On June 27, 1759, the British force under General Wolfe and Admiral Saunders completed the voyage up the St. Lawrence to Quebec. They had been guided safely through “the traverse,” the most dangerous stretch of the river, by Captain Cook. Actually, Cook tricked some French river pilots into helping him. The first British ships that entered the St. Lawrence flew “fleur-de-lis” flags. The pilots went on board believing them to be French, and were forced to help guide the fleet up the river. They were furious and kept shouting that Quebec would be the tomb of the invaders, and that their scalps would decorate the walls of the city!
The fleet came within sight of Quebec on June 26, and Wolfe’s soldiers began disembarking on the Island of Orleans on June 27. Wolfe issued a proclamation to the Canadians, commanding them to remain passive spectators, but many of them flocked to join Montcalm’s forces.
Montcalm had arrived at Quebec on May 22. With Brigadier Lévis, he made a tour of the entire area and rearranged artillery batteries. The beach at Beauport gave him the greatest concern, and he installed a floating battery of twelve heavy guns, and six fire ships, loaded with explosives. These ships were bought by the crooked Intendant Bigot, who made a profit for himself even at that hour of danger.
Montcalm had two great handicaps working behind the scene. One was Bigot, and the other was Governor Vaudreuil himself. Montcalm should have sent a strong force to hold the high ground across the river, now Lévis. It is believed that Vaudreuil vetoed this plan. Wolfe quickly took advantage of the opening and installed British guns there. They pounded Quebec until its capture in September.
The fire ships, Vaudreuil’s idea, were a complete failure. They were floated down the river towards the British fleet. When the commander of the leading fire-ship panicked and deserted, others followed, and finally only one captain remained with his ship and was burned to death. When the fire ships came close, the British sailors simply put grappling hooks on them and towed them to shore. While they burned, the sailors cheered heartily.
This was only the beginning. The battle for Quebec continued until September 13, when it was concluded on the Plains of Abraham.
To read more about the battles, I have found a few sites you may want to visit. Maybe start at British Battles.com, and then From the Warpath To The Plains of Abraham (a very good article here). If you still want to read more, then I suggest About.com for an article by Kennedy Hickman, called “French & Indian War: Battle of Quebec (1759).”
- “We Shall Probably Succeed” (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Conrad Black: High Noon at the Plains of Abraham (huffingtonpost.com)
- The “Conquest” of New France (michelinewalker.com)