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Sir William Pepperell and his crusaders celebrate


Sir William Pepperell (1696-1759) is widely remembered for organizing, financing, and leading the expedition that captured the French garrison at the Fortress of Louisbourg during King George's War. During his day Pepperrell was called "the hero of Louisburg," a victory celebrated in the name of Louisburg Square in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. From English Wikipedia portrait by John Smibert.


“The Bourbon lilies, green and old,

That flaunted once in burnished gold;

The oriflamme of France that fell

That, day when sunburned Pepperell

His shotted salvos fired so well,

The Fleur de Lys trailed sulky down,

And Louisburg was George’s town.”

Edward Everett Hale


On July 4, 1746, New England celebrated victory and a new crusader, Sir William Pepperell. The papers reported a festive spree that began at Long Wharf and ended in York. Several towns hosted the magnificent occasion, including Newbury, Massachusetts: “After a long tarry at Berry’s Tavern in Ipswich,” Pepperell set out to Newbury and was “announced by a salute from the town cannon and by various fireworks, and entertained with an elegant supper by Hon. Major Greenleaf” (Boston Post-Boy). Pepperell, a “gentleman whose moral worth and regiment military talents” (W. Durkee), was to lead the army in the first expedition at Louisburg assisted by Royal Naval Officer Sir Peter Warren. Louisburg was the capital of the French province of Île-Royale (present-day Cape Breton Island). Pepperell consulted with his spiritual advisor and confidant, George Whitefield. If there was a “Merlin” to add to the New England annals, Whitefield surely fit the role. Whitefield issued his prediction to Pepperell: “the eyes of all would be upon him.” If he failed, “widows and orphans of the slain would reproach him,” and if he succeeded, “many would regard him with envy, and endeavor to eclipse his glory” (Brigham, “The capture of Louisburg”). Dr. Franklin, Whitefield’s consort, was more confident: “it would be a hard nut to crack”; however, “I am certain General Pepperell will succeed, for all the praying people of the country are on his side.” The prayers Franklin spoke of were heard and victory came after a grueling seven-week expedition. Whitefield’s forecast would as well. The green-eyed monster roared its ugly face with a power struggle between Pepperell and Warren on who would govern the fortress.


The city key was delivered to Pepperell, who was “a spectacle of glowing patriotism and self-devotion far transcending the deeds of Warren and his crews.” Pepperell was created a baron and elected to House of Representatives. The brave men of New England carried out one of the “most remarkable events in the history of North America” (Coffin). They were Pepperell’s Crusaders. Despite fatigue, disease and horrific weather conditions, they took the strongest fortress in America from the French “single-handed, without any European assistance” creating an “everlasting memorial to the zeal, courage, and perseverance of the troops of New England” (Samuel Hartwell, House of Commons, 1775). The victory instilled a spirit: “the same old drums that marched into Louisburg rallied the troops in their march to Bunker’s Hill; and the same Gridley who planned Pepperell’s batteries, marked and laid out the one where General Warren fell” (U. Parsons). A few of the Crusaders that braved the sea and land are as follows: Parson Samuel Moody served as chaplain and so “confident of the success that he took with him a hatchet to cut the images in the Catholic churches” (Sarah Emery). Moses Coffin, a noted “drum-ecclesiastic,” or double duty officer “drummer and chaplain,” was one blessed solder of Christ, according to William Plummer. Moody dodged a bullet in one skirmish shielded in his holy armor — a small pocket bible. Dr. Anthony Emery offered his medical expertise as a surgeon. Captain Moses Brown, apprentice to Captain William Coffin on the USN Born, was only 16 and would acquire military training in gunnery and tactics of naval warfare, “which afterwards rendered him so formidable an antagonist on the water” (Currier). Capt. Spencer Colby served on board the sloop Abigail with Capt. John Furnald, Samuel Hale commanded a company of provincials and Capt. Daniel Hale (killed May 1745) served under Col. Samuel Waldo. In Amesbury, Capt. McCurda furnished a brave band of rangers: Gideon Colby, Benjamin Ordway, Thomas Hunt, David Currier and Sanders Bradley. All men “to their great Honor, have been perfect Hercules, and “the French say they are Devils, for the hotter they fired, the nearer their advances they made to their fire” (American Weekly Mercury, PA). The notable mighty Maj. Moses Titcomb, “imbued with the military spirit of the times,” dealt a heavy blow to the enemy. The final (fifth) battery, or “Titcomb’s battery,” erected at the siege, proved most destructive to the fortress and had five 42-pounders. The major and his spirited unit would demonstrate a “patriotism that knew no limits” (C M Tracy).


It is certain that many bottles of spirits were consumed on that July 4th bender back in 1746. The fierce fathers and stout sons of New England loved the taste of freedom. When it came time to bring on a Revolution. the boys were ready to fight!


This is a story I published in Newburyport Daily News Jul 28, 2014

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