The Fourteen Colonies



Most children in North America learn at an early age that the "Thirteen Colonies" revolted in 1775 and after eight long hard years won their independence with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  What most of us weren't taught is that the British actually founded 14 colonies on the Atlantic coastline of North America.

If you went to school in the United States, you most likely were taught the thirteen colonies.  Twelve were founded in the 1600s, in order of settlement they are:

1. Virginia in 1607,
2. Massachusetts in 1620,
3. New Hampshire in 1623,
4. New York in 1624,
5. Connecticut in 1633,
6. Maryland in 1634,
7. Rhode Island in 1636,
8. Delaware in 1638,
9. Pennsylvania in 1643,
10. North Carolina in 1653,
11. New Jersey in 1660,
12. and South Carolina in 1670.

The 13th colony, Georgia, was not settled until 1733, a gap of 63 years!


The 14th and last was Nova Scotia founded in 1749, 16 years later still. Georgia was settled before South Caroline, even though Georgia is further south.  Nova Scotia is at the opposite extreme, north of Maine, which, until 1820, was part of Massachusetts colony.

Officially, Nova Scotia had been a colony from the time of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and had a tiny garrison and a Governor in Annapolis Royal, a small settlement on the Bay of Fundy.  However, the land all around the fort was occupied by French settlers who had come to Nova Scotia before the war that put it in British hands. 

As early as 1718, two groups wished to found a new colony on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, but both asked for the right to intercept the Yankee fishing fleets off that coast and charge them fees for the fishing rights.  This enraged the New England colonies.  They sent a Mr. Dummer to London; he protested long and loud and got the colonial grants turned down. 

Two years later in 1720 the royal Governor Phillips wrote from Annapolis Royal to London the following excerpt:


"This country will never be of any consequence in trade until the seat of government be removed to the eastern coast."

He further requested that 200 soldiers be sent from England to protect a new settlement on the Atlantic coast naming several possible locations for the settlement and requesting three Men O' War of the Royal Navy be stationed there.  The next year, his Deputy made the same request.

Each year from 1713 until 1763, New England fishing boats would bring their early catch ashore on Nova Scotia to be dried or otherwise preserved for the voyage back home.  And, every year a few of them would be caught and scalped by the Micmac Indians of Nova Scotia.  The indians had been converted to Roman Catholicism by French missionaries and, up until 1764, the French would buy scalps from them.  Thus, encouraging them to fight the settlers and harass the tiny garrison at Annapolis Royal. 

In 1725, French settlers cut a path through the forested interior of the Nova Scotia peninsula and began bringing their cattle to what is now Halifax Harbor.  There, Yankee merchants would load them aboard their ships and haul them to the French fort of Louisburg on the nearby island of Cape Breton.  This trading with the enemy did not go unnoticed.  In 1731, Governor Phillips issued a proclamation forbidding it, but he had no ships and not enough troops to defend Annapolis, let alone garrison the east coast.  The smuggling went on uninterrupted.  In both 1734 and again in 1738, the Governor wrote London urging that a garrison be established to stop it and adding that it might "invite a new set of people that are Protestants to venture their lives and fortunes."  It isn't surprising that he would wish that when he was surrounded by Catholic French settlers and their Catholic Micmac friends.  But, once again, his requests were in vain.

By 1744, a new Governor ruled Nova Scotia.  Paul Mascarene had been Deputy for so long; now, he commanded and, when the French attacked that year, he managed to hold the garrison at Annapolis together.  In the end, they were rescued -- not by England, across the broad Atlantic, but by New England, which feared the French would attack them next.  Indeed, a powerful French fleet was ordered to Nova Scotia in the spring of 1746.  But, Atlantic storms, scurvy, typhus, and hunger caused so many casualties that they retreated on October 13, 1746. That ended the last hope of France in North America.  New England rejoiced and London decided at long last a colony on the east coast of Nova Scotia was a good idea.

To command the new Colony at Halifax and all of Nova Scotia, it the British chose Colonel Edward Cornwallis, the first of a very long line of Military Governor's who ruled Nova Scotia by Martial Law.  Every ship's Captain was a de facto Justice of the Peace and meted out justice as he saw fit.  One of his aides was Captain Horatio Gates who 30 years later would become a famous American General in the Revolutionary War.  Thirteen transports with 2,576 settlers set sail from England and arrived June 26, 1749.  Acting Governor Mascarene arrived from Fort Annapolis on July 12th and the seat of the colonial government officially changed hands to Halifax. Three weeks after the settlers arrived, the new Governor wrote back to London, "I beg leave to observe to your Lordships that amongst them the number of industrious active men proper to undertake and carry on a new settlement is very small. Of soldiers, there are only 100, of tradesmen, sailors and others willing to work, not above 200."  The group of 2,576 settlers were mostly the very poor of London!

Indeed, the lack of effort put forth by the settlers resulted in a stiff punishment.  Over half were still quartered aboard their transports when winter set in and by spring a typhus epidemic, along with the cold and poor housing, had killed over 1,000; more than a third of the colonists had died.  Fortunately for the Governor, a like number of New Englanders arrived in the spring brought in by the pioneer opportunities of free land or a new town to start a new business in.  In addition, Governor Cornwallis, wiser from the experience of trying to get the poor of London to act like good settlers, wrote the home office to send out more suitable settlers, preferably German farmers.  These German settlers called themselves Deutsche but the English speaking settlers who arrived first corrupted this into Dutch, as happened elsewhere in the Thirteen southern colonies.  In the first three years, nearly all of the London settlers, who founded the Colony at Halifax, disappeared by death or desertion, but the patient "Dutch" and eager New Englanders replaced them faster than they could go. The influx was soon sent to other settlements in Nova Scotia by Governor Cornwallis who wished to support more fortifications along the coast.  He planted the settlers at these sites to supply food for the garrisons.

Every townsman between the ages of 16 and 60 was subject to Militia duty.  From time to time, they were mustered on the parade ground.  Wearing their homespun clothes and armed with their own musket and cartridge pouch, they drilled.  However, the real power in Halifax were the sailors quartered aboard ships or at the beach and the Redcoats guarding the town from the indians and their French allies.

Colonel Cornwallis went home in 1752.  He had gotten the town and garrison off to a good start.  He was followed by Colonel Hopson who reigned one-year and returned to England also.  In 1753, Colonel Lawrence became acting Governor with Hopson's departure.  Colonel Lawrence was a 6'2" veteran of several battles; he ruled with an iron will.

In 1755, with the outbreak of the French and Indian war, both England and France prepared to make Nova Scotia a battleground.  It was only through luck that the French invasion fleet was chanced upon at sea and scattered with two ships captured.  One of the captured French ships had as cargo 10,000 scalping knives, intended as gifts for their Micmac allies in Nova Scotia so that they could wipe out all the English settlements.  In retaliation, Lawrence set his New England Rangers and soldiers after the long established French settlers in Nova Scotia.  Any who would not publicly swear allegiance to the British crown were forcefully expelled.  The New England Rangers were tough fellows in their Blue uniforms or Buckskin jackets.  They looked odd to the common Redcoats.  With a mixture of odd clothes and careless air, the Rangers were despised by the British officers.  Colonel Monckton personally went out of his way to snub them but, 20 years later, the Redcoats would learn that, in wooded country, they had no equal.

At this time, the civilian population of Halifax of only 1,755 was overwhelmed by the presence of 3,000 Redcoats, Sailors and New England Rangers.  It got even worse in 1757 when Lord Loudon arrived with his army and Lord Holborne with his fleet -- some 16,000 men in all.  In early fall, Montgomery's
Highlanders, a battalion of Scotch soldiers arrived.  The American Rangers had no love for Lord Loudon or his army and twice, during their musket practice that summer, he narrowly missed being hit by a lead musket ball.  As could be expected with such an unloved commander, the Loudon expedition failed thanks to a fake letter "captured" by the British.  The letter claimed that the French had assembled a fleet of 22 ships of the line and 8,000 reinforcements were entrenched at the fort of Louisburg.  The letter was regarded by all as a last ditch attempt to avoid the invasion; but, it terrified the pompous Loudon who promptly called off the expedition.  The Navy, The Redcoats, and even the civilians were astounded and dismayed and at the following Sunday Service the local church clerk instructed that the 44th psalm was to be sung.

The last two verses are:

"For our soul is bowed down to
the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.
Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake."

Loudon feared public reaction if he had the clerk arrested but his officers did arrest two merchants who were overheard agreeing that the French had no more than five ships of the line at most.  Again, he ordered them released before the night was over.  He then sailed away, leaving a smallpox epidemic for the civilians to remember him by.  That smallpox epidemic killed 700 of them before the spring of 1758, but the French hadn't killed a soul.  In the spring, a new fleet arrived with 12,000 Redcoats but, this time, they had a worthy command team of Jeffrey Amherst and his second in command, James Wolfe.  They kept the men drilling constantly but, with liquor freely accessible in the 200 bars of Halifax, the men were often punished harshly for the resulting military offenses, resulting in hangings, firing squads and flogging, or riding the wooden horse, a punishment where the guilty party was stripped naked and made to sit on a very narrow wooden sawhorse for hours, often with weights attached to his feet, or carried from garrison to garrison as a warning to others. Officers were of course exempt from punishments that inflicted physical pain but one notable, Lieutenant Peter, Marquis of Contes was convicted of "Rape of a child under the age of 10 years". His only punishment was to march around the parade ground for an hour on a cold December day with a sign stating his crimes.

Finally in May, 1759, the fleet sailed out and the soldiers went with them, overrunning the French defenses on Cape Breton island and tearing the great fortress of Louisburg down stone by stone. About this time the Royal Navy decided to make Halifax a major naval base and set to building dockyards and barracks to house the permanent staff. 

In October of 1758 the very first meeting of the General Assembly of Nova Scotia was called into existence. Cornwallis, the first Governor, had been a military officer, and his successors one and all as well. They had looked on any pretention's of a civilian government with distrust, preferring the martial law they controlled from top to bottom. The Assembly was finally formed because the capital population had shifted to the point where more than half were from New England, where they had long enjoyed the lighter hand of civilian rule rather than military decree.

With the fall of Quebec in 1759, the French and Indian war quickly began winding down and, with the indians signing truces, the trickle of New Englanders moving to the Nova Scotian wilderness turned into a flood.  Despite the fact that the peace treaty was not officially signed until 1763, European insurance rates, for ships along the eastern seaboard of North America, fell from 25% of the value down to 12%.  That reduction, alone, put the cost of passage within reach of many New Englanders.  Black slaves and White indentures also flooded into the colony and escapees were hunted down for the bounties.

Martial law was still in effect when, in 1759, Lieutenant Collins of His Majesty's Navy, his ship's Captain Sweeney, Dr. Johns, and other officers had been drinking at the house of John Field.  After several rounds, they went in search of women.  Mistaking a settler's house for a brothel, they knocked at the door and "inquired for Polly."  The owner refused them and refused to let them enter his home.  Angered by this treatment, they forced their way into the home of Lathum, a town baker.  Lathum fired his musket killing Lt. Collins.  Captain Sweeny called the town guard to arrest Lathum, and then sat as Judge over the case, convicting Lathum of murder.  He was hung.

In an effort to keep the colonies in America from getting too much pride during the French and Indian war, London had decided to use only regular army Redcoats in the conquest of Canada.  As a result, periodically from 1755 to 1763 these hard drinking, lecherous, contemptuous of civilian Redcoats had been quartered wherever they might be needed in the thirteen original colonies and permanently stationed in the 14th which was their main staging area for both the army and naval forces. The effect of these encampments, often in the homes of the citizens, was especially evident in the straight-laced atmosphere of New England where the citizens were first shocked, dismayed and, then, openly hostile towards their 'protectors.'

While the effect in Nova Scotia was much the same the citizens of the 14th colony played host to overwhelming numbers of royal forces. In 1767 for instance the census counted 302 English, 52 Scots, 853 Irish, 264 'Dutch', 200 native French and 1351 Americans, mostly New Englanders. By this time the Governor was one Lord William Campbell, an old fashioned Aristocrat who spent his time drinking, hosting elaborate parties in his mansion and racing horses around the track he had built near town. In 1768 New England had become a simmering pot of rebellion due to the egregious Stamp Act and Tea Act. General Gage in Boston called in every Redcoat he could muster. Most of them came from quarters Nova Scotia, so many in fact that all the outlying posts and forts had to be abandoned, and even Halifax was reduced to a Corporals Guard serving the honorary role for the Governor. In an effort to placate the Bostonians the Redcoats were not quartered in civilian homes and spending the long cold winter in tents stretched their already poor manners to the point where something was bound to happen, especially with New England patriots pelting them with snowballs, ice chunks or rocks depending on their mood. Things in the 14th Colony were as peaceful as they had ever been, and with the Redcoats gone the quiet settlers heaved a sigh of relief and read the fiery pamphlets sent out of Boston. The Figurehead Campbell was oblivious to it all but his Lt. Governor, Michael Francklin was a loyalist from England who kept the colonials relatively happy. In 1773 however, Campbell succeeded in getting himself transferred to South Carolina, where his wife had been born and had family. His Replacement was a Military Governor once more, Major Legge, who was despised by his own friends in the English court and sent off to Nova Scotia as a way of getting him out of town.

Major Legge was typical of the British military in his relation to the 'upstart' colonials and let them know at every turn how much he despised and looked down upon them. In fact Legge despised Francklin despite the fact that the Lt. Governor was an English born merchant who had worked his way up to the post of Lt. Governor, or perhaps because he was very popular with the Americans and other colonists around Halifax. He was also fluent in the Micmac Indian language and had excellent relations with the tribe, causing Legge to grow extremely jealous of his assistant and refuse to take council from him.

George Washington 1775
Thus the quiet of the 14th colony was soon replaced with rebellion and behind the scenes sabotage. In the fall of 1775 a great hay stack in Halifax ready to be sent to Boston to help feed the horses of the British was set on fire and completely destroyed. In early August a group of Nova Scotian rebels traveled to the tiny town of Machias on the border of Maine, which was at that time a section of Massachusetts colony. They were promised weapons and help from the Continental Army under George Washington in clearing the few remaining Redcoats from the two remaining garrisons in Nova Scotia. Receiving this request in his camp at Cambridge, Massachusetts George Washington sent the following letter back to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

Camp at Cambridge, Aug 11, 1775.
I have considered the papers you left with me yesterday. As to the expedition proposed against Nova Scotia by the inhabitants of Machias, I cannot but applaud their spirit and zeal, but I apprehend such an enterprise to be inconsistent with the principle on which the Colonies have proceeded. That province has not acceded, it is true, to the measures of the Congress, but it has not commenced hostilities against them nor are any to be apprehended. To attack it therefore is a measure of conquest rather than defense, and may be attended with very dangerous consequences. It might be easy with the force proposed to make an incursion into the province and over-awe those of the inhabitants who are inimical to our cause, but to produce a lasting effect the same force must continue. And our situation as to ammunition absolutely our sending a single ounce of it out of the camp at present.

I am, Gentlemen, &c.,
George Washington.

Nova Scotia Colony had not sent
representatives to the Continental Congress
Studying this letter with the historical perspective we can see something which General Washington couldn't, or wouldn't see. The assembly of the Nova Scotia Colony had not sent representatives to the Continental Congress because they were surrounded by Redcoats and imperial Sailors and any such attempt would be learned of and quashed aborning. The 14th colony was under Martial Law with every ships Captain ready, willing, and able to act as a hanging judge at the first hint of open rebellion. Therefore while the Assembly of Nova Scotia had not sent representatives to Philadelphia for either the First or Second Continental Congress it was not from lack of will, but rather fear of retaliation, as was demonstrated in many of the acts of Sabotage preformed in Halifax. They were rumored to be set in play by current or former members of the Nova Scotian assembly, spurred forward in great part by the petty tyrant Governor Legge, who was paranoid to the point of seeing Rebels under every bed. This paranoia bred security measures that in turn lead to Sabotage, which fed the paranoia and led to tighter measures. Seeing where this path must inevitably lead Lt. Governor Francklin sent a delegation to London in January 1776 pleading for a new Governor before Legge managed to turn every local settler into a Rebel. Unfortunately for the United States and the peoples of Nova Scotia Colony Francklin was successful and a startled London ordered Legge back to England, with a 1,000 pound per year salary as Governor still in effect to keep him happy. His departure from Halifax was a memorable event, the entire town turned out to boo him and as he passed them by shouted curses were exchanged in both directions as the Frigate bearing the Governor pulled out of the harbor. In revenge Governor Legge managed to get Francklin removed from his post as well and Mariot Arbuthnot a naval officer was appointed to replace him. Unfortunately for the 14th colony Arbuthnot was a man who pretty much let the colonials be. The former Lt. Governor Francklin, a dedicated Loyalist, operated quietly behind the scenes to cool tempers and strengthen citizen support for the Loyalist side in the war. 

Then to make matters even worse in March of 1776 General Howe returned to Halifax, pulling the Army and Fleet out of Boston and flooding the 14th colony with not only Military forces but also with every Loyalist they could cram aboard their fleet, rich and poor, honest or criminal. These retches descended on tiny Halifax like a plague of Locusts and devoured every morsel of food and occupied every room and then every inch of ground with their tents, driving prices through the ceiling and causing great hardship to the local population. While the Loyalist's were greeted with less than enthusiasm and then down right hostility they in turn resented loosing everything and then being put on minimum rations so that everyone would get enough to eat. They soon began calling Nova Scotia Nova Scarcity and like the unexpected guest that doesn't know when to leave they fomented anger and rebellion just by existing. 

Some relief came in the fall of 1776 for when the Royal Navy attacked and the Redcoats invaded New York the wealthy Loyalists moved to Manhattan Island where they remained until 1783. The poorer loyalists however were left in Halifax to fend for themselves and it was quickly discovered that little could be done for them because little was available to share out. Even so far as food and shelter were concerned. Given these few options some of the Loyalist men began to form Loyalist regiments in hopes of securing food, shelter and revenge upon the Rebels whom they had fled in New England. From March 1776 when the first of the refugees arrived right through 1783 when the terms of the Treaty ending the war were announced and the fearful Loyalists in New York colony fled en masse to Halifax the town was continually filled up with Refugees whose attitude was sour and whose means were few or non-existent. 

One incident that befell the a local civilian caused further ill wishes towards the Redcoats and in part lead to a serious uprising in the fall of 1776 when the military forces withdrew to New York. During the summer of 1776 a contingent of Redcoats improving a road between forts guarding the land approaches to Halifax decided to tear down the low fieldstone fences across a nearby pasture that a farmer named Chris Schlegal had built to keep animals out of his crops. He strenuously objected and attempted to stop the Redcoats who promptly killed him for his efforts and went on tearing the fences down for fill. Three Redcoats were put on trial for the murder and promptly released by the Military court. 

When the army pulled out Rebellion broke out anew, partly because of the hardships caused by the arrival of the Loyalists and partly due to the harsh Martial Law they had so long endured such as the Schlegal murder and many less fatal incidents. Only two areas had organized military forces remaining, Halifax itself and Fort Cumberland on the isthmus connecting current day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick provinces in Canada. Realizing how weak this left him the Governor sent recruiters throughout the colony but they returned empty handed. The Loyalist refugees so inclined had already been organized and the older colonists were reported to be either neutral or openly hostile. Rebels in the Cumberland region revolted in the fall and laid siege to Fort Cumberland, which was the only position preventing the Continental Army from crossing through the wilderness and attacking the settled area of Nova Scotia overland. Once again the Continental Army failed to appear but the Nova Scotians pressed their attack and had nearly succeeded in storming the fort when reinforcements arrived in the form of every Redcoat and Marine from Halifax, which was left totally undefended. Unfortunately several Rebel leaders were captured and carried back to Halifax for trial. Loyalist feeling in Halifax demanded that they be hung immediately but secret patriot's managed to let them escape back into the wilderness.

The Loyalists demanded that the Provost Marshall be fired for the escape and got their way. After the new marshall was appointed several Patriot merchants were hauled before the council to answer charges of sedition. One notable to be charged was Reverend Seccombe, a fiery Preacher who sermonized frequently on the rights of man. He was convicted and jailed for his outspoken and unwavering stance.

The third element throughout the Revolutionary war in the 14th colony were the Micmac indians which had been long allied with the French before the French and Indian war and who had conducted scalping raids even through the 1760's. While the Redcoats terrorized the colonists in town the Micmac's terrified them if they got too far out of town. Washington attempted to make allies of the Micmac's who occupied the unsettled areas of Nova Scotia including the vast woodlands of what is now New Brunswick but here he was thwarted by the former Lt. Governor Francklin.

Francklin was fluent in their language after having lived among them in his first few years in Nova Scotia and they regarded him as a good and true friend. In 1782 despite Washington's gifts and promises they made a permanent peace with the British, politely returning Washington's gifts they agreed to accept the rule of King George III. In November 1782 while making treaty arrangements with several Micmac chiefs in his office the 62 year old Francklin collapsed and died, exhausted by the long struggle to keep Nova Scotia British but in the end successful in his work. The sight of 200 indians following his coffin through the streets of Halifax with faces painted black and keening in mourning was the final cement that fixed the fate of the 14th colony. The following spring the last gasp of the revolution guttered and died when a group of rebels unfurled the Stars and Stripes and entreated the indians to help them throw off the British yoke. The astonished indians made absolutely no move to do any such thing but the local authorities forbid any further spring celebrations anyway. The Rebels themselves were politically overwhelmed by the 50,000 to 70,000 Loyalists who had flooded into Nova Scotia with the withdrawing Redcoats at the end of the war. Thus the lonely 14th colony failed to escape the British thumb for another 84 years until 1867 when local rule became a fact with the formation of the Dominion of Canada.

What if?
I find it Ironic that such was the case when on at least two separate occasions the Nova Scotians rebelled, only to be quashed from lack of cannon and strength in numbers. Here is where we can play IF, if only Washington had sent aid in 1775, or if only the Rebels had captured Fort Cumberland in 1776, how might the war have changed? Would the Canadians of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick provinces been happier as states of the United States? We will never know, but if you are a native of these provinces I would find your perspective interesting.

For further reading on the 14th British colony in North America or to confirm any of the facts stated in this article you may reference any or all of the following;

* World Book Encyclopedia, 1971 edition
* Halifax, Warden of the North--by Thomas H. Raddall
* United Empire Loyalist and the American Revolution by Alan Skeoch
* The Acadians by Barry Moody
* Fur Trade in Canada by Keith Wilson
* Rebellions in Canada by William LaCroix.

The author gratefully acknowledges the efforts of the secondary source authors, especially the excellent work by Thomas Raddall which expanded upon and confirmed information from the other varied sources with a depth and detail that this author can only hope to emulate in his own work.

by Allen W McDonnell


The star in the shield of Massachusetts is for statehood.  The statue of the Indian was a symbol used by the original colony as early as 1629. Adopted in 1908 and modified to the design seen here in 1971, the State motto in the scroll defines the intent of the arm and sword atop the shield.  When translated it says: