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French Indian Wars History & Genealogy
The Capture of QuebecGeneral Townshend
Camp before Quebec, 20 September 1759
I have the Honour to acquaint you of the Success of his Majesty's Arms on the 13th Instant in an Action with the French on the Heights to the Westward of this Town.
It being determined to carry the Operations above the town, the Posts at Point Levi & L'Isle d'Orleans being secured the General march'd with the remainder of his Force from Point Levi the 5th & 6th & embarked them in Transports which had passed the Town for that Purpose; on the 7th 8th & 9th a movement of the Ships was made up by Admiral Holmes in order to amuse the Enemy now posted along the North Shore, but the Transports being extreamly crowded and the weather very bad the General thought proper to cantoon half his Troops on the South Shore, where they were refresh'd and reimbark'd upon the 12th at one in the morning. The Light Infantry commanded by Colonel Howe The Regiments of Braggs, Kennedys, Lascelles & Anstruthers, with a Detachment of Highlanders and the American Grenadiers. The whole being under the Command of Brigadiers Monckton & Murray were put into the Flat Bottom'd Boats & after some Movement of the Ships made by Admiral Holmes to draw the attention of the Enemy above, The Boats fell down with the Tide & Landed on the North Shore within a League of Cape Diamond an Hour before Day Break. The rapidity of the Tide of Ebb carried them a little below the intended place of attack - which obliged the Light Infantry to Scramble up a woody precipice in order to secure the landing the troops by dislodging a Captains Post which defended the small intrench'd Path the Troops were to ascend - after a little Firing the Light Infantry gained the top of the Precipice, & dispersed the Captains Post by which means the Troops with very little loss from a few Canadians & Indians in the Wood got up & were immediately form'd. The Boats as they emptied, were sent back for the 2nd Disembarkation which I immediately made Brigr. Murray being detached with Anstruther's Battalion to attack the 4 Gun Battery upon the left, was recall'd by the General who now saw the French Army crossing the River St. Charles. General Wolfe thereupon began to form his Line having his right covered by the Louisbourg Grenadiers - on the right of these again he afterwards brought Otways - to the left of the Grenadiers were Braggs, Kennedys, Lascelles, Highlanders & Anstruther's. The right of this body was comanded by Brigr. Monckton & the left by Brigr. Murray his rear & left was protected by Col. Howe's Light Infantry, who was return'd from the 4 gun Battery before mention'd, which was soon abandon'd to him, where he found 4 Guns of General Montcalm having collected the whole of his Force from the Beauport side, & advancing upon shew'd his Intention to flank our left, where I was immediately ordered with Genl. Amhersts' Battalion which I form'd en potence, my numbers were soon after encreased by the Arrival of the 2 Battalions of Royal Americans, and Webbs was drawn up by the General as a Reserve in Eight Subdivisions with large Intervals. The Enemy lined the Bushes in their Front with 1500 Indians & Canadians & I dare say had placed most of their best Marksmen there, who kept up a very galling tho' irregular fire upon our whole Line, who bore it with the greatest patience and good Order; reserving their fire for the Main body now advancing. This fire of the Enemies was however check'd by our posts in our front, which protected the forming our own Line.
The right of the Enemy was composed of half of the Troops of the Colony, the Battns, of La Sarre, Languedoc, & the remainder of their Canadians & Indians. Their Center was a Column & form'd by the Battalions of Bearn & Guyenne. Their left was composed of the remainder of the Troops of the Colony and the Battalion of Royal Rousillion. This was as near as I guess their Line of Battle. They brought up 2 pieces of small Artillery against us and we had been able to bring up but one Gun, which being admirably well served gall'd their Column exceedingly. My attention to the left will not permit me to be very exact with regard to every Circumstance which passed in the Center, much less to the right, but it is most certain that the Enemy form'd in good Order, & that their attack was very brisk & animated on that side, our Troops reserved their Fire till within 20 Yards which was so well continued that the Enemy everywhere gave way. T'was there our General fell at the Head of Braggs & the Louisbourg Grenadiers, advancing with their Bayonets, about the same time B. General Monkton received his wound at the head of Lascelles; In the front of the opposite Battalions fell also Monr. Montcalm, & his Second in Command since died of his wounds on board our fleet. Part of the Enemy made a second feint attack, part took to some thick copse Wood & seem'd to make a Stand. It was at this Moment that each Corps seemd in a manner to exert itself with a view to its own peculiar Character, the Grenadiers, Braggs & Lascelles press'd on with their Bayonets. Brigadier Murray advancing the Troops under his Command brisky compleated the Route on this side when the Highlanders supported by Anstruthers took to their Broad Swords & drove part into the Town, part to the works at their Bridge on the River St. Charles.
The action on our left & Rear was not so severe; The Houses into which the Light Infantry were thrown were well defended, being supported by Col. Howe who taking post with two Companies behind a small Copse, & frequently sallying upon the flanks of the Enemy during their Attack, drove them often into Heaps, against the front of which Body I advanced Platoons of Amherst's Regiment which totally prevented the right wing from executing their first intention, before this one of the Royal American Battns. had been detached to preserve our Communication with our Boats & the other being sent to occupy the Ground which General Murray's movement had left open, I remain'd with Amherst's to support this disposition & to keep the Enemies right & a Body of their Savages which waited still more towards our Rear opposite our Light Infantry Posts, waiting of an opportunity to fall upon our Rear.
This, Sir, was the Situation of Things when I was told in the Action that I commanded I immediately repaired to the Center & finding the Pursuit had put parts of the Troops in Disorder I found them as soon as possible. Scarce was this effected when Monr. de Boucanville with his Corps from Cap Rouge of 2000 Men appeared in our Rear. I advanced 2 Pieces of Artillery & to [two] Battalions towards him, upon which he retired. You will not I flatter myself, blame me for not quitting such advantageous Ground, & risking the fruit of so decisive a day for his Majesties affairs by seeking a fresh Enemy posted perhaps in the very kind of Ground he coud wish for, viz. Woods & Swamps. We took a great Number of French Officers upon the field of Battle, one piece of Cannon. Their loss is computed to be about 1300 Men, which fell chiefly upon their Regulars. I have been employed from the Day of Action, to that of the Capitulation in redouting our Camp beyond Insult, in making a road up the precipice for our Cannon, in getting up the Artillery, preparing the Batteries & cutting off their Communication with their Country. The 17th at noon before we had any Battery erected or could have had any for 2 or 3 days, A Flagg of Truce came out with proposals of Capitulation, which I sent back again to Town allowing them 4 Hours to capitulate or no farther Treaty. The Admiral had at this time brought up his large ships as intending to attack the Town. The French Officer returned at Night with Terms of Capitulation which with the Admiral were consider'd, agreed to, and signed, at 8 in the morning the 18th Instant. The Terms you find we granted will I flatter myself be approved of by His Majesty, considering the Enemy assembling in our Rear, & what is far more formidable The very Whet & Cold Season which theatened our Troops with Sickness & the fleet with some Accident. It had made our Road so bad we could not bring up a Gun for some time. Add to this the advantage the entring the Town with the walls in a Defensible State, and the being able to put a Garrison there strong enough to prevent all Surprize. These I hope will be deem'd a sufficient Consideration for granting them the Terms I have the Honor to propose to you. The Inhabitants of the Country come in to us fast, bringing in their Arms & taking the Oaths of Fidelity Until a General Peace determines their Situation.
I herewith have the Honour to inclose you a List of the killed & wounded. A list of the Prisoners, as perfect as I have yet been able to get it. Another List of the Artillery & Stores in the Town, as well as of those fallen into our Hands at Beuport in consequence of the Victory. By Deserters we learn that the Enemy is reassembling what Troops they can, behind the Cap Rouge, that Monr. de Levy is come down from the Montreal Side to command them, some say he brought 2 Battns, with him. If so This blow has already assisted Mr. Amherst. By other Deserters we learn that Monr. de Boucanville with 800 Men & Provisions was on his march to fling himself into the Town the 18th. the very morning it capitulated, on which day we had not compleated the Investiture of the Place, as They had broke their Bridge of Boats & had detachments in very strong works on the other side the River St. Charles.
I should be wanting in paying my due Respects to the Admirals & the Naval Service if I neglected this occasion of acknowledging how much we are indebted for our success to the constant assistance & support received, and the perfect harmony & Correspondence which has prevailed throughout all our Operations, in the uncommon difficulties which the Nature of this Country in particular presents to Military Operations of a great Extent. & which no Army can itself solely supply. The immense Labour in Artillery Stores & provisions, the long watchings and attendance in Boats, The drawing up our Artillery by the Seamen, even in the Heat of Action, It is my Duty short as my Command has been, to acknowledge for that time, how great a share the Navy has had in this successful Campaign.
Source: William Pitt, Correspondence. II:164-169.
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