It is the spring of 1759. The war in New France has been raging for three years. News is disastrous for the inhabitants. The harvest was bad and food is becoming scarce. The more time passes, the less chance there is of winning the war. The people are hungry and distraught. Still, balls and receptions continue in a spirit of false cheer. At the festivities, members of high society soldiers, aristocrats, and bourgeois eat, drink, and carry on as if they are living in an entirely different world.
Canadians in Despair
Whilst the members of high society amuse themselves, some residents find the situation troubling. Listen to what this servant thinks about it.
Yeah yeah, me good Joseph, I’m down to workin’ for th’gentry, but here at least I can eat me fill. I tell you, the town’s really changed while you were trappin’ in the woods, north of th’ Great Lakes. Since the war started, life here in the city has become terrible. Th’ people are so hungry, I’ve never seen anythin’ like it before. There’s been bad harvests an’ we ain’t have anything to eat now. Try an’ imagine that th’people are down to two ounces o’ bread a day! It’s been mumbled that Intendant Bigot even wanted to increase rationin’. Because o’ this a riot’s got underway in town, wit’ 400 women participatin’. There’s some say it’s not right what goes on when they hand out th’ food shipped over from France and that, some people, they get rich off of the king. And then, last week th’were two soldiers hung at th’ top of Cape Diamond for havin’ stolen brandy. I pray that th’ Heavens hear our prayers, that we can fight off them British an’ finally come out of our mis’ry, otherwise, me good Joseph, I think the colony is right gone for sure.
Corruption Reigns in the Colony
In Québec City, anger is brewing. Some residents question Intendant Bigot’s decisions. Listen to him defend himself.
My name is François Bigot, Intendant of the colony of New France, and as such you owe me respect and esteem. So then, before criticizing my work and the decisions I have made during this cursed war, you should know that I am not lining my pockets as much as some would say. Yes, yes, I know the people are hungry, but, Good Lord, we’re at war! Some individuals—jealous, no doubt—say that I hold too many balls and celebrations. I might remind such people that good relationships must be maintained between authorities. “Tyrant” is a word often bandied about to describe me, but the harsh punishments meted out to the lowest of criminals—every hanging, every minute spent at the whipping post, at the stake, and in the boot—were each and every one deserved! To those who regard me as a tyrant, I would reply that I have prevented people from firing their weapons in town, fighting on church steps, throwing their refuse anywhere they please, and allowing their animals to run at will in the streets. I say, does this not merit at least modest remuneration?
The Leaders Argue
The colony’s defence was organized despite the quarrels and misunderstandings between General Marquis de Montcalm and Governor General Marquis de Vaudreuil. <br/><br/>These quarrels would cause many problems for the defence of the colony. What did they do wrong?
Here come two leaders of the French army. Surely they get along well, working together to lead France to victory… however…
The Sovereign Council Shares Power
Who are the important figures in Québec City in 1759? Here are five of the most influential.
In the spring of 1759, Québec City and the entire surrounding area are preparing for a siege. Provisions and ammunition are scarce. The majority of residents are worried. The warehouses are half empty. Canadians are trying to organize themselves despite the lack of resources. Let’s go inside one of the warehouses in Québec City to see how residents are getting ready for the impending battle.
An Impregnable City?
Québec City is renowned for being a natural fortress. The Marquis de Montcalm, considering the lack of time and resources available to him, needs to make use of the area’s defensive features as much as possible.
The Same, Not the Same
The Canadian militiaman and the professional French soldier are together. They are often side by side in many of the war’s conflicts. But ...
All is Fair in War
During the siege of Québec City, disciplinary measures become much more severe for those who don’t follow the law. However, the punishment may vary depending on the seriousness of the crime, when it was committed, or the person handing out the sentence.
The Militiaman's Uniform
The Canadian militiaman is accustomed to life in the wilderness of New France. He has adapted his outfit and way of fighting to suit his environment. His clothing is comfortable and practical for long journeys in the forest. He is starting to use camouflage techniques since they enable him to organize more effective ambushes and be a better hunter. That's why a militiaman’s armament readies him for battle as well as for hunting. In addition to his trusty musket, the militiaman typically carries three knives on his belt; and gaiters, which are hung around his neck.
Life is hard during wartime. Trade continues in spite of it all, and some merchants are making a profit off of the residents. Many products are difficult or impossible to find. Those items that are available are sold for top dollar.
The residents of Québec City are the ones who suffer the most under the British siege. Caught between the Marquis de Montcalm’s defensive strategy and heavy enemy fire, the Canadians attempt—with little means at their disposal—to thwart the English offensive.
The Terror Continues
The evening of July 12, 1759, intensive bombing begins, making life difficult for the city’s residents.
The night of July 15, 1759, three days after the bombing began, an employee of Magasin du Roi in the city of Québec wrote in his journal.
An Ill-Fated Roll of the Dice
To counter the British cannons set up in Lévis, the Canadians and the French have come up with a fairly simple plan..
Given the Marquis de Montcalm’s apparent determination to stick to his positions in Beauport, General Wolfe decides to bombard the city in order to demoralize the French troops.
"The English began the bombardment on July 12, 1759, at around 9 p.m. Within ten days, 25% of the city was destroyed. After a month of bombardments, 50% of the homes lay in ruins. By early September, 80% of the city had been reduced to rubble. Even worse, between 40 and 60 residents were injured, and some 20 others killed."
Wounded and Homeless Increases Daily
As this Augustine sister from the General Hospital remarks, there is no lack of work, but space to hold the wounded is becoming increasingly scarce.
Since enemy fire could not reach our Convent, the poor people of Québec City took refuge here. All the outbuildings, including the house, servants’ quarters, cow barn, loft barn, and everything else—even the attics, despite the frequent washings we were continually required to do for the wounded—were filled with the sick beds of these poor souls.
The Canadians arrive on the battlefield determined to chase the British off their land. However, they have good reason to worry about this battle. They cannot ambush the British on the wide-open field. They must fight in rows like the European soldiers. They have to rely on their bravery, and keep their cool in order to win.
An Army Within an Army
Criticized by the Marquis de Montcalm and lauded by Governor General Vaudreuil, the Canadian militia is unique. Here’s a brief description that will tell us more.
The militia made up an essential part of Montcalm’s army, with more than 12,480 men. It was the largest contingent of soldiers charged with defending the city of Québec. The militia was made up of residents of Québec City, Montréal, and Trois-Rivières. For the enemy, the militia represented a threat, but for Montcalm and his elite troops, the militia was often viewed as a group of low-calibre, undisciplined soldiers. Yet French owed many victories to the militia, which heralded a new way of fighting influenced by the Amerindians. The militia stood to the left and the right of Montcalm’s firing line on the Plains of Abraham, making it possible for the French troops to withdraw under sustained fire.
Governor General Vaudreuil considers the militiamen of New France to be valiant soldiers. They protected the retreat of the French regiments during the battle of the Plains of Abraham. Most of the military tactics they use are borrowed from the Amerindians. Can you identify which ones?
The Tuque: Identity and Signal?
Professional British and French regiments are subject to very strict rules with respect to their uniforms and flags. How does one recognize the various militia companies on the battlefield? Here is an account that answers this question.
British officer John Knox reports that he almost captured a white silk militia flag bearing three fleurs-de-lis surrounded by olive branches, all painted in gold. Although the Canadien militias are not known to have their own flags, the militiamen of Montréal, Trois-Rivières and Québec City respectively wear tuques of blue, white, and red to tell themselves apart.
The battle is now inevitable. It will take place on the Heights of Abraham. Listen to four people who witnessed the tragedy. An Aide-de-camp of General Wolfe, a Canadian employee at the King's store, John Knox, Lieutenant in Wolfe's army and a Huron warrior, Little Étienne.
September 12 , on board of Sutherland