Friday, July 31, 2009

Live-blogging the siege of Quebec+250 #30

Wednesday, August 1, 1759. “The loss is not great,” writes Wolfe. Another day he will call yesterday's action “foolish” but today he tells 210 grenadiers it is their own damn fault that the French are now busy burying them where they died. Two days earlier, he had been determined to bring the French out to fight rather than trying to storm their entrenchments. Now he declares that when he did suddenly decide to storm those very entrenchments, it was the grenadiers’ “impetuous, irregular, and unsoldierlike” action that caused them to fail him.

The defenders, meanwhile, digest their victory without much celebration. Montcalm had largely left the defence at Montmorency to Lévis, his second in command, and Lévis describes the calm and methodical steps the French forces took yesterday. It was Canadian militiamen in the entrenchments who faced – and slaughtered -- the British grenadiers who charged their entrenchments. The officers of the French regular troops have long concerned about the ability of militia to serve alongside trained troops. But, as a French officer later tells Knox, the militia “behaved with so much steadiness throughout the whole cannonading, and, upon the approach of our troops up the precipice, fired with such great regularity that they merited the highest applause and confidence from their superiors.”

Today the supply clerk estimates the British losses rather accurately at 400 to 500 (Levis thought 1200) “and if they had been braver they would only have lost more.” He rather wishes there had been the general engagement (also craved by Wolfe), as he fears the French will be starved into surrender if the siege goes on

Foligné, the French sea officer, thinks the British were fortunate that the thunderstorm covered their retreat. He understands that only the blinding rain prevented the French defenders from pursuing them down the hill and across the beaches.

Montcalm, however, has always wanted to avoid contact with the enemy as much as possible. Despite the substantial victory he has won, he remains sober and realistic. Today he writes to Bourlamaque, commanding on the Richelieu-Lake Champlain front, “You see, monsieur, that our affair is undoubtedly only a small prelude to something more important, which we are now waiting for.
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