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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 C. "Instructions given by William Shirley, Governour of Massachusetts, to William Pepperell, Lieutenant General of the forces raised in New-England, for an expedition against the French settlements on the Island of Cape Breton."


The officers and men, intended for the expedition against the French settlements on Cape Breton, under your command, being embarked, and the necessary artillery, ammunition, arms, provision, &c. shipped for that purpose; you are hereby directed to repair on board the snow Shirley Galley, Captain John Rouse commander, and by virtue of the commission you have received from me, take upon you the command of all and every the ships and other vessels, whether transports or cruizers of this and the neighbouring provinces that are appointed for this service; and of all the troops raised for the same service, by this or any other of the neighbouring governments; and to proceed with the said vessels and forces, wind and weather permitting, to Canso, which place it is absolutely necessary should be appointed a rendezvous for the fleet. On your arrival there, you are to order two companies, consisting of forty men each with their proper officers, on shore, to take possession of the place and keep it; appointing one of the two Captains commandant of the whole; which party is to have orders, without delay to land and erect a block house frame, on the hill of Canso, where the old one stood, and hoist English colours upon it; enclosing it with pickets and pallisadoes, so that the sides of the square may extend about one hundred feet, for which it is presumed there are garden pickets enough there left standing. This party is also to plant there eight nine pounders, for the security of the harbour; and build a sod battery, where it shall be judged most convenient; keeping the stores, &c. in the block house, or some shed, or other conveniency, built for that purpose, within the pickets: And must have necessary tools left with them; as also a carpenter or two, and a mason, if none among themselves, to build a shimney and other conveniences. An Captain Donahew and Captain Becket, with their vessels, to attend them; who are to have directions, to follow from time to time the commandant's orders, unless countermanded by yourself, after they have been, with an additional party of two hundred men more, and the transports they are on board of, to St. Peter's, on the island of Cape Breton, and destroyed that settlement in which place you will be pleased to note, for your government, there are about two hundred inhabitants, and a number of Indians, all in straggling houses, without any regular defence: which additional party, having completed your orders, at St. Peter's, are to follow and join the fleet at Chappeaurouge [Gabarus] bay, to which place you are to proceed, with the fleet from Canso, in order to attack the town of Louisbourg, which is has been thought may be surprized, if they have no advice of your coming. To prevent which, Captain Donahew and Captain Becket are gone before you, to cruize from Cape Canso to Whitehead and thereabouts; that no shallop or other vessel, either fishing or fowling, may be on that coast, to discover the approach of your fleet, and escape with intelligence; and if you have good reason to think you are hitherto undiscovered, and you prosecute the design of surprize; to effect it, your proceedings from Canso must be such as to time your arrival at Chappeaurouge bay, about nine of the clock in the evening, or sooner, or later, as you can best rely on the wind, weather, and darkness of the night; taking care, that the fleet be sure of their distance eastward, and at the same time far enough in the offing, to prevent their being seen from the town in the day time; and in the evening they are to push into the bay, as far at least as to be able to land at a cove called Anse du Point Plat, or Flat Point Cove; in four separate divisions; each division if possible together, to prevent disorder; and as soon as the transports are at an anchor, the troops who must be ready with their accoutrements, are to be immediately, by the whale boats, landed in the best manner that the necessary haste can allow; so as to keep the four detachments each together, in a separate corps; who are to be marched on as soon as may be in this manner. — Three divisions, consisting two of six hundred men each, and one of four hundred men, are to march as near as they can guess, to the back of a range of hills, about west from the town, about one mile and a half; and here the two detachments of six hundred each are to halt, and keep a profound silence; while the other detachment of four hundred men pursue their march, following the range and under cover of the said hills, round to the northwest and north, &c. till they come to the back of the grand battery; where they are also to halt, till a signal agreed on be given, for them to march immediately to the said battery, and attack it; at which signal the other two parties are to march on, as fast as they can, towards the west gate of the town; till they come up to the houses, and then one party is to proceed without regard to the houses, to the said gate, and attack there; while the other marches on to a hill, about southwest from the town wall (securing such of the inhabitants as will fly that way from the houses when they find our party betwixt them and the gate) and there post themselves behind said hill, to secure, if need be, the retreat of the attacking party. In the interim, the fourth party proposed is to consist of six hundred men, who are in the whale boats, to be landed at a point of land, called Point Blanche or White Point; from thence they are to proceed along shore, till they come to the low wall of the town, that is close into the sea on the southeasterly part of the town, which if possible should be first attempted. Here this party are to scale the wall, and enter the town if possible; proceeding as fast as can be towards the citadel; securing a guard house, between them and the citadel guard house, and so on to the citadel guard house; and here if the enemy's troops are not drawn out, they are to secure the avenue from the citadel, by placing themselves on the glacis, on each side; securing the windows of the Governour's apartments, that open on the ramparts, at the southeast end of the citadel; while a party goes to the west gate guard, and secures that; which done, the wicket at least, if not the gate, must be got open, for the party posted there to enter. If they fail of their attempt in scaling at that place, which they are to endeavour by getting round the works at the west gate, by the water's edge, to the [quay] wall on the north side of the city, fronting the harbour; where they are to scale as nigh the guard house battery, as possible; to prevent annoyance from the northeast [Maurepas] bastion, who by firing on our men there will endanger their own guard and gate. Here, if they enter, they are to secure the guard, and open the wicket or gate; and give signal of their success, so far, to the party marching on towards the hill, and proceed towards the citadel, &c. as before directed, to the other party. The difficulty here will be, in getting round a number of pickets, or over, or through them, which run from the angle of the work, into the harbour, and may be cut down with ease, if low water; or hauled down by main strength, with such grapplings and hooks as are sent for that purpose; and if either of these parties are lucky enough to get into the town; it may be secured; but if they both fail, they are to retreat to the back of the hill, where the other party is posted to cover and receive them.

The attack at the grand [Royal] battery you must order, Sir, to be, by entering at a low part of the wall, that is unfinished at the east end; for which fascines and ladders are sent on purpose, though they may perhaps not be wanted; as also longer ladders for scaling the dead wall, or back of the barracks of said battery, if occasion; which must be transported by the party, ordered on the attack, as the necessary ladders for scaling, &c. must be by the other two parties. For your government here be pleased to note there are in this battery a Captain and fifty men at least.

If you attempt this surprise, you must by all means secure the out inhabitants in the suburbs, from reinforcing the city (women and children excepted, who may be all sent in, if the enemy will receive them) whether the attempt to surprise be successful or not; and if it is not, you must then secure the troops in the best manner the ground will admit of, till you can get the artillery, bombs, &c. transported from Chappeaurouge bay to the army: to expedite which, as much force as can be spared must be there left to secure the landing of what is necessary, and assist the officers, &c. of the train of artillery, and an immediate reinforcement sent them from the main body, as soon as you give up the surprise of the town, that you may be the sooner enabled to annoy the enemy's works, &c.

If the situation of affairs be such, that intelligence or discovery influence you not to attempt the surprise; and you find the enemy alarmed; you will doubtless think it necessary, to prevent any accident before the troops are landed, to send out a proper number of scouts; who, if they discover any ambuscade, or preparation to receive you, must give you due notice thereof, either by signals or by not returning; which will have its due weight with you; and if there be no opposition in landing, it will be best, for order sake, to land the men, regiment by regiment; who may be formed and drawn up into order, at proper distances, as they land, till the whole is completed. But if you should meet with opposition, and the landing be disputed, or difficult, you must then make a false descent, in order to draw off the enemy from the spot, designed for landing, or at least to divide their force; and then, according to the depth of the water, some of the vessels, either by riding broad side to the place, or by bringing a spring on their cables, will cover the landing, both by the execution they may do on the enemy, and the smoke of their powder.

If it be impracticable to think of surprising the town, and you resolve on the surprise of the grand battery; let the party designed for attacking the grand battery be first landed, and next the party to cover them, agreeable to directions for that purpose particularly, which you have with you; and march on to the hill, at the west of the town, before mentioned; where the covering party is to halt, and observe the motion of the enemy; who, if they make a sally from the town, are to be suffered to get so far as that this party then may get between the town and them; and keep them between two fires, and cut off their return; or if no such necessity, may serve as a defence from any sally from the town, towards Chappeaurouge to hinder our landing: In this case the grand battery is to be attacked as before directed, if the night should so favourably concur as to incline you to order an attack of the island battery also, (which would be an affair of the utmost consequence to us to carry) you must let this be attempted by a number of whale boats; who must land a party of three hundred men, on the back of the island; or in a little well known beachy cove at the south-easterly point, just within the breaking point of rocks, which runs off; from either of which places, in a very calm time they may enter successfully, and if so, immediately order a bomb, &c. there to play on the town, and garrison the battery, with as many men as you can spare, and will be wanted there to fight the guns, in case any enemy should approach afterwards by sea.

When you have all the troops on shore, the first thing to be observed, is to march on till you can find out and secure a proper spot to encamp them on; which must be as nigh as possible to some convenient brook, or watering place; and as soon as this is done, and the ground marked by the Quarter-Masters, who should have, each, colours to distinguish each regiment, the tents must be pitched, in the usual form and distance, if possible; and at the front of every regiment, a guard with tents, which is called the quarter guard, and mounts in the morning, as the picket guard turns out at sunset and lays on their arms. The captains of the artillery and Commissaries of provisions, must be supposed to be all this time employed, in getting ready to land what is under their charge, or such part as they have your orders for; which must be, first of all, the field pieces, by help of gin triangles and other necessary purchases, which they have with them; the cohorn mortars and their appertunances, to keep the enemy off, and prevent their reconnoitering your camp near. And when you are settled in your camp, the first thing that will naturally offer itself to the consideration of you and your council, will be on what operation, or design to proceed, and the proper steps to accomplish it; and as at this time your enemy will be on their guard, if the grand battery be not already taken, that must at all hazards be now effected; and when so, you will be soon able to judge if it be tenable, by a party of our men's being secure there or not; and if the guns from the town render our men's holding impracticable, and the men are not safe there, you must order what immediate damage can be done with it, to be effected, by firing on the town, and island battery, as long as may be; and then demolish the back of it, that at least we may have at times, these guns, to command the entry of the harbour, open to a party posted on the back of the hill, behind it, out of reach from the town, so as to give them occasionally some diversion; or else, if it cannot be kept in one shape or the other servicable to you, demolish the whole; burning the carriages, nailing up the guns, and knocking off the trunnions, &c. But as this battery will be of infinite service, in case it can be held, keep it as long as possible. Your destroying their fishing vessels, houses, stages, flakes, &c. (N.B. These last may serve for fascines, if wanted, and therefore should not be burned immediately) must require your next attention. In doing which, you must take care to keep your flying parties as well covered as possible, or as the nature of their enterprises for this effect may require; and as this will throw into your hands some prisoners, from whom you may possibly gather some information, to be relied on (although you must in this case, use all necessary caution) this may lead you to undertake things of greater consequence so as to block up the town by land. In order to which it will be absolutely necessary to bring your camp as near the besieged as you can, without exposing it to their random shot; the consequences of which you will be able to judge of in your approaches. And it is the general opinion, the hill before the west gate will be the best place to fix on; but then let it be so far at least beyond the hill, as not to let the besieged know the particular spot. About south-west from the citadel bastion, a large half mile distance, is a rocky hill, which in attacking of the town, may be of great service, by covering a number of our men, and planting some cannon there, on the top; in such manner as when you are on the spot, you may judge most advantageous; when you may keep the bombardiers, &c. continually employed, endeavouring principally, to demolish their magazine, citadel, walls &c. which are objects sufficiently in view. But by all means you are to forbid any approaches between the wall of the city and that hill, as the glacis that lies there before the works is to be blown up; but if you can, under cover of the houses, rubbish, &c. get a small battery to play on the west gate, you may hope for success; as the wall there is weak, and a breach may be made, of which when you come to view the place, you will better judge of its practicableness and consequence.

As it is not doubted but that the party which goes to St. Peter's will be successful, you may rely on it, that a number of French and Indians, as many at least as escape here, will fly towards Louisbourg for shelter; for whom you will be pleased to order a good look out, by all parties abroad, as well as for a number of inhabitants and soldiers, who it is reasonable to expect are in the woods, cutting timber, palisadoes, &c. to the north-west of the grand battery.

When the transports are discharged at Chappeaurouge bay, at which place it will be proper to detain them as long as they can lay in safety; and it is necessary for them to put out of the bay, they must have your orders to repair to Canso; there to lay in the pond for your farther commands; and there they must be under inspection of a cruizer, who must cruize in such manner, as to be sometimes off the harbour of Louisbourg, with the others; and as the wind will permit, go there and look at them.

As it will be of the utmost consequence that I should be advised of your proceedings, and the situation of your camp, you must employ three or four of the best going transports, in running backwards and forwards calling upon the commanding officer of Canso, for his intelligence also; ordering the masters of said advice boats or packets from time to time, on arrival here, to stop at the castle, and forward his packets to me, by the castle boat; and keep himself ready to depart again, as soon as he has his dispatches from hence, for you; which I shall take care to have sent him, without loss of time. By this means, you will have it in your power to let me know what materials, ammunition, &c. you may have occasion for, more than you have with you; and the troops will remain the better satisfied, when they are sensible their situation is known here. Suitable men for this packet service will be captain Joseph Smith, captain Michael Hodge, and captain Moses Bennett, with such other as you may think best.

Whether the transports quit Chappeaurouge bay or not, let them have your positive orders to refit all their empty water casks; and if they do, and go to Canso, to assist in carrying on the works there, always holding themselves in readiness to sail as soon as your orders reach them.

Immediately on your arrival at Chappeaurouge bay, and have a transport discharged, send her away express to St. John's in Newfoundland, with my packets for the captains of men of war, that may be on that station; and as soon as the grand battery is taken, order an express here, with the news, and if you are likely to succeed, send another with an express to England; directing your packet to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle; ordering the master to call upon Christopher Kilby, Esq. agent for the Province, with it, as soon as he arrives in London; and in case of Mr. Kilby's absence, let him go directly to the Duke of Newcastle's office.

As to what prisoners you take at Louisbourg, &c. you must forward them up here, in the best manner you can, as soon as may be, that they may not be an unnecessary trouble to you, as well as to keep what provisions you have for the troops only.

On all emergencies it will be necessary for you to convene a council of war; and most expedient to act agreeably to their advice; and this council is to consist of yourself (as President) and the other general officers, the colonels of the several regiments, their lieutenant colonels, and the captain of the train of artillery, under your command, five of whom to make a quorum of said council. A register to be kept by your secretary of all the proceedings of such councils of war.

Wishing you all success in his Majesty's service,

I am Sir, your assured friend and servant, W. SHIRLEY.

Boston, March 19, 1744—5 [O.S.]

To the Hon. William Pepperell, Esq.

Lieutenant-General of the forces raised in this and the neighbouring governments, for the expedition against the French settlements on Cape Breton.1

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