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Brunswickjager.org » Blog Archive » 28 May 1776
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28 May 1776

May 28

At 8 o’clock in the morning our anchors were weighed, the wind was favourable and the sky clear.  A large number of porpois were seen, that were amusing themselves on the surface of the water.  But judging from their colour they were totally different to those we had often seen in the sea, for instead of being black as those were these were as white as snow, and those we saw in the gulf  were light ash-coloured.  It is said that this kind of white sea-hog is only found here in the St. Lawrence river and in the Gulf of Finland.  They never go down to the sea but only to the gulf, where a cross between them and the black ones is to be found, whereby the silvery gray kind is produced.

The whole day we saw colonists scattered all over both banks of the river, some of whom had tolerably large tracts of land near their houses.

Cast anchor off
Isle aux Coudres

At noon we caught sight of the Isle aux Coudres.  This island had been fixed as the meeting-place of all the vessels of the fleet, in case one or the other of them had been driven out of her course.  In this neighbourbhood the banks of the river as well as the middle of it are full of large rocks and crags, so we did not venture to sail further without a pilot, but found it more advisable to cast anchor as well as we could at that place for the present.

After an hour had elapsed some pilots came from the island, who took some of our vessels among which the “Pallas” to another anchorage.  This was between the north side of the Isle aux Coudres and the left bank of the river.  It was low tide at the time, and the current was so strong that they had to have boats to tug the vessels.  The pilots informed us, that the fleet with the English regiments on board had passed this island the preceding Sunday, and that they had taken all the pilots from the island with them, but that they were expected back that day.

It  was 2 o’clock  when we cast anchor for the 2nd time, and we had sailed 12 leagues from the island and Cape Camorasca to this place.  When we commenced casting our anchors a strange accident happened, whereby the ships “Pallas” and “Apollo” were within a hair’s breadth of destruction for the second time.  It happened that the captains of these two vessels cast their anchors at the same moment, and when the vessels turned round their anchors and cables, which had been thrown on the top of each other, got so entangled, that both vessels were on the point of colliding with their full force.  No sooner did we become aware of the disaster that was about to happen, when all the
vessels that with loud shouts had made us acquainted with our danger despatched their boats to us to save the men.  At the first moment even all our naval experts themselves seemed to be at their wits’ end.  The boatswain left the helm, as he did not exactly know where the fault lay, and did not wish to add to the disaster by wrenching the helm round in the opposite direction.  But this was only the first effects of the terror.  Captain Haynes now took the management into his own hands, ordered the captain in command of the
vessel to hold himself in readiness to cut the cable, and at the only moment that could have been at our disposal Captain Foy sprang to the helm, and knew how to give such an adroit turn to the “Pallas”, that both vessels flew past each other, and the anchors became disentangled again without and assistance, so that neither of the vessels suffered further damage except having a few sails torn and some sail-yards broken.

In the afternoon Captain Haynes sent to Isle aux Coudres to fetch all the pilots who were still there for those of our vessels that were left.  Five were still found, who were at once distributed among the vessels. Towards 4 o’clock in the afternoon all the pilots who had piloted the ships belonging to the Irish fleet returned from Quebec in 2 vessels, so that there was no longer any lack of them.  It was ebb and the wind right ahead, and it took so long to tug the vessels, that the order was issued from the frigate “Juno”, that all the ships were to remain at anchor until tide and wind were more favourable to our journeyed.  Meanwhile the weather was so fine, that General v.Riedesel felt induced to go ashore and view the island.

Description of the
Isle aux Coudres.

The foundations of the island consist of nothing but rocks, which rear their tips out of the water on all sides, and which contain a kind of slate that cannot be made use of.  The greatest diameter of the island is 3 leagues and the circumference between 6  and 7 leagues.  At present is supports about 300   souls I all wives and children included, who inhabit 65 houses.  The island belongs to the Bishop of Quebec, to whom the inhabitants have to pay 1 Hallifax shilling per annum for each arpent of land.  The arpent in use of this island is equal to 50 arpents long and 6 wide in the ordinary sense.  The inhabitants,
who only settled there 80 years ago, are all French and of the catholic religion, as all the Canadians are.  Furthermore the island is under the protection of the governor of the Province of Quebec, who appoints 3 bailiffs chosen from among the families settled there.  Every year a new one is chosen and the eldest one retires, so the each bailiff hold the office for 3 years.  We found the newest settlements on the north and east side where we landed; they were scattered about and were separated from each other.  But the old settlements, which now form a village with a church which has the name of la Baleine, are found on the south and west sides.  The air must be very healthy there, and what convinced us of this more than anything else were the very many old people who were pointed out to us or named to us, who had come the island 80 years before with their parents, the first inhabitant, and who proportionally far exceeded the number of old people whom you can generally reckon on finding among 300 souls in Europe.

We saw the Canadian costume for the first time there.  In the case of the men it is partly an imitation of the Indian costume, simple and arranged in accordance with the nature of the climate. They wear small neckerchiefs of all kinds of material according to the time of the year over their shirts, which are often made of coloured linen or print.  Over these again they were a long doublet of white blanketing, which goes down as far as the knee.  For want of buttons these doublets are provided with ribbons of all colours, with which they are fastened.  They wear a sash round the waist, which keeps the doublet or “capot” as they call it in its place.  The sash is a sort of ornament at the same time, and is woven of all kinds of gaily coloured wool mixed together.  In the winter they make themselves similar but longer carpots to wear over the others of blanketing or porpoise skins, which they have a matchless way of preparing that the Indians have taught them.  Trousers are worn by all, winter and summer, except by those who go about with the Indians a great deal, and who then make use of certain kind of loin-cloth and apron, so as not to offend against decency.  They cover their legs with a kind of leggings, which they call “mitas” according to the language of the Indians.  These are worn inside the shoes, are so long that they cover half of the upper part of the leg, and are drawn on like a stocking.  There is a piece of cloth or fringe the width of a hand on the outer side of these leggings in the place where ours have buttons, which is continued lengthwise from the top down into the shoe, and strikes against the legs in walking.  This superfluous piece of material is partly made for ornament, but is partly also very necessary in the woods owing to the rattlesnakes and other kinds of snakes, which if the men have not noticed them beforehand and try to get out of their way, or if they want to kill them generally bite this flap leaving their poison in it, because this the easiest for them to get hold of.  (It is for the same reason that the long wide linen trousers worn by sailors have been introduced into our army for our soldiers.)  The shoes worn by the Canadians are really the mocassins of the Indians, wherefore they are also called “souillers sauvages”.  Almost every one makes these shoes for himself, but the Indians make the finest.  They are made of all kinds of thick leather, the commonest are of the skin of the porpoise and are made almost in the same way as the harness-makers make the leather tobacco-pouches, and are attached round the ankle and under the foot by means of straps. Owing to the want of hats almost every Canadians wears a red woolen cap especially when he wants to be very smart, but he never wears them of any colour.  The better classes dress entirely in the European fashion, but wear their “mitas” and Indian shoes just like all the others when they are in the country.  In the winter the better classes wear long  “capots canadiens” of white blanketing provided with ribbons or of beaver over their other clothes, and caps of the most beautiful fur instead of hats.  Every woman in Canada dress es according to the French style.

We found the houses of the country people both on the Isle aux Coudres and later on in Canada proper built without any attempt at architecture.  They are mostly built of long four-sided beams laid one on the top of the other, which are jointed together at the corners.  The inner walls consist of cedar or fir-tree planks, and there is very little comfort to be found in the houses.  The houses are covered with shingle-roofs throughout the whole of Canada.

I will now proceed to give a further description of the Isle aux Coudres.  Agriculture is carried on in the same manner as in Germany, except that no winter corn can be grown here or anywhere in Canada.  Wheat, barley and oats are grown, also some Indian corn or maize.  Everything is sown at the commencement of the month of May; and reaped in four months’ time.  Quantities of peas, lentils, beans vetches, all kinds of cabbages and onions as well as potatoes are cultivated.  The soil, which seems to be marly on this island, bears abundant crops 5 years in succession without having any manure whatever added tot, after which it is allowed to lie fallow for 2 years.  We found all kinds of European domestic animals and fowls, and every kind in abundance.  We went through a large part of the island with a bailiff, who was able answer our different questions very well.

Among the wild animals on the island there are particularly many foxes with black, grey and red coats.  But the first-named are already very rare, as too many traps have been laid for them.  A very good price is paid for them in Quebec.  The hares, of which there used to be a great many, have almost been exterminated by the foxes.  Deer are only to found there when they cross on the ice from the mainland \in the winter.  There are many woodcock and snipe of all kinds in the woods and near the water, and also white partridges and many kinds of wild geese and ducks at certain times of the year.  A kind of singing bird caught our attention, whose song was like that of the nightingale, and which the inhabitants therefore called “le rossignol du Pays”.  It was almost identical with  the canary in its appearance, and golden yellow and back in colour.

A small rivulet that flows through the island supplies the inhabitants with trout and other fish, some of which were known to us.

Among the trees we  especially came across different kinds of the Canadian Cedar, that has a strong smell.  (It is the wood of which English lead-pencils are made.)  The Maple grows to an uncommon height there, and is a very useful tree to the inhabitants.  Sugar is made out of its sap in the following manner.  As soon as the ice breaks a notch is made in the tree in a diagonal direction with the opening at the lowest extremity.  A piece of wood is inserted in it slanting downwards, that has somewhat the shape of a ruler.  Then the sap from the tree runs down the wood into a receptacle below.  It is this sap which is boiled until it has the consistency of sugar.  The sugar is called “Sucre d’Erable” or “du Pays”.  It is  tawny in colour, has quite the sweetness of ordinary sugar but tastes very strongly of the resin of the tree.  It is probable - and the attempt has already been made - that if the people would refine this kind of sugar in the same manner as in Europe, it might lose its resinous flavour and become just as white as ours.  Some also make sugar from the birch, which has a more agreeable flavour than the kind mentioned above, but it must not pay the inhabitants to make it.  A maple that can be spanned by a man produces 3  lbs.  There are inhabitants here who get 4-500 lbs. Of sugar annually from the portion of forest land that has been assigned to them.  They sell it at Quebec at half an English shilling per lb.

The white and red epinette.  There are many of these North American fir trees.  The Canadians make a kind of beer from the red epinette, which the English call “sprouts beer”.  It is a very wholesome exceedingly cooling drink with rather an agreeable flavour when you have become accustomed to it.  The branches with the leaves on are boiled in sugared water together with some toast, and as much “melasse” or syrup as you like is added in order to impart a sweet flavour to the drink.  Some people improve the drink by boiling it again with a certain quantity of wheat.

The St. Lawrence river, which is still salt here, supplies the inhabitants with soles, whitings, plaice, salmon, cod etc.  There are also many seals, but nobody troubles to catch them unless their train-oil is required for consumption on the island.  The white porpoises, on the contrary, are often caught for the sake of their skins.

Among wild plants we found very many strawberries, bilberries, chicory, spoon-wort, yarrow and a great deal of wild salad of every description.  The trade of this island is solely with the town of Quebec, to which place 1100 monots of corn at 3 ½ English shillings and over 5000 lbs. Of sugar at 1//2 shilling had been sent during the previous years.  Beside the above (which are their chief commodities) the inhabitants of the island always dispose of their whole supply of provisions and other things to that town.

At 8 o’clock in the evening we went on board the “Pallas” again, and as high tide was expected at 9 the pilots wanted to watch the time so as to get to the west side of the island, where they would lie at anchor waiting for a favourable wind.  This was done at midnight with a g eat deal of trouble, and we again anchored at about 2000 paces away from our former anchorage.

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