The Official British Louisbourg Medal

Background: The French and Indian War was a North American conflict of a larger imperial war between Great Britain and France, known as the Seven Years' War. The French and Indian War began in 1754 and ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It pitted Britain, its American colonists, and its Native Indian allies (Cherokee, Catawba, and Iroquois) against the French and their Native allies (Shawnee, Lenape Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Algonquin). The war provided Great Britain with enormous territorial gains in North America.

The primary cause of the war in North America was recurring frontier issues. Britain controlled the American colonies along the East Coast and west to the Appalachians. Beyond lay the hugely empty and sparsely populated French colony stretching from Louisiana north through the Mississippi Valley and into Canada.

The Capture of Louisbourg: Early British failures in North America led to significant changes in the British military leadership and tactics. A new Prime Minister, William Pitt, took a direct interest in the British war strategy. Louisbourg played a crucial role in the supply lines supporting the French military presence. Consequently, Louisbourg became the prime target of Pitt's ambitious North American strategy for the 1758 British campaign.

Major General Jeffrey Amherst, KCB, and Admiral Edward Boscawen were placed in charge of the army and navy forces, respectively. These forces comprised 14,000 soldiers and 200 ships, including twenty-three ships of the line. The previous 1757 expedition had failed due to the French navy's ability to concentrate enough warships at Louisbourg to make a direct assault on the fortress impossible. By 1758, France's navy no longer held a major presence at Louisbourg or the ability to keep the British navy at bay. The tightening of the blockade of the French European ports by the Royal Navy made resupply a monumental challenge. The main French relief fleet had been destroyed at the Battle of Cartagena during February 1758. A second French Navy attempt to sail from Brest was thwarted by the British during April 1758. This resulted in Louisbourg being defended by just five ships of the line and suffering from seriously dwindling supplies and munitions.

The capture of Louisbourg Fortress on Cape Breton Island, during the summer of 1758 marked a significant turning point in the Seven Years' War as well as victory in the French and Indian War. With the capture of Louisbourg, the British navy now controlled access to the St. Lawrence River, which was the sole outlet to the Atlantic Ocean for the entire Great Lakes Region.

Medal Design: The 43.8mm (786.9 grams) British medal for the capture of Louisbourg, designed by Thomas Pingo, splits the distinction between commemorative medal and military decoration. It was struck from the same dies in gold, silver or bronze in that order. The complex obverse depicts a globe crushing a prostate female figure (France) reaching for upside down fleur-de-lis with her right hand representing a conquered France and showing the extent of Britain's American colonies from Cuba to the Maritimes with CANADA and AMERICA noted. Flying above the globe is the allegorical figure of Fame blowing victory on a trumpet of triumph while holding a wreath in her right hand. The globe flanked by a British Grenadier in the uniform of the period and a sailor waiving his "Jack Tar" hat, illustrating the coordination between the army and the navy. The banner above the globe reads, PARITER IN BELLA (Equally Brave in War).

Louisbourg Gold Medal & Silver Medal with Official Ribbon

The reverse depicts a realistic view of the events of the night of July 25-26, 1758 in Louisbourg Harbor. This includes the final cataclysm of the battle, the burning of the French ship Prudent while the captured French ship Bienfiasant is being towed away by the British Navy. The town is depicted under heavy fire from the British ships. French cannoneers firing on the British ships are at the bottom left and the tow to the right. The curved inscription around the upper edge of the reverse reads LOUISBOURG TAKEN MDCCLVIII (1758).

Produced in the British Isles, the medal was conferred upon selected recipients (soldiers and sailors) for acts of bravery or distinguished service.

As mentioned, gold and silver medals were struck first and the great majority were struck perfectly. The reverse of the copper pieces, last to be struck, show a rim crack near the 4-o'clock position.

Although not initially intended for wear and produced without a suspension device, a 32mm ribbon (1/2 yellow and 1/2 blue) was added. The gold and silver versions were often worn with this ribbon on the uniform by recipients. Enlisted ranks did not generally wear medals. Gold and silver specimens with hangers were officially distributed to the admirals and generals who took part in the action. Other officers wore silver examples on hangers and most silver specimens show wear.

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