On 20th March, 1744, war was declared by the French against the English. News did not reach Boston until 2nd June; but intelligence bad been conveyed to Cape Breton much earlier by a fast sailing vessel. M. Du Quesnel, the French governor, received instructions with the declaration of war not to attempt to capture any post in Nova Scotia, under the well-grounded apprehension that, as Louisburg was insufficiently garrisoned, such expeditions might alarm the neighbouring colonies and Induce them to undertake the reduction of that important place.
However, the French colonists had been, even in time of peace, ever ready to attack or encroach upon their neighbours, and the advantage of a surprise was not to be resisted.
Du Quesnel was sensible that both the garrisons of Canso and Annapolis were deficient in numbers, and not at all prepared fur defence, and hoped that one or both might fall an easy and unresisting conquest to the arms of France. He was also induced to assume the responsibility of disobeying his orders, on account of the increased strength which he would derive from the disaffected inhabitants of Nova Scotia—four thousand of whom were ready to join him, should he succeed in taking Annapolis.
The fortifications at Annapolis were, at the commencement of the war, in a dilapidated state. The regiment in garrison, which had been reduced at the peace and subsequently weakened by furnishing a detachment to Canso, did not exceed eighty men capable of doing duty. Thus situated, and not at all aware of what had taken place in Europe, it was surprised early in May by a party of four hundred Indians, headed by a French officer and a priest named Luttre, and although the enemy had marched through the heart of the province, amongst the thickest of the inhabitants, no intelligence was brought Lieutenant-Colonel Mascarene, commanding the garrison.
The first warning of approaching danger was the murder by Indians of two of the soldiers in the garden within a few yards of the fort gate.
- See Biographical Notices in Appendix.