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Fighting Ashore

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he English continued to act slowly. Nothing was done on the 16th, and on the 17th bad weather prevented a landing. Finally, on the 18th, the militia were put ashore on La Canardiere without meeting any immediate resistance. Major Walley, who commanded the landing force, says that it numbered between 1200 and 1300 men.

Count Frontenac had a definite plan, which he outlines in his dispatch to the Minister of Marine. Although he had three French regular battalions he did not propose to send them into the broken country beyond the St. Charles. This area, he says, was impracticable for large bodies of troops, because of the woods, the rocks and the mud (of the foreshore) . . . and suitable only for little platoons skirmishing in the Indian way, which our soldiers are not capable of doing." Frontenac was obviously no Braddock. But he had other troops well fitted for guerrilla work- our Canadian officers and other volunteers, and the people of the country, along with those French officers and soldiers who had already become used to this sort of thing." Among the "Canadian officers" present were at least two of the eleven famous LeMoyne brothers, native Canadians who deserve a high place on the roster of Canadian fighting men. One of them, Jacques, Sieur de Sainte-the seigneur of St. Helen's Island-was to be the great hero of the defence. Frontenac planned to use his local irregulars to harass the New England landing party. His main battle, however, he intended to fight on the open ground on the Quebec side of the St. Charles, which was more suitable for European tactics. The river could be forded only at low water, and Frontenac hoped that the New Englanders would come at him across it. Then, with the stream rising behind them, he planned to attack them with his brigade of regulars, drive them downhill into the St. Charles and destroy them completely. It was a sound plan, designed to make the best use of the forces at Frontenac's disposal; but as it turned out the invaders never made enough progress to give him the chance to put it fully into operation.

When Walley's men landed Frontenac sent out the militia of Montreal and Three Rivers, under Ste-H616ne, to help the Beauport men and the local Indians harry them. As soon as the English began to move inland they came under fire from among the trees and bushes, and although they advanced some distance they lost fairly heavily (according to Walley, four killed and not less than 60 wounded) and soon camped for the night. They expected the ships' boats to come in with the tide before dawn to help them cross the St. Charles, but they were disappointed, the shipmasters blaming the wind for the failure. But the six cannon, which the plan required should be put ashore west of the St. Charles, were prematurely landed, without Walley being warned, close to his camp. He had no means of getting them across the river.

Phips' whole scheme was falling apart. There is no evidence that the proposed feint above the town was ever made; and on the evening of the 18th Phips himself took action quite contrary to the plan. The four large ships, not waiting for Walley's men to cross the St. Charles, moved up the river, anchored before Quebec and opened fire. The batteries replied, and firing went on until after dark. Early the next morning the cannonade was resumed. The ships went in close ("within musquett shott," says Phips) and the six big guns in the Lower Town bore the brunt of the action. Ste. Helene had come back to the city and was laying the guns in one of the batteries. The English were forced to break off the action on the 19th after several hours' firing, when their ships, and particularly Phips' flagship, the Six Friends, had been seriously damaged. They had shot away most of their scanty supply of ammunition without doing much harm to the solid stone buildings of Quebec or inflicting any casualties worth mentioning.

In the meantime, the New England landing force had remained inactive and made no attempt to exploit such diversion as the bombardment provided. The men suffered greatly from cold (winter was coming on early) and lack of essential supplies (the shortage of rum seems to have been the main complaint); and there was smallpox in the camp. The fleet's boats still did not come; and on the night of the 19th a council of war decided to recommend that the force re-embark on the night of the 20th, with a view to making another attack elsewhere after the troops were refreshed. On the morning of the 20th Walley went aboard the flagship and Phips reluctantly agreed to the suggestion.

On this day there was another skirmish. According to Monseignat, the author of one of the best French accounts, in the afternoon the English vanguard was seen marching along the bank of the St. Charles as though intending to cross. Frontenac now moved his regular battalions out to his chosen ground, formed them in order of battle and placed himself at their head. But the battle for which he had set the stage never took place. No Englishman crossed the St. Charles. The incredibly active SteH61&ne was now back on the Beauport side, leading and inspiring the Canadian skirmishers who were engaged with the head of the English column. This was his last fight, for in it he received a mortal wound from a musket ball. His brother Longueuil was wounded in the same affair, in which the French lost two other men killed.

The English boats came in shortly before dawn, but there was so little darkness left and his men were in such confusion that Walley thought it best to put off the evacuation until the next night. There was further minor fighting on the 21st, with Walley sending out parties of skirmishers to hold the French back. That night the boats appeared again, and the English force was evacuated without interference from the French, whose outposts did not even discover what was going on. Perhaps they would have done better if Ste-H61&ne had still been on his feet. The English, as the result of some misunderstanding, left five of their six guns behind them. Lloyd quaintly says that they hoped to recover them next day, "but by that time they spoke french."

Frontenac had probably failed to fathom the enemy's intention to make an immediate evacuation. He had missed an opportunity for offensive action, which might have wiped out the landing force. It seems likely that in any case he continued to feel that his European troops were unfitted to an offensive movement in broken country, and feared that any attempt to use them in this manner might produce a disaster. He preferred to sit tight.

The English attempted nothing more. A council of war on the 22nd did not finally decide to abandon the attack, although many of the officers argued that their men were unfit for action, sickness being rampant. But on the 23rd and 24th an exchange of prisoners was arranged and effected, and the New England fleet then dropped down the river on its way back to Boston. Some of the ships never reached home, and many men who had survived the fighting died on the voyage. The failure of the expedition was a painful blow to Massachusetts, who had spent a great deal of money on fitting it out and was now obliged for the first time in her history to resort to an issue of paper currency. While Boston mourned, Quebec rejoiced. But the English retreat had come none too soon, for New France was short of food, and with almost all the able-bodied men in the country assembled at Quebec there would soon have been no way of feeding them.

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