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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


An Introductory Manual for Staff at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site



The military side of 18th century Louisbourg is probably more familiar to more visitors than any other aspect of the town's history. Books and articles on the Anglo-French struggle in North America invariably list the two sieges, in 1745 and 1758, as being important events in determining the outcome of that conflict. Images of Louisbourg as a magnificently (and expensively) fortified town, which fell to the English through a combination of luck, cunning and velour, seem to abound in the public mind. And of course the description chosen for the historic park, the "Fortress" of Louisbourg, has tended to reinforce the public's perception that in the 18th century Louisbourg was above all else a military site.

In light of the visitor interest in and knowledge about the military history of Louisbourg, it is essential that all who work here possess a basic understanding of the town's "fortress" side. To begin, we will look at the fortifications.

Louisbourg as a Fortified Town

As in the 18th century, so today, the degree to which one is impressed by Louisbourg's fortifications depends largely on what other fortified places one has seen. The New Englanders who besieged the town in 1745 thought the place was a formidable bastion of strength, which made their accomplishment in taking it that much greater. But then, few of the New Englanders had probably ever seen a fortification more elaborate than a blockhouse, or a stockade fort or a simple earthwork battery. European visitors to Louisbourg, on the other hand, undoubtedly saw the town as a rather simply-fortified place, in comparison with the elaborate fortresses of the continent. All of which brings us to our first points:

- by European standards, Louisbourg was fairly small and lightly defended

- in the North American context, Louisbourg was one of the largest and most impressive military works.

Louisbourg's defences were conceived and built according to the general fortification principles of the era, which had been perfected in Europe by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), chief engineer of Louis XIV. (There is a portrait of Vauban hanging above the fireplace in the Duhaget House Theme Lounge).

The Engineers

At Louisbourg, responsibility for designing the fortifications (as well as for laying out the town and for designing all government structures) was given to members of the French Corps of Engineers. Trained as architects, they enjoyed the status of an elite corps. The chief engineers at Louisbourg were:

Jean Francois de Verville - beginning in 1717, laid out the trace (plan) of the fortifications and then supervised construction.

Etienne Verrier - succeeded Verville in 1725; remained as chief engineer until 1745, overseeing the construction of landward and seaward fortifications, the lighthouse, and many king's buildings.

Louis Franquet - served at Louisbourg during the 1750s (at which time he was made responsible for the fortifications of all of New France), submitted numerous proposals to improve the town's defences, but the only projects carried out were relatively modest ones.

Assistant engineers worthy of mention are Pierre-Jérôme Boucher, who served in Louisbourg from 1717 to his death in 1753, and Jéan-Baptiste de Couagne, who built the Rodrigue house within the reconstruction.

The Defences

When the French first settled in Isle Royale, Louisbourg was considered to 81/4/1 42 be too difficult and too expensive to fortify. The terrain in the area was simply not suitable, being both marshy and without a dominant height of land upon which to establish a commanding position. However, as soon as it became apparent that Louisbourg was the largest and most important settlement on the island (for fishing and commerce), the decision was made that it should also become the administrative centre and stronghold of the colony.

The initial trace for the fortifications was laid out by Verville in 1717, taking advantage of the heights of land located on the peninsula. The plan he adopted called for a system of mutually flanking bastions connected to each other by curtain walls. Work on the landward front commenced at the King's Bastion in 1719, and moved next to the construction of the Dauphin Demi-Bastion and then to the Queen's Bastion and Princess DemiBastion, the latter being completed in 1740.

Until the experience of the 1745 siege taught them otherwise, Louisbourg's engineers felt that an attack from the landward side of the town was unlikely. They believed that the craggy coast and marshy terrain near Louisbourg ruled out an assault from that direction. As a result, they left unfortified a series of hills well within cannon range which commanded the town. During the 1750s Louis Franquet proposed a number of different ways to reduce Louisbourg's vulnerability to an assault from these positions, but few of his ideas were carried out (due to a shortage of time and money). In the end the modifications which were undertaken made little difference in helping the fortress withstand the second siege.

The Construction

Working from plans drawn by engineers, civilian contractors from France constructed the fortifications and king's buildings in Louisbourg. Most of the labourers were soldiers (who were paid extra for such work), though skilled tradesmen were imported for the more difficult tasks. Similarly, most construction materials and tools, as well as the horses and mules required for hauling, had to be transported from France. Numerous entrepreneurs profited hansomely from the business of supplying the needed materials, animals and manpower.

Construction work at Louisbourg was plagued by two major problems: poor mortar and a changeable, damp climate.

Mortar problems:

- limestone used to make lime mortar had a relatively high sandstone content, which made weak mortar

- sea salt in the sand was not completely leached out, so that mortar did not set properly.

Climatic problems:

- there is no season free from high humidity

- short working season

- mortar would not dry in dampness

- frost/thaw cycle disrupted most construction jobs

Because of these problems the French were forced to carry out an unceasing round of repairs. Rough casting, or the reapplication of mortar to masonry, was tried but found to be ineffective. Finally, it was decided to revet the walls with planking nailed to beams set in masonry and held by iron clamps (the Quay wall is done in this fashion). Another important technique was to seal the stones around the embrasures with crampons and to cap the merlons with a layer of sod.

The Cost

While many have remarked about the expense of fortifying Louisbourg, the total spent by the French in any one year never exceeded the cost of outfitting a large warship for a 6-month patrol of these waters. In return, France got a naval port, a base for her fishery, and a commercial centre which returned much wealth to the mother country. According to J.S. McLennan, the expenditure on Louisbourg's fortifications during the period 1714 to 1758 was slightly over four million livres (or roughly 200,000 pounds in English currency during that era).


BANQUETTE. A step running inside the parapet for the troops to stand on while firing over the parapet.


BARBETTE. A platform on which cannon are placed to fire over the parapet.

BASTION. A projecting part of a fortification, usually having two faces which are connected to the curtain walls by two shorter walls called flanks.


DEMI-BASTION. A bastion having only one face and one flank.

BATTERIE. A number of guns placed regularly for combined action; also a platform where cannon are placed within a fortification.

BREASTWORK. A fieldwork of earth thrown up breast-high, a sort of makeshift parapet.

CAPONIER. A passage made in a dry ditch from one work to another; a structure to provide flanking fire to cover the ditch.

CASEMENT. A vaulted chamber built into the rampart.

CAVALIER. A heavily constructed structure, generally raised 10 to 12 feet above the body of other works, to command the adjacent works and the country about it. A battery, protected by stone parapet, is often located on its flat roof.

COPING. The uppermost course of masonry on a wall, usually sloping to avoid accumulation of water.

CORDON. A round projection of stone near or on the top of walls and escarp to obstruct scaling ladders.

COUNTERFORT or BUTTRESS. A solid piece of masonry built behind the walls to strengthen them; often placed at 18 foot intervals.

COUNTERSCARP. Wall of the covered wall, on the outer side of the ditch.


COVERED WAY (CHEMIN COUVERT). A kind of road around the fortress on the outer side of the ditch which is protected by a small parapet created by the glacis and equipped with a banquette for the infantry to cover the glacis.

CURTAIN. The part of the fortification which connects two bastions.

DITCH (FOSSE). A large, deep trench made around the whole body of works, generally 15-18 feet deep and 50-100 feet wide. Earch excavated from this trench serves to raise the ramparts, parapets or glacis. When it contains water, it is called a wet ditch. Most engineers preferred dry ditches because of maintenance problems. The ideal solution is where the ditch can be inundated during a siege 46

EMBRASURE. An opening made in a parapet for cannon. They have widening angles from within to allow maximum sweep while affording cover for the cannoneers.


ENCEINTE. The entire system of walls comprising the fortifications.

ESCARP. The exterior face of the rampart. GLACIS. A gentle, sloping earthwork, commencing from the covered way and stretching towards the countryside.

GUERITE. A shelter for sentries.

DEMI-LUNE. Originally a crescent-shaped earthwork to protect the front of a curtain or flank a bastion. Later evolved into a detached bastion.

LOOPHOLE. A narrow vertical opening, normally wider on the inside, for musket fire.

MERLON. The summit of the parapet between two embrasures.

PALISADE. Strong, pointed wooden stake. A number of them fixed deep in the ground and in close proximity create a defensive work. Often placed parallel to the covered way on the glacis.

PARAPET. A defence of earth or stone to cover the troops and armament from the enemy's fire and observation.

PLACE D'ARMES. Essentially any place where the troops may gather.

POSTERN. A tunnel, serving as a means of access to the ditch or outerworks.

RAMPART. A mound of earth for the defence of a place and capable of resisting artillery fire.

REDOUBT. A detached work beyond the glacis, but within small arms' reach; small self-defensive, heavily constructed works without flanking protection, and located at strategic points.

RE-ENTRANT ANGLE. Angle created by the joining of the flank of a bastion with the curtain.

REVETMENT. A retaining wall of masonry supporting the face of the rampart.

SALIENT ANGLE. Angle created by the joining of the bastion's two faces.

SALLY PORT. An opening in the main body of the fortified works to allow passage of troops.

SHOULDER ANGLE. Angle created by the joining of the face and flank of a bastion.

TENAILLE. A low rectangular work in the ditch for musket fire.

TERREPLEIN. Level surface of a rampart between the parapet and the rampart's slope or talus; also the level surface enclosed by a bastion.

TRAVERSE. Obstruction placed on the covered way to hinder enemy movement and to protect covered way from enfilading fire.


Like all fortified towns in the 18th century, Louisbourg required a large garrison to man its gates and guardhouses and to patrol the streets and walls.

During the 1740s soldiers comprised about one-quarter of the town's total population; in the late 1750s the figure may have been as high as one-half. The sizeable military presence undoubtedly left its mark on the civilian inhabitants.

Virtually wherever one went in the town one would have either seen or heard activities which told you that you were in a fortified place, whether it was sentries posted in front of various king's buildings, or detachments of soldiers moving through the streets or the almost hourly use of drums. The many garrison routines, together with the impressive fortifications surrounding the town, must have given a feeling of order and security to all who lived there.

The Activities

Since the emphasis here is on official military duties, it must be admitted at the outset that throughout most of Louisbourg's history a majority of the soldiers worked at non-military tasks, namely at construction work. Having acknowledged that fact, we shall now turn to the more strictly military activities.

First and foremost, the soldiers were there to defend the colony of Isle Royale (meaning, of course, not just the inhabitants and their property, but also France's economic, commercial and strategic interests in the region). Duties which the Louisbourg soldiers were typically called on to perform so as to meet the goal of defending the colony were:

i) doing guard duty (guardhouses at gates and elsewhere, from which sentries were posted)

ii) serving on town patrols

iii) being part of detachments or expeditions (chasing deserters, reinforcing one of the smaller garrisons, attacking the enemy, etc.)

iv) standing guard on ships anchored in the harbour

v) doing basic drills

The activity which receives the greatest stress in our animation program is that of doing guard duty. There were five guardposts within the town of Louisbourg, and separate guards were mounted at the Royal and Island Batteries. The guards were changed daily, following inspection and review by senior officers. Officers, sergeants, corporals and squads of soldiers each drew for their guardpost assignment.

All of the guards, including the officers, were expected to remain near the guardposts, fully clothed and with weapons at hand. Sentries stood watch at key points in the fortress and in front of certain government buildings. In summer, they were relieved every two hours; in winter, at the discretion of the town major. While not on sentry duty, the guards were often kept busy cutting wood or cleaning the guardrooms.

The Units

Between 1713 and 1758, seven different military units served in the Louisbourg garrison. They were:

Compagnies Franches de la Marine

- independent companies of Marine troops; no regimental structure

- served at Louisbourg from 1713 to 1758

- number of companies and company size varied over the years

- by the 1740s there were eight companies in the garrison with 70 men in each company; not all of them were stationed in Louisbourg, some served at Port Dauphin and Port Toulouse

- during the second French occupation of Louisbourg there were 24 companies with 50 men in each company.

Regiment de Karrer

- mercenary unit of predominately Swiss and German soldiers

- first contingent (50 men) arrived in Louisbourg in 1722

- by 1744 there were 150 men in the detachment at Louisbourg, which represented one-half of Colonel Career Company at Rochefort

- had special privileges accorded them in their contract with the king

- identified as ringleaders of 1744 mutiny

- did not return to Louisbourg during the second occupation.


- artillery specialists

- company officially formed in 1743, consisted of 30 men and two officers

- did not participate in the 1744 mutiny

- during the second occupation there were two companies, with 60 men in each.

Regiment de Bourgogne

- regular infantry regiment

- one battalion (520 men) arrived at Louisbourg in 1755

Regiment d'Artois

- regular infantry regiment

- one battalion (520 men) arrived at Louisbourg in 1755

Regiment de Cambis

- regular infantry regiment

- one battalion (680 men) arrived at Louisbourg in 1758, just before the siege

Regiment des Volontaires Etrangers

- regular infantry regiment

- one battalion (680 men) arrived at Louisbourg in 1758, just before the siege.

The Chain of Command

During the 1740s the positions in the Louisbourg garrison, with their monthly pay given in parenthesis were as follows:

- Gouverneur (or Commandant) (750 livres)

- Etat-Major: Lieutenant de rot (150 livres)

Major de place (100 livres)

Aide-Major ( 90 livres)

Garçon major - Capitaines ( 90 livres)

- Lieutenants ( 60 livres)

- Enseignes en pied ( 40 livres)

- Enseignes en second ( 30 livres)

- Sergents ( 13 livres)

- Caporeaux ( 6 livres)

- Tambours - Soldats (1 ½ livres)

- Cadets ( 10 livres)

Living Conditions

While the living conditions of the soldiers might seem unpleasant by modern standards, they were not harsh for the 18th century.

The men were housed principally in the barracks of the King's Bastion, with 15-20 men to a room and two to a bed. Their rations were as follows:

bread - one 6 livres loaf every four days

salt meat - 4 onces per day, issued every two weeks

vegetables - 4 onces per day, issued every two weeks

butter - 1 livre per month

soap - 2 livres per year

wooden combs - 2 per year

thread - 1/8 livre per year

Soldiers could supplement their rations by hunting or fishing in season. Meals were cooked communally, probably in the form of a stew, among seven or eight men.

There were often complaints that the supply of firewood for cooking and heating was not adequate.

The 1744 Mutiny

Talk of the soldiers' living conditions inevitably leads to a discussion of the mutiny which occurred in late December 1744.

The incident which sparked the mutiny was the issuing of rotten vegetables (from the Magasin du Roi) to the troops while good ones were being sold to the townspeople. Other grievances included demands for the promised distribution of the spoils from the capture of Canso, for an increase in the firewood allotment, for full uniforms to be given to the 1741 recruits and for an end to work without wages. The mutiny began as a simple show of strength to back these demands, but quickly developed into a fullscale protest. Although bloodshed was avoided, a strong undercurrent of resentment towards the officers emerged. However, within a few days, with the granting of a few material concessions and a promise of amnesty for the ringleaders, the officers were able to convince their men to submit to their authority and to a return to the status quo. Unfortunately for the mutineers, the promise of amnesty was later judged to have been given under duress and at least thirteen men were found guilty of mutiny and sentenced to death following the garrison's return to France in 1745. Eight were executed, two died in prison, two were sentenced to life terms on the galleys and one escaped.

The mutiny has often been interpreted as a reaction to years of exploitation of the soldiers by the officers of the garrison. Recently, however, it has been argued that the mutiny represented more of a protest against recent developments in garrison life than against traditional practices. One of the most important of these developments would seem to have been the decrease in construction work during the 1740s, entailing as it did the loss of additional income for the soldiers. That loss in income must have been a great disappointment to the soldiers, perhaps so great that when the series of incidents (poor quality food, no Canso booty as promised, etc.) occurred in 1744, the men finally protested their lot in life by mutinying.



It is not as easy as one might expect to be precise about the number of cannons at Louisbourg at particular points in time. The information is either incomplete, or there are conflicting details. Nonetheless, we can present a general interpretation.

In January of 1719, a list was written which stated the number and type of cannon which were present in Louisbourg:

(a) iron cannons

36-livre cannon - 9

24-livre cannon - 10

18-livre cannon - 12

12-livre cannon - 7

8-livre cannon - 8

6-livre cannon - 4

unserviceable cannons - 19

(b) iron mortars

9 pouces mortar - 1

Since the work on the fortifications in Louisbourg was Just beginning in 1719, it is impossible to say where the cannon would have been placed within the fortress.

Up to and including 1744, the various governors and commissaire-ordonnateurs of Ile Royale were petitioning the Comte de Maurepas, the Minister of the Marine, for more cannons. Their requests, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears since Maurepas refused to issue more artillery.

It is difficult to ascertain a description of the quantity and placement of artillery pieces for the summer of 1744, though we know that there were in excess of 110 cannons in the town. Estimates for areas most commonly animated are as follows:

King's Bastion

18-livre cannon - 6

Dauphin Bastion

battery 24-livre cannon - 10

barbette 12 or 6-livre cannon - 6 (iron, French; facing fauxbourg)

6-livre cannon - 3 (brass, Englishd; facing harbor)

Royal Battery

36-livre cannon -28

Island Battery

24-livre cannon -32

9 pouces brass mortar -2

Pièce de la Grave

36-livre cannon -12

24-livre cannon -6

Maurepas Bastion

12 pouces brass mortar -2

The Queen's Bastion was protected with 24- and 18-livre pieces while the Princess Demi-Bastion relied on smaller 8- and 6-livre cannons.

In 1758, as in 1744, Louisbourg was again thought to be without a sufficient quantity of artillery. Additional cannons were brought to the fortress from outlying settlements and they were strategically spread throughout the town. For an analysis of their placement at bastions and batteries, the reader is referred to Tim Le Goff's report, Artillery at Louisbourg.

An unspecified number of cannon were also located along the north-east and south-west coast at places such as Flat Point, White Point, Kennington Cove, Lorraine and Black Rock. These pieces gave an approximate total of 168 cannons, plus an unspecified number of mortars.

No matter the year, the cannon in use in Louisbourg were, for the most part, mounted on marine carriages. They varied in size from 2-livre to 36-livre, with mortars varying from 6 to 12 pouces. The mortar platforms were made from wood with iron fittings. All artillery pieces were applied with tar and red ochre paint for preservation.


(A) Calibers:

As already stated, cannons at Louisbourg ranged from those firing a 2-livre shot to those firing a 36-livre shot. Due to discrepancies in measurement between the English "pound" and the French "livre", the two terms are not equivalent. (In fact, after the first siege, the English identified Louisbourg's 36-livre pieces as 42 lb guns). As well, the French were grouping English 24, 26 and 32 pounders and calling them 24-livre cannon. Therefore when discussing weights of shots, it is important to specify the difference in measurements.).

(B) Bombs and Shots:

Louisbourg had a full array of ammunitions in 1744; varying from 2 to 36-livre two-headed shots and grape shot that were fired from the cannons, to bombs and hand grenades that were to be used in the firing of mortars.

Two methods were employed in charging cannons with black powder. The first was to simply scoop loose powder into the barrel. This allowed the gunners to modify the size of the charge as required.

A second method called for the use of a preformed charge. Such standard charges for cannons were called gargousses. They were made of linen, paper or parchment. Usually weighing one-third the mass of the ball, they contained gun powder. These gargousses were used when the canonneers were required to engage in rapid firing.

When firing the cannon, the gunners could substitute the iron ball with a cartousse. The cartousse for the most part was made of wood or tin and contained small lead balls, nails, and pieces of iron. Restricted by limited range, this shrapnel shot was effective against troop formations.

Although the French did not use heated shots at Louisbourg prior to 1756, they suffered greatly from them at the hands of the British during the first siege. This type of shot required an extra thick wad to prevent the heated ball from prematurely igniting the charge. A typical wad included a sod on top of the powder and a wooden wad on top of that.

The two-headed shot was also fired from the cannon, and was made of either two half balls connected by an iron bar or two whole balls connected by a chain. Quite often when firing at ships, the cannon crew would wrap the bar in linen so that the charge would catch fire. This would not only destroy the ship's rigging, but might also set the vessel on fire.

Although the balls could theoretically be reused again after having been fired, they were useless if they had been damaged in any way. Any damage to the shape of the ball would allow for some of the force of the charge to escape from around the ball. This, in turn, would make the ball very difficult to aim.

(C)  Mortars:

There were two basic types of mortars used in Louisbourg. The first, a mortier à tourillon (trunnioned mortar), was much like a cannon in that it could be angled on its trunnions. This gave the gunners maximum control over the muzzle elevations.

The second a mortier à plaque (cast mortar), was cast whole with its carriage and set at a permanent elevation of 45 ; this being considered the proper elevation to achieve maximum range. The only way to change the range of this piece was to vary the amount of powder used in its firing.

Although these two were the main types of mortars used at Louisbourg, during the 1745 siege, there were a number of pierriers used. These were mortars designed specifically to fire containers of stones, similar to grapeshot cartousses. They proved quite effective in harassing New England work crews constructing batteries during the first siege.

The bombs used in the mortars in Louisbourg were a hollow, cast iron sphere, with a hole in the top for inserting gun powder. There was a ring placed on either side of the hole to make it easy to handle. As well, it was made thicker at the bottom than at the top. The two reasons for this were: (1) it helped to absorb the shock of the explosion and (2) it prevented the bomb from landing on its fuse, thus extinguishing itself.

The average size of a charge used to make these bombs was one livre of powder for 9-pouces mortar and three-livres of powder for a 12-pouces mortar.

The fuse of the bomb was made of a cone-shaped piece of dry wood, usually willow, which extended one and a half inches from the top of the bomb. To load the mortars, first the charge was inserted. This charge was usually 15 livres of powder for 12-pouces mortars and 13 livres of powder for 9 pouces mortars. This was then covered with a wad before inserting the bomb, which would in turn be surrounded with dirt to help keep it upright. The fuse was then ignited, followed by the mortar charge, with the time between the two varying with the distance where (and when) one wanted the bomb to explode.

Duchambon gave provisional estimates of the quantity of gun powder required to fire the artillery in Louisbourg in 1744. Based on each cannon requiring 50 rounds, the total amount for all the pieces of ordinance in the garrison was approximately 56,880 livres.

(D) Weights and Ranges:

The chart below provides information about the approximate weights and firing ranges of various iron cannons at Louisbourg. It should be noted that the range of artillery pieces was severely limited by visibility. In fact, practical ranges for most cannons were no more than about 3000 feet. Beyond this range, it was difficult to determine if the cannon shot was hitting its actual target. As well, a more accurate second shot was impossible if the location of the original range shot was undetermined.



Feet (Meters)
750 (229)
? ?
1000 (305)
1125 (343)
2000 (610)
2000 (610)
1500 (457)
Elevation (degrees)
15 (degrees)
8450 (2575)
? ?
9360 (2853)
10,075 (3070)
? ?
10,850 (3300)
? ?

N.B. 1 mile = 5280 feet


The best known aspect of Louisbourg's history is undoubtedly the fact that the 18th century town suffered defeat in two sieges. Images of British troops landing at Kennington Cove, New Englanders advancing through bog and brush, cannons firing, walls tumbling, and general death and destruction within the town seem to abound in the public mind. Needless to say, many of the perceptions are more romantic and picturesque than they are historically accurate.

The outlines below should give you a basic understanding of what happened in each of the two sieges.


The first siege occurred during the War of the Austrian Succession (which is known in the United States as King George's War). The war began in Europe in 1740, but it did not directly involve the people of Louisbourg until the spring of 1744, when France and England declared war on each other.

Following the declaration of war in 1744, the French attacked and captured Canso, besieged Annapolis Royal twice, both times without success, and engaged in a summer-long privateering war with the English. French aggressiveness during the summer of 1744, together with reports of a disaffected garrison and fortification weaknesses at Louisbourg, prompted Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts to advocate making an assult on Louisbourg in 1745. Initially there was opposition to the scheme, but by playing upon New England's military fears, economic jealousies and religious antagonisms, Shirley and his supporters won support for their proposal.

New England, led by Massachusetts, raised an army of over 4,000 men for the expedition against Louisbourg Placed in command was William Pepperrell.

Great Britain promised naval support and New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania gave money, arms and supplies. The expedition sailed to Canso in April 1745 where they prepared for the assault. For a while drift ice blocked the approaches to Louisbourg and to Gabarus Bay, the proposed anchorage. But by 6 May 1745, the troop assembly at Canso was completed, the British naval squadron of Sir Peter Warren had arrived and Gabarus Bay was free of ice.

On the eve of the first siege the situation on each side was:


- approximately 500-600 soldiers and 900-1,000 militia
- no naval support
- low morale among the troops following the mutiny
- Royal Battery in need of repairs
- hills dominated the town and Royal Battery


- approximately 4,000 soldiers;
9 regiments from Massachusetts,
1 regiment from Connecticut,
1 regiment from New Hampshire
- strong naval support from British squadron under Sir Peter Warren, as well as armed New England vessels (over 100 in total, including transports)
-good morale, at the beginning

The highlights of the 1745 siege were as follows:

May 7 - French ship evaded the British and New England blockade to enter Louisbourg harbour. Du Chambon, the acting commandant of the colony (Duquesnel having died in late 1744), finally received confirmation of the blackade and made hasty preparations to resist an attack by sea.

May 11 - New Englanders landed virtually unopposed at Freshwater Cove, after having feinted a landing at Flat Point. French force sent to oppose the landing was too small and too late. Royal Battery ordered to be abandoned.

May 12 - Royal Battery evacuated in the early morning, with the cannon there being spiked.

May 14 - New England artillery was landed at Flat Point and transported to Green Hill. Several of the French guns at the Royal Battery were cleared and fired against the town.

May 30 - French man-of-war Vigilant was captured following a fight at sea.

June 6 - Amphibious New England assault on the Island Battery failed with heavy loss of life.

June 21 - New England battery on Lighthouse Point opened fire.

June 24 - Island Battery was silenced by New England fire from its Lighthouse Point Battery.

June 26 - All firing ceased while the French considered the terms of surrender put forth by the English.

June 27 - Surrender terms agreed upon; siege officially over. French capitulated with the honours of war.

June 28 - New England army took possession of the town and the Island Battery. They entered through the Queen's Gate, with flags flying, drums beating and trumpets, flutes and violins playing.


The second siege occurred during the Seven Years' War (which is known in the United States as the French and Indian War). The conflict began officially in 1756, when England and France declared war on each other. In North America, however, the hostilities commenced in 1754, with 1755 witnessing (among other things) the English capture of Fort Beausejour and the beginning of the expulsion of the Acadians.

The formal outbreak of war in 1756 coincided with a change in the British government, which placed Prime Minister William Pitt in control of the British war effort. Pitt adopted a policy which aimed to win a definite victory in North America.

The first direct impact which the war had on Louisbourg were British blockades off the Isle Royale coast, which aimed to disrupt commercial, fishing and naval traffic to and from the port. Then in 1757, over 6,000 British troops assembled at Halifax, with the idea being that an assault would be made on the capital of Isle Royale. However, the late arrival of Admiral Holbourne's squadron at Halifax and the presence of a large fleet at Louisbourg prevented any land operations against the fortress town that year. But Holbourne was able to blackade Louisbourg until a mid-September storm dispersed his fleet.

The major outcome of Admiral Holbourne's operations was the intensification of French efforts to improve Louisbourg's defensibility. During the summer of 1757 a number of coastal defence works were constructed to the east and west of Louisbourg, with the intent of preventing enemy troops from coming ashore at all. Then, in early 1758, the regular garrison was increased (by nearly 1,400 infantry troops) for the second time since the hostilities had begun.

On the eve of the second siege the situation on each side was:


- approximately 3,500 soldiers and 400 militia, under the command of Governor Drucour
- naval support: 2-74 gunships; 3-64's; 1-50; 2-30's; 2-16's (estimated 3,870 officers and men if at full complement)
- good morale


- over 13,000 troops, under the command of Major-General Geoffrey Amherst
- naval support: 1-90 gunship; 1-84; 1-80; 2-74's; 4-70's; 3-60's; 3-64's; 6-60's; 2-50's; 2-32's; 3-28's; 2-24's; 3-20's; 1-18, plus smaller vessels and transports.
-Navy under the command of Admiral Boscowen.
- good morale

The highlights of the 1758 siege were as follows:

June 2 - British forces arrived in Gabarus Bay.

June 8 - After being almost beaten back, Brigadier Wolf's division effected a landing at Kennington Cove. French retired to Louisbourg and destroyed the Royal and Lighthouse Batteries.

June 9 - British established their camps at Flat Point and undertook formal siege procedures against the town.

June 19 - First British battery, on Lighthouse Point, opened fire. This 63 time the assault concentrated first on knocking out the Island Battery.

June 25 - Island Battery silenced, but French warships in the harbour deterred the British fleet from entering the harbour.

The British then concentrated their assault on the Dauphin Gate area. The French frigate Aréthuse hindered those operations from a position off the Barachois until a British counter battery forced its withdrawal.

July 6 - Aréthuse forced to withdraw.

The French also harrassed the besiegers with several sorties and there was constant skirmishing between the respective outposts. Lord Dundonald, to whom a cairn has been erected, was killed in a July 9 sortie.

July 15 - Aréthuse escaped the harbour and eluded the blockade.

July 21 - A British shell started a fire among the French men-of-war anchored near the quay. The fire destroyed three of the remaining five ships.

July 22 - King's Bastion barracks hit and burned.

July 25 - A British naval cutting-out expedition captured or burned the last two French ships. At the same time, the siege batteries were completing a breach in the walls.

July 26 - The Louisbourg garrison surrendered, without the honours of war.

The deciding factors in 1745 and 1758 were the besiegers' naval and land superiority. Like any fortified town, Louisbourg would eventually fall to a larger besieging force unless relief arrived. The distance (in both time and space) to the nearest French stronghold which might come to Louisbourg's aid was great, and that fact, combined with British naval supremacy, ultimately sealed the fate of the fortress town. There were definite defects in Louisbourg's fortifications and the besiegers were given the time to exploit those weaknesses.


Virtually wherever the French settled in North America they sought to cultivate friendships and alliances with native people as an essential part of their overall defence strategy. Certainly, that was the approach followed in Isle Royale after the colony was established in 1713.

When the settlement party from Placentia explored all the different anchorages of Cape Breton during the summer of 1713, they found between 25 and 30 families of Mi'kmaqs living on the Island. Over the next few years additional Mi'kmaqs (from the mainland) came to the island, though the total aboriginal population on Isle Royale seems to have never exceeded 250 persons. A nomadic people, they were based at Mirligueche, near Port Toulouse (St. Peter's). Only occasionally did Mi'kmaq representatives visit Louisbourg.

There were two main reasons why the French were able to gain the Mi'kmaqs as their allies not only on Isle Royale but elsewhere in the Maritime region (the total native population is estimated to have been about 3,500, with over 600 warriors). First, the missionaries of Isle Royale and Nova Scotia were generally accepted and trusted by the Mi'kmaqs who, by the 18th century, were deeply attached to the Roman Catholic faith. The missionaries, of whom Abbes LeLoutre and Maillard are the best known, were consequently able to act on behalf of royal officials as negotiators, organizers and leaders among the natives. Second, the French treated the Mi'kmaqs with respect, as important allies rather than as a subservient people. Each year, the alliance between the two peoples was renewed in a formal ceremony at which native chiefs and French officials exchanged gifts and assurances of mutual trust and loyalty. This event normally took place in June or July at either Port Toulouse, Port Dauphin or Port-la-Joie (Charlotte/own). The most important parts of the ceremony were the speeches and the feast, at which the French reciprocated Indian gifts of wampum, pipes, furs and tobacco with blankets, clothing, fabrics, muskets, gunpowder, shot, tools and utensils. Over the years these exchanges became increasingly expensive to the French (from 2000 livres in 1716 to 6000 livres in 1749), but there was never a suggestion that the cost was not worth it. As military allies, the Mi'kmaqs were too important to the French for the latter to risk losing their support.

Some of the points to be aware of when discussing the Mi'kmaqs are:


- the Mi'kmaqs are one of the tribes of Algonquin culture

- they are native to the Atlantic Coastal region

- in the pre-European contact period they had a stable society, characterized by seasonal migrations and a successful exploitation of the resources around them

European Contact

- society changed with introduction of trade with Europeans (tools, weapons, food, etc.)

- brought about change in hunting habits (concentration on smaller game for fur trade), in diet (resulting in disease), in culture (Catholic faith, etc.), in technology

- acculturation created stress

- massive depopulation - more than half died.

18th Century

- military allies Or French (deliberately kept French uncertain)

-annual exchanges and ceremonies

- increased dependence on European goods; mixed material culture (such as clothing)

- converted to Catholicism, missionaries as the liaison

- proud people, especially an warfare 66

- warriors represent a guerilla strike force

- based at Mirligueche in the Port Toulouse area.

Mi'kmaq Animators at Louisbourg

- represent military scouts who have come to the capital of Isle Royale to pass on information to military officials; thus tied very closely to the particular events of the summer of 1744 (expeditions to Canso and Annapolis Royal).

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