The Loss of the Duke William (part 2)

Ashore in the New World

We all enjoyed this pleasing sport during most part of the siege of Louisbourg; when Captain Schomberg, of the Diana frigate, sent his Lieutenant and Doctor on shore, with his sick people, of whom he had a great number, several with the spotted fever. He ordered his Doctor to take possession of my arbour, as he imagined that, on bringing the sick people on shore, I would quit it. I being at dinner at the large house, my servant, who was then sentry, came and acquainted me with what was going forward. I went immediately, and finding the Lieutenant and Doctor there, and the tent building close to my garden, I expostulated with them; telling them, that as Admiral Boscawen had granted us the favour of the Island, and as there were many other places, remote from our habitations, where the sick would not infect us, begged they would pitch their tents there. The Doctor said mine was a very proper place; he liked it vastly; and as he had Captain Schomberg’s orders for coming there, he would stay. I told them, that as the Admiral had often made choice of this place to retire in, I knew it would disoblige him. They still, however, persisted in taking it from me: and, finding it in vain to argue about it any more, I assured then they should reap no advantage from their ill nature, as I would cut down the trees, and destroy the arbour and garden, and I knew every one who had a little habitation would do the same.

I bade the lad clap the axe to the trees, which they dared him to do. I then took the axe myself, and declared if they offered to prevent me I would cleave them down. I sent on board for my people, and pulled all the inclosures up, and what I did not think proper to remove I set on fire; and every one, finding he could not come on shore without running the hazard of getting sick, followed my example. Thus every house was destroyed, and the Island was in a blaze from one end to the other. The fire being seen on board the fleet, the Admiral sent his barge on shore to know what was the matter, for he was fearful that the Indians had come down among us. When he learnt the truth of the affair, he was angry with Captain Schomberg; but, as he was a favourite, it was overlooked.

Louisbourg being taken a short time after the destroying of our houses,1 it was no great loss to us. On the reduction of that place, the Island St. John, in the entrance to the gulf of Lawrence, fell by capitulation, and the inhabitants were to be sent to Old France. Lord Rollo [Rolle?], with a large party, were sent on board the transports, which were ordered thither for that purpose. The transports were nine in number, of which the Duke William, the ship I commanded, was one.

Preparing the Transports

We proceeded, under convoy of the Hind sloop of war, Captain Bond; but meeting with contrary winds, and bad weather, had a very long passage. Having brought the fleet up off a Cape, called St. Louis, nine leagues distant from the Gut of Canso, and it blowing strong in the night, my cable parted.

In the morning, the man of war made a signal to bear away for the Gut again. I came to a resolution to stay, and try whether I could not get my anchor and cable again. The ships all left me riding, and the next day it fell fine weather. I weighed, and dropped the ship at the buoy, and unbent him; but, by the time we had got the anchor into the bows, it came on very bad weather; wind, hail, and rain, with terrible claps of thunder, and severe lightning. A long winter’s night was approaching; and, as we were on an unknown coast, (for our drafts were very erroneous,) our situation was extremely unpleasant. The fleet were much afraid that some misfortune had befallen us; for though they had bad weather, they had it not so severe as us.

Captain Bond, in the morning, made a signal for all Masters of transports, and desired they would man their boats, as he thought he had heard several guns fired in the night. He fancied that they were fired by me in distress, and was fearful that we were ashore; and if so, were in course scalped by the Indians. Accordingly, when their boats were manned, they were desired to row as far as it was prudent to venture. As the weather was still bad, and they could see nothing of us, they returned, giving us over as lost. But Providence ordered it otherwise. I kept the ship under a pair of courses all night, and in the morning bore away; but, it coming on very thick, was obliged to lie-to; and as it did not clear till late afternoon, I had a narrow escape in getting in, as the Gut is very narrow, and by reason of the trees very difficult to find.

We shortly after sailed out of the Gut, and got into St. John’s. In the passage, Captain S. Hurry, in the Yarmouth, was run ashore by the ignorance of his Pilot, and was near being lost, but his ship got off without any damage.

Loading provisions

On our coming to St. John’s, Captain Bond sent us an order, not to go on shore upon any account whatever, but at the watering place; which, as soon as we received, we waited upon him in a body, letting him know, that by the long passage we had had we were in want of provisions, and that we could not proceed without them. He refused to come on deck, but sent us word by his Lieutenant, at our peril to do otherwise than follow his instructions. We then agreed among ourselves, to go up the river armed, and as I spoke the language, we needed no interpreter.

Accordingly, the next morning we set forward with all the yachts and long boats in the fleet, well manned and armed. As soon as Captain Bond was informed that we were gone, he made a signal for all Masters to come on board; which, when the Mates saw, as several of the large transports had jolly boats, they went and fetched the Mates of those ships which had none, and went on board the Hind for orders. He inquired why their Masters did not come; they replied, that they were gone on shore to buy provisions. He then went on shore, and told Lord Rollo, that we were gone to rob the French, and hoped when we came down that he would punish us.

We proceeded up the river, and, to our surprise, found a large schooner riding, with ensign, jack, and pendant, which when we came near, we found had been sent by Captain Bond, to buy provisions, to sell again at Louisbourg. The Purser told us that he had orders from him, in case we should come up, to hinder us from buying any thing; and, if we did buy, he was to take it from us. We told him it was not in his power, nor would we suffer ourselves to be ill treated; and, as we should pay for what we bought, we would not permit him to rob us. I asked him what he paid a head for cattle; he said two dollars, and so in proportion for other stock. I told him we would not spoil his market, but would go in search of other villages, higher up the country. We proceeded, and found a large farm-house, where we bought several live cattle at three dollars a piece; and hogs and sheep for a shilling each; for as the inhabitants knew they were to be sent to Old France, every shilling which they made was so much clear gain.

After two days’ searching, we procured as much provision as the boats would carry. We thought proper to make it night before we would come near the schooner. However, they kept a good look-out, and perceived us. They hailed, and told us they had orders to seize all our stock. We bade the sailors row on. They threatened to fire; and at last we rowed alongside, and asked them what they wanted. The Lieutenant replied, all our stock. We said we would not agree to any such terms; and being strong enough for them, would not tamely submit to see ourselves robbed of what we had fairly bought. He confessed that it was hard; and, seeing us determined not to be plundered, desisted. As it was a cold night, he invited us on board the schooner to drink a glass of wine, which we complied with, the boats making the best of their way; but, not being able to get on board before daylight, they were perceived by the men of war and people, who acquainted their Captain with it. He immediately came and seized upon two of them, (both belonging to Captain Moore, of Lynn;) the others got safe, and put the cattle on board my ship.

The Masters were severely reprimanded by Captain Bond, who threatened to write to Lord Rollo. Fearful that he would misrepresent the affair, we all went to dine with his Lordship the next day; when we met with Captain Bond, who has accused us of breach of orders. On laying the case before his Lordship, however, he thought that we were not in the wrong, and gave us leave to go up country and buy what we pleased.

Loading the Acadians

Things remained in this situation, when a large party of soldiers were ordered up the country, to bring the inhabitants down on board the different transports; and as mine was the largest ship, the Missionary Priest, (who was the head man of the country,) with the principal inhabitants, were ordered by Lord Rollo to go to France with me. On his arrival, he requested the favour that the people might come on board to mass, and to be married. I told him I had no objection; but that I must have a fee of every bride. He asked me what that was: I replied, the first kiss after she was married. Being a facetious man, he complied. We had a great many marriages, as a notion prevailed amongst the people, that all the single men must be made soldiers. Before we came away, we got an abundance of stock.

We all sailed from St. John’s together; Captain Wilson, with Lord Rollo and some soldiers on board; and Captain Moore, with soldiers, under convoy of the Hind; the rest, being cartels, had no occasion for convoy. Captain Moore’s vessel was lost going through the Gut, by striking upon a rock under water, and the soldiers were put on board Captain Wilson, bound to Louisbourg. Captain Moore, his Son, Mate, and Carpenter, took their passage in my ship. As the wind was contrary, we lay in the Gut of Canso some time. The French used frequently to go on shore, and remain there all night, making fires in the wood to keep themselves warm. Some of them desired that they might be allowed muskets to shoot some game, as they were not afraid of meeting with the Indians, which I granted. About three hours after they were gone, one of them came running, and begged for God’s sake that I would, with my people, immediately go on board, as they had met with a party of Indians, who were coming down to scalp us.

I, with the other Masters and sailors, went off immediately; and we had but just got on board before the Indians came down; but, finding only Frenchmen, they went away directly. It will be seen by this, how near we were being murdered and scalped, had not the French been faithful, and kind Providence interposed.

I should have mentioned before, the narrow escape which the whole fleet had from being lost in going to Canso. The night being very fine, some of the transports worked into the mouth of the Gut, and brought up; I, and Captain Johnson, in a ship called the Parnassus, brought up without the Gut. In the night came on a very hard gale at S.E., and blew so violently, that Johnson let go three anchors. I rode just outside him, found our ship drive with a cable and half; and not being willing to let go another anchor, I let her drive some time before I would give her any more cable; as I was fearful, being so neat the Gut’s mouth, that, if the wind increased, I should be obliged to cut my cable.

About two P.M., the weather came quite serene, not a cloud to be seen. The people went to work to get their anchors up, and to run into the Gut, to a place where we had always anchored, and which I had named English Harbour. I had hove in all my cable to about 30 fathoms, when a most violent gale came on at N.W. Our ship drove, but I was determined, if possible, to save my anchor and cable. I loosed the foresail, kept her hanging on the trails, with my mizzen-stay-sail, and kept backing and filling till I got my anchor. As I kept the Gut open, I knew if the ship would but veer I was in no danger; which she did, and I saved my anchor and cable.

The Parnassus, (and we had got ahead of her,) had let go three anchors, and driven ashore. The Agent’s ship, Captain Suttie, parted from her anchors likewise, and was obliged to run ashore; most of the other transports broke or lost theirs; but no ship, except the two mentioned, got any material damage. As soon as the weather was moderate, I was sent down by Captain Hay, (who was our Agent, and a very worthy man,) to see how it fared with the poor Parnassus: the French were all got ashore; and, it being cold showery weather, had made themselves large fires in the woods. I ran a great risk to get them, as it was very dark, and undoubtedly there were Indians about. I told them the boats would fetch them as soon as possible, at which they seemed quite rejoiced. I then went on board the Narcissus, and found her very much bulged, and that it was impossible ever to get her off.

I returned the next morning with as many people as the boat would carry, and informed the Agent of the situation she was in. He ordered me to send for the remainder, which I did, and distributed them amongst the different transports. We then endeavoured to get the Agent’s ship off, it being a fine sandy bay, and she had received no damage in her hull. By lightening her of all her stores and materials, we accomplished it; after which, every thing that was worth saving we took out of the Parnassus. One of the pumps I kept for the ship’s use, in case of emergency, and which too soon I had the misfortune to have occasion for.

Read on …

  1. Louisbourg fell on the 26 July 1758