Pillaging on land was part of the privateer's job description. They went after fishing stations, such as those at Percé and Mingan. Taking anything of value, they burned the fishing facilities and surrounding dwellings. This practice gradually declined at the beginning of the 18th century.

However, the "pillaging privateers" resumed their activities during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Determined to cause damage to the British economy, the Americans sacked installations belonging to major British merchants in Chaleur Bay, including the Robins and Shoolbreds. They even went as far as the Sept-Îles fishing station!

The Pillaging of Percé in 1690

Phips' fleet left Boston in mid-May 1690. This fleet included warships, and troop transport and supply ships, but also a few privateers. Its ultimate goal was to take New France. After taking and pillaging Port Royal in the Bay of Fundy, part of the fleet moved on to take the fishing facilities of Île Bonaventure and Percé.

For eight days, the privateers pillaged and set fire to the fishing stations and tiny chapels of Île Bonaventure and Percé.

Father Emmanuel Jumeau watched powerless as the disaster unfolded:

They then set fire to the four corners of the church, which was soon reduced to ashes, as well as our Mission on Isle de Bonaventure, which suffered a similar fate, after they broke the images, and cut down all the ornaments with sabres.

Excerpt from a letter from Father Jumeau to Father Chestien Leclercq, dated 15th October 1690.

The Pillaging of Mingan in 1778

American privateering ship: Fame
Homeport: Salem, Massachusetts

After destroying the fishing stations in Chaleur Bay, the captain of the Fame took a young French-Canadian aboard. Acting as guide, the Canadian led the Americans to the Mingan station to steal furs.

The privateer took one other thing: the ship of Joseph Colard. The captain lost all his cargo, including 712 seal pelts. On the other hand, he and his crew were allowed to go free.

Either out of bravado or boastfulness, the privateer went so far as to make fun of the King's ships in Bic, claiming he could seize them!


Plunderage was a right on the open sea. When a ship was taken, crewmembers of an armed privateer ship could take, for their own personal use, the personal effects of their enemy counterparts.

Thus, the captain could take the personal effects of the enemy or opposing captain, the surgeon, if there was one, could take the kit of the surgeon on the enemy ship, the sailor could take the box of personal effects belonging to his counterpart, and so on.
Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

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