Battle of the Restigouche

After the defeat on the Plains of Abraham, in the early hours of September 13, 1759, in a last effort to support Canada, France dispatches a relief expedition to the continent.

The fleet is composed by five merchant ships, escorted by the frigate Le Machault, commanded by La Giraudais. The six ships carry provisions and munitions in addition to 400 troops. The vessels set sail from the harbour of Bordeaux on April 10, 1760.

They have to disperse in order to elude the British fleet which was enforcing a blockade along the French coastline. To of the French ships, L’Aurore and Le Soleil were seized. Two weeks later, another merchant ship, La Fidelite runs aground off the Azores Islands. Only three vessels, namely le Machault, le Bienfaisant and le Marquis-de-Malauze are able to reach Canada, on May 15, 1760. La Giraudais, upon learning that British ships were already in place, decides to take refuge in Chaleur Bay.

On May 18, the French drop anchor in the estuary of the Restigouche River, where a small village of Restigouche, inhabited by a number of Acadian refugees and Micmac families. The local inhabitants decided to battle at the sides of the French sailors and soldiers. In the meantime, the British had dispatched five warships from Louisbourg, under the command of Captain Byron. These ships block the French flotilla on June 22. Outnumbered and outgunned by the British forces, La Giraudais retreats inland in the hopes that the deep-drawing English vessels would not be able to penetrate in the estuary channel. The French also set up a battery of cannon along the north shore of the Restigouche River.

The frigate Le Machault is positioned in the mouth of the river, behind a barrier of schooners that the French scuttled in order to block passage. On July 3, after several days of attempting to find the way through, the British finally manage to entry the river and le Machault has to withdraw upstream. The battle then ensues. It lasts four days, with fortunes turning to the advantage and disadvantage of each side.

On July 8, commander La Giraudais bows to the inevitable and scuttles Le Machault and Le Bienfaisant in order to prevent the British from laying hold of the provisions and munitions aboard. The commander couldn’t do this with le Marquis-de-Malauze, as this ship contained British prisoners in its hold. In a few months, deprived of reinforcements and supplies, New France surrenders, in Montreal, on September 8, 1760.

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