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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

Selections from the Reports of the Public Archives of Canada (1872-1972): 18th Century Isle Royale and Cape Breton Island


Eric Krause

April, 2002

Krause House Info-Research Solutions

Report of the Archivist ~ 
History of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton  (1744 - 1763)

... Wilst peace existed in Europe between France and Britain, hostilities were continued in North America as if the two nations were at open war. In the spring of 1745, formal hostilities having been resumed in Europe in 1744, an expedition was sent to capture the fort of Louisbourg on Cape Britain, which was a standing menace to Nova Scotia and New England, and Shirley urged the matter on the legislature of Massachusetts with all the influence at his command. The task of capturing the fort was laborious, and the fatigues involved in preparing for the attack were very great; some account of these will be found in the preliminary report on Archives for 1886, to which reference may be made. It may be added that the garrison was in a state of revolt caused by the retention of part of the pay which they had been promised, that the provincials were brave but undisciplined and that the weight of metal for the defence of the fort so far exceeded that of the besiegers that but for the heavy guns of the ships of war it is doubtful if Louisbourg would have fallen. On the 18th May, in answer to a summons to surrender, De Chambon, the commander, refused to do so until after a most vigorous attack. Less than a month later (16th June) the place had fallen, which put an end to projected attacks on Annapolis and other parts of Nova Scotia. Louisbourg was held till, by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, The promotions, arrangements for defence, changes it was restored to the French. in the governors and other dealings with the new acquisition will be found noted in the calendar ["Calendar of papers relating to Nova Scotia, 1703-1801," Report of Canadian Archives 1894 (Ottawa: Dawson), pp. 1-573]. Events leading up to the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, and subsequent events relating to that subject are also so fully noted in the calendar that it is not necessary to dwell on them; a careful study of the abstracts, with documents otherwise available, will enable a dispassionate inquirer to arrive at a fairly correct view of the situation of the two parties in the transaction.

The preparations for attack by both sides went on vigorously from the date of the capture of Louisbourg. On the one side it was proposed to attack Quebec, and on the other a harassing series of hostilities was kept up against Nova Scotia. On the 9th April, 1746, the Duke of Newcastle wrote to Pepperrell that five battalions under St. Clair had been sent for the reduction of Canada, giving orders at the same time that Pepperrell's and Shirley's regiments were to be kept in Louisbourg whilst the expedition was in progress. During the winter of 1745-6 the mortality in the garrison was serious, 1,200 having died; those who survived till spring recovered and reinforcements had arrived, but the state of the fort of Louisbourg was very bad, repairs requiring an immense expense. By September these had been completed, but the garrison was again in a bad state of health, caused, it is supposed, by the bad water, and the mortality was great. The timely arrival of the French fleet under d'Anville would, in the opinion of all the officers, have secured the recapture of Nova Scotia. but a heavy gale off Sable Island wrecked some of the ships and scattered the others, so that when d'Anville arrived at Chebucto, that is Halifax, but few of his vessels were with him, and he died, it is said, from grief at the loss of his fleet and at the report that heavy reinforcements had arrived for the support of Nova Scotia. The early reports did not give intelligence of the subsequent movements of the fleet, which it was reported was to winter at Chebucto and fortify it, and Shirley wrote on the 7th October to Admiral Knowles that if the French took Nova Scotia they must be driven out or they would become masters of the continent. It was on the 12th of November that Mascarene, writing to the Secretary of State, reported the fate of Destourmel, who succeeded d'Anville, and becoming crazed committed suicide. In the same letter he reported the attack on, and successful defence of, Annapolis and the retreat of the French fleet. In a letter of the 20th January, 1747, Admiral Knowles reports to the Secretary of State the wonderful snow fall, which may be true but is very improbable. The passage is given in full in the calendar. An examination of the calendar will show the activity on both sides in attack and defence, in the midst of which it is complained that the traders of New York were supplying the French with stores, to the great hurt of the other colonies.

It was on the 24th of May, 1748, that the Lords of Trade wrote to Mascarene that preliminaries of pence had been signed at Aix-la-Chapelle. In spite of this, however, the British officers complained that the French from Canada were still engaged in hostilities in Nova Scotia and Mascarene reports on the 17th October, that by the cession of Louisbourg by the treaty the French will be in the same position as at the beginning of the war and that from their experience they will take bettor measures to repossess themselves of Nova Scotia. For the correspondence with La Galissonière and other French officers, see enclosures in Mascarene's letter of 30th October and onward. The settlement of accounts for the expenses of the war, for losses by the inhabitants and other claims occasioned correspondence which will be found calendared, as well as proposals for settling the lands in Nova Scotia and arrangements for shipping emigrants to fill up the lands; many of these emigrants were reported to be worthless, who were the most troublesome and mutinous.

Notwithstanding the peace, the correspondence shows that hostilities continued and that the French laid claim to the lands on the Bay of Fundy, had erected forts and were establishing settlements on the St. John River; Cornwallis asserts that the ostensible attacks by the Indians were in reality expeditions sent from Canada, consisting chiefly of Canadians disguised as Indians. Cornwallis sent Cobb to attack the Indians assembled at Chignecto preparing to march on Halifax, with instructions to arrest Le Loutre, the priest, for whose capture the crew was to receive £50, and a reward of £10 was to be given for every Indian prisoner or scalp taken. Reference to the calendar for the year 1750, in relation to the settlements, obtaining of emigrants and the continuous hostilities in Nova Scotia is all that can be said here, in view of the necessity for restricting the length of the report. Notice may, however, be taken of the appointment of Shirley and Mildmay to settle the boundary and other disputes with the French, the instructions to whom, which are updated, are placed at the end of the calendar for 1750, that being from internal evidence the proper place for them. Whilst peace existed in Europe war continued with vigour in North America and negotiations were carried on with the Indians to secure at least their neutrality, if their assistance to the British could not be obtained. During the course of the war, for it had really become so, the traders in the colonies, for whose defence so large an expenditure was incurred, were according to report by Cornwallis of 3rd November 1751 supplying Louisbourg with flour and other stores, without which it must have been abandoned, taking their pay in rum and molasses, which they smuggled into the provinces and thus evaded the duty. For some years the correspondence shows the efforts made for settlement, the revolt of the Germans at Lunenburg, the opening up of means of communication throughout the province and the constant conflicts with the French. On the 9th of August, the Lords of Trade sent to the Secretary of State a plan for the concerted action by all the colonies in America to resist the encroachments of the French, it being understood that as soon as they were fairly intrenched at Louisbourg they would attack and take possession of Nova Scotia, Lawrence, writing on the 12th of January, 1755, speaks only of their determination to make themselves masters of the Bay of Fundy.

On the 28tb of June of the same year, Lawrence reported as the result of the expedition against the French, for which preparations had been actively carried on for some time, that the French fort of Beausejour had surrendered on the 16th of that month, after four days' bombardment, followed next day by that of Fort Gaspareau; on the 18th July, Lawrence wrote that the French had abandoned their fort on the St. John and demolished it, burst their guns, blew up their magazines and burned everything they could. On the 18th of October, be urged the necessity of building forts at Chignecto and on the St. John to secure them against future attempts of the French. During the progress of hostilities the question of calling together a House of Assembly was discussed, to which attention was directed by the Lords of Trade on the 25th of March, 1756, their Lordships holding that whatever the difficulties of calling an Assembly, such a step would be a less evil than the illegal passing of laws by the Governor and Council. The composition of the Assembly was pointed out in that letter, a landed qualification, however small, being considered requisite for both electors and elected, the general method of conducting business to be on the model of the Assembly of New Hampshire. To these proposals Lawrence objected representing on the 3rd November, 1756, that a House of Representatives would, at the Moment, create beats, animosities and disunion, but the want of an Assembly was felt by the inhabitants of Halifax to be a grievance and was so represented in a memorial of the 10th of February, 1757. It was not before repeated complaints were made and emphatic orders sent by the Lords of Trade, that an Assembly was called; resolutions to this effect passed by the Governor and Council, it was complained by Belcher, had not been carried into effect. On the 9th of November, 1757, Lawrence refers to a letter from the Lords of Trade, that does not appear among the State papers, that he is glad to find that their Lordships agreed that the circumstances of the times operated against the calling of an Assembly, but that if they so ordered it, he would not delay to have one convened. On the 22nd May, 1758, Lawrence reported to the Lords of Trade that he had made arrangements for an Assembly, which was to meet on the 2nd October and on the 26th September, he reported that he bad received leave of absence from the army to attend the :6rst meeting, which began on the 2nd October and lasted till the 17th of the following April, a delay of which Lawrence complains, and which be attributes to the jealousy of interference on the part of the Council.

The reference to the capture of Louisbourg in 1758 is so slight in the papers that it seems unnecessary to dwell on that important event in the history of Nova Scotia, which did not, however, at once secure peace to the inhabitants as the outlying settlements still continued to be harassed for some time after the surrender of Montreal in 1760 and before the definitive treaty of peace in 1763. Correspondence on the operations before Louisbourg is contained in documents among the Archives and in "Collection de Manuscrits," vol. IV. published by the Government of Quebec in 1885. The work of settling the lands, making roads and other improvements were in progress and the reports to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel speak in hopeful terms of the advance made in the means of religious training. On the 9th of July, 1762, Belcher reported that the French bad taken Newfoundland, a somewhat exaggerated account; on the 18th September following all the places taken were given up and by the treaty of Paris of 1763, section IV., France abandoned all pretensions to the territories of " Nova Scotia, or Acadia, in all its parts, and garanties the whole of it, and with all its dependencies, as well as the Island of Cape Breton, and all the other islands and coasts in the gulph and river St. Lawrence," etc. ...

Extracted from the Report of Canadian Archives 1894 (Ottawa: S. E. Dawson, 1895), pp. xii-xv)


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