The Conquest

The Arrival of Reinforcements

British Fleet Lifts the Siege

Quebec as seen from the north shortly after the 1759 siege of the city

Caption: Quebec as seen from the north shortly after the 1759 siege of the city

But the British still held Quebec. Lévis's troops surrounded the city, but they did not have any large-calibre guns and, more serious still, were short of ammunition. Lévis even had to limit the number of cannonballs per gun. Murray, on the other hand, had considerable artillery and plenty of ammunition. When the French artillery began to bombard Quebec on May 11, the response was "vigorous," to use Lévis's term. Each camp was counting on help from the mother country. On May 9 a single English frigate dropped anchor in Quebec Harbour. It was indeed the arrival of a fleet that would settle the issue. The eyes of both sides from then on fixed on the river, and on May 15 three sails could be seen on the horizon at last. Soon, sick at heart, the French recognized the British warships. The next day, early in the morning, Lévis began to withdraw to Montreal.

Hoping to block the small craft that accompanied the French army, the British ships attacked two frigates to the west of Quebec, the Pomone and the Atalante, which were under the command of Captain Jean Vauquelin. The French vessels sacrificed themselves to cover the army's retreat. With the Pomone sunk, the Atalante, commanded by Vauquelin, managed to hold the British ships for a time. With his ammunition gone and his ship full of holes from enemy shelling, Vauquelin nevertheless refused to lower the flag. Instead, he nailed it to the mast of his ship under incessant enemy fire before being taken prisoner along with his crew.