Battle of Quebec

On 18th October 1690, the Major General William Phips begins his attack on Quebec City.

To tell the truth, Phips was confident and had a little regard for the French and the citizens of their colonies in the North America. He regarded the easy and bloodless victory of Port-Royal as confirmation the French were unable to fight. In this, he was mistaken.

Quebec City was rather fortified and its citizens were ready to defend their home. Eleven stone redoubts supported its walls. A three-cannon battery was installed in a heavily constructed windmill. Eight cannons were installed beside the Chateau Saint-Louis and six more at the docks.

The Governor Frontenac summoned a militia of about 3 thousand, adding this force to three battalions of colonial regulars. Obstacles were placed on the road leading to the upper town. As to Phips and his New Englanders, their plans were to have some 1300 men landed at Beauport, on the eastern shore of the St. Charles River. From there, the troops would cross the river, carrying the field guns.

Once the landing force had gained the heights to the west of the city, the fleet would attack and land a second force at the front of Quebec. The French anticipated an assault from Beauport, and had had the field fortifications built on the south-west side. Phips’ second-in-command, Major John Walley was charged with the main assault. Nevertheless, the French militia and Huron allies prevented the English from crossing the St. Charles.

These troops were commanded by Jacques Le Moyne de Saint-Helene. They positioned themselves in the wooded areas along the eastern shore, from which they fired on the enemy. The four large ships of the flotilla, contrary to the plan, began bombarding Quebec… By the next day the best part of the ammunition had been spent, but damage wrought by the cannons paled beside that they had suffered from Quebec’s shore batteries.

A number of the ships, including the flagship Six Friends, were badly damaged. One of the smaller ships had been captured by a small group of Canadians who boarded it in a single canoe. On 20th October, Walley launched an assault from Beauport. The attack was met with heavy fire, killing more than 30 of the English force.

The Canadians suffered only a handful of casualties, though one of these was Le Moyne Sainte-Helene, who was mortally wounded.

The English had to withdraw, abandoning five cannons. Finally, after negotiating an exchange of prisoners, Phips set sail for the Massachusetts Bay colony. The autumnal passage was anything but pleasant. Phips lost about one thousand men to smallpox, drowning and fire. Ten of his returning ships were destroyed.

The battle of Quebec was the first test of the town’s defences. It was not until 1711 than the Great Britain attempted to capture Quebec once again. That expedition also ended in a great disaster, but that’s another story.

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