Cumberland Township

A pen picture of the old historic fort

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story on Fort Beausejour first appeared in the Jan. 24, 1919 edition of the Amherst Daily News.

 Fort Beausejour, now Fort Cumberland was captured from the French in 1755. It was garrisoned by the 43rd regiment for two years. In the Dominion archives there is to be found a description of the Fort two years after it fell into the hands of the British. The inhabitants of this town and adjoining sections are given below a pen picture of Fort Cumberland and the surrounding country in October of 1757 – one hundred and sixty-three years ago. The writer and the garrison left this lonely outpost in the new world without regret. Here is the picture:

 Oct. 12, 1757 – The 43rd regiment embarked today, after a great deal of trouble and many delays on the part of the masters of transports who were very tardy in sending their boats for them, in so much that the regiment was obliged to march and counter march the marshes, to keep the men in motion until evening, for they were above ankle deep in mud and water, besides being exposed to the inclemency of the weather. 

I cannot take leave of the Fort Cumberland, without giving a particular description of it and its situation. Most historians and other writers, describe Beaubasin and Beausejour to be at the bottom of the Bay of Fundy, but I must in this, differ from them, for it is to me very apparent that this source of a bay or river, is the head of it.

The fort, which is a pentagon, is delightfully situated on an eminence, that commands an agreeable and extensive prospect; it was erected here by the French, after the treaty of Aix La Chappelle and was taken by Lieut. Colonel now General Moncton, in the year 1755, since which time it has undergone some alterations and additions and yet it is nevertheless a miserable fortress. The ramparts are raised with turf, earth and fascines, which every year require some repairs, so that, at best it can only be said to resemble a patch of new cloth on an old threadbare garment.

The bastions are made of square timbers and round the scarp or below the parapet is a frieze, or row of pointed pickets laid horizontally. Before our arrival here, there were some hollows around the foot of the rampart, resembling a fosse, or ditch which we have now made regular by the addition of an excellent glacis whose counterscarp is revested with palisades, with their points rising about two feet above the head of this esplanade. 

There is only one gate, with a drawbridge and sallyport to the fort and on the curtain, that looks to the block house (before described) and adjacent country leading to Gaspereaux and Baie Verte, is a long battery and barbet; but such is the weakness and insignificance of this rampart, that its own guns, if discharged for two or three hours successively, as in a siege, would tumble into the ditch and lay all open for the enemy to march in. The artillery mounted here are six, nine and twelve pounders, with a few nine-inch mortars, and some cohorns.

A good deal of ground has been lately taken in, to enlarge this fortress, surrounded only by stout palisades, with loop-holes for musketry, and the glacis is extended round the outside of them. This addition which is called the spur, is a tolerable barrier, against an Indian enemy, to the fort, and within that, are constructed good barracks for the better quartering of the troops, with several storehouses, workshops, etc., the fort of itself is small and confined and the cassions which were built there for the accommodation of the garrison, by no means do honor to its former masters, with respect to architecture.

On the east side of Fort Cumberland stands the ruins of Fort Lawrence, close by the river Missiquash, which was destroyed upon our taking possession of Beausejour. The country on that side, is generally overflowed by various small rivers that intersect those marshes; yet the French were at much pains to reclaim them by drains and dykes, so that, if ever this province, should be settled in right, earnest people – and secured from insults or apprehensions, the new inhabitants should take the hint from their predecessors and these swamps may be as profitable and beautiful vales as are to be met with in any other country; for they are very extensive surrounded by hills covered with woods and by water, and consequently would, with the assistance of industry, become not only fertile and advantageous to the proprietors, but also form, as agreeable a landscape as imagination can conceive.

The enemy had a chain of forts between this and Baie Verte, the principal whereof was at Gashere, with a church and a decent chapel of boards and timber, with a parcel of small villages between them and the before mentioned bay; all which they burned and destroyed to prevent their being useful to use; so that, at present, there is no town saving a row of indifferent brick houses between twenty and thirty in number; occupied by industrious people, formerly Sergeants and Soldiers who having been licensed to settle, have acquired small fortunes sufficient to enable them to become merchants and dealers and the troops are supplied by them with all manner of European clothing, furniture and liquors.

There is to be found in different parts of this province, excellent clay of which the French made bricks, tiles, earthenware, etc., which is now imported from Boston, New York and sometimes by the way of Halifax, directly from England. There are likewise a set of mean wooden huts here, inhabited by artificers and such of the married soldiers, whose families are not permitted to live in the fort. These, with the others before mentioned, make up the sum total of the Beau Monde in this remote corner of the new world. 

I cannot dismiss this subject without relating, that, when the French were in possession of this garrison they had no artillery: however being remarkably fruitful of intervention, they were not at a loss to deceive their enemies at Fort Lawrence; for they provided a parcel of birch and other hardy, well grown trees, which they shaped and bored after the fashion of a cannon.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, September 26, 1992, Page 3 – A Touch of Cumberland History – A pen picture of the old historic fort)