The sun was just rising as he hurriedly pulled on his breeches, tunic and coat and donned his tricorn.
He and the other older men all kicked at a few of the young bucks who were deep sleepers.
"Hie, there shall be no rest for the lazy on this day, soldiers. Get your bat and clobber and get to parade! Now! Outta yer kip! Get on yer smalls!" shouted a sergeant to no one in particular.
Adams was the first to leave the barn, which was a good thing because the first thing he saw outside was John Winslow. "Adams. You're up early. Good. Ye're a Captain and this morning you'll lead the vanguard. Be sharp and ready."
"Yes, Major General."
The sergeants were following around the drummers and shaking men out of their sleep and drunken stupors. As the sun was fully in the sky and temperature began rising, so did the expeditionary force. Men were frantically cleaning up their mess, pulling on breeches, counting their cartridges, pulling on boots.
"Officers to the front! Single columns, ranks of three. Now! Hie to it! Faster! Move! "
It took almost an hour to get all two thousand men in a column and ready to march.
Finally they were in three columns, each in a rank of three, Monckton's regulars were in the front, Winslow's First Battalion of Provincial militia behind and George Scott's Second in the rear. Trailing behind were carts with large structures made from long tree trunks that had been awaiting the expedition for weeks.
Monckton said, "Mr. Adams."
"Yes, Lieutenant General."
"Lead the vanguard to the front."
"Yes, Lieutenant General."
"Mr. Adams, follow the top of the ridge to the bridge area."
"Yes, Lieutenant General."
Adams, "Expeditionary Force right…. turn. In ranks of three, March!"
It took almost three hours for the eight hundred men to follow the high ground and get to a point immediately across the river and about five hundred yards away from the Mésagouèche River, the Pont à Buot and French redoubt and blockhouse.
"Expeditionary Force…. Halt!"
Monckton stiffly marched to Adams.
"Captain, Take your vanguard down in three ranks to maximum musket range and draw fire from the enemy. We will follow with our regulars to kill, install the bridge and cross the river. Go now."
Adams gave the command and led his men carefully through the bare trees, some of which still had snow at their base, down the slippery grassy hill. They reorganized their column at about two hundred yards from the French position and right wheeled until they were parallel to their opponent. The ground was soaking wet and many men found their feet getting stuck in the muck.
Adams stood at their centre and ordered the men to stop. He continued on to the end of the column. He looked across the river to his opponents. The French launched undirected fusillades with the musket balls not coming near the New England lines. The New Englanders could hear the loud hoots and hollers of the savages across the river and, with the bridge destroyed, could see some of the Indians splashing across waving their bows and flintlocks shouting and making rude faces.
Adams ordered, "All ranks, open pan."
"Prime and load."
"First two ranks, kneel."
"Third rank, make ready."
The Indians were running toward the New Englanders with blood curdling screams.
"Third rank… fire."
Fifty muskets opened fire at once and tore apart the dozen or so Indians that had approached to within a hundred yards. The few remaining stood and looked confused. They started walking back to the French line and were taken down by the French fusillade.
"First two ranks stand and advance. Third rank to follow."
Within a minute Adams' vanguard was within effective musket range of the French and their balls whistled overhead. Their adversaries were on slightly elevated ground, but they would soon adjust.
"First rank, kneel."
"Second rank, shoulder arms."
"Third rank, prime and load."
"Second rank, Fire."
A deadly fusillade of fifty well maintained Brown Bess muskets fired at once, all identically on plane. A wall of lead five feet high tore apart those French standing and preparing to shoot.
"Second rank, kneel."
"First rank, stand."
"First rank, kneel."
"Third rank, Fire."
The French were badly injured by the steady and unassailable hail of lead sent their way by the British and the Indians and Acadians dropped back leaving only a few dozen French regulars to defend the crossing. But they loaded their swivels with grapeshot and the New Englanders took their first casualties. From behind, Adams could sense movement and he saw a column of over two hundred British regulars led by Monckton starting to cross the field. At the tale end of Monckton's column was a train of carts carrying the portable bridge.
As had Adams before but with more men, Monckton arranged his men in rows of one hundred in each of three lines. They delivered twice the devastation to the French position than had the vanguard. Monckton yelled, "Captain Sturtevant, your cannon, please."
The captain quickly brought up his six pounders on small carriages and they further tore up the French installation until there was little left. There was silence for a few moments and then some explosions and the French breastworks, blockhouse and even the tavern were no more. The French soldiers that had remained were running full speed up the hill on the other side, up the Butte à Roger. They quickly buried their swivel guns to try and keep them out of British hands.
By one of the clock Monckton had his portable wooden bridge crossing the Mésagouèche River and the English were following the route of the French retreat, dealing violently with their adversary's attempts at skirmishing to slow them down.
Winslow followed up with his battalion and relieved Monckton's regulars to begin establishing a base camp for their siege. Monckton and his men crossed back across the river and joined Scott's reserves for the return march to Fort Lawrence. They used the carriages that had brought the cannon to the battlefield to take back the casualties.
Engineers and carts carrying digging and construction tools passed Monckton and Scott's men en route to the new siege camp.
* * * * *
Louis-Thomas Jacau de Fiedmont had had his hands full getting soldiers up in the middle of the night to work on the fortress. He knew exactly what had happened to all the money that had not been spent. But there was nothing he could do about it.
He found his way to the officers' quarters and roused a couple of captains from their beds. He told them, "Les Anglais sont venus ici. Mainténant!" And soon enough they got dressed and made their way to the barracks and he got more men to start the reinforcement of the casemates and bomb-proofs.
As he finally got the men pointed in the right direction and told them what to do, Jean Louis Le Loutre appeared, looking bedraggled and dressed in peasant clothes rather than his cassock. Jacau thought this was unusual as Le Loutre always insisted on being recognized and commanding appropriate respect. Nevertheless the grenadier appreciated having the priest and the dozen hard working men that accompanied him. de Fiedmont was a veteran, not quite an “old moustache”, but experienced. He knew that the fort had no hope of withstanding the siege that the English would bring against it. So any divine support that could be requested would be appreciated.
Then the cannons roared from further down the river; probably by the bridge. de Fiedmont pushed the men harder knowing he only had hours before they would be under bombardment. He saw Acquila working hard as always and hurried over to him.
"Monsieur Girouard, thank you for all the hard work."
"Grenadier de Fiedmont, I do this for you and to protect the church and people, not for the fool who manages the military affairs."
"Thank you for helping me, then. We will need to bring the wives and children into the fort. As much as they might be safe in the church, they will be in direct line of the English artillery and at some point we will need to put fire to the settlement and the church so the English cannot use them against us."
"I understand. I will have them come in."
* * * * *
Louis-Thomas Jacau de Fiedmont took it upon himself to put fire to the settlement. He had helped settle the Acadians four years before, and he would continue to protect them now; but the settlement had to be razed. The English would otherwise use the buildings in their assault on the fort.
He called to a few men he knew to be dependable, "Philippe, Jean-Rene, Henri-Maurice, venir ici. Light torches, we need to put fire to the settlement. Hurry!"
Louis waved the men forward toward a small stack of torches that he had prepared for the overnight reinforcement of the fortress, but had never been used. They each took two and lit one from a bonfire. "Allons-y!"
They rushed over the drawbridge and down the hill toward the village, passing the female settlers, now refugees, on their way to safety in the fort. They came first to the church. The Abbé stood at the front door.
"What are you doing?"
"Pardon, Monsieur Abbé. I am afraid we must raise the church and village before they are used by the English."
"I will not stop you, but I will need help removing the bell. It is not hung yet."
"Rene, Maurice, take men and remove the bell to safety."
The two men followed the abbé into the church. Fortunately the bell was still on a skid and they were able to pull it into a place near the holy well. There was a large area of freshly turned soil that appeared to have been dug and refilled recently which would make the digging easier. Le Loutre brought shovels and followed them and stayed to make sure it was buried properly.
Louis and Philippe set fire to the church and moved on to other homes, kicking in doors in their urgency and lighting whatever was flammable inside. When the two others joined them they soon had the dozen or so other houses fully aflame and returned to the fort.
* * * * *
The two days since the initial assault across the river Winslow's company had been preparing a siege camp on the Butte à Mirande; eight hundred paces from the French fortress and a few hundred from the now smoldering settlement. They had needed to defend themselves against raids from Acadians and Miqmaqs since locating here but had avoided casualties.
John Winslow was surprised to see Sylvanus Cobb's sloop, the Coverley, making its way along the Mésagouèche River toward their position. The tide was high and the wind favourable and the ship was slowly and carefully maneuvering along the winding river. He wondered how it had managed to navigate past the French fort and suspected it proved how badly prepared were his opponents.
He was relieved because at least his men would stop complaining about being low on cartridges and food. He really needed to see them relieved; they'd been on a state of high alertness for days with little sleep and had to respond to steady sniping from Acadians and Indians. Winslow had sent Ensign Hay to request relief from Monckton and he was hoping that Cobb carried with him orders to prepare to be relieved.
As the ship approached, musket fire erupted from dykes and the remains of the French village that had been burned the night before. The houses and church were still smoking which served to make the shooters indistinct as targets.
Nathan Adams responded to Winslow and rushed over.
"Adams, take a company and go and clear out those French muskets."
Adams collected ten of his best men and they skirted the edge of the trees toward the French. In just a few minutes the French attackers were sent scrambling back to their fort.
Once it was clear, Cobb's crew and the men from Winslow's battalion took down carriages and sledges and returned with provisions, cannon and balls and a massive mortar. The mortar balls were so heavy that two men had to sledge each of them up the hill to the new position.
The last sledge brought up two large kegs of rum and a message sealed with wax for Winslow from Colonel Monckton, himself. He opened it gingerly.
He cracked the seal and unfolded the note. It was not from Monckton himself, but from an adjutant. The pompous ass had refused his request for relief; had even stated that if he could not hold his position, that he should retreat to a secure one. Even worse, Monckton had appointed an underling to deliver his orders.
Winslow tore up the note in anger. Monckton expected him to retreat and then, likely in the morning, endeavour to take back the ground he had already secured. The missive also ordered Winslow and all his field officers to meet at the bridge at ten of the clock the next morning with work crews to improve the road.
* * * * *
Commandant du Pont and his cousin, Lieutenant de Vannes, Thomas Pichon, the Abbé and a few other officers met for breakfast at first light as they had every morning for over a week; in the bombproof casemate farthest from the British lines.
The grounds of Fort Beauséjour were soaked from several days of rain; they were a morass of blood, gore and water filled cannon ball holes. Several of the bastions had been destroyed by English cannon. Only one of the barracks buildings remained standing and the addition of the Acadians to the population had created stress so great that soldiers were volunteering to take on dangerous missions against well defended English positions.
As it was, every square foot of covered space in the fortress was over at least one nervous, hungry and desperate head.
As they were having their tea poured a messenger arrived. Du Pont took it, broke the seal and examined its contents. It was from Commandant de Drucour in Louisbourg, "Monsieur Commandant du Pont, I regret to inform you…"
"Damn him to hell."
Le Loutre responded, "What?"
"de Drucour refuses to reinforce us. He says that the English are guarding the passage from Ile Royale and he can not be assured that any support he might send would arrive here. All is lost… We must offer terms."
Le Loutre said, "We will offer them nothing! Rien! We will win this fort for God and King or should be buried in its walls."
Pichon commented, "We are indefensible. We must try to save what we can."
"Monsieur Abbé, you do not have a wife and family who would suffer by losing you. And your Acadians seem to have become much sparser in the last few days. We are too few in men and ammunition to defend this fort.
"Monsieur de Vassan, if you will, please prepare your parchment and ink."