The Battle of Neuville was a naval and land engagement that took place on May 16, 1760 during French and Indian War on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River, near the village of Neuville in New France during the French siege of Quebec. A relief force of the British navy having forced a passage down the the St Lawrence managed to destroy the French ships under Jean Vauquelin assisting in the in the siege and in so doing forcing the French under Chevalier de Lévis to raise the siege.
Background[edit | edit source]
After the capture of Quebec in 1759, the defeated French forces positioned themselves on the Jacques-Cartier River west of the city. Pack ice had closed the mouth of the river forcing the British Navy to leave the St. Lawrence shortly after. The Chevalier de Lévis, General Montcalm's successor as French commander, marched his 7,000 troops to Quebec and besisged the place. James Murray, the British commander, had experienced a terrible winter, in which scurvy had reduced his garrison to only 4,000.
On 28 April 1760, Lévis' forces met and defeated the British at the Battle of Sainte-Foy, immediately west of the city, but the British were able to withdraw within the walls of Quebec. Combined with British improvements to the fortifications and the lack of heavy artillery and ammunition meant that the French were unable to take the city quickly. The success of the French army's offensive against Quebec in the spring of 1760 depended on the dispatch of a French armada, with fresh troops and supplies. The British too were were anxious to get a fleet into the St Lawrence in the spring before supplies and reinforcements could arrive from France. On 9 th May a ship arrived off Point Levis; the French shouted Vive Le Roi believing the ship to be theirs while the anxious British expected the worst. The ship however turned out to be the HMS Lowestoffe detached from a squadron under Lord Colville who were just outside the Saint Lawrence ready to force the passage themselves. A twenty one gun salute and the hoisting of the Union flag turned British fears into sudden joy. Levis and the French were in despair and Quebec had to be bombarded into submission as quickly as possible before the main British force arrived. The bombardment was heavy causing damage to the city's walls but casualties were light and as it turned out this was mere frustration on Levis' part. Colveille's ships were soon navigatating down the Saint Lawrence already made easy by James Cook's mapping the previous year.
Battle[edit | edit source]
During the night of May 15 to 16, Lévis was informed of the appearance of two British vessels between Île d'Orléans and Pointe-Lévis. Dishearteningly he immediately sent orders to the French vessels transporting the supplies of his army to retire and to his two frigates to be on alert, also ready to retire. Due to bad weather, his orders to the vessels were delayed.
On May 16 at daybreak, in response to the expressed wishes of Murray, Commodore Swanton gave orders to HMS Diana and the Lowestoffe, soon followed by the HMS Vanguard, to pass the town and to attack the French vessels in the river above.
At 5:00 a.m the six French vessels (two frigates, two smaller armed ships, and two schooners) under command of the Captain Jean Vauquelin were setting sail when the British vessels appeared. The French vessels immediately cut their cables; French frigate Pomone in the confusion forced herself too close to shore and ran aground. The two British frigates meanwhile sailed past blasting away at her but instead of stopping they ignored her and pursued the Atalante who joined the French transport vessels at Cap-Rouge. Atalante's commander seeing that the British frigates were catching up with the French transport vessels, ordered them to beach so that Lévis could salvage the provisions they transported. The Atalante then sailed upstream but was forced to run aground at Pointe-aux-Trembles.
Vauquelin had managed to turn Atalante to broadside to fight it out. He nailed his colors to the mast and engaged the two frigates that had pursued him. Vauquelin did not belie his reputation and fought his ship for two hours with persistent bravery till his ammunition was spent. He even refused to strike his flag, and only when his ship was a burning dismasted hulk was he made prisoner, treated by the British with distinguished honour. Meanwhile, the Vanguard did not sail farther than Saint-Michel and returned to Anse-au-Foulon and in so doing enfiladed the French trenches with grapeshot, forcing their abandonment. Vangaurd then sailed back to Québec to round up the beached French ships taking prisoners and their stores. After the engagement, the two British frigates remained at Pointe-aux-Trembles.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
The destruction of the French vessels was a death-blow to the hopes of Lévis, for they contained his stores of food and ammunition. Lévis resolved to wait for the night before retiring after which he hastened to raise the siege, leaving behind him the whole of his material for the siege, and his sick and wounded. He also gave orders to throw his artillery down the cliff near Anse-au-Foulon and to distribute provisions to the troops. At 10:00 p.m, the army marched with the cannons having been sent forward. Deserters from Lévis' camp then told Murray that the French were in full retreat; on which all the British batteries opened fire at random through the darkness, and sending cannon-balls en ricochet, bowling by scores together, over the Plains of Abraham on the heels of the retreating French army.
The British naval presence was reinforced on 18 May with the arrival of Alexander, Lord Colvill’s squadron. Lowestoffe ran aground a few days later due to strong currents and with the damge she had sustained in the battle was left a wreck. At the Battle of Quiberon Bay, just off the coast of France the Royal Navy destroyed the French Fleet, having meant that France could not send a significant reserve force to save New France.A small French relief fleet commanded by François-Chenard Giraudais, did manage to get through the British blockade but did not attempt to go up the St Lawrence when he learned that the British had preceded him. Giraudais would later be defeated in the Bay of Chaleur at the Battle of Restigouche.
With Quebec City secure it became a staging point for the conquest of the remainder of French Canada. Montreal, the last major French stronghold of which Levis' forces had retreated to was now the target; forces under Jeffrey Amherst approached on 8 September 1760. Levis under Governor Marquis de Vaudreuil orders soon surrendered the city.
References[edit | edit source]
- Francis 2000, p. 143.
- Beatson, Robert (1804). Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain, from 1727 to 1783, Volume 2. Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme,. pp. 381–85. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=p48FAAAAIAAJ&dq=Diana++Lowestoffe,++Vanguard&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
- Manning pp. 113-14
- Manning pp. 109-11
- Eccles 1969, p. 182.
- Francis 2000, p. 142.
- Suthren pp. 105-06
- Baugh pp. 487-448
- Parkman p. 380
- Manning pp. 115
- Beattie, Judith (1996). The Battle of the Restigouche, 1760,. Ottawa, Canadian Heritage/ Parks Canada. p. 124. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DQp6mAEACAAJ&dq=The+Battle+of+the+Restigouche,+1760,&hl=en&sa=X&ei=EVZWVMX_B4ew7AanxoCACQ&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA.
- Parkman p 506
- Baugh, Daniel (2014). The Global Seven Years War 1754-1763: Britain and France in a Great Power Contest. Routledge. ISBN 9781317895466.
- Eccles, W. J. (1969). The Canadian Frontier, 1534–1760. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-076540-4. http://books.google.ca/books?id=EksQ2jB5__UC&lpg=PP1&dq=The%20Canadian%20Frontier%2C%201534-1760&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=true.
- Francis, R. Douglas; Jones, Richard & Smith, Donald B. (2000). Origins: Canadian History to Confederation. Toronto: Harcourt Canada. ISBN 0-7747-3664-X.
- Parkman, Francis (2009). Montcalm and Wolfe: The French and Indian War. BiblioLife. ISBN 978-1117791340.
- Manning, Stephen (2009). Quebec: The Story of Three Sieges. Continuum. ISBN 978-0773538719.
- Suthren, Victor (2000). To Go Upon Discovery: James Cook and Canada, from 1758 to 1779. Dundurn,. ISBN 9781459713062.
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