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he got a letter from Thierry, the captain in command of the Royal Battery, advising that the cannon should be spiked and the works blown up. It was then, according to the governor, that the council was called, and a unanimous vote passed to follow Thierry's advice, on the ground that the defences of the battery were in bad condition, and that the four hundred men posted there could not stand against three or four thousand.1 The engineer, Verrier, opposed the blowing up of the works, and they were therefore left untouched. Thierry and his garrison came off in boats, after spiking the cannon in a hasty way, without stopping to knock off the trunnions or burn the carriages. They threw their loose gunpowder into the well, but left behind a good number of cannon cartridges, two hundred and eighty large bombshells, and other ordinance stores, invaluable both to the enemy and to themselves. Brigadier Waldo was sent to occupy the battery with his regiment, and Major Seth Pomeroy, the gunsmith, with twenty soldier-mechanics, was set at drilling out the spiked touch-holes of the cannon. There were twentyeight forty-two-pounders, and two eighteen-pounders. 2 Several were ready for use the next morning, and immediately opened on the town, — which, writes a soldier in his diary, “damaged the houses and made the women cry.” “The enemy,” says the Habitant de Louisbourg, “saluted us with our own cannon, and made a terrific fire, smashing everything within range.”
1 Duchambon au Ministre, 2 Septembre, 1745. This is the gover. nor's official report. “ Four hundred men,” is perhaps a copyist's error, the actual number in the battery being not above two hundred.
3 Waldo to Shirley, 12 May, 1745. Some of the French writers say twenty-eight thirty-six pounders, while all the English call them forty-twos, - which they must have been, as the forty-twopound shot brought from Boston fitted them.
Mr. Theodore Roosevelt draws my attention to the fact that can
The English occupation of the Grand Battery may be called the decisive event of the siege. There seems no doubt that the French could have averted the disaster long enough to make it of little help to the invaders. The water-front of the battery was impregnable. The rear defences consisted of a loopholed wall of masonry, with a ditch ten feet deep and twelve feet wide, and also a covered way and glacis, which General Wolcott describes as unfinished. In this he mistook. They were not unfinished, but had been partly demolished, with a view to reconstruction. The rear wall was flanked by two towers, which, says Duchambon, were demolished; but General Wolcott declares that swivels were still mounted on them, and he adds that “two hundred men might hold the battery against five thousand without cannon.” The English landed their cannon near Flat Point; and before they could be turned against the Grand Battery, they must be dragged four miles over hills and rocks, through spongy marshes and jungles of matted evergreens. This would have required a week or more. The alternative was an escalade, in which the undisciplined assailants would no doubt have met a bloody rebuff. Thus this Grand Battery, which, says Wolcott, “is in fact a fort,” might at least have been held long enough to save the munitions and stores, and effectually disable the cannon, which supplied the English with the only artillery they had, competent to the work before them. The hasty abandonment of this important post was not Duchambon's only blunder, but it was the worst of them all. On the night after their landing, the New England men slept in the woods, wet or dry, with or without blankets, as the case might be, and in the morning set themselves to encamping with as much order as they were capable of. A brook ran down from the hills and entered the sea two miles or more from the town. The ground on each side, though rough, was high and dry, and here most of the regiments made their quarters, – Willard's, Moulton's, and Moore's on the east side, and Burr's and Pepperrell's on the west. Those on the east, in some cases, saw fit to extend themselves towards Louisbourg as far as the edge of the intervening marsh, but were soon forced back to a safer position by the cannon-balls of the fortress, which came bowling amongst them. This marsh was that green, flat sponge of mud and moss that stretched from this point to the glacis of Louisbourg. There was great want of tents, for material to make
non were differently rated in the French and English navies of the seventeenth century, and that a French thirty-six carried a ball as large as an English forty-two, or even a little larger.
1 Journal of Major-General Wolcott.
them was scarce in New England. Old sails were often used instead, being stretched over poles, – perhaps after the fashion of a Sioux teepee. When these could not be had, the men built huts of sods, with roofs of spruce-boughs overlapping like a thatch; for at that early season, bark would not peel from the trees. The landing of guns, munitions, and stores was a formidable task, consuming many days and destroying many boats, as happened again when Amherst landed his cannon at this same place. Large flat boats, brought from Boston, were used for the purpose, and the loads were carried ashore on the heads of the men, wading through ice-cold surf to the waist, after which, having no change of clothing, they slept on the ground through the chill and foggy nights, reckless of future rheumatisms.1
A worse task was before them. The cannon were to be dragged over the marsh to Green Hill, a spur of the line of rough heights that half encircled the town and harbor. Here the first battery was to be planted; and from this point other guns were to be dragged onward to more advanced stations, – a distance in all of more than two miles, thought by the French to be impassable. So, in fact, it seemed; for at the first attempt, the wheels of the cannon sank to the hubs in mud and moss, then the carriage, and finally the piece itself slowly disappeared. LieutenantColonel Meserve, of the New Hampshire regiment, a ship-builder by trade, presently overcame the difficulty. By his direction sledges of timber were made, sixteen feet long and five feet wide; a cannon was placed on each of these, and it was then dragged over the marsh by a team of two hundred men, harnessed with rope-traces and breast-straps, and wading to the knees. Horses or oxen would have foundered in the mire. The way had often to be changed, as the mossy surface was soon churned into a hopeless slough along the line of march. The work could be done only at night or in thick fog, the men being completely exposed to the cannon of the town. Thirteen years after, when General Amherst besieged Louisbourg again, he dragged his cannon to the same hill over the same marsh; but having at his command, instead of four thousand militiamen, eleven thousand British regulars, with all appliances and means to boot, he made a road, with prodigious labor, through the mire, and protected it from the French shot by an epaulement, or lateral earthwork.
1 The author of The Importance and Advantage of Cape Breton says: “When the hardships they were exposed to come to be considered, the behaviour of these men will hardly gain credit. They went ashore wet, had no (dry] clothes to cover them, were exposed in this condition to cold, foggy nights, and yet cheerfully under went these difficulties for the sake of executing a project they had voluntarily undertaken."