Disposable Camera Tour
Fortress of Louisbourg|
Nova Scotia, Canada
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Read the Whole Story
Before the American
French had a powerful hold on North America. They lost it in
1745. The walled Fortress of Louisboug on the eastern tip of Nova
Scotia in Canada was the gateway to the St. Lawrence River leading all
the way to the Great Lakes. It also gave the French a stronghold
to protect its fishing industry that brought in the cod necessary
to the Catholic holy days. And it was a hop, skip and jump from
British colonies in New England. So in 1745, a huge New England militia
of 4,000 made their way up to Louisbourg and took the fort.
It was the largest military event ever mounted by New England at the
time, and it was led by William Pepperell from right here in the
NH and Maine Seacoast.
The taking of Louisbourg rocked the European world and gave New Englanders
early evidence that they could tackle a major enemy. Nearly
4,000 French citizens of the city were shipped back home and
eventually the fortress was knocked flat by the British. It
languished for two centuries. Then in the 1960s the Canadian
government mounted a massive 20 year project to rebuilt the historic
fortress as it looked in 1744, just before the New England raid. The
project initially cost $25 million, and just one-fifth of the site
has been lovingly rebuilt. It costs more each year to maintain what
has become the most elaborate historic tourism site in Canada. And
it is worth every penny.
This is no paper-thin Hollywood stage, but a real city of hewn
beams and stone. Re-enactors relive the story daily in dozens of
buildings that visitors can wander freely. There are no souvenir
stands or Pepsi machines. Food is served by authentic serving women
in metal bowls much as the diner would find in 1744. English and
French speaking guides from the actual town of Louisbourg nearby
interpret the fascinating tales of the difficult life in colonial
Nova Scotia. Itís a dreamland for history buffs since each room in
each building is so carefully rebuilt.
Donít look for animated figures, hi-tech video screens or
underground tunnels. Louisboug feels real because it is. Whatís
missing, of course, are the thousands of residents, haggard soldiers
and the stink and bustle of a population far from home. But it
doesnít take too much imagination to fill in the details.
Visitors should arrive early and plan to spend the entire day. We
did, and still never made it into all the buildings. Although the
climate is often cold and foggy (which is why the New England siege
took months in 1745), we toured on a warm sunny August day. The fact
that we came from the very town where many of the attacking troops
lived only added to the drama and realism. We were the invaders,
spying on the doomed city as it was, just months before the end. Ė
We arrived very early (and hungry) in the town
across the bay from the fortress. We stopped here for breakfast, but
alas, the dining area overlooking the fortress didn't open until
noon! We were among the earliest visitors at the Visitor Center,
bought our $12 tickets (just $8 American) and waited.
And waited, and waited.
Suddenly a Canadian film reporter jumped onto the bus and
interviewed us. Turns out locals from Louisbourg, angered that the fortress had
hired workers from out of town, were blocking buses
to the fortress. Eventually tempers cooled and our driver
took us the one mile to the entrance of the park. Here the driver is
opening the gate and the reconstructed 1744 walled town is in the
Rather than deliver visitors
right to the gate, the bus dropped us off at a reconstructed
fisherman's cottage just outside the walled city. The grass roof
cottage represents the civilian population of fishermen who lived
near, but not inside the fortress.
The fisherman, Jeanne Galbarette,
wife were home, laying out the
morning's cod catch to dry on the fish flakes just outside his cottage.
This is the same way New Hampshire's original settlers made their
living from the very early 1600s, at Rye and at the Isles of Shoals.
The dried or dunned cod was a delicacy in Europe, traveled well, and
could be eaten months, even years later after being soaked in water
and pounded back to life
with a hammer. Yum!
Approaching the Dauphin Gate
entrance, the fortress looks impregnable. In fact, in 1744, there
were English spies inside and the military was in desperate shape
for lack of food and supplies. The tidal "moat" we were told,
is not full of crocodiles or even water, but mostly would have held
the noxious effluents of the crowded city inside -- a good deterrant
The gate is an impressive site and the first
powerful example of the detailed reconstruction paid for by Canadian
taxpayers. Just inside are the quarters of the guards.
It's clear why the French thought the fortress could
not be taken by the English in 1744. What they hadn't counted on was
the sheer number of New Englanders who would lay seige to the
Atop the King's Bastion we met a
friendly soldier. Turns out we had almost run the poor guy off the
road in his little red car earlier in the morning as he was rushing
down the highway to work. The French had not expected the invaders
to come from the distant high ground dragging cannons across the
frozen swamps. For months soldiers taunted eachother verbally over
the walls. Eventually, French deserters ran to the Yankee lines with
information that let William Pepperell of Kittery, ME know how
weakened the city had truly
This view from
the King's Bastion shows the actual
town of Louisboug in the distance and the elaborate extent of the
1744 reconstruction in the foreground. Louisbourg residents built much
of the fortress between the 1960s and 80s as the coal mines in the
Looking for lunch, we spotted the
welcoming sign of fresh branches, an indication that food and drink
are within. The waitress perched in the window seems a serendipitous
photo-op, but we're guessing it's all part of the Canadian plan.
Clever those Canadians.
A dozen more images of Louisbourg in PART
By J.Dennis Robinson
Text and photos copyright © 2002
SeacoastNH.com. All rights
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