Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
August 25, 1892
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
XXXI CHURCHS EXPEDITION AT PASSAMAQUODDY.
[Col. Churchs Letter, with Introduction and Notes by W. F. Ganong, M. A.]
In the year 1703, the Acadian Indians, urged on, and, in some cases, led by the French, had been committing terrible ravages against the English settlements in Maine and Massachusetts. This aroused the English, and an expedition was sent to Acadia to take vengeance upon both Indians and French, and to so break their power as to stop similar attacks for the future. Colonel Benjamin Church, who had led other similar expeditions, and who had ravaged the French settlements at the head of the Bay of Fundy, was, by his own request, put in command. Provided with an ample force1 of English and Massachusetts Indians, he left Piscataqua, (Portsmouth, N. H.,) in June, 1704, and after making some captures and killing some of the enemy on the way, he reached Passamaquoddy on the 7th. What followed can best be told in his own words.2 Both the letter and the narrative following were written by Church himself.
May it please your Excellency,
I Received Yours of this Instant Octob. 9th with the two inclosed Informations, that concern my actions at Passamequado; which I will give a just and true account of as near as possible I can (viz) on the 7th of June last 1704, In the evening we entred in at the Westward Harbour3 at said Passamequado; coming up said Harbour to an Island,4 where landing, we came to a French house, and took a French woman, and children, the woman upon her examination said, her Husband was abroad a Fishing. I askd her, whither there were any Indians thereabouts? She said, Yes, There were a great many, and several on that Island. I askd her, whither she could pilot me to them? Said, No. They hid in the Woods. I askd her, when she saw them? Answered, Just now or a little while since. I askd her, whether she knew where they had laid their Canoos? Answered, No. They carried their Canoos into the woods with them. We then hastened away along shore, seizing what Prisoners we could, taking old Lotriel and his Family. This intelligence causd me to leave Col. Gorham, and a considerable part of my Men (and Boats) with him at that Island, partly to guard and secure those Prisoners, being sensible it would be a great trouble to have them to secure and guard at our next landing, where I did really expect and hope to have an opportunity, to fight our Indian Enemies; for all our French Prisoners, that we had taken at Penobscot, and a-long shore had informed us, That when we came to the Place where these Canada Gentlemen lived, we should certainly meet with the Salvages [sic] to fight us, those being the only Men5 that set the Indians against us, or upon us, and were newly come from Canada to manage the War against us (pleading in this account and information their own Innocency) and partly in hopes that he the said Col. Gorham would have a good opportunity in the morning to destroy some of those Enemies, (we were informed by the said French Woman as above,) with the use of his Boats, as I had given direction. Ordering also Maj. Hilton, to pass over to the next Island, that lay East of us,6 (with a small Party of men and Boats) to surprise and destroy any of the Enemy, that in their Canoos might go here or there, from any place, to make their flight from us, and as he had opportunity to take any French Prisoners. We then immediately moved up the River in the dark Night, thro great difficulty, by reason of the Eddys and Whirlpools, made with the fierceness of the current.7 And here it may be hinted that we had information that Lotriel had lost some of his Family passing over to the next Island, falling into one of these Eddys were drowned; which the two Pilots told to discourage me. But I said nothing of that nature shall do it; for I was resolved to venture up, and therefore forthwith Paddling our Boats, as privately as we could, and with as much Expedition as we could make with our Paddles, and the help of a strong Tide, we came up to Monsieur Gourdans,8 a little before day; where taking notice of the shoar, and finding it somewhat open and clear, I ordered Capt. Mirick and Capt. Cole, having English companies) to tarry with several of the Boats to be ready that if any of the Enemy should come down out of the brush into the Bay, (it being very broad in that place) with their Canoos they might take and destroy them. Ordering the remainder of the Army, being landed, (with myself and the other Officers) to march up into the Woods, with a wide Front, and to keep at a considerable distance; for that if they should run in heaps, the Enemy would have the greater advantage; and further directing them that if possible, they should destroy the Enemy with their Hatchets, and not fire a Gun. This order I alwayes gave at landing, telling them the inconveniency of firing, in that it might be first dangerous to themselves, they being many of them Young Souldiers, (as I had sometimes observed, that one or two Guns being fired, many others would fire, at they knew not what; as happened presently after) and it would alarm the Enemy, and give them the opportunity to make their escape; and it might alarm the whole country, and also prevent all further action from taking effect. Orders being thus passed, we moved directly towards the Woods, Le Favers9 son directing us to a little Hutt or Wigwam, which we immediately surrounded with a few men, the rest marching directly up into the Woods, to see what Wigwams or Hutts they could discover; myself made a little stop, Ordering the Pilot to tell them in the Hutt, that they were surrounded with an Army and that if they would come forth, and surrender themselves, they should have good quarter, but if not, they should all be knockd on the head and die: One of them showed himself. I askd, who he was? He said Gourdan; and begged for quarter: I told him he should have good quarter; adding further, That if there were any more in the house they should come out: Then came out two men; Gourdan said, They were his Sons, and asked quarter for them, which was also granted. Then came out a Woman, and a little Boy; she fell upon her knees, beggd quarter for herself and children, and that I would not suffer the Indians to kill them. I told them they should have good quarter and not be hurt. After which I ordered a small guard over them, and so movd presently up with the rest of my Company, after them that were gone before, but looking on my right hand over a little run, I saw something look black, just by me, stopped, and heard a talking, stepped over, and saw a little Hutt or Wigwam with a crowd of People round about it, which was contrary to my former directions: Askd them what they were doing? They replyd there was some of the Enemy in a house, and would not come out. I askd what house? They said a Bark house. I hastily bid them pull it down, and knock them on the head never asking whether they were French or Indians; they being all Enemies alike to me.10 And passing then to them, and seeing them in great disorder, so many of the Army in a crowd together, acting so contrary to my Command & Direction, exposing themselves, and the whole Army to utter ruine, by their so disorderly crowding thick together; had an Enemy come upon them in that interim, and fired a Volley amongst them, they could not have miss'd a shot; and wholly neglecting their duty, in not attending my orders, in searching diligently for our lurking Enemies in their Wigwams, or by their fires, where I had great hopes, and real expectations to meet with them. I most certainly know that I was in an exceeding great Passion, but not with those poor miserable Enemies; for I took no notice of half a dozen of the Enemy, when at the same time, I expected to be engaged with some hundreds of them, of whom we had a continued account who were expected from Port Royal side. In this heat of action, every word that I then spoke I cannot give an account of, and I presume it is impossible.11 I stopd but little here, but went directly up into the woods, hoping to be better employed, with the rest of the Army, I listened to hear, and looked earnestly to see what might be the next action; but meeting with many of the souldiers, They told me they had discovered nothing; we fetching a small compass round, came down again. It being pretty dark, I took notice, I saw two men lay dead as I thought, at the end of the house, where the door was, and immediately the Guns went off, and they fired every man as I thought, and most towards that place where I left the guard with Monsieur Gourdan. I had much ado to stop them firing, and told them, I thought they were mad, and I believed they had not killed and wounded less than 40 or 50 of our own Men. And I asked them what they shot at? They answered at a French man that ran away: but to admiration no man was killd, but he, & one of our own men wounded in the Leg; and I turning about, a French man spoke to me, and I gave him quarter. Daylight coming on and no discovery made of the Enemy, I went to the place where I had left Monsieur Gourdan, to examine him, and his Sons, who agreed in their examinations; told me two of their men were abroad: It provd a damage; and further told me, That Monsieur Sharkee lived several Leagues up at the head of the River, at the Falls,12 and all the Indians were fishing, and tending their corn there; and that Monsieur Sharkee had sent down to him, to come up to him to advise about the Indian Army, that was to go Westward but he had returned him answer, his business was urgent, and he could not come up: and that Sharkee, and the Indians, would certainly be down that day, or the next at the furthest, to come to conclude of that matter. This was a short Nights action, and all sensible men do well know, that actions done in the dark (being in the Night as aforesaid) under so many difficulties, as we then laboured under, as before related, was a very hard Task for one Man, matters being circumstancd as in this action; which would not admit of calling a Council; and at that time could not be confind there-unto; at which time I was transported above fear or any sort of dread; yet being sensible of the danger in my Armies crowding so thick together, and of the great duty incumbent on me to preserve them from all the danger I possibly could, for further improvement, in the Destruction of our implacable Enemies; am ready to conclude, that I was very quick & absolute in giving such Commands & Orders, as I then apprehended most proper and advantagious. And had it not been for the Intelligence I had received from the French we took at Penobscot, as before hinted, and the false report the French Woman (first took) gave me, I had not been in such haste. I question not but those French men that were slain, had the same good quarter of other Prisoners. But I ever lookd at it a good Providence of Almighty God, that some few of our cruel & bloody Enemies, were made sensible of their bloody Cruelties, perpetrated on my dear & loving friends and Countrymen; and that the same measure (in part) meted to them, as they had been guilty of in a barbarous manner at Deerfield, & I hope justly. I hope God Almighty will accept hereof, altho it may not be elegible to our French implacable Enemies, and such others as are not our friends. The fore-going Journal and this short annexment, I thought my duty to exhibit, for the satisfaction of my Friends & Country-men, whom I very faithfully & willingly served in the late Expedition; and I hope will find acceptance with your Excellency, the Honorable Council & Representatives now assembled, as being done from the zeal I had in the Service of Her Majesty, and her good Subjects here.
I remain your most humble
& obedient Servant
1I. e., 550 soldiers, 14 transports, 36 whale boats and 3 armed vessels.
2From Dexters edition of Churchs Eastern Expeditions, 1867, vol. ii., pp. 108 et seq. (The notes of Dexters edition are omitted, those herein given being by Mr. W. F. Ganong.)
3I. e., the entrance between Lubec and Campobello.
4This may have been Moose Island, but aside from the fact that Church was not at all likely to know Moose Island was an Island, the reference to capturing Lotriel and his family on what was clearly the same Island, would make it seem more probable that it was Indian Island. Lotriel is believed to have lived on the latter, which for a time was known by the name of Luttrells Island, or even as LAterail Island, as old maps show. The correct form of the name is probably La Treille, or Latreille.
5The distinction between the Acadian settlers and the Canadian French here comes out very clearly and is of much interest. In all probability Gourdan and Lotriel were the Canada gentlemen. Sharkee, on the other hand, was almost certainly the Chartier to whom we have already given attention as a grantee of land in this region, and he is known to have been an Acadian.
6Campobello, if the first mentioned was Indian Island, as in all probability it was; if the first mentioned was Moose Island, this would be Indian Island.
7The whirlpools at the foot of Deer Island-noted as the worst on the Atlantic coast of the United States.
8This was very probably at or near St. Andrews. The reference to the width of the bay, immediately following, would confirm this. It is greatly to be regretted that we have no further account of Gourdan, and we do not know whether he had a grant here or was simply a temporary resident.
9The correct form of this name was Lefebvre. He was captured with his father and brothers, by Church, near Penobscot, near which place the father held a tract of land granted from Quebec.
10In extenuation of Churchs apparently excessive cruelty, it must be remembered that he was momentarily expecting attack by a large force. He was exceedingly annoyed by the disobedience of his orders by his own men, which would also lead him to be hasty.
11Church is here defending himself in advance against charges of needless cruelty which he seems to have known would be and which actually were made against him.
12This would be at St. Stephen or Milltown.
This statement of Gourdans makes it look as if
Sharkees grant had been not at St. Andrews, but at St.
Stephen. The statement in the grant itself, that
Chartiers land was to border on St. Aubins, would
seem to place it much lower on the river-but the geographical
knowledge of that time was poor.