Charles de La Tour’s Other Fort
Fort Saint-Louis, NS
The plaque on the cairn for Fort Saint Louis at Port a Tour (near Barrington,NS) reads :
In 1630 Claude de la Tour arrived here with an Anglo-Scottish expedition and strove in vain to induce his son Charles to surrender this landhold of France in Acadia. From the consequent displeasure of the Scots at Port Royal, Charles later offered him refuge near this fort .
But the ‘experts’ chose the wrong location for the monument
Rather than east of Baccaro Point it should have been a few kilometers west at the Sand Hills (Villagedale) on the east shore of Barrington Bay (or Bay de Sable as it was called under the French).
So says H Leander d’Entremont in his wonderful little 1938 history book
“The Forts of Cape Sable of the Seventeenth Century”.
After reading this book, I was intrigued enough to want to visit and see the area of controversy for myself.
So during the summer of 2011,I crossed the Bay of Fundy to Digby and made my way to the Cape Sable / Barrington Bay area and took the photos in this article
I spent the night in a lovely cottage on the shore at the southern tipof Cape Sable Island and woke the next day to a colorful sunrise and fine weather for my search.
Claude la Tour was captured by the English in 1627 during a voyage between France from Acadia. During his captivity in England,he met and married a maid of honour to the queen and was made a Knight of the Garter by the English King and with a commission for parts of Acadia.This transpired as a result of Claude convincing the English that he could persuade his son,Charles, French governor of Acadia, to accept similar high office with the British and to transfer his fort to British control.
The Scottish had already captured Port Royal and now set their sights on Charles La Tour’s Fort Saint Louis in the Cape Sable area of Acadia.
Claude a Tour returned to the Cape Sable area in 1630 along with his wife on one of the two Anglo Scots warships sent to take contra.Iof the fort.However, his son,Charles La Tour,refused to let his father and his wife enter the fort and although Charles offered his thanks to the Kingof England for his generous offer, hesaid he would remain loyal to the King of France.
The next day Charles la Tour’s father sent another letter to the fort to againtry to persuade him and stated that if he did not acquiesce, they had enough men and would take the fort by force.
Charles responded that the attackers could act as they thought best, but that he and his garrison were entirely ready to fight them.
The next day the attackers landed and besieged the fort. Nicolas Denys says the battle lasted all day and all night. The attackers tried to approach in order to cut the stakes, or to set them on fire; but those inside were so well on their guard that the others were unable to come near. Many of the English were killed or wounded in the attack, a matter which proved to them too well the resolution of the young La Tour.
On the following day, all the sailors and soldiers were disembarked to intimidate by their numbers, and they were positioned behind earthworks, made during the night, at the four corners of the fort. Heavy fire by both sides only resulted in more English being killed and wounded.
Finally the English gave up, and Claude La Tour was left with not daringto return to England and having to beg his son to let him stay near Fort Saint Louis. Claude’s wife was given the opportunity to returnto England but she chose to remain in Acadia with her husband.
Denys first visited Fort Saint Louis in 1635 and wrote “…and went to see the young La Tour, who received me very well,and permitted me to see his father in the dwelling of which I have spoken, and this I did. He received me very well, and insisted that I should dine with him and his wife”.
Denys described entering in 1651 “the Saye de Sables, which is very large,and in which ships can anchor in perfect safety” and mentioned La Tour’s establishment “where he resided during the siege of La Rochelle. He had there a good fort which stood him in good stead”. By this time Fort Saint Louis had been largely destroyed.
In 1749 another writer (La Fargue?) wrote of the Cape Sable Island area “Facing the back of the Island that forms the cape, and upon the main land stands the ruins of a fort, formerly called by the French Fort La Tour, which was once a place of some strength, and capable of making a good defence”.
In 1930, H Leander d’Entremont examined substantial stone foundations for four buildings on the Sand Hills. One building appeared to have been approximately 140 feet by 100 feet. D’Entremont has provided sketches of the foundations in “The Forts of Cape Sable of the Seventeenth Century”.
So, in conclusion, we have eyewitness accounts of different people who visited the Barrington Bay area and saw the fort and remains over a period of three hundred years. They were clearly not referring to Port La Tour, which is beyond Barrington Bay and separated by the Baccaro peninsula.
In 1749, the cliffs at Cape Sable were described as One hundred and twenty feet in height, but a fire destroyed much of the sand grass and before it could grow again, cattle were permitted to graze there and to eat the new roots. Consequently, severe erosion took place and by 1818 the highest cliff was only sixty-one feet high.
The post at Port La Tour, according to Nicolas Denys, was an establishment by De Lomeron and was ruined by the English during the war of La Rochelle (1628).
D’Entremont’s source materials are writings of historians such as Halliburton, Professor Harvey and WF Ganong;17th century charts by cartographers such as Champlain, Lescarbot, Denys and Lalanne; and writings of explorers and settlers such as Champlain,and Nicolas Denys (who lived most of his life in Acadia, contemporaneously with Charles a Tour, and published in 1672 “The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America” which was translated into English by WF Ganong in the 1900s).
After visiting Port La Tour, I went to the Sand Hills and walked the long, white beach and then walked up a hill through an area of fairly new cottages. I believe this is the general area where D’Entremont examined stone foundations in the 1930’s, but I could find no identifying markings.
Historical societies in Nova Scotia that I contacted after my visit could not provide any further information, and seemed generally disinterested in this controversy and specific history.
l intend to visit the area again soon and the Musee Acadiens archives at Pubnico, and to continue my search to find someone knowledgeable of this era and hopefully find the exact area of Leander D’Entermont’s sketches, if not destroyed by the newer cottages.