April 23, 1941
Fort Beausejour National Historic Park
Perhaps no fort in Canada has been so aptly named unintentionally of course as Beausejour, which translated might mean "a nice place in which to stay." The name is not, however, derived from the nature of the scenery but from an early French settler in the district. The story of many of Canadas old forts is one of battles and bloodshed; of determined assault and heroic defence; of sustained courage and valor of a high order. But Beausejour knew little of the real horrors of war. Except for the unfortunate killing of an English prisoner named Hay, and three Frenchmen who were occupying what should have been the safest part of the Fort the bomb-proof shelter Beausejour for both the English and the French was a "good place in which to stay" as the name implied.
It was originally built by the French between 1751 and 1755 as a counter defence against the English Fort Lawrence, which stood on a parallel ridge about a mile and a half to the southeast. Despite the close proximity of the two opposing forts, the garrisons do not appear to have made life too unbearable for one another. Within the walls of Beausejour there were dancing and feasting, laughter and merrymaking, rivalling the days when Champlain instituted his famous "Order of Good Time" at Port Royal Habitation. It is said that the Commander, de Vergor, divided much of the money he received from France for the maintenance of Acadian refugees, between himself and his favorite subordinates.
While construction of the fort went on in leisurely fashion, the English were preparing their attack. The commander at Fort Lawrence was kept well informed of conditions at Beausejour by one Thomas Pichon, an official of the French fort, who was in the pay of the English. When the attack finally came in 1755 it found the fort far from completed and not sufficiently manned to withstand a determined assault. The English force consisted of about 2,000 New Englanders from Boston under the command of Colonel the Honourable Robert Monckton, augmented by some 400 regulars from Fort Lawrence.
When the French garrison learned that an attack was imminent they tried feverishly to strengthen the defences hoping to hold off Monckton until help arrived from Louisbourg. The weakness disclosed by the wrecking of the bomb-proof shelter by a lucky hit appears to have been too disconcerting for the French commander who promptly surrendered. He agreed to all the English terms and gave a dinner to the officers under Moncktons command. The French garrison were not made prisoners but were sent, with arms and baggage, to Louisbourg at the expense of the English Government. Colonel Monckton then took possession of the fort and renamed it Fort Cumberland. The only soldier killed on the English side was the prisoner Hay. Thus ended the "Velvet Siege of Beausejour."
The tranquility of Fort Beausejour does not appear to have been disturbed again for the next 20 years and in the meantime its defences had been greatly strengthened by the English. During the American Revolution in 1776 it withstood a not very formidable attack by Colonel Jonathen Eddy who had raised a force in Maine, assisted by American settlers in Nova Scotia. Colonel Eddys force twice attempted to scale the walls but failed on each occasion. Finally Colonel Joseph Goreham, the English Commander, reinforced by troops from Halifax took the offensive and attacked Eddys force with such success that it was scattered in all directions.
In 1926 an area of 59 acres, containing what remained of the fort, was set aside as a National Historic Park, and the original name, Fort Beausejour, was adopted for this Park. Since that time, work has been carried on for the purpose of checking the destructive processes caused by long years of neglect, and of making the entire area more accessible to visitors. Historic points of interest have been marked, footpaths constructed, drinking water provided, and a rest pavilion and other facilities made available for visitors. In 1935 the Dominion Government erected a museum which now contains an interesting collection of exhibits relating chiefly to the civil and military history of Chignecto and the adjacent counties of Westmorland, Albert and Cumberland. Fort Beausejour, once regarded as a "good place in which to stay" is now certainly an interesting place to visit, and each year receives many guests from both Canada and the United States.