Privateers and Planters and how they got on - or didn’t

Wendy Elliott welliott@kingscountynews.ca
Published on June 30, 2010
A drawing by Howard Pyle showing a battle between a sloop and schooner, similar to the Battle of Blomidon. Photo courtesy D.Conlin

BY WENDY ELLIOTT 

Kings County Advertiser/Register

“With the tide running in, they were caught at the Cape;

We hammered their sloop, and in haste to escape

Some took to their dories and scrambled to land

While others lay dead in the ship they had manned.”

It was a May day in 1781 when 30 heavily-armed privateers raided the mouth of the Cornwallis River.

In a shallop and two whaleboats, they penetrated dangerously inland, where Amos Sheffield had a schooner loaded.

Dan Conlin of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic , and also the author of Pirates of the Atlantic, recounted a little-known piece of local history, the Battle of Blomidon, at the Planter Studies Conference June 19.

Planter residents of the Valley, he said, were used to responding to American raids and the militia reacted quickly to this raid.

William Crane and 35 men took chase in an old schooner and engaged the privateers with cannon fire. Ill equipped, they ran out of gunpowder rapidly. The privateers shot out their sails and captured them.

It was then Benjamin Belcher rallied another 28 men. They borrowed the schooner, Success, from Horton Landing and caught the tide.

It was then, Conlin noted, the Battle of Blomidon took place off the cape. Belcher’s men won and two privateers were killed.

Conlin explained the records show Hall’s Harbour was raided in 1779. On that occasion, 18 Americans essentially walked over the mountain and robbed a store. That event, however, has been embellished over the years into a Hollywood-style battle, complete with a fictitious Cpt. Hall and an Indian maiden.

The Battle of Blomidon, on the other hand, Conlin said, was well documented by Beamish Murdoch in 1866 and, later, by W.H. Eaton in 1910. It was also the last raid in the region that was more than a skirmish.

More recently, the late Watson Kirkconnell, a president of Acadia University, chronicled the battle in an epic poem.

Local novelist Glenn Ells, a seventh-generation Planter, congratulated Conlin at the end of his talk.

“I was curious to find out what really happened. It was more of a romance in my head than yours, but yours was more accurate.”

welliott@kentvilleadvertiser.ca