The Position of master in a ship of the navy was an honourable and responsible one, without parallel at the present day; rooted in history, to the time when for purposes of war the royal servants hired a ship with her ‘master’ and crew all together, and installed in her the necessary military persons to ‘fight’ her, men skilled in arms but innocent of navigation. The transformation of these men into officers acquainted with the ways of the sea and of ships came in due course, but the master remained, of inferior social position, appointed not by commission from the Admiralty but by warrant from the Navy Board; perhaps with a minimum of formal education (and a good many of his superiors might have not much more) but trained by hard experience and his own ability; the chief professional on board though not the highest ranking one, the man who never ceased to retain control, as a professional thing, of the ship's navigation. He was subject of course to the orders from the captain, who got his orders from an admiral or the Admiralty; but it would be an unwise captain who ignored, or overrode, his subordinate's particular expertness. Apart from navigation the master was responsible, over the boatswain, for masts, yards, sails and rigging, for stores, for general management. In between navigation and management he had a special responsibility for pilotage and harbour-work, and for what may be called the investigative side of his trade, for taking soundings and bearings and correcting or adding to charts—often enough for making new ones. He was responsible for the ship's log. His responsibilities were endless, his signature always in demand. This did not mean that captain, lieutenants, mates, midshipmen were merely ornamental. They had duties, laid down in the black and white of the naval Regulations and Instructions; some of their duties were, on paper, very like a master's; but the master's were cumulative. He wore no uniform. His competence was certified when he passed his examination. In the end his capacity to find his position at sea was outdistanced by officers with scientific accomplishment
enough to master the relevant astronomy and mathematics; but there was more to a master than dead reckoning. In the hierarchy of pay he might, depending on the rating of his ship, get more than a lieutenant. The value of a good master was beyond computation in gold or rubies. For this very reason there was a tendency for masters to remain masters: who would wish to waste such a man by giving him a commission? It was into this select brotherhood, more than into a particular ship, that Cook now entered.
's duty was the patrol of the eastern coast of Scotland and of the Orkney and Shetland islands, against smuggling and ‘treasonable intercourse’ with France or Holland. Her base was at Leith on the Firth of Forth; there she had just returned and was at anchor in Leith Road when Cook joined her on 30 July 1757. He must have had leave in the month since his discharge from the Eagle
, but how he spent it one can but speculate. He had pay in his pocket, and one guesses that he made his way from Plymouth to London, where, at the Black Swan in Holborn, he took the coach for Yorkshire, to visit his parents, and John Walker
and his other friends at Whitby, on his way to Scotland. One guesses also, from the flourishes encircling his signature in the new log that he began to keep on entering his ship, that he derived a little, and proper, pride in now being ‘James Cook
; Master’ of one of His Majesty's ships. It is a routine log,1
and the cruise it chronicles was one without particular incident, notable perhaps for no more than giving Cook his only view of the Scottish coast—which was a view, however, that he remembered. Sailing on 2 August, and calling at one or two points on the mainland—Stoneham in Kincardineshire, Buchan Ness, the easternmost point of the Aberdeenshire coast—and then at the islet of Copinsay in the eastern Orkneys and at Fair Isle, by the 9th of the month she was in Lerwick harbour in the Shetlands, and the master was registering the other ships riding there, their comings and goings; on the 19th she was at Stromness, and after some days round and about these waters was back in her anchorage at Leith at the end of the month. Cook remained with her till 7 September—or at least his log ends at that date;2
and we have again a gap in his chronology, because it was not till 18 October that a warrant was made out giving him his next appointment, not till 27 October that
he entered upon it.1
In this appointment he followed Bisset, whose mate he had been in the Eagle
, and it was a very satisfactory one indeed. For the warrant made him master of the Pembroke
, the almost new 64-gun ship, 1250 tons, Captain John Simcoe
, a ship of the line and a captain that might well be the cause of some pride in warrant officers. This was better than a collier and the North Sea.
Simcoe had taken command of his ship while she was still on the stocks at Plymouth, and had watched over her launching on 2 June and her fitting out.2 When Cook joined her she was in Portsmouth harbour, just returned from Lisbon, busily fitting and provisioning for another cruise. The business of the port! Did a ship of the line, more than a collier, stir the mind? Portsmouth or Plymouth more than Whitby was an animating place, with the activity of naval war, the noise of dockyards, the coming and going of sails, the noble ships—single ships, squadrons, fleets—the bringing in of prizes, the crowd of small craft, the sound of guns: guns were always going off in salutes, salutes to admirals, salutes for anniversaries, the king's birthday, the king's accession, the king's coronation; the waters and the air were never still. It could not be said, in October 1757, that the atmosphere was that of present victory; but there were considerable workings. A man, not a pressed landsman, might tread the deck with a certain elation. So the master could not have felt depressed when the Pembroke on 8 December weighed and came to sail from St Helen's, where she had been anchored for a fortnight, and with other ships made down Channel. This was a cruise of a sort he was familiar with from his days in the Eagle, across the Bay of Biscay, somewhat further south than before, so that Finisterre and not Ushant became the point of reference, in the old routine of chase—one day he remarks on ‘the whole Fleet in Chase’;3 a number of seamen died, that routine repeated; and on 9 February 1758 a home-port again, moored at Plymouth.
This sort of activity was necessary though humdrum. The Pembroke
, however, with Cook in her, was on the edge of greater things—was, in fact, about to play her part in one of the great reversals of history; and a reversal in an American theatre. The war that had been waged between Britain and France since 1754—undeclared
till May 1756, declared thereafter—was a transatlantic, American war, to British colonists the ‘French and Indian war’—the continuation, in spite of all efforts at peaceful settlement, of the war that had its illusory end in 1748; and it became, inevitably, an Atlantic and then a European war. The American, the frontier, the backwoods, war could not be sustained indefnitely on either side without recourse to naval power; the critical lines of communication and supply, in final analysis, were Atlantic lines, the continental struggle merged into oceanic struggle. There was, on both sides, the usual preying on commerce; both sides lost enormously in merchant ships. Cook had seen a little of this, in his cruises in the Eagle
, as she chased the fishing-vessels from Newfoundland or the snows from the West Indies. There were the single ship actions—and he had seen the end of the Espérance
, had helped to batter the Duc d'Aquitaine
into surrender. In both the Eagle
and the Pembroke
he had had his introduction to that perennial and tedious strategy, the blockading of the coasts of France, the endless watchfulness through fair weather and foul. But none of this had tended towards victory: indeed, looking back from the end of 1757 the British could see little but defeat, or when not defeat, frustration—and it was in the hysteria consequent on such frustration that they had shot their Admiral Byng. Regular army officers had failed in America, General Braddock had been killed, colonial forces had failed, forts had been lost, the colonial line of defence pushed hither and thither, Indians had massacred, French strategy had been brilliant. There were, however, two factors which gave the French civil and military command in Canada some unease, even at the peak of prestige. They could see signs, first of all, that they had strained their manpower: their regular regiments were good, but the French habitant
had had his fill of wilderness fighting. Secondly, to do this fighting and the miscellaneous army service that went with it, he had been taken away from his proper work of cultivation; and Canada faced a serious food shortage. Hence the importance to the French of their lines of communication, free movement from France of troops and provisions; hence the eyes at Quebec through the next eighteen months straining for signs of the transports that would bring troops, but even more important—additional troops being additional mouths—flour. And hence the strategy of French naval power—even the risks it was prepared to take in stripping away guns for the sake of supplies: a strategy of convoy and protection, of conservation of line-of-battle ships, not of seeking out some grand general encounter of fleets which might bring glory, but even with glory disaster. Against this the British
built up their own vast strategy, by land and sea. Inside it we are able to see, fitfully, the emerging Cook, a figure of slight importance, yet not altogether unimportant; through him, fitfully, we see the strategy.
The safety of the French possessions in North America, and their enlargement, was pinned not merely on successful wilderness fighting but on the two great fortresses which guaranteed the Gulf of St Lawrence and the immense river—Louisburg and Quebec. Who had those had Canada: if they could be captured there would be an immediate revolution in the war, which would negate all French successes on the frontiers of the British colonies, and remove at once the pressure that constricted these to their narrow coastal ribbon. This was plain to Lord Loudon, British commander-in-chief in North America from mid-1756, and he had determined to go straight for Quebec as in his 1757 campaign, assembling troops and making his dispositions carefully for that purpose. If he could get Quebec, he was persuaded—and he was a careful planner—Louisburg could be attended to later. While he was planning, the extraordinary Pitt had at last come to power in England, backed by popular support and with ideas of his own. These dislocated Loudon's, without ensuring all the preliminaries to success. Pitt was convinced that Louisburg and Quebec must both be taken, but in that order; and he could argue powerfully that he was right, on the military principle that in proceeding to one objective, you should not leave a dangerous threat to your communications behind you. Undoubtedly Louisburg would have been that, if a powerful French fleet were based upon it. For Louisburg was a harbour as well as a fortress, just below Cape Breton, the northern tip of the south-eastern coast of Cape Breton island: as a harbour, it could accommodate a large fleet; as a fortress it commanded the approach between Newfoundland and Cape Breton island to the Gulf of St Lawrence; as a considerable town and a port, it was a thriving centre of trade and of the French fishery, and had been in the previous war the thriving headquarters of privateering enterprise against British colonial commerce. It was this last characteristic that led the redoubtable Colonel Pepperrell of Massachusetts, together with Admiral Warren, to attack and take the place in 1745. It had been handed back at the peace in exchange for Madras, regardless of colonial rage; since when the French, determined that it should not be taken again, had poured money and work into its improvement. It had a strong garrison. It had also, through a good part of the year, the protection of the dense fogs that hung over that part of the Atlantic ocean, a
beckoning to shipwreck of which potentially intruding fleets were much aware. There was one other material factor in the naval disposition of the area. This was the British base of Halifax, on the Nova Scotian coast, a day or two's sail south-west of Louisburg, as a counterpoise to which it had been deliberately founded in 1749, immediately after the peace, with four thousand colonists sent out from Britain. It was not a heavily fortified place, nor had it grown rapidly into a metropolis; but it had an admirable double harbour and safe anchorage, and British fleets, and their masters, would get to know it extremely well, though perhaps never positively to love it.
Pitt, then, in 1757 wanted Louisburg, and set Loudon to take it. He was generous with reinforcements, despatching them with the squadron commanded by Holburne. But even a Pitt could not command the weather. Contrary winds and gales kept Holburne from Halifax till July, by which time the French, well up in British plans, had been able to install a strong fleet and their own reinforcements in Louisburg; and from late June to late autumn the protective fog was thick. The fortress could be still more strongly fortified. Loudon after a council of war very wisely decided to abandon the project for that season; the French fleet, needed at home, declined to waste time and resources fighting Holburne; and towards the end of September a great southerly hurricane caught the British ships eight or ten leagues off Louisburg, forced them towards the shore for two days, and in another day, if it had continued, would have destroyed them all. It was this tempest that had so badly battered the Eagle.
Loudon paid for his wisdom, as he had grimly anticipated, by his recall. Pitt demanded brilliance, not Fabian strategy. He planned again for 1758; in that year he wanted both Louisburg and Quebec. His new general was Jeffrey Amherst, and one of Amherst's three brigadiers, for the Louisburg enterprise, was James Wolfe
. Sir Charles Hardy's squadron was patrolling the desperate coast, in fogs and storms, from early April—unable even then, when driven away from the land by pressing danger, to prevent five French ships of the line and three frigates from slipping into harbour. The British fleet command was given to Boscawen, a great fighting admiral, who sailed from Plymouth on 22 February 1
with eight line-of-battle ships and some smaller vessels. One of the ships of the line was the Pembroke.
They picked up transports, crossed the Atlantic by way of Tenerife and Bermuda, and were at Halifax by 9 May, the Pembroke
twenty-six men die on the passage, and putting a large number into hospital as soon as she reached port. Five men also immediately deserted with her yawl. She had to be left behind when Boscawen, on 28 May, stood slowly away for Louisburg with 157 vessels of war and transports. By the time she had received her men back from hospital and could leave with a convoy it was 7 June; it was the 12th when she was anchored off Louisburg, in the formidable company of Vice-Admiral Boscawen, Rear-Admiral Hardy, Commodore Durell, and the great assemblage of fleet and transports. She found that a landing had been forced by Wolfe, aided by good luck, on the morning of 8 June, at Kennington Cove, the west part of Gabarus Bay, just to the south and west of Louisburg; that the French had retreated to the fortress which the British, in doubtful weather, had already invested; and that all was going forward to set up batteries for a bombardment.
This time luck was indeed on the side of the British, ill-hap on the side of the French. The French fleet returning home from the Louisburg operation of the previous year brought ship-fever with it: two thousand men died on the passage, and at Brest ten thousand more. A Mediterranean action of March 1758 revenged the defeat of Byng. A great fleet that it was hoped to send across the Atlantic was kept at home to meet a rumoured British movement against the coasts of France. Hawke in the Bay of Biscay prevented any actual large despatch of ships. Of those that did succeed in slipping into Louisburg harbour four out of five ships of the line had come en flûte—that is, with stores in the room of guns. The fortress was effectively cut off from relief. The military and naval commanders at Louisburg could not agree, though that is unlikely to have affected the outcome. On the other hand Boscawen and Amherst co-operated to perfection; seamen not merely put the troops, the heavy naval guns and supplies on shore—losing a hundred boats in the process—but helped to serve the guns and siege works; and the weather, though unkind, was not unkind enough to render the fleet other than a secure base. Strong gales in the middle of June made the Pembroke and other ships cut their cables and put to sea, but they were back in two days. The French blocked the harbour-mouth by sinking four ships in it, but blocking the harbour was of little avail when the attack was from the land. On 26 June the siege guns opened up, and the batteries were steadily pressed closer to the walls. On 15 July a fast frigate, the Aréthuse, escaped with the ominous tidings for France. On 21 July a shell from a heavy battery exploded the magazine of the Célèbre, 64, and set fire to two other ships of the line as well: all three burnt
to the water. Another was sunk at the harbour entrance. Bastions and barracks were going up in flames. On the night of 25 July Boscawen sent in two boats from each of his ships, with six hundred men, in thick fog, ‘in order to cut away the 2 men-of-warr’ that remained, ‘the Ben Fison of 64 guns, the Prudon 74 guns’ (it is the master of the Pembroke writing);1 the Bienfaisant was towed off, but the Prudent, aground at low tide, could not be moved and was set on fire. On 26 July the Governor surrendered.
The day after the surrender, the master of the Pembroke
was ashore at Kennington Cove, where Wolfe had made his landing seven weeks before. His curiosity was much aroused by the behaviour of a man carrying a small square table, supported by a tripod; the man would set his table down so that he could squint along the top in various directions, after which he would make notes in a pocket-book. This man in his turn noticed Cook, and they struck up a conversation. He was a military engineer and surveyor in a regiment under Wolfe; he was making a plan of the place and its encampments, and the instrument he was using was known as a plane table; with it he was observing angles. His name was Samuel Holland
. His biography may be lightly touched on. He was Dutch, born in the same year as Cook. At the age of seventeen, he had joined the army of his own country; after some years as an artillery officer had crossed to England, where in 1755 he was commissioned lieutenant in the 60th Regiment, then being raised; he was a valuable person, not merely ambitious, but well trained professionally, an excellent draughtsman, a good linguist. He went to America in Loudon's train in 1756, and he had been present at some famous actions before Louisburg. Neither he nor Cook knew that their encounter that day was not less important than the great event they had just witnessed; for Cook expressed an ardent desire to be instructed in the use of the instrument, and, says Holland, ‘I appointed the next day in order to make him acquainted with the whole process; he accordingly attended, with a particular message from Capt. Simcoe expressive of a wish to have been present at our proceedings; and his inability, owing to indisposition, of leaving his ship; at the same time requesting me to dine with him on board; and begging me to bring the Plane Table pieces along. I, with much pleasure, accepted that invitation, which gave rise to my acquaintance with a truly scientific gentleman, for the which I ever hold myself much indebted to Capt. Cook. I remained that night on board, in the morning landed to continue my survey at
White Point [the other end of Gabarus Bay], attended by Capt. Cook and two young gentlemen' whom Simcoe wished also to be instructed in the business.1
Probably the two young gentlemen were midshipmen of a mathematical cast of mind. The course of demonstration may possibly have lasted longer than that day, because through most of August, the 3rd to the 28th, the Pembroke
was moored in Louisburg harbour, and one cannot imagine that Cook and Holland parted immediately.
According to Holland, it was agreed by Wolfe and Simcoe that the British force could go straight on and take Quebec that autumn, as Pitt had planned,2
but the admirals thought the season was too late; the only further action therefore taken by Amherst was to send Wolfe with three battalions, escorted by Sir Charles Hardy
and a squadron which included the Pembroke
, to raid and destroy French settlements at the Bay of Gaspé and other places on the Gulf of St Lawrence and at the entrance to the river—the northern part of what is now New Brunswick. It was inglorious service, though it did deprive Quebec of further provision, in the way of fish, as well as render the fishing population miserable and take a few of them prisoner. A few small prizes were taken also, what provision they had was transferred to the squadron—the Pembroke
got some bread, butter and wine—and the seven line-of-battle ships, having burnt a sloop and a schooner, returned to Louisburg, where they lay at anchor from 2 October to 14 November. Rather more interesting and useful than these minor acts of war was a small piece of work done by Mr Cook; and we can perhaps see in this directly the influence of his captain and of his new acquaintance Samuel Holland
. It was a survey of Gaspé bay and harbour, ‘taken in 1758’, which resulted in his first engraved and printed chart, dedicated to the Master and Wardens of the Trinity House of Deptford ‘by James Cook Master of his Majesty's Ship the Pembroke’, and published by the well-known firm Mount and Page of Tower Hill in 1759.3
How it came to them we do not know: we may presume through Simcoe. Cook had his own little command for a week, taking a schooner round to ‘Marquin Bay’ to get coals.4
On 14 November the fleet, under Durell, sailed for Halifax, where on the morning of the 19th the Pembroke
was moored for the long winter. Boscawen returned to England in
his flagship, taking Wolfe with him to recuperate his health; Amherst remained in America, as commander-in-chief.
For Halifax, cold and windy as it was, this praise at least can be given, that its harbour did not freeze over, not even in the particularly long and hard winter of 1758–9, however much floating ice from the north knocked at the shores outside. Nor was that winter for seamen in general a time of vast excitement: there was little for anyone to record in his log beyond the wind and the weather—in January a very hard frost, then snow—and the routine of cleaning the ship, its repair, overhauling the hold, the rigging and sails, the receipt of stores, the movement of boats, the coming and going of ships, court martials for offences mostly minor (the fruit, no doubt, often enough of deadly boredom) and floggings round the fleet. Simcoe's men do not seem to have been penalised by this sort of savagery. Day after day a single line serves the Pembroke
's master as a record of things remarkable; sometimes he runs to three lines, now and again to more. In December early one morning the house on shore where the sailmakers lodged is burnt down with the sailmakers' assistant and 24 yards of duck;1
in January Mr Crozier, surgeon's second mate of the Captain
, is court-martialled on board the Pembroke
for disobeying the surgeon's orders, and suspended for two months;2
a few days later one man stabs another ‘under ye
short rib in a very dangerous manner’;3
in February another surgeon's mate is in trouble ‘for Drunkeness Neglect of Duty & c—Broke’;4
in February again we have the consequences of a more complicated affair: ‘at 8 Am
Punished Felix Flarity for Mutinous Beheavour at Cornwallis's Island Alexdr
Lumsden Pursers Steward for Setling in the Ship & Selling Ten Gallns
of Wine for a Watch, Jn° Tally for Selling the Watch for the Said Wine, & Ben: Hawkings for takeing Wine and Provisions out of the Steward Room, without the Pursers Knowledge, had a Survey on all the Pursers Stores Provisions & c.’5
Men, of course (for this is the navy, in winter quarters), depart this life. What was of most importance in the master's life, most remarkably remote from routine, from misdemeanours to deaths of bored unhappy men—these public events—was the private excitement, the thing that nobody could conceivably commit to the official pages of a ship's log. For what we know of this thing we are once again indebted to the memories of Samuel Holland
; and Holland is transmitting his memories—which, though invaluable, may not be
entirely accurate—to the son of Cook's commander. He continues his story from his survey at White Point, on Cape Breton island.
From that period, I had the honor of a most intimate and friendly acquaintance with your worthy father, and during our stay at Halifax, whenever I could get a moment of time from my duty, I was on board the Pembroke where the great cabin, dedicated to scientific purposes and mostly taken up with a drawing table, furnished no room for idlers. Under Capt. Simcoe's eye, Mr. Cook and myself compiled materials for a Chart of the Gulf and River St. Lawrence, which plan at his decease was dedicated to Sir Charles Saunders; with no other alterations than what Mr. Cook and I made coming up the River. Another chart of the River, including Chaleur and Gaspe Bays, mostly taken from plans in Admiral Durell's possession, was compiled and drawn under your father's inspection, and sent by him for immediate publication to Mr. Thos. Jeffrey, predecessor to Mr. Faden.1 These charts were of much use, as some copies came out prior to our sailing from Halifax for Quebec in 1759. By the drawing of these plans under so able an instructor, Mr. Cook could not fail to improve and thoroughly brought in his hand as well in drawing as in protracting, etc., and by your father's finding the latitudes and longitudes along the Coast of America, principally Newfoundland and Gulf of St. Lawrence, so erroneously heretofore laid down, he was convinced of the propriety of making accurate surveys of those parts. In consequence, he told Capt. Cook that as he had mentioned to several of his friends in power, the necessity of having surveys of these parts and astronomical observations made as soon as peace was restored, he would recommend him to make himself competent to the business by learning Spherical Trigonometry, with the practical part of Astronomy, at the same time giving him Leadbitter's works, a great authority on astronomy, etc., at that period, of which Mr. Cook assisted by his explanations of difficult passages, made infinite use, and fulfilled the expectations entertained of him by your father, in his survey of Newfoundland… .2
Little, unfortunately, is known of John Simcoe
who thus appears as one of the important formative influences on Cook's life; and this lack of knowledge may be the reason why his son, the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, was in 1792 anxious to profit by the memories of Samuel Holland
, then the surveyor-general of Quebec. Lieutenant-governor John Graves Simcoe
was only seven when his
father died. His second Christian name does note for us one fact about that father—that his friendship with another distinguished naval man of scientific leanings, Captain Samuel Graves, was so warm that he made him a godfather. Simcoe became a captain in the last days of 1743, at the age of twenty-nine, which argues ability; and his ability must have been intellectual as well as practical—mathematical and ‘truly scientific’ (to use Holland's phrase), if he brought astronomy into the settlement of longitudes as early as 1758. It is scarcely likely that he did that, or did more than exercise unusual care and skill in ordinary observations; and in the deductions and calculation based on them; but there could have been few captains in the service of like capacity, or capable of explaining the difficult passages in the works of Charles Leadbetter to a ship's master enthusiastic after this sort of education. So the Young Mathematician's Companion
, that ‘compleat Tutor to the Mathematicks’, became Cook's companion—or was that too elementary? 1
Did he rather immerse himself in the two volumes of the Compleat system of Astronomy
, and learn from them the description and use of the sector and the laws of spheric geometry? Did he persevere in the same work to the New Tables of the Motions of the Planets, fix'd Stars, and the first Satellite of Jupiter, of right and oblique Ascensions and of logistical Logarithms?,
so evocative of the reachings of the astronomical mind in those decades, so fundamental to the technique of a newer navigation, so unattractive to the ordinary dead-reckoning sailor. We may note that the first edition of his Astronomy
was ‘Designed as a Help towards discovering the Longitude at Sea’, though the help it could give in its day was no more than the help of inapplicable theory. We do not know the extent of Simcoe's ship-board library. It did not need to be very large to act its evangelistic role in the mind of Mr Cook, ‘under Capt. Simcoe's eye’, through that uncommonly cold Nova Scotian winter of 1758–9.
The St Lawrence charts compiled at that time (if Holland's memory was correct) could indeed have been nothing more than compilations from the ‘plans in Admiral Durell's possession’—but
Newfoundland and the St Lawrence Estuary
what were they? There must surely have been some French chart, imperfect as the French charts were; something must surely have been picked up at Louisburg. There was one English chart which could have been used as a basis—the very inexact ‘Exact Chart of the River St
Laurence’ published by Jefferys in 1757; though this may have been corrected in part by Simcoe from his observations when the Pembroke
was with Wolfe's expedition at the mouth of the river in September 1758 (Chaleur Bay and Gaspé are really in the gulf); for alterations made by Cook and Holland ‘coming up the River’ could have been made only when the Quebec expedition was already in train, and could not possibly have been incorporated in any published charts which ‘came out prior to our sailing from Halifax for Quebec in 1759’. Any well-compiled chart of the Gulf, however, would have been useful, even before the fleet got into the river; and it is possible that Cook's contribution towards the taking of Quebec began in this way.
It is possible, too, or probable, that to this period belongs the first example of ‘sailing directions’ by Cook himself now extant—one of those ‘Descriptions for sailing in and out of Ports, with soundings, Marks for particular Rocks, Shoals, &c. with the Lattd Longd, Tides, and Variation of the Compass’, which ships' masters were encouraged in general terms to produce and produced not very frequently. These directions are for the ‘Harbour of Louisbourg in Cape Breton’.1 They bear the marks of Cook's own style, a precise and economical composition. He gives the latitude, 46°I1 N (a few minutes out); the ‘Longitude by Computation’ is a blank. Although the final figure of the date is gone, it must have been 1758, to match the heading of the column, ‘Place and Time when there’; while the wreck of the Prudent, used as a mark, further confines the date. After 1760 these sailing directions would lose some of their value; for Cook also used as a mark for mariners the ‘Grand Battery’. In the spring of that year Pitt, who seems to have nourished a particular enmity for Louisburg, sent Commodore Byron there with a band of sappers and engineers; and after six months of tunnelling those superb fortifications, Grand Battery included, were blown to pieces level with the ground. In the meanwhile, Cook wrote his careful folio page; perhaps here too we can see some sign of the encouragement of that scientific captain and benevolent educator John Simcoe.
The cold and studious winter drew to its end. All masters and captains were now faced with the completion of the business that
had begun the summer before in the reduction of Louisburg, a step towards which had been Cook's and Holland's work on the chart of the St Lawrence. Wolfe, an untried strategist, and as was later to be abundantly made clear, a woefully poor one, had been anxious to move straight on from Louisburg to Quebec, at the end of July—with a reduced army, without preparation, and with campaigning time running out; and surprisingly enough (if Holland is to be believed) he had had the support of Simcoe. Weak as the French at Quebec in reality were, this was still a hare-brained idea, and Boscawen was a much better judge of the possibilities. The attack on the city, nevertheless, all responsible persons agreed, should be pressed as soon as possible; and the reason for sending Durell to winter at Halifax with so strong a squadron was precisely to enable the campaign to begin in the earliest spring by depriving Canada of all hope of relief. The general strategy conceived by Pitt was one of attack from two directions. The first of these was down the upper St Lawrence, to be reached by way of the capture of the French wilderness forts, leading to an advance on Montreal: this operation was to be conducted by Amherst. The second was up the lower St Lawrence to Quebec, with the army and navy acting jointly. Wolfe was selected for the command of the troops, a planned twelve thousand, and he was given three good brigadiers. For the naval command Anson picked Saunders, a taciturn and first-rate though untried admiral—‘That brave statue’, as Horace Walpole
later described him; ‘No man said less, or deserved more’—a man of infinite co-operative capacity, and of all the patience necessary for continued co-operation with the temperamental Wolfe. There was little doubt that the two forces would indeed co-operate as well as in the Louisburg operation. There was little doubt that the troops, as highly-trained and efficient as any British army, would do well if they could be brought effectively into contact with the French. There was the difficulty, to make effective contact. Two difficulties presented themselves, rather: one the British began by overestimating, the other by underestimating. The one was naval; the other was military—or, to be more precise again, a difficulty of combined operations in which the strategic object had perforce to be military. The one was bringing the army to Quebec. The other was bringing to battle the army that defended Quebec.
The one was the navigation, by a great fleet of line-of-battle ships and transports, of the noble four-hundred-mile estuary of the St Lawrence river, at the inner end of which, on the high abrupt cliff, the city and the fortress stood. That navigation the British were sure
they could master, but they were aware of dangers, and they were prepared for losses. They were aware of dangers, because the French talked a great deal about them, and though French charts and sailing directions had indeed been captured by Boscawen there was no French chart, there was no chart at all that either a British or a French sailor would rely on. The chart produced by Holland and Cook could be regarded only as provisional. Saunders, in his orders to the masters of transports on 15 May directed them to ‘a plan or chart showing the route which His Excellency intends to make from Louisburg Harbour to the Island of Bic’.1 But this did not touch the main problem. It would help them through Cabot Strait and the Gulf of St Lawrence; and then after Cape Gaspé were two hundred miles, approximately, of deep water and relatively safe sailing, to the small islands of Bic and Barnaby and somewhat beyond—safe so long as a ship avoided the shore on either hand. The islands themselves were shoaled. Then the dangers multiplied. From the rocky shoal-entangled points on the north shore where the tributary Saguenay river abandoned its wild mountains, intricacy grew, among islands and islets, shoals and drying banks and reefs, strong tides, whirling eddies, bewildering currents. Two thirds of the distance from Bic, the channel ran inside the He aux Coudres, close to the northern shore of the main, though the great breadth of the river was on the other side; then, clinging near to that shore as far as the high, darkly-wooded Cape Tourmente, it crossed diagonally to the north-eastern end of the Ile d'Orleans, within a whole congeries of dangerous islets; and finally, passing between the eastern shore of that island and the little Ile Madame, with its south-western shoal and reef, followed as the South Channel round the bare flat rock of Orleans into the Basin of Quebec. This diagonal crossing into the South Channel was known as the Traverse; it was virtually uncharted, and here the French had never brought a big ship. Its course was buoyed and marked, inadequately, and the French pilots knew their business. Their navigation marks were now all removed.
There had been previous expeditions for the conquest of Quebec. The first was a New England enterprise commanded by Sir William Phips
, the governor of that colony, in 1690. Having made its way successfully to the northern shore of the river before the city, it collapsed in inefficiency and indiscipline. The second, on a larger scale, in 1711, was wrecked on the rocky Egg island, close to the northern shore of the inner gulf, three hundred miles from its objective, on one of the numerous occasions in that age when the
British navy did not know where it was. In 1759 it had a much better idea. Not all the French realised this; they tended to rely on the river to defend them. Some did not. Among them was the Marquis de Montcalm, commander-in-chief in Canada, who had a very clear appreciation of the real difficulties of the country, and a sufficiently pessimistic view of the prospect if adequate supply and fortification could not be secured before a hostile fleet and army appeared. At this moment Canada desperately needed food supplies from France. Montcalm wanted powerful batteries at Gaspé, to deny the British a base there; others at the Ile aux Coudres and on the northern shore facing it, to deny them passage through that part of the channel; on Cape Tourmente, to command the Traverse; and, in case a fleet still got through, on the western point of Ile d'Orleans and on Point Lévis or Levis, the elevated point on the other side of the Narrows from the city itself, where the river came down in a swift current to the Basin. He wished to block the Traverse by sinking ten large ships in it. None of these defensive measures was carried out. Few could be carried out, because of the lack of means. Something, it appears, could have been done on the Ile d'Orleans; Point Levis could certainly have had a battery. It was not given; none thought hostile ships could work their way through the Narrows into the upper river under the guns of Quebec, few thought of the possibility of hostile guns planted on the point and bombarding Quebec itself. When the crisis came, there were not enough ships to sink in the Traverse, and all that could be done with it was to take away the marks. Apart from this, the defenders considered, a fleet once in confined waters could be attacked by fire-ships, sweeping down with the current. What Montcalm could do effectively, where he thought danger most threatened—in the direction from which Phips had made his bungling attack of 1690—he did on the north shore of the river, east of Quebec, by a line of entrenchments and fortifications between the St Charles and Montmorency rivers with the village of Beauport between them. If ships could not get past the Narrows, and therefore past the high and steep cliffs which guarded Quebec on the west, then the only way round outside the city to embark on a siege by land, or to tempt its defenders to battle, would be from that eastern quarter. In the meantime, in November 1758, after the British fleet had departed from Louisburg, and at the last possible moment before the ice closed in on the river and made navigation completely impossible, he despatched his aide-de-camp Bougainville to France to plead for the supplies and munitions that were so desperately needed.
Saunders and Wolfe sailed from Spithead on 14 February 1759. They found it impossible to get into Louisburg, the concentration point where they were to embark troops, because of the ice. This was on 21 April. They sailed on to Halifax. Here Durell was still lying, at the end of the month, detained at single anchor by ice and adverse winds, though they had expected him by then to be in the St Lawrence.1
Not till 5 May could he depart, with thirteen ships of the line, only to fall among great quantities of loose ice. This must have been the first time Cook had encountered that phenomenon at sea, and he registers it in his log for 7 May: ‘at 7 [Am
Close along Side the Ice wch
Stretch' away to the Ese
as far as Coul'd be distinguished from the Mast Head.’2
The air was foggy, and the fleet kept together by the noise of guns and small arms. Eight days later Simcoe, who had had to keep to his cabin at Louisburg, died; and we have Cook again, on the evening of 16 May, off the island of Anticosti, bidding farewell to that friend: ‘at 6 Buried the Corp's of Capt
Simcoe & fired 20 Guns half a Miniute between Each Gun.’3
The new captain was John Wheelock, from the 20-gun Squirrel
—good promotion, but he was to miss some exciting moments in the Squirrel
On the 19th the fleet was advancing up the St Lawrence, with a steady north-east wind that brought a shudder to the heart of Montcalm; on the 20th it was anchored off Barnaby Island near Bic. Durell's instructions were to wait there. He improved on them. Leaving a few ships at Bic, he took the greater number, including the Pembroke
, up to the Ile aux Coudres. He captured three provisioners, and learnt that Bougainville, on his return from France, had been able to slip into the river ahead of him with a small convoy, now safe at Quebec; he captured also a number of French river-pilots, by the simple expedient of tempting them on board by a show of French colours. Though his purpose may have been general reconnaissance—he landed some troops on the island and found it empty of inhabitants, as was Ile d'Orleans, all having departed for the city—he developed reconnaissance into a very useful piece of special work. He ordered one of his senior captains to take four naval vessels—two of which were the Pembroke
and the Squirrel
—and his three transports over to the Ile d'Orleans
to destroy ‘fire stages’, or rafts, which had been reported, and to collect further information. On 8 June these ships were at the beginning of the Traverse. For two days all boats ‘manned and armed’ were out sounding that formidable passage. They discovered, indeed, a ‘New’ as well as an ‘Old’ Traverse. Frequently enough too much credit has been given to Cook for an operation in which all masters took part as a matter of course, and all had a hand in this. At the finish, records this particular master, ‘Retd
satisfied with being aquanted with ye
and this particular division thereupon sailed through it and anchored at the other end. Each ship then sent a boat manned and armed on board the Squirrel
, ‘she being the Western Ship in order to prevent any assault from the Enemy’.2
The first assault, however, was from the British, who despatched their boats to take a ‘sloop’ in the northern channel, and in their turn were assailed by Indians from the island and French artillery men who had crossed over to it, so that the Squirrel
lost her yawl. The French had hastily erected a battery to bombard the ships; it did a little harm, forcing them to change their positions, but could not be maintained for long and was withdrawn.
While these preliminaries, of sounding, marking and direction-finding, were going on, Saunders with his great fleet of ships of war, transports, and supplementary vessels, was slowly and irreversibly moving up the river, and, because of the care taken, in perfect safety: nine ships of the line and thirteen frigates to add to Durell's, and 119 transports. It may be noted that there were few ships of the greatest size: Saunders' flagship, the Neptune
, carried ninety guns; Durell's, the Princess Amelia
, eighty; the Royal William
was an 84-gun ship, the Northumberland
a seventy; but among the others the Pembroke
with her sixty guns ranked as one of the largest. Saunders left Halifax on 13 May and Louisburg on the 15th, entered the gulf on 4 June, and on 18 June was anchored off Bic and Barnaby. A week later the whole fleet passed the Traverse, without losing a single vessel of any kind. We have Cook's log for 25 June: ‘at 11 Am
a Sig for all Boats man's & arm'd, in order to go & Lay in the Traverse, as Buoys for the Ships to come up';3
the unfortunate French pilots were all employed, threatened with their necks if they failed; and there was the long experience in river-navigation of more than one master of a transport, like Cook familiar with the banks and shoals of home. There is the famous account by the military Captain Knox of ‘old Killick’ of the transport Goodwill
, who put his mate at the helm, and went to the stem himself with a speaking trumpet. ‘I went forward
with this experienced mariner, who pointed out the channel to me as we passed, shewing me, by the ripple and colour of the water, where there was any danger; and distinguishing the places where there were ledges of rocks (to me invisible) from banks of sand, mud, or gravel. He gave his orders with great unconcern, joked with the sounding-boats who lay off on each side, with different-coloured flags for our guidance; and, when any of them called to him, and pointed to the deepest water, he answered, “aye, aye, my dear, chalk it down, a d-d dangerous navigation—eh, if you don't make a sputter about it, you'll get no credit for it in England, &c.” After we had cleared this remarkable place, where the channel forms a complete zig-zag, the Master called to his Mate to give the helm to somebody else, saying, “D— me, if there are not a thousand places in the Thames fifty times more hazardous than this; I am ashamed that Englishmen should make such a rout about it.”1
‘It may be that old Killick was the merchantman showing off to the navy as well as to a French pilot, and he did after all have the boats and the coloured flags there; nevertheless his performance was a remarkable one, and by such means, added to the preceding careful hydrographic work, was the great enterprise completed. On the morning of 27 June the whole fleet was anchored in the basin of Quebec, stretched between Point Levis and the end of Ile d'Orleans—except the very large Neptune
, waiting on a special pilot at the Ile aux Coudres. It was a grim sight for Montcalm, and with grim acerbity, thinking of his own people, he remarked to a correspondent that there was now hope of having a good chart of the river ‘next year’.2
Next day it seemed that the weather was turning in favour of the French: a tremendous storm fell on the ships, drove a number of transports ashore, and destroyed many of the boats. Skilful handling saved the fleet, whereupon it was thrown into equal, though a different sort of jeopardy; for Montcalm thought that the night succeeding, with its favourable gale, provided the moment to release his fire ships. He did so, though they were prematurely ignited. It was a terrifying moment for those subject to terror. The nearest vessels had to run for it; two of these raging furies went on shore; the others were grappled by the English boats and towed clear. The navy now had time to breathe. Wolfe had time to look about. The navy had brought him and his troops to Quebec. It seemed within his grasp. The difficulty was to know how to grasp it.
While he wavered and worried, and time slipped by, there was a great deal for masters, and other seamen, to do. Every moment meant boat work. Wolfe's first action had been to land men and stores on the south end of Ile d'Orleans, and set up a hospital there. The position was fortified. At the end of June he began to occupy the Point Levis position, stimulated by Saunders through Wheelock. Opposition was weak, and before long a battery was set up, the Pembroke's long boat helping the artillery: Saunders thus need not fear French guns driving his ships from their anchorage, and the British could bombard the city. Early in July, having discarded the idea of landing above it, Wolfe took some of his troops across to the north shore, east of the Montmorency falls—that is, east of Montcalm's entrenchments and other land defences, with the hope of somehow forcing a battle from that direction. Montcalm was playing for time. If he could hold out through the summer and early autumn, even at the cost of near-starvation, and avoid sacrificing his army to the better-trained British, then the river-ice, or its threat, would do his work for him. The time his enemies had was, after all, limited. Their small boats by no means had it all their own way. The French gun-boats or ‘floating batteries’ were active on the water; the French guns on shore discouraged too much rashness close in. Prisoners were taken by both sides. On the night of 18–19 July seven ships, including the frigates Diana and Squirrel, proved the feasibility of getting through the Narrows, under inefficient bombardment from Quebec, returned by the Point Levis guns. The Diana, fouled by a sloop, ran aground, the Richmond went to her aid, and the Pembroke—which otherwise seems to have been anchored off Point Levis from 7 July to 19 September—was involved: ‘at 2 pm’, says Cook, ‘Cut and Slipt pr order of the adm1 and run up the river in order to cover the Richmond and Dianna wch was Attackd by a Number of the Enemys Row boats, wch Row'd off as Soon as we got up … Sent the Long boate and 30 Men on Bd the Dianna to assist in geting her guns out, at 4 fired a 24 pd Shot at the Enemys Row boats going down the River.’ That passage through the Narrows and up the river in the end proved the secret of victory.
Meanwhile, and always, it seems, sounding continued. Wherever troops landed they had to be taken there in transports, ships' boats, flat boats; the nature of the shore and currents had to be known. A second, most formidable, attempt to destroy the fleet by fire, by sending down on the tide a hundred fathom-long chain of rafts loaded with combustibles and explosives and shot—this time not
ignited too soon—was frustrated by the sailors who once more towed it off; and then Wolfe decided to abandon skirmishing and try a real attack. It was to be on part of the French position on the north shore, at Beauport, beginning with an assault from the water on one of the enemy redoubts. Two armed transports were to be run aground at high water as close to this redoubt as possible, bluff-bowed, broad-bottomed cats like those Cook had known so well in the North Sea. How close? ‘The Master of the Pembroke’, wrote Wolfe to his brigadier Robert Monckton on 28 July, ‘assures the Admiral that a Cat, can go within less than 100 yards of the Redoubt—if so, it will be a short affair.’1
After the affair was over he repeated to Saunders, in explaining away some injustice the admiral thought he had done to the sailors in his draft despatch home, ‘Mr. Cook said he believed the cats could be carried within 40 or 50 yards of the redoubts. I told him at the time, that I would readily compound for 150 or 200 yards, which would have been near enough’ under certain conditions which did not at the critical moment present themselves.2
It was poor counsel, and the affair was not short. The transports grounded much further out. The master of the Pembroke
was unduly optimistic if he felt that the shore-line had been adequately investigated, though he can hardly be held responsible for Wolfe's subsequent change of plan to a landing from boats at low water, a junction with troops already on that side of the river, and a direct attempt on the French entrenchments. A close examination, if he had had a chance to carry it out, might have shown him the barrier of boulders on which the boats then grounded. He can hardly be held responsible for the defeat that followed, while the Pembroke
and the Centurion
, Anson's old ship, cannonaded the shore. The two cats, damaged past salvage by the French artillery, were set on fire before being abandoned. We can otherwise hardly trace Cook, except by implication. His own log is a most impersonal document, as masters' logs tend to be; indeed for lengthy periods he may have been so busy as not to have time to make entries, to judge from the handwriting of the document he signed. We cannot tell: he may have had time enough to make a deliberate attempt to improve his handwriting into sophisticated flourishes, which fortunately failed.
The boat activity continued. At some indeterminate time Cook may have had the adventure recounted by Kippis, without authority given. There is nothing inherently impossible about the story,
whatever its truth. He was, it is said, out sounding or laying buoys when a party of French and Indians in canoes tried to cut off his boat, which dashed for the Ile d'Orleans shore, Cook leaping out at the bow as the savages leapt into the stern, though they were then driven off by the hospital guard. It has also been said that Bisset, his master of the Eagle
, now in the Stirling Castle
, was cut off by the enemy while sounding between the island and the Montmorency falls, and lost his ship's barge and its furniture, as well as one man killed; and it is not improbable that such a story should have been transferred to Cook, as a man who took soundings, and was later more known to fame.1
The bombardment of the town continued. It was twice set on fire, and the greater part of the lower town consumed. The country on the southern side of the river was ravaged: August was a month of devastation and cruelty. Wolfe fell sick. At the beginning of September he abandoned his Montmorency position and took the greater part of his men to Point Levis, under a hot fire from the town, and then up the river, thinking now in terms of a landing on the north side to cut Montcalm's lines of communication, though with no clear idea where to land. It was an exasperating time for the French, with Bougainville's men marching up and down the other side of the river keeping watch on Rear-Admiral Holmes, who sailed his ships up with the flood, and let them drop down on the ebb-tide. Five of the smaller ships were thus engaged. The largest number, the Pembroke
and fourteen others, were stationed off Point Levis; there were eleven at Ile Madame, among them the Princess Amelia
, Durell's flagship; and small vessels were cruising about and watching the shores singly. This was the scene on the British side at that moment.2
Wolfe was persuaded that if he could not succeed by the end of September he, and his expedition, would have to go home, leaving Montcalm reprieved for yet another year. The crisis was close. He determined where he should land, at the foot of the cliff not far above the city—not at all the best place to land, and one that gave Admiral Holmes, said that seaman afterwards, ‘the most hazardous and difficult Task I was ever engaged in’.3
Wolfe was fortunate in his naval confrères, to the very end, as he stepped ashore at the Anse du Foulon, on the early morning of 13 September, for the battle that killed him and Montcalm both. Saunders gave himself to
persuading the French that the upriver operation was only a feint, and the real landing was to be at Beauport. We have Wheelock's log for 11 and 12 September: ‘at 10 [p.m.] our Master went and laid Sev 1
Buoys on the Shoals of Beauport … at noon the Enemy attempted to cut away the Buoys our Master laid, but was [driven] off by the fire of the Richmond.’ And for the very crisis we have Cook.
Modt & Cloudy weathr at 6 pm unmoord and hov'd in to half a Cable on the Best Bower, at midnight all the Row Boats in the fleet made a faint to Land at Beauport in order to Draw the Enemys Attention that way to favor the Landing of the Troops above the Town on the north Shoar, wch was done with little oposition our Batteries at Point [Levis] Keept a Continuell fire against the Town all night, at 8 am, the Adm made the Sig for all Boats man'd and Arm'd to go to point Levi Weigh'd and Drop'd higher up, at 10 the English Army Commandd by Gen Wolf, attacked the french under the Comd of Gen Montcalm in the field of Aberham behind Quebec, and Tottally Defeated them, Continued the Pursute to the very Gates of the City, afterwards the[y] Begun to form the necessary Desposions for Carring on the Seize, adm Holmes hig[h]ste'd his flag on Board the Loestoff [Lowestoft] above the Town.2
It is curious that neither of these sailors mentions the fate of the generals. On 18 September Quebec capitulated, and British troops marched in: ‘at 6', says our master's log, ‘every Ship in the fleet Sent a Boat mand and Arm'd, undr the Comd of Capt Palleser, who whent and took Poss[ess]ion of the Lower Town.’3
That log, certainly now in the hand of a different master, Mr John Cleader, chronicles Cook's next movement: ‘I, came on board & supersceeded Mr Coock the Master, who was apointed for ye Northumberland’. This movement took place on 23 September, ‘per order of Admiral Saunders’, says Captain Wheelock.4
The 70-gun Northumberland
carried a complement of five hundred: technically, like the Pembroke
, she was a 3rd-rate. Her captain was Alexander, Lord Colville, who had been in that post since 1753. A little mystery attaches to the fact that the ship was now, simultaneously with Cook's appointment, given a second captain, William Adams, of the Hunter
sloop, who had only the previous year been appointed commander: it may have been a personal favour to which Saunders consented, merely to give him rank as post-captain;5
it may have been anticipation on Saunders's part of the early appointment of Colville as commodore, with a captain serving under him. Adams can have made little impression on the master; for among the men under whom Cook served, he was one of the few who did not later have his name conferred upon some cape or bay or island. The fleet was taking up fresh dispositions prior to moving, and it was found that the river had still not been mastered; the current and poor weather made it easy for ships, whether naval vessels or transports, to run ashore on the Ile aux Coudres—fortunately without any losses. The loss of anchors in the previous months had been considerable. On 18 October Saunders sailed for England, leaving the city to face the winter and possible French movements with a garrison under James Murray, one of Wolfe's brigadiers, and two sloops of war; and a detachment of five ships of the line, three frigates, and a number of sloops under the command of Colville
, to winter at Halifax. The end of October saw them all moored in Halifax harbour, the men facing five months of routine, boredom, punishment for petty offences, and cold, though nothing like the privations and sickness their army colleagues were experiencing in Quebec. As for the master of the Northumberland
, that steady serious man, we must suppose him plunged once more in calculations abstruse to his fellows, perhaps exercising his unaided hand at bits of surveying; because it was probably this season, and the next one at Halifax, that he was referring to, when the young Lieutenant King, his eager admirer, in days to come listened to his conversation. ‘It was here, as I have often heard him say, that, during a hard winter, he first read Euclid, and applied himself to the study of mathematics and astronomy, without any other assistance, than what a few books, and his own industry, afforded him.’1
But we can hardly imagine him denying Holland and Simcoe their due: it cannot have been in these winters that he ‘first’ read Euclid, if Euclid is a synonym adopted by King for Leadbetter; and perhaps we need take no more from the words than that in winter quarters Cook studied hard. It seems certain that he also spent time practising himself in the drawing of charts and in collecting them, in making notes on navigation and compiling sailing directions, as far afield as on the East and West Indies. Certainly it must be to this period that his three extant manuscript charts of Halifax harbour belong.2
Meanwhile in England Saunders was going through his papers,
and on 22 April 1760, the day that Colville's refitted squadron sailed again from Halifax for Quebec, he was writing to the Admiralty secretary, ‘Having got materials ready for publishing a Draught of the River St Laurence, with the Harbours, bays and Islands in that river, I must beg you to acquaint their Lordships of it, that I may receive their directions thereon.’ 1
The secretarial annotation is that the Lords approved of his publishing it; and it was published in the same year by Thomas Jefferys of Charing Cross, the leading cartographical engraver of his day—a large production, measuring some seven feet by three, in twelve sheets, accompanied by a quarto pamphlet of sailing directions, ‘Founded on accurate Observations and Experiments, made by the Officers of his Majesty's Fleet.’ It was entitled ‘A New Chart of the River St
Laurence, from the Island of Anticosti to the Falls of Richelieu: with all the Islands, Rocks, Shoals and Soundings … Taken by Order of Charles Saunders
Vice-Admiral of the Blue, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Ships in the Expedition against Quebec
in 1759.’ It bore a note by Saunders, dated ‘Pall Mall, May 1st
1760’, on its compilation: ‘This Chart was drawn from particular Surveys of the following Places; and Published for the Use of the British Navigators, by Command of the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.’ The ‘following Places’ were ten in number (including the famous Traverse, both old and new) all appearing as insets on a larger scale, together with seventeen ‘profiles’ of the coast about the river; and there is the additional note, ‘The Distances between the Island of Coudre, the Island of Orleans, the Pillar Rocks, and Shoals in the South Channel were accurately determined by Triangles. The other parts of this Chart, were taken from the best French Draughts of this River.’ It seems to be the chart which Samuel Holland
remembered as being assembled from various pieces by himself and Cook ‘under Capt. Simcoe's eye’ in the Halifax winter of 1758–9, with their ‘alterations … made coming up the River’: sent by Simcoe ‘for immediate publication to Mr. Thos. Jeffrey’. There is no other chart discoverable that answers more closely to Holland's description of 1792, and it is reasonable to assume a certain jumbling of his memories of the time to which he looked back. There are other large charts in manuscript, signed by or attributable to Cook, very much like the main part of this one, which make it seem probable that he had in this one at least a large part; and the reference to distances determined by triangulation in the area in which he was working seems to point directly to him and
the instruction he had had from Holland. Yet, so far as either of them is concerned, we are compelled to infer, clear though some of the inference may be. They were men under orders. Cook had carried out one of the tasks laid down for masters in the navy, that was all. Yet his performance was rather unusual for a master of so few years seniority. He still felt both cautious and modest, if we are to go by his ‘remarks’ on one of the manuscript charts referred to. ‘That part of this plan between the Pilgrims and Green Island is not so correct as I could wish,’ he writes, ‘as I had not time to make sufficient observations there myself have been obliged to collect those of others.—With respect to the middle bank, which is the only danger in this passage, I find no one person I have yet conversed with to have any true Idea either of its form or extent… . I thought proper to make the above remarks in order to point out what may be doubtfull in this chart.’1
Nevertheless the printed chart became the standard guide not merely for the navy, but for all seamen using the great waterway—for generations of seamen who thumbed their North American Pilot
, the collection which first appeared in 1775, and incorporated so much of Cook's work.
Colville's departure from Halifax on 22 April was a fortnight earlier than Durell had been able to sail the previous year, though it was a month later than his planned time of departure. Ice floes in the gulf and heavy winds had kept him in harbour; even two days after he had sailed the Northumberland
with other ships was stuck fast in ice, and remained thus for twenty-four hours, still far short of Cabot Strait, while they had to run through a field of ice as late as 12 May.2
They were anchored before Quebec, where the garrison
had been anxiously awaiting them, six days later, and here they remained until 9 October. Murray and his men were anxious, because it was doubtful how much longer they could have sustained the French siege: he had foolishly fought a battle, and fought it foolishly, outside the walls, and lost a great many men; by the end of the winter disease had killed twice as many as had all the previous battles; French as well as British messages had gone out by ship to hasten aid. This time it was the British and not the French that arrived first: three ships from England had in fact preceded Colville. It was Colville's arrival, however, that caused the Chevalier de Lévis to raise his siege and begin the final French retreat. Through the summer Amherst was advancing from New York up the Mohawk river, across Lake Ontario, and down the St Lawrence, and on 7 September 1760 Montreal, and Canada, were surrendered.
The last scenes had been military, not naval ones. There was little for sailors to do at Quebec but see to the embarkation of troops, look after their ships, witness punishments—and, no doubt, make soundings, take angles, chart, sketch the shores, work up notes into sailing directions. The Northumberland's
master may have witnessed the hanging at the Vanguard's
yardarm of one miserable fellow who with two companions left the hospital at Point Levis without leave; picked up out of a canoe a few days later they were all condemned to death for desertion, but on account of their families ‘whose subsistence must depend on their labour’ the court martial recommended lenity and the execution of only one; so ‘the Commodore having pardon'd two of them, they Cast Lotts who should dye, he whose Lott it was, was Executed Accordingly’.1
This is not the only execution his journal records. The Vanguard
parted a cable and fouled the Northumberland.
The longboat of the Northumberland
, her anchor caught in a transport's cable, was carried to the bottom, and there was four days' labour in getting her up, and probably some strong words from the master. On 22 September Captain William Adams went to the Diana
, 32-gun frigate, and Nathaniel Bateman of the 20-gun Eurus
came to the Northumberland
in his place, and seems to have made more of an impression on Cook.2
On 10 October the ship weighed and fell down with the tide, and on 25 October was at Halifax again for another winter: not only for another winter, indeed, but until
early August 1762. In that period her only move seems to have been from her moorings to the careening wharf in September 1761, when she was hove down and given a thorough overhaul.
It is obvious that though the North American squadron continued to exist, there was little for it to do. The naval war was being conducted in the West Indies and the Mediterranean, in the blockade of the French Atlantic ports, in Indian seas. So the chief activity of those months in Halifax harbour once again seems to one who reads the logs to have been the activity of the bosun's mate, as he applied the standard dozen lashes for ‘neglect of duty’, with more exceptional numbers, even hundreds, for more exceptional offences. Some men seem to have been particularly cursed by fate. Edward Lovely is punished on 6 November ‘for thieft’; on 1 April he gets thirteen lashes alongside each ship for ‘Severall Crimes and Misdimeniours’, and next day twelve lashes similarly, being the remainder of his punishment; on 6 August 1761 Edward Lovely is sentenced to receive ‘600 Lashes & Vincent Dunnavan belonging to the Norwich to receive 500 lashes the former for absenting himself from the ship and the Latter for Desertion’,1
and they are duly flogged round the fleet, a hundred or eighty lashes alongside each ship. ‘Publick Demonstrations of Joy’ are the other things that punctuate the time; the memory of the ‘Happy Deliverance from the popish Conspiracy’ gets its twenty-one guns, as does George II's birthday, with bonfires and illuminations on shore, and then George Ill's accession, and Queen Charlotte's birthday, and George Ill's birthday, and the Popish Conspiracy again; and King Charles's restoration—but only fifteen guns for that. It is with a spurt of interest therefore that one comes on the second part of the entry in the Commodore's journal for 19 January 1761. ‘Directed Captain Legge to hold a Court-Martial on two Marines of the Falkland, for robbing the Purser of Slop Cloaths’, writes Lord Colville. Then, ‘Directed the Storekeeper to Pay the Master of the Northumberland Fifty pounds in consideration of his indefatigable Industry in making himself Master of the Pilotage of the River Saint Lawrence, &c.’2
This can be regarded as a handsome bonus on the master's regular pay of six guineas a month. The entry is certainly a most unusual and most unexpected one in any officer's journal. We conclude that Cook is indeed
beginning to emerge from that valuable body of persons, the masters of His Majesty's ships, as an unusually valuable person; and that the senior officers with whom he has come in contact are aware of the fact. In the context of naval journals, under their standard headings, he can virtually be classed, along with courts martial and Publick Demonstrations of Joy, as a Remarkable Occurrence.
Possibly the diversion was welcomed when the Charming Nancy
, a snow from London, struck a rock at the entrance of the harbour and sank, and had to be raised; or when Colville at last thought time had come to exercise his men at gunnery and ‘fire'd at Marks'; or when there was a fire in the town and a party rushed on shore to help put it out. There was an outbreak of sickness in January 1762, but that could hardly be called a diversion: a suspicion apparently arose of some contagious element, because the dead were interred with their bedding and clothes, and the crew were set to scrub hammocks and ship.1
At the end of the previous winter Colville had been addressing the Admiralty on the climate and nature of the place. ‘I have now been three Winters at Halifax [he was there with Durell]; and have found by Experience, that in general, this Season is not so boisterous, as ‘tis commonly thought. We have much less blowing weather than in England, and much more Sunshine. ‘Tis the Frost that makes the coasting Navigation so difficult, and almost impracticable to ships.’ That he enlarges on. Then the health of his men: ‘we have always been very well supplied with frozen Beef from Boston; which keeps our Seamen healthy while they continue in Port; but the Scurvy never fails to pull us down in great Numbers, upon our going to Sea in the Spring.’2
Frozen beef was much closer to fresh food than the doubtful brine-sodden substances provided by the English contractors. But this was not enough: sickness, it was obvious, could strike in port. We have plenty of evidence of the nature of the stores normally received on board—beef, beer, butter, bread, pork, pease, oatmeal, vinegar. One day there was even some, fruit—and that is abnormal and quite astonishing. There are little evidences of efforts to render conditions between decks less completely intolerable: ‘Kept the Ventulaters going night and day’,3
notes Cook at one midsummer moment—and we are surprised to see one of the standing Admiralty instructions put into practice. More was needed than ventilators on hot days and nights, to keep men healthy who had to sling their hammocks in those overcrowded
‘tween-deck dungeons. A great many more men would have run away from the British navy, one fancies, winter or summer, if they had known where to run to—too many to bring back and hang or flog round the fleet and face with that comfortless food. We have certainly no means of knowing, but it is possible that the highly intelligent young master was already thinking about such things as well as about mathematics and astronomy and the best way to put a shoreline down on paper.
On this scene, not of idleness perhaps, but of comparative leisure, on 10 July 1762 a brig arrived with the news that St John's in Newfoundland had surrendered to the French. It was a last flurry of French activity in North America, and it caused a good deal of British excitement. Under the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 fishing rights on the coasts of Newfoundland had been divided between the French and the British—the French on the north and west, the British elsewhere. The hostilities of the present war had put an end to the French cod-fishery and placed an enorously profitable monopoly in the hands of the British. Now, thought the French, to seize the main town (true, an exceedingly small one) on the island, and to retain it until peace was negotiated, while destroying all possible British fishing establishments, would at once cast great confusion on the fishery and provide an excellent bargaining counter. St John's had never been well defended by land, what defences it had were in decay; the British fleet, which must be its only real defence (and the island's) was well scattered. To seize the place would be a gamble, but a gamble worth taking. A squadron of four ships and a bomb-ketch, with eight hundred picked troops, accordingly slipped out of Brest and through the blockade in a fog, received the surrender of St John's on 27 June, devastated the bays to the northward, and then concentrated their forces at the town, which they proceeded to fortify with some efficiency for the first time in its existence. But the gamble was not to succeed. Captain Thomas Graves, a new governor for Newfoundland, not yet arrived, was found at sea in the frigate Antelope, and urgently sent marines to reinforce the Isle of Boys, as a defensible position; then he made for Placentia, on the western side of the isthmus of Avalon, roughly opposite St John's, to raise defences there. Amherst, now at New York, apprised in haste, as immediately sent off a body of troops under his brother Lieutenant-Colonel William Amherst to be convoyed by an armed Massachusetts vessel, the King George. This vessel, however, joined Colville, who early in August had moved to Chedabucto Bay, at the north-eastern end of Nova Scotia; and on
10 August the Northumberland and Gosport, Captain John Jervis—a name bound for renown—sailed for Placentia without the transports. Here they strengthened the garrison with a party of marines, and having met Graves, sailed again with the Antelope and Syren added to the squadron, to cruise off the east coast of Avalon lest French reinforcements should be on the way. Off the Bay Bulls, south of St John's, Colville impressed fourteen men from a British sloop, and Jervis took a French one; then they moored in the Bay Bulls for a day or two to attend the rigging and take in water, and resumed the cruise. Off Cape Spear on 12 September the transports came up with them; the troops were landed next day at Tor Bay, three leagues to the north of St John's, and at once began their advance. They had artillery; on the 16th they were near enough to clear out a small adjoining harbour called Kitty Vitty or Quidi Vidi, which the French had blocked with shallops. The force was overwhelming, in spite of improved defences; there was nothing the French ships could usefully do, they could not even take off their troops; in a thick fog they slipped out of St John's, as they had slipped out of Brest four months before; and, a gale having blown the British squadron off the immediate coast, got clean away. Colville was highly indignant at this ‘shameful flight’ for no doubt he had expected a portion of glory. On 18 September the abandoned French commander gave in; and in the evening, writes the master, ‘came on bd Lieut. Cook of the Gosport, with an acct of the Surrender… .’1 Thus fleetingly enters the life of James Cook another James Cook; there is no record of their meeting before or afterwards. The Northumberland went into St John's. A day later, the 20th, arrived a man whom Cook had met before. This was Captain Palliser, despatched from England with a small but strong squadron as soon as the news was known. Thus there were concentrated at St John's, together with a number of ships such as the fishing harbour had not earlier seen, three men of signal importance for Cook's career, Colville, Graves and Palliser; and Cook again at this moment gave proof of his technical skill.
In Amherst's force was Captain J. F. W. DesBarres, like Holland a military engineer and surveyor who was to attain great eminence in the near future in North America; and in Conception Bay, to the west of the peninsula on which St John's stood, were the settlements of Carbonear and Harbour Grace, both of importance to the fisheries. Colville, on arriving in England, some weeks later, wrote to the Admiralty.
I have mentioned in another Letter that the Fortifications on the Island of Carbonera, were entirely destroyed by the Enemy. Colonel Amherst sent thither Mr. Desbarres an Engineer, who surveyed the Island and drew a Plan for fortifying it with new Works: when these are finished, the Enterprize's six guns will be ready to mount on them…. Mr. Cook, master of the Northumberland, accompanied Mr. Desbarres. He has made a Draught of Harbour Grace, and the Bay of Carbonera; both which are in a great measure commanded by the Island, which lies off a Point of Land between them. Hitherto we have had a very imperfect Knowledge of these Places; but Mr. Cook who was particularly carefull in sounding them, has discovered that Ships of any size may ly in safety both in Harbour Grace and the Bay of Carbonera.1
This sort of letter could do no master harm at the Admiralty. Nor did Cook confine his attention to Harbour Grace and Carbonear Bay. His ship was moored in Placentia road for a week, in the Bay Bulls for two days, and in St John's harbour for two and a half weeks: of all these places, and of a piece of the coast neighbouring St John's, he drew charts. He also wrote descriptions, appending the dates when he made his notes, incorporating them all in one large ‘Description of the Sea Coast of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island and Newfoundland’, with sailing directions added. He incorporates the similar work he had done in 1758; for the stretch of Nova Scotian coast from Cape Sambro to Cape Canso he mentions that of 1758, 1759, 1760 and 1762. He had never, it is clear, missed a chance for scrutiny; yet of this latter stretch he remarks, ‘A good Survey of this coast with the harbours thereon seems to be much wanting, it certainly would be found usefull to this Colony and to Navigation in general.’2 Most of the latitudes he gives are by observation; most of the longitudes by computation; he includes the variation of the compass from observation. There are other sailing directions, for the St Lawrence, written by him, and attributable to this period since 1759. Certainly it was not in his nature to waste time.
Meanwhile the war was over. In North America the French were confined to New Orleans and the Mississippi valley. The Enterprize
whose guns were to go to the Carbonear fortification, had come from the West Indies with news of the fall of Havana, the fruit of late and disastrous Spanish entry into the struggle. The Northumberland
regained her marines from Placentia, and on 7 October sailed from St John's for home in company with Palliser's three ships. With favouring winds, and a few chases, though no prize, they reached Spithead in nineteen days. On 30 October Colville struck his commodore's flag. He was promoted Rear-Admiral of the White. The master too departed. The last entry in his journal is for 11 November: ‘Strong gales and Sqly
with Showers of rain, Clear'd out the Spirit room for takeing in the wine and Brandy, Ship-wrights Still on Board. Jas
With that he stopped work forever in large ships. He drew pay of £291 19s 3d 2
The shipwrights were still on board because the ship was again getting ready for sea. On 3 December, however, the declaration of cessation of hostilities was read, and on the 8th the whole ship's company was paid off, for good or ill. The master's departure did not mean that he was departing from the navy. As the year came to an end Lord Colville once more addressed the Admiralty on the subject of Mr Cook. ‘Sir’, he wrote to Mr John Clevland, the Secretary, from London, 30 December 1762:
Mr Cook late Master of the Northumberland acquaints me that he has laid before their Lordships all his Draughts and Observations, relating to the River St Lawrence, Part of the Coast of Nova Scotia, and of Newfoundland.
On this Occasion, I beg leave to inform their Lordships, that from my Experience of Mr Cook's Genius and Capacity, I think him well qualified for the Work he has performed, and for greater Undertakings of the same kind.—These Draughts being made under my own Eye I can venture to say, they may be the means of directing many in the right way, but cannot mislead any.3
The sole comment Mr Clevland wrote upon this communication was ‘Recd’. It cannot nevertheless have been without its effect.