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Anatomy of a Naval Disaster: The 1746 French Expedition to North America
Intended as a riposte to the Anglo-American capture of Louisbourg in 1745, the so-called d'Enville expedition set out from France the following year to secure Canada, recapture Acadia and Louisbourg, and ravage the New England coast as far south as Boston. Many of the sixty-four French vessels involved did not return and estimates of the dead reached as...
Intended as a riposte to the Anglo-American capture of Louisbourg in 1745, the so-called d'Enville expedition set out from France the following year to secure Canada, recapture Acadia and Louisbourg, and ravage the New England coast as far south as Boston. Many of the sixty-four French vessels involved did not return and estimates of the dead reached as high as eight thousand. Yet the enemy was never met in battle. James Pritchard's account of this naval fiasco sheds new light on the extent of the tragedy and raises questions about the role and effectiveness of naval power during the intercolonial wars of the mid-eighteenth century. Pritchard describes the domestic and international political circumstances in France that gave rise to the expedition, outlining strategy and politics in the context of colonial defence and continental ambition. He reconstructs the events that contributed to the failure of the expedition - human and institutional weakness, weather, spoiled provisions, disease, and the death of the commanding admiral. Anatomy of a Naval Disaster exposes the ambitions and frailties of men, the arbitrariness of success, and the limits of power in the eighteenth century.
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