The Great Fortress

William Wood
The Great Fortress (A Chronicle
of Louisbourg 1720-1760)

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Title: The Great Fortress A Chronicle of Louisbourg 1720-1760
Author: William Wood

Release Date: July, 2004 [EBook #6026] [Yes, we are more than one
year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on October 21, 2002]
Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan

CHRONICLES OF CANADA Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H.
Langton In thirty-two volumes
Volume 8
THE GREAT FORTRESS A Chronicle of Louisbourg 1720-1760

Louisbourg was no mere isolated stronghold which could be lost or
won without affecting the wider issues of oversea dominion. On the
contrary, it was a necessary link in the chain of waterside posts which
connected France with America by way of the Atlantic, the St
Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi. But since the chain
itself and all its other links, and even the peculiar relation of
Louisbourg to the Acadians and the Conquest, have been fully
described elsewhere in the Chronicles of Canada, the present volume
only tries to tell the purely individual tale. Strange to say, this tale
seems never to have been told before; at least, not as one continuous
whole. Of course, each siege has been described, over and over again,
in many special monographs as well as in countless books about
Canadian history. But nobody seems to have written any separate work
on Louisbourg showing causes, crises, and results, all together, in the
light of the complete naval and military proof. So perhaps the following

short account may really be the first attempt to tell the tale of
Louisbourg from the foundation to the fall.
W. W.
59 GRANDE ALLEE, QUEBEC, 2nd January 1915.

The fortress of Louisbourg arose not from victory but from defeat; not
from military strength but from naval weakness; not from a new,
adventurous spirit of attack, but from a half-despairing hope of keeping
one last foothold by the sea. It was not begun till after the fortunes of
Louis XIV had reached their lowest ebb at the Treaty of Utrecht in
1713. It lived a precarious life of only forty years, from 1720 to 1760.
And nothing but bare ruins were left to mark its grave when it finally
passed, unheeded and unnamed, into the vast dominions of the
conquering British at the Peace of Paris in 1763.
The Treaty of Utrecht narrowed the whole French sea-coast of America
down to the single island of Cape Breton. Here, after seven years of
official hesitation and maritime exhaustion, Louisbourg was founded to
guard the only harbour the French thought they had a chance of holding.
A medal was struck to celebrate this last attempt to keep the one
remaining seaway open between Old France and New. Its legend ran
thus: Ludovicoburgum Fundatum et Munitum, M.DCC.XX
('Louisbourg Founded and Fortified, 1720'). Its obverse bore the profile
of the young Louis XV, whose statesmen hoped they had now
established a French Gibraltar in America, where French fleets and
forts would command the straits leading into the St Lawrence and
threaten the coast of New England, in much the same way as British
fleets and forts commanded the entrance to the Mediterranean and
threatened the coasts of France and Spain. This hope seemed flattering
enough in time of peace; but it vanished at each recurrent shock of war,
because the Atlantic then became a hostile desert for the French, while

it still remained a friendly highway for the British.
The first French settlers in Louisbourg came over from Newfoundland,
which had been given up to the British by the treaty.
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