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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


A.J.B. Johnston, The Summer of 1744: A Portrait of Life in 18th-Century Louisbourg (Ottawa: National Sites, Parks Service, Environment Canada. 1991)



The War - Advance on Acadia, Hemmed in at Home

The expedition to Annapolis Royal was intended to be one of the more decisive military steps taken by the French daring the latter half of the summer of 1744; however, in its execution very little went as planned and in the end it failed badly. How much the ordinary inhabitants knew of the expedition will never be known, yet it seems likely, given the way in which rumours spread about other war-related occurrences in 1744, that by mid-August at the latest the colonists were aware of the attempt to wrest the control of Nova Scotia out of British hands. In light of the collapse of the Micmac siege in mid-July and the more aggressive stance the New Englanders were adopting, everyone must have recognized that Annapolis Royal would not fall as easily as Canso, but there was likely widespread hope that the second Duvivier expedition might turn the tide of the war back in their favour.

Even for the officials in the colony, keeping abreast of what was happening with the force on the mainland was difficult. The best sources of information were the messengers carrying despatches from Duvivier to Duquesnel but they probably did not arrive frequently enough to satisfy everyone's curiosity about the expedition's progress or whether or not the Acadians and Micmacs were rallying to the French cause. For answers to those questions, people probably turned to anyone familiar with Acadia or, better still, to men off cargo and trading vessels returning from the region. Of course, no matter who was the source on events relating to Acadia, the news he offered was sure to be at least one or two weeks out of date. The only certainty was that by the time people in Louisbourg heard about a particular event, the event had long since passed.

The first destination of the Duvivier expedition after it left Louisbourg on 29 July was Port Toulouse. Held up by contrary winds, the five vessels did not reach there until 2 August. [1] Once ashore, Duvivier set out to make the necessary arrangements for Micmac support for the attack on Annapolis Royal. Lieutenant Pierre Benoist, the commandant at Port Toulouse, was directed to send word to their Micmac allies to rendezvous with Duvivier's force at Minas later that summer. In the hope of encouraging as many Micmacs as possible to give their support to the attack, Duvivier left some presents to be sent to the bands in the Cape Sable area at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. Two Micmac chiefs happened to be at Port Toulouse when Duvivier arrived and he personally briefed them on his intentions and gave them a supply of bread in the expectation that they and their warriors would be able to proceed directly to the rendezvous on the mainland. One final measure which was likely taken at Port Toulouse was to have the Abé Pierre Maillard, the missionary to the Micmacs of Isle Royale, join the expedition. Maillard was definitely with Duvivier on the mainland and it is likely that he joined the force when it stopped at Port Toulouse. Having done everything he could to ensure that there would be Micmac support for the assault, Duvivier prepared to leave Port Toulouse. Before leaving, he wrote to Duquesnel, outlining what had happened since his departure from Louisbourg. Although the contents of his report were secret, news of his activities likely circulated in Louisbourg soon after the messenger arrived back in the capital in early August.

When the expedition sailed from Port Toulouse, apparently on 3 August, it again ran into strong headwinds and was compelled to anchor. Taking advantage of the delay, Duvivier wrote to Abé Le Loutre on the mainland, asking him to use his influence to have the route from the rendezvous at Minas to Annapolis Royal kept guarded. The secret message was given to a captain of a small boat heading for Tatamagouche. From there the message was to be carried overland to the Minas Basin. On 4 August the weather turned favourable and the vessels set out for Isle Saint-Jean. Two days later they sailed into Port La Joye. This was the end of the journey for the Succès. The schooner had accompanied the four smaller boats to protect them from possible attacks by British privateers. With the maritime leg of the trip virtually over, the Succès was left with the commandant of Isle Saint-Jean (and the new king's lieutenant of Isle Royale), Louis du Pont Duchambon, who was soon to sail for Louisbourg.

While Duvivier lost his naval support at Isle Saint-Jean, he gained additional soldiers. From the garrison on the island Duvivier took two junior officers, one of whom was his brother, Joseph du Pont Duvivier, and the other Le Chevalier Duchambon, probably Jean-Baptiste-Ange du Pont Duchambon, the son of Louis du Pont Duchambon. (Duvivier himself was a nephew of Louis du Pont Duchambon, who had four sons and three nephews serving as officers in 1744.) As well, two cadets and 18 soldiers joined him. With these additions Duvivier's expedition had grown to a total of five officers, I I cadets, one sergeant and 37 soldiers.

After spending only one day at Port La Joye, the small boats set sail for the Chignecto Isthmus. On 8 August they landed on the shores of Bale Verte. They had reached the hinterland of Acadia.

Duvivier and his detachment set out overland from Bale Verte on the day they landed. Five days later, in heavy rain, they reached the Acadian community at Beaubassin on the other side of the isthmus. At the first house he came to, Duvivier was greeted warmly by an older man and woman who remembered his parents from years earlier at Port Royal. He probably took their affectionate reception as an indication of the kind of suppose the Acadians would give him and wasted no time in attempting to stir the hearts of the young men of the family to join the expedition "to defend their Freedom and the Peace of their religion." Before the day was over Duvivier saw to it that a guard was posted and he himself accommodated in one of the local houses.

The following day, 14 August, Duvivier spent visiting the inhabitants of the community, telling them that he had come to deliver them from the British and that the young men should rally to his cause. On each of the next two days (15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and Sunday, 16 August) Duvivier repeated his appeals at large gatherings outside the parish church at the end of Mass. During the Mass on 15 August, Abbé Maillard used his influence to win Acadian support with a stirring exhortation. During the gathering on Sunday Duvivier led his troops in three loud cries of "Vive Le Roy et La Réliigion Romaine." Three-quarters of the inhabitants joined in with fervor and Duvivier interpreted their reaction as a sign of their profound attachment to the French cause; however, when it came time to draw up a list of the men who were actually willing to join the expedition, the response was lukewarm. Only a few were interested in bearing arms in an attack on the English fort. Other volunteers were formed into companies but as they declined to leave the Beaubassin area, they were of little use to Duvivier. He must have been deeply disappointed by the failure of the Acadians to rise en masse against the English and the letter he wrote to Duquesnel later that Sunday must have reflected that disappointment. There would have been a similar reaction in Louisbourg when the first rumours of the lack of Acadian support reached the capital.

On Monday, 17 August, Duvivier watched his detachment of soldiers, together with some Micmacs and Acadian volunteers, set off for Minas in two small boats. The following day he himself set sail from Beaubassin, hoping for a better response from the Acadians closer to Annapolis. Two days later he arrived at Minas and immediately tried to kindle enthusiasm there for an attack on the British. On 21 August Duvivier sent two of his officers to request representatives of nearby Acadian settlements to meet with him. While awaiting their replies, Duvivier spoke with the missionaries in the area in the hopes of convincing them to use whatever influence they possessed to encourage their parishioners to take up arms against the British. As at Beaubassin, Duvivier encountered a populace with little eagerness to join the expedition. They were willing to give him encouragement and sympathy, but little else. Indeed, some Acadians even opposed sending any more provisions to Louisbourg. That opposition was overcome, but not the reluctance to bear arms.

The only sizeable addition to the expeditionary force came when 70 Malecite warriors (from the region that is now the St. John River Valley in New Brunswick) arrived at Minas on 27 August. Firearms were distributed to these warriors on 28 August and on the following day Duvivier gave a feast at which he delivered a speech intended to impress and embolden the allies. The following day the Malecites were given powder and shot for their firearms. Later that day, 30 August, the 70 Malecites, roughly 50 French soldiers, some Micmacs and a few Acadians set out from Minas along the trail toward Annapolis Royal. Within a matter of days the force would be approaching the Nova Scotian capital, yet with far too few men to compel the fort to surrender. Because of the Acadians' failure to respond to Duvivier's appeals, the success of the attack was now entirely dependent upon the provision of adequate naval support and reinforcements from Louisbourg. As Duvivier travelled along the route to Annapolis he must have reflected time and again on the disappointments he had experienced in the Acadian settlements and wondered what September would bring. Uppermost in his mind was the question of naval support the plan called for. Would it be forthcoming and if so, when?

The ships expected to provide the support for the expedition were the Caribou and Ardent. The Caribou had arrived in Louisbourg before Duvivier departed and the Ardent was expected to arrive soon after. In fact, the Ardent did not reach Louisbourg until 16 August, at which time Duvivier was in his fourth day at Beaubassin. When the Ardent arrived in port, Duquesnel briefed the commander of the warship, Jérmie de Meschin, about the plan for the assault on Annapolis Royal and the role envisioned for his ship. Meschin advised Duquesnel that the warship needed repairs, principally to a broken bowsprit, and that it would not be able to sail for Nova Scotia until 5 or 6 September, nearly another three weeks. [2] On the basis of that advice, Duquesnel despatched a junior officer in the garrison, de Renon, to inform Duvivier that the ships would be arriving at Annapolis on 8 September. [3] At the end of August, de Renon had not yet located Duvivier so the commander of the expedition to Acadia remained in the dark as to when or even if he was to expect the needed naval support.

While the Duvivier expedition was making its way toward Annapolis Royal, there were important developments in the war at sea. Although Louisbourg privateers enjoyed some success in August, it became obvious to everyone that the tide of war was definitely turning in favour of the British. Among the French successes was the capture on 5 August by Saint-Martin, in command of the Signe, of his third vessel in British waters in six days (the other two were taken off Long Island on 31 July). Nine days later, off Newfoundland, Morpain, aboard the king's ship Caribou, recaptured a French vessel that had been taken previously by the British, and then intercepted a British schooner. [4] Both of those prizes, as well as the ones taken by Saint-Martin off the American colonies, were led into Louisbourg harbour in mid-August. To the probable disappointment of the colonists, Morpain gave up the command of the Caribou shortly after the Ardent arrived in port on 16 August, apparently because the ship was to be readied for the voyage to Annapolis. It was likely the opinion of many that the Caribou would make a more important contribution to the war effort sailing off Isle Royale under Morpain's command.[5]

Of greater concern than taking Annapolis was the presence of British privateers and warships off the coast of Isle Royale, disrupting the shipping lanes to and from the capital. Between 3 August and 10 August at least five French vessels were taken very close to Louisbourg. Three of the captures (two fishing vessels and one merchant ship carrying a valuable cargo of wine, claret, brandy and silk) were made by two privateers outfitted in the American colonies. The other two were considerably larger vessels and were intercepted from four to seven leagues off the coast by four British warships. [6] From mid-August to early September all coastal trade into Louisbourg was stopped. Numerous fishing boats were taken, as were several supply ships from France. [7] With colonial privateers and British - warships operating so close to the capital and entrepôt of Isle Royale, officials in Louisbourg must have suddenly recognized that they were facing a virtual British blockade of the port.

Presumably, those whose financial lives depended on the fishing and trading lanes being kept open, the merchants and habitant-pecheurs of Louisbourg, were among the first to point out what the ramifications of such a blockade would be. In view of the increasing threat to the colonial economy posed by enemy privateers and warships, Duquesnel decided to review his earlier decision to send the Caribou and Ardent to Annapolis Royal. After all, the minister of the Marine had stressed to Duquesnel in the spring that the first priority was to protect French commercial and fishing interests. [8] The presence of the valuable Compagnie des Indes ships in the harbour added yet another reason for the warships to stay close at hand. Several councils of war were held in Louisbourg in either late August or early September to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of following through with the plan to send warships to Annapolis Royal.[9] At length it was decided not to send the Ardent and Caribou to Nova Scotia but to use them to strike back at the British vessels which were crippling the colony. In effect, it was a decision to postpone the attack on Annapolis Royal. Without naval support it would be impossible for Duvivier's small force to bring the fort to capitulate. Unfortunately, Duvivier was not to learn of the change in plans until much later; de Renon was already on his way to Nova Scotia to tell Duvivier that the warships would reach Annapolis by 8 September.