The Revolt of Pontiac and the American Invasion

The Defence of Nova Scotia

A Poorly Defended Colony

View Multimedia - Changing Boundaries

Caption: View Multimedia - Changing Boundaries

After the Seven Years' War, Nova Scotia developed and its population increased steadily. In October 1758 the colony established an elected legislative assembly, the first in Canada, and the militia was organized on the basis of the counties into which the province had been divided. Halifax had a British garrison because of its importance as a naval base. Over the years, its commercial harbour became a hub of naval transportation and its shipyards were to become the largest builders of merchant vessels north of Boston. In addition to its militia regiment, Halifax had an independent militia company for the shipyard, no doubt recruited from among the workers, and a company of "cadets," 42 which probably included members of the bourgeoisie.

When the American Revolution erupted in 1775, the British garrison was extremely weak throughout the Maritime colonies. There were only three companies of the 65th Regiment in Halifax and one in Newfoundland. Charlottetown, a small town on he Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) with neither a garrison nor a militia, was sacked by American privateers. In Nova Scotia, rumours of dissent were rampant, particularly in the western part of the province - the former Acadia - where American families had gone to settle after the Seven Years' War, and in Halifax itself.

The Governor of Nova Scotia, Francis Legge, therefore asked in vain for reinforcements from General Thomas Gage, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. In July, after American sympathizers attempted to burn down the army storehouses in Halifax, he mobilized militiamen to patrol the city. In the autumn, in the eastern part of the province, where the population was more dependable, Legge organized a few light infantry companies of volunteer militiamen. In the west, ironically enough, it was the Acadians, after returning from exile, who took up arms to defend the British Crown, raising two militia companies in Annapolis and two in Chignectou. But unless regular troops were to be sent to support the people who had remained loyal to the British, there was every likelihood that the province would fall into the American camp.