OLABARATZ (De Laubara, Dolobarats), JOANNIS-GALAND D’, merchant fisherman, privateer, and port captain; b. probably at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France; d. 1778 at Bayonne, France. [At certain points this biography confuses the career of the subject with that of his son Jean*.]
The cod fishery first attracted Joannis-Galand d’Olabaratz to Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). As early as 1722 he was granted a concession on the north side of the harbour for drying his catch, but he does not seem to have made the fortress his residence until the mid 1730s. He should not be confused with Jean Dolabaratz, another merchant fisherman who was also active at Louisbourg during this period.
When war came in 1744, d’Olabaratz hoped to profit by privateering. That May he accompanied in his own ship the successful expedition led by François Du Pont Duvivier against Canso (N.S.). Returning to Louisbourg in early June, he signed two agreements: one for the purchase and outfitting of the corsair Cantabre, which he owned in partnership with Duvivier, François Bigot, and Jean-Baptiste-Louis Le Prévost* Duquesnel; the other with a M. Leneuf de Beaubassin, probably Philippe, captain of the corsair Caesar, whereby the two men agreed to share their proceeds from privateering equally for one month. The two ships sailed together in June but were separated, and the unlucky d’Olabaratz and his 93-man crew on the Cantabre were captured 15 leagues off Cape Cod by a Massachusetts coast guard vessel commanded by Edward Tyng*. Imprisoned in Boston for several months, d’Olabaratz returned to Louisbourg in November with information, perhaps intentionally leaked by Governor William Shirley, concerning a British amphibious assault on Louisbourg supposedly planned for the following spring. D’Olabaratz wrote a report on New England in which he noted with a privateer’s eye that Boston’s material wealth would permit a handsome payment to avoid pillage. He carried his report to France, where he was assigned to the fleet of Antoine-Alexis Perier de Salvert. In 1746 he was given command of a frigate in the fleet commanded by the Duc d’Anville [La Rochefoucauld*]. For these and other services, he was honoured in 1748 with the rank of fire-ship captain.
D’Olabaratz returned to Louisbourg after it was restored to France in 1748, and in 1750 he became port captain, a post previously held by Pierre Morpain*. For the next eight years he filled this position to the satisfaction of several Louisbourg administrations and in addition to his regular duties undertook soundings of the harbour and nearby coastal waters. On 6 Jan. 1758, through winter seas usually considered unnavigable, d’Olabaratz succeeded in bringing provisions to Louisbourg, which had been blockaded the previous summer by the British [see Augustin de Boschenry* de Drucour]. He was back in France in March 1758 when he was awarded the cross of Saint-Louis and permitted to retire with a pension of 800 livres. Later that year, however, he rejoined the service of the Marine as a port official at Bayonne.
D’Olabaratz’s involvement with New France had not ended. Bougainville*’s request for merchant captains to command the tiny French inland fleet brought him back, lured by the hope of wartime profits. When Amherst’s army began to move down Lake Champlain on 11 Oct. 1759 to attack the French under François-Charles de Bourlamaque* at Île aux Noix, d’Olabaratz and his three poorly constructed xebecs attacked a troop-laden bateau at daybreak on 12 October near the Îles aux Quatre Vents and captured 21 Highlanders of the 42nd Foot. Sailing north, he was spotted later in the day by a British brigantine and sloop. Captain Joshua Loring chased him toward the advancing British army, but d’Olabaratz sought refuge in a bay on the western shore. Believing his escape cut off, and perhaps deliberately having run one of his vessels aground, he called a council that decided to scuttle the vessels and make for Montreal overland with the prisoners.
Had Amherst not abandoned his campaign on 18 October when he heard of the fall of Quebec, d’Olabaratz might have received a severe reprimand from his superiors, especially because the British were able to raise his vessels with nearly all of their guns intact. Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud] accepted his explanation after d’Olabaratz reached Montreal on 21 October, but Bourlamaque, whose position at Île aux Noix had been jeopardized by d’Olabaratz’s flight, thought that he should have attacked the enemy or attempted to escape at night. A marginal note in Montcalm*’s journal admonished that d’Olabaratz was “a man no longer to be employed in any command.”
Nothing is known of d’Olabaratz after 1759. As a corsair, he had served the interests of France while he served his own. During two wars his seafaring experience aided the French cause even though his personal goal was profit, the booty from privateering on the high seas or other raids. Much of the French naval effort in North America until 1760 rested on the skill and daring of men such as d’ Olabaratz, Morpain, and Jean Vauquelin. The hasty scuttling of d’Olabaratz’s vessels on Lake Champlain, however, was an illustration that the privateer lacked the discipline and judgement of the regular naval officer.
D’Olabaratz had married Catherine Despiaube, and they had at least one son, Jean, who became port ensign at Louisbourg in 1743 and eventually rose to the rank of brigadier of marine infantry.
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