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The Bloody Assault on Fort Louisbourg in 1758

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The Bloody Assault on Fort Louisbourg in 1758

Louisbourg Quay

Louisbourg Quay, from

The French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton was captured by New England forces in 1745, and an attempt by the French to recapture it failed. Strife between England and France (and much of Europe) continued, however, and all of these disputes were settled for a while by the Peace of Utrecht in 1748. By that Peace, England gained possession of Acadia, while the French regained possession of Cape Breton and therefore of the fort at Louisbourg. Meanwhile, the English established a military base at Halifax. The endless disputes between England and France continued at a reduced level.

English attempts to attract settlers to Nova Scotia had only limited success, and Halifax remained mostly a military establishment. New Englanders, it seems, were reluctant to move into such a wilderness without inducements and, besides, they were afraid of the Acadians and the Mi’kmaq. So, the English deported the Acadians in the ‘Expulsion’ and, in 1758, attacked the fort at Louisbourg again. The French population at the fortress and the town of Louisbourg was in excess of 4,000 at that time.

Following are extracts from the diary of a New England soldier who fought in the second siege of Louisbourg. This is taken from The Diary of Nathaniel Knap of Newbury in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England (Written at the Second Siege of Louisburg in 1758.), Boston, 1895. The diary was a long one, and these are only brief extracts. It is, furthermore, heavily edited. If you want to use the diary for study, then please consult the 1895 edition. A ‘snow’, by the way, is a square-rigged vessel with two masts.

The Diary of Nathaniel Knap

Monday, March ye 27, 1758 — Set out for Portsmouth New Hampshire from Newbury by water board Will Gerrish Schooner & got in at one o’clock afternoon. Lodged at Mr. Hoiets.

Tuesday, 28 — Work on bord of the Snow & Lodged on board.

Wednesday, 29 — Walked about streets went over to Kittery and got Straw.

Sunday, 2 — Went to Mr. Langden meeting all day.

Monday, 3 — Today sailed from Portsmoth 2 o’clock in ye snow Halifax Capt. Wells commander.

Tuesday, 4 — Today we met with a snow from Lisbon bound to Marblehead, Capt. John Lee commander. He gave an account that ye King of Prussia had a fight & took 50,000 Prisoners.

Wednesday, 5 — We made land at 4 o’clock Cape Sable & ye Sable Islands. Was sea sick.

Saturday, 8th — Made Lehave about 8 o’clock saw a ship 4 Leagues to leeward. At 12 o’clock she came up with us & took out cable to tow us in to Halifax. Toed us Between 7 & 8 knots. She went before us thick of snow & squally.

Sunday, 9 — The wind was right ahead. The ship toed us till noon today. Then they saw a topsail schooner so they cast us off & the transport which we was in company with us took us in tow.

Monday, 10 — The transport kept us in tow till 12 o’clock today then she cast us off. Then we made our way ourselves. We got in at 9 o’clock this evening and came to at ye mouth of ye harbour.

Tuesday, 11 — We hove up this Morning & came up to Dartmouth and came to anchor about noon. In ye afternoon we went ashore & viewed the place & houses.

Thursday, 13 —Ye sentries were still our guard. Was fired on by the Indians.

Saturday, 15 — Moved into the house that we had fitted in ye afternoon. There was a building burnt at ye City, it was a blacksmith’s shop and ye King’s boat-builder’s shed.

Wednesday, 19 — Knotted yarns to make ropes to rig the longboat. At night went to see a soldier whipped, He had 200 lashes.

Sunday, 14 — Was at work at home there was a highland minister preached & we all went to hear the sermon.

Monday, 15 — In the afternoon there was a highlander whipped 500 lashes & at night the man of war men set old blackdens(?) house on fire & burnt it down by ye Admirals order for selling rum.

Thursday, 25 — The land-army came out of ye transports & got into boats. A gun shot from ye shore & a gun was fired & they pulled into ye shore & drew up.

Wednesday, 31 — Large sea, fair weather. We were still to leeward of the fleet. One Elliot of Halifax came with us & was taken with ye Smallpox.

Thursday, June ye 1, 1758 — Spied a ship to windward & heard some guns. We made ye land.

Friday ye 2 — Fell in with some of the fleet. Thick & foggy we espied under ye land a brig & ye bumb(?) catch gave chase & drove her ashore She was a French brig.

Saterday, 3 — Saw ye brig in ye morning on fire. Caught fish. I lost one line.

Wednesday, 7 — Spoke with a frigate & she said ye fleet had got in & we was 15 leagues distance.

Thursday, 8 — Made the land & was to leeward of Cape Breton the wind was against us & pretty thick.

Saturday, 10 — Made ye land & took it to be to leward of Cape Breton. Then we spied some ships 2 men of war & three or four schooners & sloops & they bore away & we followed them & went into Gabroose(?). They told us ye Soldiers was landed on Thursday but we did not know particulars until we landed

Sunday, 11 — We all went ashore in ye forenoon when the army landed the boats got within 3 or 4 rods of shore before they saw any & then they rose up & fired a volley on them with cannon & small arms. Ye cannon loaded with small shot. The Regulars & Highlanders landed in ye front & the Rangers landed on the left up ye bay & they killed & wounded about a hundred. There was 2 or 3 boats sunk by the men being so eager & filling ye boats so full. Ye Rangers started them first. They ran & hollered & fire on behind them. They had 10 or 12 cannon, one 24 pounder which was one of the Tilbury Guns their breast work was from one end to the other, 4 miles. They had 2 mortars fixed & did heave some shells. In ye afternoon we built some camps to lie in & then we went almost over to ye city & saw some men. They had burnt all ye houses then the soldiers took 5 horses & brought them in.

Monday, 12 — The fog cleared away about noon & there was a great number sallied out the city. Ye fog cleared & they were discovered & took in to ye City again. Their is one deserter came in to day.

Tuesday, 13 — We went & made 2 bridges. The French came out ye city & ye Rangers & Highlanders went after them & they fought 2 hours. They brought 1 in that was wounded in ye afternoon. Several boats drove a Shore. We took ye light house last night.

Wednesday, 14 —Admiral Hardy hawl’d(?) close in to ye island battery & fired hot & ye French fired at us. Killed 1 Man.

Saturday, 17 — Was to work on the battery Some of our people took sick.

Sunday, 18 — Was building a house for our sick to live in that was taken there. Many more took sick to day.

Monday, 19 — I was taken in the morning with a violent pain in my head and held all day & night.

Tuesday, 20 — My pain held extreme bad. Lye very cold.

Wednesday, 21 — I took a vomit in morning & worked well. I broke out very thick with the smallpox. I lay in open tent in ye afternoon. Moved into a house that was built for ye sick had a cradle for Will Knap & myself 3 feet wide. Full of pain.

Thursday, 22 — Brake out more & more very restless & full of pain.

Friday, 23 — Kept breaking out was not so full of pain. Lie easy.

Saturday, 24 — The pock filled out quite full & was very easy.

Sunday, 25 — The pock was filled well. I was easy but very sore.

Monday, 26 — Ye pock began to turn & I was very sore & restless.

Tuesday, 27 — The pock kept turning & I grew very sore. Ye pock began to dry.

Wednesday, 28 the pock was full & dried away quite fast I felt well & very hungary. Took some salts.

Thursday, 29 — Felt very well & got up & sat all day in house.

Saturday, July 1 — I took physic and it worked very well.

Thursday, 6 — Took physic, worked well.

Saturday, 8 — Was very well. A man of war came in a 70 gun ship. At night the French came out upon our working party that was a trenching and they fought, killed, & took wounded near a hundred but we got the better of them we took one officer he was wounded.

Sunday, 9 — There was 2 prizes came in both brigs. The French beat a Parly(?) to bury their dead.

Monday, 10 — They were landing Cannon out of ye men of war.

Wednesday, 12 — Is very foul weather, our house was very leaky, was very uncomfortable. Last Monday there was a Carter going to ye lighthouse & just before night there was an Indian took him & carried him away & kept him till Wednesday. Towards night one of them went to a brook with him to drink & he gave them the slip & got clear. He was with a party of 200 French & Indians & they said there was a large party of French Indians further back. He said he understood by them that they would have killed him in about 2 hours.

Thursday, 13 — There was five Frenchmen Deserted from the island battery in a boat & they said we had dismounted 4 of their cannon & that they would deliver up ye city as soon as our ships does go in.

Friday, 14 — The French are very easy. Fired but a little.

Saturday, 15 — There was a French sergeant came out for a spy & our people took him & brought him in in ye afternoon.

Sunday, 16 — Our Rangers brought one Indian a prisoner that they took last night. There was a French frigate stole out of ye harbour & got out by all our ships. It was thought she had much riches on board. Early in ye morning Admiral Hardy with all his Ships that lie across ye harbour come to sail & went after her.

Monday, 17 — Last night our people took a trench close to ye wall with ye loss of five men & several wounded.

Tuesday, 18 — There was an officer of the train killed with a shell at his tent door. His name was Childs.

Wednesday, 19 — There was an officer & 8 men killed at Wolfs battery.

Thursday, 20 — In the afternoon went to lay a platform for a battery of 8 guns & there was killed 2 men & 4 wounded whilst we was there at night. There was several more killed & wounded, a large number.

Friday, 21 — General Wolfe hove a Shell on board one of ye men of war & blew her up & caught on fire & she caught 2 more on fire & they were burnt down by night there was but 2 ships left in ye harbour & there was 12 or 14 when we came in.

Saturday, 22 — The citadel & mass house were caught on fire by a shell & burnt to ye ground.

Sunday, 23 — Was a very hot & constant fire from us the French. kill several of our men today. Last night we hove near 200 shells

Monday, 24 — In the morning the other barrack caught fire & burned down. There was several deserters came in today the city looks very naked. There was a number of cartridges caught on fire in the trench which blew up & wounded a number of men.

Tuesday, 25 — A deserter came in today & gave an account that ye women & children are come out into the trench & Some gone to ye Black Rock. There is several came in to ye hospital that is wounded to day.

Wednesday, 26 — Last night there was a number of men of war. Men got boats and went and boarded the 2 ships that lie in ye harbour. One Ship they towed up ye harbour & ye other ship which was ye commodore’s caught aground so that they could not get her off & they caught her on fire & she burnt down in ye forenoon. There was a flag of truce came out & sat with our officers & about eight at night they agreed to our terms & at nine o’clock our people went in & took possession of ye town

Thursday, 27 — This morning there was three companies of Grenadiers drew up & went close to ye town & about Eleven of ye clock they marched in. Ye first company that went in. Is ye Royal Scots ye 2 is hopsons(?). Ye 3d was General Amherst at twelve o’clock ye English Colours were hoisted. The wagons came down to carry away ye baggage and all ye afternoon they were a hauling away guns & other stuff. The sentries set all around ye city that there should nothing be carried out but what was carried into the King’s store.

Friday, 28 — This day we were Opening more stores The French were cleaning & packing up their things that was allowed them to Carry off.

Saturday, 29 — This Day we buried John Meserve the Colonel’s son. He died last night. Admiral Hardy came to sail & went in with his squadron into the harbour of Cape Breton.

Sunday, 30 — Went to work at ye city getting down ye west gate & building a bridge at ye west gate. Yesterday I put a gun on board of one Mchard Sloop to carry home & I went round in ye city & there was hardly a house but what had a shot.

Tuesday, August ye 1 — General Wolfe went in to ye city & he was saluted with about 20 canon.

Saturday, 5 — This day one Johnson of the Royal Americans was caught in ye camps after he had stolen a watch & money & other things & after he saw that he was caught he wanted to clear himself & so came to where we lived with a file of men & took Humphry Atkinson & Benja Sweat & swore they were confederate with him. They were carried & tried by a court martial & found innocent & was kept till Sunday & then was clear. Johnson had sentenced past to be hanged till he was dead.

Tuesday, 8 — This day we set sail in ye morning for Spanish River. About 2 o’clock we came up with a sloop that was taken from Capt. Carrol of Boston last March & kept him prisoner till we took ye place. The Admiral gave him orders to take her wherever she was, and he came with us to find her & as soon as we came up with her he went on board & took possession & steered away for Louisbourg. This day Johnson was the thief was hanged

Wednesday, 16th — This Day we set sail for Louisbourg.

Sunday, 20th — This morning we got in to Louisbourg & came to about seven o’clock in ye morning & at noon we were Landed & our people were moved into the city.

Tuesday, 19 — This day mending the French hospital. The Frenchmen died very fast they die 8 or 10 in a day.

[I have not included the remainder of the diary here. It deals with routine work, both civil and military, and weather reports, and records of ships coming and going, and of his wish to be sent back home.]


Written by johnwood1946

June 29, 2016 at 8:25 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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