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The Siege of Louisbourg

The Siege of Louisbourg 1758

The Siege of Louisbourg

The map above is an original showing the siege action that took place at Louisbourg during the French & Indian War. Louisbourg is located on Ile Royal, the modern-day Cape Breton Island in Canada. The fortress was the key to St. Lawrence waterway and the interior of Canada. As long as the French held out, any British campaigns in Canada would be very difficult.  In 1758 it took the British six weeks to take the fort and opened up Quebec to attack the next spring.  That is not the story for today though.

The real story is that years earlier in 1745 the fort had already been taken from the French. Not by the British Army however, but by brave men from New England (with a little help from the Navy.) This was one of the first military wins against a foreign power in the annals of American military history.

The Siege of Louisbourg (The First One)

In 1744 the War of the Austrian Succession broke out in Europe with the main combatants being England and France. It did not take long for the conflict to spill into the North American colonies.  As was the case in the next war the French fortress at Louisbourg stood in the way of the British war effort. Talk of trying to take the fortress in the colonies made the rounds, but the British were not all that enthused about the idea. In the end it was decided that it would just be too darn expensive to launch an operation.

Massachusetts Governor William Shirley  would not take no for an answer. He thought that the fortress could be taken with just a few men and made a proposal to the General Assembly, which pretty much denied it deferring to their British overlords. Shirley would not be denied however.

In all he arranged for 3,000 volunteers for land duty and another 1,000 for the naval duty. with backup coming from a British fleet in Jamaica. In a campaign that lasted a little more than a month the Colonists were victorious and Louisbourg was theirs!

The Fallout

When news of the victory reached the colonies there was elation. Spontaneous celebrations of the “Citizen Soldier” ran rampant. Fireworks and liquor were widespread. This was the birth of the idea that the common man, the militia, were just as powerful as the “regular” army. It was this victory that sat in the minds of the next generation of Americans when war began brewing against the British.

Speaking fo the British. The victory was not quite received as well. The common man on the street thought the victory was incredible. The Government though, were not as thrilled. Unknown to the colonists a peace treaty was in the works and the victory caused issues. In a move that would later come back to haunt them the British handed the fort back over to the French.

When news of the return of the fort reached America the colonists felt betrayed. They had fought hard and well and won a great victory over the mighty French. Only to see their victory wiped out. This was a slight that would stick in the colonists craw for many years and would even be brought up during the march to revolution.  So in many ways, the First Siege of Louisbourg had much more of an impact than the second.