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When you think of Canada, you don’t think about it having a battle of any sort on its soil. Yes, there have been minor rebellions and some battles fought centuries ago during the Seven Years War, but overall, we are pretty battle free.
One interesting battle that we did have in Canada happened in Hudson Bay and is known, quite simply, as the Battle of Hudson’s Bay.
This battle, fought on Sept. 5, 1697, was fought between the French and the English as the French were hoping to take over the lucrative York Factory.
This battle would be the largest Arctic naval battle fought in North American history.
The battle consisted of four ships fighting near York Factory for supremacy.
The Pelican, was the main French ship that served as part of the squadron that was dispatched to fight for control of Hudson Bay. The Pelican consisted of 44 guns and had 150 men on it. Prior to the battle, it had become separated from the rest of the French squadron due to heavy fog. As a result, the ship would go into battle against high odds in a spectacular battle.
As it sailed south into clear weather, The Pelican approached York Factory and soldiers went ashore to scout out the fort with the captain remaining on the Pelican. Soon, several British ships began approaching but they were mistaken by the captain for French ships and he sailed off to meet them. The British ships soon opened fire on The Pelican.
On the British side, there were three frigates with the Hampshire serving as the main ship with 46 guns. There was also the HBC Royal Hudson’s Bay with 32 guns and the HBC Dering with 36 guns.
To put it simply, the Pelican had 44 guns to the 114 guns of the British.
Seeing that his shore party was out of reach, the captain of the Pelican chose to head into battle with guns blazing. For two and a half hours, the ships were in a running fight that went back and forth.
Around this time, a brutal broadside-to-broadside battle took place between the Pelican and the Hampshire. At the time, it looked like the British had the upper hand and the French were ordered to surrender.
The French captain refused to surrender and the English captain, admiring his bravery, raised a glass of wine to toast him.
Amazingly, the next shot from the Pelican hit the powder magazine of the Hampshire, detonating it and causing the entire ship to explode. It soon sank beneath the waves, taking its captain with it.
While the Pelican had won the engagement between it and the Hampshire, the two other ships did what they could in the final part of the battle. Hudson’s Bay struck her colors to Pelican and the Dering would break off and flee.
The Pelican, for its part, was fatally damaged and much of it was below the waterline. It had to be abandoned. The ship’s captain and much of the crew were able to make it to land before the ship went beneath the waves. Distracting the cannoneers of York Factory, a bold feint took the British by surprise and cannons from the sinking Pelican were hauled onto land to bombard the fort. Henry Baley, factor of York Factory, decided to surrender on Sept. 13.
The French would hold onto the force until 1713 when it was returned to the British. At that time, the Hudson’s Bay Company once again made it the northern headquarters for the company.
The sunken ships have never been found.