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Case 11: Québec~Wolfe, Monckton, Townshend~September 13 & 18

“Plan of Quebec with the Positions of the Brittish [sic] and French Army’s on the Heights of Abraham 13th of Sept. 1759.” Pen and ink with watercolor on paper, [1761]. Map Division, Murray Atlas of Canada, f. 52.

News that the British were atop the heights and facing the walls of Québec stunned the French commander, who rushed forces from the Beauport defenses to oppose them.  Fearing that the British were beginning to entrench their position, Montcalm rashly decided to attack without awaiting the arrival of additional forces.

The war in America had not yet seen a set-piece, open-field, European-style battle.  Victory depended on discipline, military precision, and the ability of the soldiers to endure volleys of enemy musket fire at close range.  The French and British regular troops had been trained in this manner of fighting, but Montcalm had introduced Canadian militiamen into his regular units to build up their numbers.  As the French moved forward their discipline and regularity faltered.  When Wolfe’s troops poured devastating volleys into them from short range, the French lines crumbled, and the troops fled back toward the town with the British in pursuit.

This beautifully crafted, manuscript topographical map of the vicinity of Québec records many details of the battle fought on the morning of September 13, 1759.  The positions of the British troops (“c”) and the attacking French force (“f”) are visible at the middle.  The more colorfully rendered military unit symbols above them represent the encampment of the British units on the night following the battle.  This map is part of a survey of Canada done by British engineers in 1760-1761 at the orders of General James Murray.

[Articles of Capitulation of Québec], September 18th 1759 in “A Collection of Capitulations, of Armies, Towns, and places, taken in the Course of the War which Commenced in 1756, and ended in 1762.” Manuscripts Division, Frederick Mackenzie Papers, Volume B.

The main body of the French army withdrew from the town and marched up the St. Lawrence to regroup.  The British immediately began preparations for a formal siege.  Short of food and supplies and uncertain whether the army would return in a timely fashion, the garrison commandant asked for terms. He (Ramsey or Ramezay) signed for the French and Admiral Saunders and Brigadier Monckton for the British.  Five days after the battle, on the morning of September 18, British colors were hoisted above Québec.