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The Great Fortress by William Wood

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The fleet left France at midsummer, had a very rough
passage through the Bay of Biscay, and ran into a long,
dead calm off the Azores. This ended in a storm, during
which several vessels were struck by lightning, which,
in one case, caused a magazine explosion that killed and
wounded over thirty men. It was not till the last week
of September that d'Anville made the excellently safe
harbour of Halifax. The four ships under Conflans were
nowhere to be seen. They had reached the rendezvous at
the beginning of the month, had cruised about for a couple
of weeks, and had then gone home. D'Anville was now in
no position to attack Louisbourg, much less New England.
Some of his vessels were quite unserviceable. There was
no friendly port nearer than Quebec. All his crews were
sickly; and the five months' incessant and ever-increasing
strain had changed him into a broken-hearted man. He died
very suddenly, in the middle of the night; some said from
a stroke of apoplexy, while others whispered suicide.

His successor, d'Estournel, summoned a council of war,
which overruled the plan for an immediate return to
France. Presently a thud, followed by groans of mortal
agony, was heard in the new commander's cabin. The door
was burst open, and he was found dying from the thrust
of his own sword. La Jonquiere, afterwards governor-general
of Canada, thereupon succeeded d'Estournel. This commander,
the third within three days, was an excellent naval
officer and a man of strong character. He at once set to
work to reorganize the fleet. But reorganization was now
impossible. Storms wrecked the vessels. The plague killed
off the men: nearly three thousand had died already. Only
a single thousand, one-tenth of the survivors, were really
fit for duty. Yet La Jonquiere still persisted in sailing
for Annapolis. One vessel was burned, while four others
were turned into hospital ships, which trailed astern,
dropping their dead overside, hour after hour, as they

But Annapolis was never attacked. The dying fleet turned
back and at last reached Port Louis, on the coast of
Brittany. There it found La Palme, a frigate long since
given up for lost, lying at anchor, after a series of
adventures that seem wellnigh impossible. First her crew's
rations had been cut down to three ounces a day. Then
the starving men had eaten all the rats in her filthy
hold; and when rats failed they had proposed to eat their
five British prisoners. The captain did his best to
prevent this crowning horror. But the men, who were now
ungovernable, had already gone below to cut up one prisoner
into three-ounce rations, when they were brought on deck
again, just in time, by the welcome cry of sail-ho! The
Portuguese stranger fortunately proved to have some sheep,
which were instantly killed and eaten raw.

News of these disasters to the French arms at length
reached the anxious British colonies. The militia were
soon discharged. The danger seemed past. And the whole
population spent a merrier Christmas than any one of them
had dared to hope for.

In May of the next year, 1747, La Jonquiere again sailed
for Louisbourg. But when he was only four days out he
was overtaken off Cape Finisterre by a superior British
fleet, under Anson and Warren, and was totally defeated,
after a brave resistance.

In 1748 the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle gave Louisbourg
back to the French. The British colonies were furious,
New England particularly so. But the war at large had
not gone severely enough against the French to force them
to abandon a stronghold on which they had set their
hearts, and for which they were ready to give up any fair
equivalent. The contemporary colonial sneer, often repeated
since, and quite commonly believed, was that 'the important
island of Cape Breton was exchanged for a petty factory
in India.' This was not the case. Every power was weary
of the war. But France was ready to go on with it rather
than give up her last sea link with Canada. Unless this
one point was conceded the whole British Empire would
have been involved in another vast, and perhaps quite
barren, campaign. The only choice the British negotiators
could apparently make was a choice between two evils.
And of the two they chose the less.



The ten years of the second French regime in Louisbourg
were divided into very different halves. During the first
five years, from 1749 to 1753, the mighty rivals were as
much at peace, all over their conflicting frontiers, as
they ever had been in the past. But from 1754 to 1758 a
great and, this time, a decisive war kept drawing
continually nearer, until its strangling coils at last
crushed Louisbourg to death.

Three significant events marked 1749, the first of the
five peaceful years. Louisbourg was handed over to its
new French garrison; the British founded Halifax; and
the Imperial government indemnified New England in full
for the siege of 1745. Halifax was intended partly as a
counterpoise to Louisbourg, and partly as a place-d'armes
for one of the two local footholds of British sea-power,
Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which, between them, narrowed
the French line of communication with Canada into a single
precarious strait. The New England indemnity was meant,
in the first instance, to be a payment for service done.
But it was also intended to soften colonial resentment
at the giving up of Louisbourg. A specially gracious
royal message was sent to 'The Council and Assembly' of
Massachusetts, assuring them, 'in His Majesty's name,
that their conduct will always entitle them, in a particular
manner, to his Royal favour and protection.' This message,
however, did not reconcile the Provincial army to the
disappointment of their own expectations. Nor did it
dispose the colonies in general to be any the more amenable
to government from London. They simply regarded the
indemnity as the skinflint payment of an overdue debt,
and the message as no more than the thanks they had well
deserved. But the money was extremely welcome to people
who would have been bankrupt without it. Nearly a quarter
of a million sterling was sent out in 217 cases of Spanish
dollars and 100 barrels of coppers, which were driven
through the streets of Boston in 27 trucks.

The next three years in Louisbourg were completely
uneventful. The town resumed its former life, but in a
still more makeshift fashion. Nobody knew how long the
truce would last; and nobody wanted to take root
commercially in a place that might experience another
violent change at any time. Nevertheless, smuggling
flourished as vigorously as before. British shipping did
most of it. Many vessels came from England, many from
Boston, some, and very active ones, from Halifax. Joshua
Mauger smuggled from France to Louisbourg, from Louisbourg
to 'Mauger's Beach' near Halifax, and from Halifax all
over Acadia and the adjacent colonies. He also supplied
the Micmacs with scalping-knives and tomahawks for use
against his own countrymen. He died, a very rich man, in
England, leaving his fortune to his daughter, who, with
her spendthrift husband, the Duc de Bouillon, was
guillotined during the French Revolution.

The officials were naturally affected by the same
uncertainty, which made them more than ever determined
to get rich and go home. The intendant Bigot was promoted
to Quebec, there to assist his country's enemies by the
worst corruption ever known in Canada. But the new
intendant, Prevost, though a man of very inferior talent,
did his best to follow Bigot's lead.

French regulars still regarded the Louisbourg routine as
their most disgusting duty. But it became more tolerable
with the increase of the garrison. The fortifications
were examined, reported on, repaired, and extended. The
engineers, like all the other Frenchmen connected with
unhappy Louisbourg, Bigot alone excepted, were second-
and third-rate men; and the actual work was done as badly
as before. But, on the whole, the place was strengthened,
especially by a battery near the lighthouse. With this
and the Island Battery, one on either side of the narrow
entrance, which the Royal Battery faced directly, almost
a hundred guns could be brought to bear on any vessels
trying to force their way in.

The end of the five years' truce was marked by voluminous
reports and elaborate arguments to prove how well Louisbourg
was being governed, how admirably the fortifications had
been attended to (with the inadequate means at the
intendant's disposal), and how desirable it was, from
every point of view, for the king to spend a great deal
more money all round in the immediate future. Fisheries,
shipbuilding, fortification, Indians, trade, religion,
the naval and military situation, were all represented
as only needing more money to become quite perfect.
Louisbourg was correctly enough described as an
indispensable link between France and the long chain of
French posts in the valleys of the Mississippi and the
St Lawrence. But less well explained in America and less
well understood in Europe was the fact that the separate
military chains in Old France and New could never hold
an oversea dominion unless a naval chain united them.
Some few Frenchmen understood this thoroughly. But most
did not. And France, as a whole, hoped that a vigorous
offensive on land would more than counterbalance whatever
she might lose by an enforced defensive on the sea.

In 1754 Washington's first shot beyond the Alleghanies
broke the hollow truce between the French and British
colonies, whose lines of expansion had once more inevitably
crossed each other's path. This proved to be the beginning
of the last 'French and Indian War' in American history,
of that 'British Conquest of Canada' which formed part
of what contemporary Englishmen called the 'Maritime
War,' and of that great military struggle which continental
Europe called the 'Seven Years' War.'

The year 1755 saw Braddock's Defeat in the west, the
battle of Lake George in the centre, and two pregnant
events in the east, one on either side of Louisbourg--the
expulsion of the Acadians, and the capture by Boscawen
of two French men-of-war with several hundred soldiers
who were to reinforce the army that was soon to be
commanded by Montcalm.

The next year, 1756, saw the formal declaration of war
in Europe, its continued prosecution in America, and the
taking of Oswego, which was the first of Montcalm's four
victories against the overwhelming British. But Louisbourg
still remained untouched.

Not till 1757 was the first attempt made to break this
last sea link with France. There was a very natural
anxiety, among the British on both sides of the Atlantic,
to do conspicuously well against Louisbourg. Fort Necessity,
Braddock's Defeat, and Montcalm's daring capture of
Oswego, coming with cumulative effect, in three successive
campaigns, had created a feeling of bitter disappointment
in America; while the Black Hole of Calcutta; the loss
of Minorca, and, worse still, Byng's failure to bring a
British fleet into decisive action, had wounded the
national pride in England.

But 1757 turned out to be no better than its disconcerting
predecessors. True, England's ally, Frederick the Great,
won consummate victories at Rossbach and at Leuthen. But
that was at the end of a very desperate campaign. True,
also, that Clive won Plassey and took Chandernagore. But
those were far away from English-speaking homes; while
heavy reverses close at hand brought down the adverse
balance. Pitt, the greatest of all civilian ministers of
War, was dismissed from office and not reinstated till
the British Empire had been without a cabinet for eleven
weeks. The French overran the whole of Hanover and rounded
up the Duke of Cumberland at Kloster-Seven. Mordaunt and
his pettifogging councils of war turned the joint expedition
against Rochefort into a complete fiasco; while Montcalm
again defeated the British in America by taking Fort
William Henry.

The taking of Louisbourg would have been a very welcome
victory in the midst of so much gloom. But the British
were engaged in party strife at home. They were disunited
in America. And neither the naval nor the military leader
of the joint expedition against Louisbourg was the proper
man to act either alone or with his colleague. Speed was
of prime importance. Yet Admiral Holbourne did not sail
from England for Halifax till May. General the Earl of
Loudoun was slower yet. He drew in the troops from the
northern frontier, concentrated them in New York, and
laid an embargo on shipping to keep a secret which was
already out. Finally, he and Sir Charles Hardy sailed
for Halifax to keep their rendezvous with Holbourne, from
whom no news had come. They arrived there before him;
but his fleet came limping in during the next ten days,
after a bad buffeting on its transatlantic voyage.

Loudoun now had nearly 12,000 men, whom he landed and
drilled' throughout July. His preparations were so
meticulously careful that they even included a vegetable
garden, which, though an excellent precaution in its own
way, ought to have been left to the commandant of the
base. So thought Sir Charles Hay, who was put under arrest
for saying that all the money was being spent in fighting
sham battles and planting out cabbages. However, a
reconnaissance of Louisbourg had been made by Gorham of
the Rangers, whose very imperfect report induced Holbourne
and Loudoun to get ready to sail. But, just as they were
preparing to begin, too late, a Newfoundland vessel came
in with captured French dispatches which showed that
Admiral La Motte had united his three squadrons in
Louisbourg harbour, where he was at anchor with twenty-two
ships of the line and several frigates, the whole carrying
1,360 guns. This was correct. But the garrison was
exaggerated by at least a third in the same dispatch,
which estimated it as numbering over 7000 men.

The lateness of the season, the strength of the French,
and the practical certainty of failing to take Louisbourg
by forcing the attack home at any cost, were very sensibly
held, under existing circumstances, to be sufficient
cause for withdrawing the army. The fleet, however, sailed
north, in the hope of inducing La Motte to come out for
a battle in the open. But, at that particular juncture,
La Motte was right not to risk decisive action. A week
later he was equally wrong to refuse it. Holbourne's
fleet had been dispersed by a September hurricane of
extraordinary violence. One ship became a total wreck.
Nine were dismasted. Several had to throw their guns
overboard. None was fit for immediate service. But La
Motte did not even reconnoitre, much less annihilate,
his helpless enemy.

Pitt returned to power at the end of June 1757, in time
to plan a world-wide campaign for 1758, though not in
time to choose the best commanders and to change the
whole course of the war. This became possible only in
the Empire Year of 1759. The English-speaking peoples
have nearly always begun their great wars badly, and have
gradually worked up to a climax of victory after being
stung into proper leadership and organization by several
exasperating failures; and though now in the third year
of their most momentous struggle for oversea dominion,
they were not even yet altogether prepared.

Nevertheless, Pitt wielded the amphibious might of Britain
with a master hand. Sea-power, mercantile and naval,
enabled him to 'command the riches of the world' and
become the paymaster of many thousand Prussians under
Frederick the Great and Ferdinand of Brunswick. He also
sent a small British army to the Continent. But he devoted
his chief attention to working out a phase of the 'Maritime
War' which included India on one flank and the Canadian
frontiers on the other. Sometimes with, and sometimes
without, a contingent from the Army, the British Navy
checkmated, isolated, or defeated the French in Europe,
Asia, Africa, and America.

The preliminary isolation of Louisbourg was a particularly
effective stroke of naval strategy. Even before 1758
began the first French fleet that left for Louisbourg
had been shadowed from Toulon and had been shut up in
Cartagena. A second French fleet was then sent to help
the first one out. But it was attacked on the way and
totally defeated. In April the first fleet made another
attempt to sail; but it was chased into Rochefort by
Hawke and put out of action for the rest of the campaign.
The third French fleet did manage to reach Louisbourg.
But its admiral, du Chaffault, rightly fearing annihilation
in the harbour there, and wishing to keep some touch
between Old France and New, sailed for Quebec with most
of his best ships.

Quebec and the rest of Canada were themselves on the
defensive; for Abercromby was leading 15,000 men--the
largest single army America had ever seen--straight up
the line of Lake Champlain. Montcalm defeated him at
Ticonderoga in July. But that gave no relief to Louisbourg;
because the total British forces threatening the Canadian
inland frontier were still quite strong enough to keep
the French on the strict defensive.

Thus Louisbourg was completely isolated, both by land
and sea. It was stronger and more extensive than during
the first siege. It had a better governor, Drucour, a
better and a larger garrison, more food and ammunition,
and, what it formerly lacked altogether, the support of
a considerable fleet. Drucour was a gallant soldier. His
garrison numbered nearly 3,000 effective regulars, with
about 1,000 militiamen and some 500 Indians. Seventeen
mortars and over two hundred cannon were mounted on the
walls, as well as on the outworks at the Royal, Island,
and Lighthouse Batteries. There were thirteen vessels in
the fleet, mounting 590 guns, and carrying over 3,500
men. This made the French grand total about 800 guns and
8,000 men. But not all these were really effective. Ships
at anchor lose a good deal of their fighting value. Crews
are less efficient when ashore than when they are afloat;
and the French ships were mostly fought at anchor, while
the crews were gradually landed for the defence of the
crowded little town. Then, the Indians were comparatively
useless in a fort. The militia were not good soldiers
anywhere. Moreover, the three kinds of regulars--French,
Canadian, and foreign--did not get on very well together;
while the fleet, as a whole, got on no better with the
army as a whole.

The British amphibious force presented a striking contrast
to this. Its naval and military parts worked together
like the two branches of one United Service. The Army
and Navy naturally understood each other better than the
two services of less amphibious countries; and when a
statesman like Pitt and a first lord of the Admiralty
like Anson were together at headquarters there was no
excuse for misunderstandings at the front. Boscawen and
Amherst, both distinguished members of distinguished
Service families, were the best of colleagues. Boscawen
had somewhat over, Amherst a little under, 12,000 men.
Boscawen's fleet comprised 39 sail, from a 90-gun ship
of the line down to a 12-gun sloop. The British grand
total therefore exceeded Drucour's by over three to one,
counting mere numbers alone. If expert efficiency be
taken, for the sake of a more exact comparison, it is
not too much to say that the odds in favour of the British
personnel and armament were really four to one.

On the other hand, the French had the walls of Louisbourg
to redress the balance in their favour. These walls were
the crucial factor in the problem. Both sides knew they
were far from being impregnable. But how long could they
withstand a regular siege? If for only one month, then
they were useless as a protection to Quebec. If for two
months, then Quebec and New France were safe until the
following year.

Boscawen left England in February. Amherst followed
separately. One of the three brigadier-generals in
Amherst's army was Wolfe, of whom we shall hear more
presently. The rendezvous was Halifax, where boat work
and landing exercises were sedulously carried out by the
troops. Towards the end of May Boscawen sailed out of
Halifax, though Amherst had not yet arrived. They met at
sea. The Dublin, which had brought Amherst across so
slowly, then 'went very sickly into Halifax,' while
Amherst joined Boscawen, and the whole fleet and convoy
bore away for Louisbourg. The French had been expecting
them for at least a month; as scouts kept appearing almost
every day, while Hardy's squadron of nine sail had been
maintaining a sort of open blockade.

On the night of June 1 the French look-outs in Gabarus
Bay saw more lights than usual to the southward. Next
morning Louisbourg was early astir, anxiously eager to
catch the first glimpse of this great destroying armada,
which for several expectant hours lay invisible and dread
behind a curtain of dense fog. Then a light sea breeze
came in from the Atlantic. The curtain drew back at its
touch. And there, in one white, enormous crescent, all
round the deep-blue offing, stood the mighty fleet,
closing in for the final death-grip on its prey.

Nearly a whole week went by before the British landed.
Each day the scouting boats and vessels stood in as close
as possible along the shore. But they always found the
smashing surf too high. At last, on the 8th, the whole
army put off in three brigades of boats, supported by
the frigates, which fired at the French defences. All
three landing-places were threatened simultaneously,
White Point, Flat Point, and Kennington Cove. These
landing-places were, respectively, one, two, and four
miles west of Louisbourg. The intervening ground mostly
hid them from the ramparts, and they had to depend upon
their own defences. Drucour had sent out two-thirds of
his garrison to oppose the landing. Each point was
protected by artillery and entrenchments. Eight guns were
mounted and a thousand men stood guard over the quarter-mile
of beach which lay between the two little surf-lashed
promontories of Kennington Cove. But Wolfe's brigade made
straight for shore. The French held their fire until the
leading boats were well within short musket-shot. Then
they began so furiously that Wolfe, whose tall, lank
figure was most conspicuous as he stood up in the
stern-sheets, waved his cane to make the boats sheer off.

It looked as if the first successful landing would have
to be made elsewhere, a bitter disappointment to this
young and ardent brigadier, whose command included the
pick of the grenadiers, light infantry, and Highlanders.
But three boatloads of light infantry pushed on against
the inner point of the cove. Perhaps their officers turned
their blind eye on Wolfe's signal, as Nelson did on
Parker's recall at Copenhagen. But, whatever the reason,
these three boats went in smash against the rocks and
put their men ashore, drenched to the skin. Major Scott,
commanding the light infantry and rangers, followed them
at once. Then Wolfe, seeing they had gained a foothold
where the point afforded them a little cover, signalled
the whole brigade to land there in succession. He pushed
his own boat through, jumped in waist-deep, and waded

This sudden change, quite unexpected by either friend or
foe, greatly disconcerted the French. They attacked Major
Scott, who withstood them with a handful of men till
reinforcements came clambering up the rocks behind him.
With these reinforcements came Wolfe, who formed the men
into line and carried the nearest battery with the bayonet.
The remaining French, seeing that Wolfe had effected a
lodgment on their inner flank, were so afraid of being
cut off from Louisbourg that they ran back and round
towards the next position at Flat Point. But before they
reached it they saw its own defenders running back,
because the British were also landing at White Point.
Here too the defences were abandoned as soon as the little
garrison found itself faced by greatly superior numbers
afloat and deserted by its fellow-garrisons ashore. The
retreating French kept up a sort of running fight till
they got under the covering fire of Louisbourg, when the
pursuing British immediately drew off.

Considering the number of boats that were stove and the
intensity of the first French fire, the British loss was
remarkably small, only one hundred and nine killed,
wounded, and drowned. The French loss was still less;
but, in view of the difference between the respective
grand totals, it was a good deal heavier in proportion.

That night the glare of a big fire inside the harbour
showed that Drucour felt too weak to hold the Royal
Battery. Unlike his incompetent predecessor, however, he
took away everything movable that could be turned to good
account in Louisbourg; and he left the works a useless
ruin. The following day he destroyed and abandoned the
battery at Lighthouse Point. Thus two fortifications
were given up, one of them for the second time, before
a single shot had been fired either from or against them.
Time, labour, and expense had all gone for worse than
nothing, as the positions were at once used by the enemy
on each occasion. The wasted expense was of the usual
kind-one half spent on inferior construction, the other
pocketed by the Louisbourg officials. Drucour himself
was not at all to blame, either for the way the works
were built or the way in which they had to be abandoned.
With odds of more than three to one against him, he had
no men to spare for trying to keep the British at arm's

Amherst pitched his camp in a crescent two miles long,
facing Louisbourg two miles off. His left overlooked the
French squadron in the south-west harbour next to Louisbourg
at the distance of a mile. His right rested on Flat Point.
Thus Louisbourg itself was entirely surrounded both by
land and sea; for the gaps left at the Royal Battery and
Lighthouse Point were immediately seized by the British.
Wolfe marched round the harbour on the 12th with 1,300
infantry and a strong detachment of artillery. The guns
for the Royal Battery and other points inside the harbour
were hauled into place by teams of about a hundred men
each. Those for Lighthouse Point were sent round by sea,
landed, with immense difficulty, more than a mile distant
on the rock-bound shore, hauled up the cliff, and then
dragged back over the roughest of ground to the battery.
It was, in fact, a repetition of what the American
militiamen had done in 1745. Wolfe worked incessantly,
directing and encouraging his toiling men. The bluejackets
seconded his efforts by doing even harder work. Their
boats were often stove, and a catamaran was wrecked with
a brass twenty-four pounder on board. But nothing could
stop the perfect co-operation between the two halves of
the single United Service. 'The Admiral and General,'
wrote Wolfe, 'have carried on the public service with
great harmony, industry, and union. Mr Boscawen has given
all, and even more than we could ask of him. He has
furnished arms and ammunition, pioneers, sappers, miners,
gunners, carpenters, and boats.'

While Wolfe was doing his eight days' work of preparation
at the Lighthouse Battery, between the 12th and the 20th,
Amherst, whose favourite precept was 'slow and sure,'
was performing an even more arduous task by building a
road from Flat Point to where he intended to make his
trenches. This road meandered over the least bad line
that could be found in that country of alternate rock,
bog, sand, scrub, bush, and marshy ponds. The working
party was always a thousand strong, and shifts, of course,
were constant. Boscawen landed marines to man the works
along the shore, and bluejackets for any handy-man's job
required. This proved of great advantage to the army,
which had so many more men set free for other duties.
The landing of stores went on from sunrise to sunset,
whenever the pounding surf calmed down enough. Landing
the guns was, of course, much harder still. It accounted
for most of the hundred boats that were dashed to pieces
against that devouring shore.

Thorough and persistent as this work was, however, it
gave the garrison of Louisbourg little outward sign of
what was happening just beyond the knolls and hillocks.
Besides, just at this time, when there was a lull before
the storm that was soon to burst from Wolfe and Amherst,
both sides had more dramatic things to catch the general
eye. First, there was the worthy namesake of 'the saucy
Arethusa' in the rival British Navy, the Arethuse, whose
daring and skilful captain, Vauquelin, had moored her
beside the Barachois, or sea-pond, so that he could
outflank Amherst's approach against the right land face
of Louisbourg. Then, of still more immediate interest
was the nimble little Echo, which tried to run the gauntlet
of the British fleet on June 18, a day long afterwards
made famous on the field of Waterloo. Drucour had entrusted
his wife and several other ladies to the captain of the
Echo, who was to make a dash for Quebec with dispatches
for the governor of Canada. A muffling fog shut down and
seemed to promise her safety from the British, though it
brought added danger from that wrecking coast. With
infinite precautions she slipped out on the ebb, between
the French at the Island Battery and Wolfe's strenuous
workers at the Lighthouse Point. But the breeze that bore
her north also raised the fog enough to let the Juno and
Sutherland sight her and give chase. She crowded on a
press of sail till she was overhauled, when she fought
her captors till her case was hopeless.

Madame Drucour and the other ladies were then sent back
to Louisbourg with every possible consideration for their
feelings. This act of kindness was remembered later on,
when a regular interlude of courtesies followed Drucour's
offer to send his own particularly skilful surgeon to
any wounded British officer who might need his services.
Amherst sent in several letters and messages from wounded
Frenchmen, and a special message from himself to Madame
Drucour, complimenting her upon her bravery, and begging
her acceptance of some West Indian pineapples. Once more
the flag of truce came out, this time to return the
compliment with a basket of wine. As the gate swung to,
the cannon roared again on either side. Amherst's was no
unmerited compliment; for Madame Drucour used to mount
the ramparts every day, no matter what the danger was,
and fire three cannon for the honour of her king. But
the French had no monopoly in woman's work. True, there
were no officers' wives to play the heroine on the British
side. But there were others to play a humbler part, and
play it well. In those days each ship or regiment bore
a certain proportion of women on their books for laundering
and other work which is still done, at their own option,
by women 'married on the strength' of the Army. Most of
the several hundred women in the besieging fleet and army
became so keen to see the batteries armed that they
volunteered to team the guns, which, in some cases, they
actually did, with excellent effect.

By June 26 Louisbourg had no defences left beyond its
own walls, except the reduced French squadron huddled
together in the south-west harbour. The more exposed
ships had come down on the 21st, after a day's bombardment
from Wolfe's terrific battery at Lighthouse Point: 'they
in return making an Infernall Fire from all their
Broadsides; but, wonderfull to think of, no harm done
us.' Five days later every single gun in the Island
Battery was dumb. At the same time Amherst occupied Green
Hill, directly opposite the citadel and only half a mile
away. Yet Drucour, with dauntless resolution, resisted
for another month. His object was not to save his own
doomed fortress but Quebec.

He needed all his resolution. The British were pressing
him on every side, determined to end the siege in time
to transfer their force elsewhere. Louisbourg itself was
visibly weakening. The walls were already crumbling under
Amherst's converging fire, though the British attack had
not yet begun in earnest. Surely, thoroughly, and with
an irresistible zeal, the besiegers had built their road,
dragged up their guns, and begun to worm their way forward,
under skilfully constructed cover, towards the right land
face of Louisbourg, next to the south-west harbour, where
the ground was less boggy than on the left. The French
ships fired on the British approaches; but, with one
notable exception, not effectively, because some of them
masked others, while they were all under British fire
themselves, both from the Lighthouse and the Royal
Batteries, as well as from smaller batteries along the
harbour. Vauquelin, who shares with Iberville the honour
of being the naval hero of New France, was the one
exception. He fought the Arethuse so splendidly that he
hampered the British left attack long enough to give
Louisbourg a comparative respite for a few hasty repairs.

But nothing could now resist Boscawen if the British
should choose to run in past the demolished Island Battery
and attack the French fleet, first from a distance, with
the help of the Lighthouse and Royal Batteries, and then
hand-to-hand. So the French admiral, des Gouttes, agreed
to sink four of his largest vessels in the fairway. This,
however, still left a gap; so two more were sunk. The
passage was then mistakenly reported to be safely closed.
The crews, two thousand strong, were landed and camped
along the streets. This caused outspoken annoyance to
the army and to the inhabitants, who thought the crews
had not shown fight enough afloat, who consequently
thought them of little use ashore, who found them in the
way, and who feared they had come in without bringing a
proper contribution of provisions to the common stock.

The Arethuse was presently withdrawn from her perilous
berth next to the British left approach, as she was the
only frigate left which seemed to have a chance of running
the gauntlet of Boscawen's fleet. Her shot-holes were
carefully stopped; and on the night of July 14, she was
silently towed to the harbour mouth, whence she sailed
for France with dispatches from Drucour and des Gouttes.
The fog held dense, but the wind was light, and she could
hardly forge ahead under every stitch of canvas. All
round her the lights of the British fleet and convoy rose
and fell with the heaving rollers, like little embers
blurring through the mist. Yet Vauquelin took his dark
and silent way quite safely, in and out between them,
and reached France just after Louisbourg had fallen.

Meanwhile Drucour had made several sorties against the
British front, while Boishebert had attacked their rear
with a few hundred Indians, Acadians, and Canadians.
Boishebert's attack was simply brushed aside by the
rearguard of Amherst's overwhelming force. The American
Rangers ought to have defeated it themselves, without
the aid of regulars. But they were not the same sort of
men as those who had besieged Louisbourg thirteen years
before. The best had volunteered then. The worst had been
enlisted now. Of course, there were a few good men with
some turn for soldiering. But most were of the wastrel
and wharf-rat kind. Wolfe expressed his opinion of them
in very vigorous terms: 'About 500 Rangers are come,
which, to appearance, are little better than la canaille.
These Americans are in general the dirtiest, most
contemptible, cowardly dogs that you can conceive. There
is no depending upon 'em in action. They fall down dead
in their own dirt, and desert by battalions, officers
and all.'

Drucour's sorties, made by good French regulars, were
much more serious than Boishebert's feeble, irregular
attack. On the night of July 8, while Montcalm's
Ticonderogan heroes were resting on their hard-won field
a thousand miles inland, Drucour's best troops crept out
unseen and charged the British right. Lord Dundonald and
several of his men were killed, while the rest were driven
back to the second approach, where desperate work was
done with the bayonet in the dark. But Wolfe commanded
that part of the line, and his supports were under arms
in a moment. The French attack had broken up into a score
of little rough-and-tumble fights--bayonets, butts, and
swords all at it; friend and foe mixed up in wild confusion.
So the first properly formed troops carried all before
them. The knots of struggling combatants separated into
French and British. The French fell back on their defences.
Their friends inside fired on the British; and Wolfe,
having regained his ground, retired in the same good
order on his lines.

A week later Wolfe suddenly dashed forward on the British
left and seized Gallows Hill, within a musket-shot of
the French right bastion. Here his men dug hard all night
long, in spite of the fierce fire kept up on them at
point-blank range. In the morning reliefs marched in,
and the digging still continued. Sappers, miners, and
infantry reliefs, they never stopped till they had burrowed
forward another hundred yards, and the last great breaching
battery had opened its annihilating fire. By the 21st
both sides saw that the end was near, so far as the walls
were concerned.

But it was not only the walls that were failing. For,
that very afternoon of the 21st, a British seaman gunner's
cleverly planted bomb found out a French ship's magazine,
exploded it with shattering force, and set fire to the
ships on either side. All three blazed furiously. The
crews ran to quarters and did their best. But all to no
purpose. Meanwhile the British batteries had turned every
available gun on the conflagration, so as to prevent the
French from saving anything. Between the roaring flames,
the bursting shells, and the whizzing cannon balls, the
three doomed vessels soon became an inferno too hot for
men to stay in. The crews swarmed over the side and
escaped; not, however, without losing a good many of
their number. Then the British concentrated on the only
two remaining vessels, the Prudent and the Bienfaisant.
But the French sailors, with admirable pluck and judgment,
managed to haul them round to a safer berth.

Next day a similar disaster befell the Louisbourg
headquarters. A shell went through the roof of the barracks
at the King's Bastion, burst among the men there, and
set the whole place on fire. As the first tongues of
flame shot up the British concentrated on them. The French
ran to the threatened spot and worked hard, in spite of
the storm of British shot and shell. But nothing was
saved, except Drucour's own quarters. During the confusion
the wind blew some burning debris against the timbers
which protected the nearest casemates from exploding
shells. An alarm was raised among the women and children
inside. A panic followed; and the civilians of both sexes
had their nerves so shaken that they thought of nothing
but surrender on the spot.

Hardly had this excitement been allayed when the main
barracks themselves caught fire. Fortunately they had
been cleared when the other fire had shown how imminent
the danger was to every structure along the walls. The
barracks were in special danger of fire, for they had
been left with the same wooden roof which the New Englanders
had put on thirteen years before. Again the British guns
converged their devastating fire on the point of danger,
and the whole place was burned to the ground.

Most of the troops were now deprived of all shelter. They
had no choice but to share the streets with a still larger
number of sailors than those to whom they had formerly
objected. Yet they had scarcely tried to settle down and
make the best of it before another batch of sailors came
crowding in from the last of the whole French fleet. At
one o'clock in the morning of July 25 a rousing British
cheer from the harbour had announced an attack on the
Prudent and the Bienfaisant by six hundred bluejackets,
who had stolen in, with muffled oars, just on the stroke
of midnight. Presently the sound of fighting died away,
and all was still. At first the nearest gunners on the
walls had lost their heads and begun blazing away at
random. But they were soon stopped; and neither side
dared fire, not knowing whom the shots might kill. Then,
as the escaping French came in to the walls, a bright
glare told that the Prudent was on fire. She had cut her
cable during the fight and was lying, hopelessly stranded,
right under the inner walls of Louisbourg. The Bienfaisant,
however, though now assailed by every gun the French
could bring to bear, was towed off to a snug berth beside
the Lighthouse Battery, the British bluejackets showing
the same disregard of danger as their gallant enemies
had shown on the 21st, when towing her to safety in the
opposite direction.

At daylight Drucour made a thorough inspection of the
walls, while the only four serviceable cannon left fired
slowly on, as if for the funeral of Louisbourg. The
British looked stronger than ever, and so close in that
their sharpshooters could pick off the French gunners
from the foot of the glacis. The best of the French
diarists made this despairing entry: 'Not a house in the
whole place but has felt the force of their cannonade.
Between yesterday morning and seven o'clock to-night from
a thousand to twelve hundred shells have fallen inside
the town, while at least forty cannon have been firing
incessantly as well. The surgeons have to run at many a
cry of 'Ware Shell! for fear lest they should share the
patients' fate.' Amherst had offered to spare the island
or any one of the French ships if Drucour would put his
hospital in either place. But, for some unexplained
reason, Drucour declined the offer; though Amherst pointed
out that no spot within so small a target as Louisbourg
itself could possibly be made immune by any gunners in
the world.

Reduced to the last extremity, the French council of war
decided to ask for terms. Boscawen and Amherst replied
that the whole garrison must surrender in an hour. Drucour
sent back to beg for better terms. But the second British
answer was even sterner--complete surrender, yes or no,
in half an hour. Resentment still ran high against the
French for the massacre at Fort William Henry the year
before. The actual massacre had been the work of drunken
Indians. The Canadians present had looked on. The French,
headed by Montcalm, had risked their lives to save the
prisoners. But such distinctions had been blotted out in
the general rage among the British on both sides of the
Atlantic; and so Louisbourg was now made the scapegoat.

Drucour at once wrote back to say that he stood by his
first proposal, which meant, of course, that he was ready
to face the storming of his works and no quarter for his
garrison. His flag of truce started off with this defiance.
But Prevost the intendant, with other civilians, now came
forward, on behalf of the inhabitants, to beg for immediate
surrender on any terms, rather than that they should all
be exposed to the perils of assault. Drucour then gave
way, and sent an officer running after the defiant flag
of truce. As soon as this second messenger got outside
the walls he called out, at the top of his voice, 'We
accept! We accept!' He then caught up to the bearer of
the flag of truce, when both went straight on to British

Boscawen and Amherst were quite prepared for either
surrender or assault. The storming parties had their
scaling-ladders ready. The Forlorn Hopes had been told
off to lead the different columns. Every gun was loaded,
afloat and ashore. The fleet were waiting for the signal
to file in and turn a thousand cannon against the walls.
Nothing was lacking for complete success. On the other
hand, their terms were also ready waiting. The garrison
was to be sent to England as prisoners of war. The whole
of Louisbourg, Cape Breton, and Isle St Jean (now Prince
Edward Island) were to be surrendered immediately, with
all the public property they contained. The West Gate
was to be handed over to a British guard at eight the
next morning; and the French arms were to be laid down
for good at noon. With this document the British commanders
sent in the following note:

SIR,--We have the honour to send Your Excellency the
signed articles of Capitulation.

Lieutenant Colonel d'Anthony has spoken on behalf of
the people in the town. We have no intention of
molesting them; but shall give them all the protection
in our power.

Your Excellency will kindly sign the duplicate of the
terms and send it back to us.

It only remains for us to assure Your Excellency that
we shall seize every opportunity of convincing you
that we are, with the most perfect consideration, Your
Excellency's most Obedient Servants,


No terms were offered either to the Indians or to the
armed Canadians, on account of Fort William Henry; and
it is certain that all these would have been put to the
sword, to the very last man, had Drucour decided to stand
an assault. To the relief of every one concerned the
Indians paddled off quietly during the night, which
luckily happened to be unusually dark and calm. The
Canadians either followed them or mingled with the unarmed
inhabitants. This awkward problem therefore solved itself.

Few went to bed that last French night in Louisbourg.
All responsible officials were busy with duties, reports,
and general superintendence. The townsfolk and soldiery
were restless and inclined to drown their humiliation in
the many little cabarets, which stood open all night. A
very different place, the parish church, was also kept
open, and for a very different purpose. Many hasty
marriages were performed, partly from a wholly groundless
fear of British licence, and partly because those who
wished to remain in Cape Breton thought they would not
be allowed to do so unless they were married.

Precisely at eight the next morning Major Farquhar drew
up his grenadiers in front of the West Gate, which was
immediately surrendered to him. No one but the officers
concerned witnessed this first ceremony. But the whole
population thronged every point of vantage round the
Esplanade to see the formal surrender at noon. All the
British admirals and generals were present on parade as
Drucour stepped forward, saluted, and handed his sword
to Boscawen. His officers followed his example. Then the
troops laid down their arms, in the ranks as they stood,
many dashing down their muskets with a muttered curse.

The French--naval, military, and civilian--were soon
embarked. The curse of Louisbourg followed most of them,
in one form or another. The combatants were coldly received
when they eventually returned to France, in spite of
their gallant defence, and in spite of their having saved
Quebec for that campaign. Several hundreds of the
inhabitants were shipwrecked and drowned. One transport
was abandoned off the coast of Prince Edward Island, with
the loss of two hundred lives. Another sprang a leak as
she was nearing England; whereupon, to their eternal
dishonour, the crew of British merchant seamen took all
the boats and started to pull off alone. The three hundred
French prisoners, men, women, and children, crowded the
ship's side and begged that, if they were themselves to
be abandoned, their priest should be saved. A boat
reluctantly put back for him. Then, leaving the ship to
her fate, the crew pulled for Penzance, where the people
had just been celebrating the glorious victory of

The French loss had been enough without this. About one
in five of all the combatants had been hit. Twice as many
were on the sick list. Officers and men, officials and
traders, fishermen and other inhabitants, all lost
something, in certain cases everything they had; and it
was to nothing but the sheer ruin of all French power
beside the American Atlantic that Madame Drucour waved
her long white scarf in a last farewell.

France was stung to the quick. Her sea link gone, she
feared that the whole of Canada would soon be won by the
same relentless British sea-power, which was quite as
irresistible as it was ubiquitous in the mighty hands of
Pitt. So deeply did her statesmen feel her imminent danger
on the sea, and resent this particular British triumph
in the world-wide 'Maritime War,' that they took the
unusual course of sending the following circular letter
to all the Powers of Europe:

We are advised that Louisbourg capitulated to the
English on July 26, We fully realize the consequences
of such a grave event. But we shall redouble our
efforts to repair the misfortune.

All commercial nations ought now to open their eyes
to their own interests and join us in preventing the
absolute tyranny which England will soon exercise on
every sea if a stop be not put to her boundless avarice
and ambition.

For a century past the Powers of Europe have been
crying out against France for disturbing the balance
of power on the Continent. But while England was
artfully fomenting this trouble she was herself engaged
in upsetting that balance of power at sea without
which these different nations' independent power on
land cannot subsist. All governments ought to give
their immediate and most serious attention to this
subject, as the English now threaten to usurp the
whole world's seaborne commerce for themselves.

While the French were taken up with unavailing protests
and regrets the British were rejoicing with their whole
heart. Their loss had been small. Only a twentieth of
their naval and military total had been killed or wounded,
or had died from sickness, during the seven weeks' siege.
Their gain had been great. The one real fortress in
America, the last sea link between Old France and New,
the single sword held over their transatlantic shipping,
was now unchallengeably theirs.

The good news travelled fast. Within three weeks of the
surrender the dispatches had reached England. Defeats,
disasters, and exasperating fiascos had been common since
the war began. But at last there was a genuine victory,
British through and through, won by the Army and Navy
together, and won over the greatest of all rivals, France.
'When we lost Minorca,' said the London Chronicle, just
a month after the surrender, 'a general panic fell upon
the nation; but now that Louisbourg is taken our streets
echo with triumph and blaze with illuminations.' Loyal
addresses poured in from every quarter. The king stood
on the palace steps to receive the eleven captured colours;
and then, attended by the whole court, went in state to
the royal thanksgiving service held in St Paul's Cathedral.

The thanks of parliament were voted to Amherst and
Boscawen. Boscawen received them in person, being a member
of the House of Commons. The speaker read the address,
which was couched in the usual verbiage worked up by one
of the select committees employed on such occasions. But
Boscawen replied, as men of action should, with fewer
words and much more force and point: 'Mr Speaker, Sir,
I am happy to have been able to do my duty. I have no
words to express my sense of the distinguished reward
that has been conferred upon me by this House; nor can
I thank you, Sir, enough for the polite and elegant manner
in which you have been pleased to convey its resolution
to me.'

The American colonists in general rejoiced exceedingly
that Louisbourg and all it meant had been exterminated.
But, especially in New England, their joy was considerably
tempered by the reflection that the final blow had been
delivered without their aid, and that the British arms
had met with a terrible reverse at Ticonderoga, where
the American militia had outnumbered the old-country
regulars by half as much again. Nevertheless Boston built
a 'stately bonfire,' which made a 'lofty and prodigious
blaze'; while Philadelphia, despite its parasitic Quakers,
had a most elaborate display of fireworks representing
England, Louisbourg, the siege, the capture, the triumph,
and reflected glory generally.

At the inland front, near Lake Champlain, where Abercromby
now went by the opprobrious nickname of 'Mrs Nabbycrumby,'
'The General put out orders that the breastwork should
be lined with troops, and to fire three rounds for joy,
and give thanks to God in a Religious Way.' But the joy
was more whole-hearted among the little, half-forgotten
garrisons of Nova Scotia. At Annapolis no news arrived
till well on in September, when a Boston sloop came
sailing up the bay. Captain Knox, that most industrious
of diarists, records the incident.

Every soul was impatient, yet shy of asking. At length
I called out, 'What news from Louisbourg?' To which
the master simply replied, and with some gravity,
'Nothing strange.' This threw us all into great
consternation, and some of us even turned away. But
one of our soldiers called out with some warmth 'Damn
you, Pumpkin, isn't Louisbourg taken yet?' The poor
New England man then answered: 'Taken, yes, above a
month ago; and I have been there since; but if you
haven't heard of it before, I have a good parcel of
letters for you now.' Instantly all hats flew off,
and we made the neighbouring woods resound with our
cheers for almost half an hour.

Halifax naturally heard the news sooner than other places;
and being then, as now, a naval port and a garrison town,
it gave full vent to its feelings. Bells pealed. Bonfires
blazed. Salutes thundered from the fort and harbour. But
all this was a mere preliminary canter. The real race
came off when the victorious fleet and army returned in
triumph. Land and water were then indeed alive with
exultant crowds. The streets were like a fair, and a
noisy one at that. Soldiers, sailors, and civilians drank
standing toasts the whole night through. The commissioner
of excise recorded, not without a touch of proper pride,
that, quite apart from all illicit wines and spirits, no
less than sixty thousand gallons of good Jamaica rum were
drunk in honour of the fall of Louisbourg. In higher
circles, where wine was commoner than spirits, the toasts
were honoured just as often. Governor Lawrence, fresh
from Louisbourg himself, opened the new Government House
with a grand ball; and Wolfe, whom all now thought the
coming man, drank healths, sang songs, and danced with
pretty partners to his heart's content.



The new garrison of Louisbourg hated it as thoroughly as
any of their predecessors, French or British. They repaired
the breaches, in a temporary way, and ran up shelters
for the winter. Interest revived with the spring; for
Wolfe was coming back again, this time to command an army
of his own and take Quebec.

The great absorbing question was, Who's for the front
and who for the base? Both fleet and army made their
rendezvous at Louisbourg; a larger fleet and a smaller
army than those of the year before. Two new toasts were
going the rounds of the Service: 'Here's to the eye of
a Hawke and the heart of a Wolfe!' and 'Here's to British
colours on every French fort, port, and garrison in
America!' Of course they were standing toasts. The men
who drank them already felt the presage of Pitt's great
Empire Year of 1759.

The last two weeks in May and the first in June were full
of glamour in crowded, stirring Louisbourg. There was
Wolfe's picked army of nine thousand men, with Saunders's
mighty fleet of fifty men-of-war, mounting two thousand
guns, comprising a quarter of the whole Royal Navy, and
convoying more than two hundred transports and provision
ships; all coming and going, landing, embarking, drilling,
dividing, massing; every one expectant of glorious results
and eager to begin. Who wouldn't be for the front at the
climax of a war like this?

Then came the final orders issued in Louisbourg. '1st
June, 1759. The Troops land no more. The flat-bottomed
boats to be hoisted in, that the ships may be ready to
sail at the first signal.' '2nd June, 1759. The Admiral
purposes sailing the first fair wind.' On the 4th a
hundred and forty-one sail weighed anchor together. All
that day and the next they were assembling outside and
making for the island of Scatari, just beyond the point
of Cape Breton, which is only ten miles north of Louisbourg.
By noon on the 6th the last speck of white had melted
away from the Louisbourg horizon and the men for the
front were definitely parted from those left behind at
the base.

Great things were dared and done at the front that year,
in Europe, Asia, and America. But nothing was done at
dull little Louisbourg, except the wearisome routine of
a disgustingly safe base. Rocks, bogs, fogs, sand, and
scrubby bush ashore. Tantalizing news from the stirring
outside world afloat. So the long, blank, summer days
wore through.

The second winter proved a little more comfortable than
the first had been. But there was less, far less, for
the garrison to expect in the spring. In February 1760
the death-warrant of Louisbourg was signed in London by
Pitt and King George II. In the following summer it was
executed by Captain John Byron, R. N., the poet's
grandfather. Sailors, sappers, and miners worked for
months together, laying the pride of Louisbourg level
with the dust. That they carried out their orders with
grim determination any one can see to-day by visiting
the grave in which they buried so many French ambitions.

All the rest of Ile Royale lost its French life in the
same supreme catastrophe--the little forts and
trading-posts, the fishing-villages and hamlets; even
the farms along the Mira, which once were thought so like
the promise of a second French Acadia.

Nothing remains of that dead past, anywhere inland, except
a few gnarled, weather-beaten stumps of carefully
transplanted plum and apple trees, with, here and there,
a straggling little patch of pale, forlorn narcissus,
now soothing the alien air in vain, round shapeless ruins,
as absolute and lone as those of Louisbourg itself.


There is no complete naval and military history of
Louisbourg, in either French or English. The first siege
is a prominent feature in all histories of Canada, New
England, and the United States, though it is not much
noticed in works written in the mother country. The second
siege is noticed everywhere. The beginning and end of
the story is generally ignored, and the naval side is
always inadequately treated.

Parkman gives a good account of the first siege in 'A
Half-Century of Conflict', and a less good account of
the second in 'Montcalm and Wolfe'. Kingsford's accounts
are in volumes iii and iv of the 'History of Canada'.
Sir John Bourinot, a native of the island, wrote a most
painstaking work on 'Cape Breton and its Memorials of
the French Regime' which was first published in the
'Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada' for 1891.
Garneau and other French-Canadian historians naturally
emphasize a different set of facts and explanations. An
astonishingly outspoken account of the first siege is
given in the anonymous 'Lettre d'un Habitant de Louisbourg',
which has been edited, with a translation, by Professor
Wrong. The gist of many accounts is to be found,
unpretentiously put together, in 'The Last Siege of
Louisbourg', by C. O. Macdonald. New England produced
many contemporary and subsequent accounts of the first
siege, and all books concerned with the Conquest give
accounts of the second.

Those who wish to go straight to original sources will
find useful bibliographies in the notes to Parkman's and
Bourinot's books, as well as in Justin Winsor's 'Narrative
and Critical History of America'. But none of these
includes some important items to be found either in or
through the Dominion Archives at Ottawa, the Public
Records Office in London, and the Archives de la Marine
in Paris.

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