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Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada
THE CAMPAIGN OF LOUISBOURG 1750-'58.
THE CAMPAIGN OF LOUISBOURG 1750-'58.
ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED AT CAPE BRETON,
FROM THE BEGINN1NG OF THE LAST WAR (1750) UNTIL
THE TAK1NG OF LOU1SBOURG, BY THE ENGL1SH,
IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1758.
HAVING served at 1'isle Royale, or Cape Breton, from the year 1750 until the surrender of Louisbourg, the capital of that island, in 1758, which surrender was the prelude to the subsequent success of the British arms in America, I shall briefly relate the most memorable events which happened there during the war, with the same truth and impartiality that I have observed with regard to my other campaigns.
Acadie, or Nova Scotia, was the source from whence arose the animosities, contentions and ruptures that soon terminated in an open war between France and England. That country, attached particularly to the government of 1'isle Royale, was at the same time subject to the Governor-General of Canada, whose authority extended to New Orleans, the capital of Mississippi, at the distance of twelve hundred leagues.
The French had two forts there, La Baye Verte and Beausejour, which were garrisoned by two companies of the Colony troops, one from Canada, the other from Louisbourg, relieved every year. The English, soon after the peace in 1749, came there and built a fort, about a cannon-shot from the French fort at: Beausejour, where the French and English garrisons lived for some time with great concord and harmony until Abbé La Loutre, Missionary of the Indians in Acadie, soon put all in fire and flame, and may be justly deemed the scourge and curse of his country. This wicked monster, this cruel and bloodthirsty priest, more inhuman and savage than the natural savages, with a murdering and slaughtering mind instead of an evangelical spirit, excited continually his Indians against the English, and it came to that pitch that they were at last pent up in their fort, and were unable to move out of it without running the risk of being instantly scalped by the Indians.
The English began hostilities in 1750. A small man of war stationed at Halifax, or Chibouctou, commanded by Capt. Rouss, (Ross ?) attacked a French merchant ship, commanded by DeVergor, captain of the Colony troops, took it after a combat of several hours, and sent DeVergor to Louisbourg, where I saw him a short time after my arrival there. I never could find out a plausible reason for this infraction of the peace after it being so lately concluded. The success of the English in their last war may be some justification; but if they had been unfortunate, Rouss' action would have been loudly blamed and condemned even by the English nation.
It was both wrong and unjust that the English should accuse the French of having a hand in the horrors committed daily by La Loutre with his Indians. What is not a wicked priest capable of doing ? He clothed in an officer's regimentals an Indian named Cope, who I saw some years afterward at Miramichi, in Acadie. He caused his hair to be curled, powdered, and put in a bag, and laying an ambuscade of Indians near to the fort, he sent Cope to it waving a white handkerchief in his hand, which was the usual sign for the admittance of the French into the English fort. The major of the fort—a worthy man, and greatly beloved by all the French officers—taking Cope for a French officer, came out of the fort with his usual politeness to receive him; but he no sooner appeared than the Indians in ambush fired at him and killed him. All the French had the greatest horror and indignation at La Loutre's barbarous action, and I dare say that had the Court of France known the circumstances then, they would have been very far from approving it. In the meantime, he had so ingratiated himself with the Marquis de la Gallisonière, that it became a crime to even write against him. It is needless to explain further the execrable conduct of the Abbé La Loutre: in all ages cruelty and inhumanity have been eminently sacerdotal. The English garrison, after a long series of such priestly scenes, at length became exasperated, and, losing all patience, they besieged Beausejour, which, being very weakly defended, they took in the spring of the year 1755.
It would have nevertheless been more conformable to equity and justice if the English had endeavoured to catch the Abbé La Loutre, and had hung him, as the sole author of these abominations.
It is now very useless to make a dissertation upon the limits of Acadie. Several very aged men of that country described them to me in a most plain and simple manner— "The extent of the orders of the ancient Governors of Acadie," which they well remembered.
But it then appeared to me, by the vastly swelled pretensions of the English, infinitely beyond the reality, that they had no intention of settling them in a friendly manner. If they had interrogated the old men of the country with regard to the extent of the authority of their Governors, they would have evaded the quibbles and the chicanes of the Commissaries, whose personal interest was to prolong the dispute, and the affair would have soon been determined. The English adopted the shortest and surest way of deciding the quarrel, by taking the whole, providing that there was a possibility of preserving their now vastly estensive and unlimited possessions in America.
There cannot be a fortified town in a worse situation than Louisbourg: it is commanded all round by heights. About two hundred paces from the curtain between the west gate and the King's bastion, a height (Hauteur de la Potence) overlooks a great part of the town, the parade, the wharves; enfilades the battery of the Grâve which defends the harbour, where the cannoniers of this battery, whose platforms and cannons are entirely discovered from that eminence, may be marked out and. killed from it with muskets. Opposite to the south gate, Porte de la Reine, there is another eminence, Cape Noir, which is still much higher than the Hauteur de La Potence, discovers all across the town down to the wharves, and is only betwixt two and three hundred paces distant from the curtain. La Batterie Royal, a fort which faces and defends the entry of the harbour, is also domineered by a very high eminence, about three hundred fathoms from it, where there is a sentry-box for a vidette. Such was the natural and insurmountable defects of the position chosen for a town of such importance. But what is still more astonishing, the stupid negligence of the French in not repairing the fortifications; probably they had not the experience that sea sand is not fit for mortar, as it does not dry, bind and harden, as with river sand, which may be caused by the particles of salt it contains. All the walls of masonry, the embrasures, the counterscarp, and the parapets, were tumbled down into the fosses, which were filled up with rubbish; the palisades were all of them rotten —in many parts of the covert way they were crumbled away on a level with the ground, and there was scarce any vestige of glacis "which had not been destroyed by grazing there; all the planks of the platforms were entirely rotten, as also all the carriages of the cannons;—in short, that town had more the look of ancient ruins than of a modern fortification, since the treaty of Utrecht. The climate, like the soil, is abominable at Louisbourg: clouds of thick fogs, which come from the south-west, cover it, generally from the month of April until the end of July, to such a degree that sometimes for a month together they never see the sun, at the same time that there is bright clear weather at the distance of two or three leagues from it; and the country to the distance of five or six leagues is a poor, miserable soil— hills, rocks, swamps, lakes and morasses—incapable of producing anything. Although the ground in general of Cape Breton is lean and gravelly, in the tour I made all over the island with the Count de Raymond, then Governor of it, I saw many places capable of yielding rich harvests of all kinds of grain, if cultivated.
We saw the trials that the inhabitants had made even of wheat which promised a plentiful crop.
There is a vast number of beautiful natural meadows with hay above two feet high, which rots every year without being cut; and although we scarce found sixty head of black cattle in all the island, I am fully persuaded that the product of these meadows in hay is sufficient to nourish thirty thousand of them.
But it would not have been for the interest of the Intendants that the island should produce the necessary subsistence of its inhabitants, as the means of their heaping up riches proceeds from the immense number of ships sent yearly from France, loaded with flour and salt provisions, which they embezzle for their profit and often pass them twice in consumation.
This employment, happily unknown in the British Constitution, is the utter ruin of the French colonies, and the hindrance to their flourishing by population, as in the British establishments, by their tyranny and robberies [Appendix - Note 1]. The easy access of the harbour of Louisbourg for the fishing vessels, engaged the French to fix there their principal establishment, preferably to the Bay Espagnol and Port Dauphin, two of the finest harbours anywhere to be found, and capable to contain a thousand ships secure from all the winds of the compass.
M. Franquet, Engineer, Brigadier-General, was sent to Louisbourg in 1750, Director-General of the Fortifications. He passed several years there raising plans, forming projects, concluding nothing , and consequently executing nothing.
He lived in good friendship and harmony with Prevost, the Intendant, enjoying a very large salary, and undoubtedly sharing together the spoils. At length he fixed himself upon a work for Titans:—the removing of mountains—to level the eminences of the Potence and Cape Noir; which, in appearance, was concerted with Prevost to serve them as a milch cow for many years, little imagining the proximity of the war that was ready to break out. The arrival of two regiments from Europe, under Artois and Bourgoyne, the French fleet who brought them being attacked near Newfoundland by the English fleet, who took the man-of-war commanded by M. Hoquart, the French Admiral, were sure prognostics of an immediate rupture with the English, and at length roused Franquet from his lethargy.
But it was now impossible to make solid fortifications, which might have been done during these five years idly and senselessly squandered away. The English fleet having closely pursued the French ships, one of their men-of-war came to entry of the harbour, upon which they fired a cannon at it from the battery upon the island, and it was then that they perceived clearly the dismal situation of Louisbourg: the carriage and the platform flew in a thousand pieces; and if the English had known our position, their fleet might have come into the harbour without any risk from our batteries, not having a single cannon fit to be fired. They might have burnt all the vessels in it and battered the town from the harbour, which must have immediately surrendered. But, luckily for us, they had no knowledge of our infirmities. [Appendix - Note 2]
This alarm had a very good effect. Franquet became stupid, not knowing where to begin reparations, as all was equally in a pitiful condition. Nevertheless, the palisades, platform, and all the cannon-carriages were immediately renewed; the fosses were cleared of the rubbish; a double covert-way was made at the west gate, Port Dauphine; the glacis were repaired; and a half-room, between the Port de la Reine and Cape Noir, was begun and carried on briskly by the soldiers of the garrison.
Fifteen English men-of-war planted themselves before the harbour of Louisbourg, and remained there, like sentries, all the summer of l755, taking all the French vessels from Europe loaded with provisions for the garrison.
Two English sixty-gun ships, with two tenders of about twenty-four guns, stationed themselves, early in the year 1756, before Louisbourg, and took all the French vessels in our sight. A large merchant-ship with eight pieces of cannon, loaded with flour, wine, and salt provisions, was chased by them, but escaped and got into the harbour of Menadon. Upon this news I was detached, with the Chevalier de Chambou, for the defence of the ship, having with us fifty soldiers and twenty cannoneers. The Chevalier was an extremely good-natured man, very brave, but an excessively ignorant officer, and he commanded the detachment. The favorable position of the small creek in the Bay Menadon was so apparent, that in a moment I formed a plan for our defence. I proposed to bring the ship within two points (d d), which are about forty feet high, and about an hundred fathoms distant from each other, instead of having it without them; leave four of the cannons to garnish one side of the vessel moored across, and place the other four, two in battery upon each of the other two points or capes, which flanked the vessel; that would have served as a curtain, and by their height overlooking the English tenders from our two batteries upon them, our musketry and cannon would have swept their decks, aiming at the sailors at the distance of a very small musket-shot, and killing them, as partridges, as soon as any of them appeared for the working of the ship. We had a vidette upon Cape (f) — , opposite to the island of Scattery, with frequent patrols all along the coast to the Bay of Miré, and we were in safety, sheltered behind by the thick woods, well assured that the English would not be so foolish as to expose themselves to be cut to pieces by rashly attempting to cross through them.
The Chevalier Chambou answered me, when I proposed to him this plan, "That the Governor's orders were to defend the ship, and that he knew no other way of defending it than by being aboard of it with the detachment." As ignorance and obstinacy are ever inseparable, it was in vain that I insisted that to follow my advice was the only means of saving the ship; that otherwise we must be taken by the English men-of-war; and I could not even prevail upon him to draw the ship within the two capes, though there was a sufficient depth of water for it: so we all embarked to wait on board the issue of this unequal combat. What a cursed jade is fortune?—Officers of the greatest merit, knowledge, capacity and talent, often pass all their life without meeting with a favourable opportunity of distinguishing themselves; whilst she is continually throwing happy occasions to the ignorant, who cannot profit by them—sometimes, indeed, as a stumbling-block to help them to break their necks.
Next morning, the two English tenders came up the Bay of Menadon to attack us; but, luckily, the first of them struck upon a sandy bank before they had got within cannon-shot of us, which saved us from being taken prisoners in the most stupid and senseless manner. They immediately returned to their former station, at the entry of the Bay, to watch our ship. After being several days at Menadon, always aboard the vessel, and continually in apprehension of a second attack of the tenders to snatch their prey, all of a sudden the two sixty-gun ships passed by the mouth of the bay, steering south, the tenders following them, so that in an instant we lost sight of our guardians that had given me the most lively pain and uneasiness from the beginning of the war. This was owing to our having the appearance of being prisoners, caused by the want of common sense and capacity in the ignorant commander of the detachment.
We could not imagine the reason of their quitting so abruptly the blockade until about an hour after, when we had the joyful sight of two French sixty-gun ships—the "Hero," commanded by M. Bossier, and the "Illustre," by M. Montalley, with two French tenders, one of them commanded by M. Brugnon, attached to the "Hero," and the other by M. de la Rigaudière, attached to the "Illustre," steering their course to Louisbourg, which was five leagues from Menadon.
The English men-of-war, continuing their course to the south, passed by the town, leaving the entry of the harbour free to the French men-of-war, who immediately went in and cast their anchors.
M. Bossier, who commanded the squadron, employed the night in landing every thing that could encumber the ships, and in making all the necessary preparations to fight immediately these English men-of-war. The match was equal.
Having asked for volunteers, all the garrison offered to embark with him, but he only took about two hundred seamen, and next morning went out of the harbour with his squadron in quest of the English ships, who were as yet in sight of Louisbourg, about five leagues south. When he had got to the distance of only half a league from them, he hailed the "Illustre," told Montalley that he was going to begin the dance, and asked if he could count upon him. Montalley replied that the "Illustre" would follow him, and be as soon engaged as the "Hero;" upon which Bossier, in the "Hero," and Brugnon, in the tender, crowded sail, and in an instant begun the fight; whilst the ''Illustre" remained always at the same distance without ever advancing, in order to sacrifice Bossier out of jealousy. Such conduct is happily unknown in the British service, where prompt chastisment is proportioned to crime, without any regard to the position of the parties. But in the French service, where there is neither reward nor punishment, these adventures are common.
Bossier was a man of no family;—a brave, honest and expert seaman, he had pushed himself forward in the service by superior merit and capacity. And such a man is always an eye-sore to the French naval officers, who are mostly men of high families, but greatly ignorant of the science of navigation. In short, Bossier sustained the fight during five or six hours, until his ship was quite shattered and there remained no possibility of working it. All this time Montalley was looking on without coming to his assistance, though he was engaged with two English men-of-war, each of them of the same size and carrying the same number of guns as the "Hero." Upon retiring, M. Bossier passed by the "Illustre," when M. Montalley, perceiving that the two English ships were as much disabled as the "Hero," proposed to him to renew the combat. He answered Montalley, that it was no more in his power to do it, since he had the greatest difficulty to keep the "Hero" from sinking.
Montalley's infamous behaviour was known all over the town so soon as the squadron was anchored in the harbour.
Nevertheless the Governor of l'isle Royale, captain of a man-of-war, and Montalley's friend, patched up immediately a certificate, "That the "Illustre" was becalmed and could not advance to attack the English for want of wind!" The worthy, good-natured Bossier had the indulgence to sign it.
Mr. Parry, lieutenant of one of the English men-of-war, came next day to Louisbourg with a flag of truce. The instant he came out of the boat, he asked us, with vehemence and impatience, "Who was the lion that fought our two ships in such an incredible manner that they were quite disabled—ready to sink, and must have surrendered themselves if the other man-of-war had come up to attack us?"
When M. Bossier was presented to the King, on his return to France, the King remarked, "Bossier, they say that you would have taken the two English men-of-war, if you had been assisted by Montalley ?" Such was his mildness and modesty, at a moment when a single word from him was capable of drawing a terrible vengeance on his adversary, that he answered the King thus—"Sire, the wind failed him, and he suffered all that a gallant man of honour was capable of feeling." It has always appeared to me, that the bravest and greatest heroes are always of a soft and amiable disposition. [Appendix - Note 3]
The miserable and ill-chosen portion of the locale at Louisbourg, commanded by eminences and irredeemable by art, made every one see that their only hope lay in opposing the enemy's landing—which was always, in my opinion, a very feeble resource. To this effect all the garrison wrought hard, early in the year 1757, in retrenching all the bays and creeks of the coast, susceptible of a descent, to the distance of about two leagues from the town. They established, at the same time, signals by smoke in the day time upon the different capes to the distance of Port Toulouse, twenty leagues to the south of Louisbourg; which was done in daylight, by throwing wet hay into the fires that served as night-signals. These signals were to be used whenever they perceived the English fleet. By this means we had the news in a very few minutes of what passed at twenty leagues distance from the town.
M. le Chevalier Beaufremont, now Prince de Listenay, arrived at Louisbourg, from St. Domingo, with five ships of the line; four others, from Toulon, came there soon after him; and at last arrived nine ships of the line from Brest, with Mons. Bois de la Motte, commander-in-chief;—which formed a powerful and beautiful fleet, well equipped, of eighteen men-of-war, besides several frigates from twenty- four to forty guns. It seemed to us but poor policy in the Court of France to send them thus separately in divisions, risking their capture by the English in detail.
Soon after their arrival, the signal of smoke upon the south point of the entry into the Bay Gabarus, announced to us the appraoch of the English fleet. The garrison immediately took arms and marched out to take their different posts in the retrenchments, where they passed the night, and the next day they encamped, leaving a very few troops for the service of the town.
We saw the signal at noon, and before sunset all the English fleet appeared near to our trenches.
We expected they would land immediately, and all our men were in high spirits and well prepared to receive them. The French troops remained encamped on shore in the bays; while the French and British fleets lay looking at each other—one of them within the harbour, and the other at the entry of it.
When the month of September came, the equinox brought the most furious tempest ever known in the memory of man. The sea at the same time rose to such a prodigious height, that Ferdinand de Chambou, the officer on guard at the "Grâve," was obliged to quit his post with his detachment, to avoid being drowned, after standing their ground until the water was up to their knees. It began about twelve at night, and continued with the same force until twelve next day at noon. The evening before being fair, clear and calm, the English fleet was in its usual station near the entry of the harbour, and everybody imagined it impossible for them to get clear of the land and avoid being dashed aginst the rocks: the next morning we expected to see the coast all covered with wrecks.
The inhabitants from the country brought us each moment news of the dismal state of the English fleet. All their ships were shattered and dispersed; five of them were seen together, driving before the wind towards Newfoundland, without masts.
Several others were in the same condition. A fifty-gun ship was lost at the distance of four leagues from Louisbourg; but the crew being saved, a detachment was immediately sent to them to prevent their being butchered by the Indians. In short, it was evident that five French men-of-war, if they had gone out of the harbour in quest of the English, would have been sufficient to pick up and take all that was left of the English fleet.
M. Bois de la Motte held a council of war aboard his ship; but almost all of the council were against the fleet's going out of the harbour.
Prince Listenay insisted on it, without effect. Some said the season was too far advanced to enable them to return; and others, that another storm might happen and reduce them to the same condition as the English. M. Bois de la Motte told them, that he had executed his orders, which were "to save Louisbourg;" and that it was now in safety for this year. Thus they let slip the most favourable opportunity for destroying the English fleet—to the dishonour of the French marine. All the officers of the troops were enraged at the pusillanimity of the countil. An English admiral would have eagerly seized this favour from Fortune; nor, indeed, would he have kept loitering all the summer in the harbour, insulted by an inferior fleet continually in his sight. In war, it is well to know your enemy: but the English act in a contemptible manner, as though they had a thorough knowledge of the French navy.
As the English fleet intercepted all the vessels from France with provisions, a dearth soon began to appear at Louis- with provisions, a dearth soon began to appear at Louisbourg. The French fleet before setting sail for Europe, towards the end of October, left in the King's magazine all the provisions they could spare, reserving for themselves only what was barely necessary to carry them to France. However, this supply was far from being sufficient to remove the horrible prospect of a famine and of passing the winter in want and misery. But we were most agreeably surprised by the arrival of a man-of-war, on the 6th of January, 1758, commanded by M. Doloboratz, loaded with wine, flour, salt meat, and other provisions, and having her cannon in the hold, for ballast. Hitherto it had been thought impossible to navigate in these seas at that season.
Doloboratz brought up positive news that the English were making great preparations for the siege of Louisbourg, and that we should certainly have a visit from them very early in the spring. Thus we often dread what is the farthest from us.
The unlooked-for arrival of that man-of-war produced in a moment comfort and plenty. His report was in effect verified, for the English fleet appeared before Louisbourg at the beginning of June. The English made their descent upon us about the 8th of June. This was performed by them with comparative ease, owing to their pouring a hot fire from their fleet upon our retrenchments, which were defended with the greatest bravery by the troops.
They advanced in their barges towards the two large bays, each of them about a hundred geometrical paces in circumference, and at a place where about thirty boats might enter and land their troops. M. de St. Julien, with his regiment of Artois, was posted in the bay upon the right; and M. Marin, with his regiment of Bourgogne and the troops of the Colony, had the defence of the bay upon the left. There were several small creeks between the two bays, and the whole extent of coast to be defended was about half a league. The English maintained their attack a long time without being further advanced than: the loss of a great number of men, and without being able to force the retrenchments. A struggling barge, that in appearance had been repulsed from the bays discovered a small creek where two boats could enter at the same time. This creek was upon the left of the regiment of Artois, and, through negligence, was left without a guard, although it was so surely comprehended: in the general plan of defence the year before, that in the summer of l757, I was posted there with a detachment. Within the creek the land was at least twenty feet high, and the English troops were obliged to climb it in disorder before they could effect a landing. It was currently reported that two or three Indians, who were there by chance, knocked down twenty or thirty of the first who attempted to climb it.
As it was Indian news, the veracity of it might well have been doubted; although it is certain that, with fifty men, I would have hindered any number from landing at that spot. This barge gave a signal to the others to follow, and at last they all slipped away from the two bays, without being remarked by the French in the retrenchments, until several thousand of English soldiers had been landed and drawn up in battle array, having cut off the regiment of Artois from the rest of our troops.
So soon as M. de St. Julien perceived them, he drew his regiment out of the trenches, formed them in a column, told them that they must cut their way through the English, to rejoin their comrades, or perish in the attempt; and, advancing resolutely, the English suffered them to pass unmolested
The French troops then made their retreat to the town, slowly, and in the greatest order.
The regiment of the Volontaires Strangers arrived from France in time to be present at the descent, as was also the regiment of Cambyse.
Bellestat and Langdale, the two captains of the Grenadiers of Artois and Burgoyne, were wounded and taken prisoners by the English; their two second lieutenants, Savary and Romainville, were killed; Mosque, aid-major of Artois, and his brother, wounded; Brouzede, captain of Bourgoyne, wounded; a lieutenant and five-and-twenty men of the Volontaires Strangers were taken prisoners; two officers of the Colony troops wounded.
It was now that the turpitude of Prevost and Franquet (who had drawn M. Drucourt, Governor of 1'isle Roy ale, into their cabal) appeared plain to all, and drew upon them the maledictions of all the garrison.
They could now make only very superficial works, that might prolong the siege for a short time, but which could not hinder Louisbourg, the key of Canada, from being taken. [Appendix - Note 4]
As all the mason work of the fortifications was crumbled down, he lined the walls with fascines; which was a very poor resource. He made a trench, all along the key from Port Dauphine to the Grâve, with traverses, to shelter them from the enemy's fire. The ends of all the streets were retrenched; and Franquet, after having refused for some years to listen to a project for making a redoubt upon Cape Noir, which he might have made impregnable by cutting and shaping the rock in the most advantageous manner, was at last obliged to have recourse to it, and place there a battery of five pieces of cannon upon the stump that remained of it, to enfilade the English trenches—making a retrenchment of communication to it from the half-moon that covered the "Porte de la Reine," which was only a distance of about fifty paces from Cape Noir.
They sunk five ships at the entry of the harbour: 1'Appollon, 50 guns; la Fidelle and la Chevre, each of 22 guns; la Ville de St. Malo, and an English prize.
There remained five men-of-war, commanded by the Marquis de Goutte,—le Prudent et 1'Entreprenant, of 74 guns each, and le Celebre, le Bienfaisant, la Capricieure, of 74 guns each; with the frigate 1'Arethuse, of 36 guns, commanded by M. Vauclin.
M. de Goutte established himself in the town, with the officers and crews of these five men-of-war, leaving only a small guard on board each of them. They landed at the same time their gunpowder, which they placed in two small buildings, near the Battery Salvere, and made them bombproof, by covering them with tons' weight of tobacco, which was in great plenty at Louisbourg, brought there by the French privateers from the English prizes. Vauclin remaining alone in the Arethuse, which lay armed in the harbour, was useful in the siege, and behaved himself like a lion.
The English opened their trenches about two hundred geometrical paces from the Port Dauphine, covered from the fire of the town by a small curtain or hillock at the foot of the eminence of the Potence. Vauclin, in the Arethuse, approached their works, enfiladed their trenches, and vexed and galled them in such a manner, that they were obliged to stop their work at the trenches and begin to make epaulements to cover themselves from the frigate.
Whenever they opened anew, Boyan Vauclin was upon them; and he drew off their attention for some time from the siege, in order to put themselves in safety from the fire of the Arethuse, by raising batteries aginst it. In short, Vauclin having annoyed the English for a month and retarded their approaches to the town, and seeing that his frigate could no more incommode them, he proposed to the Governor to charge himself with his despatches, with which he would pass through the English fleet and carry them to France.
The Marquis de Goutte, who was present when the proposal was made, told the Governor that Vauclin might still be useful at Louisbourg. "Yes, par Dieu;" replied Vauclin, "if you will give me one of your men-of-war that are laid up doing nothing, you shall see that I will do more with the frigate than I have done yet!"
The Governor gave Vauclin his letters, and the Arethuse set sail for France the 15th of July, where they arrived safely. [Appendix - Note 5]
So soon as the English were landed at the Pointe Plate, they erected a battery of ten pieces of cannon, two mortars of 13 inches, and eighteen mortars of seven to eight inches. All this battery was transported to the following places, viz:—A battery of seven pieces of cannon and two mortars between the batterie Royale and the road to Miry. A battery of five pieces of cannon upon the left of Marquis change;— with a retrenchment between these two batteries.
The sixteen mortars between this last battery and the brook St. Esprit—with a block-house on each side of the road to Miry or Rouille.
A retrenchment upon the left of the brook St. Esprit, below the retrenchment in going to the town—with another retrenchment having a fosse before it.
Upon the left of these two retrenchments, leading towards Gabarus, a battery of six pieces of cannon; and, at its side, a battery of mortars between Gabarus and the Pointe Plate.
Their camp—with four redoubts palisaded.
Another palisaded redoubt—with a boyau extending to the Pointe Blanche.
At twenty-five geometrical steps from it, another retrenchment—with a boyau and a battery of ten pieces of cannon and mortars at this retrenchment, where they opened at first the trenches, and afterwards at two hundred fathoms from the bastion Dauphine. They had likewise several other small batteries and retrenchments.
M. Marin, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of Bourgoyne, commanded a sally from the town with 650 men, on the night between the 8th and 9th of July, with the object of dislodging a post of 900 English who sustained their workmen.
He took prisoner an engineer, a lieutenant of granadiers, and killed, according to the French account, 400 men.
The French lost in that affair Chauvelin, captain in the regiment of Bourgoyne, killed; and Des Maille, captain of the same regiment, wounded; Jarnache, lieut, of grenadiers in Artois, wounded; Garseman, captain in the Colony troops, killed; and 70 privates killed or wounded. It was said that the French killed one another, which often happens in night expeditions.
Next day there was a suspension of hostilities, in order to bury the dead.
The English, in their barges, burnt four of the French ships of the line in the harbour. But it was more surprising that they could find means to suffer the "Bienfaisant," of 64 guns, to be taken and carried off by these barges, whose decks were so prodigiously high above them. This was a subject of great speculation, and it became a problem which they could never solve. The land officers looked upon it with admiration as inconceivable and surpassing their imagination. The barracks, the government house, and the church, were burnt to the ground by the carcasses and bombs thrown continually from the batteries, and according to the loyal English method of destroying the houses, which in no wise can advance the siege, the town was soon reduced to a heap of ruins.
When the Marquis des Herbiers retook possession of l'isle Royale in l749, he established there the most strict discipline, and the service was performed at Louisbourg with as much regularity as in any fortified place in Europe.
This made that town looked upon as the Athens of the French colonies. Joubert, captain of the Colony troops— an officer of the greatest knowledge, and one of the best instructed in the art of war—proposed in l757, in case of a siege, to keep the field with a detachment of volunteers, Canadians, Acadians, and Indians, in order to vex and fatigue the English. His plan was to be always in ambuscade, and fall upon their detachments whenever they approached the woods in quest of fascines, gabions, and other such things necessary in sieges.
His proposal was regarded as well-concerted and useful, and was adopted in the general project of defence. But instead of entrusting the execution of it to Joubert—as he wished that opportunity to distinguish himself and put his theory into practice—M. deVaudreuil, Governor-General of Canada, gave the commission for that operation to Boishebert, a Canadian officer of favour at Quebec, most ignorant and irresolute of any man I ever met with, excepting at pilfering from the King's magazines at Naraghicky, in Acadie, where he commanded.
Boishebert came early in the spring to Louisbourg, with a detachment of several hundred men, twelve Canadian officers with him, and six others from the garrison of Louisbourg. He kept his detachment concealed with such prudence at Miry, during the siege, five leagues from Louisbourg, that neither the English nor the garrison had ever any news of them.
It is a cruel situation for brave men to be shut up within bad fortifications—far worse for them than open fields, where a good general may balance a deficiency in numbers against a wise choice of position. They adopted at Louisbourg the maxim—that men of courage were the best fortifications.
Each cannon-shot from the English batteries shook and brought down immense pieces of its ruinous walls, so that in a short cannonade the Bastion du Roi, the Bastion Dauphine, and the communication between them, were entirely demolished. The cannons were dismounted, all the defences ruined, and all the parapets and banquets rased, and presented the appearance of one continuous breach open everywhere to an assault. Such was their position; and, when reduced to the last extremity, they beat the charnade.
The garrison was made prisoners of war, transported to England, and being soon after exchanged, returned to France. [Appendix - Note 6] The inhabitants, according to the capitulation, were sent to Rochelle.
I append here the English account of what they found at Louisbourg, though it is not just as regards the strength of the garrison. The regiments of Artois and Bourgoyne consisted, each of them, of 500 men and 40 supernumeraries when they arrived complete at Louisbourg in the year 1755; and the Colony troops were for a long time before the siege without receiving recruits.
The defence of Louisbourg, which was invested the 8th of June, and resisted until the 30th of July, did great honour to the garrison who defended it so long with such infamous fortifications.
All the troops behaved themselves with the greatest intrepidity and resolution.
There were no animosities or jealousies amongst the different regiments which composed it, but all of them were unanimous for the common good, and full of harmony and union. It is true, that all of them had the most sovereign contempt for the sea officers of the French squadron, which contempt their dastardly and base conduct justly merited.
Franquet's head quite turned upon his arrival in France, and he died a few weeks after of grief.
From the true and impartial account that I have given of these campaigns in North America, any person without prejudices must see that Fortune constantly fought for the English; while the continual blunders and ill-conduct of the French only served them as auxiliaries.
Were the English prudent and wise, they would avoid war, as it can give them no more than they have; while war, in which prosperity and adversity approach one another so nearly, might tumble them down lower than they have ever yet been. They should not imagine that France will stupidly temporize a second time until all her sailors were prisoners in England; but she would send out, upon the first hostilities, all her frigates and privateers, which if they had done, according to the proportion of the merchant ships of the two nations, there would have been twenty English sailors prisoners in France for one French sailor in England. The attention of the English should be fixed upon the means of preserving their immense conquests, without extending their territory or gratifying their ambition.
Such has ever been the fate of extensive empires arrived at their full ripeness in glory: they have become crushed by their own weight, have dwindled to nothing, and their grandeur has burst amid ruin and destruction.
It is easier to acquire great and extensive territories than it is to preserve them.
Of all the projects for the fortifying of Louisbourg, that of having no fortifications at all, excepting a few redoubts to protect the fishery, always appeared to me to be the most judicious,—transplanting the capital town of 1'isle Royale to some favourable position in the interior of the country, and only by surrounding it with palisades to keep the Indians at a respectful distance. It is now clearly demonstrated, that every town attacked in a regular manner must be taken: in which case it serves the enemy for a retreat, shelters them against surprises, and puts them in a position to defy superior numbers. Such was the idea of Cardinal Ximenes, who destroyed all the fortifications in Navarre, except Pampelune, which was done in the strongest manner. By this means he repulsed the repeated invasions of the French, and preserved that country to the crown of Spain.
The Marshal of Montmorency did the same when Charles V. invaded Provence, and had the same success as Ximenes. Had not Quebec been fortified, the English, notwithstanding their gaining the battle of the 13th of September, must, of necessity, have been obliged to re-embark and evacuate Canada.
They could not have kept the field in that cold country after the month of October, nor remained there cantoned without being certainly cut to pieces by the Canadians and the Indians during the winter.
Thus it is evident that the fortifications of that town, which afforded a safe residence for the English army, and secured them from the attacks of the French, was the sole cause of their becoming masters of that vast country. A victorious army may run over an open country, though it be populous, and make them submit; but without fortified places the conquerors, to be able to keep them in subjection, must have always in their new possession the same army that subdued them
1.—The Intendants of the French colonies have an equal authority with the Governors; but as they are supported by the protection of the clerks of the Marine Office, who are always in society with them and share the pillage, the Secretary of State for the Marine is constantly deaf to the complaints of the Governors. Prevost, the Intendant of 1'isle Royale, was one of the greatest rescals that ever escaped the gibbet; and if he had been poor, they would have rendered him justice in hanging him. On his arrival in France, he was clapped in the Bastile, where he was confined for some time; but as gold there is the favourite idol he was at length liberated without a trial, and is now again employed as Intendant at Port 1'Orient. M. de la Porte, first clerk in the Marine Office for the Department of the Colonies, retired a few years ago with a revenue of 3,000 livres a-year—12,500 guineas English!
How incredibly must the King of France have been robbed, that la Forte's share of the booty, with the Intendant's, should amount to such a prodigious sum! It is a common saying in France, that they only hang the little thieves, and not the great ones. A French author says:— "The Intendants and Governors go to the colonies with the view to enrich themselves, and at their embarking they leave their honour and probity in France, easily forgetting to be just and honest."
2.—M. Guibert says:—"Courage is certainly the true rampart of the towns. They don't reflect enough that there is no defence but that which is offensive and that which multiplies the objects to the besiegers."
The garrison of Louisbourg may affirm, with justice, that they had only Guibert's ramparts for the defence of that town.
3.—M. de la Rigandière, captain of Montalley's tender, hanged himself on his return to Rochefort; so that not a reproach was made to Montalley, who continued to be employed until he perished in Conflan's sea-fight, by tacking without shutting his port-holes. His ship sunk in an instant, and not a man was saved.
4.—What an author says of the Roman Proconsuls and Questors, may be justly applied to the Intendants and Governors of the French colonies;—"Mutual spies upon each other, or accomplices in the same crimes. They cannot be in good intelligence together without ruining the Province, nor disagree without causing in it disorder and confusion."
5.—I bewail, with tears, the sad fate of that unfortunate hero, Vauclin, who having commanded a frigate during two years at the Islands of Bourbon and France with his usual distinguished and remarkably good conduct, on returning to France, by the unjust ill-treatment which he received from M. de Borgues in 1773, then Minister of Marine, he shot himself through the head.
I cannot excuse him for his rashness, as the ingratitude he met with was in common with all good officers in the French service.
6.—Louisbourg surrendered on the 26th of July, 1758.
[MANUSCRIPTS RELATING TO THE EARLY HISTORY OF CANADA. RECENTLY PUBLISHED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE Literay and Historical Society of Quebec. Second Series, Volume 3 (PRINTED BY MIDDLETON & DAWSON, AT THE "GAZETTE" GENERAL PRINTING ESTABLISHMENT. 1868 - Reprinted for the Society by T. J. Moore & Company Limited, Quebec, 1927), pp. 1-26 - http://books.google.com/books?pg=RA1-PA22&id=LH41AAAAIAAJ#PRA1-PA2,M1 ]