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War Again Sends British Troops Into Acadian Lands

England and France went back to war in 1701, and once again the backwash hit their American colonies.

The new war was called the War of Spanish Succession in Europe and Queen Anne's War in North America. It was fought to decide who would be given the Spanish throne after the death of King Carlos II. None of the European issues had any bearing on life in North America, but it was another opportunity for New England to grab the rich Acadian peninsula.

In 1701, Jacques de Brouillan, who was then governor in Acadia, tried in vain to negotiate neutrality with the Americans, but Joseph Dudley, the new English governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, had other ideas. His troops struck in 1702 at Penobscot, but were driven back. Over the next several years, Acadians and some of their Indian allies retaliated, hitting village after village as far south as Portland, Maine. At the same time, troops from Quebec attacked New England, striking at Deerfield, Connecticut, where 200 British were killed or taken prisoner during the night of February 26, 1704.

In May 1704, three British warships, four transports, and 36 other ships, loaded with 1,300 men, headed for Acadia under the command of Colonel Benjamin Church, who had successfully raided the Beaubassin area of the Acadian peninsula in 1696. He had orders from Governor Dudley to burn every home in Acadia, smash all of the dikes protecting recovered lands, and to haul off everything and everyone he could.

Church took Penobscot easily and killed or imprisoned everyone there. He then moved to Passamoquoddy Bay, at the mouth of the Saint Croix River, and looted and destroyed everything there. He arrived at Port Royal on July 2, 1704, but had to retreat three days later because of the stiff Acadian resistance. He did burn a number of homes and took 30 prisoners.

At Grand Pré, the Acadians fled into the woods after smashing their dikes to flood the low-lying shore and make it impossible for Church to unload his troops. At Beaubassin, British troops went ashore during a heavy fog on July 28. They burned about 20 houses and killed all of the livestock they found, and returned to New England.

The British struck again at Port Royal on June 6, 1707. More than 1,000 men were aboard the British ships sent from Boston. According to Charles Mahaffie, "In terms of numbers and guns, they were a mighty army. Their problem was that they did not know what they were doing. They were laborers, fishermen, and mechanics, led by officers as unprepared as their men. The generalissimo was Colonel John March, a militia officer who had seen frontier service and whose courage was undoubted, but who knew little about warfare of cannonade and siege and nothing about commanding big forces. His counterpart on the French side, in contrast, was a capable professional, an experienced soldier named Daniel d'Auger de Subercase."

Subercase was the latest royal governor sent to Acadia and, finally, perhaps as much by luck as by planning, this successor to Brouillan was the right man in the right place at the right time. After a 10-day siege, March ordered his men back to their ships, leaving behind about 100 dead and as many wounded. He withdrew to Portland, Maine, where Governor Dudley sent him reinforcements with orders to try again.

When March did not move quickly enough, Dudley replaced him with Colonel Francis Wainright. On August 20, 1707, some 2,000 men and about 20 ships stood off Port Royal. Once again, Subercase was ready for them.

The Acadians, who were warned of the approaching fleet by friendly Indians, had dug in for defense. The British withdrew after a 16-day siege and heavy losses. On the night of September 4, they pulled out for Massachusetts, going home to an angry reception from citizens who feared the French and wanted them killed, captured, and shipped someplace else.

But, if the Acadians could not be dislodged by land attacks, there were other ways to accomplish the goal. The British controlled the Atlantic and guarded the coast of North America so closely that Acadia was cut off from France. Besieged as they were, the Acadians could not farm or hunt, and had to be supplied by the mother country.

The handful of French soldiers defending Acadia were hungry and tired of war on Monday, October 6, 1710, when ships from New England returned to the Annapolis Basin, this time under the command of Francis Nicholson, and under the eye of Samuel Vetch, an ambitious Scotsman who had a promise of governorship of Canada if he could take it from the French. Vetch had put together the attacking force and made Nicholson its commander in chief.

This time, the siege lasted a week, but Subercase did not have the men or material he needed. On Saturday, October 11, Subercase wrote to Nicholson, "I now write to you to tell you, Sir, that for to (sic) prevent the spilling of both English and French Blood, I am ready to hold up both hands for a Capitulation that will be honorable to both of us."

The final articles of surrender were signed on October 13, 1710. They decreed, among other things, that inhabitants of Port Royal "within cannon shot of the fort...shall remain upon their estates, with their corn, cattle, and furniture...they taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain."

The banner of France was raised for the last time at Port Royal at sunrise on Thursday, October 16, 1710. Midway through the morning, French officials and soldiers and their families, 258 people, paraded from the little fort, boarded British ships, and sailed for home. As they left, British and American troops and officers marched into the fort, hoisted the Union Jack, toasted Queen Anne, and gave the town her name. It has been Annapolis Royal since then.

In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of Spanish Succession in Europe. It ceded Acadia and Newfoundland to Great Britain. This time it stayed in British hands.

According to the language of the treaty, "...all Nova Scotia or Acadia, with its ancient Boundaries; as also the City of Port Royal, now called Annapolis Royal, and all other things in those Parts, which depend on the said Lands and Islands; together with the Dominion, Propriety, and Possession of the said Islands, Lands, and Places; and all Right whatsoever, by Treaties, or by any other way obtained, which the most Christian King, the Crown of France, or any of the Subjects thereof, have hitherto had to the said Islands, Lands, and Places, and the Inhabitants of the same, are yielded and made over to the Queen of Great Britain and to her Crown for ever."