johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A Proposal for an Attack on Nova Scotia

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A Proposal for an Attack on Nova Scotia

Following is a plan attributed to John Allan, for the invasion of Nova Scotia during the American Revolution. Allan was from Cumberland, N.S., and his revolutionary activity on the Saint John River is reviewed in another posting in this blog. His plan was never carried out in full, though the British fort at Cumberland was attacked unsuccessfully.

Had this invasion been approved then it might well have been successful. The threat from British troops at Halifax would have been eliminated and the Americans would have gained a base for blockading the Saint Lawrence River.

Many Nova Scotians sympathised with the Americans in the Revolution, and many others were prepared at least to be pragmatic about it. John Brebner’s The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia covers this period.

Spelling is as found, and the document is from the Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society for the Years 1879-80, Volume 2, Halifax, 1881.

Halifax 1750

A View of Halifax, ca. 1750

Map by Thomas Jefferys, from Wikipedia

  • — — — — — — — — — —

Some proposals for an attack on Nova Scotia, with some other observations respecting the province, laid before the Honorable Council of the Massachusetts State.

Three thousand men with provisions and ammunition, cannon for the siege of Fort Cumberland, eight armed schooners and sloops for the expedition.

Fifteen hundred men to proceed up the Basin of Menas, 500 of which to go on to settlements at the head of Cobequide Bay, in order to take the road that way for Halifax; 750 go on to the Landing at Windsor, or up the river St. Croix; 150 of which to invest Fort Edward, at Windsor, the others to proceed for Halifax, which with that party by Cobequide, will join within about 14 miles from Halifax. Fifty men to be left at Partridge Island to secure that ferry. Two thousand to land near the town of Cornwallis, in order to march through the settlements to secure the disaffected, then to join those left at Windsor, there to make necessary preparations for a retreat, or succor those gone to Halifax. By this operation all the avenues to the Capital by land will be shut up from the country. Various may be the methods for entering the town, what may be best will be judged of, when on the spot, though I cannot perceive any obstacle in immediately entering the town, and in order to make the matter more sure and less dangerous could two or three armed vessels, with a number of men lye in some adjacent harbor to Halifax, and an intelligence could be easily communicated for them to run into the N.W. Arm, which runs on the Coast of Halifax, it must put them into such hurry and confusion that the town might be carried with very little trouble. Should it so happen that our people could not take possession of the town by reason of any fortification on the road, or otherwise deterred, the town and naval yard might be easily destroyed. As to the latter, there is no fortification, seaward, it has been generally conjectured that an enemy would attack it by sea, and there being a necessity of keeping clear for the reason of heaving down ships. Their only strength is the shipping which lies abreast of it, and seldom above one. In this situation a number of men might very easily, in the night, land from boats, and should an alarm be given, the men-of-war dare not fire as their men would be as much exposed as the others.

Should it not be practicable to get in with the army, or even destroy it as before mentioned, the dividing this part of the country from Halifax must soon bring them to conditions, as their whole dependence for necessaries is from this part. Even a small measure of this kind would be of great service to distress the enemy, for a short stagnation of business will for some time after be severely felt. After matters were done there, they might easy retreat to Cumberland, if thought most expedient, as also any familys who might be suspicious or afraid of difficulty from the king’s troops.

The rest of the troops I would have proceed up Chegneito Bay to the River Memramcook. I doubt not but Fort Cumberland could be easily taken by surprise, notwithstanding what has happened, but should it not, the diff’t avenues must be guarded, and the disaffected secured. Artillery, if necessary, can be easily conveyed to a proper place for use, by many ways, either sea or land. Any armed vessels after this to proceed up Cumberland Bay, where they may lie a sufficient distance to prevent any hurt from the cannons at the forts, and secure from any vessels of greater strength than themselves. This would prevent any escape from the garrison by water, or any assistance going to them. Two armed vessels, to cruise between Island St. John and Bay Verte, would be necessary. I think from the operations of Captain Eddy, that Fort Cumberland will be as difficult to take, if not surprised, as any part. However, I am persuaded that if this plan could be pursued, the whole province would fall very soon from the British power.

This plan is proposed, supposing that none of the inhabitants would join, but lye inactive. But I doubt not but that they will act, which, if the case, a number not short of 1600 distributed, in proportion as before mentioned, would fully answer the purpose. In regard to magazines and stores, the River St. John’s is most essential part for one place, where a number of men should be stationed to prevent the enemy from cutting off the communication between Nova Scotia and New England, and open a communication into Canada, which I am somewhat afraid they will attempt to do the ensuing summer; there is many advantageous places on this river to secure any stores; the lakes and rivers which run from its exterior within 6 miles of Miramichi, near Bay Chaleur, and within 7 miles of one of Cumberland rivers. The river itself goes within 44 miles of the River St. Lawrence, near Quebec. But Fort Cumberland is the most suitable for the diff’t operations throughout the province, it having the greatest command over the distant parts; it lyes near the centre, and from its situation is of great consequence in the present plan or of any other which might be carry’d on in that province. There is many other matters might be observed, but presume a suff’t is said to give satisfaction.

An objection may be made, that the subduing of Nova Scotia is not the greatest task, but the keeping possession afterwards, as it is surrounded by the sea. The inhabitants being so scattered, and their indegent circumstances that they cannot defend it, therefore the expense would be infinitely more to the States, than any advantage that could arise from it. In answer to it in general, was Great Britain in the same situation as some years ago; it might be feared, but I am sensible their present ability is no way sufficient, except they draw all the troops from the southward to assist their ships there. But in my present plan, I want to have nothing done to hold any possession to the westward of Halifax, nor is it of any consequence to take it. But Kings County, in the Basin of Minas Cobequide settlements, and Cumberland County, which is the cream of the Province. The British ships have no such advantage.

Cumberland as mentioned before, from its situation is as easy to be defended as any part in America, it lying on the isthmus. The Bay of Fundie lying on the westward, and Bay Verte in the Gulph of St. Lawrence on the eastward; both these are inaccessible for any large vessels. The former by reason of the rapidity of the current. The tide rising commonly between forty and fifty feet, and the flats dug at low water. King’s ships dare not approach nearer the landing than ten miles. The great advantage is with small vessels. There is a number of small rivers which run many miles into the country, which vessels under 80 tons may easily go up on the tide of flood, and securely lye there at any time. Small armed vessels may deprive any attempt against them from the whole British navy. Bay Verte the tide rises commonly six feet. The Bay for 4 leagues down has not more than 4 fathoms of water. I never know’d any king’s vessels to come nearer than ten miles.

The French and English esteem’d Fort Cumberland as the most important post in that country; it commands extent of sea coast; it all way supported the Indians in their depredations committed in the eastern country; commanded the sea coast towards Cheuleur, the Indian Trade and Fishery. I am convinced (of a sufficient number of men) it is as easily secured. Provisions and necessarys may be safely transported as to any of the eastern settlements in New England.

Should it not be thought expedient to pursue the forementioned plan that is by extending the operation immediately over the province. I woud recommend that one thousand men with provisions and ammunition, 6 or 8 pieces of cannon, be as soon as possible sent to River St. John’s; from there form their plan how to proceed for Cumberland. I am confident from the account I received that the garrison may still be taken. This number by being stationed in Cumberland County, may harras the whole of the Province, and in process of time, I doubt not will subdue the whole, that is, bring them under the American bannar. A communication would be open’d to St. John’s, by cutting a road which might be conveniently done in a short time, as the inhabitants of Cumberland and Sunbury are very hearty in the matter. I would also recommend that no person whatever belonging to Nova Scotia should have the command, or liable to have it by death or otherwise, nor that commissions should be granted to any, to command the inhabitants of their countrys, but only those whom the committee particularly recommends.

The necessity of doing something with that province must be obvious, when we consider the many benefits Great Britian receives from their present quiet possession there. At present and for some past, great quantities of fresh provisions, vegetables, hay, &c., have been procured and sent to the enemy. The King’s yard at Halifax, on which their whole dependence for to succour their navy abroad depends, in July past had £500,000 of stores in it; this place is of the greatest, and I may say the last importance to Britian in this contest. I have heard several gentlemen of the Army and Navy often signify their dread and fear least it should be destroy’d. If done, (say they) we must give the matter up for the present. In its present situation Nova Scotia commands an extensive sea coast; along which is very valuable fishery for cod, salmon, bass and sea cows. Great quantitys of fish and oil ship’d the past season by English markets trading in the Gulph of St. Laurance. Transports with other vessells bound up St. Laurance with supplys to the enemy, puts into harbours to gete refreshments, and receive their orders how to proceed. By this the Gulph lyes intirely unmolested, that the enemy have it in their power to treat with the Indians, and instill into their minds what they please; all this with many other particulars within the circle of my own knowledge. Altho Nova Scotia is looked upon such a deminutive light, am well acquainted with their situation and circumstances, and know well their indigency, that they cannot allways even support themselves; still they are capable to furnish our enemys, and the permiting them to lye still and unmolested appears clearly to me is of an evil tendency to their states, and may be the means of keeping up the war for many years longer.

Should it be thought expedient to pursue any of these plans, it will prevent all those evils mentioned, with the furthur advantage that it would open a communication into Canada by Rastigouche on the head of the Bay of Cheuleur. Secure the interest of the Indians, and there being a number of very secure rivers and harbors, from Canso to Cheuleur, round to Gaspie, where small priviteers may lye secure and concealed, might intercept every vessel going up St. Laurence.

These operation should they take place, would put the enemy in such confusion, and knowing their miserable circumstances in that quarter, they could not send that suitable assistance by which it must annoy their operation in Canada, and be of great service to the cause in general.

Should none of these take place, the inhabitants must remove, if so, could two hundred men be sent to asist them to get off their cattle and affects, and defend any opposition under our Govt: the River St. John’s is talked of by the inhabitants.

I intend myself to settle up one of the lakes in the river to carry on my agency there, as it will be handy for both partes.

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Written by johnwood1946

August 19, 2015 at 3:44 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Something new to me ……. Very. interesting …..

    Claudia saint pierre

    August 20, 2015 at 1:43 PM


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