Wolfe And Montcalm Clash Over Quebec On The Plains of Abraham

Today on September 13, 1759, James Wolfe surprise attacks General de Montcalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was a pivotal battle in the North American theatre of the Seven Years War. Americans commonly refer to this conflict as the French and Indian War. The Seven Years’ War officially began on May 17, 1756, when the great powers of Europe entered into a long and bloody war for control over various global colonies. Many historians consider it to be the first “World War” in history. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought for control over the French held territory of Quebec (the present-day province of Canada). The British government appointed General James Wolfe to lead the invasion of this important territory. With the support of the Royal Navy, Wolfe and 4,400 British regulars set sail down the St. Lawrence River.

In the middle of July 1759, the British forces landed on the southern bank of the river near the fortified town of Quebec City. The highly accomplished French commander, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, had around 2,000 regulars with the support of another 1,500 local militia and native warriors. Wolfe tried luring Montcalm into open battle by attacking cargo ships. He even resorted to the systematic destruction of buildings throughout the countryside. However, the experienced Montcalm knew better than to hastily engage with a superior army.

So at 4 a.m. on September 13, Wolfe launched a masterfully executed surprise attack on the French garrison. British boats crossed the river under cover of darkness and silently offloaded thousands of troops. By 8 a.m. the entire British Army had assembled on the field. Instead of waiting for reinforcements, Montcalm made the fatal mistake of engaging the British. Wolfe employed new formation tactics that proved extremely effective against the French advances. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham ended lasting for only an hour before the French retreated. Wolfe was fatally shot during the opening volleys and died on the field. The British succeeded in capturing Quebec City, with France eventually ceding all of their North American possessions.

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