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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


A.J.B. Johnston, The Summer of 1744: A Portrait of Life in 18th-Century Louisbourg (Ottawa: National Sites, Parks Service, Environment Canada. 1991)



The fall and winter of 1744 proved to be unusually eventful. In October Duquesnel, commandant of the colony since 1740, passed away. Replacing him on an acting basis was the king's lieutenant, Duchambon. On the last day of November a flotilla of 53 vessels, including the six Compagnies des Indes ships and the four warships that had been in Isle Royale waters since mid-summer, set sail for France. [1] Aboard were over 4000 men, 115 of them British prisoners. The departure must have made a magnificent sight, but the town left behind would have presented "only a picture of sadness, much different from the spectacle the shipping season" brought. [2] According to a Boston newspaper interested in the destination and fate of the "richly laden" East India ships, after the flotilla left "there remained only 6 or 7 vessels in the harbour, which were tied up for the winter."[3] The malaise produced by the end of the shipping season was deeper than normal in late 1744 because more than 1000 of the men who had sailed away were fishermen, sailors, engagés (indentured servants) and cannoneers who would normally have wintered in the colony. [4] Fear of what the war might bring over the winter and following spring undoubtedly lay behind the mass exodus; however, all was not safe in the convoy. Wind, weather and British warships broke up the group and at least one of the East Indiamen, the Argonaute, was taken as a prize.[5]

In late December the atmosphere within the town can only have gone from bad to worse. On the morning of 27 December all but a few of the soldiers in the garrison mutinied, demanding better food, more firewood and complete uniforms. [6] For days afterward the "civilian population was terrified and the officers did not dare to oppose their men." [7] At length the men were appeased and order restored, but the months that followed were without doubt a time of tension for most of the townspeople. For their parts, Duchambon and Bigot had not only to cope with the grave internal problems, but also to prepare for the next season of warfare, the spring of 1745. They drafted plans for attacks on Annapolis Royal and Placentia,[8] and beseeched the minister of the Marine to send as soon as possible the following year more soldiers and more warships to protect Louisbourg itself. As Duchambon put it, "this place can never be secure with such a small garrison if it is ever besieged."[9]

In May 1745 Louisbourg was besieged on land by a large force from New England and blockaded at sea by a combined British and colonial fleet. After an assault of almost seven weeks the capital of Isle Royale fell into British hands and most of its inhabitants were deported to France, where they awaited the outcome of the war. Most returned to Louisbourg in 1749 following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, only to suffer yet another siege and deportation in 1758 during the Seven Years' War.