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The Story of Manitoba
Chapter VI Thirty Years of Conflict (continued)


The year 1696 had reversed the positions of the French and English on the shores of Hudson Bay, at least as far as Port Nelson was concerned. The French were driven out in 1696 just as the English had been driven out in 1694; but the French had no more thought of accepting the outcome of the later year as decisive than the English had of accepting the outcome of the earlier year The ministers of Louis XIV determined to send four men-of-war and a store ship to the bay to restore French prestige there. They were the Pelican, Palmier, Wasp, Profound, and Violent; and it was a foregone conclusion that the command of the squadron would be given to d'lberville.

During the summer of 1696 d'Iberville had been engaged in attacks oil British settlements near the southern boundary of Acadie, but in the autumn he and de Martigny with a small force of bushrangers and Indians had been sent to drive the English out of Newfoundland. They did their work so rapidly and thoroughly that by the end of the year St. John's had been captured and before the winter had passed all the English settlements along three hundred miles of coast, with two or three exceptions, had been destroyed. The victorious raiders were waiting in Placentia for an opportunity to complete their task, when the French squadron came into that port on May 19, 1697. De Serigny, who was in command, brought orders to his brother to take charge of the ships and proceed to Port Nelson. D'Iberville and de Martigny sent their men on board, and early in July the ships sailed for their destination.

But the English government was awake to the danger which threatened the fort on the shores of the northern bay. Four armed merchantmen had been sent for its defence—the Hampshire of 52 guns, which had been recovered from the French, the Bering of 36 guns, the Hudson's Bay of 32, and a fire-ship called the Owner's Love. The last became separated from the others and was lost, probably in the ice of Hudson Strait; but the rest entered the strait and were soon followed by the ships of France. Both squadrons were caught in the ice-pack, and at one time they were near enough to exchange shots; but the ice hemmed them in so completely that they could not come to such close quarters that either damaged the other. The French store-ship, the Violent, was crushed by the ice; but the Pelican finally won her way out and sailed down the bay without waiting for her three sister ships. She came to anchor in the month of the Nelson on September 3.

Menaced by the French war-ship, Governor Bailey anxiously looked for the vessels which he expected to bring him assistance and discharged a cannon now and then as a signal to them. D 'Iberville, the French commander, was no less anxious, for any hour might bring additional ships to the harbor, and they were a» likely to" be foes a, friends. Two days passed slowly for all parties, and early in the morning of September 5 three vessels were seen heading for the harbor D'Iberville was so sure that they were his own ships that he weighed anchor and sailed out to meet them; but he was soon undeceived, for the incoming vessels hoisted British colors. Nevertheless his mistake saved the Pelican, for she would have been battered to pieces in short order, if she had remained m the river. As it was, her case was desperate, for her enemies were three to one and they carried 120 guns to her 44.

Bat with the reckless bravery which always characterized him, d'Iberville promptly decided to accept the odds against him and to fight rather than our render. By skillful seamanship he got to the windward of his opponents, and at half past nine the battle began. The Hampshire was in front of her consorts and had to take the brunt of the Frenchman's fierce attack; while they were unable to help much in the early stages of the battle, owing to the clever way in which the Pelican was manoeuvred. Then they attempted to cut down her rigging with shot and so render her unmanageable, but they received more damage than they gave. Presently the Pelican bore down upon the Hampshire, preparatory- to*boarding; but she received a broadside which killed or wounded two score of her men and forced her to sheer off. For three hours the battle raged with varying fortunes; but finally the Hampshire received such a deadly broadside that she sank with many of her crew, The Pelican herself wais little better than a wreck, and ninety of her men were dead or wounded; nevertheless she bore down on the Hudson's Day and the Bering to continue the battle with them. The latter was too badly damaged to make any effective resistance, so she made sail and escaped; the former kept up the fight for a short time and then struck her flag.

Two ships remained where four had floated in the morning, and there was little to choose between victor and vanquished; for their spars and rigging were shot away, their hulls were pierced in many places, and both were in a sinking condition. A strong gale had sprung up from the east, and the captains could do nothing but anchor and hope that their cables would hold and their shattered hulls outride the storm. The French had about ninety prisoners, and neither vessel had a boat large enough to have any chance of living in the breakers along the low shore, if an attempt were made to land these men. Night fell, and the gale increased in fury. About nine o'clock the cable of the English ship parted, and she went ashore on a marsh eight miles from the fort. The survivors of her crew were able to wade to land, and when the morning came, they made their way to the shelter of the fort.

The men on board the Pelican were even more unfortunate than their opponents on the wrecked Hudson's Bay, for their ship was driven ashore in a place less favorable for landing, and eighteen of them were drowned in the attempt to wade ashore through the icy water. When they reached the land there was no friendly fort to shelter them, and they had to lie in the woods, half-frozen in spite of their fires, subsisting upon boiled moss and seaweed. Under such circumstances, they made little effort to keep their prisoners; and so, one by one, most of the captured men straggled across to Fort Nelson.

In a few days d'Iberville's three delayed vessels reached the harbor, and at once provisions, camion, and fresh inen were landed. On September 11 a small party of French advanced to a wooded spot not far from the fort and made a demonstration in order to draw the fire of the garrison, and this gave d'Iberville an opportunity to land the remainder of his men and guns unmolested. Then de Martigny was sent to Governor Bailey with a message. Blindfolded at the gate, he was conducted to the governor and his council and presented d'Iberville's demand for the surrender of the fort; but Captain Smithsend, whom the French had taken from the 1'erpetuana twelve years before, believed that d'Iberville's force was not in a position to maintain a long siege and urged Bailey to defend the fort; so the governor refused to give it up. As soon as d'Iberville had received the governor's reply, the bombardment began. The next day de Serignv was sent to the fort with a second demand for its surrender ; but Bailey returned the same answer as before, and he and Smithsend encouraged their men with promises of rewards and of provision for the widows of those killed to maintain the defense. The men responded bravely, and the fighting continued. Both sides kept up a continuous fire from cannon and muskets; attacks and counter-attacks were frequent; and both forces lost some of their best men. The French were in a desperate plight, owing to scarcity of provisions, the near approach of winter, and the impossibility of escape if they did not win; and they were ready to take any odds in an assault upon the fort De Serigny was sent once more to demand the surrender of the place, and finally Bailey consented to give it up. There was much parleying about the terms of the capitulation, but at last they were arranged; and on the next day Bailey, with the survivors of his garrison and of the crews of the Hampshire and the Hudson's Bay, marched out of Fort Nelson, carrying arms and baggage, flags flying, and drums beating. They made a brave show as they marched out, not knowing what awaited them in the leagues of wilderness about them, and the French could not refrain from giving them a cheer; then the French hastened to occupy the captured post, and once more the fleur de lis was raised over Fort Nelson. D'Iberville returned to France, leaving de Martigny in charge of the French possessions on Hudson Bay.

It is not likely that the French would have been left undisturbed to enjoy the fruits of their victory, if a treaty had not been concluded between England and France. These two nations had been the protagonists in a struggle which had convulsed Europe for eight years; and the battles between colonial forces and the ravages of border settlements m the northern half of the American continent were only the remote episodes of that struggle. Both the powers were weary of the war, which had brought little advantage to either. It had cost France the best men in her armies and had utterly depleted her resources. The loss of Narnur in 1695 had been a heavy blow and had made Louis XIV willing to ask for peace. Although success had rewarded the policy of their king and some victories had been won by their army, the English were as weary of the war as their opponents. Moreover, both nations wished a respite in which to prepare for another struggle that statesmen foresaw in the near future—the struggle over the Spanish Succession.

So on May 9, 1697, a few days after the French king had dispatched de Serigny with a squadron for the capture of Fort Nelson, his commissioners met those of England and the other great powers at Ey«k near the llagu. The treatv which they concluded was signed on September 30, 169,, a ioitnigh, after dTberville had successfully accomplished his task and captured H ort Hei hon for the French. The treaty brought a temporary- peace but it settled no questions of sovereignty on the shores of Hudson Bay. The portions of the contending parties there were left unchanged. The Hudson* Bay Company retained Fort Albanv, and it was the only post over which the flag ot Bnain waved to indicate her claim to the vast region. Fort Nelson and the other trading posts on the coast remained in the hands of France.

The commission appointed to settle the details of the treaty of Ryswick did little, and the boundaries of the territories to be occupied by French and English on Hudson Bay were never fixed. The fur companies appear to have traded where they could, without regard to any ''sphere of influence." We find that the French rebuilt Fort Severn in 1702 and called it Neuve Savanne, and soon after the English established a post not far from Fort Nelson. The trade of the Hudson's Bay Company, restricted to Fort Albany, had fallen to one-fifth of what it had been; and in 1700 it offered to let the Company of the North have all the trade of the coast from Rupert's River to the Albany, if it could have the trade of the remainder. No action was taken, however; and in the next year ihe English company asked the government to send three men-of-war, a bomb-vessel, and 250 soldiers to drive out the French and recover possession of the whole coast of Hudson Bay. Nor was the French company more content to abide by the treaty of Ryswick than its English rival. In 1701 it induced the government officials in Canada to send an expedition overland for the capture of Fort Albany, but the party had no d'Iberville to lead it and failed to accomplish its task. Many of the men were shot down before the gate of the fort; and the others, after lingering in the neighboring woods for several days, retired. Their only success was to ambush and kill the master and crew of a sloop lying in the harbor, when they came ashore to aid the garrison in the fort.

In the same year the principal ship of the Company of the North was captured by a British frigate before it could reach the bay, and the company was obliged to ask the government of France for ships to carry relief to its forts and to bring out the furs collected in them. This request was granted for two years, but after that France needed her ships too badly elsewhere to send them to the assistance of the company .

Fort Bourbon (Nelson) remained the principal post of the Company of the North, but the proximity of the English interfered with the trade there, just as the proximity of the French interfered with the trade of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Albany; and the dissatisfaction of the Indians with the business methods of the French also tended to reduce the profits of the company. The management of its affairs at Fort Bourbon was in the hands of a commandant. De Martigny held the position for some years, and it was afterwards given to Delisle. Except for one year, Jeremie remained at the fort until it-passed out of the hands of the French.

Life in the isolated northern post was lonely and monotonous enough for the most part, but there was a brief interlude in the monotony during the year 1701. In the summer an officer named Lagrange and his suite arrived from France, and with them came a number of gay gentlemen and fair ladies.

For some months the dreary fort was the scene of life such as it had never known before and as never known since. Hunting parties and picnics occupied the days, suppers and dances made the evenings pass too quickly, and the bare rooms of the commandant's residence rang with song and laughter.

Jeremie was the commandant's lieutenant for many years, but in 1707 he obtained leave of absence and went to France. He returned the next year, bearing a commission from the king as commandant of the fort, and found conditions there bad indeed. Delisle, the commandant whom he was to succeed, was ill from exposure and lack of proper food and died soon after. No French ship had arrived for a year, and provisions and ammunition were almost exhausted. The Indians had come down with their furs; but they could not dispose of them, for the French had no goods to give them in exchange and could only urge them to wait week after week for the ship which did not come. The savages were in an ugly mood, and the longer they waited the more bitter their resentment toward the French became. The French dared not sell their dwindling store of ammunition, and without it the natives could not procure food. Starvation threatened them as well as the unfortunate garrison.

In August, 1708, Jeremie sent his lieutenant, two traders, and six men of his garrison into the woods to hunt, hoping that they could secure a small supply of food. The nine men camped one night near a band of Indians who had been friendly up to that time. These Indians were starving, although they had plenty of furs which they had brought from the interior for sale. During the evening a few of them crept up to the French camp and found the hunters feasting on game which they had shot and then crept back to their own camp to report. Some of the squaws decoyed two of the Frenchmen to the Indian camp, and these were killed as soon as they approached it. Their comrades, suspecting no danger, retired to rest, and all but one were murdered in their sleep. This man was wounded, stripped, and left for dead; but when the savages had retired, he got up and made his way through thirty miles of forest to the fort.

The French had a small post called Thillipeaux not far from Fort Bourbon, and as Jeremie had but nine men left to defend the two posts against the attack of the Indians which he hourly expected, he decided to abandon Thillipeaux and remove the small quantity of provision and goods stored in it to the larger fort. Before this task was completed the angry Indians swooped down upon the abandoned post and helped themselves to a supply of the ammunition which they needed so much. The position of the French during the following winter was precarious indeed. They were few in number, provisions were scarce, and they were surrounded by Indians who were starving. The proximity of the new English post was a blessing; for it was well supplied with goods for barter with the natives and so drew away some of Jeremie's unpleasant neighbors. Many of the Indians died from want of food during that terrible winter, and cases of cannibalism among them were frequently reported.

Jeremie's term as commandant of Fort Bourbon lasted six years, and the first of them was scarcely more trying than those which followed. Twice after that hard winter of 1708-9 the ships of the French company failed to bring relief to the starving men at Fort Bourbon, and twice their ships were intercepted by the British and captured or destroyed. The expected War of the

Spanish Succession had broken out in 1702 and continued for eight years; and so long as it continued French merchant ships fared badly on the northern seas. It was not until 1813 that the Providence reached Fort Bourbon with relief for the worn garrison, and in that year all the territory about Hudson Bay passed out of the hands of France forever. Fort Nelson was formally restored to the British in the next year; and proud as he was of the commission received directly from his king, Commandant Jeremie must have been glad that his term of service on the northern coast was ended.

The War of the Spanish Succession was caused by the attempt of Louis XIY to unite France and Spain so closely that the coalition could dominate Europe and obtain possession of both American continents. But there was never a more futile war. Fate, rather than the armies of his opponents, broke down the plans of the French king. The war brought his kingdom to the verge of ruin, and it exhausted the nations arrayed against him; so when he asked for peace, they were ready to grant it. Commissioners met at Utrecht to frame a treaty, and in the negotiations which followed the original cause of the war was tacitly ignored.

The treaty was signed on March 31 (0. S.), 1713. Among other things it provided that the region bordering on Hudson Bay should become British territory, that the French were to evacuate all posts held by them on the bay inside of six months, that commissioners would be appointed to fix the boundaries between the French and British possessions in America, and that the Hudson's Bay Company would receive compensation for damage done to its posts, ships, and goods during the war.

On June 5, 1714, two of the ships of the Hudson's Bay Company sailed from Gravesend for Fort Nelson. Captain Knight, who had been appointed as its governor, and Henry Kelsey, who was to act as his deputy, were on board; and they carried the queen's commission, authorizing the governor to receive the surrender of the territory previously held by France and a mandate from the French king to Jeremie, ordering him to make the surrender. Fort Nelson was reached on July 25; and in a few days Jeremie, already advised by a French ship of the terms of the treaty, formally gave up all the French forts on the bay, with the arms, ammunition, and provisions in them, to Britain. Thus passed the French dream of dominion on Hudson Bay.


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