The British Then Played Another Crafty Trick!

English: Map of Cape Breton-Canso
Map of Cape Breton-Canso (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Louisburg had always been a threat to the New England colonies.  After Governor Shirley of Massachusetts received information that it was not as strong as was supposed (See my March 24 post, He Made Him Eat What?), he decided to take action.

Shirley managed to raise a force of 3,000 men in New England.  They were mere amateurs, farmers who walked to Boston in their working clothes, carrying their own muskets.  William Pepperell, a militia colonel from Maine, was placed in command.  His only experience had been fighting the French and Indians along the border.  Nevertheless, it was an enthusiastic force that sailed from Nantucket on March 24, 1745; destination Canso.  Its motto had been supplied by a famous preacher, George Whitefield: “No despair while Christ leads.”

At Canso, New Englanders were joined by a British naval squadron from the West Indies under Commodore Warren.  This was a stroke of good fortune, because there were powerful French warships at Louisburg and they could have blown Pepperell’s small ships out of the water.

a landing was made west of Louisburg on April 30.  The troops had to wade through icy water and then drag their cannon into place through a jungle of boulders and marshland.  They kept up a bombardment of Louisburg until June 17.  During the six weeks of siege there were a number of hard-fought engagements.  The knock out punch came on the night of June 16, a joint operation by Pepperell’s and Warren’s forces.  Louisburg surrendered on June 17, 1745.

The British then played another crafty trick.  They kept the French flags flying over the fortress for several weeks.  During this time they captured twenty French ships that sailed into the harbour unsuspectingly.  The value of their cargoes ran into millions of dollars.  Under British navy regulations, half of this went to the Crown, while the other half was divided among the officers and men of the fleet.  Every sailor received about 25 guineas, which was the equivalent of about $125 today!  The poor New England soldiers were not entitled to any of this booty.  There would have been a mutiny if they had not been promised a raise in pay and land in Cape Breton.

To learn more about this, I suggest visiting Waymarking, and Historic New England, and then Great Lives In History (an interesting blog!). Then if you still want to read more, perhaps you’d like Wikipedia.

17 comments

      • It can be extremely difficult to get even a close approximation to what something was worth in the distant past compared to today, so I know how tough it is. One real loose rule of thumb I’ve used is to multiply anything from around 1900 by 100 and anything from 1800 by about 500. I know it’s imprecise but it at least gives me a ballpark idea.

        There’s nothing worse than reading a history book and coming across foreign currency, often obsolete, with no attempt at conversion. It makes the figure almost useless.

        Call me ignorant, but I just can’t calculate “1,000 sous” in today’s money off the top of my head. 😉

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        • I know!!! I’m writing a paper on the Russian-American Company, and in the English translations of Russian scholarly texts they’ve left the Russian words for units of measurement and weight, so I have NO idea what they’re actually talking about. How much does a ‘pud’ weigh, anyway? And what does “…the capital of the company, which on 1 January 1800 was 2,634,356 rubles 57 ¾ kopeks, consisting of 724 shares each valued at 3,638 rubles 61 ¼ kopeks…” mean anyway? And how hard would it have been to put in a footnote about it? I’m an English major, not a calculator… 😛

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