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The History of Fort LaTour

La Tour forced to watch the hanging of her men

    The seigneurs ruled their lands like lords. They were very powerful. Two of them were especially powerful. They controlled the fur trade in Acadia. One of these men, Seigneur d'Aulnay de Charnisay, was given control of the fur trade in the St. John River area. Charnisay had his fort at Port Royal. The second man, Charles La Tour, had built a fort along the St. John River but had control of the fur trade across the Bay of Fundy near where Charnisay had his fort. La Tour had been there for years trading happily and successfully with the Maliseets. La Tour was an ambitious and independent man. He did not like interference from anyone. Officers of the king of France had given these two men responsibility for looking after the affairs of Acadia. From the moment Charnisay and La Tour met at Port Royal they were rivals for power.
   Charnisay was determined to get rid of his rival, La Tour. He began complaining to the king about La Tour. He even told some powerful people in France that La Tour was a traitor. Charnisay soon received orders to capture La Tour and send him back to France.
   Charnisay began making attacks on La Tour's fort. After many attacks, La Tour began to run out of supplies. He decided to sail to Boston to buy guns and ammunition from the English. He left his wife, Madame La Tour, in charge of the fort.
   While La Tour was away, eight of the forty-five men stationed at his fort deserted. They went over to Charnisay's fort at Port Royal. Charnisay was delighted to hear that La Tour was away and that only Madame La Tour and a mere handful of men were left to guard the fort. It was just the chance he had been waiting for. He gathered his forces and sailed into Saint John harbour, expecting an easy victory. He called on Madame La Tour to surrender, but she would not. When Charnisay sailed in front of the fort to bombard the walls, Madame La Tour ordered her men to open fire. They killed twenty of Charnisay's men, wounded many more, and badly damaged his ship. With his ship in danger of sinking, Charnisay returned to Port Royal to get more men.
   Two months later, Charnisay was ready to try again. This time, he landed his men at once. For three days and nights, they fired on La Tour's fort with muskets and a cannon. Still, Madame La Tour would not surrender.
   Then, early in the morning on Easter Sunday, while Madame La Tour and most of her men were at prayers, Charnisay attacked again. As the sentry at the gate looked the other way, Charnisay's men swarmed up the walls and dropped inside the fort.
   Madame La Tour's soldiers were caught by surprise. Even though they were outnumbered, they fought bravely. A number of Charnisay's men were killed, but a victory for La Tour and her soldiers was impossible.

    "Now, Madame," said Charnisay, "you must surrender!"

    "On one condition," replied Madame La Tour.

   "What might that be?" answered Charnisay.

   "That there be no more killing," begged Madame La Tour.

   "I give you my word," said Charnisay.

   Believing that Charnisay would keep his promise, Madame La Tour told her soldiers to lay down their muskets. As soon as they did, Charnisay's men clamped them in irons. Charnisay had all the soldiers hanged, so that no one would ever again question his authority or the authority of France.
   Three weeks later, Madame La Tour died. The hanging of her soldiers, the loss of her husband's fort, and her betrayal by Charnisay had been more than she could bear. Her body was buried near the fort she had fought so hard to save.
   After looting the fort, Charnisay destroyed it. Then he built another fort across the harbour. He called it Fort Charnisay. Five years later, he drowned.
    When Charnisay died, Charles La Tour returned and became the new governor of Acadia. He settled into Charnisay's fort on the west side of the harbour with his new wife, Charnisay's widow. They renamed it Fort La Tour and lived there peacefully for many years. The La Tours had many children. Some of their descendants still live in New Brunswick today. If your last name is La Tour, d'Entremont, Girouard, Poirier, or Landry, you may find the name of Charles La Tour in your family tree.

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