Website Design and Content © by Eric Krause,
Krause House Info-Research Solutions (© 1996)
All Images © Parks Canada Except Where Noted Otherwise
Report Assembly/Rapport de l'assemblée © Krause House Info-Research Solutions
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada
Memoirs of the rebellion in 1745 and 1746 By The Chevalier De Johnstone
However, M. Rouillé, the new minister of the marine, who was better acquainted with the trade of India than with military affairs, instead of acceding to the demand of M. de Puysieulx, for a company for me, ordered an ensign's commission to be made out for me, in the troops detached from the marine to the island of Cape-Breton. This commission I refused at first with indignation and obstinacy, being unable to brook the idea of a retrogression so mortifying and revolting to an officer, who had always served with honour; and it was only in consequence of the reiterated orders of M. de Puysieulx, joined to his assurances that he would not leave me long in the degrading situation of a subaltern, after having served at the head of my company during the whole of the expedition of Prince Charles in Scotland, the progress of which, and the battles we gained against very superior numbers, had filled all Europe with astonishment; that I at length consented to accept it. I set out, therefore, immediately for Rochefort, with full confidence in the promises of M. de Puysieulx, to remain there in readiness for my embarkation for the island of Cape-Breton, the most wretched country in the universe.
I found three half-pay officers at Rochefort ; viz. le Chevalier de Montalembert, the Chevalier de Trion his cousin, and M. de Frene, who had also obtained employment at Quebec. Intimacies are soon formed amongst military men, and the same destination inspired us with sentiments of mutual friendship: I contracted this friendship the more readily, as they were all three of an excellent disposition, and most agreeable companions. We were ordered to embark on board the Iphigenie, a merchant vessel, freighted for the king, and belonging to M. Michel Roderique, a ship-owner of Rochelle. We accordingly left Rochefort; and on our arrival at Rochelle, we found the crew of the Iphigenie in a state of mutiny, with the carpenter at their head, who insisted on making a declaration to the admiralty, that the ship was entirely rotten, and nowise in a condition to perform the voyage.
Roderique invited us to dinner, and whilst we were at table, he incessantly assured us that his ship was in good condition ; that, if he had himself occasion to go to Louisbourg, of which he was a native, he would embark in it with his family, in preference to any other ship in Rochelle; and that the ill repute of the Iphigenie arose from the jealousy of his brother shipowners, who had seduced his crew, and excited them to mutiny. My comrades did not repose an entire confidence in the honied words of Roderique, but I was completely duped by him. Indeed, I could never have imagined that there existed on the earth a wretch so depraved, and so devoid of every feeling of humanity, as to expose three hundred people to destruction, for the sake of vile pelf. We had with us two hundred recruits on board, and there were, besides, a number of passengers, and the crew. Being myself convinced of the sincerity of Roderique, I had no great difficulty in gaining over my companions to my opinion, that the jealousy of the ship-owners had really given rise to disadvantageous reports respecting the Iphigenie; and having quieted the mutiny of the sailors, we all embarked on the 28th of June, 1750; and the 29th, being St. Peter's day, we weighed anchor and set sail, with fine weather and a favourable wind.
The third day from our departure, after doubling Cape Finisterre, we became convinced, when too late, of the perfidy of Roderique, and of the folly we had committed in believing him. The Iphigenie, which, according to the declaration of the crew in the mutiny, drew twelve inches of water in an hour, in the roads of Rochelle, drew twenty-four inches in the same space of time when we were in the open sea; and M. Fremont, the master of the ship, being unable any longer to conceal from us its wretched state, demanded that we should come to an arrangement, in order that some of the soldiers might be continually pumping, and assisting him in the management of the vessel. As the crew only consisted of fourteen sailors in all, good and bad, they were insufficient for the duties of the ship, and M. de Montalembert, who was our commander, was obliged to employ sixteen soldiers, to take their turns along with the sailors at the pump, who were relieved every quarter of an hour.
Some time after, we had another fatal proof of the complete rottenness of our ship, in the loss of our mizen-mast, which fell upon the deck, and nearly carried away our main-mast in its fall. The socket, rotten like the rest of the ship, having given way, the end of the mizen-mast entered the cabin, by penetrating the boards. M. de Montalembert, who happened to be opposite at the time, miraculously escaped being crushed to death, by springing aside. It was fortunate for us that this accident happened at nine o'clock in the morning, in very fine weather, and when we had little wind, as this enabled the sailors in a short time to cut the mast and shrouds with the axe; for otherwise we should have run the greatest risk of perishing immediately. All our hopes of escaping death were in the arms of our soldiers, and in a continuation of good weather, as it was then summer. But, alas! our hopes were vain, as far as regarded the weather, for we afterwards experienced as violent gales as if it had been the middle of winter. A gust of wind, whilst we were off the Azores, carried away our top-masts and our sails, tearing the latter in shreds as if they had been sheets of paper; a heavy sea drowned our sheep and poultry, and deprived us of all our refreshments; and, to add to our misery, our water, which Roderique, in his atrocious and abominable avarice, had put into old wine-barrels, became altogether corrupted in less than five weeks after our departure, black as ink, stinking like the pestilence, so as to be totally unfit for use. But these were trifling evils compared with our deplorable and alarming situation. Death was constantly staring us in the face, and the idea was constantly imprinted on our minds, that the Iphigenie would some day go to the bottom with us. When the wind was favourable, we durst only carry very little sail, least we should lose our other two masts in the way we lost our mizen-mast. We were thus without any prospect of a speedy termination to our cruel distress and sufferings, and thoroughly convinced that they would be of long duration, and that we should at least be long in a state of suspense between life and death.
Having experienced nine different gales since the 29th of June, when we put to sea, Heaven reserved for us the tenth, a dreadful storm off the banks of Newfoundland: this was on the 10th of September. We had a dead calm during the whole of the day of the 9th ; but at midnight the wind began to rise, and continued increasing till it became a most furious tempest. M. Fremont came into the cabin at nine o'clock in the morning, to warn us to prepare for death. He told us that our only hopes of being saved, and not being immediately swallowed up by the waves, now depended on our offering up vows. He added, that the crew had just made a vow to St. Nicholas, having promised to cause a grand mass to be performed at Louisbourg, if it should please God to deliver us from the imminent danger in which we were; and he invited us to join them in it, as the only means of preserving our existence. Sad and feeble resource! However, we each of us gave him a crown of six francs, to be added to the contribution of the sailors for this grand mass.*
* Having experienced violent gales in the Baltic, on my return from Russia, on board Mr. Walker's ship, where all the crew were English, the difference which I observed between the English and French sailors was this, that the English sailors swear and work at the same time to the very last, and, as long as they can, keep their heads above water; whilst the French have more confidence in their vows than in their arms. It seems to me that a just medium would not be amiss. --- Author.
I clambered up on deck to see the state in which we were, but my eyes could scarcely bear for a moment the terrific view of the ocean, which formed monstrous waves, like pointed and moving mountains, consisting of several gradations of hills: from their summits rose great spouts of foam, which assumed all the colours of the rainbow ; they were so high that our vessel seemed to be in a valley at the foot of these mountains, every wave threatening us with destruction, and to precipitate us into the bottomless deep. It was a grand majestic spectacle of horror, which might have been beheld with admiration from the land. We were at the mercy of the storm, without sails, as we could carry none ; the rolling was truly terrible, and the ship was laid so flat on her side by every wave, that her keel was frequently out of water. The sailors attempted to put up the sail of distress to assist the ship ; but it was immediately carried away by the wind, like a sheet of paper.
Having regained the cabin as fast as I could, though not without some difficulty and several bruises, I found M. duFrene striking his feet with great violence against the partition. "Morbleu!" said he to me, " is it not a hard case to perish in this manner, after having escaped in a hell of a fire, at the siege of Bergen-op-zoom, with the grenadiers of the regiment of Lowendahl ?" M. de Montalembert quietly shed a torrent of tears; and the Chevalier de Trion, a young man about twenty years of age, who appeared very little affected with our dreadful situation, told me that he had made his peace before our departure from Rochefort. It would seem as if the longer we live, the more unwilling we are to quit life. The contrasts of the different characters which the same event affected so very differently, would have been a noble subject for a painter. I was resigned to die, as I always had been in all my difficulties, at the time when I endeavoured to flee the scaffold ; that is to say, submitting myself with patience to a fatal destiny which there are no means of avoiding sooner or later; for human nature shudders at destruction when we are in health, and in cool blood.
No man is willing to die when he can preserve his life without ignominy, and when it is not a burden to him. Virtue, valour, the love of duty, glory, and patriotism may lead men to brave death ; but they preserve always, at the bottom of their hearts, that natural repugnance to it, which makes them tremble involuntarily when the fatal moment approaches. The most intrepid man will not here contradict me if he is sincere. Outwardly, I had a great appearance of tranquillity ; but my mind was, at the same time, agitated and tormented with imagining what there was behind the curtain, which was so soon to be drawn. "We were told that Fremont had fallen down dead; but it was only a fainting fit, which passed over in a quarter of an hour. It was the ambition of this foolish animal to command a ship, which had plunged us in this disaster; and he was as cowardly and faint-hearted in the hour of danger, as he was insolent and impertinent in good weather.
I passed the whole day in reading the Psalms of David, and plunged at the same time in reflections on a future existence, and on the immortality of the soul. I recalled to my remembrance what Wollaston says, which appeared to me the most satisfactory of all I had ever read, on a subject that no mortal can ever clear up. About three o'clock in the afternoon, a "wave broke through the port-holes of the cabin, and inundated the Chevalier de Trion, who was lying on his bed : as he was soaked with the sea water, I invited him to lie down with me in the bed which had been assigned me at the entry of the cabin. We had now great difficulty in prevailing on our soldiers to continue at the pump ; and indeed these poor wretches suffered very much, for every instant the waves broke over them with such violence, as almost to force them into the sea. The Chevalier de Trion made continual rounds between decks, to induce them to ascend, as the sergeants, at this critical moment, had lost all authority over them, and it was only by menaces and hard usage, that he could succeed with them. They would say to him, that, as destruction was inevitable, it was better to perish between decks than to be carried away by the waves, or to be dashed to pieces on deck. Several of our soldiers were wounded ; the waves breaking on deck with an astonishing force, which threw them frequently from one side of the ship to the other.
About ten o'clock in the evening, the carpenter, who was a droll fellow, and a complete harlequin, but very active and laborious when necessary, came to work near the door of my bed, where I was lying with the Chevalier de Trion. Having asked him if there was any thing new, he replied, " Oh ! yes, gentlemen ; great news, very great news, the fore-part of the ship has opened, and the water now enters by bucket-fulls; the soldiers having worked long at the pump, without being able to make head against it, the pump has at length broken, and a wave has passed over the deck, which has covered their clothes with sand; so, gentlemen, we shall soon be at the devil, and in less than an hour we shall all drink of the same cup," It is a curious circumstance that there are some characters capable of joking, even to the last moment of existence, whilst the approach of danger deprives others of all sensation, who appear dead, long before they really are so.
My conscience, that internal and concealed light, as a Chinese author expresses it, did not reproach me with the commission of any great crimes; but only with such faults, as the heat and giddiness of youth occasion through thoughtlessness ; and my mind having been absorbed all day in the most serious reflections, I at length felt a drowsiness and" inclination to sleep come on me, which I wished to encourage. I said to the Chevalier de Trion, that I should be very glad if I could pass the barrier between this and the other world when asleep, and that I was desirous of making the attempt. We then tenderly took leave of each other ; and turning my face towards the boards, I immediately fell into a deep sleep, out of which I was never once awaked by the continual passing in and out qf the cabin of the Chevalier de Trion. I slept from half-past ten at night till seven in the morning ; and when I awoke, I rather supposed myself in the other world than in this. The Chevalier de Trion immediately told me how fortunate I had been; that the whole night through they expected every moment the ship would go to the bottom; that I had thus escaped many painful sensations, which I must have experienced had I been awake; that they had bound the ship with cables to prevent it splitting open altogether; that as soon as the carpenter had mended the pump, the soldiers, who had worked the whole night through like galley-slaves, had succeeded in clearing the vessel of water ; that the wind and sea were now greatly calmed ; and that, for this time, we were thought out of danger. How narrow a space separates pain from pleasure! Very fine weather, with a favourable breeze, succeeded, about ten o'clock in the morning, to this violent tempest, and immediately raised our drooping spirits, and obliterated from our minds our sufferings, which we usually forget more easily than our enjoyments.
We had frequently suspected that Fremont knew nothing of navigation ; but at length we became perfectly satisfied of his ignorance, which might have cost us dear indeed. M. Lion, the second in command of the Iphigenie, told us that, by his journal, we were very near the coast of the island of Cape-Breton, although by Fremont's journal we were still two hundred leagues from it. The difference in their reckoning made us uneasy, and indeed it would have been very hard to have been shipwrecked upon the rocks, with which this isle is completely surrounded, the very moment after escaping from the tempest. I determined to pass the whole night on deck, and told my brother-officers, that as they had watched over my safety while I slept profoundly the preceding night, I should now watch over theirs in my turn. We were all much more inclined to believe M. Lion than the other, and we begged him to remain on deck with me till day-break. It was a very fine starlight night, and though there was no moon, there was a brightness in the sky, the whole night through, like a twilight, which enabled us to see to a considerable distance. M. Lion placed a sailor at the ship's head, to remain continually on the look out. Heavens! how agreeably were we surprised, when, about two o'clock in the morning of the 12th of September, he called out that he saw land. M. Lion and myself immediately sprang towards him, and in less than ten minutes we could distinctly see the coast at a distance of about three hundred toises from us. They immediately tacked about and stood to sea, whilst I ran down to acquaint my comrades with the good news, awaking them as agreeably as I had been myself awaked the morning before.
When day appeared, Fremont, who had already made a voyage to Louisbourg, pretended that he knew the land we saw perfectly well; that it was L'Indienne, a settlement of the island of Cape-Breton, sixteen leagues north of Louisbourg ; and he immediately gave orders for steering southwards. As we had every reason to believe that we should reach Louisbourg in the course of the day, we dressed ourselves, and kept ourselves in readiness for going on shore ; but at three o'clock in the afternoon, when we were at the mouth of a port, which Fremont took for that which we had so long and so ardently looked for, he hailed a boat, which passed near us, to know if this was not the port of Louisbourg. He was answered by a demand to know the name of the ignorant fool in the command of a ship, who sought Louisbourg in the port of Thoulouse, a settlement twenty leagues to the south of it. We thus ascertained, when too late, that it was the port of Louisbourg we had seen in the morning, but that a cruel fatality had blindfolded Fremont. This disappointment vexed us exceedingly. I urged M. de Montalembert strongly to land at port Thoulouse with our detachment, to proceed to Louisbourg by land ; but Fremont frightened him by declaring, that if he took this step he should be responsible for the cargo. We were, however, well entitled to have done so, on account of the bad state of the ship, and the dangers to which we should have been exposed, had we been driven out to sea by a contrary wind.
Having had fine weather the whole night, and a light favourable breeze, we entered the port of Louisbourg next morning, the 13th of September, to the great astonishment of all the inhabitants of this town, who supposed us to have perished at sea; for a small vessel which left Rochelle at the same time with us, and on board of which were Madame du Hagette, and two officers of the colony, had performed the passage in fifty days, while ours had taken up seventy-six days, and had reported the wretched state of our ship. The quays were crowded with people, who came to congratulate us on our happy deliverance, and who viewed the ruinous state of the Iphigenie with surprise and admiration. Next day the crew of our vessel made a procession, with no other covering on their bodies than their shirts, to the church, where a grand mass was performed; in the getting up of which no money was spared, agreeably to their vows during the tempest. It was wished to send back the Iphigenie to France ; but the crew having lodged a complaint with the admiralty, art inspection took place, and she was condemned to be broken up immediately. *
* We were not long at Louisbourg, before we learned the powerful protection of the Iphigenie. Roderique was in partnership with M. Prevot, the principal commissary at the island of Quebec, and M. Prevot again was in partnership with M. de la Porte, the principal clerk in the Bureau de la Marine. It was not therefore astonishing, that the inspectors at Rochefort shut their eyes as to the state of the vessels taken up for the King; and the unfortunate sailors would have been obliged to return to France, in this rotten ship, if the officers of the admiralty had not had more probity and humanity than the proprietors; who, if the Iphigenie had gone to the bottom of the sea, would have lost nothing, as the ship and cargo were insured at their full value, and perhaps for more. What monsters the love of gain creates! — Author.
As to Fremont, who had never ceased annoying us with his impertinence during the whole voyage, as soon as he landed I made him submit to a very different sort of procession, along the quay, under the blows of a cudgel, to the great amusement of all the officers of the island of Quebec ; but, above all, to the great satisfaction of my companions during the voyage, who had been daily exposed with myself to his stupidity and insolence. It was a truly laughable scene. He at first drew his sword, but either fearing that I should break the blade with my cudgel, which was both stout and heavy, or fearing that he might receive the blows on his face, every time I lifted my arm, he presented his shoulders with the best possible grace, to receive the blows, the effects of which he must certainly have felt for a long time. I have always found cowardice and impertinence inseparably united in the same person; for the truly brave man is inoffensive, and never insults any one, however violent he may be, when personally injured. M. 1'Oppinot, assistant-major of Louisbourg, who witnessed the beginning of this scene, withdrew, that he might leave us at full liberty; and only returned to order me to desist, when he thought Fremont had had a sufficiency of blows. I bestowed them with the more force and good-will, as he was the cause of all the trouble and dangers to which we had been exposed during this long and painful voyage, by concealing from us, at Rochelle, the miserable state of his ship, that was so completely rotten, that the beams crumbled on being touched by the finger.
Before I had staid a year at Louisbourg, I was thoroughly convinced of the folly I had committed in accepting an ensign's commission, in conformity to the orders of M. de Puysieulx, and in hopes of a continuation of his protection. When the dispatches of the court arrived, there was not the least mention of my advancement, and M. de Puysieulx having quitted the foreign department, his successor, M. de St. Contest, immediately struck out my name from the list of Scotsmen, in the suite of Prince Charles, who received pensions from his Majesty. How strange the caprices of fortune! Having been attached to the artillery with my company, during the expedition in Scotland, as a fixed escort, though my commission of captain made no mention of that destination, Prince Charles, in the list which he delivered to the court of France, gave me the title of captain of artillery. I received twelve hundred livres in 1746; my pension was augmented in 1749, to two thousand and odd hundred livres ; and now, in 1751, I found myself at Louisbourg, degraded to the rank of ensign, from the ignorance of M. Rouillé in military affairs. I was the only individual of all the Scots officers subjected to this mortification. M. Rouillé sent to Cape-Breton officers without experience, to fill the vacant companies and lieutenancies, whilst he refused to do me the justice of ratifying my commission of captain under Prince Charles Edward, — a ratification which the Count d'Argenson had granted to all my countrymen ; although I had no more than four hundred and eighty livres per annum of pay, a sum quite insufficient to pay my board in the most wretched public-house of Louisbourg.
Fortune blinds the world in a singular manner, and impels us, in spite of ourselves, towards the fate that she destines for us. If I have not succeeded in procuring a sufficiency for the evening of my life, I cannot accuse myself of any error of judgment in the means which I employed to attain that object; for, when I recall the whole of my past life to my remembrance, I do not see how I could have acted otherwise than I have done; and, if it were to begin again, I should yield to the same illusions, under the impression of my following the most rational course. Man can only judge and act from the appearances which seem most likely to conduct him to the objects he has in view; and if, through strange and unaccountable effects, which he could not foresee, the course which he takes, on the apparent probability of its being the best, turns out to be quite the contrary, what else can he do than consider himself as a grain of sand driven about by chance, that unjust tyrant, who governs and disposes of all our actions according to his caprice? All the misery which must now necessarily accompany me to the grave, as it is almost out of the power of fortune to afford me relief at my time of life, dates its commencement from the moment I , consented to accept the commission of ensign, in 1750, on the repeated assurances of M. le Puysieulx, that he would certainly procure me a company without delay. M. Rouillé was then, according to all appearances, the only minister in any court of Europe who would have taken it upon him to dishonour the commission of Prince Charles, by degrading, in this manner, an officer in his army in Scotland. How could I refuse to confide in the promises of M. de Puysieulx, who had already given me so many convincing proofs of his esteem and favourable disposition? He had allowed me two thousand two hundred livres from the funds, granted to the Scots in 1749; and he was so much disposed to favour me, that if I had asked a permanent pension on this fund, of 1500 livres, it would have been at once granted to me. Was it not natural to suppose, that the desire I manifested of rendering my youth useful to the King and the state, rather merited recompense than punishment ? Is it as meritorious in a young man to pass his time at Paris in effeminacy and pleasure, which I, with my pension on the Scots' list, might have done, as to embrace so arduous an employment as that of an officer who discharges his duty conscientiously, continually exposed to dangers of every kind, the body worn out with excessive fatigue, and the constitution ruined by bad food, with a thousand other inconveniences which necessarily attend the severe profession of arms ? Could I ever. imagine that I should see in the service of France cowards who dishonour the name of officer, and whose only service has consisted in pillaging and robbing the King, and enriching themselves at the public expense, received with open arms in the government offices of Versailles ; while, at the same time, a son of a pastry-cook, and the son of a menial of the wardrobe * [* Messieurs Berranger and Coutereau.], would be the channels of introduction to officers who had passed their lives in disinterested service, who had been continually occupied with the good of the army, and with the wish to render themselves useful ? I own that I could never have formed a just idea of the abuses in the service in France, had I not experienced them ; having always supposed that honour, good conduct, and great knowledge of the military art, were the only means of arriving at distinction, in every service in the world.
M. des Herbiers having succeeded in obtaining from the court his recall, the Heureux, commanded by the Chevalier de Caumont, was sent to Louisbourg, with the Count de Raimond, to succeed him in the government of Quebec, and bring him back to France. Seeing the forgetfulness and negligence of my protectors in procuring me suitable promotion, and the impossibility of my living at Louisbourg on four hundred and eighty livres a year, this worthy and respectable gentleman felt for my situation. In his friendship for me, he had obtained from the new governor permission for me to return to Europe with him in the Heureux ; he succeeded, at the same time, in procuring the consent of M. de Caumont, to my coming on board ten or twelve days before our departure, that I might make up for the bad cheer to which I had been subjected for a year during my stay at Louisbourg. Our fare, in winter, consisted solely of salted cod, with dried peas and bacon; and, in summer, of fresh fish with rancid salt butter and bad oil. I was now familiarised to an uninterrupted train of misfortunes, chequered by no ray of prosperity. Two hours after I was on board, the moment we were sitting down to supper, our ship was nearly blown up ; and, had there been the least wind, we must have inevitably perished. A fire broke out in a vessel close to the Heureux, loaded with rum and oil; and, in an instant, it was wholly in flames. All the boats in the harbour came immediately with grappling irons, to draw off the vessel on fire, and strand it in such a way as to prevent its communicating the fire to the rest of the shipping; and it was with the utmost difficulty this object was effected. This ship passed very near to us. If the grappling irons had given way we should all have been ruined. It is impossible to conceive the disorder that prevailed on board our ship during the alarm: some called out to cut the cable ; others to veer it; a hundred voices were heard giving different orders at the same time. Nothing was done ; and the crew did not know whom to obey. If I were in the command of a vessel in any pressing danger, with a pair of pistols before me, I should enforce silence; so that the orders of the captain might be heard and executed. On returning to table, as soon as the danger was over, the dear and worthy M. des Herbiers told us, that during the catastrophe he could not help thinking continually of me, and of my adverse fate in embarking just in time to meet destruction.
We left Louisbourg in the month of August, 1751, and arrived, in fifty days, in the roads of Rochelle ; having only experienced one violent gale on the passage, which lasted 48 hours, and alarmed the officers of the ship very much ; but as it was much inferior to the most of the gales to which I had been exposed the preceding year, on board the Iphigenie, and as the vessel was in an excellent state, and capable of resisting, I suffered no other uneasiness than that occasioned by the interruption to our good cheer ; for, whilst it lasted, no cooking could take place, and we were reduced to ham with biscuit instead of new bread. There were twenty officers on board the Heureux, which was a ship of sixty-four guns. One of these officers, called Bordet, was an excellent sailor, but a great drunkard, and always intoxicated as early as seven o'clock in the morning. His brother- officers had so much deference for him, and so much confidence in his nautical skill, that they made him go on deck, and take the command during the storm, where, being unable to stand firmly on his legs, they placed him in an armchair, from which he gave his orders, like an emperor upon his throne.
The magnificence of the table on board a French man-of-war is incredible. Here we meet with all the elegance which it is possible to display on shore. The captains of the English navy can never imitate this; for, on receiving sailing orders from the Admiralty, (which receives a regular return, every day, of the state of the vessels in all the ports of the kingdom,) they must put to sea with the first favourable wind, and cannot remain two or three weeks in port to lay in provisions for the table of the officers, as the French vessels sometimes do. The English captains are often obliged to put up with salt beef and bacon, like the sailors; with this difference only, that the officers are allowed to have the choice of the pieces. The utmost care is, indeed, taken by the Commissioners of the Admiralty that all the provisions for the navy be of a good quality, and in good condition.
On my arrival at Paris I made every endeavour to get myself replaced on the list of those Scots, in the suite of Prince Charles, who received gratifications from his Majesty ; feeling as I then did the egregious folly I had committed in renouncing it. But M. de St. Contest always replied, to all my protectors, " that they were endeavouring to ruin a young man who might make his way in the army." Seeing all my endeavours in this respect unavailing, 1 now exerted myself to get a company, and M. Rouillé was warmly solicited in my favour, by M. de Puysieulx, the Prince Constantin de Rohan, now cardinal, the Prince de Montauban his brother, Lord Thomond, and Lord Marischal, the friend of my uncle in Russia, and then in Paris in quality of ambassador of the King of Prussia. If I had at that time had as perfect a knowledge of the government offices as I have since acquired by experience, I should have been more successful with much less protection ; but I was then unacquainted with the omnipotence of the clerks, the crooked paths which it was necessary to tread in order to arrive at any object, and the irresistible influence of petticoats, which force open all the barriers to fortune. Though I am now acquainted with this marvellous key for opening a door to the reward of merit and demerit, I have never made use of it. M. Rouillé gave my friends every possible assurance that their demand in my favour would be complied with ; and Mr de la Porte assured me, at the same time, that I should find my commission at Louisbourg, on my arrival there. This minister sent me an order, towards the end of May, to repair to Rochefort ; and M. de St. Contest having given me a gratification to defray, in part, the expenses of my journey, I immediately left Paris, not indeed confiding in their promises, for I had received as many the year before, and, when once deceived, I seldom bestow my confidence in the same quarter a second time ; but I saw no other course open to me, than that of returning to Louisbourg. If I had been in possession of sufficient funds, I should undoubtedly have then quitted France, and endeavoured to obtain employment in some other service; but the want of money forges chains that cannot possibly be broken, and binds for ever the unfortunate man to his wretched condition. This want forms the certain and infallible means of which fortune avails herself to crush and immolate her victims.
I embarked at Rochelle towards the end of June, 1752, on board the Sultane, a merchant ship of three hundred tons, freighted for the King, and commanded by M. Roxalle, a man of abilities and education, extremely obliging, and every way the reverse of Fremont. There were three other passengers on board, viz. M. Pensence, a captain of Cape-Breton; M. Lery, an officer of Canada, and M. de Gaville, son of the intendant of Rouen, who was placed at Louisbourg, having been formerly in the French guards. We had a very long and wearisome passage, on account of the bad weather and contrary winds, which prevailed almost continually, and without interruption. We were eighty days at sea. I thought it impossible for the elements to form a more terrible tempest than what we had experienced in the Iphigenie on the 10th of September, 1750; but we encountered a still more furious storm on the 2d of September, 1752, on board the Sultane. M. Roxalle, who had passed forty years of his life at sea, had never seen its equal; and it gave him such a distaste to a sea-life that he quitted it upon his return to Rochelle. If this tempest had taken place when I was on board the Iphigenie, such a rotten ship could not have resisted it for a moment; but the Sultane was a new vessel, which had only made one voyage to the coast of Guinea.
As the description of this tempest, which M. Roxalle entered in his log-book, appeared to me curious, I took a copy of it, which is as follows : " From Friday at noon, to Saturday at noon, 2d Sept. 1752, the wind S. S. E. to S. W., till eight o'clock in the evening; steered to W. N. W. two degrees west; in this route making sixteen leagues. Then the wind to the S. W. and augmenting, we took in all our sails, and lay to, with our mizen, having taken down our mizen-yard. The wind continues always to increase, with a violence beyond expression, the sea horribly heaving, and in a state of corruscation — passing over us it seemed all on fire. — I never in my life witnessed such dreadful weather, nor such an appearance of danger. We have always, by the aid and assistance of the Lord kept ourselves up, our vessel standing it as well as could be hoped for in such a terrible storm, and not daring to venture under the mizen for fear of being swallowed up by the sea.
" At ten o'clock the violence of the gale undid our great sail to the wind. God be thanked we had time to secure it with eatings. It is much torn, but we have saved it. We have brought the yard to the socket.
" An hour and a half after midnight the wind carried away our mizen. It began to fail at the point of the sheet. The rest followed. Nothing of it remained but the bolt ropes.
" The jib, middle jib, and the top-gallant sail had the same fate — though they were very light, the violence of the wind undid them and carried them away, and the mizen top-sail yard broke by the middle. When this last sail gave way it cruelly affected our mizen-mast: I wished to cut it, but when the axe was already raised, the wind having carried off the whole of the sail, by the grace of God we preserved our mast.
" At three o'clock a gale drove in the starboard window of the great cabin, which let in a great deal of water, which fell on M. de J * * * ', who was in bed there.
" At four o'clock our tiller broke; we put a capstern bar at the head of the helm in the great cabin to hold it.
" At six o'clock in the morning the wind became less terrible, and shortly afterwards it gave way. At present (noon), we hope that the gale is over ; but we can only attribute our safety in the imminent peril in which we were, to the goodness and mercy of God. May he in his abundant grace continue to have us in his holy keeping.
" The half of our poultry were drowned in their cages."
Being in bed in the great cabin, where there was no light, 1 heard, about midnight, the voice of M. Pensence, who, in falling, exclaimed that he had killed himself. I called to him several times, and receiving no answer, I thought him either dead or in a swoon. As his servant could give him no assistance, having disabled himself a little before by a similar fall, I sprang from my bed, got a lantern, in order to take him up; but I was no sooner in a situation to have a sight of the deck, than a wave burst over my head, which made me drink salt water in abundance. I returned to the great cabin as well as I could, and in a great rage ; and having changed my linen and clothes, I threw myself down upon my bed, fully determined, if Pensence should break his neck a thousand times, not to stir again. He was an amiable Gascon, and so droll that his exclamations made me sometimes laugh, notwithstanding our horrible situation. He had come to France the year before, to obtain the cross of St. Louis, with the intention of retiring from the service, and living in his native place; and the court had bestowed this favour on him on condition of his return to Louisbourg, and receiving it there. During the danger, Pensence continually repeated, " Accursed and execrable cross ! — If I had foreseen the horrible position in which we now are, all the orders of Europe should not have tempted me to embark. — What had I to do with this miserable cross? Could not I have lived quietly and happily in Gascony without it ?" In short, as long as the tempest endured, we heard nothing but the same exclamations and the same regrets. The second ducking, which I received through the windows of the great cabin, distressed me beyond measure, for I was obliged to remain with my clothes wet. The wave having fallen on my trunk, and at the same time on my bed, every article I had was as much wet with the sea water as the clothes upon my back. A petty officer gave me his bed; but it was destined that I should be no where at my ease during the tempest. Part of every wave, which passed over the deck, entered through an opening into the bed, like a torrent, and fell on my legs. However we arrived at Louisbourg on the 14th of September. If it had not been for the weather, our passage would have been agreeable enough, from the great quantity of provisions and refreshments of every kind with which we had been supplied, by M. Pascaut, the ship-owner, a very different man from the avaricious wretch, Roderique, who, no doubt imagining that the Iphigenie was to go to the bottom, thought it useless to supply us with any thing to render us comfortable on our passage.
The bad climate of Louisbourg, where the sun is sometimes not visible for a whole month ; the extreme wretchedness which prevailed there, as we could not have a morsel of fresh meat at any price ; the society of the women of the country, very amiable no doubt, but who had cards continually in their hands, so that my pay would not allow me to be daily of their parties; all contributed to inspire me with a taste for reading and retirement, and a philosophic mode of life. I seldom quitted my chamber except to do my duty, which I performed with the most scrupulous exactness, or to go a fishing for trouts once or twice a week, with my servant St. Julien, who was an excellent Jack of all trades, for the purpose of supplying my table, when we brought home from eight to ten dozen of trouts, which we caught with the line in the course of a couple of hours; the streams in the neighbourhood abounding in fish. Puysegur, Polybius, with the commentaries of Folard, Feuquiere, Vegetius, the commentaries of Caesar, Turenne, Montecuculi, the Roman History, Prince Eugene, Josephus, Vauban, and other books of the same kind, served to kill the time, and to withdraw my attention from my situation ; for I had not obtained my advancement, but only the office of interpreter of the King, which produced me annually four hundred livres of increased pay ; and to dissipate the gloomy ideas which, otherwise, would have thrown me into despair.
I had a little garden before the windows of my apartment, which St. Julien had brought into cultivation, and which served me as a place of recreation, when I was tired with reading, or when my eyes were fatigued. I enjoyed a real and complete satisfaction from the esteem and friendship of all my comrades, which it was no easy matter to retain ; for the corps of the island of Cape-Breton, composed of more than a hundred officers, was divided into three factions; those who had been longest in the island, those who had come from Canada, and the half-pay officers from France, placed on service at Louisbourg. All the three factions detested one another, and were continually at variance. On my joining the corps, I declared that I would not enter into their cabals; that I would not interfere in any manner with their disputes, nor share their animosities; that I should choose my friends wherever 1 might find them to my taste; and that standing alone, and being of no party, I should defend myself against all those who might insult me, or endeavour to fasten a quarrel on me. Thus by an exact neutrality, which I always strictly observed, I had the good will of every body, and listened to the horrible accusations which these officers were every day repeating to me against each other, without ever committing myself; that is, I listened to them without ever returning any answer.
The Count de Raimond, who gave me daily marks of his esteem and favour, having demanded my promotion, I received a lieutenancy in 1754; by which, with my office of interpreter, I enjoyed a larger income than the captains ; but I was by no means pleased with my situation. Convinced of the folly of placing any reliance on promises, I formed the resolution of returning to France that year, for the purpose of either obtaining a company, or endeavouring to obtain employment in some other service. I considered this voyage the more indispensable, as I was on bad terms with the principal commissary ever since the first year of my arrival at Louisbourg ; who, by means of his partners in commerce, was all-powerful in the bureau of the marine, and always supported, in opposition to the governors, M. des Herbiers, and M. de Raimond, who incessantly, but fruitlessly, complained to the court of his thefts from the magazines, and other infamous acts. He was a complete knave ; proud and vain as a peacock, and of the most obscure origin. He had a beautiful and amiable wife, of whom he was so jealous that even her shadow filled him with alarm. He was always on the look-out for occasions to injure me and to give me pain. His attempts were, however, unavailing at Louisbourg ; for by discharging my duty with the utmost exactness, I always retained the esteem and friendship of my superiors. Indeed the wretchedness of my situation could not easily be augmented, buffeted as I was by fortune, in addition to my sufferings from the miserable climate, and the badness of the food. Being thus in extreme misery, I had the melancholy satisfaction of reflecting that my situation could not become worse. * At length the capture of Louisbourg, in 1758, released me from purgatory, in which I was subject to evils of every kind. Not wishing to be the prisoner of the same regiments of Lee, Warburton, and Lascelles, who had been our prisoners in Scotland, at the battle of Gladsmuir, in 1745, after the capitulation of the town, I made my escape to Nova Scotia, and thence into Canada.
* The Sieur Jacques Prevost was so abhorred, not only by all the officers of the corps of the island of Cape-Breton, but also by the regiments of Artois and Burgundy, that no officer, from the commandant down to the ensign, ever entered his door. When the English fleet appeared before Louisbourg in 1757, all the troops instantly marched out to line the entrenchments des Ances, in the Bay of Gabarus, in order to oppose their landing. Mr. Guerin our surgeon-general having given to M. de St. Julien, the senior officer in command, a list of the quantity of lint, brandy, and other things necessary for the wounded ; Prevost, in answer to the application of M. de St. Julien, told him "that there were none of the articles in question in the King's magazines; that if the English should force our entrenchments, it was their business to take care of our wounded ; and if we repulsed the English, we should have time to attend to them." M. de St. Julien immediately carried this list with a complaint to M. de Bois de la Mothe, who instantly landed at nine o'clock in the evening, proceeded straight to the house of Prevost, and threatened to put him in irons, and send him off to France, if all the articles contained in the list were not supplied the following morning. They were accordingly supplied, to the great chagrin of this inhuman monster, who, in his hatred to the officers, wished that brave men should perish for want of assistance. He shed tears of rage. He contrived to make himself equally despised and detested by all the naval officers; and the Prince de Listenois always treated him as one of the refuse of the earth.— Author.
Hostilities having commenced in Nova Scotia in 1754, when I was upon the point of setting out for Europe, it did not appear proper that I should absent myself at such a critical period : I therefore resolved to continue where I was, hoping, by zeal and services, to obtain the advancement, which I had not been able to effect, from the negligence and feeble efforts of my protectors, who were certainly powerful enough to have improved my condition, had they chosen to exert themselves in my favour, as I was led to expect they would, from their promises, of which, in my credulity, I was the dupe.
Having obtained a boat with fifty Canadians at Miramichi, in Nova Scotia, to conduct to Quebec fourteen English prisoners, who were land-officers, and captains of merchants' ships, I set out with them without delay. On entering the gulph of St. Laurence we perceived the English squadron, which instantly gave chace to us ; and we only escaped their frigates, by running into one of the little ports, of which there are a great many along that coast. It was a fortunate discovery ; for I found M. de 1'Echaffaud at the mouth of the river, with five ships of the line, which he commanded, ready to sail for Europe, who, from not knowing that there was an English fleet in the gulph, might have fallen into their hands. To avoid them he passed through the straits of Belle Isle.
I was very favourably received in Canada, particularly by M. de Levis and M. de Montcalm, who soon honoured me with their esteem, confidence, and favour, in a very distinguished manner ; and M. Bigot, the intendant, who was in every thing the opposite of Prevost, and who took a pleasure in relieving the wants, and diminishing the sufferings of the army, gave me from the stores a complete dress; for I was quite naked, having left my trunk at Louisbourg, and having only taken with me a couple of shirts in my pockets. M. de Levis took me for his aide-de-camp, in the beginning of the campaign of 1759; and not having a sufficient number of engineers for the immense space which our camp occupied at Quebec, with a front of about two leagues, to fortify from the river St. Charles to the falls of Montmorency, I undertook to plan and conduct the entrenchments, redoubt, and battery on the left of our camp where M. de Levis commanded, on condition that I should do so in my own way, and that the engineers should not interfere with me. My self-love was greatly flattered when the English, on the 31st of July, landed and attacked the works which I had constructed, and were repulsed with the loss of five hundred men. I was charged at the same time with the examination of the prisoners and deserters, and with translating their depositions into French. My occupations were so multiplied that I scarcely had an hour's sleep in the four-and-twenty. As it was impossible for M. de Levis to furnish me with bed-clothes, mattrass, or paillasse, having left my own at Carillon, I was obliged to sleep every night in my clothes, in his room, on chairs or on boards; having never taken off my clothes during the whole campaign, except to change my linen, and seldom taken off my boots, except to change my stockings ...
[The Chevalier De Johnstone, Memoirs of the rebellion in 1745 and 1746 (Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1821), pp. 411-445.