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Knox - The Attack on Louisbourg


Knox-LouisbourgHalifax May 12th
'The standing orders of America are to be given to Amherst's regiment, to Anstruther's when they arrive, to the artillery and to any detachments that may be ordered from the fleet, whenever they join the army. The regiments intended to serve upon the expedition against Louisbourg, under the command of Major-General Amherst, are  'The 1st, 15th, 17th, 22nd, 28th, 35th, 40th, 45th, 47th, 48th, 58th, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of the 60th, and 78th of Highlanders.

'The Brigadiers-General are Whitmore. Lawrence, and Wolfe. 'Lieutenant Isaac Barre, of the 32nd regiment, is appointed a major of brigade to this army...'

The fleet and army sailed from Halifax on 29 May, and had the happiness to meet the Dublin off the harbour, on board of whom was General Amherst, commander-in-chief, of the expedition; after their arrival in Gabarus Bay, his excellency published the following orders from on board the Namur, being the admiral's own ship:

3 June 1758
    'The army is to land and attack the French in three different bodies, and at three different places. All the grenadiers and detachments of the right wing upon the right, in the bay, within the White Point. The detachments of the left wing land in two little bays, about a mile and an half  to the left of the White Point. The light infantry, irregulars and highlanders  are to land in the fresh water cove, in order to take the enemy in flank and rear, and cut some of them off from the town, Men of war are ordered to each of these places, to scour the coast and protect the troops at their landing. The grenadiers are to be drawn up, as they lie in their brigades, upon the right of the right Knox-Louisbourgattack, and to rendezvous in a line behind a boat with a red flag, in which Brigadier Wolfe will be. The detachments of the right wing are to assemble in a line, as they are in their brigades, behind a boat with a white flag, where Brigadier-Whitmore will be. The detachments of the left are to rendezvous in the same manner, behind a boat with a blue flag, where Brigadier-General Lawrence will command. The Highlanders, light infantry and irregulars are to rendezvous to the right of the island, lying before the fresh water cove, and to be ready to row into the cove when the signal is given; the signal to row on shore will be three guns from the Sutherland, repeated by the admiral. Although the Highlanders, light infantry and irregulars are a separate attack upon the left, yet, when they land, they are to consider themselves as a part of the left wing, immediately under the command of Brigadier-General Lawrence...
'The signal to prepare to land: A red-flag, with a blue cross at the fore topmast-head of the Sutherland, and to be repeated by the Namur. ...

Knox-LouisbourgLouisbourg, 30 July 1758
The weather continued obstinate until the morning of the eighth, when we were again ordered into the boats, the swell being abated, and the wind very moderate; the frigates at the same time edged in shore to attack the enemy's intrenchments and to cover the landing. After the ships had been some time engaged, a signal was made for the troops to put off, and they rowed up and down, making feints, as if intending to land in different places and thereby divert the enemy's attention from any one particular part of their coast: this in a great measure answered our wishes, and Brigadier Wolfe (whose flag-staff was broken by a swivel shot) pushed ahead, with his detachment, under a furious fire, and landed upon the left of the enemy's works, then briskly engaged and routed them;  the remainder of the army followed the example without loss of time, landing almost up to their waists in water. The ardor of the troops, in this enterprise, is not to be conceived nor paralleled; many boats were destroyed, and several brave fellows drowned: yet our whole loss at landing, I am well assured, did not exceed one hundred and ten men of all ranks, killed wounded and drowned.

The enemy fled with great precipitation, and Brigadier Wolfe pursued them almost to the gates of the town, with the light infantry, rangers, Fraser's Highlanders, and the grenadiers of the 1st, 15th, 17th and 22nd regiments. I can only account for the unsolder-like behaviors of the enemy on this occasion, by their apprehensions, perhaps, of being cut off from the garrison by some or other of the divisions whom they suspected would land Knox-Louisbourgelsewhere for that purpose; and of being thereby hemmed in between two fires: they were very well intrenched in a circular form round the cove, were numerous, and had many pieces of ordnance mounted, from twenty-four pounders downward, with some mortars, etc which were all well served. These, as you may suppose, with their entrenching tools, stores and ammunition and some provisions, fell into our hands: they had some Indians among them, for we found the corpse of one of their chiefs, a stout fellow with uncommon large limbs and features; ha had a medal and crucifix of silver, both hanging by a chain from his neck.

'Though many lives were lost in this descent by the oversetting of the boats, occasioned by an uncommon great surf, yet, I believe, we benefited by it in a very eminent degree, for, when the boats were lifted up by the violence of the swell to a considerable height, the enemy's shot, which would probably have done execution had we been upon even water, passed under us: and in like manner some flew over us in our quick transition from high to low; this is the only reason I can assign for our not losing more men by the enemy's fire. The weather continued rough and unfavourable, so that we had no communication with our fleet for several days; consequently, having no tents on shore and a very short allowance of provisions, our situation was far from being comfortable.

Knox-Louisbourg'On the night of the 11th, the enemy destroyed the grand battery which is opposite to the harbour's mouth, and retired into the town; in consequence thereof, Brigadier Wolfe received orders to march with a large detachment, and take possession of the Light-house Point, which, with the island battery, from the entrance of the harbour. We have an increasable deal of labour on our hands, cutting and making fascines, gabions and hurdles; intrenching our camp and posts, erecting blockhouses, throwing up redoubts, making roads for our artillery through a vile country, partly rough(worse, if possible, than the ground we incamped on last year in Halifax) but in general swampy; advancing our lines or approaches, constructing batteries, and skirmishing continually with the rabble in the woods round our camp, who are very troublesome neighbours: such are the employments of the army, often by night as well as by day; yet with inexpressible pleasure I behold the zeal of the troops surmounting every difficulty, in all which they have noble examples before them in our general officers.

'On the night of the 19th, Brigadier Wolfe opened on the island battery, which however was not silenced until the 25th; he also quieted the fire of a frigate that gave us much annoyance. We then (for I was upon that service) got order to rejoin the army with our artillery, and leave a small detachment with some ship-guns at the point to prevent the enemy's repairing their works and batteries on the island. On the 26th, a party of the enemy sallied out and attempted to destroy one of our blockhouses by fire, hoping thereby to favour a coup they had projected (as we surmise) of greater importance; but they were disappointed and beat back to their garrison with some loss. A command of marines were landed for the first time, and took post at the cove, which is to be relived from the fleet. On the night of the 30th we had a small alarm from that quarter, the marines having apprehended an attack from the savages and other irregulars. The enemy sunk four ships in the harbour's mouth, to obstruct the channel and prevent out fleet's going in; the troops are growing sickly, particularly the New-England-men, their disorders most the small-pox.

July the 1st
'A part of the enemy skulked out, to procure some firewood (as 'tis supposed); they were instantly drove back to the town by Mr Wolfe's datachement: deserters are daily coming out to us; they are mostly Germans, say they were basely betrayed and forced into the French service: the enemy's ships in the harbour continue to annoy us considerably.

July the 9th.
'A strong sortie was made by the garrision; and, though their men were shamefully drunk, yet they surprised some of our troops, and a smart recounter ensued; but some companies of grenadiers, coming up, soon put an end to the fray, and repulsed them with the loss of an hundred killed and wounded; most of the latter were taken prisoners; many of them in their retreat threw down their arms, which we also recovered; we had about forty men and officers killed and wounded.

Knox-LouisbourgJuly the 11th
'Brigadier Wolfe is now about seven hundred yards from the west gate, when he has damaged the town considerably  with his shells; he is erecting a battery of four thirty-two pounders and six twenty-four pounders: our most advanced lodgement is not six hundred yards from the garrison. The making of roads for our artillery has been the most painful of our labour and, though now almost completed, they must nevertheless undergo daily repairs: the weather does not generally favour our operations. General Amherst is indefatigable; he visits our outposts, batteries and other works every day; and is continually concerting plans and reconnoitering new places from which he can most sensibly insult the enemy's works and accelerate the siege.

Next Page 

The Siege of Quebec

and the campaigns in North America
1757-1760
by Captain John Knox
Edited and Introduced by
Brian Connell
 
London
The Folio Society
1976
 

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