Sketches of the Restigouche

By Irene Doyle

Battle of the Restigouche

        The Machault,

        The Battle of the Restigouche, June 22 to July 8, 1760, was the last naval engagement between French and British forces in the Seven Years' War, their struggle for primacy in North America. Although fought between minor units, the battle was a prelude to the French defeat in the war (also known as the French and Indian War). In November 1759, Machault was sent from Quebec to France with an urgent plea for the relief of Montreal. The government's response was tepid; in lieu of 4,000 troops requested, 400 were sent, along with as many supplies as could be found. On April 10, 1760, Machault sailed from Bourdeaux under Captain Giraudais at the head of a six-ship fleet. Two days out, two ships were captured by Boscawen's blockading fleet, and a third later sank. On May 16-17, Giraudais's ships captured seven merchantmen off the Gaspé Peninsula. Learning that a British force had preceded him up the St. Lawrence, rather than head for the Caribbean or Louisiana as his orders dictated, Giraudais sailed into Chaleur Bay because the area was a gathering place for displaced French Acadian refugees.

        In the meantime, two British fleets were looking for the French, one under Captain John Byron in HMS Fame (74 guns) from Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, and the other from Quebec. Byron located the French force on June 22, but three days later Fame ran aground, and the French failed to capitalize on their advantage before she got off again. Over the next week, Byron's men searched for the channel, which they finally secured by July 1. Giraudais retreated upriver sinking blockships and establishing shore batteries, but by July 8 three ships were within range of Machault. Giraudais struck at 1100 and an hour later blew up his ship near what is now Campbelltown. About thirty more sloops and schooners were sunk, burned, or captured.

        Between 1969 and 1972, Canadian archaeologists under Walter Zacharchuk excavated the Machault site. Although little of the ship survived, large quantities of wine glasses, together with stoneware, cooking implements, personal possessions, ship's fittings, and other artifacts were recovered.

        Source: Beattie & Pothier, "Battle of the Restigouche." Sullivan, Legacy of the "Machault.".

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