It’s been a long time since I posted anything as I could think of nothing to write about. Having just finished reading this book about Louisbourg in Nova Scotia, I feel called to say a few words.
First of all, we just visited Louisbourg in August. It was a quick visit as it came towards the end of our road trip and of course, it was foggy that day.
The night we arrived it was late and the last restaurant in town closed their kitchen just as we entered. We thought we would go hungry but found a corner store that sold us some frozen spring rolls that we enjoyed back in our motel. The reason I mention this is that there were several occasions when the early residents of Louisbourg were very near starvation until the next supply ship came in.
Firstly, what is Louisbourg, or Fortress Louisbourg as it is properly called? It was a fortified French town which existed from 1713 to 1758 on Cape Breton Island also known as Isle Royale. When France lost the War of the Spanish Succession, it lost it’s colonies in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to England and was forced to consolidate them in Cape Breton.
At great expense, a brand new settlement and fort was built on the NE corner of Cape Breton. It was located there for access to the lucrative cod fishing banks off Newfoundland and because it could control ship access to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, thus protecting Quebec from English attack by sea.
Author John Stuart McLennan (1853-1939) was a Cambridge educated business man who spent his summers in Louisbourg. He became intrigued with its history. As such, his book, is a military history of the rise and fall of Louisbourg and was first published in 1918. He goes into great detail on the military and civil government happenings that occurred during the life of Louisbourg with interesting sorties into the social, economic and political conditions people faced in living in this isolated French colony.
Three things I learned in reading this excellently written book:
- cod were so plentiful they would literally leap into the boat and consequently support thousands of colonists and seasonal fishermen financially during this period
- many of the leaders of Louisbourg were corrupt and or incompetent and sought to line their own pockets thus sealing the fate of this colonial endeavour
- France was going broke and had it been able to provide more ships and resources to Louisbourg (and Quebec), North America would not likely be as “english” as we know it to be today
It was the dashing British General James Wolfe who leapt into the surf and led his men ashore in the bay behind Fortress Louisbourg which ultimately led to its fall in the summer of 1758. Promoted, one year later that now Major General Wolfe returned to Louisburg to assemble a massive armada and sailed up the St Lawrence to victory, putting a permanent end to French colonization in North America.
In 1928, the “Old Town” was set aside as a National Historic Site, and in 1935 a museum was built. Starting in 1960, the Federal Government reconstructed certain buildings to attract tourists and give local employment. We really enjoyed our visit there and I in reading this book. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars (the illustrations were old and hard to read.) (the use of original source material verbatim was excellent) (sometimes there was too much detail)
I leave you with a few photos we snapped while there on a foggy day. Definitely worth a visit.