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  Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

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More Siege Questions

How many warships were in the harbour during the second siege? Why didn't the French ships put up a more active resistance?

At the time of the second siege the French Naval forces consisted of:

Ship  Guns        Men      
Prudent 74  680
Entreprenant        74  680
Capricieux  64  440
Célèbre  64  440
Bienfaisant  64  440
Apollo  50  350
Arèthuse  36  270
Fidèle  36  270
Chèvre  16  150
Biche  16  150

This was an impressive force and could, arguably, have contributed more to the defense of Louisbourg than it did. However, the British fleet assembled against Louisbourg consisted of:

Ship  Guns       Men      
Namur  90  780
Royal William  84  765
Princess Amelia        80 665
Dublin  74  600
Terrible  74  600

Plus four more 70 gun vessels, twelve vessels with between 60 and 66 guns, twelve vessels with between 20 and 50 guns, and six smaller vessels. (McLennan, 261-3)
The British had 39 vessels with which to oppose the French's ten, 1842 guns against 494.

The British determination to end the French presence in North America was expressed clearly in the force arrayed against Louisbourg; strategy had a small part to play in this siege.

It should be noted that despite some shortcomings, the French warships did contribute to the defense of Louisbourg in 1758. Unlike the first siege when the Island Battery was silenced late in the siege, this battery came under bombardment early in the siege in 1758. The French warships then took the role of the Island Battery in discouraging the British fleet from entering the harbour. Large warships could only navigate the harbour channel one at a time. The British moved to nullify the threat posed by the French warships by establishing batteries around the harbour to force the warships closer to the town and eventually destroy a number of them. The French scuttled four of their warships in an effort to block the channel. Only one warship, the frigate Arétheuse escaped the harbour to get back France.