Although British forces had taken Quebec on 13 September 1759, the French and Canadians still held most of New France. The new commander, François Gaston, Duc de Lévis, had wintered in Montreal with a force of French regulars and Canadian militia. Governor Vaudrueil ordered a general mobilization of all militia units around Montreal and Trois-Rivières in April 1760. By the middle of the month, Lévis had assembled a force of 3,889 French regulars and 3,021 members of the Canadian militia.
Brigadier-General James Murray commanded the 3,800-man garrison in Quebec. The onset of winter had forced the British fleet to leave in October. The British experienced a difficult winter. Although the garrison was short of provisions, Murray shared the meagre food supplies with the local population. By spring, the hungry and scurvy-ridden British soldiers impatiently waited for ships to arrive with provisions and reinforcements.
Lévis was determined to attack Quebec before the garrison could be reinforced and resupplied. On the morning of 28 April 1760, Lévis concentrated his forces at Ste.-Foy, near the Plains of Abraham. Brigadier-General Murray marched his troops out to confront the Franco-Canadian army, and the two sides clashed in a bitter struggle that lasted for two hours. After sustaining heavy casualties, the British force retreated to Quebec. A stalemate ensued.
During the following days, both sides anxiously eyed the river. The Canadian commander, Lévis, was expecting a French fleet bringing troops and supplies from France. On 9 May 1760, a single ship arrived. It was the frigate HMS Lowestoft, lead ship for the British fleet. Murray and his garrison were jubilant, while Lévis and his army became despondent. By 15 May, the entire British fleet had arrived at Quebec. The following day, Lévis raised the siege and led his troops to Montreal.