In the spring of 1689, war broke out in Europe between
France and the League of Augsburg, a coalition of countries led by England.
France wanted to launch a full-scale attack on the British colonies in
America, particularly New York. For this purpose, the French decided to
reinstate the Count of Frontenac as Governor General, despite the fact
that he was 67 years old at the time.
In 1690, Frontenac sent his troops to New England, where they attacked and destroyed a number of villages, killing their inhabitants or taking them prisoner. Frightened and horrified by these events, the residents of Boston developed a bitter hatred for their neighbours to the north and called for the destruction of Québec. New Englanders as a whole joined forces against New France. Phips was appointed commander of a
squadron and immediately led his troops against Acadia. He arrived at Port Royal on May 22, 1690 and easily captured the post, then returned to Boston on June 9 with an impressive booty. On August 19 of the same year, Phips set sail for Québec with a fleet of about 30 ships, including 4 large vessels and over 2,000 men.
After several delays, Phips finally reached Québec City on October 16. When he ordered Frontenac to surrender, the latter entrusted Phips' messenger with the now famous reply: "I will answer your general through the muzzles of my cannon and muskets." Phips attacked Québec on October 18, but was driven back. He had to resign himself to returning to Boston a few days later.
Phips' squadron encountered several storms on the return voyage. Although his own vessel reached its destination in December and others arrived in February, a number of ships were wrecked. Four never returned.
Identification of the Shipwreck
The many data uncovered in 1995 made it possible to determine the origin and date of the shipwreck discovered in Anse aux Bouleaux. Although some objects pre-date the end of the 17th century, most would have been used during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In addition, according to a study of the remains of the vessel, it was most probably of American construction: one of the frame samples revealed that it was built of white pine, a species found only in North America.
Research by historian Emerson W. Baker (1998) in the legal archives of New England has provided information on the owners of the vessels that took part in the expedition to Québec City and on the compensation they received from the Boston government for their losses. Four ships were lost on their way back: the Mary, the Mary Ann, the Hannah and Mary and the Elizabeth and Mary. The Mary, a 60-ton brigantine, seems to have run aground off Anticosti Island. As for the Mary Ann, a 70-ton ketch, she was probably wrecked as well, but the site where she went down remains undetermined. Most of the men on board seem to have been rescued by another ship. Very little is known of the fate of the Hannah and Mary, another 40-ton ketch, or of the Elizabeth and Mary, a 45-ton barque, apart from the fact that both were wrecked.
Although we know that each of these vessels was carrying a company of militiamen, we are still unable to establish precisely which ship each company was on. We do know, however, that all the men from the Roxbury Company perished, except for one who was captured by Amerindians and then by the French and eventually released several years later. It follows, therefore, that the wreck at Anse aux Bouleaux might correspond to the Hannah and Mary or the Elizabeth and Mary. In light of the archaeological data, the researchers tend to opt for the second vessel, which probably carried militiamen from Dorchester.
An examination of the artifacts recovered from the site has prompted several hypotheses on the type of ship and the nature of its crew. Based on the number of weapons found, it seems to have been a military vessel or, at least, a ship on a military mission. The fact that it carried such a wide range of firearms as well as a number of personalized weapons suggests that the ship was transporting volunteer troops. Two objects seem to confirm this hypothesis: a buttstock bearing the initials "CT" engraved on a lead plate, and a porringer inscribed with the initials "IM" and "SM" (see Archaeological Expedition (1995).
The names of those who participated in Phips' expedition to Québec City are well known. W. K. Watkins listed them in his book Soldiers in the Expedition to Canada in 1690 and Grantees of the Canada Townships (Boston, 1898). He mentions the presence of Increase Mosley and Cornelius Tileston, who both belonged to the Dorchester Company, under the orders of Captain John Withington. The company disappeared mysteriously without a trace, and 20 years later, some families were still awaiting the return of the missing soldiers. Other data indicate that Increase Mosley had a wife named Sarah, who was expecting a child when her husband left. She gave birth to a son and waited until 1703 to remarry.
Historical Importance of the Shipwreck
The siege of Québec in 1690 was one of the most important events in the history of New France. It pitted Frontenac, representative of Louis XIV in America and one of the most colourful figures of the period, against Phips, a sailor and famous adventurer from New England in the service of the British Crown. The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck offers tangible, eloquent testimony to this event, which took place during the colonial wars between New France and New England.
According to historian Emerson W. Baker, the Massachusetts General Court approved a military expedition to Québec City after the successful campaign against Port Royal in Acadia. Phips and the General Court called for volunteers throughout the New England colony, particularly in the towns of Dorchester and Roxbury. However, they had trouble finding enough militiamen. Compulsory enrolment in several towns made it
possible to mobilize an additional force of 308 men. Phips set sail from the port of Nantasket in Boston on August 10, 1690. The contingent had nearly 2,000 members, including about 50 Amerindians from the colony of Plymouth. Of the 32 ships that came to attack Québec City, only 5 or 6, including the flagship Six Friends, were actually warships. Most of the others, which had been requisitioned specially for the expedition, were merchant or fishing vessels.
Wrecks from this period are very rare. The oldest identified to date in Canadian waters are those of Red Bay, Labrador, which date to the mid-16th century and are of Basque origin. The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck (1690) is probably the oldest known in Québec. The second oldest is the Corrosol, a vessel of the King of France, which sank in the bay of Sept-Îles in 1693, followed by the ships from Walker's fleet, which ran aground at Île aux Oeufs near Pointe-aux-Anglais in 1711. The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck has several characteristics of tremendous historical and archaeological importance. In addition to
being the oldest wreck in Québec, it is a source of extremely valuable data on 17th-century shipbuilding in America. The artifact collection is also surprisingly rich, not in terms of its market value, but for the information its provides on lifeways during this period and on the expedition itself.
From National Geographic July 2000 issue.
Finding a Musket from the 1690 expedition
Ship similar to those used in 1690 expedition
Sword found amongst the wreckage
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