A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 7,
The Second Siege of Louisbourg: 1758:
TOC
Ch.11 -- "The End of French America."

The North American campaign for 1758, as we have seen, was to consist of three parts. The first is that which I have now reviewed in detail and which culminated in the taking of Louisbourg. The second part unfolded in an area we now know as upstate New York. James Abercromby (1706-81) was to head up a direct attack on Canada by proceeding up through Lakes George and Champlain. By July Abercromby's forces (6,000 regulars and 9,000 provincials) met up with Montcalm who was not content to wait in Quebec for the British to arrive. Abercromby was stopped at a point not much beyond Lake George, notwithstanding that Montcalm had the smaller of the forces. Abercromby's leadership has been criticized (he attacked and retreated at times when he should have been doing just the opposite). Due to his bungling, the English were to suffer with 2,000 casualties. Abercromby was recalled to England that September and Amherst took over the conduct of the entire American campaign. The third part, of the three part American campaign of 1758, was that which unfolded in Pennsylvania and involved a British force under John Forbes (1707-59). Forbes' exploit comes in for special mention. His military assignment was to take Fort Duquesne which had been the same objective of the British general, Edward Braddock; Braddock tried it in 1755 and died in the effort.1 Though it was slow going, Forbes, in 1758, was to make a much better job of it. Forbes had been convinced that even if Braddock had made it to Fort Duquesne, in 1758, he would not have been able to hold it for lack of a supply line. Though experiencing difficulty in getting his army together, Forbes was to eventually, though late, get a start from Philadelphia with approximately 7,000 men, mostly militia; in addition, he had 1,400 of his fellow highlanders with him. Forbes went along in his methodical fashion, and over a five month period built a 200 mile road through the woods and over the Allegheny Mountains, along which he constructed from one end to the other "defensible stockades and forts no more than 40 miles apart." The road, incidently, was to become "an enduring route to the Ohio country."2 Along the way he made friends with the Delawares and the Shawnees. Forbes became quite sick from a "bloody flux" which was indeed to kill him the first of the following year -- this indomitable Scot, however, had a job that needed doing, so he was carried along in a litter slung between two horses. The French knew he was coming but were amazed at the time that he was taking in making his way. Forbes kept coming, and coming, building his road as he went along and kept his head pointing directly to Fort Duquesne. On the 24th of November, 1758, when the long labouring British force was within a day's march of the fort, the French garrison blew up their fort and retreated. Forbes took posession of the smouldering site, which he was to rename -- Pittsburgh.

So, for 1758, the score in America was: two to one for the British. The French had stopped the British cold in their overland track to Quebec. The British, however, had taken Quebec's sentinel, Louisbourg; and, opened the gate to the Ohio with the taking of the Fort Duquesne. Thus we come to 1759: and, once again, in the spring of the year powerful British forces were to gather in North America. Off the coast of Nova Scotia would have been seen sailing ships, siege supplies and multitudes of military men, all of which was brought together at both Halifax and at Louisbourg.3 James Wolfe (having made his reputation with the capture of Louisbourg in 1758), sailing up the St. Lawrence, was to land to the east of Quebec. Amherst, the commander of the British forces in America, was to lead his army overland, via Lake Champlain, so to make his entry on the St. Lawrence and advance from the west on Quebec. The combined forces under Wolfe and Amherst -- it was planned -- then, would lay siege to Fortress Quebec.4 A transport fleet of 60 ships left England for New York, mostly, I suppose to support Amherst. It was convoyed by six men-of-war and nine frigates, all under the command of Admiral Holmes. A second smaller transport fleet was formed up on the Thames which was to head directly for Louisbourg. This fleet was to be convoyed by nine men-of-war and six frigates.5 Admiral Saunders started out on February 17th. It was a "bad" passage and eleven weeks passed before the fleet arrived off Louisbourg on April 30th only to find the place plugged with ice; the fleet then made for Halifax where they found Durell who had his eight men-of-war ready to go. The plan of course was to get Durell's overwintering fleet6 out into the mouth of the St. Lawrence early in order to prevent the French from getting supplies up to Quebec. Storms continued to delay Durell and he was not able to get away until May 8th. (The French managed to get through by way of the Belle island route.) On May 17th Saunders left Halifax Harbour and on his way to Louisbourg he met up with Holmes which had come up from New York.

Charles Ochiltree Macdonald, described the scene as it unfolded at Louisbourg in May of 1759:

"After May 18th, 1759, the land and sea forces detailed for Quebec began to assemble at Louisbourg, and for more than a fortnight her arsenals rang with the din of artificers, the crowded port with the cries of multitudes of seamen, the overflowing barracks, guard-houses, and canteens with the patriotic songs, the dance-houses with the boisterous laughter, and the streets with the unceasing bustle of the intrepid soldiers and sailors who had revived the prestige of British arms. Trains of wagons, laden with fodder and provisions, pouring into the city along the Mira and St. Peter's roads blocked the streets, and the wharves groaned under the accumulating necessaries of the army. Despatch boats came and went, day and night; frigates, convoying captured French transports, entered the harbour amid prolonged cheers from the walls; line-of-battle ships from Spithead and Halifax floated gracefully through the Narrows into the hospitable port, and such great quantities of tonnage thronged the harbour that it resembled, from afar, a forest of masts rising out of the sea."7
On June 6th the entire combined fleet, with 8,635 troops aboard, left Louisbourg Harbour for Quebec reaching Île d'Orléans on June the 21st.8

France, in 1759, was to lose her great citadel of Quebec -- just as she had lost Louisbourg the year before. At Montreal the French made their last stand; and, it too, in 1760, fell to British arms. By 1760, the war for all practical purposes was ended in America.9 Certainly by then, France wanted peace.10 But England did not want to give it to her. Pitt foresaw the end, a glorious end for British arms, an end which would come on British terms, but one that would be satisfactory to Great Britain only when France came to the table without money and without friends. Louis the XV, as it was, due to his spending habits, was to be the greatest ally of Britain. A humiliating peace, for France, was struck in 1763; and with it she was to give up her claims to North America.11

As for Louisbourg: its fate was sealed in July of 1758 when the French garrison surrendered to the British. The French were not to set themselves up within its walls, ever again -- and, the English were going to see to that, for sure. Though Louisbourg was to serve the British in 1759, as we have seen, as a valuable pushing off place for the assault on Quebec, with the fall of Quebec in 1759 and the fall of Montreal in 1760: Louisbourg was thought to be but an expense and a liability to England.12 Pitt wanted it demolished; like Carthage, Louisbourg was to be raked into the ground.

Pitt's resolution was that all the works and defences of Louisbourg's harbour, "be most effectually and most entirely demolished." It was intended that the materials be so "thoroughly destroyed, as that no use may, hereafter, be ever made of the same." Amherst, in giving his instructions to the British governor at Louisbourg, Whitmore, emphasized that "none of the Houses of Louisbourg should be destroyed, unless, necessarily, to complete the ruin of the works." Also, Whitmore was cautioned, "nothing may be destroyed, that may be thought useful at Halifax, but be saved and conveyed to your Government."13

On the 25th/26th of May, 1760, there came into Louisbourg harbour, direct from England, three "74s": the Fame, the Archilles and the Dorsetshire. With them was one store ship and one snow. Aboard was a company of Miners which had come to carry out the king's command. Col. Bastide, no stranger to Louisbourg having been involved in the sieges of 1745 and 1758 was one of the royal engineers aboard the Fame. Further, among the naval personal was "Mad Jack" Byron, the grandfather of the romantic poet.14

It was with much effort extended over a five month period that the mighty fortress was brought down. It is reported that "Forty-seven galleries were driven beneath the walls."15 From the same source16 we learn that these long shafts were shored up with timber obtained from torn-down houses. Explosive powder was strategically placed within the galleries and fuses laid. For weeks on end the harbour of Louisbourg echoed with erupting blasts which sent the stone works skywards. The guns were put on transports and sent down to Halifax which became awash in them17. So, too, cut stone from the Citadel, the hospital, and the gates was carefully set aside and secure to be shipped to expectant colonial builders. "Carved chimney pieces and mantles" were to grace (and many possibly yet today) fine homes from Halifax to South Carolina.

And so it was: -- the massive fortifications of Louisbourg18, meant to last for generations, were blasted away. It is not likely that all the works went up in one glorious spectacle, though it might be speculated that much work was done by the miners over a period of weeks before a system of linked fuses were lit. Charles Ochiltree Macdonald imagined the scene as a British officer strolled the ramparts just that evening before the first fuse was lit:

"The night before the mines were exploded Governor Whitmore made a last circuit of the ramparts, accompanied by an aide-de-camp. The scene and the impending event were well calculated to inspire melancholy in a soldier's mind. Before him lay the city that had so long echoed in the world's debate, bathed in the tranquil light of a summer moon. Athwart the plain, furrowed with the shrunken trenches of the first army of England, lay long, motionless shadows of the citadel, ramparts, and bastions. Around the dark wall sparkled the broad moat, the massive drawbridge casting a deep shadow on its shining surface. Shadows lurked in the West Gate and about the streets. A solitary light gleamed in a casement of the Hospital St. Jean de Dieu; and the tread of sentries, upon whose bayonets the moon sparkled, echoed in the batteries. The enfeebled beams of the lighthouse flickered in a misty halo on the opposite land. Ships lay darkly motionless in the port, and the moon glistened dully on the guns of the Fame as she lay near Battery island with a flickering light at her gangway. The languid swell of the restless ocean broke noiselessly over the tomb of the Appollon, the Fidèle, the Chêvre, the Biche, and the Diane; and a fishing-boat, gliding seaward, rocked in the scarcely perceptible swell of the tragic shoal as her hardy crew turned to gaze at Louisbourg. Afar on the Atlantic a sail hung in the shimmering wake of the moon, and vanished on the rim of the horizon. Gabarous Bay, shorn of the magnificent fleet that had reeled among its angry billows, sparkled between its dusky shores and headlands. The seas where Hardy's squadron had cruised for weeks off the harbour, and over which the Comète, Le Bizarre, and Aréthuse had fled from the doomed city, lay deserted, save by the fishing-boat that fast sped seaward. The shores of the north-east harbour, destined to be the site of a new Louisbourg, still lay encumbered with the blackened ruins of the buildings burned by order of Drucour, and a mournful and solitary silence prevailed over all the surrounding country."19
By November, 1760, the demolition of Louisbourg, was complete.20

As for the negotiations leading to The Treaty of Paris (1763), the preliminary articles of which were signed on November 3rd, 1762: -- the opening position of the French, was, that while England could keep Quebec they wished to keep Louisiana (a very large and undefined area beyond the Mississippi), and, too, retain the islands at the mouth of the St. Lawrence.21 This meant, of course, that the French wanted to keep Cape Breton so that they might be able to prosecute a fishing industry in the north Atlantic. Pitt was a hard bargainor and wanted to win at the table that which he had won in the battle fields; his principle "was not to make offers, but merely to answer them." A non-negotiable term, for Pitt, was that the whole of Canada was to be England's as had been hitherto defined by the French themselves, viz., all the lands east of the Mississippi. In his reply, Pitt was silent on the question of fishing rights; and, this was interpreted as being something that might be granted. The young king, George the Third and his advisors felt that Pitt was being too demanding; that, "the pride of victory and the consciousness of superiority" induced Pitt to adopt an imprudent attitude and "aroused a suspicion that he wished to break off negotiations."22 These negotiations were carried out in 1761. Both sides were determined to strengthened their bargaining positions: France was openly treating with Spain with the view to forming a military alliance between these two Bourbon powers; and, Pitt was determined to keep up the pressure by further military action.

So it was to be, that with the treaty of 1763, France lost her colonies in North America; no longer was she to exercise any authority in North America; she left, however, an indelible mark, a population in 1763 of 100,000 French persons who continued to call America home.23 Spain, which had been lured into the war in 1761, had suffered severely in the West Indies and the Philippines. To get back Havana, she surrendered Florida to the British, but France salved the wound a little by ceding to her all Louisiana west of the Mississippi. Unable to hold it herself, the French thought that Spain would be a more congenial sovereign for the Frenchmen in the Mississippi Valley than that of Great Britain. Maybe Spain might be able to keep out the flood of colonial Englishmen, who, heading west, were then crossing through the passes of the Appalachians in greater and greater numbers.24

It was in 1763, with the Treaty of Paris, that King George III (1738-1820) proclaimed that there should be an additional government in Canada, it was to be Quebec. The existing governments of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, at the same time, were given additional territory to govern. Labrador (through to the Hudson Bay), Anticosti and the Magdalen Islands, were placed under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland; and the islands of St. John (or Prince Edward Island, as it was afterwards to be called), and Cape Breton, with the smaller islands adjacent thereto, were added to the government of Nova Scotia.25

One of the earlier scenes in this book was the taking of Port Royal by the English. By this event, in 1710, England took her first significant bite out of French North American. The death bite occurred on the Plains of Abraham, which, in 1759, finished the French in North America. The gain to England, however, was to directly lead, before the century was out, to her loss. The American Revolution was a predictable event; and, indeed, it was predicted by an anonymous French writer in 1710, a time long before England was to seriously spill herself into the expensive business of conquering the French in North America.

"There is an antipathy between the English of Europe and those of America, who will not ensure troops from England even to guard their forts; and he goes on to say that if the French colonies should fall, those of England would control the continent from Newfoundland to Florida. 'Old England' - such are his words - 'will not imagine that these various provinces will then unite, shake off the yoke of the English monarchy, and erect themselves into a democracy.'"26
France's influence in North American, which she had exercised for over one hundred and fifty-four years, came to an end. The British came to full power over most all of the people above the Florida/California line. People with republican ideas, however, were soon to put an end to it. The History of Nova Scotia was to take a distinctive turn with the passing of the year, 1763. The French era had passed and she entered into a new age as a British Colony. Startling events were to unfold as the balance of the 18th century wound to its close with their focal points being the British colonies in America. The English family was to fall to feuding; and, Nova Scotia -- though it was not at all certain at times that she would -- was the only English colony in North America to remain loyal to the British crown. Nova Scotia, especially its capital city of Halifax was to become, as it had been, pretty much from its founding, a military platform from which England was to deal and re-deal with those who caught the new spirit of republicanism, and which, once again, was to turn America into a battlefield.

-- The End of Book One.

NEXT >>>> Book 2 -- The Awakening of English Nova Scotia (1760-1815).

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