We have now seen where France's hold on North America first started to slip in 1710 when the English captured Port Royal. The English, from that time onward, were to hold Port Royal, renamed by them Annapolis Royal, as their own. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) was to establish England as the sovereign power in Acadia, within its "ancient boundaries." What was excluded from the territory were the islands of the St. Lawrence, and, in particular, the island of Cape Breton. Cape Breton was to serve as an outlying eastern sentinel for France to its territory broadly defined as Canada with its citadel at Quebec. What was needed, as we have seen by our previous part, part 3, with Port Royal lost to the French was a new stronghold on the northeastern coast of North America. Louisbourg was chosen. The French court then proceeded during a period that nearly extended over a half a century to spend large sums on the fortifications at Louisbourg.
From its very beginning, Louisbourg was a dangling axe over the heads of New Englanders. It was a base from which the French might stage, during a period of war, an offensive strike to the growing and vulnerable English population along the eastern Atlantic seaboard. It was, too, a harbor for French privateers during both times of war and peace. The story I have now to tell is truly amazing. It is the story of a "band of untrained artisans and husbandmen, commanded by a merchant"1 who captured a fortress like no other on the American continent, one that had taken thirty years to build, and one that was commanded by regular French army officers and garrisoned by seasoned troops. It was to be the first feat of arms of the budding United States.2
[NEXT: Pt. 4, Ch. 2 - Louisbourg (1745)]