A rare plan of the 1745 siege of the fortress of Louisbourg, cut in Boston by James Turner and published in one of the earliest American news magazines. All the more remarkable for having been issued less than a month after the French surrender.
The massive French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island was constructed in the years 1720-1740 to control access to the St. Lawrence and provide a base for raiding the northern British colonies. It was thus a great triumph when in May-June 1745 it was besieged and captured by a force of New England militia organized by Massachusetts Governor William Shirley and supported by a British fleet. A few years later the pride turned to outrage when the fortress was returned to French control by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which concluded the War of the Austrian Succession.
The Colonial media produced a flood of pamphlets, maps, and prints documenting the siege and celebrating its successful outcome. Offered here is one such, being the June 1745 number of The American Magazine and Historical Chronicle, which reprints several reports from Louisbourg, including accounts of the French surrender on June 17. The reports are illustrated by a full-page plan cut by James Turner, at the time one of Boston’s leading engravers. The plan depicts the fortress, harbor and the surrounding country, with French fortifications, “English” (i.e., American) siege works, and other locations numbered and identified by an “Explanation” on the facing page. At right the vessels of the British fleet, wreathed in cannon smoke from their bombardment of the fortress, lend both drama and charm to the image.
Both Kershaw and Wheat & Brun identify a second state of the plan, with no change to the woodcut itself but the title changed and the lettered references added below the neat line. This was used both as an illustration on a broadside of verse celebrating the conquest, as well as in the Extraordinary Events the Doing of God, a sermon by Thomas Prince published in Boston in 1747.
In all a rather wonderful survival, with a level of immediacy to the events depicted rarely encountered in early maps.
Kershaw vol. 3 #894, plate 665. Wheat & Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800, #72. Evans #5113 describes the full run of The American Magazine and Historical Chronicle.
Wraps lacking. Mild water staining throughout.