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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 15, 2003)
During the summer of 1744, Louisbourg “hosted” several hundred English prisoners taken in the late-May attack on Canso or on board prizes made by the town’s privateers. As prisoners of war, the prisoners were the responsibility of the French government, and the unexpected influx created headaches for Louisbourg officials in terms of housing, rations and security.
extent to which prisoners may have been confined in the prison or casemates it
not known, but officials also rented at least three private warehouses to hold
them, including that of Town Major Eurry de la Perelle. Louisbourg’s isolated
location made escape unlikely. The slim chance of a concealed departure on a
French vessel was further restricted in mid-August with the stopping of coastal
trade into the port to prevent possible captures by New England privateers.
limited need for rigorous confinement seems to have given even common prisoners
some measure of mobility in the town. For example, Thomas Tipple, a private from
the Canso garrison, was recruited into Joannis d’Olobaratz’ privateer
Cantabre while drinking in a tavern. When he subsequently repented his
action, he had no problem in re-entering and leaving the “prison” in a bid
to revoke his enlistment.
and gentlemen were naturally a different class of prisoner altogether. Upon
receipt of their word (known as a parole) these prisoners could seek private
accommodation in the town and enjoy relative freedom of movement. Typically,
prisoners on parole had to promise not to try to escape before being exchanged
and not to act against the interests of the king holding them. Governor Shirley
noted that the officers held at Louisbourg “live at their own Expence”. For
an example of a parole, see the attached transcript of a parole from 1757 for a
French officer given a conditional release to go from Boston to Louisbourg.
thirty years of trade with New England the general situation and condition of
Louisbourg’s defences was well known to the English. Yet in the fall of 1745,
Governor Shirley obtained the most recent news on Louisbourg’s fortifications
and garrison from several returning prisoners, including Lieutenant John
Bradstreet of the Canso garrison and Lieutenant George Ryall of the Royal Navy
detachment that had over-wintered at Canso.
Louisbourg experience shows that prisoners were expected to respect the
conditions of their parole. Shortly after his arrival in the town, a valuable
des Indes vessel arrived in port. Learning that six more vessels were
expected, Ryall determined to smuggle the news to Governor Shirley at Boston and
to Annapolis Royal. “But by the Infidelity of the person [he] brib’d”,
Ryall’s letters were delivered to Governor Duquesnel instead. Ryall was then
put in prison and “used Ill till the time [he] Came away” as part of the
September prisoner exchanges with Boston. Seemingly undaunted by his stay in
prison (or perhaps inspired by it) Ryall reported that he “brought home a
draft of the Harbour Town and Coast.”
example of a parole found in the Admiralty Papers of the Public Record Office:
I the Count Roberent Do hereby acknowledge myself to be a Prisoner of War to His Britannic Majesty Returning to Louisbourg on my Parole of which Parole I promise the strictest observance, and Declare that I will not Act Directly or Indirectly against His Britannic Majesty or His Allies until I am properly Exchanged as a Prisoner of War.
Given to His Excellency Governor Pownall in Boston New England November 7th 1757.
Comte derobierent [signed]
Au regt. de Löwendal