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Battle in Restigouche

For the week of Monday July 1, 2013

On July 3, 1760, the British warship Fame destroyed the last canon at Pointe-à-la-Batterie, on the north shore of the Restigouche River, at the far end of Chaleur Bay in present-day Quebec. Five days later, the last naval engagement in the history of New France began.

Installation outside of the Reception Centre of the Battle of Restigouche NHS
© Parks Canada / J.F. Bergeron / 2001
Quebec City had yielded to British forces in 1759, but the fate of New France was still undecided. Elsewhere in the colony, the French continued to resist, though the British military noose tightened around them. On April 10, 1760, France hurried five poorly armed merchant ships and an escort frigate, the Machault, to save the colony. The meagre flotilla, however, had to break through a British naval blockade near the French coast before even being able to reach New France!

Reduced to the Machault and two ships, the rescue expedition, led by François Chénard de la Giraudais, reached the Gulf of St. Lawrence in mid-May, where they seized an English ship. Realizing that British vessels had followed them, the flotilla took refuge in Chaleur Bay, where it came upon Mi’kmaq families and more than a thousand Acadians that had evaded the Deportation. The French gave them daily rations of food and the local inhabitants prepared for battle.

Model of the frigate Le Machault
© Parks Canada / G. Vandervlugt

The French installed cannons along the shores of the Chaleur Bay and further inland along the Restigouche River. They also set up a blockade consisting of ships at the head of the Bay to prevent access into the river. On June 22, however, five English warships overcame the barrier, forcing the French flotilla to retreat upstream.

From the shores, the French, with the help of their Acadian and Mi’kmaq allies, fired at the British flotilla preventing troops from reaching the shore and slowing its progress through the shipwrecks through the bay. But the British still managed to set ablaze habitations, destroy French defences, and reach the Restigouche River. The naval battle began on July 8. At 10 a.m., low on ammunition, the commander of the Machault blew up his vessel. An hour later, the commander of the Bienfaisant followed suit. The assistance so long awaited by New France sank to the bottom of Restigouche River.

The Battle of Restigouche, the site of the last naval battle in colonial waters of the Seven Years’ War, was designated a national historic site. The fate of New France was determined in this battle for, depleted of supplies and reinforcements, the French colony surrendered.

For more information about the end of New France, please visit the Battle of Restigouche National Historic Site and read The Capitulation of New France, British Capture Fort Frontenac, British Land at Louisbourg and The Return of the Acadians in the archives of This Week in History.

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