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Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia

Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia

FORT CUMBERLAND, NOVA SCOTIA. 7-29 November 1776. With from 14,000 to 15,000 New Englanders living in Nova Scotia at the beginning of the Revolution, there was much talk in that province of joining the insurrection of the other colonies. However, the British garrison at Halifax and the presence of warships served as a powerful deterrent. Early in 1776 a Scot named John Allen and an emigrant from Massachusetts named Jonathan Eddy (a veteran of the French and Indian War) led a movement to secure control of the province from the British. Although Washington and Congress could not promise support, Massachusetts agreed to supply whatever force the rebels could muster. Allen visited Massachusetts to make plans for the insurrection and returned to Sackville with a small body of men, including Indians, who captured the small outpost at Shepody. Although only 180 men assembled at Machias, the rebel leaders decided to attempt the capture of Fort Cumberland (formerly Beauséjour and near modern Amherst). On 7 November they got possession of a sloop anchored near the fort, gaining much-needed supplies, and on the 10th, Eddy sent the enemy commander a summons to surrender.

Fort Cumberland was held by the Royal Fencible Americans under the command of Colonel Joseph Goreham. The besiegers realized that Goreham could expect prompt support from Halifax and that their time was therefore limited. The summons having been refused, Eddy launched attacks on 13 and 22 November, but both failed. A company of the Royal Highland Emigrants and two companies of marines then arrived from Halifax. A British sortie on 29 November broke the siege, but bad weather and lack of proper clothing prevented Goreham from pursuing the insurgents. Instead, the British commander decided on a policy of reconciliation, offering a conditional pardon to the rebels. More than one hundred men surrendered their weapons and expressed regret for having participated in the operation. Although Eddy and Allen continued their efforts, the British established Fort Howe at the mouth of the St. John, checking further rebel action in the Maritimes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Clarke, Ernest. The Siege of Fort Cumberland, 1776: An Episode in the American Revolution. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles

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