Siege of Quebec, 25 June-18 September 1759
Siege that ended any French hopes of victory in the French and Indian Wars, dooming their north American colonies. The British plan for the capture of Quebec involved three separate armies, each traveling by a different route, intended to converge at Quebec in overwhelming numbers. However, of the three, only the force under James Wolfe, which was sent by boat up the St. Lawrence River, actually arrived at the city. As a consequence of this, the French garrison of Quebec outnumbered the besieging troops, although the British regulars were vastly superior soldiers than their French opponents, as events were to show. Worse, the French were aware of the British plan, having captured a copy of the letters setting it out, and so when Wolfe arrived at Quebec, he found the French prepared, with Louis de Montcalm in charge of the defence. Quebec was a natural fortress, on the north bank of the St. Lawrence, and protected by cliffs and ravines. The siege settled into a stalemate, and although Wolfe made slow progress in some directions, he came no closer to forcing Montcalm into battle, his main aim. Eventually, he won the day with what has been seen either as an act of great daring or as a ridiculous risk that paid off only through the mistakes of his enemy. During the night of the 12-13 September, Wolfe managed to get over 4,000 troops across the river to the west of the city, and up the Heights of Abraham, towering cliffs that lined the river, using a tiny trail from a cove that he had scouted from the far side of the river. A combination of luck, and overconfidence amongst the French allowed Wolfe to get 4,828 and an increasing number of guns up the cliff and in a position to threaten the city. Even then, he could still have lost. Montcalm had detached 3,000 of his best men further up-river, and could easily have waited for their arrival before launching his attack. Instead, convinced that only a small force awaited him he led his garrison out onto the attack. The resulting Battle of the Heights of Abraham (13 September) was short and decisive. Both Wolfe and Montcalm took fatal wounds in the battle, Wolfe surviving long enough to know he had won, Montcalm dying before the city fell, and the French garrison was routed. The city surrendered on 18 September 1759, ending any realistic French chances of maintaining their presence in Canada.
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (9 November 2000), Siege of Quebec, 25 June-18 September 1759, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_quebec.html