NOBLE, ARTHUR, merchant, military officer; date of birth unknown; killed at Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, 31 Jan. 1746/47 (o.s.).
Family tradition recounts that Arthur Noble was born at Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh (Northern Ireland), and that he came to North America about 1720 with his brothers Francis and James. He settled on the Kennebec River (Maine), where he maintained a trading post on Arrowsic Island and a farm at Pleasant Cove (Winnegance). It is probable that he also ran a tannery and manufactured shoes. His business ventures evidently prospered as he left an estate in excess of £8,000 (old tenor). He married Sarah Macklin(?), possibly in 1725, and had at least three children. By 1744 Noble was acting as military commander in his district, serving under Samuel Waldo, and also as commissary agent for the garrisons in the Falmouth-Kennebec region.
When the government of Massachusetts decided in January 1744/45 to undertake an expedition against the French fortress at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), Arthur Noble was appointed lieutenant-colonel in Samuel Waldo’s 2nd Massachusetts Regiment and captain of the 2nd company (5 Feb. 1744/45). He sailed with the expedition in April of that year and took part in the capture of Louisbourg. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to capture the Island battery which guarded Louisbourg harbour, an assault was planned for the evening of 23 May, with approximately 800 New England troops under the joint command of Noble and Lieutenant-Colonel John Gorham. As the men in their whale-boats neared the battery that night, it was discovered that neither Noble nor Gorham was in his position of command; the attack disintegrated in confusion and frustration. An inquiry the next day, however, absolved both men of all blame, and Noble was commended for his bravery by Waldo.
Noble returned to his home in 1746 and in the fall of that year was ordered to Nova Scotia as commander of the New England troops sent to reinforce the British garrison at Annapolis Royal. Probably in response to the prodding of Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts, Paul Mascarene, the civil and military commander of Nova Scotia, decided to undertake a winter offensive in the hope of driving the French forces out of the Minas (Grand Pré) region. A 500-man expedition was to attack the French, if they were still in the Grand Pré area, and then take up winter quarters in the midst of the Acadian population. The whole campaign was placed under the command of Noble. A first detachment set out for Grand Pré on 5 Dec. 1746, and Noble himself arrived there on 1 Jan. 1746/47. The French forces under Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay* had already withdrawn to the Chignecto region where they intended to winter, so the New England troops encountered no opposition. During the winter some of the Acadians kept the French informed of English military movements.
Heavy snowfalls and the long distance from Chignecto to Minas lulled the New Englanders into a false sense of security and caused them to grow careless. No serious notice was taken of warnings from the Acadians that Ramezay planned an offensive against Minas. The French, however, under Ramezay’s second-in-command, Captain Nicolas-Antoine Coulon de Villiers, had decided on just such a venture and on 12 January 240 Canadians and about 60 Indians set out from Chignecto for Minas.
About three o’clock on the morning of 31 January, in a raging snow-storm, the French launched their attack on the ill-prepared and unsuspecting New Englanders. In spite of later attempts to gloss over their inefficiency, it is obvious that Noble and his officers were tragically neglectful of ordinary precautions and that the New Englanders were taken completely by surprise. According to English sources, about 70 of the 500 New England troops were killed, some of them still in their beds. Noble’s quarters were attacked first and the commander was wounded twice before a bullet penetrated his forehead. Ensign Francis Noble died defending his brother’s quarters. Within a few hours of the attack, the New England forces, now under the command of Benjamin Goldthwait, capitulated and were allowed to return to Annapolis Royal after agreeing not to serve in the Minas-Chignecto area for six months. Arthur Noble and the men who fell with him were buried at Grand Pré.
AN, Col., C11A, 87, ff.314–61; C11D, 8, ff.130–34. Mass. Hist. Soc., Belknap papers, 61.B.41; Waldo papers, Burns to Noble (19 May 1744); Noble to Waldo (28 June, 6 July 1744). PAC, MG 18, F10. PANS, RG 1, 13, nos.37, 39; 13 1/2, nos.19, 23, 24; 21, p.90. Boston Evening-Post, February and March 1747. Louisbourg journals (De Forest), 77, 87. “The Pepperrell papers,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 6th ser., X (1899), 21. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X, 78, 89–93. Grand Pré tragedy, 1745–55; the Noble memorial (n.p., n.d.) [A badly researched and written pamphlet, available at the PANS; gives Noble’s wife’s name as Macklin. b.m.m.] McLennan, Louisbourg. B. M. Moody, “Paul Mascarene, William Shirley and the defence of Nova Scotia, 1744–1748” (unpublished ma thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont., 1969), pp.219–24. New Eng. Hist. and Geneal. Register, XXIV (1870), 370. Rawlyk, Yankees at Louisbourg, 126–27. William Goold, “Col. Arthur Noble, of Georgetown: his military services at Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, and his death at Minas,” Maine Hist. Soc. Coll., 1st ser., VIII (1881), 109–53.