The Conquest

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

Impulsive Montcalm Crushed

When he learned that the English had reached the Plains of Abraham, Montcalm gave in to his impulsiveness and acted too hastily. Instead of harassing the enemy with hidden militiamen, while waiting for part of his army, posted further west, to attack the British from the rear, he decided to attack immediately. He had approximately 4,500 men: the five French battalions were placed in the centre, colonial militiamen and colonial troops on the flanks.

At approximately 10 a.m. Montcalm gave the signal to advance. His half-formed lines began to move. At about 120 metres from the British, too far to be effective, the French opened fire. Their ranks soon broke, but they continued to advance to within approximately 90 metres, when the British began to fire sporadically, platoon by platoon; Wolfe ordered them to wait until the enemy was within range to fire a general salvo. When only 30 metres separated the two armies, the British suddenly fired on the poorly aligned ranks of the French battalions. The manoeuvre was a success. The French soldiers panicked and ran for their lives. The British then charged with fixed bayonets, but succeeded in catching only a small number of runaways. Brandishing a broad sword in one hand and holding a dagger in the other, as was the custom when they were charging, the Scottish Highlanders of the 78th Regiment were the most determined pursuers. They soon came upon Canadian militiamen hidden in ambush, who inflicted heavy losses on the British troops as they covered the retreat of the French army. 15