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"Drucour's Exculpatory Letter." 1

October 1, 1758.
Andover, England.
... I wish, Sir, I could erase from my memory the four years [1754-8] I passed in Louisbourg. The bad state of the place, the impossibility of making it better, the subsistence of a garrison and inhabitants supported there at the King's expense, and threatened with famine once a month, gave no little uneasiness and anxiety to all who were charged therewith. ... Many old officers, from all the provinces of the kingdom, have been witnesses of my conduct; and I dare assert it was never impeached. But he who views objects at a distance only may judge differently. I hope, Sir, this was not your case; but that you said, "It must have been impossible for Drucour to act otherwise." Of this I cannot so easily convince you till I have the pleasure of seeing you. Meanwhile, know that twenty-three ships of war, eighteen frigates, sixteen' thousand land forces2, with a proportionate train of cannon and mortars, came in on the 1st June, and landed on the 8th. To oppose them, we had at most but two thousand five hundred men of the garrison, and three hundred militia of the burghers of the town and St. John's Island, a fortification (if it could deserve the name) crumbling down in every flank, face, and courtine, except the right flank of the King's Bastion, which was remounted the first year after my arrival. The covered-way was covered as much as it could be, and yet was commanded and enfiladed throughout, as well as the Dauphin's and King's Bastions. In the harbour were five men of war. This was our force. The succours I expected from Canada did not arrive till the end of the siege, and consisted of about three hundred and fifty Canadians only, including sixty Indians.3

The enemy was at first very slow in making his approaches; for on the 15th July he was three hundred toises [one toise=625 English feet?] from the place. He was employed in securing his camp by redoubts and ├ępaulements, thinking we had many Canadians and Indians behind him. We, on our part, used every method to retard and destroy his work, both by the fire of the place and that of the ships in the harbour. The commodore of these ships warmly solicited leave to quit the 'place; but, knowing the importance of their stay to its safety, I refused it. It was our business to defer the determination of our fate as long as possible. My accounts from Canada assured me that M. de Montcalm was marching to the enemy [upstate New York], and would come up with him between the 15th and 20th July. I said, then, "If the ships leave the harbour on the l0th June (as they desire), the English Admiral will enter it immediately after; "and we should have been lost before the end of the month, which would have put it in the power of the generals of the besiegers to have employed the months of July and August in sending succours to the troops marching against Canada, and to have entered the river St. Lawrence at the proper season. This object alone seemed to me of sufficient importance to require a council of war, whose opinion was the same with mine, and conformable to the King's intentions. The situation of the ships was not less critical than ours. Four of them were burnt, with two corps of caserns [barracks?], by the enemys bombs. At last, on the 26th July, no ships being left, and the place being open in different parts of the King, the Dauphin, and the Queen's Bastions, a council of war determined to ask to capitulate.

I proposed much the same articles as were granted at Port Mahon [see Minorca]; but the generals would listen to no proposals, but our being prisoners of war. I annex their letter and my answer, by which you will see that I was resolved to wait the general assault, when M. Prevot, commissary-General and Intendant of the colony, brought me a petition from the traders and inhabitants, which determined me to send back the officer who carried my former letter, to make our submissions to the law of force; a submission which in our condition was inevitable. This condition was such, that for eight days the officers had not, any more than the private men, one moment's rest. In all besieged towns there are entrenchments where those who are not on duty may retire, and be covered from the enemy's fire; but at Louisbourg we had not a safe place even for the wounded; so that they were almost as much exposed every minute of the four-and-twenty hours, as if they had been on the covered-way. Nevertheless, the men did not murmur in the least, nor discover the smallest discontent; which was owing to the good example and exact discipline of their officers. None deserted but foreigners, Germans, one of whom prevented an intended sally. As he had gone over to the enemy two hours before, it was not thought prudent to make it. The burning of the ships and of the caserns [barracks] of the King's and Queen's Bastions hindered our making another. A third had not better success; we proceeded no farther than the glacis of the covered-way, having missed the quay of a small passage which it behoved us to turn in order to take the enemy in flank: so that, of four sallies which were intended, one only succeeded, in which we made thirty grenadiers and two officers prisoners, besides those that were killed, among whom was a captain. We had about three hundred and thirty killed and wounded during the course of the siege, including officers. The crews of the king's ships are not comprehended in that number. The captain of a ship strikes [gives up] when his vessel is dismasted, his rigging cut to pieces, and several shot received between wind and water. A governor of a town surrenders the place when the breaches are practicable, and when be has no resource, by entrenching himself in the gorges of bastions, or within the place. Such was the case of Louisbourg. Add to this, that it wanted every necessary for such operations. General Wolfe himself was obliged to place sentinels on the ramparts ; for the private men and the sutlers entered through the breaches and gaps with as much ease as if there had been only an old ditch. Of fifty-two pieces of cannon, which were opposed to the batteries of the besiegers, forty were dismounted, broke, or rendered unserviceable. It is easy to judge what condition those of the place were in. Was it possible, in such circumstances, to avoid being made prisoners of war?

I have the honour to be, &c.
Le Chevalier de Drucour.


[1] This letter, reproduced in support of blupete's history, was written by Chevalier de Drucour (c.1703-62) governor of Louisbourg (1754-8). Soon after his arrival in England, as a prisoner of war, Drucour wrote to one of his friends in Paris, in justification of his conduct at Louisbourg which Drucour gave up to the British on account of the Siege of 1758. A reproduction of this letter is to be found in Richard Brown's A History of the Island of Cape Breton (1869) at pp. 317-21.

[2] The number, in fact, was 12,000.

[3] The fortification from all accounts, except this of Drucour's, were in tolerably good shape, only after weeks of British cannonading did they begin to fall apart. I have listed the French men-of-war in the harbour, and the count was higher then that of Drucour's. Reenforcements, Canadians and Indians, under Boish├ębert arrived during the siege, not after; though, this force might as well have arrived after, as they were of little or no help to the French garrison.


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