A Blupete Biography Page


Boishebert
(1727-1797).

Charles des Champs de Boishebert was born in Quebec in the year of 1727. He was to become one of the most industrious, ingenious and determined officers that New France was to ever have. He is in the front ranks of our Acadian heroes.

The French, as we will see from our larger story, were determined to put on a drive to revenge the taking of Louisbourg, by: retaking it. And, then, to take Annapolis Royal; and, then, to bombard Boston. (Due to bad luck and bad management, none of this was to come to pass.) In any event, French colonial forces, in anticipation of the unfolding of these grand plans, were gathered together at Quebec under Ramezay and sent in the spring of 1746 to Acadia in order to assist a mass of French regulars expected to arrive with Duc d'Anville off the coasts of Nova Scotia. Ramezay was to wait at the Isthmus of Chignecto and station himself and the bulk of his forces there until he received further orders directly from his French superiors; who, it was expected, would be casting their anchors out into the harbouring waters of Chebucto (Halifax) at some point during the summer of 1746. Ramezay and his forces under a number of young and enthusiastic French colonial officers, including his nineteen year old nephew, Ensign Boishebert, waited at the isthmus, patiently.

Boishebert had entered military service in 1742. This sea trip down the St. Lawrence to Acadia in full military array had to be an exciting time for this young French officer, as it was for them all, I am sure, intent as they were to serve their French king. Upon arrival at the isthmus, our hero was to be immediately pressed into an important service. Ramezay was to learn that the English had established themselves at Port La Jolie (Charlottetown). He sent Boishebert with three or four men in "a bark canoe" to verify this intelligence and to report back to him the position and strength of this English force. Now, anyone with an acquaintance of the waters that separate Baie Verte from Port La Jolie will know that a direct route can be taken, but, such a route would mean crossing the open sea some thirty miles. The safer route, especially for "a bark canoe," would be to detour and take a direct line 10 miles or so from Cape Tormentine (N.B) to Borden (P.E.I.) (the site of the present day bridge) and then along the sheltered and accessible shore, some 35 miles, until coming to Port La Jolie: a longer but safer route. Boishebert, thinking time was essential, took the more dangerous direct route over open waters. He did his reconnoitering and returned directly back to his commander with the intelligence. Ramezay couldn't believe what little time it took Boishebert to complete his assignment. At any rate, based on this intelligence, Ramezay sent 500 men to attack the English at Port La Jolie (Boishebert among them). They were successful in killing or capturing all of the English at Port La Jolie.1

In the fall of 1746, Ramezay's forces made their long awaited move on Annapolis Royal, which, for lack of support, came to an end after waiting 21 days before the town. We learn that Ramezay, once again was to assign an important duty to his young nephew. "The Sieur de Boishebert, at the head of fifty men, reconnoitered the route and scoured the villages on the line of march, four or five leagues ahead of the army, which first retired to Mines and then Beaubasin, where it took up winter quarters."2

In February of 1747, Boishebert was with Villiers when he led 300 men, in a brilliant winter's march, from the Isthmus to Grand Pre (see map) and was to catch the English unawares, and to defeat them at The Battle of Grand Pre. Within months of this success, however, there was to be a general recall of the French forces, and, Boishebert as part of Ramezay's army returned to Quebec in June of 1747.

In the early part of 1749, Galissonnière, was determined to flex his power and to assert French presence in the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio, and, of course, on the western edges of Acadia. Boishebert was chosen to go to Acadia. He went "out with eighty soldiers and militia. From Quebec they went on snowshoes (all the way) to Hocpaak, a French settlement, dragging their supplies and baggage with incredible exertions."3

Upon arriving at Quebec, late in 1749, so to take up his duties, finally, as the governor of New France, Jonquière was to immediately endorse the earlier moves made by Galissonnière. Sure, it was, both by the treaties of by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) that England had clear international title to Acadia; but, the definition of the territorial extent of "ancient Acadia" was one to be easily put in dispute. Jonquière thought that a line drawn along the Isthmus of Chignecto would define, very nicely, the western border of Acadia. The Missaguash River was to be found on the line; and it could prove, too, in the event that the English should test this position, to be a defendable one. Jonquière dispatched a French military force under La Corne in furtherance of this plan. Earlier in the year, as we have seen, Galissonnière had sent Boishebert to the St John. Boishebert did not stick exclusively to the St. John but traveled about attempting to garner support for the French flag. Traveling by canoe, his favourite mode of transportation4, Boishebert went to "the different settlements of this country disguised, sometimes as a sailor, sometimes as an Acadian habitant ..."5 Thus, by the time La Corne arrived, in the fall of 1749, Boishebert had paved the way to a considerable extent. Boishebert was there, at the isthmus to greet La Corne and to give him a full report on the state of things in Acadia. Once La Corne got himself settled in, he sent Boishebert on to continue his work as a roving though disguised ambassador amongst the Acadians; and, more particularly, to head quarter himself at the mouth of the St. John.

In 1751, Boishebert was summoned by Jonquière to leave his post on the St. John and to come to Quebec. As a mark of honour and respect, Jonquière sent Boishebert to France with the official pouch of despatches. After his vessel sailed into Rochefort, Boishebert traveled post-chaise to Versailles, and there, in a chamber of this huge and shining palace, he delivered his despatches to the Minister of Marine. For months he was fêted by the royal court. In 1752, he was to return to New France.6 New assignments brought Boishebert out west for a time; but, by 1754, we see, he was once again on the St. John and from there traveling in disguise reconnoitering the numerous bays and ports of Acadia, often well into English territory.

With the coming of the The Seven Years War, the hopes of France regaining Acadia faded; and, indeed, were replaced with fears that France's empire in North America would be lost.7 Fort Beausejour was to fall on June 16th, 1755, directly after which Monckton sent a detachment down by vessel to clean out the French to be found at the mouth of the St. John. Boishebert and his men (there was but sixty of them) put the torch to their little fort and fled up river. He was to eventually maneuver around (being the expert traveler of the woods, that he indeed was), and, by September, we see that he was putting up the best resistance of the whole of all the fights at the isthmus. In particular, he and his followers made a spirited attack, in gorilla warlike fashion, while they, the English, under a Major Frye, went about their business of burning the buildings found up and down the banks of the Shepody, the Petitcodiac and the Memramcook rivers.

Monckton, under Lawrence's orders, was to put thousands of the Acadian inhabitants in and around Chignecto aboard transports for deportation. Those that escaped Monckton's net were on the run.8 Boishebert was to be their only hope for rescue. He, however, as a practical matter, was not much in a position to help anyone, being, as he was, short on men and supplies. No help could be expected from Louisbourg or Quebec: Acadia and its inhabitants would have to make out best they could: they were on their own. Boishebert, in a change of role from that of warrior to that of shepherd, herded his growing flock of Acadians and natives up along the northeastern coast of present day New Brunswick, to a place called the Miramichi. I turn now to Monsieur Clos, a Parisian attorney who represented Boishebert at his court martial in 1763:

"When he had sent to Miramichi all the Acadian families that he could extricate from the control of the English he went there himself. He had been promised provisions would be sent there; none were sent. He experienced with his soldiers and his new colony the most frightful destitution, in spite of the economy he had practised in the distribution of foodstuffs. At the beginning of January, 1757, he was obliged to reduce the ration of his little garrison to a half-livre of bread a day, Acadians and Indians being treated alike. Presently there was no bread. They had kept the hides of the cattle which had been eaten the previous year and they had to nourish themselves on these, as well as on seal oil, of which a small supply was left. This last pitiful store was soon exhausted. All the children died. ... He had still twelve hundred men, as many soldiers as Acadians, to maintain, and he lacked everything. ... They had soon consumed what remained of the fish; then they sustained themselves with what beaver skins they could find. They were reduced to eating their deerskin boots; finally they lacked everything, even this last bit of nourishment. Then the commandant, the officers, the soldiers and the Acadians, overcome with exhaustion and lying feebly on the ground, only waited for death when there arrived from Quebec, through the ice, on the 16th of May, a vessel loaded with provisions."9
Thus, Boishebert and his forces were saved from death's door. With the newly arrived provisions from Quebec and with the better weather, Boishebert was ready to get back to the business that suited him best. Louisbourg was, in 1757, being threaten by a gathering force at Halifax. Upon receiving orders from Governor Drucour at Louisbourg, Boishebert traveled, at some risk of being discovered, by land and by water with "eight hundred men, as many soldiers as militia and Indians" so to arrive at Louisbourg safely. When the threat at Louisbourg passed, Boishebert was once again on the move. This traveler of the woods and water, went long distances, and, apparently, before the spring of 1758 set in, paid visits to the French holdouts at the St John and the Miramichi.

As the English threat was renewed in 1758, Boishebert and his forces retraced their way back to Louisbourg. Upon Boishebert's arrival at Louisbourg, he was to see a huge English force deployed around Louisbourg: 12,000 troops brought in by 118 transports and supported by 30 warships. Boishebert did not make it into the doomed fortress. Apparently Boishebert was involved in The Second Siege of Louisbourg, I imagine fighting on the edges striking at the rear, here and there; and always, in Indian fashion, retreating quickly back into the trackless woods.10 On July 26th, Louisbourg capitulated; and, with this, Boishebert and his forces made their escape. They made their way over the Mira River and then to the shores of the Bras d'Or where the French had stashed boats. He then apparently made his way, in turn, to his flocks at the Miramichi and the St. John.

In 1759, Boishebert was to gather his forces, mostly Indians, Malecites, and headed to Quebec in order to assist in its defence. The setting was changed, but the scene looked the same: another amphibious force of English regulars was before Quebec, and, though it required the talents of Wolfe, Quebec was to go, in 1759, the same way as Louisbourg. After doing what he could at Quebec, Boishebert carried on to Montreal and was involved in the last of the battles in New France during 1760. Just before the English were to put their finishing touches to their great victories in North America, after the fall of New France, Boishebert boarded a ship and made for France. Soon after his arrival, Boishebert found himself in the Bastille, he, being implicated in the peculations of Bigot.10

Webster advises that Boishebert was married in 1760. After he was cleared by a court inquiry, he retired to a family estate, Raffetot near Rouen. The date of his death is unknown, though there is a note that he was still alive as of 1783.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Archibald MacMechan's Red Snow on Grand Pre, p. 19; and see, especially, John Clarence Webster's, "Memorial on Behalf of Sieur de Boishebert" (Saint John: Historical Studies No. 4, Publications of the New Brunswick Museum, 1942) at p. 11.

[2] Webster's, "Memorial on Behalf of Sieur de Boishebert," op. cit., p. 12.

[3] Ibid. at p. 13. Hocpaak was not so much "a French settlement" as it was a native village, an abode on the St. John of the Malecites; as Webster was to note (p. 38): "Hocpaak," a place at the head of the tide, in this case about six miles above present day Fredericton, and, where, an early mission had been established with a church, Ste. Anne's.

[4] We saw that in 1746 Boishebert had paddled across open waters from Baie Verte to Port La Jolie. Further, in 1747, we see, that during the brilliant winter march in order to surprise and engage the English at The Battle of Grand Pre, where Boishebert manoeuvered a small boat across the mouth of Shubenacadie in the rush of the water among cakes of ice and mud. Boishebert, by these exploits, had gained for himself a reputation as an accomplished small boat handler, as I suppose was many a young man back in those days.

[5] As expressed by Boishebert's attorney at Boishebert's court martial, Paris, 1763 and as is set out in Webster's work, "Memorial on Behalf of Sieur de Boishebert," op. cit., at p. 14.

[6] The court gave him an award of two thousand livres. (Ibid. at p. 15.)

[7] Though not declared until May of 1756, The Seven Years War had broken out in North America in 1754. A young Virginian by the name of George Washington engaged the French beyond the main ridge of the Alleghenies in the Ohios. He was obliged to throw up a fort on the spot, Fort Necessity. It was there, that an obscure skirmish broke out, and so began the war that set the world on fire. [Washington and his forces, incidently, were decisively thrown out of the land which the French claimed for themselves; see Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe (vol. 1), Ch. V.] On April 14th, 1755, at The Council of Alexandria, the colonial governors, acting all as one (a most unusual occurrence) determined that a state of war existed: declared or not. There and then; it was determined to launch, simultaneously, an attack on the French in North America at four points: General Braddock and his regulars were to attack Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh); Shirley, Fort Niagara; Colonel William Johnson, Crown Point; and Colonel Monckton, Acadia (Fort Beausejour).

[8] In our history, that part that deals with The Deportation of the Acadians, we deal with the fate of the deported Acadians. One story is that a deportation ship, the Pembroke, out of Annapolis Royal with 33 men, 37 women, 70 sons, 92 daughters (232) aboard, destined for North Carolina was brought into the St. John River. Her crew was either over powered by the Acadian deportees; or, maybe she was caught in a storm and headed into the harbour of St. John; or, maybe she was taken by a privateer friendly to the French. In any event, Boishebert was there and took the distressed Acadians which had been forced aboard under his wing. This group of Acadians formed a nucleus to which was added others as they boated and trekked north east, all along trying to evade the pursuing English, to eventually arrive at the Miramichi and there to experience a dreadful time of it: exposure to winter weather, starvation and death. (See Webster, "Memorial on Behalf of Sieur de Boishebert," op. cit., p. 19.

[9] Ibid., pp. 19-20.

[10] From Gordon's Journal, NSHS, vol. 5, we see the entry of July 10th: "In the night a small alarm occasioned by a large fire in the woods in the rear of the grenadier camp ... supposed to be a body of Canadians and Indians under the command of Monsieur Boisbiere a French partizan." "Sunday, 16th ... A deserter from them that morning told us the before mentioned Boisbere was in the country with about 30 men ..."

[11] MacMechan, op. cit., p. 19.

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Peter Landry
(2012)