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While this is going on, the soldiers of the fourth division are to march with all speed along the shore till they come to a certain part of the town wall, which they are to scale; then proceed “as fast as can be” to the citadel and “secure the windows of the governor's apartments.” After this follow page after page of complicated details which must have stricken the general with stupefaction. The rocks, surf, fogs, and gales of that tempestuous coast are all left out of the account; and so, too, is the nature of the country, which consists of deep marshes, rocky hills, and hollows choked with evergreen thickets. Yet a series of complex and mutually dependent operations, involving long marches through this rugged and pathless region, was to be accomplished, in the darkness of one April night, by raw soldiers who knew nothing of the country. This rare specimen of amateur soldiering is redeemed in some measure by a postscript in which the governor sets free the hands of the general, thus: “Notwithstanding the instructions you have received from me, I must leave you to act, upon unforeseen emergencies, according to your best discretion.”
On the twenty-fourth of March, the fleet, consisting of about ninety transports, escorted by the provincial cruisers, sailed from Nantasket Roads, followed by prayers and benedictions, and also by toasts drunk with cheers, in bumpers of rum punch.1
1 The following letter from John Payne of Boston to Colonel Robert Hale, of the Essex regiment, while it gives no sign of the
prevailing religious feeling, illustrates the ardor of the New England people towards their rash adventure: –
Boston, Apr. 24, 1745.
SIR, -I hope this will find you at Louisbourg with a Bowl of Punch a Pipe and a P-k of C–ds in your hand and whatever else you desire (I had forgot to mention a Pretty French Madammoselle). We are very Impatiently expecting to hear from you, your Friend Luke has lost several Beaver Hatts already concerning the Expedition, he is so very zealous about it that he has turned Poor Boutier out of his House for saying he believed you would not Take the Place. — Damn his Blood says Luke, let him be an Englishman or a Frenchman and not pretend to be an Englishman when he is a Frenchman in his Heart. If drinking to your success would Take Cape Briton, you must be in Possession of it now, for it's a standing Toast. I think the least thing you Military Gentn can do is to send us some arrack when you take ye Place to celebrate your Victory and not to force us to do it in Rum Punch or Luke's bad wine or sour cyder.
To Collonell Robert Hale
I am indebted for a copy of this curious letter to Robert Hale Bancroft, Esq., a descendant of Colonel Hale.
SETH POMEROY. - THE VOYAGE. - CANSEAU. — UNEXPECTED SUC
CORS. — DELAYS.-LOUISBOURG. – THE LANDING. — THE GRAND BATTERY TAKEN. - FRENCH CANNON TURNED ON THE Town. WEAKNESS OF DUCHAMBON. — SUFFERINGS OF THE BESIEGERS: THEIR HARDIHOOD; THEIR IRREGULAR PROCEEDINGS. JOSEPH SHERBURN. – AMATEUR GUNNERY. – CAMP FROLICS. SECTARIAN ZEAL. — PERPLEXITIES OF PEPPERRELL.
On board one of the transports was Seth Pomeroy, gunsmith at Northampton, and now major of Willard's Massachusetts regiment. He had a turn for soldiering, and fought, ten years later, in the battle of Lake George. Again, twenty years later still, when Northampton was astir with rumors of war from Boston, he borrowed a neighbor's horse, rode a hundred miles, reached Cambridge on the morning of the battle of Bunker Hill, left his borrowed horse out of the way of harm, walked over Charlestown Neck, then swept by the fire of the ships-of-war, and reached the scene of action as the British were forming for the attack. When Israel Putnam, his comrade in the last war, saw from the rebel breastwork the old man striding, gun in hand, up the hill, he shouted, “By God, Pomeroy, you here! A cannon-shot would waken you out of your grave!”
But Pomeroy, with other landsmen, crowded in the small and malodorous fishing-vessels that were made to serve as transports, was now in the gripe of the most unheroic of maladies. “A terrible northeast storm” had fallen upon them, and, he says, “we lay rolling in the seas, with our sails furled, among prodigious waves.” “Sick, day and night," writes the miserable gunsmith, “so bad that I have not words to set it forth.”] The gale increased and the feet was scattered, there being, as a Massachusetts private soldier writes in his diary, “a very fierse Storm of Snow, som Rain and very Dangerous weather to be 80 nigh ye Shore as we was; but we escaped the Rocks, and that was all.” 2
On Friday, April 5, Pomeroy's vessel entered the harbor of Canseau, about fifty miles from Louisbourg. Here was the English fishing-hamlet, the seizure of which by the French had first provoked the expedition. The place now quietly changed hands again. Sixty-eight of the transports lay here at anchor, and the rest came dropping in from day to day, sorely buffeted, but all safe. On Sunday there was a great concourse to hear Parson Moody preach an open-air sermon from the text, “Thy people shall be willing
1 Diary of Major Seth Pomeroy. I owe the copy before me to the kindness of his descendant, Theodore Pomeroy, Esq.
2 Diary of a Massachusetts soldier in Captain Richardson's com pany (Papers of Dr. Belknap).
in the day of thy power,” concerning which occasion the soldier diarist observes, – “Several sorts of Busnesses was Going on, Som a Exercising, Som a Hearing Preaching.” The attention of Parson Moody's listeners was, in fact, distracted by shouts of command and the awkward drill of squads of homespun soldiers on the adjacent pasture. Captain Ammi Cutter, with two companies, was ordered to remain at Canseau and defend it from farther vicissitudes; to which end a blockhouse was also built, and mounted with eight small cannon. Some of the armed vessels had been set to cruise of Louisbourg, which they did to good purpose, and presently brought in six French prizes, with supplies for the fortress. On the other hand, they brought the ominous news that Louisbourg and the adjoining bay were so blocked with ice that landing was impossible. This was a serious misfortune, involving long delay, and perhaps ruin to the expedition, as the expected ships-of-war might arrive meanwhile from France. Indeed, they had already begun to appear. On Thursday, the eighteenth, heavy cannonading was heard far out at sea, and again on Friday “the cannon,” says Pomeroy, “fired at a great rate till about 2 of the clock.” It was the provincial cruisers attacking a French frigate, the “Renommée,” of thirty-six guns. As their united force was too much for her, she kept up a running fight, outsailed them, and escaped after a chase of more than thirty hours, being, as Pomeroy quaintly