The British Point of View
Letter probably written by Major Henry Caldwell of the British Arm: to General James Murray.
Sloop-of-War Hunter, June 15, 1775.'
The 3 1 st of December about five o'clock in the morning we were alarmed at our picket by Capt. Fraser, who was captain of the main guard and, returning from his rounds, told us that there was a brisk firing kept.up at Cape Diamond. The morning was dark, and at that time a drizzling kind of snow falling. McLean (who was second in command in the garrison, and who really, to do him justice, was indefatigable in the pains he took) begged that I would take part of my corps to Cape Diamond, and if I found it a false attack (as we both supposed it to be), after leaving the necessary reinforcements there, I might return with the rest. I accordingly went there, found the enemy firing at a distance, saw there was nothing serious intended, and after ordering a proper disposition to be made, proceeded to Port Louis....
I hastened, with what expedition I could, by the back of the Hotel Dieu, in the Lower Town, and on my way passed by the picket drawn up under the field officer of the day, who was Major Cox, formerly of the 47th and now. Lieut. Governor of Gaspe. I got him to allow me to take your friend Nairne, with a subaltern and thirty men, and then proceeded to the Lower Town, where I found things, though not in a good way, yet not desperate. The enemy had got in at the Sault-au-Matelot, but, neglecting to push on, as they should have done, were stopped at the second barrier which our people got shut just as I arrived. It was so placed as to shut up the street of the Sault-au-Matelot from any communications with the rest of the Lower Town. As I was coming up, I found our people, the Canadians especially, shy of advancing towards the barrier, and was obliged to exert myself a good deal. To do old Voyer, their colonel, justice, though he is no great officer, yet he did not show any want of spirit. However, my coming up with Nairne and a lieutenant, with fifty seamen, gave our people new spirits.
I posted people in the different houses that commanded the street of Sault-au- Matelot; some in the house where Levy, the Jew, formerly lived, others at Lymeburner's. The officers of the Fusileers I posted in the street with fixed bayonets, ready to receive the enemy in case they got on our side of the barrier. They had, on their side of it, fixed some ladders, and then another to our side as it were to come down by, that was useful to us. I ordered it to be pulled away and fixed it to the window in the gable end of a house towards us, the front of which commanded the street of the Sault-au-Matelot and their side of the barrier.
Then I sent Captain Nairne and Dambourges, an officer also of McLean's corps, with a party of their people. Nairne and Dambourges entered the window with a great deal of spirit and got into the house on that side, just ar, the enemy was entering it by the front door. But Nairne soon dialoged them with his bayonets, driving them into the street; nor did they approach the barrier afterwards. They however kept up a brisk fire from back windows of the houses they had occupied in Sault-au-Matelot Street on our people in Lymeburner's house, on his wharf, and the street adjacent, from one of their houses.
I had a narrow escape, for going at day-break to reconnoitre on the wharf under them, ~ust as they took post there, they asked, "Who is there?"
I At first I thought they might have been some of Nairne's people, who I
| knew were next door to them, and answered, "A friend—who are you?"
They answered, "Captain Morgan's company."
I told them to have good heart for they would soon be in the town, and immediately got behind a pile of boards beside me, not above ten or twelve yards from them, and escaped.
Their fire, however, a good deal slackened towards nine o'clock, especially after I brought a 8-pounder on Lymeburner's wharf to bear upon them, the first shot of which killed one of their men and wounded another. I then called out to Nairne in their hearing, so that he should let me know when he heard firing on the other side; our General had sent 2oo men to hem the enemy in on that side; they soon after began to give themselves up and surrender to Nairne, who sent them through the window to us. I~hey then began to crowd in in such numbers that we opened the barrier, and they all gave themselves up on that side, while the party that made the sortie were busy in the same manner on the other side of the post, and which had delayed so long from coming up in taking and sending in by Palace Gate some straggling prisoners; but they had not a shot fired at them, and just arrived on that end of the post, the enemy surprised at the time [by] the officer I sent to take possession of our old post, [who] arrived with a small party, supported by Nairne with ~1oo men.
Thus ended our attack on that side, in which the enemy had about 2o men killed, upwards of 4o men wounded, and about 4oo made prisoners. Had they acted with more spirit, they might have pushed in at first and possessed themselves of the whole of Lower Town, and let their friends in at the other side, before our people had time to have recovered from a certain degree of panic, which seized them on the first news of the post being surprised.