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Or The Winning of a Continent

BY G. A. HENTY [1894]

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Chapter 16
The Massacre At Fort William Henry

Vocabulary 1:  capitulation, corps, interstices, reconnoitred, succour

1.  When the skirmishing round Fort Henry was over, La Corne, with a body of Indians, occupied the road that led to Fort Edward; and Levis encamped close by, to support him, and check any sortie the English might make from their intrenched camp. Montcalm reconnoitred the position. He had, at first, intended to attack and carry the intrenched camp, but he found that it was too strong to be taken by a rush. He therefore determined to attack the fort, itself, by regular approaches from the western side, while the force of Levis would intercept any succour which might come from Fort Edward, and cut off the retreat of the garrison in that direction. He gave orders that the cannon were to be disembarked at a small cove, about half a mile from the fort, and near this he placed his main camp. He now sent one of his aides-de-camp with a letter to Monro.

2.  "I owe it to humanity," he said, "to summon you to surrender. At present I can restrain the savages, and make them observe the terms of a capitulation, but I might not have the power to do so under other circumstances, and an obstinate defense on your part could only retard the capture of the place a few days, and endanger the unfortunate garrison, which cannot be relieved, in consequence of the dispositions I have made. I demand a decisive answer within an hour."

3.  Monro replied simply that he and his soldiers would defend themselves till the last.

4.  The trenches were opened on the night of the 4th. The work was extremely difficult, the ground being covered with hard stumps of trees and fallen trunks. All night long 800 men toiled at the work, while the guns of the fort kept up a constant fire of round shot and grape; but by daybreak the first parallel was made. The battery on the left was nearly finished, and one on the right begun. The men were now working under shelter, and the guns of the fort could do them little harm.

5.  While the French soldiers worked, the Indians crept up through the fallen trees, close to the fort, and fired at any of the garrison who might, for a moment, expose themselves. Sharpshooters in the fort replied to their fire, and all day the fort was fringed with light puffs of smoke, whilst the cannon thundered unceasingly. The next morning, the French battery on the left opened with eight heavy cannon and a mortar, and on the following morning the battery on the right joined in with eleven other pieces.

6.  The fort only mounted, in all, seventeen cannon, for the most part small, and, as some of them were upon the other faces, the English fire, although kept up with spirit, could reply but weakly to that of the French. The fort was composed of embankments of gravel, surmounted by a rampart of heavy logs, laid in tiers, crossing each other, the interstices filled with earth; and this could ill support the heavy cannonade to which it was exposed. The roar of the distant artillery continuing day after day was plainly audible at Fort Edward; but although Monro had, at the commencement of the attack, sent off several messengers asking for reinforcements, Webb did not move.

7.  On the third day of the siege he had received 2000 men from New York, and, by stripping all the forts below, he could have advanced with 4500 men, but some deserters from the French told him that Montcalm had 12,000 men, and Webb considered the task of advancing, through the intervening forests and defiles between him and Fort Henry, far too dangerous an operation to be attempted. Undoubtedly it would have been a dangerous one, for the Indians pervaded the woods as far as Fort Edward. No messenger could have got through to inform Monro of his coming, and Montcalm could therefore have attacked him, on the march, with the greater part of his force. Still, a brave and determined general would have made the attempt. Webb did not do so, but left Monro to his fate.

8.  He even added to its certainty by sending off a letter to him, telling him that he could do nothing to assist him, and advising him to surrender at once. The messenger was killed by the Indians in the forest, and the note taken to Montcalm, who, learning that Webb did not intend to advance, was able to devote his whole attention to the fort.  Montcalm kept the letter for several days, till the English rampart was half battered down, and then sent it in by an officer to Monro, hoping that it would induce the latter to surrender. The old soldier, however, remained firm in his determination to hold out, even though his position was now absolutely hopeless. The trenches had been pushed forward until within 250 yards of the fort, and the Indians crept up almost to the wall on this side.

9.  Two sorties were made--one from the fort, the other from the intrenched camp; but both were repulsed with loss. More than 300 of the defenders had been killed and wounded. Smallpox was raging, and the casemates were crowded with sick. All their large cannon had been burst or disabled, and only seven small pieces were fit for service. The French battery in the foremost trench was almost completed, and, when this was done, the whole of Montcalm's thirty-one cannon and fifteen mortars would open fire, and, as a breach had already been effected in the wall, further resistance would have been madness.

10.  On the night of the 8th, it was known in the fort that a council of war would be held in the morning, and that, undoubtedly, the fort would surrender.

11.  James, with his company, had, after escorting the cattle to the fort, crossed the marsh to the intrenched camp, as the fort was already crowded with troops. The company therefore avoided the horrors of the siege. When the report circulated that a surrender would probably be made the next morning, Nat went to James.

12.  "What are you going to do, captain?"

13.  "Do, Nat? Why, I have nothing to do. If Monro and his council decide to surrender, there is an end of it. You don't propose that our company is to fight Montcalm's army alone, do you?"

14.  "No, I don't," Nat said, testily; "there has been a deal too much fighting already. I understand holding out till the last, when there's a hope of somebody coming to relieve you; but what's the use of fighting, and getting a lot of your men killed, and raising the blood of those redskin devils to boiling point? If the colonel had given up the place at once, we should have saved a loss of 300 men, and Montcalm would have been glad enough to let us march off to Fort Edward."

15.  "But probably he will agree to let us do that now," James said.

16.  "He may agree," Nat said, contemptuously; "but how about the redskins?  Do you think that, after losing a lot of their braves, they are going to see us march quietly away, and go home without a scalp? I tell you, captain, I know redskin nature, and, as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, there will be a massacre; and I, for one, ain't going to lay down my rifle, and let the first redskin, as takes a fancy to my scalp, tomahawk me."

17.  "Well, but what do you propose, Nat?"

18.  "Well, captain, I have heard you say yours is an independent command, and that you can act with the company wherever you like. While you are here, I know you are under the orders of the colonel; but if you had chosen to march away on any expedition of your own, you could have done it."

19.  "That is so, Nat; but now the siege is once begun, I don't know that I should be justified in marching away, even if I could."

20.  "But they are going to surrender, I tell you," Nat insisted. "I don't see as how it can be your duty to hand over your company to the French, if you can get them clear away, so as to fight for the king again."

21.  "What do you say, Edwards?" James asked his lieutenant.

22.  "I don't see why we shouldn't march away, if we could," Edwards said.  "Now that the game is quite lost here, I don't think anyone could blame you for saving the company, if possible, and I agree with Nat that Montcalm will find it difficult, if not impossible, to keep his Indians in hand. The French have never troubled much on that score."

23.  "Well, Nat, what is your plan?" James asked, after a pause.

24.  "The plan is simple enough," Nat said. "There ain't no plan at all. All we have got to do is to march quietly down to the lake, to take some of the canoes that are hauled up at the mouth of the swamp, and to paddle quietly off, keeping under the trees on the right-hand side. There ain't many redskins in the woods that way, and the night is as dark as pitch. We can land eight or ten miles down the lake, and then march away to the right, so as to get clean round the redskins altogether."

25.  "Very well, Nat, I will do it," James said. "It's a chance, but I think it's a better chance than staying here, and if I should get into a row about it, I can't help it. I am doing it for the best."

26.  The corps were quietly mustered, and marched out through the gate of the intrenchments, on the side of the lake. No questions were asked, for the corps had several times gone out on its own account, and driven back the Indians and French pickets. The men had, from their first arrival at the fort, laid aside their heavy boots, and taken to moccasins as being better fitted for silent movement in the forest.  Therefore not a sound was heard as, under Nat's guidance, they made their way down the slope into the swamp.

27.  Here they were halted, for the moment, and told to move with the greatest care and silence, and to avoid snapping a bough or twig. This, however, was the less important, as the cannon on both sides were still firing, and a constant rattle of musketry was going on round the fort.

28.  Presently, they reached the point where the canoes were hauled up, and were told off, three to a canoe.

29.  "Follow my canoe in single file," James said. "Not a word is to be spoken, and remember that a single splash of a paddle will bring the redskins down upon us. Likely enough there may be canoes out upon the lake--there are sure to be Indians in the wood."

30.  "I don't think there's much fear, captain," Nat whispered. "There's no tiring a redskin when he's out on the scout on his own account, but when he's acting with the whites he's just as lazy as a hog, and, as they must be sure the fort can't hold out many hours longer, they will be too busy feasting, and counting the scalps they mean to take, to think much about scouting tonight."

1.  How long did Monro have to consider the demand to surrender?  _______________

2.  How many cannons were in the fort?  ______________________                                    

3.  How many men had been killed in the fort?  _____________________

4.  How many men in each canoe?  ____________________

Vocabulary 2:  assuage, atrocity, Bougainville, boughs, capitulation, embrasures, fiendish, ineffaceable, Vaudreuil

31.  "We shall go very slowly. Let every man stop paddling the instant the canoe ahead of him stops," were James's last instructions, as he stepped into the stern of a canoe, while Nat and Jonathan took the paddles. Edwards was to take his place in the last canoe in the line.

32.  Without the slightest sound, the canoes paddled out into the lake, and then made for the east shore. They were soon close to the trees, and, slowly and noiselessly, they kept their way just outside the screen afforded by the boughs drooping down, almost into the water. Only now and then the slightest splash was to be heard along the line, and this might well have been taken for the spring of a tiny fish feeding.

33.  Several times, when he thought he heard a slight sound in the forest on his right, Nat ceased paddling, and lay for some minutes motionless, the canoes behind doing the same. So dark was it, that they could scarce see the trees close beside them, while the bright flashes from the guns from fort and batteries only seemed to make the darkness more intense. It was upwards of an hour before James felt, from the greater speed with which the canoe was travelling, that Nat believed that he had got beyond the spot where any Indians were likely to be watching in the forest.

34.  Faster and faster the boat glided along, but the scouts were still far from rowing their hardest. For, although the whole of the men were accustomed to the use of the paddle, the other boats would be unable to keep up with that driven by the practiced arms of the leaders of the file. After paddling for another hour and a half, the scout stopped.

35.  "We are far enough away now," Nat said. "There ain't no chance in the world of any redskins being in the woods, so far out as this. The hope of scalps will have taken them all down close to the fort. We can land safely, now."

36.  The word was passed down the line of canoes, the boats glided through the screen of foliage, and the men landed.

37.  "Better pull the canoes ashore, captain. If we left them in the water, one might break adrift and float out beyond the trees. Some redskin or other would make it out, and we should have a troop of them on our trail, before an hour had passed."

38.  "There's no marching through the forest now, Nat," James said. "I can't see my own hand close to my face."

39.  "That's so, captain, and we'd best halt till daylight. I could make my way along, easy enough, but some of these fellows would be pitching over stumps, or catching their feet in a creeper, and, like enough, letting off their pieces as they went down. We may just as well stay where we are. They ain't likely to miss us, even in the camp, and certainly the redskins can't have known we have gone. So there's no chance whatever of pursuit, and there ain't nothing to be gained by making haste."

40.  James gave the order. The men felt about, till each found a space of ground, sufficiently large to lie down upon, and soon all were asleep except the two scouts, who said, at once, that they would watch by turns till daylight.

41.  As soon as it was sufficiently light to see in the forest, the band were again in motion. They made due east, until they crossed the trail leading from the head of Lake Champlain to Fort Edward; kept on for another hour, and then, turning to the south, made in the direction of Albany, for it would have been dangerous to approach Fort Edward, round which the Indians were sure to be scattered thickly.

42.  For the first two hours after starting, the distant roar of the guns had gone on unceasingly, then it suddenly stopped.

43.  "They have hoisted the white flag," Edwards said. "It is all over.  Thank God, we are well out of it! I don't mind fighting, Walsham, but to be massacred by those Indians is a hideous idea."

44.  "I am glad we are out of it too," James agreed; "but I cannot think that Montcalm, with so large a force of French regulars at his command, will allow those fiendish Indians to massacre the prisoners."

45.  "I hope not," Edwards said. "It will be a disgrace indeed to him and his officers if he does; but you know what the Indians are, better than I do, and you have heard Nat's opinion. You see, if Montcalm were to use force against the Indians, the whole of them would go off, and then there would be an end to any hope of the French beating the colonists in the long run. Montcalm daren't break with them. It's a horrible position for an officer and a gentleman to be placed in. Montcalm did manage to prevent the redskins from massacring the garrison of Oswego, but it was as much as he could do, and it will be ten times as difficult, now that their blood is up with this week of hard fighting, and the loss of many of their warriors. Anyhow, I am glad I am out of it, even if the bigwigs consider we had no right to leave the fort, and break us for it. I would rather lose my commission than run the risk of being massacred in cold blood."

46.  James agreed with him.

47.  For two days, they continued their march through the forest, using every precaution against surprise. They saw, however, nothing of the enemy, and emerged from the forest, on the evening of the second day's march, at a distance of a few miles from Albany.

48.  They had not reached that town many hours, when they learned that Nat's sombre predictions had been fulfilled. The council of war in the fort agreed that further resistance was impossible, and Lieutenant Colonel Young went out, with a white flag, to arrange the terms of surrender with Montcalm. It was agreed that the English troops should march out, with the honours of war, and be escorted to Fort Edward by a detachment of French troops; that they should not serve for eighteen months; and that all French prisoners captured in America, since the war began, should be given up within three months. The stores, ammunition, and artillery were to be handed over to the French, except one field piece, which the garrison were to be allowed to retain, in recognition of their brave defense.

49.  Before signing the capitulation, Montcalm summoned the Indian chiefs before him, and asked them to consent to the conditions, and to restrain their young braves from any disorder. They gave their approval, and promised to maintain order.

50.  The garrison then evacuated the fort, and marched to join their comrades in the intrenched camp. No sooner had they moved out, than a crowd of Indians rushed into the fort through the breach and embrasures, and butchered all the wounded who had been left behind to be cared for by the French. Having committed this atrocity the Indians, and many of the Canadians, rushed up to the intrenched camp, where the English were now collected. The French guards, who had been stationed there, did nothing to keep them out; and they wandered about, threatening and insulting the terrified women, telling the men that everyone should be massacred, and plundering the baggage.

51.  Montcalm did his best, by entreaty, to restrain the Indians, but he took no steps whatever to give effectual protection to the prisoners, and that he did not do so will remain an ineffaceable blot upon his fame. Seeing the disposition of the redskins, he should have ordered up all the regular French troops, and marched the English garrison under their protection to Fort Edward, in accordance with the terms of surrender; and he should have allowed the English troops to again fill their pouches with cartridge, by which means they would have been able to fight in their own defense.

52.  The next morning, the English marched at daybreak. Seventeen wounded men were left behind in the huts, having been, in accordance with the agreement, handed over to the charge of a French surgeon; but as he was not there in the morning, the regimental surgeon, Miles Whitworth, remained with them attending to their wants. The French surgeon had caused special sentinels to be placed for their protection, but these
were now removed, when they were needed most.

53.  At five in the morning the Indians entered the huts, dragged out the inmates, tomahawked and scalped them before the eyes of Whitworth, and in the presence of La Corne and other Canadian officers, as well as of a French guard stationed within forty feet of the spot--none of whom, as Whitworth declared on oath, did anything to protect the wounded men.

54.  The Indians, in the meantime, had begun to plunder the baggage of the column. Monro complained, to the officers of the French escort, that the terms of the capitulation were broken; but the only answer was that he had better give up all the baggage to the Indians, to appease them.  But it had no effect in restraining the passion of the Indians. They rushed upon the column, snatching caps, coats, and weapons from men and officers, tomahawking all who resisted, and, seizing upon shrieking women and children, carried them away or murdered them on the spot. A rush was made upon the New Hampshire men, at the rear of the column, and eighty of them were killed or carried away.

55.  The Canadian officers did nothing at all to try to assuage the fury of the Indians, and the officers of the Canadian detachment, which formed the advance guard of the French escort, refused any protection to the men, telling them they had better take to the woods and shift for themselves. Montcalm, and the principal French officers, did everything short of the only effectual step, namely, the ordering up of the French regular troops to save the English. They ran about among the yelling Indians, imploring them to desist, but in vain.

56.  Some seven or eight hundred of the English were seized and carried off by the savages, while some seventy or eighty were massacred on the spot. The column attempted no resistance. None had ammunition, and, of the colonial troops, very few were armed with bayonets. Had any resistance been offered, there can be no doubt all would have been massacred by the Indians.

57.  Many of the fugitives ran back to the fort, and took refuge there, and Montcalm recovered from the Indians more than four hundred of those they had carried off. These were all sent under a strong guard to Fort Edward. The greater part of the survivors of the column dispersed into the woods, and made their way in scattered parties to Fort Edward. Here cannon had been fired at intervals, to serve as a guide to the fugitives, but many, no doubt, perished in the woods. On the morning after the massacre the Indians left in a body for Montreal, taking with them two hundred prisoners, to be tortured and murdered on their return to their villages.

58.  Few events cast a deeper disgrace on the arms of France than this massacre, committed in defiance of their pledged honour for the safety of their prisoners, and in sight of four thousand French troops, not a man of whom was set in motion to prevent it. These facts are not taken only from English sources, but from the letters of French officers, and from the journal of the Jesuit Roubaud, who was in charge of the Christianized Indians, who, according to his own account, were no less ferocious and cruel than the unconverted tribes. The number of those who perished in the massacre is uncertain. Captain Jonathan Carver, a colonial officer, puts the killed and captured at 1500. A French writer, whose work was published at Montreal, says that they were all killed, except seven hundred who were captured; but this is, of course, a gross exaggeration. General Levis and Roubaud, who were certain to have made the best of the matter, acknowledged that they saw some fifty corpses scattered on the ground, but this does not include those murdered in the fort and camp.

59.  Probably the total number killed was about two hundred, and besides these must be counted the two hundred prisoners carried off to be tortured by the Indians. The greater portion of these were purchased from the Indians, in exchange for rum, by Vaudreuil, the governor at Montreal; but to the eternal disgrace of this man, he suffered many of them to be carried off, and did not even interfere when, publicly, in the sight of the whole town, the Indians murdered some of the prisoners, and, not content with eating them themselves, forced their comrades to partake of the flesh. Bougainville, one of the aides-de-camp of Montcalm, was present, and testified to the fact, and the story is confirmed by the intendant Bigot, a friend of the governor.

5.  Did the canoes make for the east or west shore?  ____________________

6.  How long after daylight did the guns stop firing?  _____________________

7.  What was the name of the Lieutenant Colonel who went out with the white flag? 


8.  Did the Canadian officers try to stop the Indians?  ________________

Vocabulary 3:  Aix la Chapelle, Boscawen, Bourgogne, ferocity, fugitives, Rochefort, Volontaires Etrangers

60.  The ferocity of the Indians cost them dear. They had dug up and scalped the corpses in the graveyard of Fort William Henry. Many of these had died of smallpox, and the savages took the infection home to their villages, where great numbers perished of the disease.

61.  As soon as their Indian allies had left, the French soldiers were set to work demolishing the English fort, and the operation was completed by the destruction, by fire, of the remains. The army then returned to Crown Point.

62.  In view of the gross breach of the articles of capitulation by the French, the English government refused also to be bound by it, and the French prisoners in their hands were accordingly retained.

63.  Colonel Monro himself was one of those who survived. He had made his way through the savages back to the fort, to demand that the protection of the French troops should be given to the soldiers, and so escaped the massacre.

64.  Upon his arrival at Albany, James reported, to the officer in command there, the reason which had induced him to quit the fort with his company. These reasons were approved of, but the officer advised James to send in a written report to General Webb, and to march at once to Fort Edward, and place himself under that officer's directions.

65.  When he reached the fort, the fugitives were coming in from the woods.  James at once reported himself to the general, and handed in his written statement. At the same time he gave his reasons, in a few words, for the course he had taken. Webb was far too much excited by the news of the terrible events which had taken place, and for which, as he could not but be aware, he would be to some extent held responsible, by public opinion, for having refused to move to Monro's assistance, to pay much attention to the young officer's statement.

66.  "You were quite right, sir, quite right to carry off your command," he said hastily. "Thank God there are so many the fewer of his majesty's troops sacrificed! You will please take your company out at once into the woods. They are accustomed to the work, which is more than any of my troops here are. Divide them into four parties, and let them scour the forest, and bring in such of the fugitives as they can find. Let them take as much provisions and rum as they can carry, for many of the fugitives will be starving."

67.  James executed his orders, and, during the next five days, sent in a considerable number of exhausted men, who, hopelessly lost in the woods, must have perished unless they had been discovered by his party.

68.  Had Montcalm marched direct upon Fort Edward, he could doubtless have captured it, for the fall of Fort William Henry had so scared Webb, that he would probably have retreated the moment he heard the news of Montcalm's advance, although, within a day or two of the fall of the fort, many thousands of colonial militia had arrived. As soon, however, as it was known that Montcalm had retired, the militia, who were altogether unsupplied with the means of keeping the field, returned to their homes.

69.  Loudon, on his way back from the unsuccessful expedition against Louisbourg, received the news of the calamity at Fort William Henry. He returned too late to do anything to retrieve that disaster, and determined, in the spring, to take the offensive by attacking Ticonderoga. This had been left, on the retirement of Montcalm, with a small garrison commanded by Captain Hepecourt, who, during the winter, was continually harassed by the corps of Captain Rogers, and James Walsham's scouts.

70.  Toward the spring, receiving reinforcements, Hepecourt caught Rogers and a hundred and eighty men in an ambush, and killed almost all of them; Rogers himself, and some twenty or thirty men, alone escaping.

71.  In the spring there was a fresh change of plans. The expedition against Ticonderoga was given up, as another attempt at Louisbourg was about to be made. The English government were determined that the disastrous delays, which had caused the failure of the last expedition, should not be repeated. Loudon was recalled, and to General Abercromby, the second in command, was entrusted the charge of the forces in the colonies. Colonel Amherst was raised to the rank of major general, and appointed to command the expedition from England against Louisbourg, having under him Brigadier Generals Whitmore, Lawrence, and Wolfe. Before the winter was ended two fleets put to sea: the one, under Admiral Boscawen, was destined for Louisbourg; while the other, under Admiral Osborne, sailed for the Straits of Gibraltar, to intercept the French fleet of Admiral La Clue, which was about to sail from Toulon for America.

72.  At the same time Sir Edward Hawke, with seven ships of the line and three frigates, sailed for Rochefort, where a French squadron with a fleet of transports, with troops for America, were lying.

73.  The two latter expeditions were perfectly successful. Osborne prevented La Clue from leaving the Mediterranean. Hawke drove the enemy's vessels ashore at Rochefort, and completely broke up the expedition. Thus Canada, at the critical period, when the English were preparing to strike a great blow at her, was cut off from all assistance from the mother country, and left to her own resources.

74.  As before, Halifax was the spot where the troops from the colonies were to meet the fleet from England, and the troops who came out under their convoy, and here, on the 28th of May, the whole expedition was collected. The colonies had again been partially stripped of their defenders, and five hundred provincial rangers accompanied the regulars. James Walsham's corps was left for service on the frontier, while the regiments, to which they belonged, sailed with the force destined for the siege of Louisbourg.

75.  This fortress stood, at the mouth of a land-locked bay, on the stormy coast of Cape Breton. Since the peace of Aix la Chapelle, vast sums had been spent in repairing and strengthening it, and it was, by far, the strongest fortress in English or French America. The circuit of its fortifications was more than a mile and a half, and the town contained
about four thousand inhabitants. The garrison consisted of the battalions of Artois, Bourgogne, Cambis, and Volontaires Etrangers, with two companies of artillery, and twenty-four of colonial troops; in all, three thousand and eighty men, besides officers. In the harbour lay five ships of the line and seven frigates, carrying five hundred and forty-four guns, and about three thousand men, and there were two hundred and nineteen cannons and seventeen mortars mounted on the ramparts and outworks, and forty-four in reserve.

76.  Of the outworks, the strongest were the grand battery at Lighthouse Point, at the mouth of the harbour; and that on Goat Island, a rocky islet at its entrance. The strongest front of the works was on the land side, across the base of the triangular peninsula on which the town stood. This front, twelve hundred yards in extent, reached from the sea, on the left, to the harbour on the right, and consisted of four strong bastions with connecting works.

77.  The best defense of Louisbourg, however, was the craggy shore, which, for leagues on either side, was accessible only at a few points, and, even there, a landing could only be effected with the greatest difficulty. All these points were watched, for an English squadron, of nine ships of war, had been cruising off the place, endeavouring to prevent supplies from arriving; but they had been so often blown off, by gales, that the French ships had been able to enter, and, on the 2nd of June, when the English expedition came in sight, more than a year's supply of provisions was stored up in the town.

9.  What sickness did the Indians get?  _____________________

10.  James was sent to Fort _______________________

11.  What place did the English decide to attack?  ______________________

12.  Provisions to last for how long were stored up in Louisbourg?  _______________

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