Thursday, 10 September 2009

Quebec 1759 in 2mm: Part 3

A look now at the French Order of battle for the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm had been assigned only eight regular line battalions to defend the whole of New France, and these stood alongside the garrisons of 'colonial' infantry, namely the Compagnie Franches de la Marine, the citizen militias of city, town and district, as well as whatever First Nations allies that might be on hand.
By the time Wolfe's taskforce approached Quebec, however, this command was much reduced through constant campaigning, and indeed, no re-enforcements had been sent from France since 1757!
The loss of the fortress and garrison of Louisbourg at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, as well as the need to defend the southern frontiers of Canada at variously Forts Carillion (Ticonderoga), Frontenac, Duquesne, Oswego and Niagara, meant that the last bulwark of France had precious little left to defend it, compared to the approximately 12,000 troops in total that accompanied Wolfe, including nine regular battalions and various brigades of light infantry and grenadiers.
Having lost the initiative to the English Navy on the St. Lawrence itself, the situation was further complicated by the need to defend large areas either side of the city of Quebec in order to deny landing grounds to the enemy. Montcalm's command was spread from the Beauport Lines in the north, through the city itself, all the way some miles to the south in the direction of Montreal.

After two months of siege, when Wolfe struck with his surprise landing at the Anse-au-Foulon on the morning of the 13th September 1759, the French had to rush reserves from the redoubts on the Beauport shoreline, through Quebec itself, before mustering beyond the walls overlooking the Plains of Abraham.

A no doubt somewhat breathless line of battle was formed of the following units:

2nd Battalion Regiment La Sarre, 12 fusilier companies, 1 grenadier company, in May 1759 their strength was given as 489 all ranks. Commander M. de Senerzergue.

2nd Battalion, Regiment de Languedoc, 12 fusilier companies, 1 grenadier company, 473 all ranks in May 1759, commanded by Lt. Col. de Privat.

2nd Battalion, Regiment de Bearn, 12 fusilier companies, 1 grenadier company, 454 all ranks reported in May 1759, Lt. Col. d'Alquier.

2nd Battalion Regiment de Guyenne, 12 fusilier companies and 1 grenadier company, forming 436 ranks in May of 1759, Lt Col. de Fontbonne.

2nd Battalion Regiment Royal-Roussillon, 12 fusilier companies and 1 grenadier company, 485 all ranks, commanded by Lt. Col. Chevalier de Bernetz.

In addition to these line units, all of which were no doubt under strength due to the rigors of defending the city in the preceding eight weeks, Montcalm could also call upon approximately forty companies of colonial troops, each of 65 men each. These 'Troupes de la Colonie' were nominally regulated by the Ministry of the Navy in France, hence their title Compagnie Franches de la Marine. The Officers of this corps were in the main born in Canada, whereas the enlisted men were recruited in France and sent across. Their exact numbers are unknown on the day of the battle, in that it is likely some had been drafted into the regular battalions as replacements, and others would have been spread throughout the long lines of defence around Quebec. Chartrand puts their number at between 800 and 1,000 on the Plains of Abraham.

All told, the Militias of the districts of Quebec, Montreal, Trois Rivieres and Acadia might have comprised some 11,000 men, although again the exact numbers are open to debate, and must be adjusted for the depredations of the campaign. It is certain that the majority were involved in manning the redoubts and posts along the Beauport shoreline and in the hinterland above the falls at Montmorency, as well as being stationed further upriver, south of Quebec. Some sources put approximately 600 of their number as being drafted into the regular battalions, and often they are blamed for the tentative and disorganised way in which the French line advanced against Wolfe, with their lack of training impacting on the regular volleys and reloading that was attempted as the French closed with the English 'thin red line'. Others were present on the flanks of the advance, ostensibly formed as battalions according to their origin, and Chartrand gives approximately 1,800 as their total number.

Numbers of the Native Allies are open to question, as they were not renowned for closing within a line of battle, and the many reverses France had suffered no doubt tested their commitment to the cause. Chartrand puts their strength at around 1,700 in and around Quebec, and no doubt some were present on the flanks of the advancing French. Certainly, their fierce reputation did much to threaten the rear of Wolfe's bridgehead, irrespective of their actual number.

There were a number of other small units that might be considered for the French order of battle, although it is unknown as to their actual contribution at the Plains. These include the Royal Syntaxe Militia, in effect a company in strength, formed from students of the Quebec Seminary, who wore distinctive blue hooded coats; the Corps du Cavalrie, 200 ranks divided into two companies, that was raised from mounted Canadian volunteers and officered from gentlemen detached from the metropolitan battalions. These were mainly used as scouts or in a skirmish role once dismounted, more 'dragoon'-like than actual cavalry. They wore blue coats lined with red, and distinctive bearskin caps.
In addition, there were large numbers of sailors from the French fleet, and a smaller number of Infanterie de la Marine, although these were likely only employed in the redoubts and artillery posts, alongside the small group of engineers and Cannoniers-Bombardiers artillerymen that had come over from France.

Talking of artillery, the only scenery to speak of on the actual battlefield was the Samos gun battery near Wolfe's landing point, which was quickly captured alongside the guard post of Captain Vergor atop the heights on the morning of the attack. Although perhaps not strictly a part of the battle, I couldn't resist representing these posts with a base combining Irregular Miniature's BG134 tents and BG130 army command post alongside the excellent ostensibly 1/1200th scale MX7 shore battery available from the Napoleonic ranges of Rod Langton:

Finally a bird's eye view of the other major investment I made for this special project, namely a terrain mat from who else but, well, Terrain Mat here in the UK:

They were kind enough to provide a special order for a cloth to use with 2mm miniatures, quite a number of which they have apparently made, and did a good job of translating my request for a rough Canadian-looking type of lightly wooded terrain into a reality:

The flocking and shading are applied to a thick base cloth rather like a weed supression mat that you can buy for gardening, and the effect is very good overall, with so far no shedding or damage inspite of some very varied use! Can't recommend them highly enough, just the job for modelling the rolling terrain above the city of Quebec:

Next up, a look at the English order of battle....

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