Massachusetts Attacks Quebec

Like Montreal, Quebec transformed itself in time lost much of its

character of a mission, and became the seat of the colonial government.

In short, it became secularized, though not completely so; for the

priesthood still held an immense influence and disputed the mastery with

the civil and military powers.

In the beginning of William and Mary's War, Count Frontenac, governor of

Canada, sent repeated war-
arties to harass the New England borders;

and, in 1690, the General Court of Massachusetts resolved to retort by a

decisive blow. Sir William Phips was chosen to command the intended

expedition. Phips is said to have been one of twenty-six children, all

of the same mother, and was born in 1650 at a rude border settlement,

since called Woolwich, on the Kennebec. His parents were ignorant and

poor; and till eighteen years of age he was employed in keeping sheep.

Such a life ill suited his active and ambitious nature. To better his

condition, he learned the trade of ship-carpenter, and, in the exercise

of it, came to Boston, where he married a widow with some property,

beyond him in years, and much above him in station. About this time, he

learned to read and write, though not too well, for his signature is

like that of a peasant. Still aspiring to greater things, he promised

his wife that he would one day command a king's ship and own a "fair

brick house in the Green Lane of North Boston," a quarter then occupied

by citizens of the better class. He kept his word at both points.

Fortune was inauspicious to him for several years; till at length, under

the pressure of reverses, he conceived the idea of conquering fame and

wealth at one stroke, by fishing up the treasure said to be stored in a

Spanish galleon wrecked fifty years before somewhere in the West Indian

seas. Full of this project, he went to England, where, through

influences which do not plainly appear, he gained a hearing from persons

in high places, and induced the Admiralty to adopt his scheme. A frigate

was given him, and he sailed for the West Indies; whence, after a long

search, he returned unsuccessful, though not without adventures which

proved his mettle. It was the epoch of the buccaneers; and his crew,

tired of a vain and toilsome search, came to the quarter-deck, armed

with cutlasses, and demanded of their captain that he should turn pirate

with them. Phips, a tall and powerful man, instantly fell upon them with

his fists, knocked down the ringleaders, and awed them all into

submission. Not long after, there was a more formidable mutiny; but,

with great courage and address, he quelled it for a time, and held his

crew to their duty till he had brought the ship into Jamaica, and

exchanged them for better men.

Though the leaky condition of the frigate compelled him to abandon the

search, it was not till he had gained information which he thought would

lead to success; and, on his return, he inspired such confidence that

the Duke of Albemarle, with other noblemen and gentlemen, gave him a

fresh outfit, and despatched him again on his Quixotic errand. This time

he succeeded, found the wreck, and took from it gold, silver, and jewels

to the value of three hundred thousand pounds sterling. The crew now

leagued together to seize the ship and divide the prize; and Phips,

pushed to extremity, was compelled to promise that every man of them

should have a share in the treasure, even if he paid it himself. On

reaching England, he kept his pledge so well that, after redeeming it,

only sixteen thousand pounds was left as his portion, which, however,

was an ample fortune in the New England of that day. He gained, too,

what he valued almost as much, the honor of knighthood. Tempting offers

were made him of employment in the royal service; but he had an ardent

love for his own country, and thither he presently returned.

Phips was a rude sailor, bluff, prompt, and choleric. He never gave

proof of intellectual capacity; and such of his success in life as he

did not owe to good luck was due probably to an energetic and

adventurous spirit, aided by a blunt frankness of address that pleased

the great, and commended him to their favor. Two years after the

expedition against Quebec, the king, under the new charter, made him

governor of Massachusetts, a post for which, though totally unfit, he

had been recommended by the elder Mather, who, like his son Cotton,

expected to make use of him. He carried his old habits into his new

office, cudgelled Brinton, the collector of the port, and belabored

Captain Short of the royal navy with his cane. Far from trying to hide

the obscurity of his origin, he leaned to the opposite foible, and was

apt to boast of it, delighting to exhibit himself as a self-made man.

New England writers describe him as honest in private dealings; but, in

accordance with his coarse nature, he seems to have thought that

anything is fair in war. On the other hand, he was warmly patriotic, and

was almost as ready to serve New England as to serve himself.

Returning from an expedition to Acadia, he found Boston alive with

martial preparation. Massachusetts of her own motion had resolved to

attempt the conquest of Quebec. She and her sister colonies had not yet

recovered from the exhaustion of Philip's War, and still less from the

disorders that attended the expulsion of the royal governor and his

adherents. The public treasury was empty, and the recent expeditions

against the eastern Indians had been supported by private subscription.

Worse yet, New England had no competent military commander. The Puritan

gentlemen of the original emigration, some of whom were as well fitted

for military as for civil leadership, had passed from the stage; and, by

a tendency which circumstances made inevitable, they had left none

behind them equally qualified. The great Indian conflict of fifteen

years before had, it is true, formed good partisan chiefs, and proved

that the New England yeoman, defending his family and his hearth, was

not to be surpassed in stubborn fighting; but, since Andros and his

soldiers had been driven out, there was scarcely a single man in the

colony of the slightest training or experience in regular war. Up to

this moment, New England had never asked help of the mother country.

When thousands of savages burst on her defenceless settlements, she had

conquered safety and peace with her own blood and her own slender

resources; but now, as the proposed capture of Quebec would inure to the

profit of the British crown, Governor Bradstreet and his council thought

it not unfitting to ask for a supply of arms and ammunition, of which

they were in great need. The request was refused, and no aid of any kind

came from the English government, whose resources were engrossed by the

Irish war.

While waiting for the reply, the colonial authorities urged on their

preparations, in the hope that the plunder of Quebec would pay the

expenses of its conquest. Humility was not among the New England

virtues, and it was thought a sin to doubt that God would give his

chosen people the victory over papists and idolaters; yet no pains were

spared to insure the divine favor. A proclamation was issued, calling

the people to repentance; a day of fasting was ordained; and, as Mather

expresses it, "the wheel of prayer was kept in continual motion." The

chief difficulty was to provide funds. An attempt was made to collect a

part of the money by private subscription; but, as this plan failed, the

provisional government, already in debt, strained its credit yet

farther, and borrowed the needful sums. Thirty-two trading and fishing

vessels, great and small, were impressed for the service. The largest

was a ship called the "Six Friends," engaged in the dangerous West India

trade, and carrying forty-four guns. A call was made for volunteers, and

many enrolled themselves; but, as more were wanted, a press was ordered

to complete the number. So rigorously was it applied that, what with

voluntary and enforced enlistment, one town, that of Gloucester, was

deprived of two thirds of its fencible men. There was not a moment of

doubt as to the choice of a commander, for Phips was imagined to be the

very man for the work. One John Walley, a respectable citizen of

Barnstable, was made second in command, with the modest rank of major;

and a sufficient number of ship-masters, merchants, master mechanics,

and substantial farmers, were commissioned as subordinate officers.

About the middle of July, the committee charged with the preparations

reported that all was ready. Still there was a long delay. The vessel

sent early in spring to ask aid from England had not returned. Phips

waited for her as long as he dared, and the best of the season was over

when he resolved to put to sea. The rustic warriors, duly formed into

companies, were sent on board; and the fleet sailed from Nantasket on

the ninth of August. Including sailors, it carried twenty-two hundred

men, with provisions for four months, but insufficient ammunition and no

pilot for the St. Lawrence.

The delay at Boston, waiting aid from England that never came, was not

propitious to Phips; nor were the wind and the waves. The voyage to the

St. Lawrence was a long one; and when he began, without a pilot, to

grope his way up the unknown river, the weather seemed in league with

his enemies. He appears, moreover, to have wasted time. What was most

vital to his success was rapidity of movement; yet, whether by his fault

or his misfortune, he remained three weeks within three days' sail of

Quebec. While anchored off Tadoussac, with the wind ahead, he passed the

idle hours in holding councils of war and framing rules for the

government of his men; and, when at length the wind veered to the east,

it is doubtful if he made the best use of his opportunity.

When, after his protracted voyage, Phips sailed into the Basin of

Quebec, one of the grandest scenes on the western continent opened upon

his sight: the wide expanse of waters, the lofty promontory beyond, and

the opposing heights of Levi; the cataract of Montmorenci, the distant

range of the Laurentian Mountains, the warlike rock with its diadem of

walls and towers, the roofs of the Lower Town clustering on the strand

beneath, the Chateau St. Louis perched at the brink of the cliff, and

over it the white banner, spangled with fleurs-de-lis, flaunting

defiance in the clear autumnal air. Perhaps, as he gazed, a suspicion

seized him that the task he had undertaken was less easy than he had

thought; but he had conquered once by a simple summons to surrender, and

he resolved to try its virtue again.

The fleet anchored a little below Quebec; and towards ten o'clock the

French saw a boat put out from the admiral's ship, bearing a flag of

truce. Four canoes went from the Lower Town, and met it midway. It

brought a subaltern officer, who announced himself as the bearer of a

letter from Sir William Phips to the French commander. He was taken into

one of the canoes and paddled to the quay, after being completely

blindfolded by a bandage which covered half his face. An officer named

Prevost, sent by Count Frontenac, received him as he landed, and ordered

two sergeants to take him by the arms and lead him to the governor. His

progress was neither rapid nor direct. They drew him hither and thither,

delighting to make him clamber in the dark over every possible

obstruction; while a noisy crowd hustled him, and laughing women called

him Colin Maillard, the name of the chief player in blindman's buff.

Amid a prodigious hubbub, intended to bewilder him and impress him with

a sense of immense warlike preparation, they dragged him over the three

barricades of Mountain Street, and brought him at last into a large room

of the chateau. Here they took the bandage from his eyes. He stood for a

moment with an air of astonishment and some confusion. The governor

stood before him, haughty and stern, surrounded by French and Canadian

officers, Maricourt, Sainte-Helene, Longueuil, Villebon, Valrenne,

Bienville, and many more, bedecked with gold lace and silver lace,

perukes and powder, plumes and ribbons, and all the martial foppery in

which they took delight, and regarding the envoy with keen, defiant

eyes. After a moment, he recovered his breath and his composure,

saluted Frontenac, and, expressing a wish that the duty assigned him had

been of a more agreeable nature, handed him the letter of Phips.

Frontenac gave it to an interpreter, who read it aloud in French that

all might hear. It ran thus:--

"Sir William Phips, Knight, General and Commander-in-chief in

and over their Majesties' Forces of New England, by Sea and

Land, to Count Frontenac, Lieutenant-General and Governour for

the French King at Canada; or, in his absence, to his Deputy, or

him or them in chief command at Quebeck:

"The war between the crowns of England and France doth not only

sufficiently warrant, but the destruction made by the French and

Indians, under your command and encouragement, upon the persons

and estates of their Majesties' subjects of New England, without

provocation on their part, hath put them under the necessity of

this expedition for their own security and satisfaction. And

although the cruelties and barbarities used against them by the

French and Indians might, upon the present opportunity, prompt

unto a severe revenge, yet, being desirous to avoid all inhumane

and unchristian-like actions, and to prevent shedding of blood

as much as may be,

"I, the aforesaid William Phips, Knight, do hereby, in the name

and in the behalf of their most excellent Majesties, William and

Mary, King and Queen of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland,

Defenders of the Faith, and by order of their said Majesties'

government of the Massachuset-colony in New England, demand a

present surrender of your forts and castles, undemolished, and

the King's and other stores, unimbezzled, with a seasonable

delivery of all captives; together with a surrender of all your

persons and estates to my dispose: upon the doing whereof, you

may expect mercy from me, as a Christian, according to what

shall be found for their Majesties' service and the subjects'

security. Which, if you refuse forthwith to do, I am come

provided, and am resolved, by the help of God, in whom I trust,

by force of arms to revenge all wrongs and injuries offered, and

bring you under subjection to the Crown of England, and, when

too late, make you wish you had accepted of the favour tendered.

"Your answer positive in an hour, returned by your own trumpet,

with the return of mine, is required upon the peril that will


When the reading was finished, the Englishman pulled his watch from his

pocket, and handed it to the governor. Frontenac could not, or pretended

that he could not, see the hour. The messenger thereupon told him that

it was ten o'clock, and that he must have his answer before eleven. A

general cry of indignation arose; and Valrenne called out that Phips was

nothing but a pirate, and that his man ought to be hanged. Frontenac

contained himself for a moment, and then said to the envoy:--

"I will not keep you waiting so long. Tell your general that I do not

recognize King William; and that the Prince of Orange, who so styles

himself, is a usurper, who has violated the most sacred laws of blood in

attempting to dethrone his father-in-law. I know no king of England but

King James. Your general ought not to be surprised at the hostilities

which he says that the French have carried on in the colony of

Massachusetts; for, as the king my master has taken the king of England

under his protection, and is about to replace him on his throne by force

of arms, he might have expected that his Majesty would order me to make

war on a people who have rebelled against their lawful prince." Then,

turning with a smile to the officers about him: "Even if your general

offered me conditions a little more gracious, and if I had a mind to

accept them, does he suppose that these brave gentlemen would give

their consent, and advise me to trust a man who broke his agreement

with the governor of Port Royal, or a rebel who has failed in his duty

to his king, and forgotten all the favors he had received from him, to

follow a prince who pretends to be the liberator of England and the

defender of the faith, and yet destroys the laws and privileges of the

kingdom and overthrows its religion? The divine justice which your

general invokes in his letter will not fail to punish such acts


The messenger seemed astonished and startled; but he presently asked if

the governor would give him his answer in writing.

"No," returned Frontenac, "I will answer your general only by the mouths

of my cannon, that he may learn that a man like me is not to be summoned

after this fashion. Let him do his best, and I will do mine;" and he

dismissed the Englishman abruptly. He was again blindfolded, led over

the barricades, and sent back to the fleet by the boat that brought him.

Phips had often given proof of personal courage, but for the past three

weeks his conduct seems that of a man conscious that he is charged with

a work too large for his capacity. He had spent a good part of his time

in holding councils of war; and now, when he heard the answer of

Frontenac, he called another to consider what should be done. A plan of

attack was at length arranged. The militia were to be landed on the

shore of Beauport, which was just below Quebec, though separated from it

by the St. Charles. They were then to cross this river by a ford

practicable at low water, climb the heights of St. Genevieve, and gain

the rear of the town. The small vessels of the fleet were to aid the

movement by ascending the St. Charles as far as the ford, holding the

enemy in check by their fire, and carrying provisions, ammunition, and

intrenching tools, for the use of the land troops. When these had

crossed and were ready to attack Quebec in the rear, Phips was to

cannonade it in front, and land two hundred men under cover of his guns

to effect a diversion by storming the barricades. Some of the French

prisoners, from whom their captors appear to have received a great deal

of correct information, told the admiral that there was a place a mile

or two above the town where the heights might be scaled and the rear of

the fortifications reached from a direction opposite to that proposed.

This was precisely the movement by which Wolfe afterwards gained his

memorable victory; but Phips chose to abide by the original plan.

While the plan was debated, the opportunity for accomplishing it ebbed

away. It was still early when the messenger returned from Quebec; but,

before Phips was ready to act, the day was on the wane and the tide was

against him. He lay quietly at his moorings when, in the evening, a

great shouting, mingled with the roll of drums and the sound of fifes,

was heard from the Upper Town. The English officers asked their

prisoner, Granville, what it meant. "Ma foi, Messieurs," he replied,

"you have lost the game. It is the Governor of Montreal with the people

from the country above. There is nothing for you now but to pack and go

home." In fact, Callieres had arrived with seven or eight hundred men,

many of them regulars. With these were bands of coureurs de bois and

other young Canadians, all full of fight, singing and whooping with

martial glee as they passed the western gate and trooped down St. Louis


The next day was gusty and blustering; and still Phips lay quiet,

waiting on the winds and the waves. A small vessel, with sixty men on

board, under Captain Ephraim Savage, ran in towards the shore of

Beauport to examine the landing, and stuck fast in the mud. The

Canadians plied her with bullets, and brought a cannon to bear on her.

They might have waded out and boarded her, but Savage and his men kept

up so hot a fire that they forbore the attempt; and, when the tide rose,

she floated again.

There was another night of tranquillity; but at about eleven on

Wednesday morning the French heard the English fifes and drums in full

action, while repeated shouts of "God save King William!" rose from all

the vessels. This lasted an hour or more; after which a great number of

boats, loaded with men, put out from the fleet and rowed rapidly towards

the shore of Beauport. The tide was low, and the boats grounded before

reaching the landing-place. The French on the rock could see the troops

through telescopes, looking in the distance like a swarm of black ants,

as they waded through mud and water, and formed in companies along the

strand. They were some thirteen hundred in number, and were commanded by

Major Walley. Frontenac had sent three hundred sharpshooters, under

Sainte-Helene, to meet them and hold them in check. A battalion of

troops followed; but, long before they could reach the spot,

Sainte-Helene's men, with a few militia from the neighboring parishes,

and a band of Huron warriors from Lorette, threw themselves into the

thickets along the front of the English, and opened a distant but

galling fire upon the compact bodies of the enemy. Walley ordered a

charge. The New England men rushed, in a disorderly manner, but with

great impetuosity, up the rising ground; received two volleys, which

failed to check them; and drove back the assailants in some confusion.

They turned, however, and fought in Indian fashion with courage and

address, leaping and dodging among trees, rocks, and bushes, firing as

they retreated, and inflicting more harm than they received. Towards

evening they disappeared; and Walley, whose men had been much scattered

in the desultory fight, drew them together as well as he could, and

advanced towards the St. Charles, in order to meet the vessels which

were to aid him in passing the ford. Here he posted sentinels, and

encamped for the night. He had lost four killed and about sixty wounded,

and imagined that he had killed twenty or thirty of the enemy. In fact,

however, their loss was much less, though among the killed was a

valuable officer, the Chevalier de Clermont, and among the wounded the

veteran captain of Beauport, Juchereau de Saint-Denis, more than

sixty-four years of age. In the evening, a deserter came to the English

camp, and brought the unwelcome intelligence that there were three

thousand armed men in Quebec.

Meanwhile, Phips, whose fault hitherto had not been an excess of

promptitude, grew impatient, and made a premature movement inconsistent

with the preconcerted plan. He left his moorings, anchored his largest

ships before the town, and prepared to cannonade it; but the fiery

veteran who watched him from the Chateau St. Louis anticipated him, and

gave him the first shot. Phips replied furiously, opening fire with

every gun that he could bring to bear; while the rock paid him back in

kind, and belched flame and smoke from all its batteries. So fierce and

rapid was the firing, that La Hontan compares it to volleys of musketry;

and old officers, who had seen many sieges, declared that they had never

known the like. The din was prodigious, reverberated from the

surrounding heights, and rolled back from the distant mountains in one

continuous roar. On the part of the English, however, surprisingly

little was accomplished beside noise and smoke. The practice of their

gunners was so bad that many of their shot struck harmlessly against the

face of the cliff. Their guns, too, were very light, and appear to have

been charged with a view to the most rigid economy of gunpowder; for the

balls failed to pierce the stone walls of the buildings, and did so

little damage that, as the French boasted, twenty crowns would have

repaired it all. Night came at length, and the turmoil ceased.

Phips lay quiet till daybreak, when Frontenac sent a shot to waken him,

and the cannonade began again. Sainte-Helene had returned from Beauport;

and he, with his brother Maricourt, took charge of the two batteries of

the Lower Town, aiming the guns in person, and throwing balls of

eighteen and twenty-four pounds with excellent precision against the

four largest ships of the fleet. One of their shots cut the flagstaff of

the admiral, and the cross of St. George fell into the river. It drifted

with the tide towards the north shore; whereupon several Canadians

paddled out in a birch canoe, secured it, and brought it back in

triumph. On the spire of the cathedral in the Upper Town had been hung a

picture of the Holy Family, as an invocation of divine aid. The Puritan

gunners wasted their ammunition in vain attempts to knock it down. That

it escaped their malice was ascribed to miracle, but the miracle would

have been greater if they had hit it.

At length, one of the ships, which had suffered most, hauled off and

abandoned the fight. That of the admiral had fared little better, and

now her condition grew desperate. With her rigging torn, her mainmast

half cut through, her mizzen-mast splintered, her cabin pierced, and

her hull riddled with shot, another volley seemed likely to sink her,

when Phips ordered her to be cut loose from her moorings, and she

drifted out of fire, leaving cable and anchor behind. The remaining

ships soon gave over the conflict, and withdrew to stations where they

could neither do harm nor suffer it.

Phips had thrown away nearly all his ammunition in this futile and

disastrous attack, which should have been deferred till the moment when

Walley, with his land force, had gained the rear of the town. Walley lay

in his camp, his men wet, shivering with cold, famished, and sickening

with the small-pox. Food, and all other supplies, were to have been

brought him by the small vessels, which should have entered the mouth of

the St. Charles and aided him to cross it. But he waited for them in

vain. Every vessel that carried a gun had busied itself in cannonading,

and the rest did not move. There appears to have been insubordination

among the masters of these small craft, some of whom, being owners or

part-owners of the vessels they commanded, were probably unwilling to

run them into danger. Walley was no soldier; but he saw that to attempt

the passage of the river without aid, under the batteries of the town

and in the face of forces twice as numerous as his own, was not an easy

task. Frontenac, on his part, says that he wished him to do so, knowing

that the attempt would ruin him. The New England men were eager to push

on; but the night of Thursday, the day of Phips's repulse, was so cold

that ice formed more than an inch in thickness, and the half-starved

militia suffered intensely. Six field-pieces, with their ammunition, had

been sent ashore; but they were nearly useless, as there were no means

of moving them. Half a barrel of musket powder, and one biscuit for

each man, were also landed; and with this meagre aid Walley was left to

capture Quebec. He might, had he dared, have made a dash across the ford

on the morning of Thursday, and assaulted the town in the rear while

Phips was cannonading it in front; but his courage was not equal to so

desperate a venture. The firing ceased, and the possible opportunity was

lost. The citizen soldier despaired of success; and, on the morning of

Friday, he went on board the admiral's ship to explain his situation.

While he was gone, his men put themselves in motion, and advanced along

the borders of the St. Charles towards the ford. Frontenac, with three

battalions of regular troops, went to receive them at the crossing;

while Sainte-Helene, with his brother Longueuil, passed the ford with a

body of Canadians, and opened fire on them from the neighboring

thickets. Their advance parties were driven in, and there was a hot

skirmish, the chief loss falling on the New England men, who were fully

exposed. On the side of the French, Sainte-Helene was mortally wounded,

and his brother was hurt by a spent ball. Towards evening, the Canadians

withdrew, and the English encamped for the night. Their commander

presently rejoined them. The admiral had given him leave to withdraw

them to the fleet, and boats were accordingly sent to bring them off;

but, as these did not arrive till about daybreak, it was necessary to

defer the embarkation till the next night.

At dawn, Quebec was all astir with the beating of drums and the ringing

of bells. The New England drums replied; and Walley drew up his men

under arms, expecting an attack, for the town was so near that the

hubbub of voices from within could plainly be heard. The noise gradually

died away; and, except a few shots from the ramparts, the invaders were

left undisturbed. Walley sent two or three companies to beat up the

neighboring thickets, where he suspected that the enemy was lurking. On

the way, they had the good luck to find and kill a number of cattle,

which they cooked and ate on the spot; whereupon, being greatly

refreshed and invigorated, they dashed forward in complete disorder, and

were soon met by the fire of the ambushed Canadians. Several more

companies were sent to their support, and the skirmishing became lively.

Three detachments from Quebec had crossed the river; and the militia of

Beauport and Beaupre had hastened to join them. They fought like

Indians, hiding behind trees or throwing themselves flat among the

bushes, and laying repeated ambuscades as they slowly fell back. At

length, they all made a stand on a hill behind the buildings and fences

of a farm; and here they held their ground till night, while the New

England men taunted them as cowards who would never fight except under


Walley, who with his main body had stood in arms all day, now called in

the skirmishers, and fell back to the landing-place, where, as soon as

it grew dark, the boats arrived from the fleet. The sick men, of whom

there were many, were sent on board, and then, amid floods of rain, the

whole force embarked in noisy confusion, leaving behind them in the mud

five of their cannon. Hasty as was their parting, their conduct on the

whole had been creditable; and La Hontan, who was in Quebec at the time,

says of them, "They fought vigorously, though as ill-disciplined as men

gathered together at random could be; for they did not lack courage,

and, if they failed, it was by reason of their entire ignorance of

discipline, and because they were exhausted by the fatigues of the

voyage." Of Phips he speaks with contempt, and says that he could not

have served the French better if they had bribed him to stand all the

while with his arms folded. Some allowance should, nevertheless, be made

him for the unmanageable character of the force under his command, the

constitution of which was fatal to military subordination.

On Sunday, the morning after the re-embarkation, Phips called a council

of officers, and it was resolved that the men should rest for a day or

two, that there should be a meeting for prayer, and that, if ammunition

enough could be found, another landing should be attempted; but the

rough weather prevented the prayer-meeting, and the plan of a new attack

was fortunately abandoned.

Quebec remained in agitation and alarm till Tuesday, when Phips weighed

anchor and disappeared, with all his fleet, behind the Island of

Orleans. He did not go far, as indeed he could not, but stopped four

leagues below to mend rigging, fortify wounded masts, and stop

shot-holes. Subercase had gone with a detachment to watch the retiring

enemy; and Phips was repeatedly seen among his men, on a scaffold at the

side of his ship, exercising his old trade of carpenter. This delay was

turned to good use by an exchange of prisoners. Chief among those in the

hands of the French was Captain Davis, late commander at Casco Bay; and

there were also two young daughters of Lieutenant Clark, who had been

killed at the same place. Frontenac himself had humanely ransomed these

children from the Indians; and Madame de Champigny, wife of the

intendant, had, with equal kindness, bought from them a little girl

named Sarah Gerrish, and placed her in charge of the nuns at the

Hotel-Dieu, who had become greatly attached to her, while she, on her

part, left them with reluctance. The French had the better in these

exchanges, receiving able-bodied men, and returning, with the exception

of Davis, only women and children.

The heretics were gone, and Quebec breathed freely again. Her escape had

been a narrow one; not that three thousand men, in part regular troops,

defending one of the strongest positions on the continent, and commanded

by Frontenac, could not defy the attacks of two thousand raw fishermen

and farmers, led by an ignorant civilian, but the numbers which were a

source of strength were at the same time a source of weakness. Nearly

all the adult males of Canada were gathered at Quebec, and there was

imminent danger of starvation. Cattle from the neighboring parishes had

been hastily driven into the town; but there was little other provision,

and before Phips retreated the pinch of famine had begun. Had he come a

week earlier or stayed a week later, the French themselves believed that

Quebec would have fallen, in the one case for want of men, and in the

other for want of food.

Phips returned crestfallen to Boston late in November; and one by one

the rest of the fleet came straggling after him, battered and

weather-beaten. Some did not appear till February, and three or four

never came at all. The autumn and early winter were unusually stormy.

Captain Rainsford, with sixty men, was wrecked on the Island of

Anticosti, where more than half their number died of cold and misery. In

the other vessels, some were drowned, some frost-bitten, and above two

hundred killed by small-pox and fever.

At Boston, all was dismay and gloom. The Puritan bowed before "this

awful frown of God," and searched his conscience for the sin that had

brought upon him so stern a chastisement. Massachusetts, already

impoverished, found herself in extremity. The war, instead of paying

for itself, had burdened her with an additional debt of fifty thousand

pounds. The sailors and soldiers were clamorous for their pay; and, to

satisfy them, the colony was forced for the first time in its history to

issue a paper currency. It was made receivable at a premium for all

public debts, and was also fortified by a provision for its early

redemption by taxation; a provision which was carried into effect in

spite of poverty and distress.

Massachusetts had made her usual mistake. She had confidently believed

that ignorance and inexperience could match the skill of a tried

veteran, and that the rude courage of her fishermen and farmers could

triumph without discipline or leadership. The conditions of her material

prosperity were adverse to efficiency in war. A trading republic,

without trained officers, may win victories; but it wins them either by

accident or by an extravagant outlay in money and life.