Fortress of Louisbourg
9 Sep 2017
|Today I took a day-trip to the Fortress of Louisbourg which is about 60 km from here & one of the places near the top of my list for several reasons because it ties together other places I’ve seen. I also learned the difference between a fort & a fortress – the fortifications of a fortress enclose a town, those of a fort don’t.
The story of the original fortress is fascinating but I was also impressed with the story of its reconstruction, but more of that later.
In 1713, after they had to leave their colonies in Newfoundland & mainland Nova Scotia as a result of the Treaty of Utrecht, (I just learned that), France chose Louisbourg to defend her colonial & maritime interests in North America. As capital of the colony of Isle Royale (Cape Breton) & guardian of the Gulf of St Lawrence it became the most important French fishing & commercial centre in North America.
Louisbourg was chosen for its large harbour, good beaches for drying cod & its proximity to the fishing grounds. Although defending Louisbourg wasn’t easy, the French protected their valuable capital by building walls to encircle it – making a fortress out of a fishing community.
However, it was besieged & captured by British forces in 1745 although they had to give it back to the French in 1748 as a result of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. The British captured it again in 1758 & this time they destroyed it so it would never be of use to the French again.
The Acadians helped the French in this battle of 1758 which was the catalyst for their expulsion from Nova Scotia in 1760. So it all hangs together, even the Battle of Restigouche in 1760 is directly related to what happened at Louisbourg.
By 1960, all that remained was open landscape, a few ruins & a museum built in the 1930s. This area’s economy was built on coal-mining, an industry which had collapsed, so the decision in 1960 to reconstruct ¼ of a town that had vanished 2 centuries earlier was undertaken to help revitalize a Cape Breton society suffering from massive unemployment.
Unemployed miners were retrained in carpentry, masonry & other trades to form the nucleus of the reconstruction workforce & the result was the creation of a world-class heritage site, one of the largest of its kind in North America.
The reconstructed houses are situated on the original foundations. Archival records exist showing who lived in or worked in the buildings. At that time, French officials took an “after death inventory”, listing objects an individual owned at the time of death & these lists provided information to allow furnishing the houses to be totally accurate.
Everything is beautifully presented & the site is huge with so many reconstructed houses that I actually found it a bit repetitive. Just how many houses furnished in the style of 1744 do you need to see?
During the drive there & back, I noticed a few tinges of autumn colour in some of the trees. I’m still amazed at the short summer season here – barely 2 months & it’s already autumn.
By the way, last night’s salmon was delicious. I thought maybe all the seasonings would overpower the fish, but they didn’t.