In the late summer of 1759, the French posts in the western and southern regions of the St. Lawrence Valley fell into the hands of the English army, although Montréal and Québec continued to hold. Anchored downriver from Québec since June 23, the English General James Wolfe, in command of a fleet of 13,000 men and 8,500 soldiers, brought the city under siege. He bombarded Québec, but failed to provoke a full-fledged battle. The French General, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, had roughly the same number of troops under his command, but they were less experienced in European-style combat, and he wished to avoid a direct assault. He hoped to hold his position until the arrival of winter forced the English fleet to leave Québec. In September, well informed about the main routes into Québec and aware of the French army's strategy, Wolfe launched a surprise attack. On the night of September 12-13, he landed 5,000 men, who used a cliff pathway to the west of the city, and managed to reach the huge open area known as the Plains of Abraham. At daybreak, Montcalm mobilized his 4,500 men without waiting for reinforcement from the detachment led by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. The regular French troops, assisted by inexperienced militiamen who were deployed hastily to the battlefield, found themselves on the offensive. The English bore fire from the French troops, allowed them to advance, and then responded with heavy fire of their own, which created large gaps in the French ranks. In half an hour, the battle was over and the French army was in retreat. Both Wolfe and Montcalm died of wounds sustained in battle.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
A correct plan of the environs of Quebec, by Thomas Jefferys, ca. 1760
CA ANC NMC-54105