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DESCHAMPS DE BOISHÉBERT ET DE RAFFETOT, CHARLES, officer in the colonial regular troops; b. 7 Feb. 1727 at Quebec, son of Henri-Louis Deschamps* de Boishébert and Louise-Geneviève de Ramezay; m. 7 Sept. 1760 his cousin Charlotte-Élisabeth-Antoinette Deschamps de Boishébert et de Raffetot at Cliponville (dept of Seine-Maritime), France, and they had one son; d. 9 Jan 1797 at Raffetot (near Rouen), France.
Charles Deschamps de Boishébert entered upon a military career early in life. His name appears on a list of gentlemen cadets dated 1 Oct. 1739, with the comment “a promising young man, very steady.” In 1742 he joined the Quebec garrison as assistant adjutant. During the years 1744 and 1745 he participated in several expeditions along the New York frontier.
To counterbalance the British presence in Acadia, which had increased since the capture of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), by William Pepperrell*’s troops in 1745, a force of some 700 soldiers, with Indian support, left Quebec for Acadia in June 1746 under the command of Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay. On his arrival Ramezay learned of the presence of British troops at Port-La-Joie (Fort Amherst, P.E.I.) and he sent Boishébert there on reconnaissance. Boishébert reported two British warships and 200 soldiers, and he apparently accompanied the party of Micmacs and a few young officers under Joseph-Michel Legardeur de Croisille et de Montesson which returned to attack the enemy at Port-La-Joie. In October, and until 3 November, he took part in the unsuccessful siege of Annapolis Royal (N.S.), the British administrative and military headquarters in Acadia. During the winter Ramezay prepared an expedition against the force under Arthur Noble* which was stationed at Grand Pré. Boishébert was wounded in the battle fought there on 11 Feb. 1747 (n.s.). Following this French victory he returned to Quebec with the rest of the troops. In August he was placed in command of a cartel-ship leaving for Gaspé, where he was to effect an exchange of prisoners with the British. The mission accomplished, he returned again to Quebec.
On 28 Feb. 1748 Boishébert was promoted lieutenant, and he soon was engaged in operations in yet another part of New France. The previous year had seen the threat of a general Indian uprising in the west [see Orontony*], and in the spring of 1748 Boishébert was among the reinforcements sent under Pierre-Joseph Céloron* de Blainville to Detroit, which was particularly endangered. He took part in an expedition that took revenge on the Indians for attacks that had been made on the French in the vicinity.
From 1749 Boishébert was again in Acadia. At this time the boundary question, unresolved since 1713, was taking a new turn: France had decided to set the limits of Acadia at the Missaguash River [see Jean-Louis Le Loutre]. Boishébert was sent to the mouth of the Saint John River to oppose any attempt by the British to establish themselves there. A lively discussion took place immediately after his arrival when John Rous*, the senior British naval officer on the Nova Scotia station, arrived to claim the mouth of the Saint John for the British. Boishébert nonetheless remained firm. He rebuilt Fort Menagouèche (Saint John, N.B.) and, disguised as a fisherman, went up and down the coasts of Acadia in order to assess the Acadians’ loyalty to France.
In 1751 Governor La Jonquière [Taffanel*] gave Boishébert the honour of carrying the official dispatches to France; at court he received a gratuity of 2,000 livres. The next year he was back in Canada, and he soon became involved in the west once more. To counter the threat of British expansion into the Ohio valley, Governor Duquesne had decided to link Lake Erie to the Ohio by a series of forts. Boishébert, whom the governor described as “a very zealous and deserving officer,” led an advance detachment which left Montreal in February 1753 to prepare for the arrival of the main force. He landed at Presqu’île (Erie, Pa) early in May 1753 and apparently spent the summer in the region, under the orders of Paul Marin* de La Malgue, who was in command of the expedition. On 28 August he was put in charge of Fort de la Rivière au Bœuf (Waterford, Pa), but he held this posting only briefly.
By late autumn Boishébert was back in Quebec. In 1754 he again left for Acadia, with the title of commandant of Fort La Tour, at the mouth of the Saint John, and there he worked to counter persistent British efforts to establish themselves. He also made a study of the harbours between Acadia and Boston. The capture of Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.) on 16 June 1755 by Monckton’s forces marked a turning-point in Boishébert’s career. Immediately after the fort fell, the British commander dispatched a large detachment against the handful of militiamen at Fort La Tour. As there was no hope of a successful outcome, Boishébert burned his fort before the enemy arrived and sought refuge among the local populace, continuing meanwhile to fight the enemy. The rest of his career in Acadia was spent working to secure the Acadians’ loyalty to France, bringing to French territory as many of those in British-occupied regions as possible, and with the Indians’ help constantly skirmishing against the enemy.
Shortly after the capture of Fort Beauséjour Boishébert learned that the British intended to attack the villages of Chipoudy (Shepody), Petitcodiac (near Hillsborough), and Memramcook; he immediately left for Chipoudy but arrived too late to prevent the village from being destroyed. On 3 Sept. 1755, however, he confronted a British detachment at Petitcodiac. After three hours of desperate struggle, during which they suffered heavy losses, the British fled. Boishébert, who had lost only one man, returned to the Saint John River with 30 of the most destitute families.
In order to forestall any British notion of taking revenge on the Acadians, Boishébert sent his lieutenant, François Boucher de Niverville (Nebourvele) Grandpré, to the Petitcodiac region. This officer was also to prevent supplies and munitions from being transported between the Fort Beauséjour region and Baie-Verte. In the mean time Boishébert himself went to Memramcook to keep the British from landing there. He spent part of the winter of 1755–56 at Cocagne (near Shediac). On 24 January he was caught in a British ambush nearby but succeeded in escaping without loss. On 17 March 1756 he was promoted captain.
Boishébert’s constant vigilance over these settlements shows clearly that he wanted at all cost to prevent further systematic deportations of the Acadians by the British. The settlers had already been deported from the region of Tintemarre (Tantramar), despite Boishébert’s attempts to evacuate the most destitute families. His efforts were limited by a scarcity of supplies, which coincided from 1756 to 1758 with a period of extreme poverty for most Acadians. Boishébert’s position was further complicated by the enemy’s constant advance. According to prisoners who had been taken to Quebec, there was a permanent detachment of 1,000 British at Fort Cumberland (the former Fort Beauséjour), 150 in the Baie-Verte region, and 150 at Fort Lawrence (near Amherst, N.S.). Boishébert nevertheless held his ground on the Saint John River under difficult conditions. On 12 Oct. 1756 he even undertook an expedition against Fort Monckton (formerly Fort Gaspereaux, near Port Elgin, N.B.), but the enemy evacuated the fort and set fire to it before he arrived. In January 1757 he went to the Miramichi River and there set up his headquarters and a refuge for the Acadians. With Father Charles Germain’s help he tried to sustain the Acadians’ resistance to the British.
Boishébert’s orders were to go to the aid of Louisbourg, if necessary. In 1757 rumours of a planned British attack on the fortress led Augustin de Boschenry* de Drucour, governor of Île Royale, to send for him. The anticipated attack did not take place, and Boishébert withdrew to Quebec where he spent the winter. He was to leave for Louisbourg early in the spring of 1758, but he delayed his departure until the beginning of May. Bougainville* predicted that “having left too late, Boishébert will probably amuse himself trading in furs at Miramichi.” No evidence has been found that Boishébert was involved in trade, but he did indeed arrive too late. By the time he had collected a small force of Acadians and Indians and reached Louisbourg it was the beginning of July, and the British had landed a month earlier. He took up position at Miré (Mira), north of the fortress, and was expected to conduct guerrilla operations against the British siege lines. His efforts were of limited effectiveness, mainly because of the lack of munitions and supplies, the small number of soldiers under his command, and their poor physical condition. Some of the Indians and Acadians deserted so that he had but 140 able-bodied soldiers. In this precarious situation Boishébert succeeded in killing only one British soldier, taking one prisoner, and burning a guardhouse. Drucour and Abbé Pierre Maillard*, who was with the expedition, reproached him for his inactivity; Maillard later wrote that Boishébert had “from his earliest youth received more protection and favours than anyone else and so had been able to go to command at posts where there was more opportunity to become rich through trade than to win fame through military deeds.” Boishébert, who had been made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis earlier that year, was aware that a greater effort had been expected of him on the expedition.
After Louisbourg fell on 26 July 1758, Boishébert withdrew, with the enemy in pursuit. He brought back a large number of Acadians from the region around Port-Toulouse (St Peters, N.S.) to the security of his post on the Miramichi. On 13 August he left Miramichi with 400 soldiers for Fort St George (Thomaston, Maine). His detachment reached there on 9 September but was caught in an ambush and had to withdraw. This was Boishébert’s last Acadian expedition. In the autumn he left for Quebec. Montcalm*, who did not like Boishébert, wrote to Lévis: “He has made a hundred thousand écus in the last campaign,” and, indulging his inclination to gossip, added: “I think he is lavishing his youth and his money on you-know-who.”
With a corps of Acadian volunteers Boishébert took part in the defence of Quebec in the summer of 1759, and also in the decisive battle on the Plains of Abraham. In the winter he returned for the last time to Acadia, to gather reinforcements for the defence of Canada and to restore the morale of the discouraged Acadians. Learning upon his arrival that certain missionaries, among them abbés Jean Manach* and Pierre Maillard, had encouraged the Acadians to submit to the British, Boishébert spoke out against this attitude and vigorously reproached the missionaries for their baseness towards the mother country.
After the fall of Canada in 1760 Boishébert returned to France. He was accused of having participated in Intendant Bigot’s schemes and shortly after was imprisoned in the Bastille. It was claimed that he had profited personally from the purchase in Quebec of supplies for the starving Acadians. After 15 months in prison he was acquitted.
In 1763 Boishébert was involved in plans for settling Acadians at Cayenne (French Guiana) and vainly tried to obtain a military appointment there. In 1774 his request for an appointment as inspector of colonial troops was turned down. His Canadian seigneury of La Bouteillerie, also known as Rivière-Ouelle, was sold that year. Until his death, on 9 Jan. 1797, he lived in France at Raffetot, a property he had acquired through his marriage.
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