A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 7,
The Second Siege of Louisbourg: 1758:
TOC
Ch.10 -- "The Surrender."

During July 1758 shells rained down on the town of Louisbourg and its sheltering inhabitants. It was to come to the point where the proud French fleet, limited as it was, and the external batteries, stood no longer as defences. At the last of it, there were but only five French cannon on the ramparts in a condition to be fired.1 There was not a French structure which was not showing the scathing effects of the British cannonade. It was the 26th of July when, under a white flag came a French officer, Louis Loppinot.2. Loppinot was conducted to General Amherst's tent. The French officer announced that he had come to tender Governor Drucour's offer of capitulation.3

Amherst wrote in his journal:

"26th. in the morning I received a note from the Governour with proposals for a capitulation. The Admiral came on shore and shewed me his scheme of sending six ships into the harbour. We wrote a joint letter to the Governour, insisting on the Garrison being Prisoners of War. I had an Answer which I answered again very short and the Governour then consented, sent lt. Col. Anthony and two more officers to settle the Capitulation. I wrote it and sent it back, kept, the Lt. Col. as hostage."4
What the French wanted was an honourable surrender, viz., "the right to march out with their firelocks on their shoulders, drums beating, colours flying, twenty-four charges of ammunition for each man ..."5 Amherst refused to accommodate the French and wanted an absolute surrender; the French would be his prisoners; and, there certainly would be no terms, at all, for "deserters, Canadians, or Indians."6

"Prisoners of War!" -- Drucour and his council were horrified. The French officers were sent out once again to endeavour to obtain some terms. Whitmore, who commanded in the trenches, refused to let the French officers pass beyond, and would send no message from them to Amherst. The honour of the French soldier was something that they would defend, no matter the horrors of a final assault. The French Council thereupon resolved to stand the storming.7

While Loppinot walked through the torn town toward its western gate, so to give the letter to the English that Louisbourg would fight to the last, he dallied with his golden braid and looked about the French citadel and at its terrified and tortured civilians. Back in the French Council chambers the final argument had yet to be made. One of Loppinot's brother officers addressed Drucour and his Council. I imagine this officer's address might have gone as follows: "The civilians of Louisbourg had had enough. They had suffered the deprivations of this French outpost for years. Enough is enough. The French soldier, given his situation as it now existed in the final hours of Louisbourg, could do no more than die; and ordered to do so he will. But the authorities in their extremity had no right to ask the tormented citizens to do more than they have." The plea worked and Drucour and his Council nodded their approval. Certain of the officers overtook Loppinot before he left the fort and replaced the hand held parchment with another, -- Louisbourg would now unconditionally surrender.8 The news of this was not well received by the proud French soldiers; they were not for surrendering. The men and officers of the newly arrived Cambis regiment were particularly filled with indignation, and were to tear up and cast their colours in a nearby fire; many of the soldiers, in imitation of one another, took their muskets "by one end and, striking the butt, smashed it to pieces."9

By the morning of the 27th, a British take-over force was within the fortress and would have been seen conversing with the French officers.10 At noon-hour the French troops were marched to the Esplanade. Orders were bawled out for the respective corps to lay down their arms; the officers only to keep their swords. An anonymous witness noted that the French soldiers "threw their arms to the ground and turned away, weeping." Returning to their ranks, they were then reviewed by both the senior British and French officers; General Amherst, Admiral Boscawen and Governor Drucour being among them. After formal salutations had been exchanged, the Governor and the military officers of high rank surrendered their swords, the Governor delivered up the keys of the city, and the French standards were given over to the conquerors. The entire French population had flocked and were gathered around the parade square, all the high points, blasted as they all were, were occupied by tipped-toed and neck stretching sight-seers. After the ceremony, which would not have been of any great length, the French soldiers were dismissed to go their own way within the walls; most drifting away to shelters which had been erected here and there throughout the town, the barracks having all been thoroughly destroyed by cannon and fire.11

From Amherst's Journal we can determine what was to take place on those last few days in July. On account of thick fog there was some delay in getting the British fleets into Louisbourg Harbour.12 But, by the 29th, Hardy had made his way in; and on the 31st Boscawen came in with his fleet. The French governor, Drucour was most impressed, as a 130 sailing vessels, or thereabouts, filled up the harbour: "all vessels are ranged in an admirable way in this roadstead, where the French last year scarcely found space enough for 25 vessels and frigates."13

In the meantime, on the 30th, it was determined to get word off to London of the English success at Louisbourg. The 28 gun naval ship, Shannon cleared Louisbourg Harbour on the 30th; aboard was William Amherst, the General's twenty-six year old brother, who, during the campaign was to serve his 41 year old brother as an aide-de-camp. The Shannon reached England on August 18th. "George II received the news of the second fall of Louisbourg with undisguised delight, for the capture of the stronghold, nearly 6,000 men, eleven stands of colours, immense quantities of arms, ammunition, and stores, and the destruction of a French fleet was a glorious triumph at a critical stage in the career of British arms."14

On August 8th, a British detachment issued out of Louisbourg and after capturing St. Anne and Spanish Bay (Sydney) proceed to Isle St Jean, and, after some forceful representation made to the French Lieutenant-Governor at Port la Joie (current day Charlottetown), the garrison, consisting of 500 soldiers, after "several hours" of sword rattling, surrendered.15

Back at Louisbourg, though doubtlessly the British took a couple of days to rest their men, soon all hands were at work. The British vessels, though there was to be some delay, were soon anchored in Louisbourg's harbour. The army reorganized their field camps16 and detachments were sent to sweep wide, along the Mire River and as far as Spanish Bay, to make sure there was no lurking forces of the enemy, especially that under Boishébert (there was none). Inside the walls of Louisbourg, that first evening, in the early part, things were quiet -- there would have been heard the pealing of bells in the churches of Louisbourg: soft, calling the people to their evening prayers: the final vespers of the fallen city. The quiet of the early evening broke at about midnight, "the lower orders mingled with the soldiery that thronged the cabarets, and repeatedly disturbed the peace of the city." And as Macdonald continues to write, especially that first night, "the churches of the city remained opened all night for the hasty marriage of the girls who could be induced to take husbands to protect them from the feared license of the British occupation."17

Of course, upon the entry of the British, all was to be in a state of ruin and destruction. The harbour was a mess. The post-battle scene was described by a British sailor:

"Indeed when our ships came into the Harbour, there was hardly any part of it, which had not the appearance of Distress and Desolation, and presented our View frequent Pieces of Wrecks, and Remnants of Destruction - Five or Six Ships sunk in one Place with their Mast-Heads peeping out of the Water - the Stranded Hull of Le Prudent on the muddy shoal of the other Side, burned down to the Water's Edge, with a great deal of her Iron and Guns staring us in the Face - Buoys of slipped Anchors bobbing very thick upon the Surface of the Water in the Channel towards the Town - a number of small Craft and Boats towards that Shore, some entirely under Water, others with part of the Masts standing out of it; besides the stranded Hulls, Irons, and Guns of the three Ships burned on the 21st upon the Mud towards the Barrassoy - and in the N.E. Harbour little else to be seen but Masts, Yards and Rigging floating up and down, and Pieces of burned Masts, Bowsprits, etc. driven to the Water's Edge, and some parts of the shore edged with Tobacco Leaves out of some of the ships that had been destroyed - the whole a dismal Scene of total Destruction."18
As to the destruction: on the 28th, Amherst had a survey completed and he was to write: "We began to repair the works, caryed on Fascines, Picquets and gabions for that Purpose ... I ordered a road for the Artillery to the Town, the bridge to be made and the west gate cleared."19 Not only were the British sappers put to work in repairing the French fortifications, but, also, they were put to work leveling all of the siege works which they had built with much toil in the previous two months.

With the French barracks blasted and burnt, the common soldier was to suffer from temporary sleeping quarters and makeshift kitchens, all, exposed to the elements; and, as previously mentioned the British soldier continued to live in field camps. However, notwithstanding the miseries of the common soldier, and, for that matter, most all of the civilian population at Louisbourg -- the high life of those who administer the civilian and military affairs continued (some things just never change). The governor, the officers and their chiefs of staff continued to eat hot meals and sleep in comfortable beds. The British hierarchy would have extended every curtesy to the French hierarchy; brothers, they all were. The governor's lady, Madame Drucour, would have received high consideration, and, it is said enjoyed the personal friendship of Wolfe and Amherst. Madame Drucour was particularly important to the British victors in the days immediately following the capitulation "She [Lady Drucour] turned her popularity to account, humanely devoted herself to increasing the comforts of the captives, and endeavored to reconcile them to their humiliating lot."20 The French, or at least a good number of them were openly disdainful of their English captors; and, for good reason the English were kept out of the fort unless entry was required for essential business.21 The problem of keeping the French population under control became particularly intense, when, on August the 1st, news began to circulate on how the French were successful at defeating the English at Ticonderoga,22 indeed, they openly rejoiced. Overall, the relations were not very good between the vanquished French and the victorious English. Though things smoldered, the lid was kept on; this due mainly to the cooperative efforts of the commanders on both sides.

The difficulties of keeping things in check would of course come to an end once the French officials and their soldiers were sent off; and, the English knew it. Little time was lost: by mid-August the Louisbourg garrison were to be put on British transports. The British war ships: Dublin, Devonshire, Terrible, Northumberland and Kingston were employed to convoy the transports. The more illustrious prisoners were put aboard the war vessels. And, so, the French soldiers, their officers and the civilian administrators departed Louisbourg, amid the feeble cheers of those citizens of the lower end who were to remain behind. From the quarterdeck of one of the British men of war, as she glided through the narrows, would have been seen Madame Drucour and the ex-Governor gazing at Louisbourg, and, it was reported that "the sentinel on the Lighthouse Battery caught a glimpse of the white flutter of the scarf with which her Excellency waved farewell to the city where she had won so high a position ..."23


Only at great expense to England was it possible to put a British force under the combined commands of Boscawen and Amherst: pulled together were over 13,000 soldiers and as many again who acted as crews to upwards of 180 warships and transports. It had been hoped by
Pitt that this large invasion force would do double duty in 1758: first Louisbourg and then Quebec. With the capitulation of Louisbourg on July 26th, the immediate question before the British commanders was whether they should push on to Quebec?24 Such a move would not only, maybe, add Quebec to the British list of victories for 1758, but it would draw off French forces which were then pressing hard against the back doors of the English colonies to the south. Amherst was for it: Boscawen was not. On the first of August, it is seen where Amherst went aboard Boscawen's flag ship, the 90 gun Namur which had just that day made her entry into Louisbourg Harbour. "I told the Admiral the thing I wished to do was to get the prisoners on board as fast as possible, and if it was practicable for the army to go to Quebec, I thought it the best scheme." We can see from Amherst's journal that he continued to press the Admiral; and on the 5th: "I went aboard the Admiral [his ship]. He thought it impossible for the army to go to Quebec ..." After this, it seems clear, the admiral and the general turned their attention to the avenues, that, as a practical matter, were the only ones open. It was decided to take the following courses of action: get Louisbourg cleaned up and put in some sort of shape so that a French counter-attack might be resisted; despatch a force by sea to take the small French fort at Port la Joie (current day Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island); send a force up along the coast all the way to the mouth of the St. Lawrence in order to destroy all the French fishing communities so that they could be of no further help to the French at Quebec; and, send troops south to New York so that they might march to the aid of Abercromby's army.25

Though Amherst expressed no disapproval, one might, nonetheless, find fault with Boscawen's decision not to proceed to Quebec -- Pitt did.26 We might say, cynically, that Boscawen had business on his mind.27 The fact of the matter is, however, that the army and the navy had a lot to do before it could move on. The British army had to secure Louisbourg, a very big job considering how thoroughly they had bombed the place. The French garrison had to be arraigned and then shipped off. The British emplacements had to be leveled and the siege trenches filled in. The weather, too, was not cooperative; it rained a lot; and, the men and animals were mired down in mud and yet they hauled materials such as heavy cannon into the fort28; so, too, the winds, at times, were contrary so that the sail driven ships could not always make their way in and out of the harbour.

By the end of August the greater part of the British army had departed Louisbourg. Most, sailed down to Boston with Amherst.29 A significant division, however, was to go with Wolfe, who was under orders to sail for "River Gaspie." Another division was sent to Monckton, who had been at Halifax throughout, with orders to go to the Bay of Fundy and then up the St. John River; he was to clean out any French establishments found.30 These major departures of troops were to take place on, around, the 28th of August.31

British naval ships with Wolfe and his troops aboard,32 during the month of September, sailed along the coast of an area we now know as northern New Brunswick and then along up the Gaspé coast: they made regular stops along the way. The idea was to deliver blows to all the French communities to the west of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The orders were to burn everything that was found so that no aid could be expected by the French from these parts should the British launch an attack up the St. Lawrence come the spring of 1759. Wolfe carried out his duties with typical dispatch and efficiency. Three thousand, five hundred and forty people, French people, were to be taken off of Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) and deported to France.33 On September 30th Wolfe was to write Amherst: "We have done a great deal of mischief; spread the terror of his majesty's arms through the whole gulf, but added nothing to the reputation of them."34


Within in a couple days of its capitulation, as has already been mentioned, a ship, the Shannon was sent to England with Amherst's younger brother aboard to give the news to the king of the victory.35 We have seen, too, how the Shannon reached England on August 18th.36 After being paraded before the King at Kensington Palace "eleven stands of colours" as captured at Louisbourg were deposited at the Lord Mayer's vestry in St. Paul's Cathedral with full ecclesiastical pomp and military ceremony.37 In contrast to the dignified celebrations in London, must be compared the great tumultuous ones that occurred almost simultaneously in the American colonies and in particular, Halifax, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The enthusiastic residents of Philadelphia built an elaborate floating castles with turrets, towers and guns.

"The tableau opened with a rocket from the castle, replied to by a cannon from the shore, and a salute of the King on the citadel with twenty-one guns and three cheers, while the bells rang "God Save the King". A second rocket was then fired from the castle, the flag of France was hoisted over Philadelphia, and a vigorous bombardment of the castle began. The castle as hotly bombarded Philadelphia, which offered a vigorous defence with cannon and shell, and defeated an attempt to carry it by storm by springing a mine. The engagement continued with great determination on both sides for some time; but, after sustaining a vigorous bombardment, the besieged at length surrendered, the French colours were lowered, and the flag of England again floated over the city. The rejoicings over the capitulation then began. A swarm of rockets ascended from Tower Amherst on the floating castle; a feu de joie with rockets followed; a horizontal wheel of fireworks in the Whitemore gate of the castle and the perpendicular wheel on the citadel were lit and set in motion amid joyful strains of music; and a swarm of rockets burst from Tower Wolfe, followed by the lighting of the sun, and the triangular wheel on the citadel, and a brilliant feu de joie of rockets. ... This was followed by a brilliant discharge of rockets, water-rockets, and a general discharge volley of cannon; and the unique display concluded with three cheers from the immence number of spectators that thronged the water front."38

Earlier, we have seen, mid August, where the Louisbourg garrison was put aboard transports and being convoyed by British war ships to eventually be returned to France. The news, in France, of the capitulation of Louisbourg "created a great sensation, especially in naval, military, and commercial circles; and the policy of the Court, the defence of the city by Drucour, the failure to relieve Louisbourg and the conduct of the French admiral, were acrimoniously discussed."39 Drucour was to give an accounting of himself in a letter which he sent off to a friend at Paris while waiting to be liberated back to French soil. This letter I set out on a separate page, see "Drucour's Exculpatory Letter.")

By October the first, Boscawen calculated his work was done and he set sail for England with most of his ships.40 Wolfe, only having just returned to Louisbourg from his raiding trip up to the Gaspé stepped aboard one of Boscawen's ships so to return to England. Amherst as we have seen left earlier at the end of August to see what he might do to assist Abercromy who had suffered a defeat at the hands of Montcalm at Ticonderoga. Lawrence had returned to Halifax and was there by the end of September to take up his duties as the Governor of Nova Scotia. Edward Whitmore was left behind at Louisbourg; there to be in command, and to continue to be, so to oversee the important matters which were to unfold at that place during the succeeding years, 1759-61. Durell, having been promoted to Rear-Admiral, took Boscawen's place as commander of the fleet left in American waters.41

And, thus, Louisbourg fell to the English, an event which was to signal the beginning of the end for France in North America. During the action the English fired off 14,630 shots and 3,390 "shells and carcasses"; so, too, they fired off 750,000 rounds of musket shot (they ran out). Overall, the British used 1,493 barrels of gun powder.42 Such efforts on the part of the British led to the achievement of their goal; and, in the process, wrought terrible damage and injury; and -- death to a number of brave souls. Though it proved to be difficult to get accurate counts, the English thought that the number of French killed or wounded amounted to a high of 1,000. For the British, it was: 172, killed; 352, wounded; for a total of 524. The British losses, I think it obvious, were not near as severe as the French. The normal ratios were reversed with the besieged suffering a much greater loss at Louisbourg, 1:3; this, likely because, the fort did not have to be stormed.43

Among the reasons for the fall of Louisbourg: the ease of how the British were able to get their troops off the transports and onto what can only be described as a very inhospitable shore; the lucky shot which hit the powder magazine of the Entreprennant and the consequent loss of her and her two sister ships; the success of the British navy in the cutting out of the remaining two of the French men of war. All these events I have now dealt with in some detail. In the campaign to take Louisbourg, in 1758, the fortunes of war were plainly with the British. None of these events just listed could have been much effected by the defending French, no matter what they might have done. There was one matter44, however, the French might have better seen to, a different outcome of which might have dramatically changed the British fortunes. Though not there in great numbers45, the French navy ships might have gone out of the harbour, with the arrival of the transport ships with the British troops aboard and aggressively attacked them.

For the loss of Louisbourg, the French nation needed a reason: the French admiral, De Gouttes was to be it.46 This nobleman was degraded by the court of Versailles, his patent of nobility being burned by the common hang man, and he himself sentenced to twenty-one years' imprisonment. Thus the French pinned the lost of Louisbourg on De Gouttes and the historians with the exception of one have followed suit.47 However, one has to wonder? What more could De Gouttes have done? The wind, on which sailing ships entirely depend, was, it would appear, certainly by the time the bulk of the English transports had come in, were, on June 3rd, relatively calm. From the log of the Namur: June 1st, "Fresh gales and cloudy"; June 2nd, "Moderate gale and hazy"; June 3rd, "Light airs and hazy. In Gabrous Bay."48 It should be noted, too, that of the French war ships that had made it into Louisbourg Harbour, two were 74s and four were 64s, however, two of three 64s were en flûte, that is to say stripped down with many of their guns removed so as to accommodate the transport of supplies and men. Let us just suppose for the moment that there was enough wind, coming from the right direction to move the French fleet out of the harbour and then down into Garbarous Bay so to get in amongst the British transports. They would have never survived the gauntlet of the English fleet. So, could the French fleet, ten in number, been brought into action at this critical juncture, while the English transports bobbed at their anchors? If they had gotten out to so engage the English they surely would have been lost and Louisbourg would have been deprived of one of its important lines of defence.49

Though the Court at Versailles might well have blamed its navy for the loss of Louisbourg; it might just have as well placed blame on the shoulders of its royal governor at Louisbourg, Chevalier de Drucour; or, indeed, on itself by its general neglect of its French colonies in America. Though Drucour was a cut above most of the commanders which France sent to America, he let his side down by a critical oversight at the beaches. It was there, at the beaches, that Drucour had his best and last chance to keep Louisbourg for France. He should have been able to cut the British down as they came to the shore in their frail boats. Indeed, it looked very much like that was exactly what was going to happen when the first British wave was turned away; then Wolfe got his toe hold, and the rest, as they say, is history. Wolfe would not have made it ashore with his brave grenadiers if the watch tower (nid de pie) just east of Cap Rouge had been manned, a corporal's guard at this critical point might have saved Louisbourg, but not a man was there to greet the English and to send up an alarm.50 Once 13,000 experienced British soldiers, well-supplied, well-armed and well-led, once this force had gotten ashore -- Louisbourg was doomed and both sides knew it.51


[NEXT: Pt. 7, Ch. 11 - "The End of French America."]

(Now Available As A Book)
_______________________________

Found this material Helpful?

Custom Search
_______________________________
[UP]
[DATE TABLE]
[INTRODUCTION -- Book 1 (1500-1763)]
[INTRODUCTION -- Book 2 (1760-1815)]
[HISTORY JUMP PAGE]
[HOME]

_______________________________
www.blupete.com
2011