Saturday, September 12, 2009

Live-blogging the siege of Quebec+250 #72

Wednesday, September 12, 1759. The French in Quebec are in dire need of supplies, and the supply corps urges an effort to smuggle some boatloads downriver past the British ships. Quite inadvertently, they will give cover to the British boats following the same route downriver from their stations around Cap-Rouge and Pointe-aux-Trembles.

Where will the British boats head? Even the brigadiers do not know. In the evening they send Wolfe a note: What is the plan? At 8.30 pm Wolfe replies, “The place is called the Foulon, distant about 2 miles or two and a half from Quebec where you remember an encampment of ten or twelve tents and an abattis below it.” [Abattis: a barricade of sharpened tree trunks and branches]

Tonight’s the night.

Why the change in landing site? Fred Anderson, the author of Crucible of War, the principal recent history of the Seven Years War in North America, thinks Wolfe believed Quebec could not be taken. Anderson argues that Wolfe, resigned to his failure, had altered the brigadiers’ plan in order to get himself killed with the least possible loss to his army. Thereafter the brigadiers could clean up the mess and withdraw:
Wolfe had assumed that he would come ashore with the advance guard, that there would be resistance and … that he would be killed leading his men against the French outpost. If his wish were granted, he would have risked only the advance guard, the survivors of which would be free to re-embark. Monckton, the second in command, would be free to call off an operation of which he clearly disapproved.” (page 354)
In a footnote, Anderson acknowledges “a large measure of speculation in this” but cites contemporary opinions that support his interpretation.
Follow @CmedMoore