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favorite pursuit in New England, there were men in Pepperrell's army who knew how to handle cannon; but their number was insufficient, and the general sent a note to Warren, begging that he would lend him a few experienced gunners to teach their trade to the raw hands at the batteries. Three or four were sent, and they found apt pupils.
Pepperrell placed the advanced battery in charge of Captain Joseph 1 Sherburn, telling him to enlist as many gunners as he could. On the next day Sherburn reported that he had found six, one of whom seems to have been sent by Warren. With these and a number of raw men he repaired to his perilous station, where “I found,” he says, “a very poor intrenchment. Our best shelter from the French fire, which was very hot, was hogsheads filled with earth.” He and his men made the West Gate their chief mark; but before they could get a fair sight of it, they were forced to shoot down the fish-flakes, or stages for drying cod, that obstructed the view. Some of their party were soon killed, — Captain Pierce by a cannon-ball, Thomas Ash by a "bumb,” and others by musketry. In the night they improved their defences, and mounted on them three more guns, one of eighteen-pound calibre, and the others of forty-two, - French pieces dragged from the Grand Battery, a mile and three quarters round the Barachois.
1 He signs his name Jos. Sherburn; but in a list of the officers of the New Hampshire Regiment it appears in full as Joseph.
The cannon could be loaded only under a constant fire of musketry, which the enemy briskly returned. The French practice was excellent. A soldier who in bravado mounted the rampart and stood there for a moment was shot dead with five bullets. The men on both sides called to each other in scraps of bad French or broken English; while the French drank ironical healths to the New England men, and gave them bantering invitations to breakfast.
Sherburn continues his diary. “Sunday morning. Began our fire with as much fury as possible, and the French returned it as warmly from the Citidale [citadel], West Gate, and North East Battery with Cannon, Mortars, and continual showers of musket balls; but by 11 o'clock we had beat them all from their guns." He goes on to say that at noon his men were forced to stop firing from want of powder, that he went with his gunners to get some, and that while they were gone, somebody, said to be Mr. Vaughan, brought a supply, on which the men loaded the fortytwo pounders in a bungling way, and fired them. One was dismounted, and the other burst; a barrel and a half-barrel of powder blew up, killed two men, and injured two more. Again: “Wednesday. Hot fire on both sides, till the French were beat from all their guns. May 29th went to 2 Gun [Titcomb's] Battery to give the gunners some directions; then returned to my own station, where I spent the rest of the day with pleasure, seeing our Shott Tumble down their walls and Flagg Staff.”
The following is the intendant Bigot's account of the effect of the New England fire: “The enemy established their batteries to such effect that they soon destroyed the greater part of the town, broke the right flank of the King's Bastion, ruined the Dauphin Battery with its spur, and made a breach at the Porte Dauphine [West Gate), the neighboring wall, and the sort of redan adjacent."1 Duchambon says in addition that the cannon of the right flank of the King's Bastion could not be served, by reason of the continual fire of the enemy, which broke the embrasures to pieces; that when he had them repaired, they were broken to pieces (démantibulés) again, and nobody could keep his ground behind the wall of the quay, which was shot through and through and completely riddled. The town was ploughed with cannon-balls, the streets were raked from end to end, nearly all the houses damaged, and the people driven for refuge into the stifling casemates. The results were creditable to novices in gunnery.
The repeated accidents from the bursting of cannon were no doubt largely due to unskilful loading and the practice of double-shotting, to which the overzealous artillerists are said to have often resorted.8 It is said, in proof of the orderly conduct of the men, that not one of them was punished during all the siege; but this shows the mild and conciliating character of the general quite as much as any peculiar merit of the soldiers. The state of things in and about the camp was compared by the caustic Dr. Douglas to “a Cambridge Commencement," which academic festival was then attended by much rough frolic and boisterous horseplay among the disorderly crowds, white and black, bond and free, who swarmed among the booths on Cambridge Common. The careful and scrupulous Belknap, who knew many who took part in the siege, says: “Those who were on the spot have frequently, in my hearing, laughed at the recital of their own irregularities, and expressed their admiration when they reflected on the almost miraculous preservation of the army from destruction.” While the cannon bellowed in the front, frolio and confusion reigned at the camp, where the men raced, wrestled, pitched quoits, fired at marks, – though there was no ammunition to spare, — and ran after the French cannon-balls, which were carried to the batteries, to be returned to those who sent them. Nor were calmer recreations wanting. “Some of our men went a fishing, about 2 miles off," writes Lieutenant Benjamin Cleaves in his diary: “caught 6 Troutts.” And, on the same day, “Our men went to catch Lobsters: caught 30.” In view of this truant disposition, it is not surprising that the besiegers now and then lost their scalps at the hands of prowling Indians who infested the neighborhood. Yet through all these gambols ran an undertow of enthusiasm, born in brains still fevered from the “Great Awakening.” The New England soldier, & growth of sectarian hotbeds, fancied that he was doing the work of God. The army was Israel, and the French were Canaanitish idolaters. Red-hot Calvinism, acting through generations, had modified the transplanted Englishman; and the descendant of the Puritans was never so well pleased as when teaching their duty to other people, whether by pen, voice, or bombshells. The ragged artillerymen, battering the walls of papistical Louisbourg, flattered themselves with the notion that they were champions of gospel truth.
1 Bigot au Ministre, 1 Août, 1745.
&“Another forty-two pound gun burst at the Grand Battery. All the guns are in danger of going the same way, by double-shotting them, unless under better regulation than at present." - Waldo to Pepperrell, 20 May, 1745.
Waldo had written four days before : "Captain Hale, of my reg. iment, is dangerously hurt by the bursting of another gun. He was our mainstay for gunnery since Captain Rhodes's misfortune " (also caused by the bursting of a cannon). Waldo to Pepperrell, 16 May, 1745
Barefoot and tattered, they toiled on with indomi. table pluck and cheerfulness, doing the work which oxen could not do, with no comfort but their daily dram of New England rum, as they plodded through the marsh and over rocks, dragging the ponderous guns through fog and darkness. Their spirit could not save them from the effects of excessive fatigue and exposure. They were ravaged with diarrhea and fever, till fifteen hundred men were at one time on the sick-list, and at another, Pepperrell reported that of the four thousand only about twenty-one hundred were fit for duty. Nearly all at last recov:
1 Pepperrell to Warren, 28 May, 1745. VOL. II. -8