d’Iberville 3

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We left the Canadian adventurer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville in France getting ready for the 1692 season of war against the English in New France.  It was not to be.  The two ships he was given were required to escort a supply convoy to New France and arrived in Quebec too late to make the voyage to Hudson Bay before ice would set in.  The same thing happened in 1693.  Finally, in 1694, Pierre was appointed commander of an expedition force to remove the British from York Fort in Hudson’s Bay; his life long goal.

Setting sail from La Rochelle, the shrewd 36 year old agrees to pay the crew’s wages and cover their supplies.  In exchange, the French crown provides the vessels and military supplies and grants Iberville a monopoly of trade in Hudson’s Bay until 1697.  The directors of the Compagnie du Nord are outraged at these generous terms afforded Pierre.  However, they had not contributed adequate resources leading to previous failure, feels Pierre. He agrees to share all booty and profits with his men.

Hudsons Bay BattleArriving at the mouth of the Hayes River on Sept 24, he lands a party to reconnoitre York Fort and begins preparation for a long winter siege.  In October, he summons the English to surrender and surprisingly, they do. Though well supplied with men, heavy cannon, food, and trade goods, governor Thomas Walsh had neglected to lay in firewood, ignoring earlier warnings of an impending French attack.  That winter, there was much hardship and scurvy takes the lives of many Englishmen, French sailors and Canadians too.  In the late spring of 1695, York Fort, now renamed Fort Bourbon, is left in charge of the French and Iberville returns to France.  During his campaign there, the Indians had brought 450 canoe loads of rich pelts to trade.

Iberville had finally captured the Hudson Bay Company’s most lucrative station and his own star shone more brightly than ever.  He sets his sights on further adventure.  In 1696 Iberville sets out from France with 3 vessels to attack English stations along the Atlantic coast from the New England – Acadia boundary north to St John’s Newfoundland.  Iberville quickly routes 2 defensive frigates at the mouth of the St John River.  He then besieged Fort William Henry, 200 miles west of St John with 25 regulars from Acadia and 240 Abenakis.  The English fort capitulated as soon as the French set up their batteries on Aug 15.

NewfoundlandIberville than sailed to Placentia (Plaisance), the French capital of Newfoundland, determined to route the English from the island.  It is to be one of his most daring, ingenious and cruelest campaigns ever.  Iberville marches his men across the Avalon Peninsula (this had never been done before by a military force) and proceeds to attack station after station, killing, looting and utterly destroying the fishing settlements of the English.  There is an excellent detailed story of his campaign worth a read here.  It is truly a gruesome result.  36 settlements are destroyed, 200 persons are killed, 700 are taken prisoner.  Thousands of pounds of cod are taken and marketed by Iberville and others.   It was not to be for long though as immediately following his departure, an English squadron and 2000 troops land in St John’s to induce the survivors to return and rebuild their settlements.


Le Pélican 2

Meanwhile, the English have reestablished themselves in Hudson’s Bay.  Iberville joins a squadron from France heading there led by his brother Serigny.  Iberville’s lead ship, the Pelican with 44 guns, becomes separated from the others in the fog.  He is attacked by 3 English war ships – the Hampshire 56 guns, the Dering 36 guns and the Hudson’s Bay 32 guns.  Iberville engages in a duel, carries out brilliant naval manoeuvres and sinks the Hampshire.  The Hudson’s Bay is captured and sinks.  Iberville’s vessel the Pelican is severely damaged and abandoned.  His men regroup in a camp near York Fort and the next day the 3 remaining French vessels arrive.  After 5 days of light skirmishing, York Fort is surrendered to the French for a second time.  This had been Iberville’s swiftest and most brilliant campaign.

Iberville managed to have his monopoly at Fort Bourbon extended to 1699.  Returning to France in 1697, the hero of Hudson Bay was about to be drawn into an entirely new theatre of adventure: Louisiana, which was henceforth to play an important role in France’s revised imperial designs.  Conclusion of this riveting Canadian history will follow next time.

(Source material http://www.biographi.ca/)








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