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HONOR TO THE MILITIAMEN OF 1759
 
On this day, the Acadian national holiday,the city of Québec and the National Capital Commission of Québec unveil a plaque to commemorate the courrage of 200 Canadien and Acadian militiamen who gave their lives, on the 13th of September 1759, covering the retreat of the French army after the defeat of the Plains of Abraham.
 
After the famous encounter between Montcalm and Wolf, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham took on a life of its own. Both commanders were dying and no one was in charge. With the French regulars driven off the field, the task of holding up the British advance fell to the Canadian mliltia. They resisted as individuals and small groups, here and there on the battlefield. One group defended Parliament Hill, in front of the St.Louis gate. Another made a stand in front of the St.John's gate.

Fraser's Highlanders were sent to "mop up" this last point of resistance when they were driven back by the canons on the walls of Québec and two armed hulks in the St.Charles river. On their left was a large wooded aera covering the slope which descended from the "Plains" proper to Saint Jean Street. This wood was filled with Canadian militia, who had not yet given up the fight. The Scots attacked through the wood but were badly mauled, and forced to fall back. Two battalions were sent to their aid, the 48th foot and the 60th Royal Americans. The three battalions now resumed the attack. And after a stiff fight, the Canadiens were flushed out. Where they retreated down a dusty country road to the Lower Town.

As banal as it may seem, this country road, or rather track, was actually Montcalm's main line of retreat. It ran down a very steepslope from Saint Jean Street, in the Upper Town, to Saint Vallier in the Lower Town. Montcalm had almost a third of his army, and at least as much of his artillery guarding it. Contrary to the inactivity further up the hill, this aera was fought over the whole morning. At one point, the British light infantry captured the fortified farm house and windmill commanding the road. The Canadiens counterattacked, regaining possession of both. Which they promptly set on fire. To prevent the enemy from using them. Should they regain control.

Montcalm's worst fears became a reality. And soon his men were streaming from the heights towards this road. The militiamen who had defended the wood also took this route. The British formed in three battalions mentioned above. Were drawn up in the crescent, and moving towards the road. About this time, at the other end of this road, in the Lower Town, two hundred Canadien militia, mostly from Québec, and no doubt containing a sprinkling of feisty Accadians, decided of common accord to regain the heights. Climbing the cliffs, in a ravine were the road was. They soon ran into the British. Outnumbered by at least four to one, The militiamen fought fiercely. However, after a few minutes, inch by inch, and firing on their pursuers, they were pushed back down. There on a hillock, defending a bakery and a windmill, the last militiamen were hacked or blasted down.

This little known event, originally recorded in the Memories of the Chevalier James Johnstone, was part of the personal research of Thomas M. Champagne, a Franco-Ontarian Historian of Acadian ancestry. Knowing the historical importance of this event, Mr. Champagne suggested to the municipal authorities that the sacrifice of the militia be commemorated on the very site of their heroic last stand.

During a brief ceremony wich took place at the St.Roch Gardens, situated at the angle of the Côte d'Abraham and St.Vallier Street East, Mr. Claude Cantin, the deputy major of Québec, and Mr. Pierre Boucher, president of the National Capital Commission of Québec, unveiled plaque commemorating the event. The ceremony was highlighted by the participation of the colonial Marine infantry, the Compagniess franches de la marine (a recreation thereof), and the historical recreation group, la Milice de Chambly (in period costume), and the Voltigeurs de Québec, part of the garrison of Québec.

In order to underline the importance of the historical aspect in the dynamics of tourism, Mr. Boucher emphasized the role of the Commission in the effort to show the potential of the national capital of Québec. Mr. Cantin added his affirmation that the City of Québec will make known the value of historic sites not only in the designated tourist areas, but also in the popular neighbourhoods.

The plaque reads thus :

HONOR TO THE MILITIAMEN OF 1759

On the 13th of September 1759, barely an hour after the battle of the
Plains of Abraham, on this spot regrouped around a
bakery, 200 militiamen Canadiens and Acadians confronted,
of their own initiative and as a diversion,
800 soldiers of Wolfe's army.

They gave their lives, after a fierce fight, which permitted what was left of the French army to cross the
bridge straddling the St.Charles and to reach
their camp safely.

One year later, in 1760, French troops won the battle of Sainte-Foy.

15th of August 1997
 

Sources : François Moisan
Centre de développement économique et urbain de la Ville de Québec
691-6626

Denis Angers
Commission de la capitale nationale du Québec
528-0773 Begin typing here.....