© Donald E.

Pusch 2002, Some Rights Reserved This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA, 94105, USA.

The Capture of the Chariot Royal*
by Donald E. Pusch On 10 November 1756, the French transport ship Chariot Royal weighed anchor at the port of Rochefort and began an ill-fated voyage toward Louisbourg on Ile Royale (Cape Breton Island). Under the command of Capitaine de Brûlot1 Jean-François Le Large, the Chariot Royal anchored briefly in Aix Roads to take on additional cargo and then headed out across the Bay of Biscay toward the northern coast of Spain, a standard departure route for ships bound for the French colonies of North America. In addition to her cargo, the Chariot Royal carried fourteen passengers and a crew of one hundred forty. The latter included Le Large, his son Jean-Aimable, and the ship’s second captain Charles-Michel Dailleboust, all three displaced Louisbourg colonials who were then living at Rochefort and employed in the service of the French Ministry of the Marine.2 On the morning of 29 November 1756, the lookout of the Chariot Royal sighted sail bearing west northwest at a distance of about six leagues. Fearing English warships, Le Large set the Chariot Royal’s course east northeast, away from the suspect ship. Within minutes, however, it was clear that the Chairot Royal had been sighted and that her adversary was in pursuit. By noon, the enemy’s advantage in both speed and size was apparent, and Le Large made every effort to crowd on sail and to steer so as to take best advantage of the wind. The pursuit continued on into the late afternoon of 29 November, and by nightfall the other ship was close enough to be recognized as a heavily armed English man-of-war.3 By 11 o’clock in the evening, distance between the two ships had narrowed to within cannon range and the pursuing ship began firing her forward chase cannons. Relocating four of his own cannons to the stern of the Chariot Royal, Le Large began returning fire a short time later. At 2 o’clock the following morning, during a brief respite in the exchange of cannon fire, the Chariot Royal and her enemy were within hailing distance of one another, and a demand for surrender was voiced to Le Large. Still hopeful of escaping, he responded to this demand with additional cannon fire, some of which damaged the pursuing ship’s rigging and sails to the point where she was forced to drop back to make temporary repairs. These having soon been completed, the pursuit was continued up until dawn when the English ship once again closed on the Chariot Royal and engaged her in a fierce combat of cannon volleys and musket fire. Finally, with the Chariot Royal disabled of her rigging and sails and unable to return fire, Le Large took the difficult decision to surrender his ship at 8 o’clock in the morning, Tuesday, 30 November 1756.4 The capturing English warship was the third-rate Torbay commanded by Captain— later first lord of the Admiralty—Augustus Keppel. With 74 cannons, a crew of 650, and a slight speed advantage over the Chariot Royal, the Torbay had simply overhauled and out gunned the French transport ship.5 Now a prize of the English, the Chariot Royal was taken first to Plymouth and then to Portsmouth where Le Large made his first official report of the capture in a letter to the Minister of the Marine dated 17 December 1756.6


This article was originally published in Le Réveil Acadien, vol. 18, no. 4 (November 2002).

The capture of the Chariot Royal affords researchers an interesting set of historical documents. For not only were the ship and her cargo seized by the English but also many of the papers that had been onboard.7 Today, these are carefully preserved among the archival holdings of the High Court of the Admiralty at the Public Record Office in London. Contained in these papers is the Chariot Royal’s passenger list, translated below in full. Of interest for Acadian history and genealogy is the fact that several notable Acadian surnames are represented on this list. Also of note is the fact that there are five individuals—Jean-Baptiste Sauvage, Pierre Girois, Jean Broun, Pierre Martin, and Jean Laure—who were attempting to return to Acadia after having been captured by the English on a previous voyage. One can only imagine their distress and despair at being captured a second time. And things would get worse: Just nineteen months later, on 26 July 1758, Louisbourg would fall for the second time to the English, and it may well be that none of these Acadians was able to return to his homeland again. Captain Le Large certainly never did. After the English released him, he returned to Rochefort from which port he made only one additional voyage—to Louisiana in 1758–1759—prior to his death.8 Jean-François Le Large was born probably at Plaisance (Placentia, Newfoundland) ca. 17129 to Pierre Le Large and Catherine Beaujour.10 Sometime prior to 1715, the Le Large family relocated to the site of Louisbourg during one of several English-imposed resettlements or expulsions that affected so many French inhabitants of Acadia and Ile Royale.11 It was at Louisbourg that young Jean-François spent the first half of his life and gained much of his seafaring experience. 12 By his early twenties he was sufficiently knowledgeable to qualify as a pilote hauturier13 and ship captain.14 Le Large’s adverse experiences with the English actually began several years prior to the 1756 capture of the Chariot Royal. Sailing out of Louisbourg as a privateer in 1744, he was pursued and overtaken by an English corsair and, in the combat that ensued, received a musket-ball wound in the left arm.15 The following year, he was among the defenders at the first siege of Louisbourg and had the unpleasant experience not only of seeing his hometown fall to the English and their New England allies but of being forcibly exiled to France.16 Because of his marine experience, especially in the coastal waters of Acadia, he was immediately brought into the service of the King as a merchantship captain and ordered to join the d’Anville expedition, a hastily assembled flotilla sent to New France in 1746 to parry a suspected English invasion of Canada. During the course of that expedition, he was engaged on at least two occasions in close-order naval combat, once with an English corsair near Merligueche (Lunenburg, Nova Scotia) and two months later with boarding parties dispatched from two English corsairs near the mouth of the Saint John River on the coast of New Brunswick.17 Returning to France after his service on the d’Anville expedition, Le Large was assigned to re-supply missions, first to the coasts of Saintonge and Poitou and then on a succession of eleven missions to the French colonies of North America and the West Indies. On one such mission in 1747, while passing near Jamaica en route to Louisiana, he encountered an entire squadron of English warships, which he successfully evaded by mimicking the maneuvers of an English merchantman. 18 The frequency of these and other close encounters with the English—well documented in his service dossier—suggests that his eventual capture by a ship such as the Torbay was a statistical inevitability.


Although Le Large’s encounters with the English put him in harm’s way on many occasions, the general hardships of his profession proved to be his real nemesis. His last voyage—to the inhospitable climate of Louisiana in 1758–1759—was the longest he had experienced in the twelve years since the d’Anville expedition and proved to be the most damaging to this health. Suffering from what was most likely tuberculosis,19 he sought relief during a six-months’ stay at the therapeutic mineral baths in the south of France but found no cure,20 eventually returning to Rochefort and dying there on 18 August 1761 at the reported age of forty-nine years.21 As to others on the Chariot Royal: The second captain, Charles-Michel Dailleboust (sometimes d’Ailleboust), was born at Louisbourg on 1 October 1735, the son of CharlesJoseph Dailleboust and Marie-Josephe Bertrand.22 The elder Dailleboust was an officer of the colonial regular troops who, like Le Large, was present at the first siege of Louisbourg in 1745 and participated, although to a lesser extent, in the d’Anville expedition the following year. 23 Jean-Aimable Le Large, son of the elder Le Large and first wife Marguerite-Louise Sanson, was born 17 April 1738 at Louisbourg.24 Taking up his father’s profession, the younger Le Large had completed five high-seas voyages with his father prior to the Chariot Royal’s capture and sixteen months later was with his father once again on a resupply mission to New Orleans.25 Trained well by his father, the younger Le Large went on to complete a highly successful career in the French navy, eventually attaining the rank of vice admiral in 1798.26 With respect to the passengers, the scant personal information given on the passenger list makes it difficult to positively identify all of them. It is noted, however, that some of the same names appear a few years earlier on the January 1752 census of French Acadia. 27 Two such names—Pierre Forest (Forés on the passenger list) and Pierre Sire (Cyr on the passenger list)—were enumerated in the Memeramkouk area, and four others—Jean Sauvage, Olivier Saunier, Pierre Martin, and Jean Brun (Broun on the passenger list)—were enumerated in the Chipoudy area. The second of the two named missionaries is Father Etienne Le Goff, a member of the Brittany Récollets who had served at Louisbourg on several occasions between 1729 and 1753. From 1742 to 1745 he held the post of ministre provincial of Recollets of Brittany.28 The passenger list follows:29 [page 1:] Rochefort Colonies 1756 List of the passengers embarked on the King’s flûte30 the Chariot Royal bound for Ile Royale To wit: A la Table31 M[onseigne]ur Guillaumat of the diocese of Paris Missionary


M[onsieur] le Goff of the diocese of Léon in Brittany, idem [same as previous, i.e., missionary] Passengers on rations of the munitionnaire32 Pilot’s mate (aide pilotte) from Louisbourg, came in this capacity from the said place to France on the King’s [war]ship Heros Jean Henri Morel, half ration Acadians on simple rations Joseph Leblanc P[ierr]e Forés Pierre Cyr Olivier Saunier [page 2:] Other sailors Acadians captured by the English Jean B[a]p[tis]te Sauvage of Beaubassin P[ier]re Girois Jean Broun P[ier]re Martin Jean Laure I pray Monsieur Le Large, capitaine de brûlot, commanding the King’s flûte the Chariot Royal, to receive on his ship the passengers named above and on the previous page, to whom subsistence will be furnished according to the categories on the present list during the crossing from France to Ile Royale. At Rochefort, 10 November 1756. [Signed:] RuisImbito33 [end ms]


End Notes During this period in the French navy, there were four intermediate officer grades that were filled primarily by commoners. The grades were lieutenant de frégate, capitaine de frégate, capitaine de brûlot, and capitaine de flûte. James Pritchard, Louis XV’s Navy, 1748–1762: A Study of Organization and Administration (Kingston: McGillQueen’s University Press, 1987), 61. 2 Depositions, respectively, of Jean-François [Le] Large, Jean [Le] Large, and Charles d’Ailleboust taken at Portsmouth, 17 December 1756; Public Record Office, High Court of the Admiralty, prize papers of the Chariot Royal, HCA 32/178, part 1; microfilm, National Archives of Canada, reel B-5734 [hereinafter cited as Chariot Royal prize papers]. 3 “Detail du Combat de La flute du Roy le Chariot Royal Commandé par Large Capitaine du Brulot,” Plymouth, 12 December 1756, attached to the letter of M. Le Large of 12 December 1756; a document from the dossier de service of Jean-François Le Large, Archives Nationales, Marine C7 177; microfilm, Archives Nationales [hereinafter cited as Le Large service dossier]. 4 “Suitte Du Journal de La flutte du Roy Le chariot Royal que je Commandois,” undated (ca. 17 December 1756), attached to the letter of M. Le Large of 17 December 1756; Le Large service dossier. The capture of the Chariot Royal is touched upon briefly in Christopher Moore’s Louisbourg Portraits: Life in an Eighteenth-Century Garrison Town (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1962), 201; however, the event was placed incorrectly in 1757. This error can be traced to an incorrect date given in one account of Le Large’s service, apparently the only one filmed by the National Archives of Canada and the one on which Moore’s account is based. See “Etat des services du S. Le Large natif de L’Isle Royale Capitaine de Brulot au Port de Rochefort mort le 17 Août 1761,” 8 June 177?; Le Large service dossier. The National Archives of Canada microfilm (F-795) attributes that document to Marine C7 166. The author’s microfilm, obtained directly from the Archives Nationales in March 2002, attributes the document to Marine C7 177. 5 Keppel’s account of the combat is in general agreement with that of Le Large except with respect to casualties onboard the Chariot Royal. Le Large reported (note 4 above) two killed and one wounded. Keppel reported three killed and several wounded. Entry of 30 November 1758, “Journal of the Proceedings on board his Majesty’s Ship Torbay…between 1st of February 1756 & 31st of January 1757,” Public Record Office, Admiralty Records, ADM 51/1001 part 2; PRO photocopy. Le Large claimed that, after his capture, he learned from members of the Torbay’s crew that seventeen of Keppel’s men had been killed and eleven wounded. “Etat des Services des Navigations du Sr. Large, tant en Leurope, L’affrique et Lamérique,” attached to an undated (ca. 1758) cover letter to de Moras; Le Large service dossier. 6 Le Large at Portsmouth to Minister of the Marine, 17 December 1756; Le Large service dossier. 7 Charles d’Ailleboust, in his deposition (note 2 above), indicated that some papers had been thrown overboard prior to the Chariot Royal’s capture. This was apparently a common practice, especially in regard to packets of official correspondence. 5

“Services du S. Le Large…Extrait des Rôles d’Equipages déposés au Bureau général des Armements & des Classes du Port, & Département de Rochefort,” 8 June 1773; Le Large service dossier. 9 Le Large’s place of birth is stated in the record of his formal certification to command ships at sea. Lettres de maîtrise of Jean-François Le Large, 22 November 1734, Archives départementales de la Charente-Maritime, La Rochelle, série amirauté de Louisbourg, B 270, fol. 30v–32v; microfilm, National Archives of Canada, reel F433. Le Large’s supposed date of birth is based on the analysis of Christopher Moore contained in the unpublished typescript, “Annotations to ‘Louisbourg Portraits’ by Christopher Moore,” 44; Archives of Fortress Louisbourg. This important work, called to the attention of the writer by Mr. Ken Donovan, historian, Fortress Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada, contains the unpublished documentation supporting the facts put forth in Moore’s Louisbourg Portraits. 10 No birth record has been found; however, the parents’ names are established from the record of Le Large’s marriage to first wife Marguerite-Louise Sanson in 1737. Etatcivil recordation of the marriage act of Jean-François Le Large and Marguerite-Louise Sanson, Notre-Dame-des-Anges de Louisbourg, 8 July 1737; Archives Nationales, Colonies G1 406, register 4, f. 66v; copy from microfilm provided by the National Archives of Quebec. 11 “Recensement des habitants Etablis dans la havre de Louisbourg…fait le quatrieme janvier 1715”; Archives Nationales, Colonies G1 466, register 51; copy from microfilm provided by the National Archives of Quebec. 12 Le Large’s life at Louisbourg is chronicled in Moore, Louisbourg Portraits, 145– 202. 13 A pilote hauturier was a rating awarded to mariners who could demonstrate their ability to make celestial and solar observations, use the magnetic compass, and perform the calculations needed to navigate ships on the high seas. Bourdé de Villeheut, Manuel des marins ou explication des termes de marine, 2 vols. (Lorient: Julien Le Jeune fils, 1773), 2:150 (“pilote hauturier”). 14 Lettres de maîtrise of Jean-François Le Large. 15 “Etat des Services des Navigations du Sr. Large, tant en Leurope, L’affrique et Lamérique,” attached to an undated (ca. 1758) letter to de Moras; Le Large service dossier. A less reliable account, written several years after Le Large’s death, claims that he was wounded in the right arm. Declaration of Morin, Rochefort, 24 June 1773; Le Large service dossier. 16 “Etat des Services des Navigations du Sr. Large, tant en Leurope, L’affrique et Lamérique,” attached to an undated (ca. 1758) letter to de Moras; Le Large service dossier. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 The condition was described as ethisie. Petition of Widow Le Large to Minister of the Marine, undated (ca. May 1773); Le Large service dossier. 20 Declaration of Morin, Rochefort, 24 June 1773; Le Large service dossier. 6


Burial record of Jean-François Le Large, 19 August 1761, burial register for the year 1761, St. Louis de Rochefort, fol. 16; Departmental Archives, Charente Maritime; microfilm 1732968, item 6, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. 22 Baptismal record of Charles-Michel Dailleoust, 1 October 1735, register of baptisms, marriages, and burials, Notre-Dame-des-Anges de Louisbourg. Archives Nationales, G1 406, reg. 4, fol. 58; microfilm 0959785, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. 23 H. Paul Thibault’s biographical sketch of Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust in George W. Brown, David M. Hayne, and Francess G. Halfpenny, gen. eds., Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 11 vols. (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1966–1982), 3:5–7. 24 Baptismal record of Jean-Aimable Le Large, 18 April 1738, register of baptisms, marriages, and burials, Notre-Dame-des-Anges de Louisbourg. Archives Nationales, G1 407, reg. 1, fol. 6-6v; microfilm 0959785, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. 25 During this voyage, Jean-Aimable Le Large served briefly as second captain of the prize ship Judie, a slaver captured during the crossing. “Journal de La Campagne de la flutte du Roy La fortune venant du Missisipy…,” 25 March 1758 – 10 May 1759, fol. 12v; Archives Nationales, Marine 4 JJ19, item 81; microfilm, Library of Congress Louisiana Colonial Records Project, reel 20. 26 Jacques Aman, Les officiers bleus dans la marine française au XVIIIe siècle (Genève: Librarie Droz, 1976), 189. 27 “General List of Inhabitants of French Acadia by Names, Families, Villages, and Number of Boys and Girls in Each Family, January 1752,” in Charles C. Trahan, trans., Acadian Census 1671–1752 (Rayne, Louisiana: Hébert Publications, 1993), 142–50. 28 A. J. B. Johnston, Religion in Life at Louisbourg, 1713–1758 (Kingston: McGillQueen’s Univ. Press, 1984), 150. 29 “List des Passageurs embarqués sur la flutte du Roy le Chariot Royal, expediée pour l’Isle Royalle,” Rochefort, 10 November 1756; Chariot Royal prize papers. 30 A flûte was a two- or three-masted transport ship whose design was a compromise among cargo carrying capacity, maneuverability, speed, and armament. Bourdé de Villehuet, Manuel des marins, 1:257 (“flûte”). 31 Meaning, essentially, “at the captain’s table.” These were passengers of status who were furnished prepared meals at the expense of the captain. The captain was, in turn, reimbursed according to the number of individuals listed as à la table on the ship’s passenger list. Ibid., 2:230 (“table du capitaine”). 32 Munitionnaires were businessmen (or business firms) who contracted to furnish food for ships’ crews. Such food was generally dispensed in units of rations and half rations, the type, size, and quality being controlled by royal ordinances. On large ships, the munitionnaire provided an employee called a commis who was responsible for dispensing daily rations. Ibid., 2:112 (“munitionnaire”). 33 Charles-Claude de Ruis Embito de la Chesnardière was appointed commissaire général at Rochefort in October 1754 and ordonnateur of the same jurisdiction in January 1755. In June 1757, he succeeded to the position of intendant at Rochefort. D. 7


Neuville, État sommaire des Archives de la Marine antérieures à la Révolution (1898; reprinted, Neudeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint, 1977), 123 n. 1.


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