The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

The Failed Invasion Of 1711

In Canada, raid warfare continued. The largest raids took place in Massachusetts against Deerfield in 1704 and Haverhill in 1708. Unable to defend themselves adequately against this type of attack, the exasperated American colonists sought and obtained help from the mother country. Canada would be invaded by land and sea. The naval expedition was prepared in England. Admiral Hovenden Walker sailed first to Boston, and then, on the morning of July 30, 1711, weighed anchor for Quebec. The fleet he had assembled included nine warships, two bomb ketches, and 60 other vessels carrying some 7,500 soldiers and 4,500 sailors. In all, there were eight British infantry regiments and two militia regiments from New England. How can Canada possibly resist such a force? was the question asked in Boston with some satisfaction, and in Quebec with considerable disquiet.

But chance often plays a large part in the fortunes of war. On the night of August 22, as the fleet sailed north of Anticosti Island, the weather was bad with visibility reduced to practically nil. Suddenly, the admiral was alerted by highly excited young officers: reefs dead ahead. Too late! The hulls of the eight transport vessels carrying soldiers broke on the reefs of Egg Island. Around two o'clock in the morning, the wind turned, making it possible to save the rest of the fleet. Only at dawn was the extent of the disaster clear: 29 officers and 705 soldiers belonging to four of the eight regiments of regular troops were missing, as well as 35 soldiers' wives. 71 As shaken as his men, Walker decided to return home.

In the meantime, the British general Nicholson had proceeded to Albany to take command of an American army of 2,300 men that was to invade Canada from the south. Although sickness had broken out among the troops, Nicholson was preparing to move up Lake Champlain when news arrived on September 19 of the disaster befalling Walker's fleet. Nicholson, in a rage, allegedly threw his wig on the floor and stamped on it! Calmed by his officers, he ordered a retreat to Albany, where the army was disbanded in October.

In Canada, jubilation reigned. After public prayers of thanksgiving, festivities were given free rein and revellers were everywhere. As a result of the failed invasion of 1711, the church situated in the Place Royale in the lower town of Quebec was renamed Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.