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The Battle of Louisburg 1758

Battle: LOUISBURG

War: The French and Indian War also known as the Seven Year War (1757 to 1762)

Date: 27th July 1758

Place: On the North East coast of Nova Scotia on the eastern seaboard of Canada.

Combatants: British and Americans against the French and Canadians.

Generals: General Amherst commanded the British and American force with Brigadier James Wolfe as one of his subordinate commanders. Chevalier de Drucour commanded the French and Canadians.

Size of the armies: 11,000 British regular troops and 200 American Rangers. The French garrison was around 6,000.

Uniforms, arms and equipment:

Winner: The British American force.
British Regiments: Brigadier Whitmore’s brigade: 1st/1st Foot, 40th, 3rd/60th, 48th, 22nd Foot. Brigadier Wolfe’s brigade: 17th, 47th, 2nd/60th, 35th Foot. Brigadier Lawrence’s brigade: 28th, 58th, Fraser’s Highlanders, 45th, 15t Foot.

The 17th Foot
The 17th Foot

Amherst
Amherst

Amherst camped overlooking the fortress and brought his artillery and stores ashore. Louisburg was on a landlocked bay 2 ½ miles across with a mile wide outlet to the sea restricted by islets. The garrison comprised 5 battalions of regular troops, 4,000 in number, and several companies of provincial Canadian troops. The French commander General Drucour was an experienced soldier.

While Amherst prepared to begin the siege of the fortress, Wolfe engaged the defences around the bay and the French ships until by the end of July 1758 the frigates in the harbour had been either destroyed or captured.

Plan of Louisburg
A plan of Louisburg drawn by an
engineer in Amherst's army

Account: The Fortress of Louisburg on the Atlantic coast of Cape Breton Island was the bastion guarding the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River and access to French Canada. Before the British could conquer the French colony Louisburg had to be captured. It had been taken by British provincial troops in King George’s War but returned to France in the peace settlement of 1748.


In February 1758 Admiral Boscawen’s fleet carrying General Amherst’s army sailed from Britain, 157 ships and 11,000 soldiers. On 2nd June 1758 the fleet sailed into Gabarus Bay to the West of Louisburg. There were three possible landing places. On 8th June 1758 the weather abated sufficiently for the attack to be made. Brigadiers Lawrence and Whitmore made feint moves against White Point and Flat Point while Brigadier Wolfe attacked Freshwater Cove.

French frigate ablaze in Louisburg harbour
French frigate ablaze in Louisburg harbour

Wolfe commanded all the grenadier companies from the regiments, a band of marksmen known as the Light Infantry and rangers and highlanders. 3 boats with light infantry managed to land in the face of heavy fire and were reinforced. Lawrence brought his brigade onto the French flank and they were forced from their positions. The army was ashore.

The British Fleet and Army
The British Fleet and Army

Amherst’s batteries opened fire on the fortress and began to batter down the walls. On 26th July 1758 the last French gun positioned on the wall was destroyed and a breach made. Drucour was called on to surrender which with some hesitation he did.

Ships burning in the harbour
Ships burning in the harbour

Casualties: The British casualties were around 500 killed and wounded. The French casualties are unknown but are thought to have been substantial. 5,600 French soldiers surrendered with 200 cannon and munitions.

British Troops Landing
British Troops Landing

Follow-up: Cape Breton and Prince Edward’s Island became British colonies and the way opened up for General Wolfe’s attack up the Saint Lawrence and Quebec the following year.

Anecdotes and Traditions: Madame Drucour, the wife of the French commander, went to the ramparts every day and made a point of firing 3 cannon with her own hands. She and Amherst exchanged presents of pineapples and wine. Monsieur Drucour offered the services of French surgeons to wounded English officers.

Grenadier of the 40th foot
Grenadier of the 40th foot

References: