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New England Takes Fort Louisbourg in 1745


Louisbourg was also an important geographical stronghold giving the French control over the St. Lawrence River and inland access to North America all the way to the Great Lakes. And there was cause for alarm. The French had recently attacked the British outpost at Canso in nearby Nova Scotia. A few Maine towns (Maine was part of Massachusetts then) had been terrorized by marauding French warships. But it wasn't until French privateers stationed at Louisbourg started picking off New England fishing boats and merchant ships that the locals took notice. That’s when the men of New Hampshire and surrounding states signed on with Gen. Pepperrell for $25 per month and a free blanket each. Ultimately, it was the thrill of adventure and looting a French fort that filled the transport ships with eager volunteers.  Many took it as a holy war. The largely Protestant New Englanders were certain that God favored them over the Catholic French in America.

Although Admiral Peter Warren became an English hero after the siege, much of the credit for victory must go to Pepperrell. According to the late Joe Frost, a direct descendant, Sir William was a truly popular guy, a “man's man” in a era when, unlike today, the commander-in-chief actually went to war. Although in his early 50s, Pepperrell personally accompanied his rag-tag militia of farm boys and fishermen, often speaking to them directly, and running the show with a loose hand.

The French were expecting British naval reprisal for their attack on Canso. The star-shaped fortress at Louisbourg made the perfect hide-out. What they hadn't expected was the sheer number of plucky New Englanders who sailed to the defense of their precious fishing grounds. They hadn't expected the troops to begin the siege by land, quickly knocking out the Royal Battery, the weakest defense point at the fort, and turning the French cannons on the city.


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