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The National Battlefields Commission

Plains of Abraham





A Matter of Urgency

The Montmorency defeat had dealt a hard blow to the morale of the British troops. Wolfe's credibility was also considerably weakened. Since the beginning of the siege, his relations with his staff had deteriorated considerably. Moreover, the General fell seriously ill during the month of August. He remained bedridden for weeks. Meanwhile, the army was more or less without command. None of the three brigadiers had been named to replace him.

Therefore, there was no large-scale operation to capture the city in August. Instead, Wolfe led a policy of terror by burning and ransacking entire villages in the hope of flushing out Montcalm from his entrenchment, unsuccessfully as it turned out: Montcalm did not budge. At the end of the month, however, there was little time left: summer was coming to an end, and the town had to be taken before the river froze over and the ships became ice bound.

While he was quietly recovering, Wolfe developed a new attack plan and submitted it to his staff on August 27. It was the first time since the onset of the siege that Wolfe had decided to consult his brigadiers. His strategy was to attack at Montmorency106. This plan, much like one that led to the July 31 defeat, was rejected by the three brigadiers two days later. In their reply to the general, they emphasized that experience had revealed the strength of the French position at Beauport. Moreover, in the event of a victory, they would still have to ford across the St. Charles River to take the town from the rear. Montcalm could very well hold this front while waiting for winter to come, and force the British army to leave empty-handed.

Monckton, Townshend and Murray submitted another proposal107. After consulting with Admiral Saunders, they considered that the best option was to lead an operation upriver. Its effect would be to:

  • Cut off the town's and the French Army's supply line;
  • Cut off any possibility of a westward retreat;
  • Force Montcalm to come out of his entrenchments and face the British Army.

In short, the advantage of this plan was to exploit the weaknesses of the French Army, namely its dependency on the communication line with the west, to flush out Montcalm from his entrenchments and force him to fight in a manner that was to his disadvantage since his army consisted largely of militiamen and Amerindians, unused to fighting in open terrain, European style (pitched battle). Moreover, unlike earlier plans, this strategy brought all the troops together instead of dividing them. Wolfe agreed to the plan.

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