Siege of Louisbourg (1758) - Siege


Weather conditions in the first week of June made any landing impossible and the British were only able to mount a bombardment of the improvised shore defenses of Gabarus Bay from a frigate. However, conditions improved, and at daybreak on 8 June Amherst launched his assault using a flotilla of small boats, organized in 3 divisions, each commanded by one of his brigadiers. French defenses were initially successful and after heavy losses, Wolfe ordered a retreat. However, at the last minute, a boatload of light infantry in Wolfe's division found a rocky inlet protected from French fire and secured a beach head. Wolfe redirected the rest of his division to follow. Outflanked, the French retreated rapidly back to their fortress.

Continuing heavy seas and the difficulty inherent to moving siege equipment over boggy terrain delayed the commencement of the formal siege. In the meantime, Wolfe was sent with 1,220 picked men around the harbour to seize Lighthouse Point, which dominated the harbour entrance. This he did on 12 June. After eleven days, on 19 June, the British artillery batteries were in position and the orders were given to open fire on the French. The British battery consisted of seventy cannon and mortars of all sizes. Within hours, the guns had destroyed walls and damaged several buildings.

On 21 July a mortar round from a British gun on Lighthouse Point struck a 74 gun French ship of the line, L'Entreprenant, and set it ablaze. A stiff breeze fanned the fire, and shortly after the L'Entreprenant caught fire, two other French ships had caught fire. L'Entreprenant exploded later in the day, depriving the French of the largest ship in the Louisbourg fleet.

The next major blow to French morale came on the evening of 23 July, at 10:00. A British "hot shot" set the King's Bastion on fire. The King's Bastion was the fortress headquarters and the largest building in North America in 1758. Its destruction eroded confidence and reduced morale in the French troops and their hopes to lift the British siege.

Most historians regard the British actions of 25 July as the "straw that broke the camel's back". Using a thick fog as cover, Admiral Boscawen sent a cutting-out party to destroy the French ships in the harbour. The British raiders eliminated the last two French ships of the line, capturing the Bienfaisant and burning the Prudent, thus clearing the way for the Royal Navy to enter the harbour. James Cook, who later became famous as an explorer, took part in this operation and recorded it in his ship's log book.

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Famous quotes containing the word siege:

    One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.
    Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)