1755 - British expedition against Fort Beauséjour
The campaign lasted from May to December 1755
In 1755, when the British resolved to attack Nouvelle-France (Canada), they selected Fort Beauséjour, the strongest place in Acadia, as their first objective. This fort was located on a hill between two marshes (Missaguash and Tantemar). It was a regular pentagonal work with solid earthen ramparts. Its armament consisted of 24 guns and one mortar.
Louis Du Pont Duchambon de Vergor, an officer of the Troupes de la Marine, commanded the fort’s garrison of 160 men of the Troupes de la Marine. Furthermore, Father Le Loutre led the local militia and Indians, a force that could amount to some 2,000 men when entirely assembled. Vergor had received ample supply from Québec in preparation for an invasion. However, he had trafficked most of it. Thomas Pinchon, a commissary of stores, was secretly acting as a British agent, corresponding with the commandant of Fort Lawrence.
Governor William Shirley, the commander-in-chief of the Province of Massachusetts, ordered John Winslow to raise a force of 2,000 Massachusetts Provincials troops. The enlisted men were organised in a single regiment of two battalions. Lieutenant-Colonel John Winslow commanded the first battalion and Lieutenant-Colonel George Scott commanded the second, while Colonel Robert Monckton assumed overall command of the regiment.
Early in April 1755, the regiment was assembled at Boston. The regiment was delayed there while it awaited muskets from England.
On May 22, the regiment embarked from Boston aboard 31 transports (sloops and schooners) escorted by a fleet of 3 frigates (Success (24 guns), Mermaid (24) and Siren (24)) under Captain Rous.
On May 26, the British fleet reached Annapolis.
On June 1, the fleet anchored 8 km from Fort Beauséjour, near the mouth of the Sainte-Marguerite River (present-day Missaguash).
On June 2, at 2:00 a.m., Acadian partisans informed Vergor of the arrival of the British fleet. He quickly assembled a force of some 1,350 men and requested help from the fortress at Louisbourg. From the gathered troops, only 250 Acadians and 50 Micmac Indians joined the French garrison of Fort Beauséjour, bringing Vergor's force to a mere 460 men. The same day at 6:00 p.m., Monckton landed his regiment unopposed and encamped around Fort Lawrence. The fort’s garrison of 270 men from the 40th Foot augmented his force.
On June 3, the British held a council of war where it was resolved to push on and lay siege to Fort Beauséjour.
On June 4, the expeditionary force advanced against Fort Beauséjour, following the south bank of the Missaguash. Captain Adams of the I./Massachusetts Provincials, with 60 men, led the advance, followed by Colonel Monckton with about 300 men. Colonel Scott followed with the II./Massachusetts Provincials, and Winslow formed the rearguard with the rest of the first battalion. The route lay over a marsh where the dikes had been cut down, so that the progress of the troops was slow and guarded. When the British force arrived at the bridge over the Missaguash, near the French redoubt of "Pont-à-Buot", Monckton saw that the bridge had been destroyed and that some 400 Acadians and Indians were entrenched in a large blockhouse and a breastwork on the opposite bank. They opened fire on Monckton's column, causing some loss. Monckton ordered 3 field guns to fire on the French position. The French abandoned their positions after setting the blockhouse on fire, and retired into the woods. The British then laid a bridge over the river under the fire of Acadian and Indian skirmishers. Around 10:30 a.m., once the bridge was ready, Monckton's column crossed the Missaguash and resumed its advance on Fort Beauséjour unopposed. Upon reaching the vicinity of the fort, Monckton encamped on the "Butte à Mirande" about 3 km from the fort. During the night Vergor set fire to the church and all houses lying outside the fort. A party of 50 Acadians under M. de Boucheville was sent out by Vergor to reconnoitre the British position but they all deserted.
On June 5, Monckton prepared his camp and reconnoitred the area.
On June 7, the British established a battery to enfilade the river.
On June 8, a party of Acadians captured a British officer named Hay.
On June 12 around 4:00 p.m., Lieutenant-Colonel Scott with 500 Massachusetts Provincials took possession of a ridge northeast of the fort. Vannes, a French officer, attempted a sortie with 180 men but soon returned to the fort without taking any action.
In the night of June 12 to 13, Lieutenant-Colonel John Winslow, with a part of his own battalion of Massachusetts Provincials, relieved Scott and planted 2 small mortars on the ridge.
On June 13 at 7:00 a.m., the mortars opened fire on the fort while a first parallel was opened. The French guns disabled one of these mortars but Captain Hazen managed to transport 2 larger mortars to the ridge.
On June 14, the French were informed that they could not hope for any help from Louisbourg because British ships blocked the way. After learning this, 80 Acadians deserted. Meanwhile, the French artillery managed to chase the British from their entrenchments but they returned the following night.
Around 9:00 a.m. on June 16, a British shell burst through a bombproof sheltering several French officers, killing 5 of them along with the British officer captured earlier. Almost immediately Vergor raised the white flag. The terms of capitulation proposed by the French were rejected. Finally, it was agreed that the French regulars would march out with the honours of war and would be transported to Louisbourg. They pledged to not bear arms in America for 6 months. The Acadians who had joined the garrison would be pardoned. At 7:00 p.m., Lieutenant-Colonel Scott entered into the fort and raised the British flag. Le Loutre managed to escape and fled to Fort Gaspereau and then to Québec.
On June 17, the neighboring Fort Gaspereau, garrisoned by 25 men of the Troupes de la Marine commanded by Benjamin Rouer de Villeray, capitulated without any resistance when summoned to surrender.
Fort Beauséjour, now in British hands, was renamed Fort Cumberland while Fort Gaspereau became Fort Monckton.
On June 30, Captain Rous at the head of his 3 frigates appeared in front of the French post at the head of the Saint-John River. The French burned their fort and retired.
Early in August, with the conquest of Acadia completed, Monckton ordered all the male inhabitants to assemble at Fort Cumberland.
By August 10, more than 400 (one third the total number) of the male inhabitants had gathered at Fort Cumberland as ordered. They were obliged to stay all night under the guns of the fort.
On August 11, the Acadians detained near the fort learned that they were declared rebels, that all their belongings were forfeited to the British Crown, and that they would be imprisoned. Furthermore, orders were sent to Winslow to secure the inhabitants in the area of Bassin des Mines.
On August 14, Winslow left Fort Cumberland with 297 Massachusetts Provincials. He embarked with his force and sailed down Chignecto Channel to the Bay of Fundy. He landed at Fort Edward (present-day Windsor) and encamped nearby.
Winslow then re-embarked and continued to Grand-Pré, his assigned destination. His force encamped near the church, which had been transformed into a storehouse and place of arms. The troops built a stockade around their encampment.
Winslow consulted Captain Murray and they decided to assemble the inhabitants on Friday September 5. They posted summons.
On the appointed day, 418 Acadians assembled at Grand-Pré in compliance with the summon. As at Fort Cumberland, the inhabitants were imprisoned and all their properties forfeited to the British crown. They were also informed that they would be deported. Murray similarly arrested 183 Acadians at Fort Edward.
A raid on Chipody to capture the inhabitants and burn the village was less successful. The Massachusetts Provincials effectively burned 253 buildings and re-embarked leaving 50 men behind to complete the destruction. A force of 300 Indians and Acadians attacked them. Some 25 Massachusetts Provincials were killed, wounded or captured before being rescued.
On September 10, the Acadians at Grand-Pré were embarked on 5 vessels recently arrived from Boston.
On October 8, a massive deportation of Acadian families began.
By November, Winslow had deported 1,510 persons in 9 vessels; Monckton more than 1,000; Murray 1,100 persons in 4 vessels and 664 persons from Annapolis. More than 600 other Acadians were deported in November and December. Altogether, 6,000 Acadians were deported to various destinations, including the British American colonies, France, Louisiana, Québec, British prisons, and even the Falkland Islands).
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online - Article on Robert Monckton
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Barry, John S.: The History of Massachusetts: The provincial period (1692-1775), Boston, 1857, pp. 198-204.
- Fortescue, J. W., A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, p. 282.
- Parkman, Francis, Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 139-165.
Castex, Jean-Claude, Dictionnaire des batailles terrestres franco-anglaises de la Guerre de Sept Ans, Presse de l'université Laval, Québec: 2006, pp. 126-130.
Dechêne, Louise: Le Peuple, l’État et la Guerre au Canada sous le Régime français, Éditions du Boréal, 2008, pp. 500-501