Drawing showing the loading of the Machault© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-01
In a last effort to support its colony, France dispatched a relief expedition to New France. Five merchant ships, escorted by the frigate The Machault, set sail from the harbour of Bordeaux on April 10, 1760. Together, the six ships carried 2000 casks of provisions and munitions in addition to 400 troops.
Drawing representing a scene of the naval action© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-07
The date after its departure, the flotilla had to disperse in order to elude the British vessels which were enforcing a blockade along the French coastline. The Aurore and the Soleil were seized. Two weeks later, the Fidélité ran aground off the Azores. Only the The Machault, the Bienfaisant and the Marquis-de-Malauze were able to reconnoiter in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on May 15.
Illustration of Lieutenant La Giraudais preparing its strategy© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-12
Upon learning that British ships had arrived ahead of him, La Giraudais, the commander of the expedition, decided to take refuge at the head of Chaleur Bay, where the British vessels would be unable to penetrate. On May 18, the flotilla dropped anchor in the estuary of the Restigouche River.
Drawing representing members of the Micmac nation, © Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-17
At the time, the hamlet of Restigouche was inhabited by a number of Acadian refugees and some 150 Micmac families. The arrival of the French ships was nothing short of providential for a population that had been reduced to famine. Once having been fed and armed by the French, the local inhabitants prepared for battle at their sides.
British war vessels© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-22
In the meantime, the British had dispatched a squadron of five warships from Louisbourg, placed under the command of Captain Byron. On June 22, the French flotilla was blocked in at the head of Chaleur Bay. Outnumbered and outgunned by the British forces, La Giraudais retreated inland in the hopes that the deep-drawing British vessels would not be able to enter the estuary channel.
Scuttling the schooners© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-31
A battery of cannon was also set up along the north shore of the Restigouche River. The Machault was positioned in this channel, behind a barrier of schooners that the French commander had ordered scuttled in order to block passage.
Drawing of the Naval Action© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-50
On July 3, after attempting to find the main channel for several days, the British finally managed to break their way through. The Machault had to withdraw upstream. The battle which then ensued lasted several days, with fortunes repeatedly turning to the advantage and disadvantage of each side.
Scuttling the Machault© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-86
On July 8, commander La Giraudais bowed to the inevitable and scuttled the Machault and the Bienfaisant in order to prevent the British from laying hold of the provisions and munitions aboard. Had the Marquis-de-Malauze not contained prisoners in its hold, it would have been sunk as well.
The End of Hopes
Drawing of French troups surrending© Parks Canada / Cedric Loth / CD-0042-108
The long-awaited relief now lay at the bottom of the river. Deprived of reinforcements and supplies, New France surrendered, in Montréal, on September 8, 1760. The news only reached Restigouche on October 23. Six days later, the small garrison surrendered.
It is then here that the fate of New France was sealed in 1760.