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The Battle of the Plains of Abraham. September 13, 1759 Quebec. Background. Seven Year’s War – both Europe and North America (1756-1763) In Canada, early French success, more manpower and forts Later (1758-1759), British success – more money, men are allotted, power of Royal Navy

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the battle of the plains of abraham

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

September 13, 1759


  • Seven Year’s War – both Europe and North America (1756-1763)
  • In Canada, early French success, more manpower and forts
  • Later (1758-1759), British success – more money, men are allotted, power of Royal Navy
  • By 1759, New France faced odds of nearly 3 to 1 in terms of ships, 4 to 1 in terms of regular soldiers, and 10 to 1 in money
main players
Main Players
  • James Wolfe – commander of British invasion fleet sent to take Quebec
  • Invasion force = 13,500 men, 4000 in strike force (mostly regular soldiers)
main players4
Main Players
  • France – Marquis de Montcalm
  • Approximately 4500 men (mostly militiamen)
problems with french defense
Problems with French Defense
  • West side of city walls facing the Plains of Abraham had no gun reinforcements
  • Left undefended the south bank of the river opposite the city and shortly after their arrival, the British established batteries there and were able to launch attacks
  • Under cover of fire, Royal Navy could transport its ships up the river without counterattack
summer 1759
Summer 1759
  • All summer British took garrisons all around modern day provinces of Quebec and Ontario
  • Devastated the parishes around Quebec city. On the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, the British destroyed 1000 buildings as well as the Canadians’ harvest
battle preparations
Battle Preparations
  • Wolfe wanted to force Montcalm into an open, European-style battle, but was running out of time – the Navy had to go back to Britain for the winter
  • However, he found a small cove called Anse au Foulon from which a narrow path led up the steps of the cliff to Quebec garrison
  • French believed no force could climb the narrow path so left it undefended
french mistakes
French Mistakes
  • French failed to establish a password for a French convoy expected to bring supplies on the night of September 12
  • The British attack was a complete surprise – French sentries on the shore thought that the boats gliding past them were part of the French convoy (was actually cancelled) and Wolfe had those soldiers who could speak French answer the French sentries in their own language
ready for attack
Ready for Attack
  • In total, 3 landing ships reached the shore
  • The advance force of Scottish Highlanders walked up the steep path, two by two, and, without detection, gained the summit of the cliffs and overpowered the French post there
wolfe s luck
Wolfe’s Luck
  • Wolfe’s risks paid off
  • The sentries did not recognize the British in time because the convoy had been expected
  • His difficult landing was successful and without problems
the plains of abraham
The Plains of Abraham
  • Wolfe deployed 4500 troops on the Plains of Abraham, the grassy field near the unarmed western walls of the fort
  • Montcalm makes a fatal error- Instead of waiting for Colonel de Bougainville to arrive with 3000 regulars stationed at Cap Rouge, 15 km upstream, he impulsively attacks
the battle unfolds
The Battle Unfolds
  • British strategies – Three quarters of men deployed in one line in a concentration of firepower
  • When the French army was only 40m away, the command to fire was given and the French were devastated, their lines in chaos
  • One volley later, they retreated up the St. Lawrence River
  • Battle lasted less than 30 minutes
  • The two forces were numerically equal, however, the British force was composed of regulars and the French, poorly trained militiamen
british casualties
British Casualties
  • Approximately 650 men
  • Wolfe was shot and killed on the battlefield
french casualties
French Casualties
  • Approximately 650 men
  • Montcalm was also wounded in battle and died from his wounds the next morning
  • By September 18, the fort at Quebec, short of provisions and soldiers and weakly fortified on its west side, was surrendered
  • The battle was a serious blow to the French, but all was not lost on September 13
  • France still controlled the rest of the St. Lawrence valley and its army was still in tact
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham did not determine New France’s fate. It was a naval battle fought at Quiberon Bay off the coast of France during which the British navy’s destruction of the French fleet later prevented France from sending a rescue force to save Canada, that sealed its fate
repercussions cont d
Repercussions cont’d
  • During an attempt to recapture Quebec, the French army ran short of ammunitions and supplies and no ship was available to come from France to its aid
  • Almost one year later, September 18, 1760 – the French surrendered all of New France and the British took the final French stronghold at Montreal
the death of general wolfe18
“The Death of General Wolfe”
  • By British painter, Benjamin West (1738-1820)
  • Unveiled in London in 1771
  • Has been called “absolutely valueless as a historic representation”
  • Why might historians caution that this painting is an inaccurate depiction of both the battle and Wolfe’s death?