Tag Archives: General Lévis

“I Don’t Thirst After the Blood of the Garrison …”

French attack St. John's Newfoundland 1762

French attack St. John’s Newfoundland 1762 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two cities in Canada share the distinction of being real “war veterans”:  St. John’s, and Quebec.  They have been bombarded, besieged and bothered more than any others.  Quebec was captured only twice, by the Kirke brothers in 1629 when Champlain was out of supplies, and by Wolfe in 1759.  It withstood heavy attacks by General Lévis in 1760, and by the Americans under Arnold and Montgomery in 1775.  There was also an attack by a British force from New England in 1690, but Governor Frontenac repulsed it easily.

St. John’s was raided by the Dutch, but the worst attacks were by the French, who had a base in Placentia.  Iberville took it in 1696 (see my May 19 post: Iberville is Ordered to Hudson Bay ) and destroyed the fort and settlement.  The French attacked again under Subercase in 1705 and under St. Ovide de Brouillion in 1708.  Once again St. John’s was destroyed.

The last attack by the French was in 1762 when St. John’s was captured by d’Haussonville.  This was a tactical move.  France knew that the Seven Years’ War was ending, and felt that by capturing Newfoundland it would be in a better position to bargain at the peace table.  D’Haussonville was sent from France with four ships which eluded British warships outside Brest in a thick fog.  He reached the Bay of Bulls on June 24, and then marched to St. John’s, which he captured.

The British struck back as soon as possible.  Colonel William Amherst was sent from New York, and a fleet under Lord Colville sailed from Britain to deal with the four French warships at St. John’s.  The French position was strong but Amherst captured it easily after a three-day march from Torbay.  The attack amounted to a series of letters.  Amherst wrote to d’Haussonville urging him to surrender.  D’Haussonville replied that he would not surrender until he had no more powder to fire.  Amherst replied that if d’Haussonville blew up the fort when he left it, every man in the garrison would be put to the sword.  After another exchange of letters, Amherst wrote:   “I don’t thirst after the blood of the garrison, but you must determine quickly or expect the consequences.”  D’Haussonville then surrendered quietly on September 18, 1762.

To learn more about today’s post, I suggest visiting British Battles, and The Rooms, and then Newfoundland Grand Banks.


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Montreal Surrenders!

General Jeffery Amherst promoted Montgomery to...

General Jeffery Amherst promoted Montgomery to Lieutenant after the Siege of Louisbourg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the fall of Quebec, General Amherst spent the winter at Oswego, New York, gathering an army of 10,000 soldiers and 1,350 Native Indians.  He also had another force at Crown Point, Lake Champlain, ready to march on Montreal from the south.  Brigadier Murray’s regulars at Quebec were to come up the river as soon as Lévis had been driven off (see my April 28 post: Like the “Three Stars” of Hockey).

When the arrival of the British fleet forced General Lévis to lift the siege at Quebec, he led his troops to Montreal as quickly as he could, leaving part of the force at Jacques-Cartier to try to block Murray coming up.  He stationed another contingent at Ile-aux-Noix to check the British coming from Crown Point and a third at Fort Lévis below Fort Frontenac (now Kingston) to delay Amherst coming down the river.

Murray easily side-stepped the blockade at Jacques-Cartier, and Bougainville could not stop the British from Crown Point.  Amherst had left Oswego with his huge force on August 9, and made good progress until he met the French under Captain Pouchot at Fort Lévis.  Pouchot fought cleverly, delaying Amherst until August 29.  Then river pilots were picked up to maneuver Amherst’s boats through the rapids.  On September 7, a British army of 20,000 men surrounded Montreal.

The French situation was hopeless.  Governor Vaudreuil was willing to capitulate and sent Amherst a list of conditions under which he would surrender.  One of them was that the French were to be allowed to march out of the city with honours of war, meaning their flags and guns.

Amherst would not agree but insisted that all the French troops in Canada must lay down their arms and not serve again during the war.  General Lévis was so angry that he burned the French banners that were in his keeping and threatened to hold out on St. Helen’s Island.

On September 8, 1760, the British army marched into the city and the French surrendered at the Place d’Armes.  The fleur-de-lis was lowered from the flagstaff and the red cross of Britain was raised in its place. That night, for the first time, British drums beat the sunset tattoo in the streets of Montreal.


Posted by on September 8, 2013 in August, Longer Entries, Native, On This Day, September


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Quebec Is Saved by Ships!

English: "The British fleet in the lower ...

“The British fleet in the lower bay” depicts the invasion fleet under Admiral Howe assembling in lower New York Harbor off the coast of Staten Island in the summer of 1776, in preparation for the Battle of Long Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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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Like the “Three Stars” of Hockey

English: The Chevalier de Lévis rallies the Fr...

The Chevalier de Lévis rallies the French army before the Battle of Sainte-Foy. Online at Canadian Military Heritage, Department of Defence. Vertical crop for better fit in battlebox. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When the hockey experts pick their “three stars”, they usually choose two players from the winners and one from the losers.  For much of the same reason, history has not given Montcalm and Lévis the recognition they deserve as great soldiers.

François Gaston, Chevalier de Lévis, was one of Montcalm’s most valuable officers.  He refused to give up the battle for Canada after the fall of Quebec and spent the winter of 1759-1760 in Montreal building up a new army.  The British had not been able to capture Montreal in the autumn of 1759 because the news of Wolfe’s victory at Quebec reached General Amherst too late in the year.

By April 1760, General Lévis had recruited 7,000 men and was ready to try to recapture Quebec.  One of his biggest problems was to transport this large force down the St. Lawrence river without being detected.  He manage this, somehow or other, and landed at Cap Rouge (where the Quebec Bridge is), on a wild, rainy night.

Unfortunately for Lévis, at this moment one of his men fell overboard, but saved himself by grabbing a large piece of floating ice.  A British sloop, patrolling off Quebec, heard the man’s cries and picked him up.  He was brought before General Murray, commander of the garrison at Quebec, at three in the morning.  He told the general everything.  Murray had just enough time to blow up an ammunition dump at Sainte Foy, so that it would not fall into Lévis’ hands, and to set up a line of defence outside the city walls.

The battle of Sainte Foy was fought on April 28, 1760, and was one of the bloodiest in Canadian history.  Murray was beaten and had to return to Quebec.  Each side lost 1,000 men.  Now it was a question of time.  Murray hoped he could hold on until British reinforcements could get up the St. Lawrence.  Lévis knew he had to bombard the city into submission before that happened.  Murray was the victor eventually, because British ships began to arrive on May 10, before Lévis was able to break through.  The French had to return to Montreal to get ready to fight again.

You probably want to read more about the battle of Sainte-Foy, so here are a few places to go to for that: there’s Wikipedia, and‘s article by Kennedy Hickman, and Weapons and Warfare blog. And if you’d prefer to hold a book in your hands to learn, there’s Canadian Military Heritage, 1000 – 1754


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