1704 – British raid on Grand-Pré

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1704 – British raid on Grand-Pré

The campaign took place from June to July 1704


During the winter of 1703-1704, some 600 British colonists were kept ranging the woods on the northern frontier of Massachusetts without finding a single Indian, the enemy having deserted their usual haunts and sought refuge with the French.

In February 1704, these same Indians emerged for the destruction of Deerfield.

In the summer of 1704, some 1,900 men were posted along 320 km of frontier. This attitude of passive defence exasperated the young men of Massachusetts, and it is said that 500 of them begged Governor Dudley for leave to make a raid into Canada, on the characteristic condition of choosing their own officers. The governor consented; but on a message from Peter Schuyler that he had at last got a promise from the Iroquois of Kahnawake and other mission Indians to attack the New England borders no more, the raid was countermanded, lest it should waken the tempest anew.

Canada was made almost inaccessible by 500 km of pathless forest, prowled by her Indian allies, who were sure to give the alarm of an approaching foe. On the other hand, the New Englanders could easily reach Acadia by their familiar element, the sea.

Major Benjamin Church, a veteran of King Philip's War (1675-78), was at Tiverton in Rhode Island when he heard of the attack on Deerfield. He rode to Boston to propose a stroke of retaliation. Church was energetic, impetuous, and bull-headed, 65 years old, and grown so fat that when pushing through the woods on the trail of Indians, he kept a stout sergeant by him to hoist him over fallen trees. Governor Dudley approved his scheme, and appointed him to command the expedition, with the rank of colonel.

Church repaired to his native Duxbury; and here, as well as in Plymouth and other neighboring settlements, the militia were called out, and the veteran readily persuaded a sufficient number to volunteer under him. With the Indians of Cape Cod he found more difficulty. At last, however, some of them were induced to join him.

Church now returned to Boston, and begged that an attack on Port Royal might be included in his instructions, — which was refused, on the ground that a plan to that effect had been laid before the Queen, and that nothing could be done till her answer was received. Governor Dudley's enemies seized the occasion to say that he wished Port Royal to remain French, in order to make money by trading with it.


Church’s whole force, including Indians and sailors, amounted to about 700 men.

On 25 May 1704, Church’s force sailed from Boston to Matinicus Island. In consisted of 500 volunteers from coastal areas of Massachusetts, including some Indians; 14 transports, the Adventure (44), the Jersey (50) and the Gosport (32), the province galley.

From Matinicus most of the sailing-vessels were sent to Mount Desert, near the entrance to Penobscot Bay, to wait orders, while the main body rowed eastward in whale-boats. Touching at Pentagoet (present-day Castine) where the Frenchman Baron Saint-Castin had a fortified trading post. Church’s men killed or captured everybody they found there.

Receiving false information that there was a large war-party on the west side of Passamaquoddy Bay, Church’s force hastened to the place, reached it in the night, and pushed into the woods in hope of surprising the enemy. The movement was difficult; and Church's men, being little better than a mob, disregarded his commands, and fell into disorder. He raged and stormed; and presently, in the darkness and confusion, descrying a hut or cabin on the farther side of a small brook, with a crowd gathered about it, he demanded what was the matter, and was told that there were Frenchmen inside who would not come out. "Then knock them in the head," shouted the choleric old man; and he was obeyed. They destroyed the house and raided a nearby Maliseet encampment, killing one Indian. It was said that the victims belonged to a party of Canadiens captured just before, under a promise of life.

Afterwards, when Church returned to Boston, there was an outcry of indignation against him for this butchery. In any case, however, he could have known nothing of the alleged promise of quarter.

Church then sent the warships to blockade the Digby Gut in the hopes of capturing a French supply ship, while the bulk of the expedition sailed for Grand Pré up the Bay of Fundy.

On 24, the three warships arrived at Port Royal and their captains summoned the garrison (150 men fit for duty under Governor Jacques-François de Monbeton de Brouillan) to surrender but the governor refused to capitulate.

Late in the day on 3 July, Church landed his troops behind the heavily wooded Boot Island, hoping to surprise the village of Grand Pré. Church sent Lieutenant Giles ahead to summon the village to surrender, letting the inhabitants one hour to take their decision. Meanwhile, Church's force advanced towards Grand Pré but was delayed by stream crossings and by the receding tide and finally forced to return to its whale boats. The Acadiens took advantage of this delay to evacuate Grand Pré with some of their cattle and their most valuable goods.

Church's forces waited in their boats for the tide to rise. However, as the tide rose, they were exposed to the fire of the militiamen and Mi'kmaq posted in the woods along the banks. Church answered by firing grape shot, driving them back. The New Englanders then waited out the rest of the night.

On July 4 at daybreak, Church’s men advanced once more in the direction of Grand Pré. The inhabitants of this and the neighboring settlements made some slight resistance and then fled. The New Englanders then entered Grand Pré and began plundering.

Church, first causing the houses to be examined, to make sure that nobody was left in them, ordered them to be set on fire. They thus destroyed 60 houses, 6 mills, and many barns, along with about 70 cattle.

When a party of Acadiens was reported, Church detached Lieutenant Barker and some men to repulse them. During the ensuing skirmish, Barker and one soldier were killed and their detachment retired to Grand Pré.

In the evening, Church’s forces burned the church and the rest of the village and built a fortification.

On the morning of July 5, Church gave orders to break the dykes to let the tide in upon the growing crops. Seven dykes were this broken. The New Englanders then burned their temporary fortifications and re-embarked .

On July 6, Church’s forces sailed away from Grand Pré and raided Pisiguit (present-day Windsor and Fallmouth), capturing 45 prisoners. Church now steered for Port Royal, which he had been forbidden to attack. There he effected a junction with the three warships blockading the fort.

In spite of Dudley's orders to make no attempt on the French star fort, the British and provincial officers met in council to consider whether to do so. With one voice they decided in the negative, since they had only 400 men available for landing, while the French garrison was no doubt much stronger, having had ample time to call the inhabitants to its aid.

Church, therefore, after trying the virtue of a bombastic summons to surrender, and destroying a few houses, sailed back up the Bay of Fundy to Chignecto, where he raided Beaubassin which had already been evacuated by the villagers. Church skirmished with villagers hiding in the woods, burned houses and barns and slaughtered 100 head of cattle.

Late in July, Church sailed for Boston.


According to his report, Church lost only 6 men killed during this expedition.

The local Acadiens quickly repaired the dikes after the raiders left Grand Pré, and the land was returned to production.

The British expedition was a miserable retaliation for a barbarous outrage; as the guilty were out of reach, the invaders turned their ire on the innocent.

The Acadien prisoners were brought to Boston and, in 1705 and 1706, exchanged for New Englanders captured at Deerfield.


This article incorporates texts of the following source which is in the public domain: Parkman, Francis: A Half-Century of Conflict – France and England in North America Part VI in The Works of Francis Parkman, Boston: 1897, Vol. 11, pp. 100, 120-124

Other sources

Wikipedia – Raid on Grand Pré