French forces mobilize
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Plains of Abraham
French forces mobilize
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French forces mobilize
French forces mobilize
On the Plains of Abraham, early in the morning of September 13, 1759, General James Wolfe and his various regiments of soldiers were situated between two French armies.
French soldiers, like twenty-one-year-old Antoine Mouret, were often unemployed labourers who had no choice but to fight. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
French soldiers, like twenty-one-year-old Antoine Mouret, were often unemployed labourers who had no choice but to fight. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
On the one side, along the Beauport shore, General Montcalm's main force; and scattered along the St. Lawrence behind them, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville's force of two thousand. Montcalm's men, stationed in the anticipation of another British assault on the hill at Beauport, were about an hour's march away. Bougainville's men, stationed to defend against a landing farther upriver, could be mobilized within a few hours.

Wolfe was gambling Montcalm would take the bait. If he couldn't tempt the French general into a quick battle on the Plains that morning, his position would be militarily desperate.

Montcalm's men at Beauport had been up all night and as Wolfe's men were assembling, the French soldiers were going to sleep.
Captain Jean-Baptiste Duprat, a commoner who rose through the ranks, had already fought campaigns in Italy, Bavaria and the Rhine. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Captain Jean-Baptiste Duprat, a commoner who rose through the ranks, had already fought campaigns in Italy, Bavaria and the Rhine. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The British were soon spotted and word reached a disbelieving Montcalm, who ordered his army awake and quick marched them to Quebec. But Montcalm, uncertain about the British invasion plan, sent only five thousand men towards the Plains of Abraham, leaving four thousand behind to guard the Beauport trenches.

Bougainville was informed of the British landing by a dispatch from the Marquis de Vaudreuil. "A quarter to seven, September 13th. To Monsieur de Bougainville... It seems quite certain that the enemy has attempted a landing... M. le Marquis de Montcalm has just left... As soon as I am sure of what is happening, I will notify you... Postcript. The enemy forces seem considerable..."

With this news, Bougainville began to marshal his army and march east.

The French soldiers, who had been on half rations for months and awake for thirty-six hours, began to advance toward the awkward alliance of British regiments.
Like the soldiers on the opposing side, many of the French were landless and unemployed. Some had travelled thousands of miles to fight in this war, each with his own motive. Those of France's surplus labour force – carpenters, apprentice wigmakers, cloth cutters and others without work – had little choice but to come. They sported romantic noms-de-guerre: François Mouet, 24, Sansquartier (Gives no Quarter); Antoine Mouret, 21, LaDouceur (Sweetness); Barthelemy Girave, 27, Prestaboire (Likes a Drink). Like the army they were facing, few of them had heard of Quebec until they had been shipped there.

For the French officers, the battle on the Plains was just another encounter among the many in the imperial wars of Europe.
Among them: Fiacre-François de Montbeillard, commander of the French artillery and veteran of the war of the Austrian Succession; Captain Jean-Baptiste Duprat, a commoner who rose up through the ranks, fighting in Italy, Bavaria, and the Rhine; and Lt. Col. étienne-Guillaume de Senezergues, an aristocrat who'd fought in Italy, in Bavaria and the Netherlands. On the morning of September 13, it was Quebec.

The French army was joined by men from the great Canadian families – Boucher, Repentigny, Courtemanche, d'Argenteuil.
They were defending one hundred and fifty years of history, land and family and, unlike the French soldiers beside them, the Canadians had everything to lose.

François-Clement Boucher de la Perrière, who at fifty-one, was feeling his age, stood all the same with the others, defending their homes and their way of life. "I can no longer see clearly now," Boucher de la Perrière wrote, "though I have glasses on my nose." Not far from him was the next generation of his family: René-Amable Boucher de Boucherville. And some Acadians were there as well. Charles Deschamps de Boishébert, who spent two years protecting fleeing Acadians from the British, led the Acadian militia on the Plains.
Under him, Joseph Trahan, 18, an Acadian who escaped the Deportation, was now a refugee and a soldier-at-arms.

Montcalm marched his men to the crest of Butte Neveu, the hill above the Plains of Abraham, where they formed a line. One of the first to arrive was the French artillery commander Fiacre-François de Montbeillard. From the top of the hill, he scanned the Plains below him, surveying the British line, a mile wide. Montcalm, standing on the crest in the morning sun and now pleasantly warm weather, was still uncertain. The British position seemed so reckless; he didn't know if this was their full invasion force, or if they would face a second landing at the Beauport trenches.

His choices were to attack, or wait for Bougainville to arrive with reinforcements.
Thinking that the British army facing him could be part of a two-pronged invasion, he felt he had to deal quickly with this threat, then return to Beauport.

Even before Montcalm and his men reached Butte Neveu, eight hundred Canadian militia and Indian snipers arrived from Quebec, firing on the English from the cornfields and the woods. Lieutenant John Knox witnessed men falling around him.

"What galled us most was a body of Indians and other marksmen they had concealed in the corn opposite to the front of our right wing, and a coppice that stood opposite to our centre..."


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Louis-Joseph de Montcalm

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