ROUS, JOHN, privateer, naval officer, member of the Nova Scotia Council; b. between 1700 and 1710; d. at Portsmouth, England, 3 April 1760.
John Rous was foremost among New England’s privateer captains in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48). According to some authorities, he made extensive raids on the French fishing fleets and ports on the north shore of Newfoundland in 1744. The following year he was second in command of the Massachusetts naval forces at the siege of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). He was the first to come to the assistance of the Mermaid in the engagement that resulted in the capture on 20 June (o.s.) of the French 64-gun Vigilant [see Alexandre de La Maisonfort]. Commodore Peter Warren, realizing that this “brisk, gallant man” could be useful “in future schemes of this kind,” made Rous third lieutenant of the Vigilant, though he left him in command of the 20-gun snow Shirley. The Shirley sailed for England with dispatches early in July and, on its return in September, Warren purchased the vessel, with Rous as captain, for use in North America. The Shirley was rated a frigate and Rous became a post captain in the Royal Navy.
Rous was stationed at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1746. The Shirley was damaged by a hurricane in September, and Rous was unable to sail out of Annapolis; he thus could not assist the English garrison at Grand Pré, which was attacked by the French early the next year [see Arthur Noble]. In March he led an expedition of 100 men under John Winslow* and Silvanus Cobb to reassert British authority at Minas. The Shirley was paid off in June 1747 and Rous then served briefly under Admiral Charles Knowles. That winter Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts sent Rous to England as an emissary and to seek employment; he arrived in April 1748, near the end of the war. Armed with Shirley’s and Knowles’ dispatches, and favoured with their recommendations, Rous was consulted about the plan for settling Nova Scotia and was given command of the 14-gun sloop Albany. On 7 May 1749 he received orders to convoy settlers from the Nore (east of London) to Nova Scotia. He put down some early disorders with a firm hand, then shepherded the settlers from Portsmouth to Halifax, where he arrived on 29 June Between 1749 and 1755 Rous was the senior naval officer on the Nova Scotia station and made a notable contribution to the preservation of the new colony. As the admiralty did not provide effective naval forces for the defence of Nova Scotia, Rous had to improvise the protection essential to the survival of the settlements at Halifax, Canso, Lunenburg, Annapolis Royal, and Chignecto. He had at his disposal three 14-gun sloops of the Royal Navy, the occasional man-of-war from England, and several New England coasting vessels. He was active against the French at this time, as in 1749 when he carried a letter from Governor Edward Cornwallis* to Charles Deschamps* de Boishébert at the Saint John River, claiming the mouth of the river for the British. By force of his personality Rous made the French commander strike his colours and acknowledge that the territory was at best disputed. Rous accompanied the expeditions under Charles Lawrence against the French at Chignecto in April and September 1750. He provided vital naval support for the landing of troops and gave Lawrence shrewd counsel, including the advice that English forces should spend the summer at Minas to prevent a general uprising.
Late in 1753 Rous took command of the 24-gun frigate Success. The following year he was appointed to the Executive Council of Nova Scotia. In the spring of 1755 he commanded the naval force – three 24-gun frigates and a sloop – that accompanied the 33 transports and 2,100 men sent to capture Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.). With the surrender of the French fort on 17 June, Rous sailed for the Saint John River to destroy the fortifications there. When he arrived, however, the French fired their forts and burst their guns. In July he took part in the decision by the Nova Scotia Council to deport the Acadians. He was in charge of the convoy that sailed in October with the French inhabitants of Chignecto, “who have always been the most rebellious.” Late that month he was able to get the transports clear of the Bay of Fundy and send them on their way to Georgia and the Carolinas. On his return to Halifax, he had to undergo a court martial, in which he was cleared of some malicious, though perhaps not absolutely groundless, charges of abusing his authority in Halifax.
Rous was to convoy the mast ships to England late in 1756, but he was ordered back to Halifax to become senior naval officer again. He spent much of that winter in Boston meeting with Lord Loudoun [John Campbell], commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, and Charles Lawrence concerning the offensive strategy to be followed in North America. In February 1757 he relinquished command of the Success and was subsequently sent to sea in command of other ships and squadrons. He took a leading part in the preparations for an attack on Louisbourg in 1757, but the expedition was abandoned. When it was resumed the following year Rous sailed in command of the Sutherland (50 guns) and was active in the landings at Gabarus Bay. In the spring of 1759 he was sent to Canso by Admiral Philip Durell to survey the ice conditions there and watch for French ships. He sailed against Quebec in June with the Sutherland. Admiral Charles Saunders* chose him to lead a small squadron of ships up river, above the town, and on the night of 18–19 July the Sutherland and other ships passed Quebec, under furious fire from the city batteries, without losing a man. This manoeuvre eventually sealed the fate of the city. And when, on 13 September, British troops landed for the assault on Quebec it was from the Sutherland that their landing barges dropped down on the Anse au Foulon.
Rous convoyed the mast fleet to England that fall, arriving on 26 December. He died at Portsmouth on 3 April 1760 and was buried from St Thomas’s Church (now Portsmouth Cathedral). He was survived by his widow Rachel, his second wife; by two sons and three daughters, one of whom was married to Richard Bulkeley*, secretary of the province of Nova Scotia; and by his brother Joseph, who was the first keeper of the lighthouse at Sambro, Nova Scotia.
There are no known portraits of Rous, although the occasional place-name in Nova Scotia preserves his memory. The most lasting epitaph to John Rous is that by the Nova Scotia historian, Beamish Murdoch*: “On all occasions he was active, skilful and fully relied on.”
City Records Office, Portsmouth, Eng., St Thomas’s Church parish records. New York Public Library, Rare book div., Great Britain, Prize Causes, Lords Commissioners of Appeals in (189 pamphlets, [London, 1736–58], bound in two vols.), Notre-Dame de Délivrance (1747). PAC, MG 11, Nova Scotia A, 27, f.80; 30, ff.1–106; 34, ff.148, 234; 35, f.4; 36, ff.209–69; 38; MG 18, M1, 6, 8. PANS, RG 1, 163, 164, 491, 492; Vertical ms file, Halifax, Earl of, Plan for settlement of Nova Scotia, 1749. PRO, Adm. 1/234, 1/480–82, 1/1892, 1/2109, 1/2381–86, 1/2471, 1/2472, 1/2654, 1/2655, 1/3818; 8; 50/3; 50/7, ff.272–76; 51/820, f.385; Prob. 11/855, f.385; WO 71/180. St Paul’s Church (Halifax), Marriage records, 1750. Journals of Beauséjour: diary of john Thomas, journal of Louis de Courville, ed. J. C. Webster ([Sackville, N.B.], 1937). Knox, Historical journal (Doughty). Logs of the conquest (Wood), 321. N.S. Archives, I. [William Pepperrell], “The Sir William Pepperrell journal,” American Antiquarian Soc. Proc. (Worcester, Mass.), new ser., XX (1909–10), 135–78. Charnock, Biographia navalis, V, 412–14 [There appears to be no substantiation for Charnock’s statement that Rous, having entered the navy previously, quit the royal service for a time and “took the command of a private ship of war fitted out from New England.” w.a.b.d.]. G.B., Adm., List of sea officers, 1660–1815. H. M. Chapin, Privateering in King George’s War, 1739–48 (Providence, 1928). Corbett, England in the Seven Years’ War. S. G. Drake, A particular history of the five years’ French and Indian war in New England and parts adjacent (Albany, 1870). McLennan, Louisbourg. Murdoch, History of Nova-Scotia, II. S. M. Pargellis, Lord Loudoun in North America (New Haven, Conn., London, 1933). Rawlyk, Yankees at Louisbourg. Stanley, New France. W. A. B. Douglas, “Halifax as an element of sea power, 1749–1766” (unpublished ma thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, ); “The sea militia of Nova Scotia, 1749–1755: a comment on naval policy,” CHR, XLVII (1966), 22–37.