Two cities in Canada share the distinction of being real “war veterans”: St. John’s, and Quebec. They have been bombarded, besieged and bothered more than any others. Quebec was captured only twice, by the Kirke brothers in 1629 when Champlain was out of supplies, and by Wolfe in 1759. It withstood heavy attacks by General Lévis in 1760, and by the Americans under Arnold and Montgomery in 1775. There was also an attack by a British force from New England in 1690, but Governor Frontenac repulsed it easily.
St. John’s was raided by the Dutch, but the worst attacks were by the French, who had a base in Placentia. Iberville took it in 1696 (see my May 19 post: Iberville is Ordered to Hudson Bay ) and destroyed the fort and settlement. The French attacked again under Subercase in 1705 and under St. Ovide de Brouillion in 1708. Once again St. John’s was destroyed.
The last attack by the French was in 1762 when St. John’s was captured by d’Haussonville. This was a tactical move. France knew that the Seven Years’ War was ending, and felt that by capturing Newfoundland it would be in a better position to bargain at the peace table. D’Haussonville was sent from France with four ships which eluded British warships outside Brest in a thick fog. He reached the Bay of Bulls on June 24, and then marched to St. John’s, which he captured.
The British struck back as soon as possible. Colonel William Amherst was sent from New York, and a fleet under Lord Colville sailed from Britain to deal with the four French warships at St. John’s. The French position was strong but Amherst captured it easily after a three-day march from Torbay. The attack amounted to a series of letters. Amherst wrote to d’Haussonville urging him to surrender. D’Haussonville replied that he would not surrender until he had no more powder to fire. Amherst replied that if d’Haussonville blew up the fort when he left it, every man in the garrison would be put to the sword. After another exchange of letters, Amherst wrote: “I don’t thirst after the blood of the garrison, but you must determine quickly or expect the consequences.” D’Haussonville then surrendered quietly on September 18, 1762.