The American flag almost had fourteen stripes, not thirteen… and Nova Scotia nearly became an American state, not a Canadian province. In fact, it is doubtful that Canada would even exist in its present form if this event had occurred. Quite possibly all of North America, from the Arctic Ocean and south to the Rio Grande, would today be known as the United States of America.
At the start of the American Revolution in 1775, New Englanders formed the majority of the population of Nova Scotia. After the expulsion of the French-speaking Acadians in 1755, many New Englanders migrated north from the “Boston States” to settle in the fertile farmland diked and cultivated by the now absent Acadians. No British naval vessels were stationed in the colony, and there were insufficient British regular forces to coerce allegiance from the colony’s inhabitants.
There were even representatives in the Nova Scotia legislature who were sympathetic to the American cause. The time, therefore, seemed ripe to make their play and in the fall of 1776, Colonel Jonathan Eddy addressed a ragtag band of patriots and local sympathizers, promulgating: “Let’s add another stripe to the American flag!”
His force, numbering about 180, laid siege to Fort Cumberland, a small pentagonal fortification originally built by the French in 1751 on the strategic Isthmus of Chignecto. The fort guarded the narrow strip of land that served as the only land access to Nova Scotia. Formerly called Fort Beausejour (roughly meaning Happy Holiday in French), the fort was captured by the English in 1755 and renamed.
Fort Cumberland was manned by about 180 soldiers under the Command of Colonel Joseph Goreham. His troops were green and poorly equipped, and the fortress was dilapidated from eight years of disuse. Colonel Eddy’s men besieged the fort for a month and things seemed grim for the defenders, until a message was smuggled out and relayed to the British naval base at Halifax.
Forty Royal Marines arrived aboard the warship Vulture and the offensive initiative was taken by the British. Colonel Eddy and his men were soon forced to surrender the patriot headquarters at nearby Camphill, and Nova Scotia was lost to the American Revolution.
Had events turned out differently, the colony of Nova Scotia would likely have thrown in its lot with the American Revolutionary forces. In such an event, Canadians would not be singing about “Oh Canada” but rather “pledging allegiance to the United States of America”… and Donald Trump would have to find somewhere else besides Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to suggest disaffected Americans exile themselves!
IF YOU GO:
The ruins of Fort Beausejour/Cumberland are a Parks Canada National Historic site and are fascinating to explore. Parks Canada has an exhibit center, plus some excellent displays in the spooky tunnels along the walls. To avoid confusion, you should be aware that the site is actually located in the province of New Brunswick, a short distance from the border with Nova Scotia. Visitors driving by will see signs for Fort Beausejour, and it is only a few minutes’ drive from the highway. It is well worth a visit!
All photos courtesy of George Burden and Stella van der Lugt – All rights reserved