Battle of Signal Hill

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Battle of Signal Hill
Part of the Seven Years' War
Vue de la descente a Terre Neuve par le chevalier de Ternay en 1762.jpg
Vue de la descente a Terre Neuve par le chevalier de Ternay en 1762, Unknown artist
DateSeptember 15, 1762
Location 47°34′11″N52°40′55″W / 47.56972°N 52.68194°W / 47.56972; -52.68194 (Signal Hill) Coordinates: 47°34′11″N52°40′55″W / 47.56972°N 52.68194°W / 47.56972; -52.68194 (Signal Hill)
Result British victory
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg  Great Britain Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  France
Commanders and leaders
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg William Amherst Royal Standard of the King of France.svg Guillaume Léonard
1,159 1,500
Casualties and losses
24 killed and wounded 40 killed and wounded
800 captured

The Battle of Signal Hill was fought on September 15, 1762, and was the last battle of the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War. A British force under Lieutenant Colonel William Amherst recaptured St. John's, [1] [ non-primary source needed ] which the French had seized earlier that year in a surprise attack.



By 1762 France and Britain had been fighting for seven years, and both were now contemplating a peace agreement. Britain's long blockade of the French coast had forced the French economy into a decline – and had prevented the French navy from going to the aid of France's colonies around the globe – leading to a large number being captured. To rebuild the French navy in the years of peace, it was believed that they needed access to the Newfoundland fishery and so an expedition was planned to take the island in anticipation of the coming peace negotiations. This occurred in May 1762 when a small force under the Chevalier de Ternay slipped out of Brest and past the blockade and headed out into the Atlantic. [2]

French occupation

On June 27, 1762, the French forces under the Comte d'Haussonville forced the British capitulation of St. John's. During the following weeks, d'Haussonville, under the orders of the Chevalier de Ternay, was able to consolidate the French position in Newfoundland. His defence system consisted of several advance posts equipped with artillery around Signal Hill, a strategic point dominating the surrounding area.[ citation needed ]

On September 13, 1762, the British landed at Torbay, a few miles to the north. Ternay and Haussonville were unable to counter it, so to hamper the British advance, they dispatched a detachment to guard the bare summit of Signal Hill. [3] [ non-primary source needed ]

Regional importance

St.Johns, being the most easterly city in the Americas (excluding those of Greenland), was an important place to dock ships from Europe and prepare them for further inland journeys. After the French took this valuable land from the British, the latter responded with the same tactic, eventually winning. Apart from seaboard advantages, St.John’s was highly regarded for its abundance in natural resources. St.Johns has a huge fishing industry; by 1540 Spanish and Portuguese ships were traveling to this point solely to gather fish. The land is also abundant in fir and spruce trees, which were commonly used in ships and often as sources of food/medicine. [4] [ failed verification ]

Signal Hill on the other hand was used as a center for the defense of St.John’s throughout the 18th century. Being along the Atlantic coast – northeast of the Avalon Peninsula (southeast Newfoundland) – Signal Hill is positioned beside the inlet of the harbor of St.John’s. Sea being the only effective mode of transportation at the time of the battle, troops on Signal Hill could spot seaboard vehicles miles off. Additionally, Signal Hill must be passed to enter the settlement of St.John’s via sea, making it hard for foreign warships to cause destruction to the settlement. [5] [ improper synthesis? ]


On the 26th of August, British-Yankee warships dispatched by Amherst and under Capt. Campbell had reached the now British Halifax harbour, in hopes of recapturing St.John’s (Newfoundland). Returning to sea on the 1st of September (three days after the expected date, due to contrary winds), those particular men-of-war had reached Louisbourg on the 5th of September. After leaving on the 7th, fortunately, Campbell's fleet joined that of Lord Colvill's on the 11th, not far off the south coast of St.John’s. Nearing the 12th the fleets landed at Torbay, a few miles north of St.John's and took three prisoners. French commanders Count D'Haussonville and Bellecombe were unable to prevent the British landing at Torbay, so they sent a battalion to guard Signal Hill as an important protection summit due to natural defenses. At the break of September 15, 1762, British troops climbed the hill held by the French. The surprise was total, and the engagement was brief but fatal. The commander of the French detachment, Guillaume de Bellecombe, was seriously wounded. On the British side, a bullet shattered the legs of one of Amherst's officers, MacDonell. The British attacked about 295 French infantry, resulting with the remainder of the French (about 600) retreating to Fort William. [3] [ non-primary source needed ]


At the close of the battle, Signal Hill was in the hands of the British. Strengthened by this advantageous situation, the British had numerous artillery pieces delivered to their position from Torbay and began constructing batteries to bombard the fort. [1] Three days later they obtained the capitulation of the French garrison of St. John's, which consisted of just over 1,500 French regulars. [6] [ non-primary source needed ]

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  1. 1 2 "No. 10251". The London Gazette . 9 October 1762. p. 2.[ non-primary source needed ]
  2. Dull 2005 , p. 226
  3. 1 2 "No. 10251". The London Gazette . 9 October 1762. p. 1.[ non-primary source needed ]
  4. "Geography and Climate | City Of St. John's". Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  5. "Signal Hill | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  6. Newfoundland Grand Banks. "Recount of William Amherst Journal". Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-28.[ non-primary source needed ]
Further reading