Happy birthday : Battle of Plains of Abraham 250 years old today

Sep 13th, 2009 | By | Category: In Brief
Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2009.  Exactly 250 years ago today the residents of Quebec City awoke to find some 4,000 British soldiers waiting to do battle on the flat open space at the top of the cliffs, known as the Plains of Abraham. And this finally proved the penultimate act of what is still called la Conquête in Canada’s other official language.

Earlier this year we supported the cancellation of plans by professional re-enactors (largely from outside Canada) to re-stage the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in commemoration of its 250th anniversary. But we also support the grown-up retrospective on the subject that has appeared this weekend in the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir.

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm

It seems to us as well that struggling through four key articles from Le Devoir in French is a fitting way for anglophone Canadians to join in on the commemoration devised by their francophone brothers and sisters — who are, it is still worth remembering, the present-day descendants of the first people who called themselves Canadians.

We suggest looking at the articles online in this order: “Cachez cette histoire que je ne saurais voir!” ; “La bataille des plaines d’Abraham — Un devoir de mémoire” ; “150 ans de relations avec la France” (the year 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the first consulate of the government of France established in Quebec since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham); and “La bataille des Plaines se transporte en Angleterre.”

James Wolfe

James Wolfe

The last article here notes that there is a commemoration of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham this weekend too in the village of Westerham, in Kent county not far south of London, England. Westerham has one key relevant claim to fame, in what is now called Quebec House — the “childhood home” of General James Wolfe, who led the British forces on the Plains of Abraham.

Probably the most important thing for Canadians to remember about all this nowadays is that both Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm, leader of the French forces, died from wounds they sustained in battle. Both were rather contemptuous as well of the North Americans who fought alongside them. Montcalm especially spurned the advice of the native-born Governor of Canada, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, who urged the crucial importance of the traditional Indian allies of New France. Who knows what might have happened if Vaudreuil’s counsel  had prevailed?

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