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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


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(July 7, 2003)

The Capture of le Cantabre

By Sandy Balcom, Historian

On the morning of July 4, 1744, Joannis d'Olobaratz, commanding the Louisbourg privateer, Le Cantabre, was cruising 15 leagues off Cape Cod. He had sailed three weeks earlier in consort with le César commanded by Philippe Leneuf de Beaubassin. Weather had separated the two, but now d'Olobaratz spotted a snow "laying too" in the calm winds and guessed it to be a British merchantman. Confident in his 94-man crew, 8 carriage guns and 8 swivels, d'Olobaratz approached under English colours. He then raised French colours and fired to demand the vessel's surrender. The supposed merchantman was actually the Prince of Orange, a Massachusetts coast guard, armed with 20 carriage guns and a 150-man crew. It responded by hoisting English colours and firing a broadside that raked the French vessel. D'Olobaratz had his sloop tack about, had its oars run out and rowed off in the light winds. Captain Edward Tyng of the Prince of Orange quickly followed suit and a wearisome chase ensued into the early morning hours. Tyng felt his pursuit was aided by four lanterns the French left lit in the rigging, but these may well have been a signal for assistance intended for Le Cantabre's consort. In an attempt to gain the upper hand, d'Olobaratz finally turned and tried to board the Massachusetts vessel. As the vessels closed, the French crew avoided a New England broadside and small arms volley by sheltering below, but a shot seriously damaged the sloop's mast. Unable to now flee or fight effectively, d'Olobaratz had to take his long boat to the Prince of Orange to surrender his sword and commission.

Tyng kept d'Olobaratz and his officers on board the Massachusetts snow, and took the now dismasted sloop under tow. Although the Prince of Orange was a provincial coast guard, prize money was still a consideration. The vessels' arrival in Boston that same day (July 5) created a sensation, as this was the first French privateer taken off of the New England coast. Tyng received the gratitude of the town and a silver cup weighing one hundred ounces, while his crew received a bonus of £267 amounting to £3 each. A newspaper noted " 'Tis remarkable that notwithstanding the ... great Number of Men on either side ... there was not one kill'd or wounded,". This proved a premature observance, as a later report noted four French had been killed and buried at sea prior to the surrender. Another Boston paper remarked that d'Olobaratz was "a Gentleman well known in Town, and has a Son at School about six miles off." As d'Olobaratz had "been kind and serviceable to the English on many occasions at Louisbourg," the paper happily reported that he was now being "civilly treated himself." He and his men spent the summer and early fall in Boston as prisoners awaiting exchange, with some working as farm labourers. A less happy fate awaited four Irish soldiers from the British garrison at Canso, who had been recruited into the privateer's crew, while prisoner in Louisbourg. Recognized by sailors on the Massachusetts snow, they were sent to their regimental headquarters at Annapolis Royal, where three were subsequently sentenced to death.