Thomas Pichon, the Spy of Beausejour

A letter from Thomas Pichon* to Captain Scott.

OCTOBER 14th 1754.


I believe I replied to the letter with which you honored me two months ago. I expected to receive one from you since, and because I am tired of waiting for the pleasure of hearing from you, I am now going to tell you all that I know, for the purpose of inducing you to write. Daudin's affair is causing a good deal of noise. We heard of it in the evening of the 7th by a man of the name of Jacob Michel from Port Royal, who was to bring papers from that priest to Moses, which would have been found, no doubt, had a strict search been made in arresting him. The next day — Sunday — Moses preached a most violent sermon, in which he singularly accommodated the British nation, and concluded by saying offensive things to the refugees, whose crimes are, in his opinion, the sole cause of the detention of a holy man. He afterwards represented to them what they — the refugees — had to expect from the English. That when they return to the other side, they will have neither priests nor sacraments, but will die like miserable wretches. The vehemence, or rather the petulance, with which he preached, exhausted him to such an extent that he was obliged to go at it twice. He then told these poor refugees to appear, after mass, at the commandant's who had a letter from the general of Canada for them. The refugees did not come, however. Monsieur de Vergor* sent a sergeant twice, to summon them; a score of them arrived in the fort. As they seemed in no hurry to enter, the impatient commander went to his door and called them himself, and in order to induce them to enter more rapidly, he threatened to put them in irons, and spoke to them in the harshest manner.

After they had got in, M. De Vergor's clerk read to them the letter, which is in terms more polite.

Its tendency is to urge them to stay with the French and to establish themselves. It promises them various assistance. This letter, as you can well imagine I had been prepared at the instance of Moses† himself. These poor people retired without compliment. Moses was present and played the part of Aaron. He was the spokesman. M. De Vergor stutters.

This same Moses has since sent some emissaries to the priest Chauvreux, who report that Daudin had been transferred to Halifax; and yesterday, Sunday, he preached not less violently than on the preceding Sunday, concerning the persecuted Daudin; but he added that he was going to be sent to England. Workmen have just been ordered to finish the fort, and to repair the road to Bay Verte, which is almost impracticable for carriages. You will have known that on the 21st of last month, 83 of the refugees sent two of their deputies to carry their petition to the general of Canada, asking for authority to return to their old possessions, since we cannot give them on our side land suitable for cultivation; and stating that those which are offered them are in places disputed by the English — that they are not released from the oath which they have taken to the king of Great Britain; and that, if taken among the French, they are threatened with being punished as criminals. These are the motives. Moses, ever vigilant and active, having had communication through M. De Vergor, has made the finest observations on this petition; and I have assisted him in manufacturing some very long letters, in the form of dissertations for the General, the Bishop, and the Intendant. These deputies are expected about the end of the month; perhaps I shall see the replies which they will bring, and you shall then see what the politicians and casuists will have decided upon.

In the mean time, Moses declared at the altar to those refugees who signed the request, that if they did not come to his house and retract what they had done, and efface their marks with their spittle, they should have no paradise to look forward to, nor sacraments to go to.

There are several who have not dared to refuse acquiesence in such strong and powerful reasons.

Yesterday the fourteenth, Moses came and took me to his house to read the analysis of his letters from the month of January, which I have made for him. He showed me several letters, and a journal of the Abbe Daudin, which we read. He had just received the whole by some express which he had sent on hearing of his detention. So his (Daudin's) papers were not seized at the time of his arrest. People would have seen some strange things in them. He complains to Moses that the English know what is going on here. Chauvreux said the same thing some time ago.

I am still with the most inviolable attachment,
Omino Deditus, &c.

* Thomas Pichon (alias Thomas Signis Tyrrell) was a native of France, brought up at Marseilles, and in early life a medical student. He possessed considerable classical attainments; and having been employed as tutor in the family of a nobleman, obtained through his interest an appointment of inspector of hospitals in Bohemia in 1743, While in that country he became acquainted with Count Raymond. When the Count was made Governor at Louisburg, in the Isle Royale (now Cape Breton), Pichon went with him as his secretary, and held that situation from 1751 to 1753. He was then transferred to Fort Beausejour (Chignecto), as a Commissary of Stores. Having become known to Captain Scott, the commandant of the English fort on the Isthmus, he entered into a secret correspondence with Scott, Hussey, &c., the British officers in charge of the English forts, and furnished them with all possible information as to the movements of Le Loutre, the state of the garrison of Beausejour, &c., until the capture of the forts in 1765. Pichon was made (ostensibly) a prisoner with the rest of the garrison. He was brought first to Pisiquid (Windsor), and then to Halifax. There he was apparently a prisoner on parole, and under the surveillance of Mr. Archibald Hinshelwood, one of the officers of Government. Pichon, while in Halifax, made intimacy with French prisoners of rank detained there, and reported their plans and conversations to the Halifax Government. He received money and articles of dress, &c., which he requested from the English commandants in exchange for his information. In 1758 he went to London, where he resided until his death in 1781. He wrote a book on Cape Breton and St. John island (P.E. Island), containing accurate descriptions of the Indians, and other valuable information. This work was published anonymously, In English and in French, in London 1760, and in Paris in 1761. He claimed the name of Tyrrell, as that of his mother's family. — MS vol. entitled "Tyrrell Papers," N.S. Archives; Murdoch's History of Nova Scotia, vol. 2, pp. 261, 272; &c.

* M. Duchambon de Vergor, commandant at Beausejour, was son of M. Duchambon, who surrendered Louisburg to Pepperell in 1745. He was promoted to this post by Bigot, Intendant of Canada, who had served at Louisburg under his father. He had relations in Acadia — his mother being a member of the LaTour family. — Murdoch's Hist. N.S., vol. 2, p. 234. M. Vergor made but a feeble defence of Beausejour. He is represented to have been under the influence of M. Le Loutre, who commanded his Indian allies. He was betrayed by Thomas Pichon, his commissary of stores, and abandoned by Le Loutre, who fled on the approach of the enemy. — Tyrell papers, N.S. Documents. † M. Pichon, throughout his letters, in speaking of the priest Le Loutre, calls him Moses.

Source: Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia

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