A History of Nova Scotia Page
Book #1: Acadia.
Part 4, "First Siege of Louisbourg (1745)"
Chapter. 12, "The Bombardment."

The abortive assault on the Island Battery on May 26th, sagged the spirits of the invaders, which, at the first, were so high. A month had now passed and they had made little impression on the French behind their walls. The New Englanders were losing heart and many were sitting about, either lacking direction or unwilling to follow what little was forthcoming. Warren, stuck in the fog off the coast, was getting very short of patience, "For God's sake, let us do something, and not waste our time in indolence." Pepperrell, in his diplomatic manner, responded by reminding Warren:

"... we have also kept out scouts to destroy any settlements of the enemy near us, and present a surprise in our camp ... that by the services aforesaid and the constant guards kept night and day round the camp, at our batteries, the army is very much fatigued, and sickness prevails among us, to that degree that we now have but about 2100 effective men, six hundred of which are gone in the quest of two bodies of French and Indians we are informed are gathering, one to the eastward, and the other to the westward."1
Their successful repulsive efforts at the Island Battery spurred the defenders into taking the initiative, which, with the exception of the time when Morpain and Boularderie went to the beaches to oppose the landing at the first of it, was generally lacking by the French during the 1745 siege. On May 27th, a French detachment in three shallops, with 12 days supplies, set to sea and come to shore at Grand Lorembec (Lorraine). (It is to be remembered that the French at Louisbourg had the facility to move vessels on and off their docks, incased as they were within the fortifications; also, on account of their Island Battery, they had control of the mouth of the harbour.) The objective of this mission was to retake Lighthouse Point, a position which the colonials then occupied. Lorembec is the next harbour up the coast, north of Louisbourg. The idea was for the French to land at Lorembec, which they could do in relative safety, circle back overland to the Lighthouse Point, and, there, to engage the English troops, hopefully by surprise, with a view to retaking this position; which the French now, and the English later, realized was of considerable strategical importance. On their way overland, just shortly after they had disembarked, the French party were happened upon by a larger English party led by Col. Noble.2 Musket fire erupted: "The engagement lasted about four hours and the number of all that was killed of the English was eight about 15 wounded. Thirty of the French killed, 50 wounded; they got nothing by this bargain."3 Retreating, the French and their Indian supporters, in total 120 men, went to Petit Lorembec (the next harbour up again at which were located sympathetic French fishermen) to see if they could get some boats so that they might make their way back to the fort. All at once, however, they found themselves facing "two or three hundred Englishmen." The French and the Indians scattered leaving their supplies behind,4 heading inland and crossing the Miré River, a considerable distance away from Louisbourg.5 Many of these Frenchmen were, in time, to be combed up and made prisoners.6


The Lighthouse Battery:

The Ruinous Debacle which the amphibious raid on the Island Battery had turned out to be was to confirm the thinking of many that the Island battery was impervious to attack. Men could not get at it and neither could any of the cannon served by the English. There were three fascine batteries which the New Englanders had set up but they were located well away from the Island Battery doing their destructive work on the western ramparts of Louisbourg. The Royal Battery was just a little too far away to effect hits with any accuracy. Thus, the Island Battery was unreachable, at least, it seemed that way. (See map)

We have seen that Gorham and his rangers in connection with the amphibious raid on the Island Battery had made the Lighthouse Point their point of departure. Gorham, certainly by the 17th of May, had taken up a position at this point.7 In scouting the countryside he had come upon the point and took an immediate liking to the position; it was defensible and from there he and his men could keep an eye on the entire harbour. It was here that he encamped his rangers, who, as a matter of practice were always kept off and away from the main encampment. There could be had from the point a fine view of the Island Battery. I suppose while admiring this view, it dawned on someone within the group that this place, the Lighthouse Point, would make "a hell of a good place to set up a gun battery"; from there, they could bring the Island Battery into range. All they needed to do was to get some cannon and set them up. This was easy said; difficult, however, to do. Cannon and their carriages are heavy and awkward things to move. To begin with, any available cannon to be had were located well to the west of Louisbourg. At such a distance, water transport was the only way; but not over the harbour, as the floating works would have to be brought under French guns. At any rate, the harbour side of the point was a sheer cliff. No -- the cannon would have to be loaded well away from the French somewhere handy the original landing place on Gabarus Bay and then transported off shore, aways; then northeast; and then to land them at the first level beach to be found (such as it was; see the large indentation just on the right hand margin of the map); and from there, to muscle them overland, a haul through the woods, a mile or so, emerging from the land side of the Island Point. This was almost an impossible task. However, the New Englanders were to show, once again, how capable they were of hard work, ingenuity and perseverance: the job got done. Pepperrell observed:

"... two eighteen pounders mounted on the 11th of June and by the 14th four more sustained by three hundred and twenty men. (The difficulties were the transporting of the cannon in boats from Chappeaurouge Bay [Gabarus Bay] to the eastward of the light house, the getting them up the bank of the shore, which was a steep craggy rock, the hauling them a mile and a quarter over an incredible bad way of hills and rocks and morasses.)"8
Thus, we see, that by mid-June, a number of batteries were in place at Louisbourg; enough, such that the English could next lay hard siege to her. With the penetrating power of a continual cannonade, interest and passion will not long hold out. To the east of Louisbourg, as we have just seen, there was established a battery at the Lighthouse Point. To the north, the English had the Royal Battery at their command and hurling balls from it directly into the core of the city. To the west, were located three fascine batteries, one, the "Titcomb's Battery," was situated 800 yards from the West Gate; another, the "Sherburne's," 250 yards from it.

The matter was to come to an excruciating head for the French on the 14th of June. On that date, as explained by Governor Duchambon in his report, "the battery which the enemy had constructed at the lighthouse tower and which had seven cannon and a mortar began to fire on the harbour island with 18 pound balls and a 12 inch mortar ..." Before the English battery at the Lighthouse Point opened up, there was an airy calm which prevailed over the entire scene at Louisbourg. Apparently, for a number of days before the Lighthouse Battery was ready, the other established batteries, due to a shortage of powder, were quiet. Thus there was a lull on the surface of affairs. "The French had begun to creep a little out of their casemates and covers." In fact, Warren, mainly thanks to the capture of the Vigilant, had powder a plenty; it's just that at first he was reluctant to give much of it up to his colonial cousins. But now he recognized the importance of getting an adequate supply ashore. It took time to get the powder barrels slung off the ships, into small rowboats, onto the shore, and brought up to the batteries; but soon there was enough powder all around; the guns were again leveled and sighted on their targets. All hell was about to break lose, and, on both sides, everyone sensed it. Governor Shirley tells us of the events of 14th of June and of the few days following:9

"... Orders were given for a general Discharge of all the Cannon from every Battery, at Twelve O'Clock, which was accordingly done, and follow'd by an incessant fire all the rest of the day. ... [The next day, the 15th:] When the Motar began to play from the Lighthouse Battery upon Island Battery; out of 19 shells, 17 fell within the Fort, and one of them upon the Magazine, which, together with the Fire from the Cannon, to which the Enemy was very much exposed, they having but little to shelter them from the Shot that ranged quite through their Barracks, so terrified them, that many of them left the Fort, and run into the Water for Refuge."10
And from Duchambon's report:
"... everyone was exhausted from much work and no sleep, and out of the 1,500 people which we had at the start of the siege, 50 had been killed, 95 has been too severely wounded to give further assistance, several had succumbed to utter exhaustion, and the ramparts which had only measured 5 by 5 feet at the beginning of the siege were all broken down by the 26th of June when the inhabitants of the town handed me a petition.
...
Finding myself in such a delicate situation, I informed
M. Verrier, chief engineer, of the condition of the fortifications, and M. de Ste. Marie, captain in charge of artillery, of the status of our ammunition. Each man submitted a report to me; I then held a council of war which decided unanimously that, in view of the force of the enemy and the condition of our own fort, it would be better to capitulate."11
The author, C. Ochiltree Macdonald described the conditions which gave rise to the French capitulation:
"The anniversary of the Accession of George II [celebrated by his subjects every June; by 1745, George II had been on the English throne for 18 years] ... was celebrated by a vigorous bombardment of the city from noon to nightfall; the French gunners were driven off the platform of the Island Battery; the cannon hastily brought up to strengthen the defences of the West Gate were silenced; bombs and red-hot shot poured steadily into the city; preparations were at length made for a general assault by land and sea. At this crisis, and after a gallant defence of 47 days - the Grand Battery being lost; the Island Battery, which the French esteemed the palladium of Louisbourg, almost annihilated by the Lighthouse Battery; the North East Battery being damaged and so exposed that the artillerymen could not stand to their guns; the Circular Battery ruined and all its guns but three dismounted; the harbour being, in short, disarmed of all its principal Batteries; the West Gate demolished, and the adjoining wall breached; the west flank of the King's Bastion almost ruined, and most of the guns mounted during the siege silenced; the houses and state buildings being demolished or damaged, the ammunition almost exhausted - extremely harassed by a long confinement in casemates and other covered holds, the city capitulated ..."12


[NEXT: Pt. 4, Ch. 13 - The Capitulation.]

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