Scurvy? Not a Problem!

English: The Pelican
The Pelican (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

France won her greatest naval victory against Britain on September 5, 1697, in an action fought off Hayes River, Hudson Bay.

At dawn of September 5, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, who had been ordered by Louis XIV to clear the English out of Hudson Bay, saw three British ships tacking towards his anchorage in Hayes River.  He had no wish to be left without room to manoeuvre so he put out to sea at once, leaving some of his men on shore.  Many of his crew were ill below decks, suffering from scurvy.  Only 150 men were left to man the Pelican‘s guns and sails.  The three British ships, Hampshire, Deering and Hudson’s Bay, had 124 guns and 600 men between them.  Iberville had only 44 guns and 150 men.  The odds seemed hopeless, but Iberville decided to fight.

The three British ships sailed towards him in battle formation, with the mighty Hampshire in the lead.  Iberville pretended that he was trying to board the Hampshire, which veered off.  Then he blasted the Deering and shot off her mainsails.  Another fast manoeuvre enabled him to hit the Hudson’s Bay.

The Hampshire, commanded by Captain Fletcher, poured heavy fire into the Pelican.  There were many casualties on board.  The battle continued for three hours, with Iberville preventing Fletcher from getting within range to take advantage of superior gun and manpower.  Fletcher became impatient, and sailed close enough to shout to Iberville to surrender.  In the way of the time, Fletcher called for wine and held up a glass in a toast to his valiant enemy.  Iberville did the same on the bridge of the Pelican.  As the Hampshire came round for the kill, it heeled over in a sudden gust of wind.  Iberville then poured in a broadside that gashed the Hampshire‘s side, and it sank quickly, with Captain Fletcher going down with his ships.   The Hudson’s Bay and Deering, both damaged, got away.  The Pelican, also badly damaged, went aground on a shoal.  Nevertheless, it was a great naval victory for Iberville.

To read some more about today’s post, I would suggest visiting the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and then after that the Catholic Encyclopedia, and the Canadian Encyclopedia. If you still want to read more, then I would further recommend the Chaffe/Chaffey/Chafe/Chaffee Family Home Website.


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