Battle of the Plains of Abraham, 13 September 1759 (Canada)

Decisive battle that led to the fall of Quebec. The British, led by James Wolfe, had successfully crossed the St. Lawrence river above Quebec, where Louis de Montcalm, in charge of the French defenders of the city, had felt to be secure, protected by the Heights of Abraham, high cliffs that appeared to block any attack. However, Wolfe had scouted out a route up the cliffs, a narrow track that led to the top, where a weak French guard had been overwhelmed in their sleep. By dawn, Wolfe had 4,828 men on the cliff tops west of the city. When the British tents were seen, Montcalm himself went to scout out the situation, but even after seeing the British force in person, he refused to believe that anything more than a small raiding force had climbed the cliffs. Wolfe marched his force to within a mile of the city, and formed up ready for battle.

The French were divided. 3,000 of their best men were some way to the west under Bougainville, and although Montcalm had 10,000 men, over 7,000 of them were militia. Foolishly, Montcalm did not wait for Bougainville and his 3,000 men, and instead launched his attack at 10 in the morning. At this point the superior discipline of the British carried the day. The French advanced in some disorder, firing wildly and with little effect. In contrast, the first volley of British musket fire was devastating, and the French force fell back under the shock, at which point Wolfe ordered a bayonet charge, which he led himself. Within seconds, Wolfe took a bullet in the chest, which was eventually to kill him, but the charge itself was a success, turning the French retreat into a total rout. Montcalm also took a fatal wound while attempting to rally the troops. Wolfe survived long enough to know he had won the battle, and Montcalm only survived to the following day, while Quebec surrendered on 18 September.

Books on the Seven Years's War | Subject Index: Seven Years' War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 November 2000), Plains of Abraham, battle of, 13 September 1759, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_abraham.html

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