Auteur Sujet: The Battle of Signal Hill, 1762  (Lu 3391 fois)

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The Battle of Signal Hill, 1762
« le: 21 novembre 2014, 22:15:11 pm »
...If William Amherst did christen Signal Hill, there would be no shame in its affiliation with an officer of his calibre. On 14 September 1762, one day short of a month after leaving
New York, he had deposited 1,500 men on the doorstep of St John's ready to administer
the coup the grace to its French occupiers. The man of action now ordered Captain Charles Macdonell to march his light infantry (one company of recovered men plus Colonel Jonathan Hoar's Massachusetts regiment) from the grove to Quidi Vidi Pond and ' so soon as the moon was up' to attack the enemy at Signal Hill.

Ternay (French general leading the occupying force)was to pay the price for neglecting the high ground, although he tried to make amends by dispatching 3 companies of grenadiers under Liutenant-Colonel Bellecombe with a cannon and a mortar to harass the British as they landed artillery and provisions at Quidi Vidi.
Together with two pickets already on the hill, this brought the strength there to approximately 300 men, or about 100 more then the British.
       That night with an unidentified resident as their guide Mcdonell and the light foot crept forward in single file and took positions practically under the noses of the French sentries. Whoever that resident was or how he came to be there, his partecipation enabled Amherst to exploit three of the cardinal principles of war:
AGGRESSIVE RECONNAISSANCE (local knowledge being crucial) SURPRISE(described
by military historian, Cyrill Falls as 'the most effective of all keys to victory'), and
CONCENTRATION (which is magnified by impact).

Mcdonell's men remained silent until the moment of attack on Wednesday the fifteenth, which which Amherst described as 'peep of day' (sunrise or roughly 6:30 a.m modern Newfoundland time). Luck also played a part because a dense fog enabled a French-speaking infantryman named Peter Laford to fool one of the French sentries by responding convincingly when hailed.
By this means wrote Amherst, the attackers ' got up a precipice where the men were obliged to shove one another up. The enemy gave them a fire and we never returned a shot, till we had gained the summit and these two companies drove three companies of French grenadiers and two pickets from the most advantageous ground I ever saw—really, most inaccessible.'

The Battle of Signal Hill, was over in minutes. Casualties were modest on both sides, the
British suffering four or five killed and roughly twenty wounded, and the French about the
same number, including six who were made prisoner.
The fighting however, occurred at close quarters producing wounds that a British surgeon's mate thought were unusually gruesome. Mcdonell and Bellcombe were both wounded, but the latter caused considerable panic among his men, who in spite of superior numbers abandoned their position and fled down the hill to Fort William.
The unstoppable Amherst made his next move, but the thick fog rendered the Fort nearly invisible from Signal Hill, it also quite suddenly began to rain heavily, not to stop until midnight of the following day.

To the French this pause was a godsend. Ever the opportunist Ternay made a council of war which recommended making a run for it under the cover of the fog.
The French prepared to imbark on the ships, and although the clutter could be heard from
the British advanced position on Gibbet Hill and a concearned officer dispatched the intelligence to Amherst, in a rare misstep he failed to relay the message to Colvill squadron of ship stopped in the fog near the entrance to St John's harbor.
Ternay took advantage of a sudden West wind and immediately weighed anchor, after which his five ships plus the Contesse de Grammont passed the unhitched narrows boom and nosed unseen into the void.
Early the next morning Colvill lookout spied the topmasts of some vessels just as they dipped below the horizon. The enemy squadron had escaped, and although Colvill later denounced Ternay for making a 'shameful Flight' the real shame was his, who now joyed the exclusive group of naval officers who had come short against the French in Newfoundland.
As for the fearless Ternay, Lady Luck would smile on him a bit longer. Spotted by two Royal Navy vessels as his squadron neared the coast of France, he outraced them and took refuge in  the Spanish port of Corunna, even capturing a British privateer vessel along the way.

As for Houssonville and the French garrison still entrenched in the fort, no one appreciated their plight better then Amherst, who wrote in his journal that it would be ' impossible for the enemy to live in the Fort once our guns are up.'
D'Houssonville gamely replied to Amherst messenger with ' I wait for your troops and your cannon, nothing shall determine me to surrender the Fort to you, I'll continue firing until I have no more powder to fire, or you'll destroy the Fort with yours'
Thus rebuffed Amherst placed his cannon 450 meters from the Fort, just below Gibbet Hill. The artillery complement consisted of one eight inch, six Royal, and seven coehorn mortars.
The battery opened fire around midnight and kept at it until two hours before sunrise on the eighteenth. David Perry recounted that the shells' caused much screaming and hallooing in their ranks, and did great execution'
The French lobbed a few shells of their own killing two of Amherst's men but that was the
extent of their resistance.
D'Houssonville's bravado aside, the result was a foregone conclusion. On the morning of the eighteenth the French asked for parley and asked for terms of surrender. Under the articles of war they surrendered as prisoners of war, keeping their arms, and a ship was loaded with them and set sail to France.
The recapture of St John's was the last campaign of the Seven Years' War in North America.
« Modifié: 21 novembre 2014, 22:24:02 pm par zu Pferd »
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