The California Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America

LOUISBOURG 1758

The following is from a 16 page manuscript journal in an unidentified hand entitled "Journal of the Siege of Louisbourg 1758," (May 28-July 31, 1758.) The journal and its accompanying tables were most likely written shortly after Louisbourg was taken. The anonymous writer was almost certainly a British officer, particularly judging from his knowledge and support of British strategy and his admiration for Wolfe.

At one point (around 1883) the manuscript was in posession of historian Francis Parkman as evidenced by a footnote in Montcalm and Wolfe: "Before me is the Diary of a captain or subaltern in the army of Amherst at Louisbourg, found in the garret of an old house in Windsor, Nova Scotia..."

The daring landing, the progression of the siege, the heavy guns roaring in the fog - all are seen in this exciting manuscript that accurately covers a major event, one of the most important and far-reaching of the 18th century. The fall of Louisbourg ended a long series of French military successes and marked a distinct downturn in the fortunes of New France.

The great French-built fortress on Cape Breton Island had been taken by New Englanders in 1745 but when returned to France in the 1748 settlement of King George's War that transaction represented an early British planting of the seeds of bitterness in the colonies. Ten years later Louisbourg had to be re-taken in the next struggle for supremacy in North America, for it dominated the North Atlantic, guarding the St. Lawrence and tormenting New England's commercial and fishing vessels. To capture the mighty fortress the British sent a mighty force in 1758, commanded by Major General Jeffrey Amherst, with thirty-one year old James Wolfe under him. Wolfe's success at Louisbourg led to his being given the command of the Quebec operation the following year. Admirals Edward Boscawen and Sir Charles Hardy commanded the cooperating naval contingent. The expedition was entrusted with nearly 12,000 soldiers and over 40 ships as indicated by the manuscript tables this book contains. Other notable participants included James Cook, Isaac Barre and Richard Montgomery.

The British were successful in a difficult landing three miles from Louisbourg on 8 June 1758, where the New Englanders had landed thirteen years previous. In heavy fog, they began a formal siege of the fortified town to which the French had retreated, then one of the most important cities in North America. The landing was really tantamount to victory, for the French had little hope of relief, and they surrendered on 26 July.

The tables appear first: a full page titled "List of the Fleet" - ships, commanders, guns and sailors; next a list of army strength by regiments, then a tabulation of 461 British army casualties during the siege including 146 killed; and finally a full page evaluation of the enemy's strength.

click on the image above to view one of the actual tables in the journal


Significant parts of the narrative include:

[28 May 1758] "...Saild from Halifax & the same Day were joined by the Dublin which brought Out Genl. Amherst..."

[3 June] "we Came to anchor in Gabarous Bay, we found the French Encamped in Diferent places & well Prepared to oppose our Landing having thrown up strong Lines...& Covered the Beach with an abbatti de Bois which Seemd Inpenetrable...the Kennington frigate hove in Shore & fired upon a Battery of two Guns towards the bottom of the Bay, she silenced the Battery & Receivd some Damage herself besides having a few men killed and wounded."

[4 June] "It blew hard with fog...a Disposition had been made for Landing the Troops...which the bad weather prevented..."

[6 June] "a New Disposition having been made for Landing the Troops they Embarked Early in the morning...but a thick fog & heavy Rain Coming on wetted their arms & made it improper..."

[8 June] "...The Troops intended to Land were in the Boats by two oClock in the morning... the Light Infantry & the Highlanders were to attempt to Land in the Cover at the Bottom of the Bay under Brigadier Wolfe's Command, this was to be the Real attack, General Whitmore with a Number of Troops made a show of Landing towards white point to amuse the Enemy...General Lawrence did the Same between General Whitmore's body & General Wolfe's...had orders to move towards the Left as Soon as Mr. Wolfe's Division had got a footing on Shore in order to Support & make good his Landing...about half an hour after 4 the Signal was made to Land, the Light Infantry, the Grenadiers & the Highlanders pulled briskly in for the Shore ...but they were Receiv'd with so terrible a fire of Cannon...& musketry from above a thousand men, that it was Impossible for the Sailors...to towe the Boats on Shore, where Indeed an Equal Danger Seem'd to await the Troops...the fate of the Expedition Seem'd to Depend upon the moment & the most Sanguine almost Despair'd of Setting foot on Shore, when fortune or velour directed some of the Light Infantry to push on Shore at a Spot which the Enemy thought too steep to need Either men or Intrenchments to Guard it. Major Scott who commanded the Light Infantry and Lieut. Browne with Several others were on Shore in an Instant & being Soon Supported Came upon the flank of the Enemy's Intrenchment & decided their fate, our Troops kept pouring in upon them at the same Spot & a panic having seized the whole Line to the Left they soon left the Coast Clear...& Retreated into the woods...the Landing being thus Effected with the Loss of 37 Killed & 18 wounded of the Soldiers, & 5 officers Killed & 2 wounded, the Remaining Divisions...soon joyned Mr. Wolfe's & together Pursued the Enemy to the very gates of the Town...General Wolfe was opposed this attack in Council, was the most vigorous to animate the Execution of it..."

[9 June] "...we got part of our Tents on Shore and...Cleared the Ground..."

[12 June] "at 4 this morning Brigr. Wolfe marched with 4 Comps. of Grenadiers & a detachment of 1200 men from the Line for the Lighthouse point...& pitched his Camp..."

[13 June] "...orders were this day given for throwing up three Redoubts upon the Hills between the Town & the Camp, about 11 oClock the advanced Piquets of the Enemy...fired upon an advanced party of ours, who...being soon Supported drove the Enemy off...we had one killed & a Lieut. & 6 wounded..."

[18 June] "Landed the Howitzers."

click on the image above to view one of the actual pages in the journal

[19 June] "Brigr. Wolfe opened Several Gun & mortar Batteries against the Men of War...in the harbour...who kept a hot & continual fire against our Batteries."

[22 June] "400 men began a Battery at the Lighthouse point intended to destroy the Island Battery..."

[25 June] "...began fireing from 5 pieces of Canon...upon the Island...the Guns which bore upon the Entrance of the harbour were soon silenced."

[26 June] "Brigr. Wolfe with 4 Comps of Grenadiers & 200 men...took possession of an eminence behind the Grand Battery which the french had Deserted...this day the Enemy made a Sally towards the Camp...but were Repulsed..."

[28 June] "Gen. Wolfe's party kept working at the Redoubts & intrenchments...the Ships kept a Constant fire & annoy'd them much."

[29 June] "...last night the french Sunk three Ships in the mouth of the harbour...the Men of War keep a hot fire against Genl. Wolfe's party..."

[1 July] "...this evening Genl. Wolfe took Possession of an Eminence near the west Gate..."

[2 July] "They began to work at a Redoubt."

[3 July] "...a furious & Continual fire from the Town & Shipping..."

[4 July] "...a Lodgment was made on the Right of Green Hill & nearer to the Town..."

[6 July] "...a continual fire...from our Batteries & from the Ships & Town."

[8 July] "Between 1 and 2 in the Morning the Enemy made a Sortie...they killed Lord Dundonald & 7 or 8 Grenadiers of Forbes Regiment...but they were soon obliged to retire...leaving behind them 17 Killed and about as many wounded & Prisoners."

[14 July] "...we began a new Battery...of 6 and another of 8 Guns at Our most advanced approaches..."

[15 July] "Our Batteries continued fireing, the Ships were much Damaged in their Rigging and masts and Receivd a Prodigious Number of Shot in their Hulls."

[16 July] "...a small Post...at the head of the North East harbour was Insulted by about 100 french & Indians who Retired without Efecting any thing...being in Possession of a Spot of Ground Calld Gallows Hill within 250 yards of the west Gate [Wolfe] Immediately begun to break Ground there...under a most terrible fire..."

[17 July] "We Continued working hard in the Trenches to make the Parapet Cannon proof..."

[19 July] "The fire hot on both Sides, the Spur Silenced & the Embrasures of the Cavalier much Damaged."

[22 July] "...the Church & other Building in the Citadel were Set on fire By our shells & burn'd with great Violence."

[23 July] "...about 11 oClock one of our Shells Set the Barracks on fire which were totally consumed..."

[26 July] "About 1 oClock in the Morning the Prudent and Bienfaisant were boarded by 500 English Sailors in Boats. The Prudent being aground was set on fire...11 officers & 150 men were made Prisoners on Board the Bienfaisant & 16 English Prisoners retaken, at 10 oClock the French hung out a flag on the Breach of the Cavalier upon which fireing on both Sides Ceased, Terms of Capitulation were Proposed to Genl. Amherst who would Grant none but that the Garrison & the Crews of the Ships should Surrender Prisoners of War, & 1 hour only given to Consider of it...The Garrison acceptd of these terms..."

[27 July] "In the morning three Comps of Grenadiers took Possession of the Gates and the Garrison Grounded their arms & Delivered up their Colours."

return to home page