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Siege of Saint John (1745) – d'Aulnay defeats La Tour in Acadia

The Acadian Civil War (1640-1645) was fought between competing governors of the French province of Acadia. Governor Charles de Saint-Étienne de la Tour (a Protestant) had been granted one area of territory by King Louis XIV, and Charles de Menou d'Aulnay (a Catholic) had been granted another area. The divisions made by the king were geographically uninformed, and the two territories and their administrative centers overlapped. The conflict was intensified by personal animosity between the two governors, and came to an end when d'Aulnay successfully expelled la Tour from his holdings. D'Aulnay's success was effectively overturned after his death when la Tour married D'Aulnay's widow in 1653.

Historical context[edit | edit source]

In 1635, Governor of Acadia Charles de Menou d'Aulnay de Charnisay moved settlers from present-day LaHave, Nova Scotia to Port-Royal (present day Annapolis Royal), and the Acadian people began to establish their roots. Under d'Aulnay, the Acadians built the first dykes in North America and cultivated the reclaimed salt marshes.[1]

During this time, Acadia was plunged into what some historians have described as a civil war; the two main centres were Port-Royal (present day Annapolis Royal), where d'Aulnay was stationed, and present-day Saint John, New Brunswick, where Charles de Saint-Étienne de la Tour was stationed.[2]

The strategic location at the mouth of the St. John River was fortified by Charles de la Tour in 1631. The fort was named Fort Sainte Marie (AKA Fort La Tour) and was located on the east side of the river. To the west of the St. John River, Fort Saint-Jean was later built (c. 1790).[3]

Both La Tour and d'Aulnay had claims of some legitimacy to the governorship of Acadia because the French Imperial officials made their appointments with an incomplete understanding of the geography of the area. LaTour had a fortified settlement at the mouth of the Saint John River while d'Aulnay's base was at Port Royal some 45 miles across the Bay of Fundy. In adjoining New England, the people supported LaTour's claim since he allowed them to fish and lumber in and along the Bay of Fundy without let or hindrance while d'Aulnay aggressively sought payment for that right. Word came to LaTour that d'Aulnay was concentrating men and materials for an attack on LaTour's fort and fur-trading operation at the mouth of the Saint John River. La Tour went to Boston to ask John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts Bay colony, for help. Winthrop arranged for several merchants to advance loans unofficially to La Tour for his purchase of men and material to defend the Saint John River fort from d'Aulnay's attack.

War[edit | edit source]

Battle of Port Royal (1640)[edit | edit source]

La Tour arrived from present-day Saint John, and attacked Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal) with two armed ships. D'Aulnay's captain was killed and La Tour and his men were taken prisoner.[4] In response to the attack, d'Aulnay sailed out of Port-Royal to establish a blockade of La Tour's fort at present-day Saint John.

Blockade of St. John (1642)[edit | edit source]

Charles de Menou d'Aulnay (19th century portrait, probably a copy of a 1642 portrait)

For five months, the Governor of Acadia d'Aulnay, who was stationed at Port Royal, created a blockade of the river to defeat La Tour at his fort.[5] On 14 July 1643, La Tour arrived from Boston with four ships and a complement of 270 men to repossess Fort Sainte-Marie. After this victory, La Tour went on to attack d'Aulnay at Port Royal, Nova Scotia.[6] LaTour was unsuccessful then in catching d'Aulnay and the rivalry continued for several more years.

Battle of Penobscot (1643)[edit | edit source]

d'Aulnay was stationed at Penobscot (present-day Castine, Maine). La Tour attacked in July with 140 men on four ships. Several on both sides were killed in the action.[7]

Battle of Port Royal (1643)[edit | edit source]

In 1643, La Tour tried to capture Port-Royal again. La Tour arrived at Saint John from Boston with a fleet a five armed vessels and 270 men and broke the blockade. La Tour then chased d'Aulnay's vessels back across the Bay of Fundy to Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal). D'Aulnay resisted the attack, and seven of his men were wounded and three killed. La Tour did not attack the fort, which was defended by twenty soldiers. La Tour burned the mill, killed the livestock and seized furs, gunpowder and other supplies.[8]

Siege of St. John (1645)[edit | edit source]

While La Tour was in Boston, on Easter Sunday 13 April 1645, d'Aulnay sailed across the Bay of Fundy and arrived at La Tour's fort with a force of two hundred men.[9] La Tour's soldiers were led by his wife, Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, who became known as the Lioness of LaTour for her valiant defence of the fort. After a five-day battle, on 18 April, d'Aulnay offered quarter to all if Francoise-Marie were to surrender the fort. On that basis, knowing she was badly outnumbered, she capitulated and d'Aulnay had captured La Tour's Fort Stainte-Marie. D'Aulnay then reneged on his pledge of safety for the defenders and treacherously hanged the La Tour garrison while Madame de la Tour was forced to watch with a rope around her neck. Three weeks later, while still in d'Aulnay's hands, she died.[10] With the death of his wife and the loss of his fort, La Tour did not return to Acadia for the next four years, until after d'Aulnay died in 1650.[9]

Afterward[edit | edit source]

After defeating La Tour at Saint John, from the capital Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal), d'Aulnay administered posts at LaHave, Nova Scotia; Pentagouet (Castine, Maine); Canso, Nova Scotia; Cap Sable (Port La Tour, Nova Scotia); the Saint John River (Bay of Fundy) and Miscou Island.[11] He died in 1650, opening the governorship of Acadia, and prompting La Tour to return. He married d'Aulnay's widow in 1653, ending the rivalry. The couple had five children, and hundreds of their descendants live in the Canadian Maritimes today.[12]

Four years later, Colonel Robert Sedgwick led one hundred New England volunteers and two hundred of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers to capture Port Royal, Nova Scotia. Prior to the battle, Sedgewick captured and plundered La Tour's fort on the St. John River and took him prisoner.[13]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605-1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. ix
  2. M. A. MacDonald, Fortune & La Tour: The civil war in Acadia, Toronto: Methuen. 1983
  3. Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605–1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. 14
  4. Brenda Dunn, p. 19
  5. Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605–1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. 19
  6. Griffiths, E. From Migrant to Acadian. McGill-Queen's University Press. 2005. p.60
  7. http://books.google.ca/books?id=2cc1AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=intitle:The+intitle:History+intitle:of+intitle:the+intitle:State+intitle:of+intitle:Maine+inauthor:Williamson&lr=&as_brr=0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=la%20tour&f=false
  8. Faragher, John Mack, A Great and Noble Scheme, New York; W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. p. 54
  9. 9.0 9.1 Griffiths, E. From Migrant to Acadian. McGill-Queen's University Press. 2005. p. 61
  10. Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605–1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. 20
  11. Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605-1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. 20
  12. The Lioness of Acadia - by Susan Poizner The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine Feb/Mar 07 http://www.susanpoizner.com/articles/lioness.htm
  13. Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605–1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. 23

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