August 10, 1755: The Expulsion of the Acadians Begins

The last century of horrors has tended to swallow up the memory of crimes prior to it, but the expulsion of the native French Canadiens from Acadia by the British, beginning on August 10, 1755, still stands out.  Acadia is now divided among the Candian provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  The British acquired it by treaty from France in 1713 at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession.  The Acadians refused to take an unconditional oath to the British Crown and took a conditional oath that promised neutrality in any future wars between France and Britain.  Many Acadians violated this oath, conducting a low level guerilla war against the British when they were at war with France, a frequent occurrence in the Eighteenth Century.   British Governor Charles Lawrence began the expulsions at the onset of the French and Indian War.  The process continued until the end of the War.  Around 11, 500 of the Acadians were deported, some 2600 eluding the deportations.  Until 1758 the Acadians were deported to the 13 colonies, thereafter to Britain and France.  The Acadians in the locations that received them were met with indifference and hostility, and many perished.  (I would note with ancestral pride that an exception was Maryland where Irish Catholic Marylanders met the Acadian deportees with kindness.)  Many of the Acadians eventually made their way to French Louisiana where their descendants live on as Cajuns.

 

The Acadian expulsions were immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his poem Evangeline in 1863,  its opening lines familiar to generations of American schoolchildren: (more…)

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Published in: on August 10, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 10, 1755: The Expulsion of the Acadians Begins  
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September 13, 1759: Battle of the Plains of Abraham

 

 

The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West is a painting which has always fascinated me.  Wolfe’s victory at the Plains of Abraham in 1759 sealed the doom of New France and also the doom ultimately of British rule in the 13 colonies.  Freed from the menace of their ancestral enemy, the colonists were also free to rethink the ties that bound them to the British crown.  West’s painting captures a pivotal moment in American history.  Not only is Wolfe dying, but an old order in America, not only for France but also for Great Britain, is mortally stricken.  American independence would have appalled James Wolfe, who had little love for Americans, but it is given to none of us to know the impact of our lives after our deaths.  Wolfe of course had a death of legend, as the great historian of the struggle between New France and the British, Francis Parkman details: (more…)

Published in: on September 13, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 13, 1759: Battle of the Plains of Abraham  
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Report to Dinwiddie

 

 

At the battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755, the French and their Indian allies inflicted a humiliating defeat on the British expedition under Major General Edward Braddock.  Colonel George Washington, after the wounding of Braddock, although not being part of the chain of command since he was serving as an aide to Braddock and being technically outranked by every officer in Braddock’s force due to Washington only holding Virginia militia rank, effectively took command of the army, established a rear guard under himself, and allowed the army to stage an orderly retreat.  This was an astounding performance of a man of only 23 with limited military experience.  For years afterwards Washington would be known as the hero of the Monongahela until destiny allowed him the opportunity to earn much greater laurels.

On July 18, 1755 Washington wrote a report of the defeat to Dinwiddie.  It is an early specimen of the type of reports that Washington would submit to Congress during the Revolutionary War two decades later, and it bears the features that Washington always displayed in his reports:

1.  Concise:  Washington had a talent for being able to render complex events into very few words.  The brevity of his reports speak to his ability to sift the important from the superfluous.

2.  Modesty:  Although Washington was the hero of the day, no one could detect that from his report.  Washington assumed that others would judge him from his actions, and wasted no words in self promotion or self-defense.

3.  Warts and all:  Washington was always blunt.  In the report Washington does not attempt to mitigate the gravity of the defeat and notes that the frontier is now defenseless except for the shattered Virginia militia which were unequal to the task.

4.  Honorable mentions:  Washington always believed in reporting the courage and good performance of others, and he does so in his report, most notably for the Virginia military who carried the burden of the fight.

Here is the text of Washington’s report: (more…)

“Something Charming in the Sound”

 

“I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”

George Washington, letter to his brother May 31, 1754, telling him about his victory at the battle of Jumonville.   What might have been mere bragging by virtually any other man, was not the case with the Father of our Country.  As far as we can judge from outward evidence, Washington was absolutely fearless.  Time after time in the French and Indian War and in the American Revolution, the battle of Monmouth in the video above was only one of many examples, he exposed himself to enemy fire.  At Braddock’s Defeat in 1755 Washington had two horses shot out from beneath him, and four enemy musket balls were lodged in his clothes by the end of the fight.  Washington believed that he could not be an effective leader unless he led from the front, and that is precisely what he did, often to the distress of his aides.  His only emotional reaction to being under enemy fire was apparently complete contempt for the fire of the enemy.  Men who observed him often wrote that they were amazed that anyone could be as fearless as he was. (more…)

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on “Something Charming in the Sound”  
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Wobomagonda

 

Wobomagonda, “White Devil”, was the term that the Abenakis applied to Robert Rogers, the founder and leader of Rogers Rangers.

The massacre of English and colonial troops and civilians after the surrender of Fort William Henry in 1757 inflamed American public opinion against both the French and their Indian auxiliaries.  Cries for vengeance rang out, and in 1759 Robert Rogers answered those cries.

For almost a century, the Abenakis, usually with the assistance of the French, and the English settlers on the frontiers of New England and New York had wage a merciless war against each other of raid and counter-raid.  On September 13, 1759, Rogers was ordered  by General Jeffery Amherst, British commander-in-chief in North America,  to conduct a raid on their main base camp of Saint Francis along the banks of the Saint Lawrence in Canada. (more…)

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Wobomagonda  
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Fort William Henry Massacre

Fort William Henry held the southern end of Lake George in 1757 in New York for the British.  This was the southern terminus of the chain of lakes and rivers that provided an invasion route for the British to Quebec and for the French deep into New York.

The fort was constructed by the British in 1755.  General Montcalm, commander of the French forces in New France, decided to take Fort William Henry in 1757 to prevent it being used as a springboard for an invasion of Canada.  Leading a force of 3000 regulars, 3000 militia and 2000 Indians, Montcalm began the siege on August 3, 1757.

Colonel George Monro commanded the garrison of the Fort, with a mixed force of 2600 regulars and militia.  The garrison surrendered on August 9.  The British were allowed to retain their muskets, although they were to have no ammunition.  The garrison, together with all civilians in the fort, were to be allowed to march to British held Fort Edward.  The terms of the agreement specified that the British were to be protected by the French from the Indians.  Montcalm talked to the Indians before the surrender to make certain they understood the terms that had been granted to the British. (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 5:42 am  Comments (1)  
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