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Lost for Ever, 1758 

The ten years of the second French regime in Louisbourg were divided into very different halves. During the first five years, from 1749 to 1753, the mighty rivals were as much at peace, all over their conflicting frontiers, as they ever had been in the past. But from 1754 to 1758 a great and, this time, a decisive war kept drawing continually nearer, until its strangling coils at last crushed Louisbourg to death.

Three significant events marked 1749, the first of the five peaceful years. Louisbourg was handed over to its new French garrison; the British founded Halifax; and the Imperial government indemnified New England in full for the siege of 1745. Halifax was intended partly as a counterpoise to Louisbourg, and partly as a place-d'armes for one of the two local footholds of British sea-power, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which, between them, narrowed the French line of communication with Canada into a single precarious strait. The New England indemnity was meant, in the first instance, to be a payment for service done. But it was also intended to soften colonial resentment at the giving up of Louisbourg. A specially gracious royal message was sent to 'The Council and Assembly' of Massachusetts, assuring them, 'in His Majesty's name, that their conduct will always entitle them, in a particular manner, to his Royal favor and protection.' This message, however, did not reconcile the Provincial army to the disappointment of their own expectations. Nor did it dispose the colonies in general to be any the more amenable to government from London. They simply regarded the indemnity as the skinflint payment of an overdue debt, and the message as no more than the thanks they had well deserved. But the money was extremely welcome to people who would have been bankrupt without it. Nearly a quarter of a million sterling was sent out in 217 cases of Spanish dollars and 100 barrels of coppers, which were driven through the streets of Boston in 27 trucks.

The next three years in Louisbourg were completely uneventful. The town resumed its former life, but in a still more makeshift fashion. Nobody knew how long the truce would last; and nobody wanted to take root commercially in a place that might experience another violent change at any time. Nevertheless, smuggling flourished as vigorously as before. British shipping did most of it. Many vessels came from England, many from Boston, some, and very active ones, from Halifax. Joshua Mauger smuggled from France to Louisbourg, from Louisbourg to 'Mauger's Beach' near Halifax, and from Halifax all over Acadia and the adjacent colonies. He also supplied the Micmacs with scalping-knives and tomahawks for use against his own countrymen. He died, a very rich man, in England, leaving his fortune to his daughter, who, with her spendthrift husband, the Duc de Bouillon, was guillotined during the French Revolution.

The officials were naturally affected by the same uncertainty, which made them more than ever determined to get rich and go home. The intendant Bigot was promoted to Quebec, there to assist his country's enemies by the worst corruption ever known in Canada. But the new intendant, Prevost, though a man of very inferior talent, did his best to follow Bigot's lead.

French regulars still regarded the Louisbourg routine as their most disgusting duty. But it became more tolerable with the increase of the garrison. The fortifications were examined, reported on, repaired, and extended. The engineers, like all the other Frenchmen connected with unhappy Louisbourg, Bigot alone excepted, were second-and third-rate men; and the actual work was done as badly as before. But, on the whole, the place was strengthened, especially by a battery near the lighthouse. With this and the Island Battery, one on either side of the narrow entrance, which the Royal Battery faced directly, almost a hundred guns could be brought to bear on any vessels trying to force their way in.

The end of the five years' truce was marked by voluminous reports and elaborate arguments to prove how well Louisbourg was being governed, how admirably the fortifications had been attended to (with the inadequate means at the intendant's disposal), and how desirable it was, from every point of view, for the king to spend a great deal more money all round in the immediate future. Fisheries, shipbuilding, fortification, Indians, trade, religion, the naval and military situation, were all represented as only needing more money to become quite perfect. Louisbourg was correctly enough described as an indispensable link between France and the long chain of French posts in the valleys of the Mississippi and the St Lawrence. But less well explained in America and less well understood in Europe was the fact that the separate military chains in Old France and New could never hold an oversea dominion unless a naval chain united them. Some few Frenchmen understood this thoroughly. But most did not. And France, as a whole, hoped that a vigorous offensive on land would more than counterbalance whatever she might lose by an enforced defensive on the sea.

In 1754 Washington's first shot beyond the Alleghanies broke the hollow truce between the French and British colonies, whose lines of expansion had once more inevitably crossed each other's path. This proved to be the beginning of the last 'French and Indian War' in American history, of that 'British Conquest of Canada' which formed part of what contemporary Englishmen called the 'Maritime War,' and of that great military struggle which continental Europe called the 'Seven Years' War.'

The year 1755 saw Braddock's Defeat in the west, the battle of Lake George in the centre, and two pregnant events in the east, one on either side of Louisbourg--the expulsion of the Acadians, and the capture by Boscawen of two French men-of-war with several hundred soldiers who were to reinforce the army that was soon to be commanded by Montcalm.

The next year, 1756, saw the formal declaration of war in Europe, its continued prosecution in America, and the taking of Oswego, which was the first of Montcalm's four victories against the overwhelming British. But Louisbourg still remained untouched.

Not till 1757 was the first attempt made to break this last sea link with France. There was a very natural anxiety, among the British on both sides of the Atlantic, to do conspicuously well against Louisbourg. Fort Necessity, Braddock's Defeat, and Montcalm's daring capture of Oswego, coming with cumulative effect, in three successive campaigns, had created a feeling of bitter disappointment in America; while the Black Hole of Calcutta; the loss of Minorca, and, worse still, Byng's failure to bring a British fleet into decisive action, had wounded the national pride in England.

But 1757 turned out to be no better than its disconcerting predecessors. True, England's ally, Frederick the Great, won consummate victories at Rossbach and at Leuthen. But that was at the end of a very desperate campaign. True, also, that Clive won Plassey and took Chandernagore. But those were far away from English-speaking homes; while heavy reverses close at hand brought down the adverse balance. Pitt, the greatest of all civilian ministers of War, was dismissed from office and not reinstated till the British Empire had been without a cabinet for eleven weeks. The French overran the whole of Hanover and rounded up the Duke of Cumberland at Kloster-Seven. Mordaunt and his pettifogging councils of war turned the joint expedition against Rochefort into a complete fiasco; while Montcalm again defeated the British in America by taking Fort William Henry.

The taking of Louisbourg would have been a very welcome victory in the midst of so much gloom. But the British were engaged in party strife at home. They were disunited in America. And neither the naval nor the military leader of the joint expedition against Louisbourg was the proper man to act either alone or with his colleague. Speed was of prime importance. Yet Admiral Holbourne did not sail from England for Halifax till May. General the Earl of Loudoun was slower yet. He drew in the troops from the northern frontier, concentrated them in New York, and laid an embargo on shipping to keep a secret which was already out. Finally, he and Sir Charles Hardy sailed for Halifax to keep their rendezvous with Holbourne, from whom no news had come. They arrived there before him; but his fleet came limping in during the next ten days, after a bad buffeting on its transatlantic voyage.

Loudoun now had nearly 12,000 men, whom he landed and drilled' throughout July. His preparations were so meticulously careful that they even included a vegetable garden, which, though an excellent precaution in its own way, ought to have been left to the commandant of the base. So thought Sir Charles Hay, who was put under arrest for saying that all the money was being spent in fighting sham battles and planting out cabbages. However, a reconnaissance of Louisbourg had been made by Gorham of the Rangers, whose very imperfect report induced Holbourne and Loudoun to get ready to sail. But, just as they were preparing to begin, too late, a Newfoundland vessel came in with captured French dispatches which showed that Admiral La Motte had united his three squadrons in Louisbourg harbor, where he was at anchor with twenty-two ships of the line and several frigates, the whole carrying 1,360 guns. This was correct. But the garrison was exaggerated by at least a third in the same dispatch, which estimated it as numbering over 7000 men.

The lateness of the season, the strength of the French, and the practical certainty of failing to take Louisbourg by forcing the attack home at any cost, were very sensibly held, under existing circumstances, to be sufficient cause for withdrawing the army. The fleet, however, sailed north, in the hope of inducing La Motte to come out for a battle in the open. But, at that particular juncture, La Motte was right not to risk decisive action. A week later he was equally wrong to refuse it. Holbourne's fleet had been dispersed by a September hurricane of extraordinary violence. One ship became a total wreck. Nine were dismasted. Several had to throw their guns overboard. None was fit for immediate service. But La Motte did not even reconnoiter, much less annihilate, his helpless enemy.

Pitt returned to power at the end of June 1757, in time to plan a world-wide campaign for 1758, though not in time to choose the best commanders and to change the whole course of the war. This became possible only in the Empire Year of 1759. The English-speaking peoples have nearly always begun their great wars badly, and have gradually worked up to a climax of victory after being stung into proper leadership and organization by several exasperating failures; and though now in the third year of their most momentous struggle for oversea dominion, they were not even yet altogether prepared.

Nevertheless, Pitt wielded the amphibious might of Britain with a master hand. Sea-power, mercantile and naval, enabled him to 'command the riches of the world' and become the paymaster of many thousand Prussians under Frederick the Great and Ferdinand of Brunswick. He also sent a small British army to the Continent. But he devoted his chief attention to working out a phase of the 'Maritime War' which included India on one flank and the Canadian frontiers on the other. Sometimes with, and sometimes without, a contingent from the Army, the British Navy checkmated, isolated, or defeated the French in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.

The preliminary isolation of Louisbourg was a particularly effective stroke of naval strategy. Even before 1758 began the first French fleet that left for Louisbourg had been shadowed from Toulon and had been shut up in Cartagena. A second French fleet was then sent to help the first one out. But it was attacked on the way and totally defeated. In April the first fleet made another attempt to sail; but it was chased into Rochefort by Hawke and put out of action for the rest of the campaign. The third French fleet did manage to reach Louisbourg. But its admiral, du Chaffault, rightly fearing annihilation in the harbor there, and wishing to keep some touch between Old France and New, sailed for Quebec with most of his best ships.

Quebec and the rest of Canada were themselves on the defensive; for Abercromby was leading 15,000 men--the largest single army America had ever seen--straight up the line of Lake Champlain. Montcalm defeated him at Ticonderoga in July. But that gave no relief to Louisbourg; because the total British forces threatening the Canadian inland frontier were still quite strong enough to keep the French on the strict defensive.

Thus Louisbourg was completely isolated, both by land and sea. It was stronger and more extensive than during the first siege. It had a better governor, Drucour, a better and a larger garrison, more food and ammunition, and, what it formerly lacked altogether, the support of a considerable fleet. Drucour was a gallant soldier. His garrison numbered nearly 3,000 effective regulars, with about 1,000 militiamen and some 500 Indians. Seventeen mortars and over two hundred cannon were mounted on the walls, as well as on the outworks at the Royal, Island, and Lighthouse Batteries. There were thirteen vessels in the fleet, mounting 590 guns, and carrying over 3,500 men. This made the French grand total about 800 guns and 8,000 men. But not all these were really effective. Ships at anchor lose a good deal of their fighting value. Crews are less efficient when ashore than when they are afloat; and the French ships were mostly fought at anchor, while the crews were gradually landed for the defense of the crowded little town. Then, the Indians were comparatively useless in a fort. The militia were not good soldiers anywhere. Moreover, the three kinds of regulars--French, Canadian, and foreign--did not get on very well together; while the fleet, as a whole, got on no better with the army as a whole.

The British amphibious force presented a striking contrast to this. Its naval and military parts worked together like the two branches of one United Service. The Army and Navy naturally understood each other better than the two services of less amphibious countries; and when a statesman like Pitt and a first lord of the Admiralty like Anson were together at headquarters there was no excuse for misunderstandings at the front. Boscawen and Amherst, both distinguished members of distinguished Service families, were the best of colleagues. Boscawen had somewhat over, Amherst a little under, 12,000 men. Boscawen's fleet comprised 39 sail, from a 90-gun ship of the line down to a 12-gun sloop. The British grand total therefore exceeded Drucour's by over three to one, counting mere numbers alone. If expert efficiency be taken, for the sake of a more exact comparison, it is not too much to say that the odds in favour of the British personnel and armament were really four to one.

On the other hand, the French had the walls of Louisbourg to redress the balance in their favor. These walls were the crucial factor in the problem. Both sides knew they were far from being impregnable. But how long could they withstand a regular siege? If for only one month, then they were useless as a protection to Quebec. If for two months, then Quebec and New France were safe until the following year.

Boscawen left England in February. Amherst followed separately. One of the three brigadier-generals in Amherst's army was Wolfe, of whom we shall hear more presently. The rendezvous was Halifax, where boat work and landing exercises were sedulously carried out by the troops. Towards the end of May Boscawen sailed out of Halifax, though Amherst had not yet arrived. They met at sea. The Dublin, which had brought Amherst across so slowly, then 'went very sickly into Halifax,' while Amherst joined Boscawen, and the whole fleet and convoy bore away for Louisbourg. The French had been expecting them for at least a month; as scouts kept appearing almost every day, while Hardy's squadron of nine sail had been maintaining a sort of open blockade.

On the night of June 1 the French look-outs in Gabarus Bay saw more lights than usual to the southward. Next morning Louisbourg was early astir, anxiously eager to catch the first glimpse of this great destroying armada, which for several expectant hours lay invisible and dread behind a curtain of dense fog. Then a light sea breeze came in from the Atlantic. The curtain drew back at its touch. And there, in one white, enormous crescent, all round the deep-blue offing, stood the mighty fleet, closing in for the final death-grip on its prey.

Nearly a whole week went by before the British landed. Each day the scouting boats and vessels stood in as close as possible along the shore. But they always found the smashing surf too high. At last, on the 8th, the whole army put off in three brigades of boats, supported by the frigates, which fired at the French defenses. All three landing-places were threatened simultaneously, White Point, Flat Point, and Kennington Cove. These landing-places were, respectively, one, two, and four miles west of Louisbourg. The intervening ground mostly hid them from the ramparts, and they had to depend upon their own defenses. Drucour had sent out two-thirds of his garrison to oppose the landing. Each point was protected by artillery and entrenchments. Eight guns were mounted and a thousand men stood guard over the quarter-mile of beach which lay between the two little surf-lashed promontories of Kennington Cove. But Wolfe's brigade made straight for shore. The French held their fire until the leading boats were well within short musket-shot. Then they began so furiously that Wolfe, whose tall, lank figure was most conspicuous as he stood up in the stern-sheets, waved his cane to make the boats sheer off.

It looked as if the first successful landing would have to be made elsewhere, a bitter disappointment to this young and ardent brigadier, whose command included the pick of the grenadiers, light infantry, and Highlanders. But three boatloads of light infantry pushed on against the inner point of the cove. Perhaps their officers turned their blind eye on Wolfe's signal, as Nelson did on Parker's recall at Copenhagen. But, whatever the reason, these three boats went in smash against the rocks and put their men ashore, drenched to the skin. Major Scott, commanding the light infantry and rangers, followed them at once. Then Wolfe, seeing they had gained a foothold where the point afforded them a little cover, signaled the whole brigade to land there in succession. He pushed his own boat through, jumped in waist-deep, and waded ashore.

This sudden change, quite unexpected by either friend or foe, greatly disconcerted the French. They attacked Major Scott, who withstood them with a handful of men till reinforcements came clambering up the rocks behind him. With these reinforcements came Wolfe, who formed the men into line and carried the nearest battery with the bayonet. The remaining French, seeing that Wolfe had effected a lodgment on their inner flank, were so afraid of being cut off from Louisbourg that they ran back and round towards the next position at Flat Point. But before they reached it they saw its own defenders running back, because the British were also landing at White Point. Here too the defenses were abandoned as soon as the little garrison found itself faced by greatly superior numbers afloat and deserted by its fellow-garrisons ashore. The retreating French kept up a sort of running fight till they got under the covering fire of Louisbourg, when the pursuing British immediately drew off.

Considering the number of boats that were stove and the intensity of the first French fire, the British loss was remarkably small, only one hundred and nine killed, wounded, and drowned. The French loss was still less; but, in view of the difference between the respective grand totals, it was a good deal heavier in proportion.

That night the glare of a big fire inside the harbor showed that Drucour felt too weak to hold the Royal Battery. Unlike his incompetent predecessor, however, he took away everything movable that could be turned to good account in Louisbourg; and he left the works a useless ruin. The following day he destroyed and abandoned the battery at Lighthouse Point. Thus two fortifications were given up, one of them for the second time, before a single shot had been fired either from or against them. Time, labor, and expense had all gone for worse than nothing, as the positions were at once used by the enemy on each occasion. The wasted expense was of the usual kind-one half spent on inferior construction, the other pocketed by the Louisbourg officials. Drucour himself was not at all to blame, either for the way the works were built or the way in which they had to be abandoned. With odds of more than three to one against him, he had no men to spare for trying to keep the British at arm's length.

Amherst pitched his camp in a crescent two miles long, facing Louisbourg two miles off. His left overlooked the French squadron in the south-west harbor next to Louisbourg at the distance of a mile. His right rested on Flat Point. Thus Louisbourg itself was entirely surrounded both by land and sea; for the gaps left at the Royal Battery and Lighthouse Point were immediately seized by the British. Wolfe marched round the harbor on the 12th with 1,300 infantry and a strong detachment of artillery. The guns for the Royal Battery and other points inside the harbor were hauled into place by teams of about a hundred men each. Those for Lighthouse Point were sent round by sea, landed, with immense difficulty, more than a mile distant on the rock-bound shore, hauled up the cliff, and then dragged back over the roughest of ground to the battery. It was, in fact, a repetition of what the American militiamen had done in 1745. Wolfe worked incessantly, directing and encouraging his toiling men. The bluejackets seconded his efforts by doing even harder work. Their boats were often stove, and a catamaran was wrecked with a brass twenty-four pounder on board. But nothing could stop the perfect co-operation between the two halves of the single United Service. 'The Admiral and General,' wrote Wolfe, 'have carried on the public service with great harmony, industry, and union. Mr Boscawen has given all, and even more than we could ask of him. He has furnished arms and ammunition, pioneers, sappers, miners, gunners, carpenters, and boats.'

While Wolfe was doing his eight days' work of preparation at the Lighthouse Battery, between the 12th and the 20th, Amherst, whose favorite precept was 'slow and sure,' was performing an even more arduous task by building a road from Flat Point to where he intended to make his trenches. This road meandered over the least bad line that could be found in that country of alternate rock, bog, sand, scrub, bush, and marshy ponds. The working party was always a thousand strong, and shifts, of course, were constant. Boscawen landed marines to man the works along the shore, and bluejackets for any handy-man's job required. This proved of great advantage to the army, which had so many more men set free for other duties. The landing of stores went on from sunrise to sunset, whenever the pounding surf calmed down enough. Landing the guns was, of course, much harder still. It accounted for most of the hundred boats that were dashed to pieces against that devouring shore.

Thorough and persistent as this work was, however, it gave the garrison of Louisbourg little outward sign of what was happening just beyond the knolls and hillocks. Besides, just at this time, when there was a lull before the storm that was soon to burst from Wolfe and Amherst, both sides had more dramatic things to catch the general eye. First, there was the worthy namesake of 'the saucy Arethusa' in the rival British Navy, the Arethuse, whose daring and skilful captain, Vauquelin, had moored her beside the Barachois, or sea-pond, so that he could outflank Amherst's approach against the right land face of Louisbourg. Then, of still more immediate interest was the nimble little Echo, which tried to run the gauntlet of the British fleet on June 18, a day long afterwards made famous on the field of Waterloo. Drucour had entrusted his wife and several other ladies to the captain of the Echo, who was to make a dash for Quebec with dispatches for the governor of Canada. A muffling fog shut down and seemed to promise her safety from the British, though it brought added danger from that wrecking coast. With infinite precautions she slipped out on the ebb, between the French at the Island Battery and Wolfe's strenuous workers at the Lighthouse Point. But the breeze that bore her north also raised the fog enough to let the Juno and Sutherland sight her and give chase. She crowded on a press of sail till she was overhauled, when she fought her captors till her case was hopeless.

Madame Drucour and the other ladies were then sent back to Louisbourg with every possible consideration for their feelings. This act of kindness was remembered later on, when a regular interlude of courtesies followed Drucour's offer to send his own particularly skilful surgeon to any wounded British officer who might need his services. Amherst sent in several letters and messages from wounded Frenchmen, and a special message from himself to Madame Drucour, complimenting her upon her bravery, and begging her acceptance of some West Indian pineapples. Once more the flag of truce came out, this time to return the compliment with a basket of wine. As the gate swung to, the cannon roared again on either side. Amherst's was no unmerited compliment; for Madame Drucour used to mount the ramparts every day, no matter what the danger was, and fire three cannon for the honour of her king. But the French had no monopoly in woman's work. True, there were no officers' wives to play the heroine on the British side. But there were others to play a humbler part, and play it well. In those days each ship or regiment bore a certain proportion of women on their books for laundering and other work which is still done, at their own option, by women 'married on the strength' of the Army. Most of the several hundred women in the besieging fleet and army became so keen to see the batteries armed that they volunteered to team the guns, which, in some cases, they actually did, with excellent effect.

By June 26 Louisbourg had no defenses left beyond its own walls, except the reduced French squadron huddled together in the south-west harbor. The more exposed ships had come down on the 21st, after a day's bombardment from Wolfe's terrific battery at Lighthouse Point: 'they in return making an Infernal Fire from all their Broadsides; but, wonderful to think of, no harm done us.' Five days later every single gun in the Island Battery was dumb. At the same time Amherst occupied Green Hill, directly opposite the citadel and only half a mile away. Yet Drucour, with dauntless resolution, resisted for another month. His object was not to save his own doomed fortress but Quebec.

He needed all his resolution. The British were pressing him on every side, determined to end the siege in time to transfer their force elsewhere. Louisbourg itself was visibly weakening. The walls were already crumbling under Amherst's converging fire, though the British attack had not yet begun in earnest. Surely, thoroughly, and with an irresistible zeal, the besiegers had built their road, dragged up their guns, and begun to worm their way forward, under skilfully constructed cover, towards the right land face of Louisbourg, next to the south-west harbor, where the ground was less boggy than on the left. The French ships fired on the British approaches; but, with one notable exception, not effectively, because some of them masked others, while they were all under British fire themselves, both from the Lighthouse and the Royal Batteries, as well as from smaller batteries along the harbor. Vauquelin, who shares with Iberville the honor of being the naval hero of New France, was the one exception. He fought the Arethuse so splendidly that he hampered the British left attack long enough to give Louisbourg a comparative respite for a few hasty repairs.

But nothing could now resist Boscawen if the British should choose to run in past the demolished Island Battery and attack the French fleet, first from a distance, with the help of the Lighthouse and Royal Batteries, and then hand-to-hand. So the French admiral, des Gouttes, agreed to sink four of his largest vessels in the fairway. This, however, still left a gap; so two more were sunk. The passage was then mistakenly reported to be safely closed. The crews, two thousand strong, were landed and camped along the streets. This caused outspoken annoyance to the army and to the inhabitants, who thought the crews had not shown fight enough afloat, who consequently thought them of little use ashore, who found them in the way, and who feared they had come in without bringing a proper contribution of provisions to the common stock.

The Arethuse was presently withdrawn from her perilous berth next to the British left approach, as she was the only frigate left which seemed to have a chance of running the gauntlet of Boscawen's fleet. Her shot-holes were carefully stopped; and on the night of July 14, she was silently towed to the harbor mouth, whence she sailed for France with dispatches from Drucour and des Gouttes. The fog held dense, but the wind was light, and she could hardly forge ahead under every stitch of canvas. All round her the lights of the British fleet and convoy rose and fell with the heaving rollers, like little embers blurring through the mist. Yet Vauquelin took his dark and silent way quite safely, in and out between them, and reached France just after Louisbourg had fallen.

Meanwhile Drucour had made several sorties against the British front, while Boishebert had attacked their rear with a few hundred Indians, Acadians, and Canadians. Boishebert's attack was simply brushed aside by the rearguard of Amherst's overwhelming force. The American Rangers ought to have defeated it themselves, without the aid of regulars. But they were not the same sort of men as those who had besieged Louisbourg thirteen years before. The best had volunteered then. The worst had been enlisted now. Of course, there were a few good men with some turn for soldiering. But most were of the wastrel and wharf-rat kind. Wolfe expressed his opinion of them in very vigorous terms: 'About 500 Rangers are come, which, to appearance, are little better than la canaille. These Americans are in general the dirtiest, most contemptible, cowardly dogs that you can conceive. There is no depending upon 'em in action. They fall down dead in their own dirt, and desert by battalions, officers and all.'

Drucour's sorties, made by good French regulars, were much more serious than Boishebert's feeble, irregular attack. On the night of July 8, while Montcalm's Ticonderogan heroes were resting on their hard-won field a thousand miles inland, Drucour's best troops crept out unseen and charged the British right. Lord Dundonald and several of his men were killed, while the rest were driven back to the second approach, where desperate work was done with the bayonet in the dark. But Wolfe commanded that part of the line, and his supports were under arms in a moment. The French attack had broken up into a score of little rough-and-tumble fights--bayonets, butts, and swords all at it; friend and foe mixed up in wild confusion. So the first properly formed troops carried all before them. The knots of struggling combatants separated into French and British. The French fell back on their defenses. Their friends inside fired on the British; and Wolfe, having regained his ground, retired in the same good order on his lines.

A week later Wolfe suddenly dashed forward on the British left and seized Gallows Hill, within a musket-shot of the French right bastion. Here his men dug hard all night long, in spite of the fierce fire kept up on them at point-blank range. In the morning relief's marched in, and the digging still continued. Sappers, miners, and infantry relief, they never stopped till they had burrowed forward another hundred yards, and the last great breaching battery had opened its annihilating fire. By the 21st both sides saw that the end was near, so far as the walls were concerned.

But it was not only the walls that were failing. For, that very afternoon of the 21st, a British seaman gunner's cleverly planted bomb found out a French ship's magazine, exploded it with shattering force, and set fire to the ships on either side. All three blazed furiously. The crews ran to quarters and did their best. But all to no purpose. Meanwhile the British batteries had turned every available gun on the conflagration, so as to prevent the French from saving anything. Between the roaring flames, the bursting shells, and the whizzing cannon balls, the three doomed vessels soon became an inferno too hot for men to stay in. The crews swarmed over the side and escaped; not, however, without losing a good many of their number. Then the British concentrated on the only two remaining vessels, the Prudent and the Bienfaisant. But the French sailors, with admirable pluck and judgment, managed to haul them round to a safer berth.

Next day a similar disaster befell the Louisbourg headquarters. A shell went through the roof of the barracks at the King's Bastion, burst among the men there, and set the whole place on fire. As the first tongues of flame shot up the British concentrated on them. The French ran to the threatened spot and worked hard, in spite of the storm of British shot and shell. But nothing was saved, except Drucour's own quarters. During the confusion the wind blew some burning debris against the timbers which protected the nearest casemates from exploding shells. An alarm was raised among the women and children inside. A panic followed; and the civilians of both sexes had their nerves so shaken that they thought of nothing but surrender on the spot.

Hardly had this excitement been allayed when the main barracks themselves caught fire. Fortunately they had been cleared when the other fire had shown how imminent the danger was to every structure along the walls. The barracks were in special danger of fire, for they had been left with the same wooden roof which the New Englanders had put on thirteen years before. Again the British guns converged their devastating fire on the point of danger, and the whole place was burned to the ground.

Most of the troops were now deprived of all shelter. They had no choice but to share the streets with a still larger number of sailors than those to whom they had formerly objected. Yet they had scarcely tried to settle down and make the best of it before another batch of sailors came crowding in from the last of the whole French fleet. At one o'clock in the morning of July 25 a rousing British cheer from the harbor had announced an attack on the Prudent and the Bienfaisant by six hundred bluejackets, who had stolen in, with muffled oars, just on the stroke of midnight. Presently the sound of fighting died away, and all was still. At first the nearest gunners on the walls had lost their heads and begun blazing away at random. But they were soon stopped; and neither side dared fire, not knowing whom the shots might kill. Then, as the escaping French came in to the walls, a bright glare told that the Prudent was on fire. She had cut her cable during the fight and was lying, hopelessly stranded, right under the inner walls of Louisbourg. The Bienfaisant, however, though now assailed by every gun the French could bring to bear, was towed off to a snug berth beside the Lighthouse Battery, the British bluejackets showing the same disregard of danger as their gallant enemies had shown on the 21st, when towing her to safety in the opposite direction.

At daylight Drucour made a thorough inspection of the walls, while the only four serviceable cannon left fired slowly on, as if for the funeral of Louisbourg. The British looked stronger than ever, and so close in that their sharpshooters could pick off the French gunners from the foot of the glacis. The best of the French diarists made this despairing entry: 'Not a house in the whole place but has felt the force of their cannonade. Between yesterday morning and seven o'clock to-night from a thousand to twelve hundred shells have fallen inside the town, while at least forty cannon have been firing incessantly as well. The surgeons have to run at many a cry of 'Ware Shell! for fear lest they should share the patients' fate.' Amherst had offered to spare the island or any one of the French ships if Drucour would put his hospital in either place. But, for some unexplained reason, Drucour declined the offer; though Amherst pointed out that no spot within so small a target as Louisbourg itself could possibly be made immune by any gunners in the world.

Reduced to the last extremity, the French council of war decided to ask for terms. Boscawen and Amherst replied that the whole garrison must surrender in an hour. Drucour sent back to beg for better terms. But the second British answer was even sterner--complete surrender, yes or no, in half an hour. Resentment still ran high against the French for the massacre at Fort William Henry the year before. The actual massacre had been the work of drunken Indians. The Canadians present had looked on. The French, headed by Montcalm, had risked their lives to save the prisoners. But such distinctions had been blotted out in the general rage among the British on both sides of the Atlantic; and so Louisbourg was now made the scapegoat.

Drucour at once wrote back to say that he stood by his first proposal, which meant, of course, that he was ready to face the storming of his works and no quarter for his garrison. His flag of truce started off with this defiance. But Prevost the intendant, with other civilians, now came forward, on behalf of the inhabitants, to beg for immediate surrender on any terms, rather than that they should all be exposed to the perils of assault. Drucour then gave way, and sent an officer running after the defiant flag of truce. As soon as this second messenger got outside the walls he called out, at the top of his voice, 'We accept! We accept!' He then caught up to the bearer of the flag of truce, when both went straight on to British headquarters.

Boscawen and Amherst were quite prepared for either surrender or assault. The storming parties had their scaling-ladders ready. The Forlorn Hopes had been told off to lead the different columns. Every gun was loaded, afloat and ashore. The fleet were waiting for the signal to file in and turn a thousand cannon against the walls. Nothing was lacking for complete success. On the other hand, their terms were also ready waiting. The garrison was to be sent to England as prisoners of war. The whole of Louisbourg, Cape Breton, and Isle St Jean (now Prince Edward Island) were to be surrendered immediately, with all the public property they contained. The West Gate was to be handed over to a British guard at eight the next morning; and the French arms were to be laid down for good at noon. With this document the British commanders sent in the following note:

SIR,--We have the honor to send Your Excellency the signed articles of Capitulation.

Lieutenant Colonel d'Anthony has spoken on behalf of the people in the town. We have no intention of molesting them; but shall give them all the protection in our power.

Your Excellency will kindly sign the duplicate of the terms and send it back to us.

It only remains for us to assure Your Excellency that we shall seize every opportunity of convincing you that we are, with the most perfect consideration, Your Excellency's most Obedient Servants,

E. Boscawen. J. Amherst.

No terms were offered either to the Indians or to the armed Canadians, on account of Fort William Henry; and it is certain that all these would have been put to the sword, to the very last man, had Drucour decided to stand an assault. To the relief of every one concerned the Indians paddled off quietly during the night, which luckily happened to be unusually dark and calm. The Canadians either followed them or mingled with the unarmed inhabitants. This awkward problem therefore solved itself.

Few went to bed that last French night in Louisbourg. All responsible officials were busy with duties, reports, and general superintendence. The townsfolk and soldiery were restless and inclined to drown their humiliation in the many little cabarets, which stood open all night. A very different place, the parish church, was also kept open, and for a very different purpose. Many hasty marriages were performed, partly from a wholly groundless fear of British license, and partly because those who wished to remain in Cape Breton thought they would not be allowed to do so unless they were married.

Precisely at eight the next morning Major Farquhar drew up his grenadiers in front of the West Gate, which was immediately surrendered to him. No one but the officers concerned witnessed this first ceremony. But the whole population thronged every point of vantage round the Esplanade to see the formal surrender at noon. All the British admirals and generals were present on parade as Drucour stepped forward, saluted, and handed his sword to Boscawen. His officers followed his example. Then the troops laid down their arms, in the ranks as they stood, many dashing down their muskets with a muttered curse.

The French--naval, military, and civilian--were soon embarked. The curse of Louisbourg followed most of them, in one form or another. The combatants were coldly received when they eventually returned to France, in spite of their gallant defense, and in spite of their having saved Quebec for that campaign. Several hundreds of the inhabitants were shipwrecked and drowned. One transport was abandoned off the coast of Prince Edward Island, with the loss of two hundred lives. Another sprang a leak as she was nearing England; whereupon, to their eternal dishonor, the crew of British merchant seamen took all the boats and started to pull off alone. The three hundred French prisoners, men, women, and children, crowded the ship's side and begged that, if they were themselves to be abandoned, their priest should be saved. A boat reluctantly put back for him. Then, leaving the ship to her fate, the crew pulled for Penzance, where the people had just been celebrating the glorious victory of Louisbourg.

The French loss had been enough without this. About one in five of all the combatants had been hit. Twice as many were on the sick list. Officers and men, officials and traders, fishermen and other inhabitants, all lost something, in certain cases everything they had; and it was to nothing but the sheer ruin of all French power beside the American Atlantic that Madame Drucour waved her long white scarf in a last farewell.

France was stung to the quick. Her sea link gone, she feared that the whole of Canada would soon be won by the same relentless British sea-power, which was quite as irresistible as it was ubiquitous in the mighty hands of Pitt. So deeply did her statesmen feel her imminent danger on the sea, and resent this particular British triumph in the world-wide 'Maritime War,' that they took the unusual course of sending the following circular letter to all the Powers of Europe:

We are advised that Louisbourg capitulated to the English on July 26, We fully realize the consequences of such a grave event. But we shall redouble our efforts to repair the misfortune.

All commercial nations ought now to open their eyes to their own interests and join us in preventing the absolute tyranny which England will soon exercise on every sea if a stop be not put to her boundless avarice and ambition.

For a century past the Powers of Europe have been crying out against France for disturbing the balance of power on the Continent. But while England was artfully fomenting this trouble she was herself engaged in upsetting that balance of power at sea without which these different nations' independent power on land cannot subsist. All governments ought to give their immediate and most serious attention to this subject, as the English now threaten to usurp the whole world's seaborne commerce for themselves.

While the French were taken up with unavailing protests and regrets the British were rejoicing with their whole heart. Their loss had been small. Only a twentieth of their naval and military total had been killed or wounded, or had died from sickness, during the seven weeks' siege. Their gain had been great. The one real fortress in America, the last sea link between Old France and New, the single sword held over their transatlantic shipping, was now unchallengeablely theirs.

The good news travelled fast. Within three weeks of the surrender the dispatches had reached England. Defeats, disasters, and exasperating fiascos had been common since the war began. But at last there was a genuine victory, British through and through, won by the Army and Navy together, and won over the greatest of all rivals, France. 'When we lost Minorca,' said the London Chronicle, just a month after the surrender, 'a general panic fell upon the nation; but now that Louisbourg is taken our streets echo with triumph and blaze with illuminations.' Loyal addresses poured in from every quarter. The king stood on the palace steps to receive the eleven captured colors; and then, attended by the whole court, went in state to the royal thanksgiving service held in St Paul's Cathedral.

The thanks of parliament were voted to Amherst and Boscawen. Boscawen received them in person, being a member of the House of Commons. The speaker read the address, which was couched in the usual verbiage worked up by one of the select committees employed on such occasions. But Boscawen replied, as men of action should, with fewer words and much more force and point: 'Mr Speaker, Sir, I am happy to have been able to do my duty. I have no words to express my sense of the distinguished reward that has been conferred upon me by this House; nor can I thank you, Sir, enough for the polite and elegant manner in which you have been pleased to convey its resolution to me.'

The American colonists in general rejoiced exceedingly that Louisbourg and all it meant had been exterminated. But, especially in New England, their joy was considerably tempered by the reflection that the final blow had been delivered without their aid, and that the British arms had met with a terrible reverse at Ticonderoga, where the American militia had outnumbered the old-country regulars by half as much again. Nevertheless Boston built a 'stately bonfire,' which made a 'lofty and prodigious blaze'; while Philadelphia, despite its parasitic Quakers, had a most elaborate display of fireworks representing England, Louisbourg, the siege, the capture, the triumph, and reflected glory generally.

At the inland front, near Lake Champlain, where Abercromby now went by the opprobrious nickname of 'Mrs. Nabbycrumby,' 'The General put out orders that the breastwork should be lined with troops, and to fire three rounds for joy, and give thanks to God in a Religious Way.' But the joy was more whole-hearted among the little, half-forgotten garrisons of Nova Scotia. At Annapolis no news arrived till well on in September, when a Boston sloop came sailing up the bay. Captain Knox, that most industrious of diarists, records the incident.

Every soul was impatient, yet shy of asking. At length I called out, 'What news from Louisbourg?' To which the master simply replied, and with some gravity, 'Nothing strange.' This threw us all into great consternation, and some of us even turned away. But one of our soldiers called out with some warmth 'Damn you, Pumpkin, isn't Louisbourg taken yet?' The poor New England man then answered: 'Taken, yes, above a month ago; and I have been there since; but if you haven't heard of it before, I have a good parcel of letters for you now.' Instantly all hats flew off, and we made the neighboring woods resound with our cheers for almost half an hour.

Halifax naturally heard the news sooner than other places; and being then, as now, a naval port and a garrison town, it gave full vent to its feelings. Bells pealed. Bonfires blazed. Salutes thundered from the fort and harbor. But all this was a mere preliminary canter. The real race came off when the victorious fleet and army returned in triumph. Land and water were then indeed alive with exultant crowds. The streets were like a fair, and a noisy one at that. Soldiers, sailors, and civilians drank standing toasts the whole night through. The commissioner of excise recorded, not without a touch of proper pride, that, quite apart from all illicit wines and spirits, no less than sixty thousand gallons of good Jamaica rum were drunk in honor of the fall of Louisbourg. In higher circles, where wine was commoner than spirits, the toasts were honored just as often. Governor Lawrence, fresh from Louisbourg himself, opened the new Government House with a grand ball; and Wolfe, whom all now thought the coming man, drank healths, sang songs, and danced with pretty partners to his heart's content.


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Chronicles of Canada, The Great Fortress, A Chronicle of Louisbourg 1720-1760, 1915

 

Chronicles of Canada


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