On May 19, 1697, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville was resting at Placentia Harbor, Newfoundland. Iberville and his men had marched across the Avalon Peninsula the preceding November, through swamps and icy waters to rendezvous with another French force under Governor Brouillon, who was jealous of Iberville. In fact, after they met at Ferryland, Brouillon and Iberville drew swords because the French Governor went back on an agreement he had made about division of the spoils. The fight was prevented but Iberville lost the argument and had to give Brouillon a bigger share.
They besieged St. John’s on November 26 but it was bravely defended by Governor Miners who tried to hang on because he knew reinforcements were coming from Britain. Iberville knew it too and devised a trick (or what would be called a propaganda move today) to make Miners give in.
Sorry, but this paragraph may be too graphic for some readers; just this paragraph though. He captured a settler, William Drew, and had the Native Indians cut all around his scalp and then strip the skin from the forehead to the crown.
He then sent Drew into St. John’s with a message to Miners saying that unless St. John’s was surrendered immediately, all its inhabitants would get the same treatment. Miners gave in.
There was a good deal more fighting and devastation elsewhere, but by May 19 Iberville had returned to Placentia. Now he planned to rest his troops, capture the rest of Newfoundland and then organize a campaign to drive the English from the New England states. He was going to capture Boston and perhaps even New York!
Iberville’s hopes and plans were dashed on May 19, when five ships of war sailed into Placentia Harbor. His brother Joseph de Sérigny was on board one of them, bringing a message from King Louis XIV. Iberville was to give up the Newfoundland campaign and once again drive the English from Hudson Bay. The tragedy from his point of view was that the Newfoundland campaign had been a waste and the plan to capture Boston would never be carried out.
If you would like to continue and learn a bit more about today’s post, I have a few places to recommend. There’s KnowLA, the encyclopedia of Louisiana history and culture, which has so many wonderful articles; then there is the History of the City of D’Iberville; and finally there is Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d’Iberville and the Establishment of Biloxi.