The Québec maritime Blog
Every time I’ve driven past the Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site in Gaspésie, I’ve thought to myself that I should stop for a visit. And every time, I’ve kept driving... as I’m sure lots of other people do too. And yet this site witnessed a key event in Canadian history that few people know about. Finally, on my way home from a stay in the Chaleur Bay region, I decided to finally visit the historic site... or so I thought!
In fact, as soon as I got there, I was told that the Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site is underwater, at the bottom of the Restigouche River. You therefore can’t actually visit the historic site. You can, however, see where it is from an outdoor observation platform, as well as admire a magnificent view of Chaleur Bay.
What is the Battle of the Restigouche?
Before I tell you about what you’ll find in the interpretation centre, I want to give you a bit of background information about the Battle of the Restigouche. This was the last naval battle fought between the colonies of New France and British America during the Seven Years’ War. The battle took place from July 3 to 8, 1760, and involved three French frigates (the Machault, the Bienfaisant and the Marquis-de-Malauxe) fighting against five British war vessels. On July 8, after many encounters at sea, the commander of the French flotilla, La Giraudais, sank two of his ships to prevent the British from gaining access to the munitions and provisions onboard. Although the battle ended, La Giraudais’ troops garrisoned in the area and remained on guard. It was only in October 1760, when they heard that New France had surrendered to the British, that Le Giraudais’ garrison surrendered in turn. At the interpretation centre, you can watch a video explaining how the battle unfolded.
The Interpretation Centre
As soon as I entered the interpretation centre, I noticed an immense wooden structure that’s nearly 10 metres (over 30 feet) high. It turns out it’s part of the wreck of the Machault (and includes the bow, rudder and anchor). It’s certainly very impressive!
In addition to these vestiges of the Machault (which also include part of the frigate’s hull), the interpretation centre exhibits many artefacts found during underwater archaeological excavations (dishware, cannonballs, etc.). Parts of the boat have also been reconstructed, including the council room and the between-decks, to help visitors understand life aboard a frigate.
I was very impressed by the huge pieces of the wreck that the archaeologists were able to find, restore and especially move! If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel small next to them. The superb scale model of the Machault displayed at the beginning of the exhibit, which the centre acquired in 2005, will help you get a feeling for the size of warships of this era.
I lost track of time in the interpretation centre because I was so fascinated by the information panels and all the objects on exhibit. Too quickly, I was told that the centre would soon be closing for the day. Not quite ready to leave yet, I promised myself I’d stop in again the next time I was in this area because I still have so much more to learn!
I recommend that you visit the Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site too! Whether you’re a history buff or just curious, accompanied by children or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy discovering this slice of Québec and Canadian history!
For more information:
Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site
40, boulevard Perron Ouest
Pointe-à-la-Croix (Québec) Canada