Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Live-blogging the siege of Quebec+250 #47

Saturday, August 18, 1759. Brigadier Murray, commanding British forces in the ships upriver from Quebec, lands a force at Deschambault on the north shore.

Murray later reports that the French “never came near enough to hurt a man of my detachment.” Foligné, the French military diarist, reports that the British retreated as soon as Colonel Bougainville and his mobile forces reached Deschambault. Whatever the case, the British force departs promptly. After seizing a French supply cache and burning some houses, it returns to its boats with a herd of captured cattle. Murray does not entrench and does not engage the French in a big way.

Montcalm, who hurries to support Bougainville, grasps the ominous significance of landings like these. His priority all summer has been to keep the British at a distance but, now that the British have ships above Quebec, the north shore upriver of Quebec is the place Montcalm is least able to prevent them coming ashore. His diarist reports:
It is fortunate for the country that [Murray] limited himself entirely to this operation instead of taking post and entrenching himself; it would not have been easy to dislodge him. We all feared this and M. de Montcalm felt the importance of this position so strongly that he left here intending to attack it, strong or weak, entrenched or not. No more communication with our stores, no or very little food here, the country open to the enemy. The colony [would have been] lost or next to it.
Wolfe has not yet grasped what Montcalm understands. In the wake of the Deschambault raid, Wolfe criticizes Murray for using too many men and boats on what he considers a diversion. “Finding that the [French] ships were not to be got at and little prospect of bringing the enemy to battle, he reported to me. I ordered him to rejoin the army.”

The next stage of the siege, however, has been set.
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