Battle of Grand Pré

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Not to be confused with Raid on Grand Pré.
Battle of Grand-Pré
Part of King George's War
LOUIS-FRANCOIS La CORNE.jpg
Louis de la Corne, Chevalier de la Corne
Date February 10–11, 1747
Location Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia
Result French victory
Belligerents
 France
Mi'kmaq militia
Acadia militia[1]
 Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Nicolas Antoine II Coulon de Villiers (French commander)
Charles Deschamps de Boishébert et de Raffetot
Louis de la Corne, Chevalier de la Corne
Pierre Maillard
Arthur Noble 
Jedidiah Preble
Benjamin Goldthwait
Edward How (POW)
Units involved
Acadian militia
Wabanaki Confederacy (Mi'kmaq militia and Maliseet militia)
Troupes de la marine
40th Regiment
Gorham's Rangers
Strength
250-300 500
Casualties and losses
53 killed[2] 67 killed, 40 prisoner, 40 wounded[3]

The Battle of Grand Pré, also known as the Battle of Minas and the Grand Pre Massacre, was a battle in King George's War that took place between New England forces and Canadian, Mi'kmaq and Acadian forces at present-day Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia in the winter of 1747 during the War of the Austrian Succession.[4] The New England forces were contained to Annapolis Royal and wanted to secure the head of the Bay of Fundy. Led by Nicolas Antoine II Coulon de Villiers and Louis de la Corne, Chevalier de la Corne under orders from Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Roch de Ramezay, the French forces surprised and defeated a force of Massachusetts militia that were quartered in the village.

Background[edit]

Grand Pré had been the staging ground for the French and Mi'kmaq sieges of Annapolis Royal in 1744) and 1745. As a result, New England Ranger John Gorham demanded to take control of Grand Pré after the first siege in 1744 and again after the second.[5]

The French made another attempt at the capital in 1746 under the command of De Ramezay, who had to withdraw from the capital as a result of the failed Duc d’Anville Expedition. De Ramezay retired to Beaubassin. (During this time period, Ramezay sent troops to British-occupied Port-La-Joye on present-day Prince Edward Island. In a fierce battle, Ramezay's men killed 34 British troops and imprisoned the rest.[6]

In response to the assaults on Annapolis Royal that were being staged at Grand Pré (and Chignecto), Governor Shirley sent Colonel Arthur Noble and hundreds of New England soldiers to secure control over Grand Pré. In early December 1746 a force of one hundred men under the command of Captain Charles Morris was sent to Grand Pré. These troops were eventually joined by troops under the command of Captains Jedidiah Preble[7] and Benjamin Goldthwait,[8] and Colonel Gorham's Rangers. Colonel Noble arrived by sea with an additional one hundred men in early January 1747. In all there were approximately five hundred New England troops stationed at Grand Pré. Initially the troops were billeted at Grand Pré and several communities nearby. Upon Noble's arrival he ordered the troops brought into Grand Pré where they were billeted in twenty-four houses that extended across the village for nearly two and a half miles. At this early stage some of the Inhabitants at Grand Pré warned the New Englanders that "Messr. Ramezay had conceived some design" to attack them. The warning was ignored as the New Englanders felt it was "impracticable" to project such an attack that would mean a long march through deep snow and across "rivers being froze with ice floating up and down".[9]

Trek from Beaubassin[edit]

Part of a series on the
Military history of
Nova Scotia
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Events
Battle of Port Royal 1690
Conquest of Acadia 1710
Battle of Jeddore Harbour 1722
Northeast Coast Campaign 1745
Battle of Grand Pré 1747
Dartmouth Massacre 1751
Bay of Fundy Campaign 1755
Fall of Louisbourg 1758
Headquarters established for Royal Navy's North American Station 1758
Burying the Hatchet ceremony 1761
Battle of Fort Cumberland 1776
Raid on Lunenburg 1782
Halifax Impressment Riot 1805
Establishment of New Ireland 1812
Capture of USS Chesapeake 1813
Battle at the Great Redan 1855
Siege of Lucknow 1857
CSS Tallahassee Escape 1861
Departing Halifax for Northwest Rebellion 1885
Departing Halifax for the Boer War 1899
Imprisonment of Leon Trotsky 1917
Jewish Legion formed 1917
Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle 1918
Battle of the St. Lawrence 1942–44
Sinking of SS Point Pleasant Park 1945
Halifax VE-Day Riot 1945
Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus established 1947
Notable military regiments
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After the rigors of the previous year's campaign in Nova Scotia the Canadian "detachment was extraordinarily weakened by maladies" including De Ramezay and it was for this reason he delegated command of the attack to Captain Coulon de Villiers.,[10][11] On January 21, 1747 the French then commenced a twenty-one day winter march to the Minas. The troops, on snowshoes and utilizing sleds, crossed to Bay Verte, followed the Northumberland shore to Tatamagouche, crossed the Cobequid Mountains to Cobequid Bay near present day Truro, and by February 2 had reached the Shubenacadie River where they found the river blocked by ice and too dangerous for the main force to cross. De Villiers ordered Boishébert to cross the river with ten men and "to block the roads of the inhabitants in this district to make sure we are not discovered.".[12] Throughout the trek the Canadian force was joined by both Acadian militia and Mi'kmaq warriors. Further assistance came when they were sheltered and fed by local Acadian families who also provided information on the New England positions. There were Acadians, however, that were not allies. At Cobequid (Truro), de Villiers took precaution "to block all the paths because the ill-intentioned inhabitants could undertake to pass and alert the English to our march."[13]

With the lower Shubenacadie River blocked by ice, the main force travelled the eastern shore of the river until they passed the tidal reach and there crossed over to the western side. They quickly crossed overland to the Kennetcook River and then on to the Acadian village at Pisiguit where the villagers replenished their food supplies which had been running low for several days. By midday on February 10, despite a raging blizzard, the troops were on their final march, taking the old Acadian road over Horton Mountain to Melanson Village in the Gaspereau Valley, just a few miles from Grand Pré. At Melanson the troops were joined by Acadian guides who led them directly to the houses where the New English were billeted.

Battle[edit]

De Villiers' combined force of Canadians, Mi'kmaq and Acadians amounted to about five hundred men.[14] A French account states de Villiers left the Beaubassin area with two hundred and fifty Canadians and fifty Mi'kmaq.[15][16] These troops, as previously mentioned, were further augmented by additional Mi'kmaq as well as Acadians. The French, on the night of February 10 in a blinding snowstorm and utilizing the element of surprise, attacked ten of the houses in which the New Englanders were billeted. Other than sentries, most of the New England personnel were asleep.[17]

The French were initially successful in the close-range fighting that followed. De Villiers' left arm was shattered almost immediately by a musket ball, a wound that would later lead to his death.[18] He was replaced by his second-in-command, La Corne.

The battle continued to rage across the village, with the Canadians also attacking the sloops moored in the Basin. Eventually the British force rallied and established a stronghold in a stone house in the center of the village and the fighting continued until the next morning when a cease fire was arranged. This arrangement stood throughout the day and the following morning the New Englanders agreed to capitulate under honourable terms. Captain Charles Morris reported sixty-seven New England troops killed, including their commander Col. Noble, along with upwards of forty taken prisoner, and forty more being wounded or sick. Morris estimated the French had lost 30 men but that the Acadians later "affirmed they saw buried by both parties one hundred and twenty men." This would put the French losses at fifty-three.[19]

Aftermath[edit]

After a cease-fire both sides agreed to terms that allowed the British to return to Annapolis Royal. The British marched away with full military honours as article 3 of the capitulation stated: "That the troops of his most Christian Majesty shall be drawn up in two ranks with rested firelocks and that the troops of his Britannic Majesty should march thro them with all the military Honours of War with drums beating and colours flying."[20] The six-day march back through deep snow, unassisted by snowshoes, caused the New Englanders to suffer "extreme fatigues, excessive colds, and difficulties we laboured under through our men into violent fevers and fluxes at their return by which means we lost one hundred and fifty more."[21] The French later retired from Grand-Pré, initially to Noel, Nova Scotia (in the Cobequid region), taking with them prisoners of war as well as both French and New England wounded.[22] The more severely wounded were left under the care of the Acadians at Grand Pré. Some of the prisoners would be released to the New Englanders in the spring, while the others were sent to Québec and then to Boston.

The battle slowed the British advance to occupy the head of the Bay of Fundy. The New Englanders returned to Grand Pré shortly after, in March, 1747. They took possession of the stone house and required the Inhabitants to renew their "promise of a faithful obedience to the English Government."[23] They also sailed to Pisiguit where they burned, while under fire by Acadians, a vessel the Canadian troops had used when they withdrew from Minas. The area remained embroiled in conflict during Father Le Loutre's War (see Siege of Grand Pre). British forces did not advance farther into the Fundy basin until three years later when, in the aftermath of the Battle at Chignecto and the aftermath of the war in general, the British Army built Fort Lawrence.

Both Nicolas Antoine II Coulon de Villiers and Louis de la Corne, Chevalier de la Corne were awarded the Order of Saint Louis from the King of France for their participation in the battle.

Commemorations[edit]

The location of the battle was designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1924 and marked by a plaque in 1938.[24]

A number of authors have explored the battle in literature. The historian and poet Mary Jane Katzmann Lawson wrote the poem "The Battle of Grand Pre" about 1820[25] Merrill Denison who wrote a radio play "The Raid on Grand Pre" in 1931 and Archibald MacMechan wrote a book "Red Snow on Grand Pré" in the same year.

One of the Acadians who accompanied the French on this expedition was Zedore Gould then aged 20, who afterwards escaping the Expulsion was a tenant to DesBarres on his Minudie estate. He lived to a great age and was fond of relating his experiences in this, the perhaps most famous exploit in Nova Scotian History.[26]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Texts

Endnotes

  1. ^ Maine Documents, p 362
  2. ^ Morris estimated the French had lost 30 men but that the Acadians later "affirmed they saw buried by both parties' one hundred and twenty men." This would put the French losses at fifty-three (Charles Morris. A Brief Survey of Nova Scotia. The Royal Artillery Regimental Library, Woolwich, UK.)
  3. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey
  4. ^ The first reference to this battle as a massacre was in 1755 by William Douglas (See A summary, historical and political, of the first planting, progressive ... By William Douglass, 1755, p. 198)
  5. ^ George Bates, John Gorham 1709-1751: An outline of his activities in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Historical Society. p. 33, 41
  6. ^ http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=36129
  7. ^ http://archive.org/stream/genealogicalsket00preb#page/n63/mode/2up
  8. ^ http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=1375&terms=de
  9. ^ Charles Morris. A Brief Survey of Nova Scotia. The Royal Artillery Regimental Library, Woolwich, UK.
  10. ^ Aaron Taylor. The 1747 Trek to Grand Pré: A Study in Historical Archaeology. Saint Mary's University, 2009. Appendix A, p. 1.
  11. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey. Morris mentions several times that both the "French American Troops and Indians" were suffereing from a "distemper", linking the illness to that which had devastated the sailors and soldiers of the D'Anville fleet.
  12. ^ Ibid. Aaron Taylor. Appendix A, p. V
  13. ^ Ibid. Aaron Taylor. Appendix A, p. IV.
  14. ^ Morris' estimate
  15. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey.
  16. ^ De Saint Jean de Luz, le 25 May 1747. Vatican Secret Archives, Rome. (A report supplied by a French military officer to the Vatican).
  17. ^ "Battle at Grand Pré"
  18. ^ In October Coulon de Villiers went to France for treatment of his wound at a thermal spring [see Louis de La Corne]. In 1748 he was awarded the cross of the Order of Saint-Louis with an 800-livre gratuity, and was appointed major of Trois-Rivières. After his return to Canada in 1749 he was obliged to have his wounded arm amputated. He did not survive the operation, and was buried at Montréal on 4 April 1750.
  19. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey
  20. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey.
  21. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey..
  22. ^ Shawn Scott and Tod Scott (2008). Noel Dorion and the East Hants Acadians. The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. The Journal.
  23. ^ Ibid. Charles Morris. A Brief Survey
  24. ^ Historic Sites and Monuments Board database
  25. ^ Canadian Biography On Line
  26. ^ ["Records of Chignecto" Coll. of N.S. Historical Society Vol. XV, p. 26 http://archive.org/stream/14a15collectionsof14novauoft#page/n333/mode/2up ]

Primary Documents[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°06′04″N 64°18′26″W / 45.10111°N 64.30722°W / 45.10111; -64.30722