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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


Final Research Report 
[Great Britain]

[Selections from the Report]

H H 3


Julian Gwyn

July 1, 1964 - June 30, 1965

Fortress of Louisbourg

[Editor's Note]
The following is an extraction of interesting comments from the Report

[To ascertain which repository yielded Louisbourg material for the Fortress of Louisbourg Collection, please check the following databases:  




4. Significant Finds:

There were two types of significant finds that could be made: those of more immediate value to the Project. which related directly to the physical nature of the Fortress of Louisbourg and to the topography of the area of the town; and those of more general value which related to the general history of Louisbourg and Cape Breton.

Now as the primary purpose of the British research program was to locate documents relating to the physical nature of the Fortress of Louisbourg, the success of that program must primarily be judged by the amount of information of this nature which was uncovered,, At once it must be seen that disappointingly little information about the physical shape of the Fortress of Louisbourg has come to light which was not already known to the F.L.R.S. It was only in W.O. 49/284 and 285 that something of this kind was found.  These two volumes provided slim details of construction work carried on at Louisbourg between 6 September and 31 October, 1746.

However,, when we consider the significant finds which relate to the general history of Louisbourg and Cape Breton, there is a great deal to report.

This series contained the correspondence of Admiral Lestook, commander of the expedition to Cape Breton and Quebec in 1746. It also included the papers of the commanders-in-chief of the North American station from 1745 onwards, which for the years 1745-1749, 1755-1760 in particular contained much information about Louisbourg. This series also included a copy of a description of Louisbourg, and a report on the fisheries of Cape Breton in 1739. Some of the papers of Commodore Warren, the first British Governor of Cape Breton, were also found in the series, together with many letters of William Shirley connected with the preparations for the siege of Louisbourg in 1745, and some written from Louisbourg after its capitulation. Finally, this series contained the British navel intelligence reports dealing with the French fleets in North American waters from 1755 onwards.

This series contained the declared accounts of a number of individuals connected with the history of Cape Breton: Messrs.. Baker, suppliers to Louisbourg from 1746 to 1749; Messrs. Colebroke & Nesbitt, contractors to Louisbourg from 1759 to 1767; Brig. James Ogilvie for expenses relating to Louisbourg in 1798 and 1799; Admiral Knowles as Governor of Cape Breton from 1746 to 1747; Joseph DesBarres as Lieut. Governor there from 1784 to 1787; Lieut. General Macarmick, Lieut. Governor there from 1787 to 1795; Lieut. General Nepean, Commander-in-Chief  of Cape Breton in 1812 and 1813; Richard Spiller, agent for Cape Breton from 1784 to 1797; George Isted, agent there from 1798 to 1820; Thomas Hopson, Governor of Cape Breton from 1747 to 1749; John Kirkland, agent for Nova Scotia and Cape Breton from 1822 to 1827; John Cathcart, agent for the St. Clair-Lestook expedition to Cape Breton and Canada in 1746; and finally Maj. General Despard,, for expenses in Cape Breton from 1800 to 1807. 

This series contained the account books of Samuel Holland, who in 1764 and 1765, carried out a survey of Cape Breton, as the first phase of his survey of British North America. 

This series contained some of the Council Minutes, shipping returns and. financial statements for Cape Breton, between 1784 and 1808. 

This series contained a copy of the Knowles-Bastide account of the state of the fortifications of Louisbourg prepared in 1746. There was also a considerable quantity of documents of the British naval and military commanders relating to the abortive attempt on Louisbourg in 1757 and to the successful siege in 1758 (vols. 48, 50, 53, 212-214). Here too were to be found papers, relating to the first British occupation of Louisbourg 1745-1749 (vols. 44-45). Of the great body of papers of the American colonies, the most important from the Project's viewpoint were those relating to Massachusetts' involvement in the taking of Louisbourg in 1743 and the business arising from that siege (vols. 753, 808-814). the Shirley papers (vols. 900-901), and the New Hampshire Assembly minutes (vols. 933, 963-964). 

This series contained a body of letters from the inhabitants of Louisbourg, taken from a French vessel in 1755 (vol. 38).

This series contained many of the pay lists and receipts a for the garrison of Louisbourg in 1759 (vols. 396-397), together with the victualling lists for Cape Breton and Isle St. Jean from 1759 to 1761 (vols. 398-399, 406).

This series contained much correspondence relating to the exchange of prisoners of war in 1759 and 1760. Enclosed in this correspondence were lists of prisoners taken when Cape Breton and Isle St. Joan capitulated in 1758, and giving their places of  imprisonment in England and Ireland (vol. 863).

This series contained two volumes of particular interest.

The first (vol. 1813) was an ordnance letter-book covering the years 1745-1749, all the letters of which referred to Louisbourg, The second (vol. 2281) was a list of maps in the possession of the Ordnance Office in the 18th Century of which about 15 related to Cape Breton and Louisbourg.

It should also be noted that the very mass of detail about Louisbourg and Cape Breton uncovered in such a wide variety of official records, is significant for Canadian historiography. Never before has there been undertaken such intense research into the "Canadian" materials at the P.R.O. for the 18th Century. Nor has any Canadian research project made such wide use of sources at the P.R.O. for  this collection program has reached far beyond the usual bounds which the Canadian historian has set himself, bounds clearly demarked by the papers of the Colonial Office, Admiralty and War Office. As a consequence, our knowledge of how widely scattered are the important references to 18th century Canadian history has been greatly extended.


1. County Archives:

It was estimated that 14 of the Country Record Offices in England possessed documentary collections of interest to the Project. Visits were made to all but four: Kent, Dorset, East Riding of Yorkshire, and Hintingdon. Those Record Offices to which visits were made produced the following, main results:

This record office possessed the Lucas papers whose chief interest were the letters of Elizabeth, Lady Anson, written between 1755 and 1758 to Jemima, Marchioness of Grey, which included various references to the war in America, with specific mentions of Louisbourg.

This record office possessed the Duke of Buckingham's papers,, which were largely those of Robert Revor, English representative at the Hague during the War of the Austrian Succession. These papers are meant to have been calendared by the H.M.C. Only photostats of the letters mentioned in that calendar  were obtained. Before this considerable collection is studied properly, the State Papers for Holland will have to be researched particularly for the years, 1745-1748. Only then will the part played by Cape Breton in the international affairs of that time began to be understood.

This record office possessed the papers of William Mildmay, one of the two commissioners appointed in 1748 to treaty with the French in an attempt to define the boundaries of Nova Scotia. These papers were largely copies of documents relating to the history of the disputed boundary.

This record office possessed the papers of Hans Stanley, sent to France in 1761 to negotiate peace with France.. The future of Cape Breton played some part in his negotiations.

This record office possessed the Dacarette family papers in the Gorhambury collection. The Dacarettes were merchants at Louisbourg, deeply involved in the illicit trade with Now England.

This record office possessed the Isted family papers. George Isted was Agent for Cape Breton from 1798 to 1820.

This archives possessed the papers of the Staunton Charlton. Job Staunton Charlton was Clerk of Deliveries at the Office of Ordnance in the middle of the 18th century.

This archives possesses the papers of Lord Arson, It was the papers of his wife, Elizabeth, that proved of most interest, with their frequent references in 1758 to the war in America.

This record office possesses the papers of the Earls Albemarle. Augustus Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, was comander-in-chief of the North American station in 1754 and 1755.

In addition, a visit was paid the East Sussex Record Office at Lewes, but it possessed nothing of interest to the Project.

2. Private Muniment Rooms:

At the moment it is estimated that about 30 private muniment rooms in Great Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands contain documentary collections of interest to the Project. However, access to only four of these has so far been obtained. These were:

This is the home of the Earl Spencer. The only document of interest was a report on Cape Breton apparently written In 1797 and sent to Earl Spencer, then First Lord of the Admiralty. Permission to photocopy this document was refused, and there was insufficient time to make a copy of it by hand.

This in one of the homes of the Duke of Buccleuch. His documentary collections include some of the papers of John, Duke of Motagu, Master General of Ordnance to 1749. In the collection were two letters written by Knowles to Montagu in 1747. 

This is another of the houses owned by the Duke of Bacclauch. His documentary collection there includes more of the papers of the Duke of Montagu an well as the papers of Charles Townshend. The Montagu papers contained a number of letters written from Louisbourg in 1746 and 1747, while the Townshend papers contained a number of reports on Cape Breton written between 1745 and 1766.

This is the home of Victor Montagu, formerly Lord Sandwich, formerly Lord Hinchingbrooke. His collection contains the papers of John, 4th Earl Sandwich who was very much involved in the various attempts to settle a peace with France from 1746 to 1748, and who subsequently became First Lord of the Admiralty. These papers throw some light an the international difficulties created by the British capture of Louisbourg in 1745.

3. University Libraries and Other Institutions

At present it is estimated that more than 20 British Universities and other institutions possess documentary collections of interest to the Project. Of these so far 14 have been visited with the following results:

The chief collection of interest was the papers of Sir Robert Walpole in the Cholmondoley (Houghton) muniments.

Among the few items of interest here the most valuable was probably the report prepared in 1712 by Robert Mears for the Board of Trade on the advantages and disadvantages to France and Britain were Cape Breton to be returned to the French. The Department of Manuscripts also possessed a letter-book of a Quaker merchange in London, Robert Plumstead, which book contained several Louisbourg references.

The collection of main interest to the Project here were the Andrew Brown papers. These consisted of transcripts of original documents together with notes in preparation first for a history of Nova Scotia, and secondly for a general history of British North America.

It was the Newcastle manuscripts that were of main interest to the Project at this Department of Manuscripts. Here the papers of Henry Pelham and his brother, Thomas Pelham-Holles, first Duke of Newcastle, that were most fruitful.

Though there was a single letter of interest among the Dashwood papers, the chief interest of this archives from the Project's viewpoint was in the North papers. These documents relating to the periods 1758-1763, referred to the period when Lord North was one of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations.

This repository possesses, among the Bute papers, a signed plan of the military operations in North Americas following the siege of Louisbourg in 1758.

This institution possesses a letter dated June 1745 written from Louisbourg by Lt, Col. Arthur Noble.

The chief collection of interest were the Hay papers among the Yester muniments. These contained among other things, the papers of Lord Charles Hay, who was appointed to serve under Loudon at the siege of Louisbourg in 1757. As a result of Hay's subsequent court martial there is a mass of information about that abortive expedition. In addition there were the Sinclair papers, which included the papers of General James St. Clair, commander of the 1746 expedition to Cape Breton and Quebec. Finally this archives possessed a Micmac religious mss. by Antoine Simon Maillard.

There were few 18th century North American papers at this archives, There were three item of interest, two referred to Cape Breton in 1798-1799, and a third to the state of the fisheries in Newfoundland in 1760.

It was the Duke of Cumberland's papers that were of interest here. Only papers for the period 1749-1765 were searched. Of these the most interesting were the despatches sent by Loudom to Cumberland In 1756 and 1757.

This repository possesses the most interesting "Journal containing the Manner, Method and Execution of the Demolition of the Fortifications of Louisbourg." This was kept daily by company of miners responsible for the demolition in 1760. Here also are some of the letters of Col. Williamson, the commander of the Royal Artillery in North America from 1757. Also found there was a 1758 pamphlet entitled, "An Authentic Account of the Reduction of Louisbourg ..."

This repository possesses four volumes of original. letters of Admiral Holburne which shed some light on his activities in 1757. More important was the "Journal of Lieut. Gordon ... during the siege of Louisbourg in 1758". There too are some of the papers of John, Duke of Montagu, Master General of Ordnance to 1749.

This archives possesses the Dartmouth manuscripts., Most of the Canadian material formerly in this collection has apparently been deposited in the Public Archives of Canada,  though a few items of interest to the Project remain at Stafford and deal with the period after 1768.

This repository contains several collections of interest to the project: 

G.D. 18 contain letters from Matthew Clerk who went on the Holburne-Loudon expedition in 1757; 

G.D. 21 has informtion about the 29th Regiment sent from Gibraltar to Cape Breton in 1745;

G.D. 45 has much information about the 17th Regiment which was involved both in the 1757 and 1758 expeditions to Louisbourg; 

G.D, 105 have some letters of Capt. Robert Duff of the ROCHESTER written from North American waters in 1757; 

G.D. 110 contain letters from Capt, John Suttie written from Louisbourg between 1746 and 1748.

This depository possesses some of the papers of Admiral Peter Warren, which form part of the Gage collection, Most of these papers refer to Warren's estates,, but there vas a letter-book containing his correspondence mainly in 1746 together with one letter written by Messrs. Baker Warren early in 1745.

In addition, whilst in Edinburgh I checked for Louisbourg material at the Scottish United Services Museum, but found nothing there of interest.


2. Maps, Plans and Sketches:

It was one of my concerns to locate manuscript maps, plans and sketches of Louisbourg and Cape Breton. Consequently whenever I visited a County Record Office, University Library or other institution, inquiries about such maps, plans and sketches were invariably made.

Manuscript maps,, plans and sketches of interest to the Project were located at the following depositories:

Descriptions of those items from time to time have been forwarded to the F.L.R.S. Positive and negative photographs of these items have been ordered.

Moreover two interesting manuscript volumes listing 18th Century maps were discovered at the P.R.O. They were:

This consisted of a list of manuscript maps and plans in the possession of the Office of Ordnance in the 18th Century. Of these about 15 related to Cape Breton and Louisbourg.

This consisted of a similar list of manuscript maps and plans but belong to the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, under the care of their draftsman, Francis Assiotti, in 1780. About 12 of the item related to Cape Breton and Louisbourg.


my only venture into the realm of the numismatists resulted from my discovery that Britain's leading dealer, A.H. Baldwin Sons Ltd. of London, were offering for sale a bronze medal struck in 1758 in memory of the surrender of Louisbourg. The F.L.R.S. were immediately informed of this though no purchase resulted.


5. Louisbourg Colours

My original instructions encouraged me to make an attempt to discover the fate of the French colours captured at Louisbourg in 1758, brought to England and hung with great ceremony in St. Paul's Cathedral in September of that year. On the theory that the colours remained In St. Paul's until they were removed in 1852 in preparation for the Duke of Wellington funeral research was concentrated in the mid-19th Century. At the P.R.O. the following volumes were searched:

None of these volume shed any light on the question. A visit was made to the Library of St. Paul's Cathedral to consult the minutes of the Chapter there. This too revealed nothing.

It perhaps would be a good idea to prepare a question concerning the colours and submit the question to the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research in the hope that some reader can supply a clue to the answer.


4. Lesser Archives ...

Lothian mss calendared in the Report on the Manuscripts of the Marquess of Lothian (H.M.C. 62) (1905). Refers on pp. 239-240 to a letter from Montcalm to Bernier, Ministre de Marine, dated 4 Aug. 1757, with a mention of Louisbourg. A Kept at Melbourne Hall, Derby.

Cathcart papers owned by Earl Cathcart, Sandridge, Stoke, Gabriel, Devon. Papers relating to the Quebec expedition, 1759 with mention of Louisbourg. Report on the defence of Canada, 1763; Comnonplace book about Canada generally. Generally the papers of the 8th and 9th Earl Cathcart are useful from the military and political viewpoint. (N.R.A. 3946) A


Bathurst papers owned by the Earl of Bathurst, Cirencester Park. See Francis Bickley (ed.)s Report on the Manuscripts of the Earl of Bathurst (H.M.S.O. 1923). On p. 682 of this report is found a letter from the Duke of Richmond to his brother Lord George Lennox, dated 21 Jan. 1758, which mentions the preparations for the expedition to Louisbourg. Now at the moment the Bathurst
papers have been transferred to the P.R.O. but there is some dispute which prevents the papers being used by the public. To search this collection the permission of the Earl of Bathurst has first to be obtained. A


Corporation of London Records Office, Guildhall, E.C, 2 contains the Journal of the Common Council with a loyal address on the capture of Louisbourg, 1758. (C & A p, 186) A

In the XIIth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Appendix IX (1891) there is calendared the mss. of R.W. Ketton Esq. These mss are now owned by R. W. Ketton-Crewer, Esq., Felbrigg Hall,, Norfolk. On p. 209 of the report there is an anecdote of Wolfe at Louisbourg in 1758, from the diaries of the Right Hon. Wm. Windham for October 1772. A


The Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Earl of Denbich in the VIIIth Report of the H.M.C., Appendix III (1881) refers to a letter from Lord Westmorland to Denbigh, 26 April 1748, in which the fate of Cape Breton at the peace conference at Aix la Chappelle is discussed [no. 570a] A

The manuscripts of the Marquess of Lansdowne at Bowood, Calne, Wilts. were calendared in the Vth Report of the H.M.C., Appendix 1 (1876). The Shelburne mss.. which formed part of this collection are now in the William Clements Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan. There seems to be some papers still at Bowood of interest to the project. See pp. 219,223, and 225 of the above report for papers relating to Cape Breton. In vol. 77 of the Lansdowne memo there in a description of Cape Breton made in 1767. A

The Manuscripts of the Marquess of Bath were calendared by the Historical  Manuscripts Commission in 1904. The calendar refers on p. 228-229 to a letter from the Duke of Shrewsbury to the Earl of Oxford, dated 8/19 Jan. 1713 in which Cape Breton is mentioned A The papers are at Longleat, Warminster.


The East Riding Record Office at Beverley, Yorks. possesses:


b. du Cane Mss. have been calendared by the H.M.C. in 1905 (Report on the Manuscripts of lady du Cane. From this it appears that there are about 15 letters concerning the movement of troops from Gibralter to Louisbourg in 1745-1746. see pp. 42, 45, 47, 60-62, 69-70, 83-86, 112-113, 123-125, 126-127, 158-159. A

The Carlisle Mss were calendered by the H.M.C. in 1897, in their XVth Report, Appendix Vi. On p. 212 of that report is found a letter dated 24 Aug. 1758 referring to the success at Louisbourg. Papers now owned by Major Geo. Howard, Castle Howard, Malton, Yorks.

Andrews papers, owned by C.K.C. Andrews, Esq., Hill Brow, Brompton, Northallerton, Yorks, contain one document relating to the siege of Louisbourg in 1758 (C & A p. 458) A


Forbes Mss., owned by Lord Sempill, Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire, were  calendared in the Vth Report of thee H.M.C. (1876). They contain (p. 628) a mention of Louisbourg in a letter from Mitchell at Breslau, 8 Jan, 1759. A

Milne Home Mss. were calendared by the H.M.C. In 1902. In the Report was found a letter from Capt. (Afterwards Admiral Sir) David Milne to George Home of Wedderburn, written from Picton, Gulf of St. Lawrence, 17 Sept. 1818, and refers to the fortifications at Louisbourg as being "still formidable, and might be gain repaired." pp., 175-176 - no. 352). Now, the Milne Home papers, formerly at Wedderburn Castle, are now in the Scottish Record Office and In the possession of Messrs. Hunter, Harvey, Webster, Will W.S. Edinburgh [see p. 84, 24th report of the H.M.C.] A


The papers of Mrs. M. Clements, Spring Hill, Moneymore, co. Londonderry, were calendared by the H.M.C. in 1913 (Report on Manuscripts in Various Collections, vol. VIII). On pp. 437-438, it is reported that at the British camp at Goesfeldt, 24 Aug. 1758, there was a "feu de joye" to celebrate the capture of Louisbourg. A