History of Nova Scotia
with special attention given to
Communications and Transportation

Chapter 4
1776 January - December

Every academic historian in Canada hates Pierre Berton because he has made Canadian history interesting, and the aim of Canadian academics is to make history dull.  Canadian history is not dull and because of him people realize that.

— Allan Fotheringham, quoted in the National Post, 8 July 2000

1776 January 13

Plan to Invade Nova Scotia

"Provided there are not more
than 200 British Troops at Halifax"

George Washington to Continental Congress
January 30, 1776

The original of this document
is among George Washington's papers
now held by the U.S. Library of Congress

...Knowing the great Importance Canada will be of to us, in the present Interesting Contest, and the relief our Friends there stand in need of, I should be happy, were It in my Power, to detach a Battalion from this Camp, But It cannot be done. On the 19th. instant, I had the Honor to write and inclose you the Resolution of a Council of War, and the Sentiments of the General Officers here as to the propriety of sending Troops from these Lines (for the defence of which we have been and now are obliged to call in the Militia) to which I beg leave to refer you. You may rest assured, that my endeavours and exertions shall not be wanting to stimulate the Governments of Connecticut and New Hampshire, to raise and forward reinforcements, as fast as possible, nor in any other Instance that will promote the expedition...

...In my Letter of the 24th. Instant, I mentioned the arrival of thirteen of our Caghnawaga Friends; They honored me with a Talk to-day as did three of the Tribes of St. Johns and Pasmiquoddi Indians; Copies of which I beg leave to inclose you. I shall write General Schuyler respecting the Tender of Service made by the former, and not to call for their Assistance, unless he shall at any time want it, or be under the necessity of doing it to prevent their taking the side of our Enemies.

I had the Honor of writing you on the 19th of November and then Informed you of having engaged two persons to go to Nova Scotia on the business recommended in your Letter of the 10th. and also that the State of the Army would not then admit of a sufficient force being sent for carrying into Execution the Views of Congress respecting the Dock Yards &ca.

I would now beg leave to mention, that if the persons sent for Information should report favourably of the expediency and practicability of the Measure, that it will not be in my Power to detach any Men from these lines, the situation of our Affairs will not allow on it. I think it would be advisable to raise them in the Eastern parts of this Government.

If it is attempted, It must be by people from the country. A Col: Thompson a Member of the General Court, from the Province of Main, and who is well spoken of by the Court, and a Captain Obrien have been with me. They think the Men necessary, may be easily engaged there and the measure practicable; provided there are not more than 200 British Troops at Halifax. They are willing and ready to embark in the matter, upon the Terms mentioned in their plan, which I enclose you. I would wish you to advert to the considerations inducing them to the Expedition as I am not without apprehension, should it be undertaking on their plan, that the Innocent and Guilty will be involved in one common Ruin. I presume they do not expect to receive more from the Continent, than the 5 or 10,000£ mentioned in their Scheme, and to be at every expence. If we had men to spare It might be undertaken for less than either, I conceive. Perhaps If Congress do not adopt their proposition, they will undertake to raise men for that particular purpose, which may be disbanded, as soon as it is effected and upon the same Terms allowed the Continental Troops in general. Whatever may be the determination of Congress upon the Subject, you will please to communicate to me immediately, for the Season most favorable for the Enterprize is advancing fast and we may expect in the Spring, that there will be more Troops there and the measure be more difficult to execute. I am etc
(signed) G.W.

The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library
January 13th, 1776: Last page of letter, in low resolution
View the last page in high resolution (180k)
Source: Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

1776 February 8

Nova Scotia Citizens' Letter to George Washington
with Petition

"We pray for the success of your arms
and that you may be Victorious
and Vanquish all your Enemies"

February 8th, 1776

February 8th, 1776, Title: Letter and Petition from Nova Scotia
Document Title: Letter and Petition from Nova Scotia
The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

To His Excellency George Washington Esquire Generalissimo of
the Army of the Twalve United Colonies of America

May it please your excellency —

The Liberty we take in addressing a person of
so Exalted a Rank, will we presume be fully pardoned, when you
perceive the Occation of it —

The Inhabitants of Nova Scotia, & in particular those
of the County of Cumberland have been under the Greatest Axiety and Apprehension
ever since the Great Contest [subsisting?] between Great Britain and the American
Colonies.  Our situation has been such that we have not had it in Our Power
to do any thing in Conjunction with the other Colonies.  The form of Government
we are under and the manner of Executing its Authority has been such
that we are Rather to be looked upon as slaves than freemen —

With Anxious [---] have we been waiting for the
success of your Righteous Cause, and that you would Cast an Eye of Pity
toward this forlorn part, we have indeed nothing to Recommend us, but
missery and impending destruction and devastation — we trust our [account?]
of proceedings will have the desired Effect on you, as well as the others
who are the Instruments of supporting the Liberty of Mankind —

We have been harmed much.  Occation'd by Different
proceedings of Government, threatened are we because we have such sentimts
Concerning the Cause Contended for by our Brethern on the [---]
have been [---] that Troops will soon be sent among us.  This in a [---]
[---] many who were [---] in Lethergy.  Committees have been
Appointed from the different Town (Including the Acadians) to fall upon
some method for Safety — there being a number among us (vainly Called
Governments men) are Continually prying into Our proceedings, and with
Accumulated Tales Give Information to the Govt at Halifax — Liable therefore are
we to be Cut in Pieces, having no Expectation Justace but what Comes
through your Excellency — We Agree in Our Committees that nothing
should be done publickly as it might aggravate the others to fall upon

[Second Page]


us <sooner> than they <Intended> further as we [---] not tell the Intention of the
Honble Continental Congress Concerning us — therefore as Individuals
who belongs to the foresaid Committee, do recommend Jonathan Eddy Esq
to your Excellency who will acquaint you with Our Situation, &
Praying with [Arden---?] that your Excellency will please Believe us, so
that we may be able to Give Our Sentiments publickly Join with Our
Little Streangth in Conjunction with the other Colonies, in preventing the
[---] of Slavery from being sett up in any part of this Great Empire.
We further pray your Excellency will keep this Our Request as a Secret
for the Present.   We do Separatley & Jointly Pray for the Success
of your Arms and that you may be Victorious & Vanquish all your
Enemys — We are with the Greatest Respect

Your Excellencys
Most Devoted & very [---]
Elijah Ayer
Nath[--] Reynolds
Mark Patton
J[ohn] Allan
William Lawrence
Amasa Killam
Jesse Bent
William Maxwell
Geo. Forster
Simon Newcomb
Robert Foster
Simeon Chester
Note:   [---] represents an illegible word or phrase.

Twelve United Colonies? Yes, twelve.  At that time there were twelve, as described thus:
          "We, the Delegates from the Twelve United Provinces, viz. New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three lower counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, now sitting in general Congress at Philadelphia..."
Source: Journals of the Continental Congress, Speech to the Six Nations; July 13, 1775
          General George Washington, in his General Orders of August 9, 1775, mentions "the Rules and Articles formed by the Hon. the Continental Congress for the Government of the Troops of the Twelve United Colonies".

Extract from George Washington's General Orders, August 9th, 1775
"Twelve United Colonies"
Source: G. Washington's General Orders, August 9th, 1775
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw3g/001/051.jpg

The originals of these documents
are among George Washington's papers
now held by the U.S. Library of Congress

Page One of the Petition
February 8th, 1776: Page 1 of petition, in low resolution
The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

Page Two of the Petition
February 8th, 1776: Page 2 of petition, in low resolution
The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

View Page 1 of the Petition in high resolution (272k)
Source: Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

View Page 2 of the Petition in high resolution (227k)
Source: Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

1776 February 16

Congress Rejects Plan for Destruction of Halifax

February 8th, 1776

Resolved: That Congress submit the expediancy and practicability of an Expedition to Nova Scotia, to General Washington, and would by no means accept the plan proposed by Thompson and Obrian so far as relates to Tory Property nor the destruction of the Town of Halifax.

Source: Page 155, Journal of the Continental Congress, February 16, 1776

1776 March 1

France and Spain

How is the interest of France and Spain affected, by the dispute between Britain and the Colonies?

Is it the interest of France to stand neuter, to join with Britain, or to join with the Colonies? Is it not her interest to dismember the British empire? Will her dominions be safe, if Britain and America remain connected? Can she preserve her possessions in the West Indies? She has, in the West Indies, Martinico, Guadaloupe, and one half of Hispaniola. In case a reconciliation should take place between Britain and America, and a war should break out between Britain and France, would not all her islands be taken from her in six months? The Colonies are now much more warlike and powerful than they were during the last war. A martial spirit has seized all the Colonies. They are much improved in skill and discipline; they have now a large standing army; they have many good officers; they abound in provisions; they are in the neighborhood of the West Indies. A British fleet and army, united with an American fleet and army, and supplied with provisions and other necessaries from America, might conquer all the French Islands in the West Indies in six months, and a little more time than that would be required to destroy all their marine and commerce.

Source: Page 1073, Journal of the Continental Congress, March 1, 1776

1776 March 17

British troops evacuate Boston

After a siege of almost a year, Sir William Howe evacuated Boston, and sailed north with his entire army, 11,000 troops, in 170 ships to Halifax, Nova Scotia. George Washington and his army then occupied the town.  "Evacuation Day" now a Boston holiday, is celebrated each year on March 17th.

1776 March 17

Eddy Meets Washington

At the time of the Revolution, a group of Acadians from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia enlisted in the Continental Army and fought as patriots under the leadership of Colonel Jonathan Eddy who was originally from Massachusetts. Colonel Eddy and Captain Isaie Boudreau met with General George Washington on March 17, 1776 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to request aid and to discuss their strategy. This meeting is well documented in General Washington's correspondence to the Continental Congress...

1776 March 27

U.S. Invasion of Nova Scotia

General Washington Asks Continental Congress for Direction

"It being a matter of some importance"...
"prudent to lay it before Congress, for their consideration"

George Washington to Continental Congress
Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 14th, 1776

To the Honourable John Hancock:
...I beg leave to transmit you the Copy of a Petition from the Inhabitants of Nova Scotia, brought me by Jonathan Eddy Esquire mentioned therein, who is now here with an Accadian. From this it appears, they are in a distressed situation, and from Mr. Eddy's account, are exceedingly apprehensive that they will be reduced to the disagreeable alternative of taking up Arms and Joining our Enemies, or to flee their Country, unless they can be protected against their Insults and Oppressions — he says that their Committees think many salutary and valuable consequences would be derived from five or 600 Men being sent there, as it would not only quiet the Minds of the People from the anxiety and uneasiness they are now filled with and enable them to take a part in behalf of the Colonies, but be the means of preventing the Indians (of which there are a good many) from taking the side of Government, and the Ministerial Troops from getting such Supplies of Provisions from thence as they have done.

How far these good purposes would be answered, if such a force was sent, as they ask for, is impossible to determine, in the present uncertain State of things.

For if the [British] Army from Boston is going to Halifax, as reported by them before their departure, that or a much more considerable force would be of no avail. If not and they possess the friendly disposition to our Cause, suggested in the Petition and declared by Mr. Eddy; It might be of great service, unless another body of Troops should be sent there by Administration too powerful for them to oppose. It being a matter of some Importance, I Judged It prudent to lay it before Congress, for their consideration, and requesting their directions upon the Subject, shall only If they determine to adopt it desire that they will prescribe the Number to be sent and Whether It is to be from the Regiments which will be left here I shall wait their decision and whatever it is, will endeavour to have it carried into execution. I have the Honor etc.
(signed) G. Washington

[Note: The Nova Scotian petitioners begged to be informed if Congress could be relied on to lend them aid in a struggle against the British Government. A copy of the petition, dated February 8, 1776, is in the Papers of the Continental Congress now held by the U.S. Library of Congress.]

The original of this document
is among George Washington's papers
now held by the U.S. Library of Congress

The Province of Nova Scotia was more or less of an objective throughout the greater part of the American Revolutionary War and there are a number of spy reports of conditions therein, plans of the harbor of Halifax, etc., in the Washington Papers. No expedition was ever launched against it.
Footnote 92 in Volume 4 of The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 volumes, John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1931-1944; reprint, New York: Greenwood Press, 1970

1776 April 1

Mr. Eddy goes to Philadelphia
(then the capital of the United States of America)

George Washington pays his expenses

George Washington to Continental Congress
Head Quarters, Cambridge, April 1st, 1776

To the Honourable John Hancock, President of Congress:
Sir: This Letter will be delivered you by Jonathan Eddy Esq. the Gentlemen from Nova Scotia who I mentioned to you in mine of the 27th. Ulto.; He seems desirous of waiting on the Honorable Congress in order to lay before them the State of Public Affairs and situation of the Inhabitants of that Province; and as it might be in his Power to communicate many things personally which could not be so well done by Letter, I encouraged him in his design and have advanced him fifty Dollars to defray his expences. The Accadian accompanies him, and as they seem to be solid, judicious Men, I beg leave to recommend them both to the Notice of Congress. And am most respectfully, Sir, etc.
(signed) G. Washington

ultimo means the previous month
instant means the present month

Top half of the Letter
April 1st, 1776: Top half, Washington's letter to Congress, low resolution
The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

Bottom half of the Letter
April 1st, 1776: Bottom half, Washington's letter to Congress, low resolution
The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

View the complete Letter in high resolution (346k)
Source: The George Washington papers at the Library of Congress
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library
(upper):   http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw3a/001/181180.jpg
(lower):   http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw3a/001/182181.jpg

1776 April 3

Working Rules for U.S. Privateers

You may, by force of arms, attack, subdue, and take
all ships and other vessels
belonging to the inhabitants of Great Britain...

Continental Congress
3 April 1776

Resolved, That Blank commissions for private ships of war and letters of marque and reprisal, signed by the president, be sent to the general assemblies, conventions, and councils or committees of safety of the United Colonies, to be by them filled up and delivered to the persons intending to fit out such private ships of war, for making captures of British vessels and cargoes, who shall apply for the same, and execute the bonds which shall be sent with the said commissions, which bonds shall be returned to the Congress.

Resolved, That every person intending to set forth and fit out a private ship or vessel of war, and applying for a commission or letters of marque and reprisal for that purpose, shall produce a writing subscribed by him, containing the name and tonnage or burthen of the ship or vessel, the number of her guns, with their weight of metal, the name and place of residence of the owner or owners, the names of the commander and other officers, the number of the crew, and the quantity of provisions and warlike stores; which writing shall be delivered to the secretary of Congress, or to the clerk of the house of representatives, convention, or council, or committee of safety of the colony in which the ship or vessel shall be, to be transmitted to the said secretary, and shall be registered by him; and that the commander of the ship or vessel, before the commission or letters of marque and reprisal may be granted, shall, together with sufficient sureties, seal and deliver a bond, in the penalty of five thousand dollars, if the vessel be of one hundred tons or under, or ten thousand dollars, if of a greater burthen, payable to the president of the Congress, in trust for the use of the United Colonies, with condition in the form following, to wit:

"The condition of this obligation is such, That if the above-bounden ___, who is Commander of the ___, called ___, belonging to ___, of ___, in the colony of ___, mounting ___ carriage Guns, and navigated by ___ Men, and who hath applied for a Commission, or Letters of Marque and Reprisal, to arm, equip, and set forth to Sea, the said ___ as a private Ship of War, and to make Captures of British Vessels and Cargoes, shall not exceed or transgress the Powers and Authorities which shall be contained in the said Commission, but shall, in all Things, observe and conduct himself, and govern his Crew, by and according to the same, and certain Instructions therewith to be delivered, and such other Instructions as may hereafter be given to him; and shall make Reparation for all Damages sustained by any Misconduct or unwarrantable Proceedings of Himself, or the Officers or Crew of the said ___, then this Obligation shall be void, or else remain in Force;
Sealed and Delivered in the Presence of"

Which bond shall be lodged with the said secretary of Congress.

The committee to whom the instructions to the commanders of private ships or vessels of war, were recommitted, brought in their report, which being taken into consideration, and debated by paragraphs, was agreed to as follows:

Instructions to the commanders of private ships or vessels of war, which shall have commissions or letters of marque and reprisal, authorizing them to make captures of British vessels and cargoes. Source: Pages 251-254, Journal of the Continental Congress, 3 April 1776
April 3, 1776: Journal of the Continental Congress, page 252
Source: Page 252, Journal of the Continental Congress, April 3, 1776
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

April 3, 1776: Journal of the Continental Congress, page 253
Source: Page 253, Journal of the Continental Congress, April 3, 1776
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

1776 August 13

American Spy Reports
Military Forces and Stores in Nova Scotia

August 13th, 1776, Title: Stores at Halifax
Document Title: Stores at Hallifax&c
Source: Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

The original of this document
is among George Washington's papers
now held by the U.S. Library of Congress

August 13th, 1776: First two lines of the document, in high resolution
An Authentic List of the Naval & Military Force, in the province
of N. Scotia, August 13th, 1776, collected from the best Authorities in the Province

August 13th, 1776: Complete document in low resolution
Source: Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library

An Authentic List of the Naval & Military Force, in the province
of N. Scotia, August 13th, 1776, collected from the best Authorities in the Province

In the Harbour of Halifax, the Milford of Liverpool Frigate, of 28 Guns
the Brig Hope, of 12 Guns, the New [---] of War, fitting out, call'd the Albany
(late the Rittenhouse, belonging to Philadelphia) to Carry 16 Guns, [Morratt?] Commander

August 16th, Since writing this List the Milford of Liverpool Frigate sail'd, & the 17th, tomorrow, the
Brig Hope will sail for Louisbourg

In the Town of Halifax, Two Battalions of Marines, the whole 900 Rank
and File — Near 200 Invalid — 12 Artillery Men — one Company of the 14th
Reg't of Infantry, 47 Rank & file — One Company of the Royal Highland Emigrants
37 Rank & file — Six Brass Field Pieces, 6 & 3 Pounders —
Fortifications in the Town & suburbs — A 5 sided Redoubt about 100
Paces W. of the Dockyard.  A Redoubt on a Hill, call'd [---] Hill
about 1½ Mile N.W. of the Dockyard — A Redoubt, 4 sides, about 500 Paces
S.W. of the Dockyard — A Small Breastwork on a Hill call'd [Hill House?]
about 40 Paces N. of the Dockyard, small Block House to be built in
each of the above Redoubts — A Block House 20 Foot by 30 at the N.
Corner of the Dockyard, & another of the same Dimensions at the S.W. corner
a small Block House 15 Foot by 9 each side of the Docky'd Gate.  The [---]
Works had no Cannon mounted when I left Halifax, August 15
A large Square Breastwork for Cannon (about finished) on the [---]
Citadel Hill, mounting 12 — 24 Pounders, 3 each way <[--] N.E. S.W. of the [--]> A Block House [---]
Foot by 60 erecting in said [Works?]

In the County of Kings County — Part of the Royal Highland Emigrants
consisting of 237 Rank & file

In the County of Cumberland, The Regiment of Royal Fencible [---]
Commanded by Col. Gorham, Consisting of 272 Rank & file of whom the [last?]
Accounts came away, but frequent Desertions lessen their Number

+ The Dock-Yard is situate upon low land about 1 Mile N by W of the
middle of the Town of Halifax, surrounded with a Stone Wall, 10 Foot
High, but is not strong enough to resist the Enchantment of a 3 [lb.?]
Ball —

Note:   [---] represents an illegible word or phrase

John Allan's signature This document is unsigned, but the handwriting bears a strong resemblance to that of John Allan.  Several examples of his handwriting, in other documents which bear his signature, exist in G. Washington's papers in the U.S. Library of Congress.
View the whole document in high resolution (334k)

1776 September 22

Pirate John Paul Jones

"On September 22, 1776, Canso was attacked by the sea pirate John Paul Jones.  The buccaneer destroyed fifteen vessels, and damaged much property on shore causing a decline in the population of the area.  Once it had been the seat of government and chief commercial centre of the province of Nova Scotia, but by 1812 it consisted of about five families." The town of Canso, Guysborough County, is located on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, at the southern end of the Strait of Canso.
Early Canso History

John Paul Jones is America's most famous, some say infamous, maritime figure since Christopher Columbus.  If you want a bloody nose, just stand between two maritime historians as they debate the ethics and motives of John Paul Jones.  A tireless promoter of his own deeds, he ultimately though posthumously achieved the immortality he craved...
John Paul Jones: Pirate or Patriot?

When the American Revolution broke out, Jones was in Virginia.  He decided to join the rebels, and on December 7, 1775, he was commissioned first lieutenant in the Continental Navy, serving aboard Esek Hopkis' flagship Alfred. In 1776 he was promoted to captain and given command of the sloop Providence. In his first cruise aboard the Providence he destroyed the British fisheries in Nova Scotia and captured 16 British prize ships... In 1788 Catherine the Great appointed Jones a rear admiral in the Russian Navy...

22 December 1775: The Marine Committee appointed the following officers, with the approval of Congress: 25 January 1776: The Marine Committee given full powers in the direction of the fleet under Commodore Esek Hopkins.

Congress and the Continental Navy, 1775-1783
U.S. Navy, Naval Historical Center

1776 October

The Eddy Rebellion

The rebels were convinced they could get George Washington
to invade Nova Scotia and make it the 14th state

Before and during the American Revolution, of all the provinces which eventually became Canada, Nova Scotia was the most similar to the thirteen colonies to the south.  Most of its English-speaking residents were the descendants of New Englanders who had settled there in the 1760s.

When the tensions with Britain began, Nova Scotians shared the attitude of their cousins in Boston.  The Friends of Liberty were active in every port and township.  The organizers of the First Continental Congress even sent a letter inviting Nova Scotia to send representatives.  However, the letter was intercepted by the Lieutenant-Governor of the province, Michael Francklin.  Francklin was a moderate, and worked very hard to take the complaints of the colonists seriously.  He did more than any one man from preventing Nova Scotia from joining the Revolution.

As one person who posted to this group said, there was a small armed uprising in the province, which is sometimes referred to as the Eddy Rebellion.  It took place late in 1776.  Jonathan Eddy was a native of New England who owned a large estate in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.  He obtained a commission from Congress, and tried to raise an army to liberate the province from Britain.  He and his partners even asked Washington to supply them with arms and powder, but Washington felt an expedition to Nova Scotia would be unwise.  The province was almost an island, vulnerable from the sea, and Washington did not have a navy.

Eddy was not terribly successful.  Thanks to Francklin's reassurances, plus a fear of outright independence, Eddy was only able to find about three hundred men who were disaffected enough to take up arms against the Crown.  Nevertheless, with this small regiment he laid siege to Fort Cumberland (the old French Fort Beausejour), at the head of the Bay of Fundy.

The commander of the fort was Lt. Col. Joseph Gorham, of Gorham's Rangers fame.  Gorham had with him about two hundred men of the Royal Fencible American regiment.

Contrary to what an earlier posting said, Eddy did not simply sit outside the fort until he got bored and went home.  Lacking artillery, he made two attempts to storm the fort.  Gorham repulsed both attacks.  Eddy and his followers remained in place, wondering what to do next.  Meanwhile, Gorham asked Halifax to send him reinforcements.  Halifax complied, sending a man of war and a compliment of "marines," which may actually have been Highlanders of the 84th Foot.  Gorham then felt strong enough to attack the rebel camp.  When he did so, the rebels scattered.  Some escaped, including Eddy, though several were killed or captured.

Gorham's officers insisted that the entire county (which included part of present day New Brunswick) was a nest of rebels, and the farms and villages should be razed.  Gorham refused.  Perhaps in his old age he was tired of war, but he also knew that a firm hand would simply inflame the rest of the province.

The captured rebels were sent to Halifax to stand trial for treason.  None were convicted, the juries being sympathetic.  Incidentally, one of the rebels to stand trial was Richard John Uniacke, who later became Nova Scotia's Attorney General and introduced a number of important legal and political reforms (and built a lovely house in the country).

Eventually, the influx of Loyalists and the strong presence of the British Army and Royal Navy made further rebellions impossible.  Added to that was the problem of New England pirates who raided the south shore, calling themselves "privateers," though few of them actually carried letters of marque from Congress.  This raiding caused the Nova Scotian Yankees to eventually change their sympathies.

However, after the Revolution, strong ties remained between New England and Nova Scotia.

From: Dennis R. Thompson <-----@netcom.ca>
Subject: Re: Canadian provinces
Newsgroups: soc.history.war.us-revolution
Date: 1999 January 13

Also see:
The revolutionary war and Nova Scotia: The Revolutionary War Port

The Wayback Machine
has archived copies of this webpage from the early days:
Re: The revolutionary war and Nova Scotia:
The Revolutionary War Port

Archived: 2001 February 28

Archived: 2001 April 10

Archived: 2001 August 04

NOTE: This item was "Posted on November 01, 19100 at 19:58:16".
Note (written 5 June 2001):
This item was "Posted on November 01, 19100 at 19:58:16".

That year "19100" is, of course, a mistake — it should read "2000" — but is also an interesting historical curiosity.

This rendering of 2000 as 19100 is a remnant of the infamous "Millennium Bug" or "Y2K Problem" which occupied so much attention during 1999, and apparently was still active in this site as late as November 2000.  It came about because of the widespread practice of using only two digits to store the year component of dates — YYMMDD instead of YYYYMMDD.  For example, 930821 for 21 Aug 1993.  To display the full four-digit year, the digits "19" were automatically inserted in front of the number stored as the year.  For example, if the stored year was "84" it would be displayed as 1984.  This practice became widely used in the early days of business applications of computers, in the 1950s and 1960s.  This was the nearly-universal way that date-stamping software was written.

Each New Year the stored year number was automatically incremented by one.  This practice continued into the 1990s.  When we reached 12:00:01am (one second after midnight, for those used to a 24-hour system and thus unfamiliar with the am/pm notation) on 1 January 1999, the stored year number was automatically incremented from "98" to "99", and dates were stamped as "99MMDD" and displayed as "1999MMDD".  This system worked fine from the 1950s into the late 1990s.

Then, when another New Year was reached, at 12:00:01am on 1 January 2000, the stored year number "99" was automatically incremented by one to become "100" — then the prefix "19" was inserted by the software, and the result was "19100" which became the date stamp for items generated from then on.  Most date-stamping software was fixed during the early months of 2000, and by November 2000 it was rare to see this glitch still in existence.  (Okay, it wasn't really a "glitch".)

The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia: A Marginal Colony During the Revolutionary Years by John Bartlet Brebner, Columbia University Press, New York, 1937
From: Dennis R. Thompson <-----@netcom.ca>
Subject: Re: Canadian provinces
Newsgroups: soc.history.war.us-revolution
Date: 1999 January 13

A more recent and more detailed account is The Siege of Fort Cumberland 1776: An Episode in the American Revolution by Ernest Clarke, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995; ISBN 077351323X.
Olaf Janzen, Corner Brook, Newfoundland
From: Olaf Janzen <-----@beothuk.swgc.mun.ca>
Subject: Re: Canadian provinces
Newsgroups: soc.history.war.us-revolution
Date: 1999 January 14

The Chignecto Isthmus And Its First Settlers, 1902, by Howard Trueman
Chapter IV: The Eddy Rebellion
(available online at several locations:)

Forgotten migration

Soon after the beginning of the Revolutionary war, the congress of Massachusetts made special efforts to obtain the assistance of the St. John River Indians...

Colonel John Allan

Colonel John Allan of Revolutionary fame, and who was especially prominent during that period in Eastern Maine, deserves much greater mention and consideration than historians have ever bestowed upon him... John Allan was the eldest son of William Allan, one of the earliest settlers of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was born in Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, Jan. 3, 1746... While a young man in Nova Scotia he held the offices of justice of the peace, clerk of the sessions, and clerk of the supreme court.  In the spring of 1770 he was elected a representative to the provincial assembly, which position he held until June 28, 1776, when his seat was declared vacant for non-attendance... As he was a man of standing and influence in the community and a member of the provincial legislature his positive opinions in this regard soon attracted the attention and the censure of the government authorities, and he was notified to desist, which he refused to do.  Then the provincial government began to lay their plans to apprehend him for treason to the king.  When he learned this and after becoming convinced that his life was in danger he resolved to make his escape from the province and cast his lot with the colonies, which he did August 3, 1776, arriving at Passamaquoddy on the eleventh day of August, and entering Machias Bay three days later...
Sprague's Journal of Maine History, February 1915

Nova Scotia During the American Revolution

Nova Scotia seemed to be a northern extension of New England

At the outset of the Revolution, this province had seemed so much a northern extension of New England that many of its inhabitants as well as their Yankee neighbours down the seaboard had assumed that Nova Scotia, too, would come to join the republic.

It looked almost inevitable.  Apart from the British naval and garrison base at Halifax, the German-speaking colonists of the nearby Lunenburg area, or some other scattered pockets of Highlanders, Ulstermen and Yorkshiremen, more than half the population were still New England settlers; and they particularly dominated the Bay of Fundy and south-shore stretches, with easy access by sea from the Maine or Massachusetts coasts.

Furthermore, these New England Yankees of Nova Scotia were not at all ready to defend their new homeland against American attack.  While they had few real quarrels with the British provincial regime, they had no wish either to fight their New England kin — as they said in representations to Halifax urging their own neutrality; ironically, much like the Acadians whose lands they had taken over.

But matters rose to a head with an actual American attempt to seize the province.

In August, 1776, a fairly small and poorly organized offensive was launched from the Maine coast, led by Jonathan Eddy, a fugitive member of the Nova Scotian assembly.  His "army" readily took little Maugereville, a hamlet up the Saint John River, then in November came down to Fort Cumberland, once Beausejour, on the Chignecto Isthmus, to force its surrender.  But Yorkshire settlers in the district stood out against the attempt, and sending messages to Halifax, brought British reinforcements that quickly ended the venture, with two Indians and one American killed.

It was no great invasion.  Still it indicated that power based on Halifax could maintain this province — a point that was endorsed by General George Washington, once a major of Virginia militia and now commander-in-chief of the American army, who declared that in the face of British naval strength, no expedition to take Nova Scotia could be effective...

—  Source: Chapter 4: British Empire and American Revolution: 1763-1791
Canada: A Celebration of Our Heritage, by J.M.S. Careless


If Eddy had succeeded...

(In 1776) we had more civil unrest at Fort Cumberland when Colonel Jonathan Eddy of the Continental Army tried to foment an uprising on behalf of the American revolution among the New England settlers who replaced the French Acadians.  If Eddy had succeeded, and he might very well have, Canada today would not have an Atlantic coast...
— Mrs. Dianne Brushett (MP for Cumberland-Colchester):
House of Commons, Ottawa — Hansard, 27 January 1994

Major Gilford Studholme

...During the American Revolution attacks were made upon Fort Frederick, near Saint John.  In 1777 Fort Howe was built and garrisoned by Major Gilford Studholme... He was with Major Batt when Eddy's rebel forces were dispersed at Fort Cumberland, and it was he who drove that other rebel leader, John Allen, and his followers from the Saint John River Valley...

1776 October 29

The Invasion of Nova Scotia

The siege of Fort Cumberland

Fort Beausejour a.k.a. Fort Cumberland

This fort has two names in the historical record.  It was built in 1751 by the French government, and garrisoned by French troops.  They named it Fort Beausejour.  Fort Beausejour was captured by British soldiers in June 1755.  They renamed it Fort Cumberland.  At the time of the Eddy Rebellion, in the autumn of 1776, this military installation was known as Fort Cumberland.

...A less well known episode in the American Revolution, in Canada, was the siege of Fort Cumberland in the then province of Nova Scotia.

I visited the Fort recently — it is a short trip down old country road just off the trans-Canada Highway as it passes from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia.  All that remains are foundation stones and ancient bricks surrounded by grass covered earthworks.  Despite this, it is one of the more beautiful historic sites in Atlantic Canada.

“I visited the Fort recently...”
Fort Beausejour historic plaques, 1755


In October and November of 1776 the British considered Fort Cumberland to be the military 'key to the whole province'.  Fortress Halifax, a much more extensive military installation, even when poorly garrisoned was too strong and too far away to present a viable target to the landlocked troops of colonial America.  Fort Cumberland, however, had been taken fairly easily from its French and Native defenders a generation earlier and, of course, was strategically situated on an overland route that would have to be taken by any invading army.

The early success of the Continental Army on the battlefield caused Nova Scotia Governor Francis Legge, to overreact and to declare martial law on December 5th — the day he learned of the capture of Montreal by General Montgomery.  Shortly after, George III himself became 'fed up with his representative' and recalled Legge on February 24, 1776.  He replaced him with the more conciliatory naval officer Mariott Arbuthnot.

During the winter of 1776, however, the chief political zealots in Nova Scotia — John Allen and Jonathan Eddy — attempted to raise support in Philadelphia and in George Washington's camp.

On March 27, 1776, the large British force in Boston abandoned the city and the fleet sailed to Halifax.  With the troops from Boston came many New England loyalists.  In June, 1776, elements of the Royal Fencible Americans took possession of Fort Cumberland — the military move considered necessary to secure the province.  Shortly after, Eddy returned to Nova Scotia.  His mission had been a bitter failure.  With the death of Montgomery outside of Quebec, and the failure of the Canadian Invasion, the Congress and Washington had other priorities.  The Nova Scotia (rebels) were on their own.

By the end of the summer, however, the (rebels) got some limited support from the Massachusetts Council which on September 2, 1776 gave Eddy, back in New England, permission to attack Fort Cumberland.  This was no large scale invasion.  Eddy was only permitted to "recruit as many men as he could in the eastern part of the state".  He was granted, "two hundred pounds weight of gunpowder, five hundred weight of musket ball, three hundred gun flints and twenty barrels of pork".

Meanwhile, John Allen, attempting to negotiate a treaty with the Micmaq and Maliseet Nations to support the (rebel) cause, found the best he could do was to pay them to remain neutral rather than supporting the British.  Fifteen Maliseet natives did join the army on the promise of receiving, in lieu of pay, a share of the 'plunder'.  The rebels' committee-of-safety agreed to this and, as well, to support the native soldiers' wives while they were on campaign

Including the Natives, Eddy now had seventy-two soldiers.  The mission was ambitious but not impossible " and not without precedent.  Ethan Allen (and Benedict Arnold), displaying boldness and determination, had captured Fort Ticonderoga the year before with a similar force.

On Tuesday, October 29, 1776, the invasion of Nova Scotia began.  The first action was an attack on the Shepody outpost.  This outpost was manned by Lieutenant John Walker and fourteen Fencibles.  Some fifteen miles from Fort Cumberland, Shepody was a true 'frontier' outpost at the edge of the vast wilderness northwest of Nova Scotia.  When one soldier was killed and Walker was wounded the undefensible position was conceded to Eddy's men.

If Eddy indeed wanted to execute an Ethan Allen type of attack on the main Fort, speed and surprise were essential.  In capturing the Shepody Outpost, Eddy gave himself a deadline.  He had to take the fort before his presence was known.  This was not to be.  Two warships were at anchor in the Cumberland Basin in front of the Fort and there was nothing to be done until they sailed away.  Eddy devoted the time to raising more troops.

It took a week for the Colonel commanding Fort Cumberland to discover Eddy's presence.  A boat had been sent to the Outpost on Sunday and returned with news of the attack the previous Tuesday.  The intelligence, however, was poor.  Eddy's force was estimated to include 200 soldiers.  The garrison of Fort Cumberland expected an attack at any moment.

Eddy and Colonel Goreham, the commander of Fort Cumberland, exchanged the polite notes required by 18th century etiquette and the siege began on Monday, November 11, 1776.  The Fencibles kept busy readying the fort for the expected attack.  It had been in a state of decay when they arrived at the beginning of the summer.  It had last seen military service fifteen years earlier.  Nonetheless, the earthworks were still formidable.

At four o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, November 13, the all-out attack began.  Even with the extra recruits, Eddy could only muster 80 of his 200 men for the attack.  Ernest Clarke, who has written a wonderful book describing the siege and the attack, noted, that attacking prepared defenses frontally was dangerous business requiring blind courage, mass discipline and martial coordination — assets often in short supply among irregulars.

Clarke suggests that military convention at the time dictated that attackers outnumber defenders of a prepared fortification by a ratio of at least three to one.  Between the Fencibles, loyalist militia and others pressed into service there were over 200 men defending Fort Cumberland.

Eddy's strategy was to fake an attack against the Flag Bastion and, it was hoped (he thought there were only 100 men in the Fort) divert the attention of the Fencibles from the main attack, which would take place against the weakest part of the fort — a run down area between two other bastions.  The veteran Goreham was not fooled and had the fort's artillery ready at the weak spot.  When it came, Goreham's six gun cannonade, over the heads of the attackers, scattered Eddy's force, who 'threw down their scaling ladders, saws and other implements for cutting down the pickets' and ran to safety.  The subsequent small arms fire lasted for two hours.  The nearest the (rebels) came to achieving their aim occurred when one of the Maliseets managed, in the confusion and darkness, to enter the fort.  He was just about to lift the bar securing the main gate when he was wounded by a sword thrust.  Eddy retreated to his camp at six o'clock.  Other than the Maliseet soldier, no one was wounded on either side.

Over the next few days, Eddy lost influence as a military leader.  The general consensus was that attacking the fort again would be impossible without artillery.  A number of his men returned to their homes — including some of the New England troops.  The troops that remained carried out a campaign of extortion and plunder.  Specific raids were sanctioned by the committee of safety and prominent loyalists were placed under house arrest.  The committee also sent a petition to Boston for help and support.

Despite declining morale the siege continued — Fort Cumberland was blockaded.  In the fort, supplies were seriously rationed and would soon run out.

News of the attack also reached Halifax.  As a result, ships and men were sent to reinforce Colonel Goreham.  Although help was on the way it would take time.  Meanwhile, seeing the deterioration of his men and his dream, Eddy managed to muster another 80 men for a second attack on the Fort.  This one took place on a cold and windy night between three and four in the morning on Friday, November 22, 1776.  This was no frontal assault, however.  This time, under cover of darkness, the (attacking) force silently approached the Fort and tossed fiery missiles on the dry wooden shingles of the buildings.  When the guard was turned out to defend the fort and put out the fires the roofs were ablaze.  Goreham had little choice but to order some of his Fencibles to climb on the roofs to put out the fires.  He expected that they would be cut down by enemy small arms fire.  He was surprised to learn that Eddy did not exploit the chaos.  He seemed to expect that the fire would win the battle for him.  Only about ten of his troops were firing muskets into the fort.  This was the moment of crisis.  Eddy, having earlier lost the element of surprise, having relied on poor intelligence about the number of defenders, having poorly planned his siege, continued his string of military mistakes by his failure to concentrate his resources and to exploit his advantage.

The fires were brought under control one by one.  Eventually the Fencibles were able to put out all of the (rebel) missiles as they landed.  When the wind died down, and the night grew black, Eddy once again retreated into the darkness.  Again, there were no casualties.

On Wednesday, November 27, 1776, His Majesty's ship Vulture arrived at Fort Cumberland with a detachment of Royal Marines under the command of Captain William Pitcairn.  The siege of Fort Cumberland was over.  At five in the morning, two days later, a mixed company of 160 Fencibles and Royal Marines descended on Eddy's camp and routed the remnants of Eddy's force.  One Fencible was killed in the action and several were wounded.  (Eddy's) losses are harder to determine.  A small number of men were killed and the homes of known rebels were burned.  Clarke argues that the troops, and the officers commanding them, acted with considerable restraint.  He notes that a conditional pardon was immediately offered to all but the 'ringleaders'.  It was accepted by 100 local (residents symapthetic to the rebel cause), who surrendered at the Fort the next day.

Jonathan Eddy, Richard Allen and some of their allies left Cumberland for New England.  Eddy and his family settled first in Maine, then in Ohio.  He received land grants totaling 2,500 acres.  John Allan became an Indian Agent for the Congress.

From: Hugh MacDonald <-----@fox.nstn.ca>
Subject: American Revolution - Fort Cumberland
Newsgroups: soc.history.war.misc
Date: 1997 July 11
Organization: Nova Scotia Technology Network
— Source: American Revolution - Fort Cumberland

1776 October

Eddy Rebellion

Jonathan Eddy was a "planter" [settler] from the New England States who came to Cumberland, on the Isthmus of Chignecto, from Mansfield, Massachusetts in 1763 to help "plant" a colony in Nova Scotia, which then comprised present-day New Brunswick as well.  By the fall of 1775, he had established a successful farm on the banks of the LaPlanche River near present-day Amherst, Nova Scotia.  The stirrings of his former neighbours in New England caused him and many other transplanted New England "planters" to favour the cause of independence from the crown.  An unpopular militia bill passed in the legislature in Halifax in the fall of 1775 met acrimonious debate in the Assembly, and rebellion by the people, which in turn was met with the declaration of martial law on December 5, 1775.  Eddy, along with others, took the side of the rebelling colonies.

After actively campaigning all fall in support of the "patriots" [rebels], Eddy left Cumberland on foot in February 8, 1776, to walk to Boston to meet General Washington.  He hoped to bring back with him a force of five or six hundred men which he reasoned would earn him the support of the entire area.  He would then subdue Fort Cumberland, the key to the main supply route to Louisburg, and thus strategically the key to control of the region at that time.  He had already secured the promise of the native tribes not to raise arms against him.

Bear in mind as you read of Eddy's walk to Boston that the winter of 1776 was one of the coldest on record... ice floes in Halifax harbour were four feet [about 120cm] thick!

He arrived in Boston March 23, 1776, and met Washington at Harvard.  Washington, although interested in acquiring Nova Scotia, could not supply Eddy with men, but he gave him a letter introducing him to Congress in Philadelphia and fifty dollars to defray his expenses.  When Eddy arrived, Congress was involved with drafting a document of independence and he was unsuccessful again.  Eddy left for home, gathering on the way a few mercenaries at Machias, Maine,and a few more at various points along his way home, to the extent that the numbers of his force about matched those of a poorly-manned but well-commanded Fort Cumberland.  He finally arrived and made his first attack at an outpost at Shepody Bay on October 29, 1776.  It succeeded, and his siege of Fort Cumberland followed, until November 30 when he was finally routed.  I believe it marked the only time during the American Revolution that shots were fired by British subjects against the crown on what we now call Canadian soil, that is, outside the rebelling colonies...

Summary of Eddy Rebellion,1775-1776

1776 November 4-24

The siege of Fort Cumberland

Fort Beausejour, built by order of Marquis de la Jonquiere, Governor of Canada, in 1750-1.  Taken by Lt. Col. Robert Monckton with volunteers from New England, known as Shirley's Regiment, raised by Lt. Col. John Winslow, aided by men of the Royal Artillery, and other British troops, after a siege lasting from 3rd June to 16th June, 1755.

Renamed Fort Cumberland.  Besieged by rebels under Jonathan Eddy from 4th November to 24th November 1776.  Defended by the Royal American Fencible Regiment under Lt. Col. Joseph Gorham and relieved by Major Thomas Batt with a body of Royal Marines and Royal Highland Emigrants, who routed the besiegers.

Canadian Historic Sites

1776 November

Captain Thomas Dixson

In mid-November, 1776, a poorly armed band of American sympathizers under Jonathan Eddy invested Fort Cumberland, hoping to capture it and induce Nova Scotians to join the rebelling colonies.  Captain Thomas Dixson and three volunteers sailed across Minas Basin and went to Halifax to warn the authorities, securing the assistance of a force which helped rout the invaders.  Dixson later represented Cumberland Township in the Nova Scotia Assembly (1777-1785) and Westmorland in the New Brunswick Legislature (1792-1802).
Canadian Historic Sites

Thomas Dickson (Dixon)

Dickson, Thomas, Soldier, farmer; born 3 May 1733 at Colchester, Connecticut; son of William and Rebeckah Dickson; moved with family to Norwich, Connecticut, then to Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia; married Catherine Weatherhead; served at capture of Beausejour in 1755, with Amherst in Montreal in 1760 and with Monckton at Havanna in 1762; received land grant in Cumberland Township, Nova Scotia, in 1761, later moved to Pointe de Bute; major in the militia; Justice of the Peace for Cumberland County, October 1778; elected Member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, representing Cumberland County, in by-election 20 August 1776, served until 1785, term ended when New Brunswick separated from Nova Scotia; elected representative for Westmoreland County in New Brunswick Legislature in 1785 (this being the same region he had previously represented in the Nova Scotia legislature), served until 1802; died 8 November 1809 at Pointe de Bute, New Brunswick.
The Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia 1758-1983: A Biographical Directory, edited and revised by Shirley B. Elliott, 1984, ISBN 088871050X; This volume was prepared as a contribution of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia to the celebration of the bicentenary of the establishment of representative government in Canada.

In addition to Thomas Dickson (above), seven other Dicksons – all his close relatives – served as Members of the Nova Scotia Legislature at one time or another from 1767 until 1836.

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