Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live-blogging the siege of Quebec+250 #24

Thursday, July 26, 1759. The real British army in North America, y’see, is the one commanded by Major General Jeffrey Amherst. This army has been working its methodical way up the Hudson River-Lake Champlain-Richelieu Valley invasion corridor toward Montreal. Compared to it, Wolfe’s bold thrust at Quebec is secondary, and the opposing forces on the western frontier are little more than armed mobs chasing each other around the countryside (a German general staff officer’s famous, probably invented, description of the campaigns of the American Civil War, but more accurate here).

Amherst is methodical. His predecessor got his head handed to him by Montcalm at Carillon/Ticonderoga in August 1758, and Amherst is prepared to sacrifice speed rather than take a chance on anything similar. He’s not in the business of glorious risky ventures. July is nearly over, and he has just returned to the siege of Ticonderoga a few days ago.

The French have no intention of letting their shrinking armies be trapped here. Only a token force remains at the fort they call Carillon. Today they spike the guns, blow up the powder magazine, and retreat northward. So Amherst now has Ticonderoga -- but he has no information on how Wolfe is doing. If Wolfe has to withdraw from Quebec, he reasons, Montcalm will come down the Richelieu like an avenging whirlwind. Amherst determines to hold what he has rather than advancing to ground he may not be able to keep. So he sets to reinforcing Ticonderoga. He will not see Montreal for a year.

Wolfe, meanwhile, has given up on the coast west of Quebec again. Today he scouts along the Montmorency river, and doesn’t much like it. “The opposite bank was entrenched, and so steep and so woody, that it was to no purpose to attempt a passage there.”
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