Britain owes her place as a world power to the Royal Navy. What would have happened if it had not been for the decisive victories of Drake, Rodney, Howe and Nelson at crucial periods in world history?
Canadian independence is due in large measure to actions fought by the Royal Navy, or it’s arriving in the nick of time to remedy a desperate situation. Yesterday’s (May 8) story told how Rodney’s victory was a factor in Britain’s decision not to give Canada to the United States in 1783. Spain might have taken possession of British Columbia in 1790, if it had not been for Admiral Howe. Many other famous British seamen, including Cook and Vancouver, played their parts.
One of the most dramatic scenes took place on May 9, 1760. Quebec had fallen to Wolfe in September 1759, but now General Lévis (see April 28th‘s post) had struck back. General Murray, defeated in the Battle of Ste Foy, had withdrawn his troops into the fortress and was hanging on for dear life. It was simply a matter of time. Both Murray and Levis were hoping for help from the sea. The ice was melting in the St. Lawrence. Would Britain or France get ships up the river first?
At noon, on May 9, the tall sails of a frigate could be seen rounding the Island of Orleans. Both sides waited, fingers crossed. A broad red pennant fluttered to the masthead, and a salute was fired. It was the British ship Lowestoft.
General Lévis, who had hoped for reinforcements from France, decided to launch his final assault. The arrival of the Lowestoft was not serious in himself. One ship would not make any difference between victory or defeat, but others were probably following. He gave orders to his artillery to fire all the ammunition they had. The walls of Quebec began to crumble after three days of the bombardment, and the time had come for an assault by the troops.
At that moment, three more British ships rounded the Island of Orleans. General Lévis knew that more were following. The battle was over, and he ordered his men to retreat to Montreal, but to be ready to fight again. Many of them were habitants who were anxious only to return to their farms. Hence, many deserted Lévis.
Much of the same thing happened on May 6, 1776. While the Americans were besieging Quebec, three British warships appeared. Following that, the invaders were singing the old song: “I’ll be here just three more seconds, and after that I’ll be gone.”
To learn more about the battle of Ste Foy, there are a few places I’d suggest. For instance, there’s Schenectady Digital History Archive, and then The French Indian Wars, especially the “conclusion”, as well as The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum.
And then there’s always the “hold-a-book” method. I suggest Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763, and also Canadian Military Heritage, 1000 – 1754.
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