13 September

Death of Wolfe

Wolfe Reaches Plains

The world could not expect more from him than he thought himself capable of performing. He looked on danger as the favourable moment that would call forth his talents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                —HORACE WALPOLE, 1763

Valour gave them a common death, history a common fame, posterity a common monument.

                                                                                            ---JAMES C. FISHER, 1828


Do you remember the old adage about "for want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe a horse was lost. For want of a horse a battle was lost"? It has a sequel. For want of a proper guard at the top of the cliff at Quebec on September 13, 1759, France lost Canada.

General Montcalm was not to blame. He had stationed the Guienne Regiment on top of the cliff, but it had been moved for some other duty. When Montcalm ordered it back, Governor Vaudreuil cancelled the order and said he would see about. it the following day. It was a day too late. Vaudreuil's action punctured a clever defense that "old fox" Montcalm had sustained since June 27, when Wolfe began his campaign.

Wolfe deserved the lucky break that enabled him to get his troops up the cliff to the Plains of Abraham. Women had been seen washing clothes along the river bank. Later the clothes were seen drying on top of the cliff. Obviously there must be a path, and Wolfe decided to use it.

The Royal Navy provided enough row boats to carry 1,800 troops from the warship Sunderland which had taken up a position in the river at Sillery, above Quebec. When a signal light flashed at 1.30 a.m., they drifted quietly down the shore until they reached the path. Wolfe was the first to land and then twenty-four trained men scaled the cliff by clinging to roots and branches. The small guard at the top was taken by surprise and captured. Then the path was cleared and the main force climbed up quickly. By dawn there were 5,000 British troops in battle formation on the Plains of Abraham. In the meantime, Admiral Saunders had been threatening a landing at Beauport below Quebec, drawing attention away from Wolfe's operation.

The battle was over by noon. General Wolfe was one of the 655 British soldiers who were killed. General Montcalm was one of the French casualties estimated as high as 1,200 by the British and as low as 150 by the French. Governor Vaudreuil escaped to Montreal, and Quebec was surrendered on September 18.


13 September

-1710    Cadillac was appointed Governor of Louisiana.

-1775    Benedict Arnold led a force from Boston to attack Quebec.

-1886    The Canadian Pacific Telegraph system was opened.

-1893    The Montreal Presbytery found Professor Campbell guilty of heresy.

-1959    The second centennial anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was commemorated.

-1963    George Drew resigned as High Commissioner to Britain.