In the first week of June 1759 the force set sail for the St Lawrence. The French had been expecting attacks from Lake Ontario in the West and Lake Champlain in the South and the descent on the St Lawrence took them by surprise. Montcalm assembled five regular French battalions, militia and a thousand Indians to Quebec. On 31st July 1759 Wolfe attempted an attack on Montcalm’s riverside fortifications. The disorganised assault was repulsed with heavy loss. The grenadiers and 60th losing around 500 casualties.
|Over the following weeks British ships managed to pass the batteries into the area of the river above the city. This move prevented supplies from reaching the French garrison and population. On his recovery Wolfe determined to attempt a landing on the steep northern bank of the St Lawrence to the West of the city. On the night of 4th September 1759 the troops encamped on the Montmorency were disembarked. On 12th September Wolfe was informed that French supply ships were expected to venture down the St Lawrence that night. A feint attack was made on Montcalm’s fortifications east of the city to draw French troops away from the proposed landing site. That night Wolfe’s flotilla rowed from the West down the river to the Anse du Foulon, the point Wolfe had chosen for the landing on the north bank. A French sentry challenged the boats but was answered by a highland officer in French. The force landed and scaled the cliff. By dawn 4,500 British and American troops were assembled on the cliff top.
The situation of this British force was precarious as Bougainville and a French force lay to the West in their rear. About a mile to their front was the area of wide open country called the Plains of Abraham extending to the walls of the city. Montcalm did not become aware of the British incursion until the morning, when he saw the line formed outside Quebec. French, Canadian and Indians streamed through the city towards the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm applied to the governor of the city for some of the guns from the ramparts, but the governor agreed to release only three. Nevertheless Montcalm decided to attack the British line. A savage fight developed on Wolfe’s left between the skirmishers and the British Light Infantry and the reserve regiments under Townsend. The three French guns and the single British gun fired at the opposing lines. The French regular battalions advanced to the attack and the British regiments, who had been lying down to avoid the fire, rose up. The French fired ineffectually at too great a distance and came on. The British foot withheld its fire until the range was 35 yards, it is said. Two volleys were sufficient to destroy the French line. The British infantry then advanced and drove the French from the field.