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The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
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LESSON 10: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

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This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 4 Battle for a Continent

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Backgrounder

By 1759, the war between France and Britain had already been raging for three years. The American colonies intensified their pressure to put an end to French and Canadian supremacy in North America and appropriate the West and its economic resources. England diverted its energies from the European battlefields to the conquest of New France. The focus of its strategy was Quebec, a walled city that controlled access to the St. Lawrence River and consequently to the continent's entire network of waterways. The British sent 15,000 soldiers (more than the total population of Quebec) and 186 ships under the command of James Wolfe to take the city. The French, in turn, received only 400 reinforcements.

Quebec suffered siege and bombardment throughout the summer of 1759. By September, Wolfe's situation seemed desperate. Quebec was still resisting, and winter was fast approaching. The young general decided to make a daring move and transport 5,000 of his soldiers upstream from Quebec at night to face the French army and the Canadian militia. In the night of September 12, 1759, his soldiers climbed a cliff using a steep goat's path and took their positions on fields belonging to farmer Abraham Martin.

Montcalm was downstream in Beauport, anticipating an attack there. His 3,500 men, primarily Canadian militiamen, were on watch all night. Montcalm led them on foot towards Quebec and the British forces. At 10:00 pm, his exhausted army came face-to-face with Wolfe's. Fighting began instantly. The Canadians and French rushed the British lines. But the Canadian militiamen were unaccustomed to organized fighting. Their advance soon deteriorated into retreat. Twenty minutes later, the battle was lost.

Within a day, General Wolfe and General Montcalm would both die as a result of wounds they received on the battlefield. In the spring of 1760, Canadian militiamen led by Lévis attacked the British army on the Plains of Abraham. They won, and forced the British to retreat to Quebec. When the river was free of ice, the first ship to reach Quebec was British; it was followed by many others. Montreal was forced to capitulate and New France became a British possession.

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    Episode 1
    When the World Began...
    Lesson 1 Canada's First Peoples
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 2 Stories of Creation
    Lesson 3 Cartier and Donnacona

    Episode 2
    Adventures and Mystics
    Lesson 4 The Beginning of the Fur Trade
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 5 The Jesuits and the Huron
    Lesson 6 Immigration to New France

    Episode 3
    Claiming the Wilderness
    Lesson 7 Expansion to the Gulf of Mexico
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 8 The Expulsion of the Acadians

    Episode 4
    Battle for a Continent
    Lesson 9 Before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham
    Lesson 10 The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
    Lesson 11 The Quebec Act
    (includes activity)

    Episode 5
    A Question of Loyalties
    Lesson 12 Conflict in Quebec, 1775
    Lesson 13 United Empire Loyalists
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 14 Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh

    Episode 6
    The Pathfinders
    Lesson 15 The Fur Trade in Canada
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 16 The Selkirk Settlers
    Lesson 17 The Gold Rush

    Episode 7
    Rebellion and Reform
    Lesson 18 The Rebellions of 1837
    Lesson 19 Union of the Canadas
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 20 A Land of Hope

    Episode 8
    The Great Enterprise
    Lesson 21 Newcomers to Canada
    Lesson 22 The Making of Confederation
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 23 Confederation in the Maritimes

    Episode 9
    From Sea to Sea
    Lesson 24 The Red River Resistance
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 25 The Pacific Scandal

    Episode 10
    Taking the West
    Lesson 26 The North-West Rebellion
    Lesson 27 The Trial of Louis Riel
    Lesson 28 Macdonald's National Dream

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