Soldiers of the Atlantic Seaboard

Acadia And Newfoundland

The Remarkable d'Iberville

The storming of St John's, Newfoundland, on 30 December 1696

Caption: The storming of St John's, Newfoundland, on 30 December 1696

In 1696, French power radiated throughout the maritime colonies, both in Acadia, where a second naval company bolstered the territorial defence, and in Newfoundland, where a strategic turning point was reached. However, it was due mostly to the arrival of a remarkable Canadian, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, that France managed to score so many points in the Atlantic region.

Back from Hudson Bay, where he had already sown terror among the English, d'Iberville first helped the French in Acadia with their attacks on settlements in Maine. With the assistance of the small naval force under his command and 240 Abenaki warriors, he captured the town of Pemaquid in 1696. Then d'Iberville set sail for Newfoundland where the French, exasperated with all the English attacks and now feeling strong enough to mount assaults of their own, completely turned the strategic tables on their adversaries. Adopting Placentia as the land base for their attacks, they managed to put the English on the defensive. Their tactics were crowned with success, and during the following years they captured St. John's, the English capital of Newfoundland, on three separate occasions.

The first French assault on this town took place in August 1696, but it was repulsed. Taking part in the attack was a recently raised militia company from Placentia. On the following December 30, d'Iberville and Governor Brouillan's forces succeeded in seizing the port. D'Iberville continued his course in 1697, wreaking havoc throughout the English part of the island by destroying 27 of 29 posts, with about 125 Canadian volunteers who had accompanied him and 40 Amerindians from Acadia who joined them. At the same time, the Acadians beat back another attack on Fort Naxouat, after a two-day exchange of artillery fire.