Sketches of the Restigouche

By Irene Doyle

Campbellton's History According to John T. Reid

        Battle of Restigouche

        The outstanding historical event of this district was the last naval engagement between the French and English for supremacy in Canada. This engagement took place in the river opposite the town from Pointe a la Garde to Atholville and was fought in 1760. Commodore John Byron was in command of the English forces. Apparently there was a shore battery at Atholville, as well as two old French cannons were found embedded in the sands of the Ferguson property some years ago. These cannons were dug up and cleaned and presented to the Town, and are now placed in Riverside Park mounted to guns procured from the Federal Government. The “Fleur de Lys” of France is plainly visible on them, bearing mute evidence of the splendid workmanship and high quality of the metal, even in those early days, used in making the guns.

        During the years since this battle many relics have been unearthed, principally cannon balls, at Atholville and on the other side of the river. Besides the usual accoutrements of a naval vessel it is said that many fine silver and copper dishes have also been found.

        One of the French Frigates was sunk at Bordeaux a few miles above Campbellton on the Quebec shore. It remained there until about twelve years ago when the Capuchin Fathers of St. Anne de Restigouche had it raised and hauled to their churchyard at the Mission. This meant a good deal of labor and expense, but perhaps might prove to be a source of revenue from tourists. The upper part of the vessel is badly battered, of course, but the main part of the hull is almost intact and is still sound, nothwithstanding its long period of exposure to the silt and mud of the river bottom.

        Historians tell us that most of the action took place along the Quebec shore with some land forces also engaged. It is definitely known that Point la Garde was used as a Look-out Point, and certainly it was admirably situated for such a purpose.

        In thinking about this naval battle one cannot help contrasting the river conditions at that date with those of the present. Great changes in the depth of the the channel have taken place as the silt brought down by the freshets of the years since then have shallowed the water over the flats to a considerable extent. It would be the height of folly for even those vessels, with their comparatively light draft, to attempt any manoeures in the same waters today. At low tide the bars and flats can be plainly seen between the Government wharf and the point where the French Frigate was sunk, about three miles up river.

        To commemorate this event the Historic Sites and Monument Commission of the Federal Government some years ago erected a cairn in Riverside Park, which is on the bank of the river at the lower end of Water Street. This cairn bears a tablet briefly setting forth the circumstances in both French and English as follows:

        In the spring of 1760 a small French Squadron under Sieur de la Giraudois, sent to the relief of Quebec, sought shelter in the Restigouche River. Here, with the aid of shore batteries, they bravely withstood an attack by a superior British squadron under Commodore John Byron, “Foul Weather Jack” from 28th June to July 11th, before they were completely destroyed.

        This was the last naval battle of the Seven Years War in the North American waters.”         To be continued...

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