1705 – Siege of St. John's

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Sieges >> 1705 – Siege of St. John's

The siege lasted from 1 February to 7 March 1705


The island of Newfoundland was divided between the two conflicting powers, – the chief station of the French being at Plaisance (present-day Placentia), and that of the British at St. John’s.

In the Autumn of 1704, Daniel d’Auger de Subercase, the new French governor governor of Newfoundland, asked to Vaudreuil to send him a detachment to drive the British out of their settlements in Newfoundland.

On 2 November 1704, 40 Canadiens and 40 Abenakis left Québec, reaching Plaisance on 15 November. They started to work at preparations for the expedition against St. John’s, making snowshoes and toboggans.


On 8 January 1705, Subercase marched with 450 men (90 regulars, 250 Canadiens and buccaneers, and 110 Indians), against St. John’s. Subercase was assisted by Captain de Beaucourt, Jacques Testard de Montigny, Jacques l’Hermitte and the Abenaki war leader Escumbuit. Meanwhile, a brigantine sailed from Plaisance, carrying a mortar and 200 bombs for the planned siege.

St. John’s, just a fishing-village, was defended by two forts, the smaller, known as the South Castle, held by 12 men under Lieutenant Robert Latham, and the larger, called Fort William, by 40 men under Captain Moody.

During their advance, the French abandoned most of their snow shoes and toboggans because snow was almost absent. However, heavy snow fall changed the situation and the expedition suffered important delays.

On their way, the French captured the hamlets of Bay Bulls and Ferryland.

On 31 January, Subercase’s forces finally reached the vicinity of St. John's. No campfires were allowed during the night.

On 1 February, Subercase’s forces attacked the houses of St. John’s, capturing 317 inhabitants who had been surprised in their sleep. Meanwhile the garrison of Fort Edward had been alarmed and when the French advanced against the fort, a few cannonballs put a stop to their attack.

From their prisoners, the French sent the 60 women and children to the fort, hoping to starve the garrison out; and assembled the male prisoners in the church.

The French took up cantonment in the houses of the village but the British cannonaded and burnt the houses closest to the fort, forcing Subercase’s men to take refuge farther.

Subercase had to wait for the arrival of the brigantine with the mortar to bombard the fort but the vessel never showed up.

On 5 March, the French raised the siege after burning the unprotected houses and fishing-huts with a brutality equal to that of Major Church during his raid on Grand-Pré on the preceding year.

On March 6, the French unsuccessfully made a last assault against the fort.

On March 7, the French withdrew. Subercase detached Testard de Montigny at the head of 70 men against the British settlements of Trinity and Conception.

On their way back to Plaisance, the French destroyed the hamlet at Ferryland and all the defenceless hovels and fishing stages along the shore towards Conception, Trinity Bay and Bonavista.


During this expedition, the French had taken approx. 1,200 prisoners but most of them were released for lack of provisions. Only 80 prisoners were brought back to Plaisance. Furthermore, the French had nailed or thrown into the sea 40 cannon; burned a vessel,, taken or destroyed 200 shallops and 200 carts.


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. 131-132

Other sources

Lacoursière, Jacques: Histoire populaire du Québec – Des origines à 1791, vol. 1, Sillery: Septentrion, 1995, p. 187-189

Marley, David F.: Wars of the Americas – A Chrnology of Armed Conflict in the Western Hemisphere, 1492 to the present, vol. 1, ABC Clio, 1950, p. 348

Prowse, Daniel Woodley: A History of Newfoundland – From the English, Colonial and Foreign Records, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896, pp. 242-246

Wikipedia – Siege of St. John's