Black and white drawing of Bougainville. He is wearing a wig, a justaucorps and a tie.
Portrait of Bougainville
© National Archives of Canada / C-10541

The British war plan of 1760 called for an offensive against Montreal by three army columns. The first column, under the command of General Murray, was to move westward up the St. Lawrence from its base in Quebec City. The second column, led by General Amherst, commander-in-chief, would set out from Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario, and head eastward. The third column, led by General Haviland, was to take the route northward from Lake Champlain along the Richelieu River.

On the third of these three fronts, the French, led by Bourlamaque, prepared for a decisive confrontation. Their strategy was to delay the British advance as long as possible in the hope that peace would be made in Europe before New France was finally conquered. If île aux Noix were well fortified, it would be able to neutralize any invasion attempt via the Richelieu River Valley.

Work on the île aux Noix fortifications began in the spring of 1759. The French plan was to build a fortification for 3000 men and batteries that could fight back a British invasion coming from the Champlain lake. Unfortunately, a lack of time and manpower prevented the fortifications from being fully completed.

The siege of the French entrenchments began on August 16, 1760. Haviland and his 3400 men disembarked less than 3 km downriver from the island on the east bank, where they set up their batteries. Bougainville, who had replaced Bourlamaque, faced the siege with only 1400 ill-trained soldiers, who entered the battle with inadequate ammunition and supplies.

On August 25, the British marked a decisive victory by capturing the French fleet and thereby cutting off all communication with the French outposts. From that point on, the French positions at île aux Noix were open to an attack on the northern flank of the island. Two days later, Bougainville ordered the troops to evacuate the island and withdraw, first to Saint-Jean and then to Montreal. He left a detachment of 60 men on the island to cover the retreat. They surrendered the following day. The way was now open to Haviland, who moved on to rendez-vous with Amherst's and Murray's armies.

In October, following the surrender of Montreal, General Amherst visited île aux Noix and decided to dismantle both the French fortifications and the batteries constructed by the British at the time of the siege. The island then enjoyed a period of calm which was to last a full fifteen years. The British later reigned over the better portion of the continent. Their rule was to prove short-lived, however.