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The National Battlefields Commission

Plains of Abraham





Montcalm is Taken by Surprise

In early September, the French had let their guard down somewhat. Winter was approaching and the British still had not taken the town. The future, at least in the short term, was not looking so terrible. However, provisions were needed for the winter. Some militiamen therefore returned to their fields to help with the harvest.

Added to this slight breach, another circumstance greatly contributed to the execution of Wolfe's plan: on the night of the landing, the French were expecting a convoy of provisions. On September 12, Bougainville, stationed at Cap-Rouge, received a message asking him to do everything he could to allow these supplies to sail past the British ships and reach Québec during the night. Food was greatly needed in the town and in the camp at Beauport. All posts west of the St. Charles River, including the Samos battery at Sillery, as well as the detachment of Captain Vergor on the Plains of Abraham overlooking Anse-au-Foulon, were warned not to attempt anything that could hinder this operation. Well, the operation was eventually cancelled, the problem being that neither Bougainville nor the men manning the posts under his command had received the information. This lack of communication had serious consequences because it facilitated the approach and landing of the British troops at Anse-au-Foulon.

Moreover, the news of the landing took a long time to reach Beauport. The French soldiers naturally had heard shots fired west of the town during the night, but they thought it was a face-off related to the arrival of a food convoy. Moreover, the pretence orchestrated by Saunders in front of Beauport had proved highly efficient since the soldiers had spent all night getting ready for an attack at this location.

In the morning, a Canadian from the Vergor detachment reached camp, but his account was not believed:

As we came into la Canardière courtyard, a Canadian arrived from the post of Mr de Vergor, to whom the Anse-au-Foulon post had been entrusted truly at the worst of times. This Canadian told us with the validation of undisputed fear that he was the only one who had escaped and that the enemy was on top of the hills. We well knew about the difficulty of forcing our way through this place even when it was barely defended, so that we did not believe a word of the account of a man whose head, we thought, had been turned by fear110.

It is not exactly known how and when Montcalm got the news. A note probably reached him around six in the morning informing him that there would be a landing, but without specifying the magnitude of the British operation. Vaudreuil, for his part, wrote a message to Colonel Bougainville at 6:45 a.m. that contained relevant information. In the letter, the Governor first tells him about the landing at Anse-au-Foulon. He then mentions that Montcalm left earlier with approximately one hundred men, and he promises to keep him posted on the new developments as soon as possible. There is a good chance that, three hours after the first British soldiers had landed, the Governor still had not a clear enough picture of the situation to give the Colonel the order to march with his men towards the Plains. Montcalm and his officers, including Captain Montreuil, were however better informed. From 6:45 a.m. on, the Beauport troops started marching towards the Plains. They arrived around 8:00 a.m.111.

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