Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Live-blogging the siege of Quebec+250 #61

Saturday, September 1, 1759. General Wolfe issues the vital order that puts into motion the brigadiers’ recommendation for an attack above Quebec. Troops, guns, and stores are to be shifted from Montmorency, where they have faced the easternmost French lines, to Point Levy on the south shore and on upriver from there. Wolfe leaves a substantial force at Montmorency -- to disguise the British intentions, to pin down the French defenders, and to threaten an attack if Montcalm himself shifts troops westward. But the tip of the British spear is turning westward. The British are focussing their gaze on the north shore, upriver from the city.

During the night five more British vessels have successfully moved past Quebec’s gun batteries to reach the upper part of the river, further expanding British potential to move men and equipment in that area. The very name “Quebec” means “the narrows;” Champlain had chosen the site 150 years earlier for potential to command all movement up the great river. But six weeks of incessant fire against the French gun batteries now begins to deliver results; Quebec’s command of the narrows is being lost.

Foligné, the French sea officer serving in the gun batteries, is well aware that British efforts are shifting to the territory upriver from Quebec (though he dates these events August 31]:
After burning their works at the Falls, the British embarked and set up camp, some on the Ile d’Orléans, some at Point Levy where their encampment now seems greatly enlarged. There were busy troop movements there: sometimes manning the boats, sometimes forming up facing the town. They remained in battle order for some time. Finally they marched to the River Etchemin [on the south shore, up river from Point Levy], where they settled in the woods and spend the night under arms. …. This same day, M. le Marquis de Montcalm, seeing the enemy evacuate their positions at the Falls, shifted the position of our encampment.
The civilian supply clerk, often pessimistic, also observes the British movements and wonders if the high command is paying attention..
Here we have at least 20 or 25 English ships upriver, and bodies of troops that we have seen going upriver by land with their arms and baggage. They is digging going on at the Falls, but that means nothing. We still guard Beauport, apparently believing it would be impossible to land anywhere else. I hope so but I fear we may be making a mistake.
But Montcalm writes to Bougainville as if he were reading Wolfe’s mind:
I am always afraid that the English will try to establish themselves somewhere to cut our communications; take care at Jacques-Cartier and Deschambault [two of the brigadiers's potential landing places on the north shore upriver of Quebec].
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