Seige of Louisbourg 1745: Importance to Colonial and Revolutionary American History

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  • Topic: Colonialism, Siege of Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island
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Louisbourg 1745 and the Importance to Colonial and Revolutionary American History

On June 16th, 1745, French forces at Louisbourg surrendered to a force of New England colonists after forty-six days of siege and blockade. The siege of Louisbourg was a brilliant achievement for the Colonial Army. They had defeated one of the world’s strongest fortresses with an ill-trained and ill-equipped Colonial Army and an untested Colonial Naval contingent. The Colonial Navy convoyed the army and in conjunction with the British Fleet imposed a successful blockade of Louisbourg. The Colonial victory reflects the importance of the battle of Louisbourg 1745 and the seeds it planted in the colonists that would be crucial to the rise of revolutionary America.

In 1713, the French established a colony on the eastern side of Cape Breton Island in northern Nova Scotia. The administrative center was called Louisbourg in honor of King Louis XIV. The location of this fortress had the great advantage of being located on an ice-free harbor. Ships could import and export goods and supplies plus fish at anytime during the year. Also the fortress’ layout was acknowledged as having superior seaward defenses, but its landward defenses were vulnerable to siege because the land was overlooked by a series of low rises. Fortress Louisbourg was built to protect France's interests in the new world and to serve as the center of its massive seasonal fishing industry.

By 1739, Britain had declared war on Spain known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear, which three years later would merge into the larger War of the Austrian Succession. The War of the Austrian Succession involved Austria and France along with many other European nations. Austria was supported of course by Britain and by the Dutch Republic, the traditional enemies of France, leading to Britain and France pitted against each other on the world stage. The Anglo-French colonial conflicts in North America were preceded by an outbreak of fighting in Europe. The death of Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, had touched off a succession crisis that pitted France, Prussia and Spain against the British. By 1745, tensions were high between France and Britain and the war had a significant influence on the American colonies known on this side of the hemisphere as King George's war.

France saw the new conflict as a golden opportunity to recover Nova Scotia. The French struck first at Canso, an important seasonal New England fishery at the easternmost tip of Nova Scotia that had employed up to two-hundred and fifty schooners and three thousand colonial fishermen. The garrison completely taken by surprise was not even aware of the war and was forced to surrender without firing a shot. The French destroyed both fortifications and the settlement and took the garrison, their families, and a few fishermen back to Louisbourg as prisoners.

As put in an anonymous letter recalling Canso, "If we had left the British alone, they would have left us alone." There is some truth to his statement. For if anything angered the American colonists and made them eager to gain possession of Louisbourg, it was the seizure of Canso. It brought to light a fear which had been lurking in many minds. No one in New England was safe as long as Louisbourg remained in French hands. Soon after; privateers from Louisbourg began attacking New England's fisheries and commerce. The raiders attacked any rival vessel encountered off the Nova Scotia coast, which eventually extended down towards New England itself. French warships on their way to and from Louisbourg also attacked New England shipping. The colonists formed great resentment for the French. The maritime interests of both the New England colonies and France whom both fished similar regions off present day Newfoundland made both nations unwary. The largest support for an attack against the French at Louisbourg was not surprisingly from the merchant class citizens of the New England...
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