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Siege of Louisbourg (1745)

Siege of Louisbourg (1745)

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The Siege of Louisbourg took place in 1745 when a New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 colonial force aided by a British fleet captured Louisbourg, the capital of the French province of Île-Royale (present-day Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island is an island on the Atlantic coast of North America. It likely corresponds to the word Breton, the French demonym for Brittany....

) during the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

, known as King George's War
King George's War
King George's War is the name given to the operations in North America that formed part of the War of the Austrian Succession . It was the third of the four French and Indian Wars. It took place primarily in the British provinces of New York, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia...

 in the British colonies.

Although the Fortress of Louisbourg
Fortress of Louisbourg
The Fortress of Louisbourg is a national historic site and the location of a one-quarter partial reconstruction of an 18th century French fortress at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia...

's construction and layout was acknowledged as having superior seaward defences, a series of low rises behind them provided attackers places to erect siege batteries. The fort's garrison was poorly paid and supplied, and its inexperienced leaders mistrusted them. The colonial attackers were also lacking in experience, but ultimately succeeded in gaining control of the surrounding defences. The defenders surrendered in the face of an imminent assault.

Louisbourg was an important bargaining chip in the peace negotiations to end the war, since it represented a major British success. Factions within the British government were opposed to returning it to the French as part of any peace agreement, but these were eventually overruled, and Louisbourg was returned, over the objections of the victorious colonists, to French control after the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 ended the War of the Austrian Succession following a congress assembled at the Imperial Free City of Aachen—Aix-la-Chapelle in French—in the west of the Holy Roman Empire, on 24 April 1748...


Louisburg Square
Louisburg Square
Louisburg Square is a private square located in the Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts neighborhood of Boston. It was named for the 1745 Battle of Louisbourg, in which Massachusetts militiamen led by William Pepperrell, who was made the first American baronet for his role, sacked the French...

 in Boston, Massachusetts is named after the siege.


The mutual declarations of war between France and Britain in 1744 were seen as an opportunity by British colonists in New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 who were increasingly wary of the threat Louisbourg posed to their fishing fleets working the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The wariness bordered on an almost fanatical paranoia or a religious fervour, stirred by false accounts of the size and scale of Louisbourg's fortifications and the general anti-French sentiment shared among most British colonists at the time.

New Englanders' paranoia increased after a small French force sailed from Louisbourg in the summer of 1744 to the nearby British fishing port of Canso
Canso, Nova Scotia
For the headland, see Cape Canso.Canso is a small Canadian town in Guysborough County, on the north-eastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia, next to Chedabucto Bay. The area was established in 1604, along with Port Royal, Nova Scotia. The British construction of a fort in the village , was instrumental...

, attacking a small fort
Raid on Canso
The Raid on Canso was an attack by French forces from Louisbourg on the British outpost of Canso, Nova Scotia shortly after war declarations opened King George's War. The French raid was intended to boost morale, secure Louisbourg's supply lines with the surrounding Acadian settlements, and deprive...

 on Grassy Island and burning it to the ground. This port was used by the New England fishing fleet as it was the closest mainland North American British port to the fishing grounds; however, the Canso Islands (including Grassy Island) were contested by both Britain and France.
The prisoners taken during the Canso raid were first brought to Louisbourg, where they were given freedom to move around. Some of the military men took careful note of the fortress design, layout and condition, as well as the size and condition of its garrison and armaments. These men were eventually released to Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, where their intelligence, along with that provided by merchants who did business at Louisbourg, proved useful in planning the attack.

The French, military and civilian alike, were not in the best of condition at Louisbourg. Supplies were short in 1744, and the fishermen were reluctant to sail without adequate provisions. The military rank and file claimed that it was promised a share of the spoils from the Canso raid, which had instead gone to officers, who sold those same provisions and profited in the endeavour. In December 1744, the troops mutinied over the poor conditions and pay that was months overdue. Even after acting Governor Louis Du Pont Duchambon managed to quiet the discontent by releasing back pay and supplies, the following winter was extremely tense, as the military leadership maintained a tenuous hold on the situation. Duchambon was even reluctant to send for help, fearing the message would be intercepted and spark further unrest. Word of the unrest did, however, make its way to Boston.


In 1745, the governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, William Shirley
William Shirley
William Shirley was a British colonial administrator who served twice as Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and as Governor of the Bahamas in the 1760s...

, secured by a narrow margin the support of the Massachusetts legislature for an attack on the fortress. He and the governor of the Province of New Hampshire
Province of New Hampshire
The Province of New Hampshire is a name first given in 1629 to the territory between the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers on the eastern coast of North America. It was formally organized as an English royal colony on October 7, 1691, during the period of English colonization...

, Benning Wentworth
Benning Wentworth
Benning Wentworth was the colonial governor of New Hampshire from 1741 to 1766.-Biography:The eldest child of the John Wentworth who had been Lieutenant Governor, he was born and died in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Wentworth graduated from Harvard College in 1715...

, sought the support of other colonies. Connecticut provided 500 troops, New Hampshire 450, Rhode Island a ship, New York ten cannon, and Pennsylvania and New Jersey funds. The force was under the command of William Pepperrell
William Pepperrell
Sir William Pepperrell, 1st Baronet was a merchant and soldier in Colonial Massachusetts. He is widely remembered for organizing, financing, and leading the 1745 expedition that captured the French garrison at Fortress Louisbourg during King George's War...

 of Kittery
Kittery, Maine
Kittery is a town in York County, Maine, United States. The population was 9,543 at the 2000 census. Home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Seavey's Island, Kittery includes Badger's Island, the seaside district of Kittery Point, and part of the Isles of Shoals...

 (in the portion of the Massachusetts colony that is now the state of Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

), and a fleet of colonial ships was assembled and placed under the command of Captain Edward Tyng. Governor Shirley sent a request to Commodore Peter Warren, the chief officer of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's West Indies station with a request for naval support in the event of an encounter with French warships, which would significantly outclass any of the colonial ships. Warren at first declined this offer, lacking authorization from London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 to assist. Only a few days later, he receive orders from the Admiralty to proceed to protect the New England fisheries. The expedition set sail from Boston in stages beginning in early March 1745 with 4,200 soldiers and sailors aboard a total of 90 ships.

The force, beginning to take on the air of a religious crusade, stopped at Canso to reprovision. There they were met by Commodore Warren, enlarging the expedition by 16 ships. In late March, the naval forces began to blockade Louisbourg, however ice fields were being swept from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the seas off Louisbourg that spring, presenting a considerable hazard to wooden-hulled sailing ships. The poor weather and general state of disorganization of the New England naval forces resulted in numerous delays to the expedition, however, they kept busy harassing French fishing and shipping in the waters surrounding Île-Royale.

With the ice fields gone by late April, the siege began in earnest. Pepperell's land forces sailed in transports from Canso. On May 2, he besieged Port Toulouse
Siege of Port Toulouse
The Siege of Port Toulouse took place between May 2-10, 1745 when a New England colonial force aided by a British fleet captured Port Toulouse The Siege of Port Toulouse took place between May 2-10, 1745 when a New England colonial force aided by a British fleet captured Port Toulouse The Siege...

 (present-day St. Peter's, Nova Scotia
St. Peter's, Nova Scotia
St. Peter's is a small incorporated village located on Cape Breton Island in Richmond County, Nova Scotia, Canada....

) as well as destroying several coastal villages in the area between Canso and Louisbourg. The New England force then landed May 11 8 kilometres (5 mi) southwest of Louisbourg at Gabarus Bay in a flanking manoeuvre and proceeded overland with their cannon on sleds designed by Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Meserve
Nathaniel Meserve
Nathaniel Meserve was born to Clement Maserve and his wife Elizabeth Jones.On December 16, 1725, aged 21, he married Jane Libby and together they had ten children...

 of the New Hampshire Militia
New Hampshire Militia
The New Hampshire Militia was first organized in March 1680, by New Hampshire Colonial President John Cutt. The King of England authorized the Provincial President to give commissions to persons who shall be best qualified for regulating and discipline of the militia. President Cutt placed Major...

 who was a shipwright by trade, to the series of low hills overlooking the western walls of the fortress.

Except for a small party led by Pierre Morpain
Pierre Morpain
Pierre Morpain was a French ship's captain, privateer, and naval officer. Active in the waters of the West Indies, Morpain is best known for a highly successful privateering career along the coast of Acadia during Queen Anne's War and King George's War...

, the fortress' naval commander, the landing on May 11 of the New England colonial forces and advance on the fortress went unopposed. The French were not helped by the fact that the government in Paris had advance knowledge of the New Englanders' intentions to attack, but the decision was made not to augment defences or send reinforcements. The French defenders were seriously outmanned, and Duchambon's distrust of his troops and fears that they would desert led him to keep his soldiers within the walls of the fortress rather than confronting the colonial forces at the landing site. The French defenders of the strategically important Island Battery successfully stopped several assaults, inflicting heavy losses on the New England troops. However, the New Englanders eventually established gun batteries at Lighthouse Point that commanded the island, leading to its abandonment by its defenders.

On June 15, French and native reinforcements led by Paul Marin were prevented from reaching Louisbourg in the Battle of Tatamagouche
Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
Tatamagouche is a Canadian village in Colchester County, Nova Scotia.Tatamagouche is situated on the Northumberland Strait 50 kilometers north of Truro and 50 kilometres west of Pictou. The village is located along the south side of Tatamagouche Bay at the mouths of the French and Waugh Rivers...

. The New Englanders' landward siege was supported by Commodore Warren's fleet and, following 47 days (6 weeks and 5 days) of siege and bombardment, the French capitulated on June 28, 1745. News of the victory reached Governor Shirley in Boston on July 3 which, coincidentally, was commencement day at Harvard (usually a day of celebration in itself). All of New England celebrated the taking of France's mighty fortress on the Atlantic.


Losses to the New England forces in battle had been modest, although the garrison that occupied the fortress during the following winter suffered many deaths from cold and disease. After the fall of Louisbourg, the New Englanders also assumed control of Port-La-Joye
Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst
Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst is a National Historic Site of Canada in Prince Edward Island, Canada, commemorating the location's double distinction in hosting both the oldest permanent European settlement on Ile Saint-Jean and the first military fortification on the island to be built by the British...

 on present-day Prince Edward island
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name, as well as other islands. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population...

 (which the French regained in battle the following year).

Duchambon's actions in the mutiny and siege were the subject of inquiries upon his return to France in August 1745. Duchambon was protected from reprisals by the actions of François Bigot
François Bigot
François Bigot was a French government official. He served as the Financial Commissary on Île Royale and as Intendant of New France. He was the last official ever to hold the latter position, losing it on the occasion of the British Conquest of Québec in 1759...

, Louisbourg's civilian administrator
The title of intendant has been used in several countries through history. Traditionally, it refers to the holder of a public administrative office...

, who deflected much of the blame onto others. Duchambon retired from the service with a pension in March 1746.

William Pepperrell and Peter Warren were both richly rewarded for their efforts. Warren, in addition to profiting from prize money, was promoted to rear admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

. Pepperrell was made a baronet by King George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 and given a commission as colonel of a new regiment
Pepperrell's Regiment
The 51st, or Pepperrell's Regiment of Foot was a British army infantry regiment raised in North America during the French and Indian War.Two regiments were raised in New England with funds supplied by the British Crown, entering the army list as the 50th and 51st Regiments of Foot...

, numbered 66th at the time (but not to be confused with the later 66th Regiment of Foot). Governor Shirley was also given a colonel's commission to raise his own regiment
Shirley's Regiment
The 50th, or Shirley's Regiment of Foot was a British army infantry regiment raised in 1754 in North America during the French and Indian War....


Both France and Britain planned expeditions to North America in the wake of the capture. The great Duc d'Anville Expedition
Duc d'Anville Expedition
The Duc d'Anville Expedition was sent from France to recapture peninsular Acadia . The expedition was the largest military force ever to set sail for the New World prior to the American Revolution. The effort to take the Nova Scotian capital, Annapolis Royal was also supported on land by a force...

 led by Admiral Jean-Batiste, De Roye de la Rochefoucauld, Duc d'Anville
Jean-Baptiste Louis Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld de Roye
Jean-Baptiste Louis Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld de Roye was made duc d'Anville by King Louis XV of France and pursued a military career in the French navy...

 was dispatched from France to retake Louisbourg and recover Acadia in 1746. However it was destroyed by storms, disease and British naval attacks and never reached the fortress. The British government made plans, based on suggestions by Shirley and Warren, for a followup expedition to seize Quebec. For a variety of reasons, including a late start and contrary winds, the 1746 expedition did not leave European waters, and was instead diverted to raid the French port of Lorient
Raid on Lorient
The Raid on Lorient took place in September 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession when British troops landed on the French coast with the intention of capturing the town of Lorient...

. Although the idea was also considered for the 1747 campaign season, it again failed to bear fruit.

When the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 ended the War of the Austrian Succession following a congress assembled at the Imperial Free City of Aachen—Aix-la-Chapelle in French—in the west of the Holy Roman Empire, on 24 April 1748...

 in 1748, Louisbourg was returned to France in exchange for the return of Madras to Britain, and the withdrawal of French troops from the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

. The decision to withdraw from Louisbourg came under fierce attacks in London from opponents of the Pelham Ministry, but it went ahead nonetheless. In 1758 the fortress was captured again by the British
Siege of Louisbourg (1758)
The Siege of Louisbourg was a pivotal battle of the Seven Years' War in 1758 which ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada and led directly to the loss of Quebec in 1759 and the remainder of French North America the following year.-Background:The British government realized that with the...

 during the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

, this time permanently, as Île-Royale and much of New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

 was ceded to Britain under the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1763)
The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War...


Primary Sources

  • De Forest, Louis Effingham. Louisbourg Journals, 1745. New York: Society of Colonial Wars, 1932.
  • Gwyn, Julian, ed. The Royal Navy and North America: The Warren Papers, 1736-1752. London: Naval Records Society, 1973.
  • "Letters relating to the Expedition against Cape Breton." Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 1st Series, I (1792), 3-60.
  • Lincoln, Charles Henry, ed. "The Journal of Sir William Pepperrell." American Antiquarian Society Proceedings, New Series, XX (1909–1910), 135-183.
  • "The Pepperrell Papers." Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 6th Series, X (1899), 3-565.
  • "Roger Wolcott's Journal at the Siege of Louisbourg, 1745." Connecticut Historical Society Collections, I (1860), 131-160.

Secondary Sources

  • Anderson, M.S. The War of Austrian Succession, 1740-1748. New York: Longman, 1995.
  • Burrage, Henry S., Maine at Louisburg (sic), (Burleigh & Flynt, Augusta, 1910)
  • Downey, Fairfax. Louisbourg: Key to a Continent. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965.
  • Drake, Samuel Adams. The Taking of Louisburg 1745. Boston: 1891. (Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 2007.)
  • McLennan, John Steward. Louisbourg: From its Foundation to its Fall, 1713-1758. London: Macmillian, 1918.
  • Rawlyk, G.A. Yankees at Louisbourg. Orono: University of Maine Press, 1967.
  • Parkman, Francis, France and England in North America Part 6, A Half-Century of Conflict (Vol. II), (Boston, Little Brown and Company 1897).
  • Sosin, Jack M. "Louisbourg and the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748." The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, Vol. 14, No. 4 (October 1957), 516-535.
  • Besieged: 100 great sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo

External links

  • Louisbourg Under Siege, a National Film Board of Canada
    National Film Board of Canada
    The National Film Board of Canada is Canada's twelve-time Academy Award-winning public film producer and distributor. An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary, animation, alternative drama and digital media productions...