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I have come across popular references towards the sodden or sozzled state of the French and Canadien defenders of Quebec City during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Mostly, these references are made by the loosing side or their descendants. It would seem, according to them, that the loss of the battle is to be attributed to the intoxicated state of either the soldiers themselves or their commander; Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Examples of this provided below:

From "Mon Pays" by "Les Cowboys Fringants"

[...]

Sur les plaines d'Abraham, l'armée trinquait à l'eau d'vie / On the plains of Abraham, the army was a toasting with spirits

Tout en bas de la falaise, les Anglais prenaient fusils / Down below the cliff, the English readied their guns

[...]

Si Montcalm avait pas été saoûl / Had Montcalm not been drunk

Si l'armée avait pas pris un coup / Had the army not been four sheets to the wind

Les Anglais feraient à peine le Waterloo! / The English would have barely made it to Waterloo

Translations in italics by me, emphasis mine.

From "La Cohorte Fantôme" by Frédérique Champagne

Cadavres fleur­de­li­sés sur les plaines d’Abra­ham / Bodies bearing the fleur de lys on the Plains of Abraham

Mont­calm tiré dans le dos / Montcalm shot in the back

Vergor saoul mort capturé blessé à mort à l’Anse-au-Foulon / Vergor blind drunk captured mortally wounded at Anse-au-Foulon

Translations in italics by me, emphasis mine. To wit, Vergor was the French officer in charge of the defense of Anse-au-Foulon.

Other examples crop up every now and again in public discourse, articles or other media.

So what is the source of this myth that the defenders at Quebec in 1759 were drunk on duty while a known enemy force was nearby? Or is there any truth to these claims? Scholarly work on the subject of the battle seems to suggest that Montcalm blundered when he did not wait for reinforcements before attacking.

I am aware that during this period people would consume what was referred to as small beer (less than 2.8 % ABV) as a means of hydration which was free from pathogens, soldiers were even allotted a ration of this, could it be that the such historical practices are being conflated with more modern perceptions of beer consumption?

Or is it that such claims as to the intoxication of the loosing side are simply a modern interpretation of the events which shifts the blame for the loss onto other factors than martial prowess, strategy, tactics, logistics and luck that make up the sum of war?

  • According to archive.org/details/siegeofquebecbat06doug/page/78, the soldiers also had rum: "Too much money and too much rum necessarily affect the discipline of an army. We have glaring evidence of their ill consequences every moment. Serg'ts. drunk upon duty, 2 centries upon their posts and the rest wallowing in the dirt" – Carlos Martin Jul 27 at 6:27

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