Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle

Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle

Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle

Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle

Excerpt

"Very great rejoycings this night on the taking of Quebec." So wrote "Parson Woodforde" -- not yet a parson, but merely a junior scholar of New College, Oxford -- in his diary on the 18th of October, 1759. All across England the bonfires were burning, that evening two hundred years ago.

The joy was all the greater because it was only two days since people had read General Wolfe's pessimistic dispatch to his Government written on 2 September -- a communication which seemed designed to prepare England for the news of the failure of the campaign against Quebec. So the tidings of victory now burst upon the country with the utmost dramatic effect. And the story itself had all the appurtenances of high drama: the apparently impregnable fortress, the dark river, the midnight ascent of the frowning cliff's, the short fierce encounter on the Plains, the deaths of the two opposing commanders in the moment of victory and defeat. Horace Walpole, who had been as downcast as anybody at the earlier news, now wrote, "What a scene! An army in the night dragging itself up a precipice by stumps of trees to assault a town and attack an enemy strongly entrenched and double in numbers!" It is not surprising that the episode has continued to catch men's imaginations for two centuries. The year 1959 sees the 200th anniversary of one of the most famous events in modern history.

The fall of Quebec was a towering landmark in the establishment of British imperial power, and as such every British schoolboy knows about it. It was scarcely less important in the development of the United States, for the expulsion of France . . .

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