Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

CHAPTER 1: The Conquest

The Siege of Quebec (3 pages)

Meagre French Reinforcements, Strong British Effort

Ensign with the regimental colour of the 15th Regiment of Foot, 1757-1767

Ensign with the regimental colour of the 15th Regiment of Foot, 1757-1767
(Click image to enlarge)

In the spring of 1759 three battalions of the La Reine and Berry regiments were sent to Carillon, while 150 soldiers from various regiments and 800 militiamen went to reinforce Fort Niagara. The French staff, although they hoped they were wrong, expected that Quebec would be the main target of the British. These sombre predictions were confirmed by mid June. Every day, messengers were arriving from the capital with news of the presence in the Gulf of St. Lawrence of many sailing ships flying the British flag. The troops and militia were called to Quebec, where they combined their efforts to quickly prepare for the defence of the city. At the end of the month Montcalm had approximately 15,600 men, but only 3,000 or so of these were regular soldiers.

At the end of June a British fleet of more than 200 ships manned by some 13,000 sailors arrived within sight of Quebec. Approximately 50 of these were Royal Navy warships, including that of Vice-Admiral Charles Saunders, the powerful HMS Neptune, with 90 cannon. The other ships transported the 15th 28th 35th, 43rd, 47th, 48th and 58th regiments, two battalions of the 60th, the 78th Highlanders, three artillery companies, three companies of Louisbourg Grenadiers [13] and six companies of Rangers - in other words, about 8,500 soldiers from the regular army. A marine infantry battalion of 600 men, in addition to marines on the various warships, were held in reserve. The British forces totalled some 23,000 sailors and soldiers.

This army was commanded by a 32-year-old officer who had already distinguished himself at the siege of Louisbourg, General James Wolfe. His appointment as leader of the expedition caused jealousy among the staff officers, but the young general had the support of King George II. Although he was of fragile health, Wolfe was an excellent officer and a brave soldier. His mood swung from hot-tempered to cheerful, and he was often taciturn, finding it difficult to cooperate with the other army and navy officers. The men admired him, however, seeing him as "the soldier's friend." [14]

Additional Images (Click image to enlarge)

  • The ‘Louisbourg Grenadiers’
  • Montcalm’s headquarters at Beauport
  • Vice-Admiral Charles Saunders
  • Soldier of the 58th Regiment of Foot, 1757-1762
  • Officer and marines, Corps of Marines, 1755-1765