The Battle of Quebec, otherwise known as The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Bataille des Plaines d'Abraham or Première bataille de Québec was fought during the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War in the USA) which took place from 1757 to 1762.
It began on 13th September, 1759, between the British and the French on a high plain outside the city of Quebec in Canada. The land originally belonged to a farmer called Abraham Martin and gave rise to the name the Plains of Abraham.
The French, Canadian and Indian forces were commanded by Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm and Major General James Wolfe led the British and American soldiers. Montcalm’s men numbered 5,000 with three guns while 4,500 of Wolfe’s force went into battle on the Plains of Abraham with one gun.
On the night of September 12th Wolfe’s force rowed along the St. Lawrence River towards Anse de Foulon where they intended to disembark. They drifted slightly off-course and landed near a slope. The 4,500 men scaled the cliffs and assembled on the plains in a single line of battalions.
Montcalm was unaware of their presence until the morning of 13th September. At 10:00 am his troops began their advance. The British lines held their fire until their opponents were within range then loosed two volleys which destroyed the French attack. The British then advanced and forced the French to retreat from the field of battle.
The encounter lasted around fifteen minutes and was a pivotal moment in the conflict between France and Britain over sovereignty in New France, ultimately leading to the creation of Canada. French forces continued to battle and were victorious in several skirmishes but within four years most of France’s assets in eastern North America had been relinquished to Great Britain. In effect, the victory at Quebec marked the beginning of the end of French rule in Canada.
What of the generals?
General Wolfe had moved to a high point to see the battle action. Earlier he had been shot in the wrist but had wrapped it and continued to fight. Now, within moments of the order to fire the volleys, he was shot in the stomach and chest and carried to the rear of the battle field. One of the soldiers near the General shouted out, ‘They run, see how they run.’ Wolfe, who had declined medical assistance, asked what had happened, gave orders for following action and said, ‘Now, God be praised, I will die in peace.’ It was reported that he then turned on his side and died. He was 32.
Meanwhile, the Marquis de Montcalm had been shot in the thigh and lower abdomen while retreating but was still mounted. He was carried along with his army and eventually taken from his horse into a nearby house where he died the following morning. His body was buried in the Ursuline chapel in a crater left by a British shell. He was 47.
The Plains of Abraham are preserved in The Battlefields Park in Quebec City.
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