EUROPEAN DATA PROTECTION ACT ...
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION ...
LATEST NEWS ...

 

previous page | index | next page

THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM

On my way out to Labrador back in October 2010 I paid a quick visit to Québec but much to my astonishment, the road that would take me up to the Plains of Abraham, formerly of course the property of a certain Abraham Martin, was all locked up. Yes, all of mid-afternoon if I remember correctly. Whatever are these people thinking?

I didn't have time to drive around and look for another way in, and so I was tempted to do my impersonation of General Wolfe and storm the Heights, but I decided that there would without doubt be a much better opportunity for me to pay a formal visit.

That opportunity presented itself a few weeks later at the beginning of November when I was on my way back to Windsor. It was a fairly early morning too, but what stumped me that time was the fact that we were having a torrential rainstorm at the time, one the like of which I hadn't seen for a while and which was also threatening snow. Not the kind of weather at all to be hanging around and I had no intention of getting out of the car.


national battlefields park plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Early September 2011 however looked much more promising. Even though it was about 18:00, I found the National Battlefield Park still open. This was good enough reason to stop the Dodge and go for a wander around to see what I could see.

The answer was, at least at this particular spot, not very much. Here we have the Plains of course, but there are 107 hectares of Plains and you can't have monuments everywhere I suppose. But it was across here that the battle for possession of French North America surged on 13th September 1759.


artillery cannon plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Mind you, when I say that you can't have monuments everywhere, they are having a pretty good go, aren't they? A little further on from where I parked the Dodge there are all of these old cannons lining the pathway around the edge of the park.

It's the kind of thing that interests me, all of this, and I'll go for a wander across and have a closer look. From here, it looks very much like a miscellanea of artillery, with primitive 17th Century muzzle loaders standing next to modern breech loaders that look suspiciously like German World War I weaponry.

artillery cannon strawberry moose plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

So once more unto the breech, dear friends. I am not alone on this journey as I'm sure that you know. I have as my travelling companion The One and Only Strawberry Moose, the extremely controversial former mascot of the Open University Students Association back in the UK.

Here is His Nibs inspecting a cannon found in the Baie des Anglais on the Isle of Anticosti.

artillery cannon strawberry moose plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Many men would love to have a piece of artillery like this, and they can do nothing else but admire Strawberry Moose as he strikes fear into the hearts of the men of all Québec as he demonstrates the size of his weapon.

Here he is storming the citadel at Québec with a cannon from the vessel La Prudente, captured by the British at Louisbourg and burnt there in 1758.

Mind you, I'm not convinced that I have the above two photos in the correct order. The top one looks in far too good condition to have lain at the bottom of the sea bed for over 200 years, and the second one looks far too pitted and rusty to have been taken straight off a ship. I shall have to check up on this.

And another thing. Louisbourg is another place that I need to go back and visit. That was somewhere else that was closed when I went there, back in 2003 .


levis oil terminal cap georges plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

From my vantage point up here on the Heights there was a good view across the river to the south bank near the town of Lévis, and this large vessel caught my eye.

I'm into shipping as well and so a photo of the Cap Georges won't go amiss on these pages either. She had sailed over from Tangier to join us and was sitting over there at the harbour hurling all kinds of insults and imprecations, and the language was thoroughly shocking, which was hardly surprising, as she is described as a crude oil tanker.

274 metres long and built in 1998, her gross tonnage is a little over 80,000.


painter artist plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

You can see that I was not the only one enjoying the view from up here. Here's a local artist having a go at something, although I'm not quite sure what it is. It doesn't seem to resemble very much that I can see from where I am standing.

But then again, what do I know? We had art lessons at school and my own efforts were such that the teacher of the class regularly expressed surprise that I could even manage to draw breath. I'm the last person who ought to be criticising someone else's efforts.


old buick car plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Now this is much more of my kind of thing. What we have here is an old Buick, although an old Buick What I really have no idea. If you can suggest what type of Buick this is, please because I really am interested.

Strange as it is to say it, this is the first old car that I had seen on my 2011 voyage around Canada, and this is rather ominous. Back in the good old days you couldn't move in North America without tripping over an old car. Having said that, however, I had no such complaints during my 2012 visit .


monument general wolfe plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Why I was here at this spot was because it is here that General Wolfe died, right at the heat of the battle, and this column marks the spot. This is actually the fourth monument to mark this spot, the first being a stone that the English soldiers rolled to here at the end of the battle.

The French were led by the Marquis de Montcalm who also died in the fighting. I am trying to think of any other major battle in which both of the commanders failed to survive the conflict, and do you know, not a single one springs to mind.

In Primary School I was in Wolfe House and so General Wolfe was always something of a childhood hero of mine. The other two Houses in our school by the way were Clive and Rhodes and so you can see what influences we had as impressionable kids back in the very early 1960s. All good gung-ho stuff.


As for the battle itself, it was one of those things that was over in a matter of about a quarter of an hour. Wolfe and almost 5000 of his troops overpowered the few French guards at the water's edge and ascended the heights in the night. Dawn found him and his soldiers drawn up facing the fortifications of Québec, which was just as well for the French for if Dawn hadn't found them, they would have remained unseen.

Montcalm's army comfortably outnumbered Wolfe's forces but his troops were divided up and posted at different points. But instead of digging in and calling up his dispersed troops to attack the British in the flanks and rear, he merely collected up all the troops that he could find locally and sent them, ill-pepared as they were, into battle.

The British held their fire until the very last moment (some say just 30 yards separated the two armies) and then let fly two terrible volleys of musket fire straight into the tightly-packed French troops. That was all it took to disperse the French soldiers, who then took to their heels with the British in hot pursuit.

It was at that moment that more French troops arrived from Cap Rouge, threatening the British rear. The British officer in charge, General George Townshend (Wolfe had been mortally wounded by this time) quickly rounded up several companies of straggling troops, formed them up and turned them to face the enemy. The French, seeing the British formed up to face them and noticing the French troops from the city heading in full flight off the field, turned tail and fell back towards Montreal.

Yes, never mind Waterloo being "a close-run thing", as Wellington said. Had Montcalm delayed his attack for 30 minutes, and had the soldiers from Cap Rouge shown more resolution, Wolfe and his men would have been swept from the field and it would have been unlikely that the British soldiers would have been able to regroup. Nouvelle France may well still have been a French possession even today.


If you had been a British schoolchild (up until quite recently when they stopped teaching British children anything), you might remember that this is where the history of the conquest of Nouvelle France ends. The Battle for the Plains of Abraham usually marks the end of the story, but the fighting wasn't over by any means and in fact the British were to suffer a further defeat and to only hang on in Nouvelle France by the skin of their teeth.

It was never ever said to British schoolchildren that the French garrison troops remaining behind the walls of the city held out for several days after the battle before capitulating to the British forces. The British had a great deal to do after the battle before they could call their position secure. Nevertheless, once the city fell into their hands the British were now fully in control of the mouth of the St Lawrence. Montreal was now surrounded by the British from the south in New England, the east in Québec and the north in the Hudson Bay and so the British could sit back and slowly starve out the remaining French. There would be no more ships from France arriving at Montreal.

The French quite clearly could not permit this situation to continue. In early spring of 1760 the French reassembled an army and marched on Québec, defeating the British at the Battle of St Foy. The British however retreated in good order behind the walls of Québec and prepared for a seige.

Now, the weather was to play a vital role in the future of Nouvelle France. The British had supplies to last a short while and so could withstand a short seige, but sooner or later they would need to be resupplied and the only way that these could arrive would be by the St Lawrence. And if they were resupplied, they could hold out indefinitely and by commanding the St Lawrence from the fortress of Québec, starve the French out of Montreal.

In the meantime, if the French navy were to arrive first, those ships could prevent the British ships reaching Québec and thus the British would be starved out of Québec and the terms of the surrender would doubtless be that the British would withdraw completely from the French possessions in North America.

This is where the weather came in. A further complication of the affair was that the mouth of the St Lawrence was frozen over, and so there was no likelihood of any ship, no matter what its nationality, arriving at Québec for several weeks until the ice would melt. Accordingly there was a three-cornered race to Québec - the French navy, a British supply ship, and the warmer weather.

It was not until the 9th of May that the first set of sails were sighted down the St Lawrence. and the cheer that went up from inside the walls of the city told its own story - the British ships had arrived. The French were now stranded and cut off from supplies.

The French made one further attempt to reach their stranded colony in Montreal - in the summer of 1760 a couple of supply ships tried to force a passage but they were cornered by the British in the Baie des Chaleurs off the southern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula and overwhelmed. On 8th September 1760, Montreal capitulated and that was effectively that.


I learnt quite a few things up here on the Plains of Abraham - not the least being that it is against the law in Canada to park on the wrong side of the road facing the traffic. You are bound to ask me how I learnt this, and I can reply that a couple of traffic cops told me. They screeched to a halt in front of the Dodge with the speed and elan that is in Europe reserved for dealing with child abductors or bank robbers.

And it wasn't just the couple of words either but the full ten-minute lecture and the formal warning. Clearly the police in Canada have nothing better to do, or else there is no other crime in Canada. I was quite taken by surprise by all of this. Had I not been a foreigner I would probably have been incarcerated which, I am told, is quite painful and you can hear the screams for miles around.


And so having found the spot where Wolfe said
"God be praised. I die happy" I went off to find the spot where Montcalm said
"well at least I won't be here to see the surrender of Québec". But back in 2011 that wasn't quite so easy.

fallen tree hurricane irene plains of abraham quebec canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Firstly I was distracted by some more fallen trees to go with the ones that I saw at Trois Rivieres this morning . It really did make me wonder whether Hurricane Irene did pass by here the other day.

Secondly though, I'd stopped to try to work out how the parking meters out here work because the system is quite confusing, and yet another cop pulled up alongside me and started to give me the hassle. We had the
"are you going to be there long?" and
"what are you doing?" and a few other questions in between, the answer to all of which was
"how the **** do I know?" and then he started to become quite agitated as well.

I think that that was the final straw - that and the fact that the light was fading. I'd had enough of the Québec Police Force for this year. My "only real protection is flight. You have only a few seconds to escape. Use those seconds sensibly or you will inevitably die", as Dave Brock once famously said in Sonic Attack and so I piddled off. I'll come back again when I'm feeling more like it and when I have more time and more light. I can't be doing with all of this.


It was rather a shame that the light went so quickly and that I was in such a bad mood because there was so much else to see here, and that was without me going to look for it either.


grand allee monument marquis montcalm plains of abraham quebec canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

In April 2012 when I came here again, I was much-better prepared. Early afternoon when people were still having their siesta and there were one or two handy parking places easily available.

Tracking down the site of Montcalm's death was quite straightforward once I had worked out what it was that I had to look for. As you can see, the column marking the spot where he fell is right by the main road - the Grande Allée.

square monument marquis montcalm plains of abraham quebec canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

One thing that always puzzled me though was that when he was on his death-bed, why didn't anyone take him inside the hotel where he could have been much more comfortable, instead of leaving him out there to die in the street.

At the other end of this little square by the way is a statue to General de Gaulle which, in an irony that has gone completely over the heads of most of the Québeckers, is facing the battlefield upon which the French were pushed out of North America by the victorious British army.


So that was my little visit to the Heights of Abraham and the 1759 battlefield. Next stop, at least in 2012, was to find somewhere to stay. You might not think that this is easy when you are on a tight budget and in a Tourist-Trap like Quebec, but I know just the place. We need to head down the Grande Allee into the city

Talking of Tourists Traps, the Grande Allee late in the evening seems to be transformed into a giant restaurant with tables all over the pavement, people walking in the roadway and all of that kind of thing. Well-worth a photograph of course, but where do you stop to take it?



back to top

next page



 

 

**** NEW ****



 



AMAZON LINKS ...
COOKIES ...
AND ...

 

page last modified 13:53 - 29th December 2012
site last modified

©