Parks Canada Banner
Parks Canada Home

Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 18

A Campaign of Amateurs: The Siege of Louisbourg, 1745

by Raymond F Baker

Appendix B. William Shirley to the Lords of the Admiralty: Scheme for Attacking Louisbourg.

MEMO. In order for the attacking of Louisbourg this Spring by surprize it is propos'd that 3000 Troops should Embark from hence in Sloops & Schooners and proceed for Canso, well armed which should be the place of Rendezvous it being within 20 Leagues of Louisbourg; and its being uncertain that so many vessels should be able to keep Company together when they are arrived at said Port, to take a favourable opportunity to sail from thence in order to be at Gaberus Point by Dusk, from whence it is but 3 Leagues from Louisbourg, then to push into the Bay, and as soon as said vessels are at an anchor to man as many whaleboats as they have & send them along the shore as near as possible, which will make it the more difficult for them to be discovered, & when they come to the cove which faces the low part of the wall, there to land if the sea will permit and scale that place if possible, & if otherwise as the Wall breaks off a little on the other side of the East [Maurepas] gate, not far from that there are picketts put for a considerable distance across a pond over to the Wall on the Beach on the other side of the Pond, and as this Pond is frozen all the month of March it is not very difficult to get over them: but if the weather will not permit their landing in the above place, let them proceed along the shore till they come to a long Range of Rocks that goes towards the Island, at the End of which is a Passage where the shallops go through, let them go in there and follow the Ledge of Rocks right back again, then they will land right against the East gate on a point [Rochefort Point], and as there are some Houses there, it will hinder their being seen, but one Boat ought to go first & surprise the People in those Houses a little time before the others come up. Each whale boat must have two ladders in them of fifteen foot long which may be put in the middle of the Boat without hindrance to the men; but the Boatmen must lay still at this Point till they think the main body is got near the Town, & that a party of as many men as shall be judg'd proper shall be ready to attack the Grand Battery, its necessary it should be low water if no Drift Ice aground along the Shore.

The remainder of the men are to go round the Picketts by the north gate [Porte Frédéric], and when they get round with Ladders of 15 feet long, they can scale the Wall facing the Harbour which is a Quarter of a mile round, and it will be absolutely necessary to appoint a Time to strike the blow all at once, which can be done by agreeing upon a certain hour just before Day, which is the Sleepiest Time, and the Commanding officer of each Detachment to know the time, and when the Time comes by his Watch to begin without further ceremony; The Enemy finding themselves attacked at so many different places at once its probable it will breed such confusion among them that our men will have time to get in unmolested; & it is to be observ'd that as the men march from the above point the low wall is on the left hand of the gate, and the Picketts on the right hand; as all the enemy's troops are in the citadel except a small guard or two it will be a considerable time before the men are drest & got ready to march out, and even then it is quite in the other end of the town.

This is what probably may succeed, but least any accident should happen to prevent it, it will be necessary to provide accordingly & in case our People should be discover'd & Repuls'd the above number of men being sufficient to command the field, it will be necessary in order to reduce the place to have what shipping can possibly be got to cruise off the Harbour's Mouth in order to intercept their Provision vessels which they Expect early being at this time very short of Provisions, as likewise to take any transports with men if any should come, and that our men may not be discourag'd at being repuls'd once, it will be necessary to send 12 nine pounders & two small mortars with shells, &c. and a Quantity of Provisions; so to bombard them & endeavor to make Breaches in their Walls & then storm them: and should the shipping be so lucky to take their Provisions and the land forces take all their cattle & keep them constantly employed, it will be impossible for them to hold the place till the last of July for want of provisions.

In order the better to secure the Retreat in case a superiour naval Force to ours should come from France & drive ours off the Coast, it will be necessary to have two small vessels with about Two hundred men at Canso, & the day after the Fleet is sail'd for Louisbourg for them to sail so as to get in by night, and it being but six Leagues from Canso to St. Peters they can get there before day & surprise that place, which is an exceeding good harbour for small vessels, but has not Water sufficient for vessels of that size which will be able to drive ours off the Coast, so that the vessels for the Retreat will lay there safe, and the Troops be able to go to them by Land; there will be an advantage beside this in surprising this place as there is always a number of Indians with their Families which keep with the French Priest at a small Distance from the French Inhabitants, and the Booty taken there will pay the Expense & more in taking it. It is to be observed that during the time our Troops lay siege to the Town, it will be in their power to send parties and destroy all their Fishery on the Island as well as the north side of the Harbour which would ruin their Fishery for four or five years; and as it is impossible to fail of taking the Royal Battery at least, that would in a great measure lay open their Harbour exposed unto an attack by Sea from England, as the new Batterys in the Town in the greatest part of the Ambroziers, there are no guns & there are two gates that are made in Diamond fashion facing the Harbour that can be beat down in an instant the pieces not being but two Inches and an half thick.

N.B. The full complement of the Troops is 700 out of which deductions must be made of 50 for each of the two Batteries, viz. the Royal & Island Batteries, and 50 for Death, sickness &c. which reduce them to 550, and the other fighting men in the town do not exceed 300, and that the Swiss Troops which are their best Troops are exceeding Discontented and mutinous; also that at St. Peters there may be about 200 men in scatter'd houses, and in the suburbs of the Town of Louisbourg without the Walls about 200. it is improbable that more than two 30 or 40 Gun ships should come with Mr. Duvivier who may be expected the first with Recruits and supplies, and in case the naval Force, that our 3000 men would command the Field, and continue so till they could be protected and Reinforc'd from England.

Endorsed: Governour Shirley's letter and scheme dated 29th January 1744 [Q.S.]1

previous Next

Last Updated: 2006-10-24 To the top
To the top