The Journal of Louisbourg

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In 1758, during the Seven Years War, the fortress of Louisbourg, which was essential for the defense of New-France, was one the primary targets of the British seeking to conquer the French colony. Under this British threat, the regiment of Cambis left France in April 1758 on four ships and a frigate: Le Dragon, Le Hardy, Le Belliqueux, Le Sphinx and Le Florissant. At that moment, an officer in the second battalion started to write his journal, thus leaving us a portrait of this period of his life, the crossing of the Atlantic to Louisbourg, the siege of the fortress by the British, his stay in England as a prisoner of war and his return to France in May 1759. In his almost daily entries, two main themes emerge.    
The first theme concerns health. The officer frequently emphasizes that the health of all those aboard was paramount. The officer also noted the numbers of illnesses and deaths in the squadron from France to Louisbourg and from Louisbourg to England: while the voyage to England was fatal for 24 people, the one to Louisbourg cost just 3 lives. What is more, according to this officer, fever was the main illness on French ships in Canada but, when he was taken to England, this crossing was dominated by sea sickness.  Finally, the author described the wounds suffered by the soldiers during the siege of the fortress and listed the deaths during this battle. 
The second theme concerns physical surroundings. During the crossing, the first lines of each entry in the journal always specify the latitude and the longitude, as well as the distance covered during the past 24 hours. Nature is also described in detail. For example, the origin, the strength and the changes of directions of the winds, which were essential to navigation, can be found in each entry.  He also described the appearance of icebergs during the crossing. Animals are the subject of several entries. For example, when the squadron was on the point of arriving in Louisbourg, the author mentioned some white birds that were larger than pigeons. Another entry indicates that everyone on board was very happy to see porpoises playing in the water.
Finally, even if we do not know the name of the author of this journal, a few clues might allow us to identify him. Shortly before his departure from France in May 1758, he mentions that he visited three other ships, Le Dragon, Le Hardy and Le Belliqueux. While the squadron was under way, he states that le Florissant was close to his ship.  By deduction, the officer was probably aboard Le Sphinx.  Furthermore, we know that he arrived in Plymouth in England in September 1758 and that he returned to Saint-Malo on 29 April 1759.  Research in the registers of Plymouth and Saint-Malo may allow us to put a name to this officer who left us a vital source for studies about Louisbourg, New-France, France and the Seven Years War.


Published in may 2021

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