, was refused.

The besieged, despairing of success, and hopeless of quarter if they surrendered, prepared to take advantage of any moment of relaxed vigilance in their besiegers, and try to escape. One stormy night they succeeded in this attempt, but, exhausted by the privations they had undergone, halted on peninsular ground near St. Clair, whither they were soon followed. They intrenched themselves again, stood a siege of four days more, and then gave in. Not one of the men escaped, and it is very doubtful whether any of the women were spared; but the contemporary reports of what passed at the time are in disaccord on this point.

[The remnant of the Outagami or Fox nation, however, long carried on a harassing warfare with the French, and rendered the routes between the posts in Canada and those on the Mississippi so dangerous as to be almost impassable. The peace of Utrecht, in 1713, put an end to this desolating war. During the succeeding thirty years but few events of importance occurred in the English colonies or in Canada. It was a much-needed era of tranquillity, during which the colonies grew rapidly in population and importance. The Canadian settlements were principally confined to the St. Lawrence region, from Quebec to Montreal. Farther west there were detached forts and stations, with a weak settlement at Detroit, but nothing which could properly be called a colony. Yet the spirit of exploration of the French continued. In 1731 an effort was made to reach the Pacific overland. M. Verendrye, a trader with the Indians, who had learned much from the Western tribes of the country that lay beyond, undertook an exploring expedition west- ward. He proceeded to Lake Superior, where his trading interests kept him till 1733. Meanwhile, some of his people made their way to the Lake of the Woods, and thence to Lake Winnipeg, extending their journey to the point of branching of the river Saskatchewan.

In 1738 the explorers reached the country of the Mandans, and in 1742 followed the upper Missouri as far as the Yellowstone. Finally, on January 1, 1743, two of the sons of M. Verendrye found themselves in front of the great range of the Rocky Mountains, sixty years in advance of the discovery of this mighty mountain-system by the American explorers Lewis and Clarke.

In 1744 another war, known in America as "King George's War," broke out between France and England, and at once brought the colonists into hostile relations. The most important event of this war was the capture of Louisburg, a powerful stronghold founded by the French in 1720 on the island of Cape Breton and intended to be made impregnable. The town grew until it contained several thousand inhabitants and was a mile in length. We extract from Garneau an account of its siege and capture.]

France and Britain were now on the eve of war, chiefly for the good pleasure of the German king of the latter, as the chief of a petty Continental principality, who set about trimming what was called the "balance of power in Europe." This had been deranged, it appeared, by the part which the French king had taken against the Empress Theresa when a coalition was formed against her by Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, etc., in Cermany, with Spain and Sardinia. In January, 1745, a treaty of alliance was signed between the empress (already at war with the French), the King of Great Britain, the King of Poland, the Elector of Saxony, and the United States of Holland, against France.

As on former occasions, the colonial dependencies of the two great nations had perforce to go to war also, whether they understood the points in dispute which led to hostilities between their mother-countries or not. There was also a "balance of power" between New France and New England, getting more and more difficult every year satisfactorily to adjust. Canada, however, like the snorting war-horse, seemed to scent the coming hostilities while yet distant; for her administrators had already repaired and munitioned all the frontier posts, especially Fort St. Frederic and Fort Niagara. The defensive works of Quebec, also, were augmented. Other demonstrations were made, about the same time, by the Canadian government and its colonists, which showed that a continued state of peace with the British plantations was neither expected nor desired.

After the belligerents were in full tilt in Europe, for the king of Britain and his favorite son were battling, not with much honor to either, on that eternal fighting-ground, Flanders, there was no appearance, for a time, of either government sending any expedition against the North American dependencies of the other.... During its early stages the war in America between the two rival races was carried on almost entirely without European aid.

In a few months after the declaration of war, the American waters swarmed with French privateers. Several were equipped at Louisburg, Cape Breton, with amazing despatch, and made a great number of prizes before vessels of war could arrive to protect the British colonial shipping. Louisburg became, in all respects, a kind of hornets' nest in regard to New England, its trade and fisheries, which it was now determined to dig out if possible.

Meanwhile, M. Duquesnel, governor of Cape Breton, embarked part of the garrison of Louisburg with some militia and made a descent upon the settlement of Canso, in Acadia, which he burnt, and made the garrison and settlers prisoners of war. He then summoned Annapolis, but was deterred from investing it by the arrival of a reinforcement from Massachusetts. Duquesnel returned to Louisburg, where he died shortly thereafter. Governor Shirley had for some time conceived the project of taking possession of Cape Breton, now rightly regarded as the seaward bulwark of Canada, and a highly-important post as a safeguard to the French fisheries and to American trade. The fortifications of Louisburg, the capital, even in their uncompleted state, had taken twenty-five years to construct, at a cost, it was reported, of thirty million livres (nearly one million five hundred thousand pounds sterling). They comprised a stone rampart nearly forty feet high, with embrasures for one hundred and forty-eight cannon, had several bastions, and strong out-works; and on the land-side was a fosse fully fourscore feet broad. The garrison, as reported afterwards by the French, was composed of six hundred regulars and eight hundred armed inhabitants, commanded by M. Duchambois. Upon the same authority we may mention here that at this time there were not more than one thousand soldiers in garrison, altogether, from the lower St. Lawrence to the eastern shore of Lake Erie.

[At a council held by Governor Shirley, it was decided that an effort to take Louisburg would be too costly and hazardous. But the colonists, learning of the scheme, were so enthusiastic that the council was forced into it. In a few weeks more than four thousand militia were raised in the several colonies, and placed under the command of a New England merchant, named Pepperel. The expedition sailed about the last of March, and reached Canso on April 5, 1745.]

Colonel Pepperel having sent some shallops to ascertain whether the coast was clear of ice, and the report being favorable, the expedition resumed its voyage, and a disembarkation on Cape Breton Island was begun at Chapeau Rouge on the 27th of April. The garrison was, through the promptitude of the invaders, taken completely by surprise. The descent could not have been effected much earlier with safety; for till the end of March or beginning of April the ocean in that region is covered with thick fogs, while both the seaboard and the harbors of Cape Breton are choked with thick-ribbed ice. By this time Admiral Warren arrived with a few ships, and more were expected. His seamen assisted during fourteen days in dragging a siege-train of ordnance, through marshy ground, to the neighborhood of Louisburg, which was thought at first to be too strongly defended on the seaward side to be confronted by the fleet. Meanwhile, the garrison was in a state of revolt, having demurred to being employed to put the works into a proper state, a duty which had been too long postponed. The men had other grievances besides, being ill paid, and otherwise badly treated; but, their feelings of military honor being appealed to, they resumed their arms and prepared to defend the place.

During the night of May 13, Mr. Vaughan, son of the lieutenant-governor of New Hampshire, who knew the localities well, having visited the place the year before, landed with four hundred men, marched to the northeast part of the bay, and fired some buildings filled with brandy, etc., and naval stores. A party in a neighboring fort, thinking probably that the incendiaries were the van of a large attacking force, quitted their post and took refuge in the town. Next morning Vaughan was able to surprise a battery and hold possession of it until the arrival of a reinforcement.

A great mischance for the French now hastened the fall of the place. La Vigilante, a ship of sixty-four guns, with five hundred and sixty soldiers and supplies for the garrison on board, was captured by Admiral Warren. Had this succor reached its destination, it is very doubtful whether Pepperel could have captured the strongest fortress in America, and which was reported to be impregnable. The next operation was not so favorable to the besiegers, who, having tried, with four hundred men, to carry a battery on the island of St. John, which protected the entry of the harbor, were driven off, leaving sixty dead, and one hundred and sixteen of their men, wounded or whole, in the hands of the French. But this gleam of success only delayed the certain capture of the place, now that all further hope of succor from without was gone, and its defenders were as discouraged as they were malcontent before. In a word, Duchambois capitulated, and was allowed to march out with the honors of war. In terms of the capitulation, the garrison, and about two thousand people, the entire population of Louisburg, were embarked in British transports and landed at Brest.

Great was the exultation, naturally enough, at the success of this expedition thus admirably planned and spiritedly executed. Messrs. Shirley and Pepperel were rewarded with baronetcies; and the British Parliament voted a sum of money to repay the cost incurred by the colonists in getting up the enterprise. The discouragement in New France for the loss of Cape Breton was commensurate with the elation at its capture in New England and the other Anglo-American provinces.

[An effort was made by the French to recapture the place, but their fleet was scattered by a storm, while a deadly epidemic broke out among the soldiers and marines. Acadia was at the same time assailed by the Canadians, with considerable success. A force of five hundred New England militia, sent to oppose them, was attacked by the French and Indians, and nearly half the men killed or wounded, and the rest forced to surrender.]

Beginning with the autumn of 1745, the frontiers of the British plantations themselves were cruelly ravaged in twenty-seven successive raids of the Canadians during three years. Fort Massachusetts, fifteen miles above Fort St. Frederic, surrendered to M. Rigaud, who, with seven hundred colonists and savages, devastated the country for fifty miles beyond. M. Corne de St. Luc attacked Fort Clinton, and signally defeated an American corps. Saratoga was taken, and its people massacred. Fort Bridgman was taken by De Lery. In a word, the frontier-line, from Boston to Albany, being no longer tenable, the inhabitants fled into the interior, and left their lands at the discretion of the enemy.

[A treaty of peace was concluded October 7, 1748. By its stipulations the British and French mutually gave up whatever territory each had taken, and greatly to the dissatisfaction of the English colonists, Cape Breton, with its fortress, was surrendered to its old masters, and the vigorous effort of the New-Englanders thus rendered useless. From that time peace prevailed in Europe, but hardly in America, hostilities scarcely ceasing during the interval from the treaty to the outbreak of the French and Indian War.]

F. X. Garneau


Terms Defined

Referenced Works