Capture of Quebec

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QUEBEC, CAPTURE OF. In 1759, the year after the fall of Louisburg, Nova Scotia, British General James Wolfe was given command of 9,280 men, mostly regulars, to capture Quebec. Wolfe's force sailed 4 June 1759, for the Saint Lawrence River landing on the circle d'Orléans below Quebec on 27 June. Wolfe's army partially encircled Quebec with soldiers on the east, batteries on the south bank, and the fleet upstream. His coordinated attacks by land and water in July and August were rebuffed.

On 3 September the British secretly moved 3,000 soldiers to ships upstream. On the night of 12 September, Wolfe slipped a strong force downstream in small boats and effected a surprise landing near the city. Wolfe's force overpowered a small guard, captured an adjacent battery, and made it possible for about 5,000 troops to land safely and climb to the heights of the Plains of Abraham by six o'clock in the morning.

In this position, Wolfe threatened Quebec's communications with Montreal and inner Canada. In the formal eighteenth-century manner, Wolfe arrayed his force by eight o'clock. At ten o'clock, the French under Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm formed for a conventional assault, which was met by formal volleys from the British battalions. Shots were exchanged for a few moments only, then the French wavered. The British charged and the French fled. Wolfe was killed on the field and Montcalm was carried off mortally wounded. Wolfe's successor closed in, and the surrender of Quebec on 18 September made inevitable British hegemony in Canada and the close of the French and Indian War, with the capture of Montreal, the following year.


Donaldson, Gordon. Battle for a Continent, Quebec 1759. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973.

LaPierre, Laurier L. 1759: The Battle for Canada. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1990.

Parkman Jr., Francis. Montcalm and Wolfe. New York: Collier Books, 1962.

ElbridgeColby/a. r.

See alsoAbraham, Plains of ; Canada, Relations with ; French and Indian War .

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Quebec, capture of, 1759. This ended French sovereignty in Canada. British sea power reduced the fortress of Louisbourg (1758), opening up the St Lawrence. Despite fears that the strongly entrenched French, under the brilliant Montcalm, could be dislodged only by a long siege, Wolfe's troops, with a surprise night manœuvre, followed by a pitched battle, achieved an epic victory. While Quebec's capture formed the summit of British imperial success, problems of taking Canada into British control and the lessening of colonial anxieties about French power contributed to the circumstances leading to the revolt of the thirteen colonies.

Richard C. Simmons