Chris Scott Wilson Writer
upriver to attack the French on 15th May, where they joined another British frigate HMS Lowestoft which had earlier arrived. The French warships disengaged then hauled off to head upstream a mile or two to draw the British frigates away from the besieging army’s supply depots. While Vanguard opened fire on the French lines ashore, the two frigates gave chase to the Frenchmen. Commander Vauquelin captaining Atalante, ran his ship aground, nailed his colours to the mast and fought his vessel until he ran out of ammunition, then threw his sword into the river (so he wouldn’t have to surrender it) and ordered his crew to leave the ship. Wounded, he was taken prisoner with those of his men who stayed, then his captors put the unsalvageable Atalante to the torch the following day.
Ashore, the fact the French commander Lévis abandoned his artillery illustrates how quickly he retreated. As the French fought a rearguard action, the engineer who had supervised the digging of the trench system for the siege, Jean-Nicholas Desandrouins, despaired, “One ship-of-the-line and Quebec would have been ours.” Lord Colville’s squadron, piloted by James Cook and at last free of the ice, arrived three days later, the five ships-of-the-line anchoring to effectively blockade the St Lawrence. When the commodore of another French relief fleet bound for Quebec learned of their forbidding presence he was deterred from entering the river.
With Lévis on the run back to Montreal, three British armies began to converge on the city. For three months the great cabin on HMS Northumberland was the nerve centre for all naval operations as Lord Colville established control over the lower St Lawrence, his vessels weeding out any French warships or supply vessels hiding in tributaries and also privateers working under French colours. He also sent ships and
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Quebec in the 18th century