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  • Pointe-à-la-Croix
    – The last bastion of Petite-Rochelle
Model of the frigate Le Machault
Model of the frigate Le Machault exposed at the Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site in Pointe-à-la-Croix (author ChristianT, without modification, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

In the estuary of the Restigouche River, at the end of Baie des Chaleurs, is the Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site, three kilometres west of the municipality of Pointe-à-la-Croix. This historic site commemorates the last naval battle of the Seven Years War between the French and the British for the possession of New France…

In close proximity to this site was a community called in 1758 the village of Petite-Rochelle, east of Pointe-à-la-Croix, where more than a thousand Acadians fleeing the Great Upheaval took shelter. At the time of the fall of Quebec in September 1759, the village was defended only by a fortified post and a handful of soldiers. Under the British threat, this Acadian refuge was the last French-speaking bastion to surrender. Here’s why…

The last naval battle

At the end of May 1760, the Petite-Rochelle post did receive unexpected help.  The winter was hard and the population had suffered greatly from the famine. A French flotilla commanded by Lieutenant Francois Chenard de La Giraudais took refuge at the end of Baie des Chaleurs. It was comprised of the frigate Le Machault and two supply vessels intended to rescuing Canada. The commandant did prefer to avoid crossing a larger British fleet that preceded him at the entrance to the St. Lawrence River. On June 27, the three French vessels found themselves trapped by a British fleet of five warships commanded by Captain John Byron, who engaged the battle. The defense of the Petite-Rochelle post had previously been organized and benefited from the support of Acadian militiamen and Mi’kmaq warriors. François-Gabriel d’Anjeac, the troop captain aboard the French vessels, had taken command of the post and led the construction of a battery and a guard house on the site of Pointe-à-la-Garde (east of Pointe-à-la-Croix). The battery caused substantial damage to the British and delayed their progress towards the French vessels. But the battle was uneven…

Restigouche River Estuary and Van Horne Bridge
Restigouche River Estuary and Van Horne Bridge linking Pointe-à-la-Croix and Campbellton seen from Sugarloaf Mountain in New Brunswick. This is where the remains of the frigate Le Machault are still located at the bottom of the river (author Blob5825, without modification, CC BY 1.0 license)

On July 8th, after a fierce combat, La Giraudais scuttled his vessels to prevent the British from seizing food and weapons. Very quickly, captain d’Anjeac led the retreat of his troops into the woods. The British fleet, however, preferred to leave the area, thus ending the battle of the Restigouche. However, before departing the British burned all the houses they could find onshore. The disaster was total. Yet, d’Anjeac managed to organize the resistance of the Petite-Rochelle post, which still had more than a thousand Acadian refugees. Wasted effort… The French troops had to lay down their arms on October 30th, after the capitulation of Montreal. The Acadians were left on their own, plunged in great uncertainty, this did not prevent Acadian corsairs from pursuing a commerce raiding against the British ships. Several families managed to escape along Baie des Chaleurs and founded the village of… Bonaventure.