The fall of Quebec

In partnership with RetroNews, the BnF press site, The duty launches a series that goes back to the media sources of the France-Quebec relationship, from the War of the Conquest to the visit of General de Gaulle, including the tour of Sarah Bernhardt on the banks of the St. Lawrence. First text.

On September 13, 1759, the French army in Canada was broken up in front of the ramparts of Quebec, on the Plains of Abraham. The enemy generals, Wolfe and Montcalm, are mortally wounded during this fight which marks the birth of a new British royal power on the territory of New France. In his writings, General de Gaulle says of this battle that it is among the most important in history.

But what did the French gazettes say at the time? The information is fragmentary, especially since it passes through Great Britain, whose fleet has cut off communications between Canada and France.

On October 6, 1759, a dispatch from London taken back to Paris indicates that we still do not know very well the outcome of the siege of Quebec, which began at the end of June with the landing of Wolfe on Île d’Orléans, downstream from the city.

Without news

“No news has been received from Quebec; and we are very impatient to learn of the success of the company formed against this Capital of Canada. We know that the French have near Quebec an army of fourteen thousand men divided into two camps; and that the troops we landed there only amount to eight thousand men. It is feared that Generals Amherst, Johnson, Gage and Stanwix, who had to land there with superior forces, did not arrive early enough; and that the French did not take advantage of their delay, to fight the few corps that landed. “

The author of this article refers to the British invasion of Canada from three sides, from Quebec to Niagara via Fort Carillon, now Ticonderoga. General Amherst, who commands the main invading army, is advancing slowly from the Hudson River in New York Province to southern Lake Champlain on the way to Montreal. Wolfe must therefore fend for himself with his expeditionary force, which is still larger than suggested. The Gazette October 6.

The defeat

The news of the fall of Quebec is broadcast in France more than two months after the events. In The Gazette from 1is December 1759, we read this:

” They [les ennemis anglais] established batteries of mortars and cannons which did not stop firing from July 12 until September 18. The dates correspond with the actual duration of the bombardment of Quebec, carried out from Pointe de Lévis, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. The city, which has less than 8,000 inhabitants, is said to have seen up to 50,000 cannon balls and bombs falling on it during the summer.

The newspaper continues its account of the campaign: “The Marquis de Montcalm had a camp occupied on the left bank of the river, from the Saint-Charles river to the right bank of the Montmorency river, to cover the place and in order to to deprive the enemies of a ground, which would have been very advantageous for them to make their descent, and to make themselves masters of the two banks of the river. This excerpt evokes the entrenched camp of Beauport, which is the scene of a general assault launched by Wolfe during the day of July 31. The British lost nearly 500 soldiers, killed, wounded or captured.

The Gazette finally recounts the fight on the Plains of Abraham, which was the turning point for the siege of Quebec: “The action was very lively and very murderous on both sides; and it would have been happier for us, had it not been for the loss of the Marquis de Montcalm, our general, of the Sieur de Senezergues, Brigadier, and of the Sieur de Fontbonne, lieutenant-colonel, who commanded the right and the left. The author of the dispatch explains here the defeat by the putting out of combat of the three main French officers present at the battle. Left to its own devices, the Quebec garrison surrendered five days later.

“Quebec remained uncovered, we read in The Gazette from 1is December 1759. This very vast square, where all the houses had been ruined and burnt down by cannon balls, fire pots and carcasses that the enemies kept throwing there for sixty-four days, had no other fortifications than a wall, and in some places a palisade. His food was exhausted. In this state, the Sieur de Ramezay, King’s lieutenant, who commanded there, asked to capitulate on September 18. “

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