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Gorham’s Post

Posted on 9 Nov, 2014 in History | 9 comments

Etchemin River

On September 10, 1759, General James Wolfe summoned a group of his subalterns to a small camp on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River called Gorham’s Post. Just below the mouth of the Etchemin River, Gorham’s Post offered good reconnaissance of the promontory of Québec. General Wolfe had spent all summer trying to get at the well-ensconced French on Cape Diamond and now, as fall approached, he peered across the river with his closest colleagues, searching for a point of access to the capital of New France.

Actually, most of the evidence suggests that Wolfe already suspected where that point of access was: Anse au Foulon. Straight north of Gorham’s Post, across the swift current of the St. Lawrence, there was a small patch of beach at the base of a steep, but climbable, draw. There were several tents at the top of the hill occupied by the small French detachment charged with defending the place. Wolfe believed he could climb this draw quickly and get his army on to the Plains of Abraham to force a fight. He pointed it out to his commanders that day, and would later express his commitment to the place in orders written the day before he died on the battlefield: “I have fix’d upon that spot, where we can act wh: most force, & are most likely to succeed, if I am mistaken, I am sorry for it; & must be answerable to his Majesty & the Publick for the consequences.

When news of the British victory and the death of General Wolfe reached London, the Grand Magazine of Universal Intelligence published the map reproduced below. The Etchemin River takes on an exaggerated importance here, as if in acknowledgement that momentous decisions had been made there.

 

Québec 1759-2c

One can visit the mouth of the Etchemin River today and stand approximately where Gorham’s Post was. The small wooded patch there probably looks much like it did when Wolfe convened his pre-battle meeting. From this spot, however, Anse au Foulon does not look like much: it is distant and obscure, by no means an obvious choice.

 

Gorham's Post

 

 

(Map Credit: Grand Magazine of Universal Intelligence, October, 1759)

9 Comments

  1. Interesting. Did not know about Gorham’s post. Although, i am quite familiar with the Lake Etchemin Area.

    Did Gorham’s post get its name from John Gorham? Although, whe i Google it, the guys i found lived in Maine, USA. Intriguing.

  2. Fascinating stuff, Neil. What intrigues me is the name – Gorham. The only Gorhams I know of are of American, and I think one of them signed the Declaration of Independence. So, if there was a Gorham there before Wolfe came along, then thatimplies far more commerce between French Canada and America than I ever thought. Or was Gorham the name of a British soldier who had been posted there? Trading Post or sentry post?

    • To be honest, Pete, I do not know for sure why they called it Gorham’s Post, but just to be clear, it was the British who called it that. The French-Canadians did not call it “Gorham’s Post.”

      There was a Joseph Gorham, an “American” (from Massachusetts), in Wolfe’s army. He is known, among other things, for having destroyed the village of Baie St-Paul. I cannot confirm, however, that this post was named after him. See his biograpghy:

      http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/goreham_joseph_4E.html

  3. This is only my 3rd e-mail from you. I appreciate the pictures and history. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.

  4. Thanks for the history on Quebec. I can still picture the battle you described on the tour in July. Also with winter coming can image the weather the soldiers had to live through.

  5. A response and ten new questions. Very interesting, obviously the troops of Gen.James Wolf sought a flaw, autumn arrives, the clock is ticking. Maps of the McMaster Library, demonstrates the extent of the different versions. Neil thank you to share this look exploratory history from the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.

  6. Hi Neil,

    Another time, very interesting subject. I recently bought the new book of Roch Carrier, simply titled “Montcalm et Wolfe” (Ed. Libre Expression). The book présents the military carrer of these 2 Generals until their last fight, at Québec City, on what we are now used to call The Battlefields.

    I read it in one shot and I still learnt plenty of things caracterizing this crual period. I certainly recommand it.

    Denis Laberge

  7. Thanks for the note on Gorham’s Post — most interesting since we’ve just sailed through on a cruise. Thanks, also, for the note on the book “Montcalm and Wolfe” — I’ll look for it.

  8. Thank you for the interesting history lesson of the Plains of Abraham. General James Wolf’s decision to attack was successful for the English. The map was interesting. Thanks for the history lesson. The pictures are well done.
    Karen and Rodney Rich

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