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1759 Victory Of Wolfe At Quebec
by A. G. Bradley


Part I

With the opening of the Seven Years' War the two races, French and English, once more began to contend for the prize of empire in the New World. For a while the advantage in the struggle was on the side of France, though the preponderance of population was vastly on the side of the English colonies. Louis XV, however, had one general in Canada worthy of the gallant race from which he had sprung, and who strenuously endeavored to uphold the fortunes of his country. This was the Marquis de Montcalm, a cultured and far-seeing French nobleman, whose ability and enthusiasm in the profession of arms had procured for him the chief military command in Canada, and who was now seeking to expel the English from the colonial possessions of France on the Continent.

But, unfortunately for his country, Montcalm was ill-supported by Old France, and his difficulties were increased by the maladministration of affairs in the colony. Despite these drawbacks, he was for some years the means of protracting the gallant struggle in America and of bringing many disasters on the English arms.

Concentrating his forces in the neighborhood of Lake Champlain, he attacked Fort William Henry, on Lake George, and with a body of Indian auxiliaries from the Ottawa forced the English to capitulate. The victory was marred by horrible Indian atrocities on the English prisoners of war, which Montcalm was unable to prevent. During the year 1757 Montcalm acted solely on the defensive, while the English, having incompetent generals, accomplished little and failed in an attempt to wrest Louisburg from the French. The following year, however, William Pitt, "the Great English Commoner," was called to the councils of his nation, and infused new vigor into the war which had now been formally declared between the two countries. Pitt, aiming at the extinction of French power in America, fitted out a fleet of one hundred fifty sail, under Admiral Boscawen, with a land force of some fourteen thousand men, under General Amherst and Brigadier-General James Wolfe, and despatched both to Canada.

The first operation was the siege of Louisburg, which surrendered with about five thousand prisoners, and in the capture of which young Wolfe greatly distinguished himself. Later in the year the French were compelled to abandon Fort Duquesne, in the Ohio Valley, which the English now named Pittsburg, in honor of War Minister Pitt; and Frontenac (Kingston), the marine arsenal of the French at the foot of Lake Ontario, surrendered and was destroyed. The effect of these losses was disheartening to the French, though before the season's campaign closed Montcalm defeated the English, under General Abercrombie, in an attack on the French post on Lake Champlain, afterward named Ticonderoga. When the year 1759 opened, the English were ready to resume operations with spirit and effect. Amherst's army advanced upon Crown Point and Ticonderoga, from which the French retired, and Sir William Johnson captured Niagara and drove the French from the Lakes. Wolfe, now general of the forces of the St. Lawrence, sailed in June with his army from Louisburg to Quebec. The story of this eventful expedition and its result here given is by the able pen of the historian A. G. Bradley.

When the flag of Britain supplanted the emblem of France on the ramparts of Quebec the city was held by an English garrison under General Murray, and in the spring of 1760 it narrowly escaped recapture by De Levis, at the head of seven thousand men, who had come from Montreal to attack it. The timely arrival of a British fleet saved the now British stronghold, while Montreal was in turn invested, and that post and all Canada surrendered to the British Crown. Three years later the Peace of Paris confirmed the cession of the country to Britain, and closed the dominion of France in Canada.

England rang with the triumphs of her ally, Frederick of Prussia, and, by a perversion peculiarly British, the scoffing freethinker became the "Protestant hero" in both church and taproom. Pitt was omnipotent in Parliament; only a single insignificant member ever ventured to oppose him. "Our unanimity is prodigious," wrote Walpole. "You would as soon hear a 'No' from an old-maid as from the House of Commons." New-castle was supremely happy among jobbers and cringing place-hunters under the full understanding that neither he nor his kind trespassed within the sphere of foreign politics. The estimates had exceeded all former limits, and reached for those days the enormous sum of twelve and a half millions. The struggle with France was vigorously waged, too, upon the ocean, warships, privateers, and merchantmen grappling to the death with one another in many a distant sea, while the main fleets of the enemy were for the most part blockaded in their ports by vigilant British armaments. Everywhere were exhilaration and a superb feeling of confidence, engendered by incipient successes and by the consciousness that the nation was united in purpose and that the leaders of its enterprises were not chosen because they were "rich in votes or were related to a duke."

James Wolfe had certainly neither of these qualifications, and he it was whom Pitt designed to act the leading part in the coming year, "a greater part," he modestly wrote after receiving his appointment, "than I wished or desired. The backwardness of some of the older officers has in some measure forced the Government to come down so low. I shall do my best and leave the rest to fortune, as perforce we must when there are not the most commanding abilities."

Pitt's plan for the coming season in America was to strike two great blows at Canada, and a lesser one, which, if successful, would involve the conquest of that country. Wolfe, aided by a fleet, was to attack Quebec; Amherst with another force was to push through by the Lake Champlain route and unite with him if possible. A further expedition was to be sent against Niagara under Prideaux; but for the present we are concerned only with the first and by far the most memorable of the three.

Wolfe at this time was colonel of the Sixty-seventh regiment. He was to have local rank only of major-general while in America, since more substantial elevation would, in the eyes of Newcastle and his friends, have been almost an outrage on the British Constitution as by them interpreted. Pitt and his young officers, however, were well content to waive such trifles for the present, and concede so much of consolation to the long list of rejected incapables, in return for such honor and glory as might perchance be theirs.

The land force was to consist of twelve thousand men, a few of whom were to sail from England, but the bulk were to be drawn from the American and West Indian garrisons. The latter, however, were counter-ordered; the former proved to be below the estimated strength, and the actual number that gathered in Louisburg, the point of rendezvous, was only about eight thousand five hundred. The command of the fleet was given to Admiral Saunders, and this appointment demanded great discretion, as the sailor in this instance had not only to be efficient on his own element, but to be a man of tact, and one who at the same time would put patriotism above professional jealousy, and could be trusted to work heartily with the land forces.

It was late in February when Saunders' fleet, convoying Wolfe, his stores, and a few troops, sailed from Spithead. The winds being adverse and the seas running high, May had opened before the wild coast of Nova Scotia was dimly seen through the whirling wreaths of fog. It was a late season, and Louisburg harbor was still choked with ice, so that the fleet had to make southward for Halifax at the cost of much of that time which three years' experience had at length taught the British was so precious in all North American enterprises. At Halifax Wolfe found the troops from the American garrisons awaiting him. Among them was the Forty-third regiment, with the gallant Major Knox, our invaluable diarist, filled with joy at the prospect of active service after twenty months' confinement in a backwoods fort, and ready with his sword as happily for us he was with his pen. In a fortnight Louisburg was open, and both fleet and transports were grinding amid the still drifting ice in its harbor. Here again the army was landed, and its numbers completed from the Louisburg garrison.

There was naturally much to be done with an army brought together from so many various quarters. The force, too, proved, as I have said, far short of the estimate, being considerably under nine thousand men; but, on the other hand, these were all good troops and mostly veterans. Though the benefits of Bath waters had been more than neutralized by nearly three months of buffeting on the element he so loathed, Wolfe spared himself no effort. He was not only a fighting, but to the highest degree an organizing general. Every sickly and unlikely man, small as was his force, was weeded out. Every commissariat detail down to the last gaiter-button was carefully scrutinized. Seldom had England sent out a body of men so perfect in discipline, spirit, and material of war, and assuredly none so well commanded since the days of Marlborough. It was well it was so, seeing that they were destined to attack one of the strongest posts in the world, defended by an army nearly twice as numerous as themselves, and fighting, moreover, in defense of its home and country and, as it fully believed, of its religion. The young general was thoroughly alive to the numerical weakness of his force, but that he rejoiced in its efficiency is evident from his letters, and he was hard to please. "If valor can make amends for want of numbers," he wrote to Pitt, "we shall succeed."

Admiral Durell, with ten ships, had been sent forward early in May to stop French supply- or war-ships from ascending the St. Lawrence when navigation opened. It was June 1st when Wolfe and Saunders with the main army followed him, owing to fog and ice and contrary winds, in somewhat straggling fashion. The bands played the time-honored air of The Girl I Left Behind Me, and the men cheered lustily as the ships cleared the bar, while at the mess-tables, says Knox, there was only one toast among the officers - "British colors on every French fort, post, and garrison in America." With Saunders went twenty-two ships of the line - five frigates and seventeen sloops-of-war, besides the transports. All went smoothly till the 20th, when, the wind dropping, they were caught in the cross-currents caused by the outpouring waters of the Saguenay, which, draining a vast mountain wilderness to the northward, would be accounted a mighty river if it were not for the still mightier one that absorbs it. Here the ships ran some risk of fouling, but escaped any serious damage, and in three days were at the Ile aux Coudres, where the real dangers of the navigation began. It must be remembered that such a venture was unprecedented, and regarded hitherto as an impossibility for large ships without local pilots. The very presence of the first made the second possible, for some of the vessels approaching the shore ran up French flags, whereupon numbers of the country people, in response to an invitation, came on board, little guessing the visitors could be their enemies.

Pilots were by this ruse secured, and their services impressed under pain of death. Knox, who understood French, tells us that the poor unwilling pilot who took his ship up the tortuous channel made use of the most frightful imprecations, swearing that most of the fleet and the whole army would find their graves in Canada. An old British tar, on the other hand, master of a transport and possessed of an immense scorn for foreigners, would not allow a French pilot to interfere, and insisted, in the teeth of all remonstrance, on navigating his own ship. "D - n me," he roared, "I'll convince you that an Englishman shall go where a Frenchman daren't show his nose," and he took it through in safety. "The enemy," wrote Vaudreuil soon after this to his Government, "have passed sixty ships-of-war where we dare not risk a vessel of a hundred tons by night or day." The British navy has not been sufficiently remembered in the story of Quebec.

Let us now turn for a moment to Montcalm and see what he has been doing all this time to prepare for the attack. It was an accepted axiom in Canada that no armament strong enough to seriously threaten Quebec could navigate the St. Lawrence. In the face of expected invasion it was the Lake George and Champlain route that mostly filled the public mind. Bougainville, however, had returned from France early in May with the startling news that a large expedition destined for Quebec was already on the sea. A former opinion of this able officer's declared that three or four thousand men could hold the city against all comers. There was now four times that strength waiting for Wolfe, while his own, so far as numbers went, we know already. Eighteen transport ships, carrying supplies and some slight reenforcements, had slipped past the English cruisers in the fogs, and brought some comfort to Montcalm. The question now was how best to defend Quebec, as well as make good the two land approaches at Ticonderoga and Lake Ontario respectively.

For the defence of the city, when every able-bodied militiaman had been called out, nearly sixteen thousand troops of all arms would be available. About the disposition of these and the plan of defence there was much discussion. Montcalm himself was for a long time undecided. The alternative plans do not concern us here; the one finally adopted is alone to the point. Everyone knows that the ancient capital of Canada is one of the most proudly placed among the cities of the earth. But it may be well to remind those who have not seen it, that it occupies the point of a lofty ridge, forming the apex of the angle made by the confluence of the St. Charles River and the St. Lawrence. Westward from the city this ridge falls so nearly sheer into the St. Lawrence for several miles that, watched by a mere handful of men, it was impregnable. Moreover, the river suddenly narrows to a breadth of three-quarters of a mile opposite the town, whose batteries were regarded as being fatal to any attempt of an enemy to run past them. On the other side of the town the St. Charles River, coming in from the northwest immediately below its walls, formed a secure protection.

Montcalm, however, decided to leave only a small garrison in the city itself and go outside it for his main defence. Now, from the eastern bank of the mouth of the St. Charles, just below the city, there extends in an almost straight line along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence a continuous ridge, the brink, in fact, of a plateau, at no point far removed from the water's edge. Six miles away this abruptly terminates in the gorge of the Montmorency River, which, rushing tumultuously toward the St. Lawrence, makes that final plunge on to its shore level which is one of the most beautiful objects in a landscape teeming with natural and human interest. Along the crown of this six-mile ridge, known in history as "the Beauport lines," Montcalm decided to make his stand. So, throughout the long days of May and June the French devoted themselves to rendering impregnable from the front a position singularly strong in itself, while the Montmorency and its rugged valley protected the only flank which was exposed to attack. Below him spread the river, here over two miles in width from shore to shore, with the western point of the island of Orleans overlapping his left flank. Above the woods of this long, fertile island, then the garden of Canada, the French, upon June 27th, first caught sight of the pennons flying from the topmasts of the English battle-ships, and before evening they witnessed the strange sight of red-coated infantry swarming over its well-tilled fields.

Part II.

Wolfe had not much time that evening to consider the situation, which might well have appalled a less stout heart than his, for the troops had scarcely landed when a sudden summer storm burst upon the scene, churned the river into angry waves, broke some of the smaller ships from their moorings, casting them upon the rocks, and staving in many of the boats and rafts. The people of Quebec, who for weeks had been urging upon the Divinity in their peculiar way that they, his chosen people, were in danger, would not have been Canadian Catholics of their generation had they not been jubilant at this undoubted sign of divine intervention. But Montcalm was the last man to presume on such favor by any lack of energy. The very next night the British, having in the mean time pitched their camp upon the Isle of Orleans, were thrown into no small alarm by the descent of a fleet of fire-ships.

The only men awake were the guards and sentries at the point, and as the matches were not applied to the drifting hulks till they were close at hand, the sudden effect in the darkness of the night upon the soldiers' nerves was more than they could stand, having beheld nothing like it in their lives, and they rushed in much confusion on the sleeping camp, causing still more there. For it was not alone the flames and the explosives that were a cause of perturbation, but a hail of grape-shot and bullets from the igniting guns poured hurtling through the trees. The chief object of the fire-ships, however, was the fleet which lay in the channel between the Isle of Orleans and the shore, and toward it they came steadily drifting. Knox describes the pandemonium as awful, and the sight as inconceivably superb of these large burning ships, crammed with every imaginable explosive and soaked from their mast-heads to their water-line in pitch and tar. It was no new thing, however, to the gallant sailors, who treated the matter as a joke, grappling fearlessly with the hissing, spitting demons, and towing them ashore. "Damme, Jack," they shouted, "didst ever take h - ll in tow before?"

This exploit seems to have been a venture of Vaudreuil's, and its failure, an extremely expensive one, cost that lively egotist and his friends a severe pang. The next day Wolfe published his first manifesto to the Canadian people. "We are sent by the English King," it ran, "to conquer this province, but not to make war upon women and children, the ministers of religion, or industrious peasants. We lament the sufferings which our invasion may inflict upon you: but if you remain neutral, we proffer you safety in person and property and freedom in religion. We are masters of the river; no succor can reach you from France. General Amherst, with a large army, assails your southern frontier. Your cause is hopeless, your valor useless. Your nation have been guilty of great cruelties to our unprotected settlers, but we seek not revenge. We offer you the sweets of peace amid the horrors of war. England, in her strength, will befriend you; France, in her weakness, leaves you to your fate."

Wolfe could hardly have felt the confidence he here expressed. The longer he looked upon the French position the less he must have liked it, and the larger must Amherst and his eventual cooperation have loomed in his mind as a necessary factor to success. But would Amherst get through to Montreal and down the St. Lawrence in time to be of use before the short season had fled? Those who were familiar with the difficulties would certainly have discouraged the hope which Wolfe for a time allowed himself to cherish; and Wolfe, though he admired his friend and chief, did not regard celerity of movement as his strongest point.

About the first move, however, in the game Wolfe had to play there could be no possible doubt, and that was the occupation of Point Levis. This was the high ground immediately facing Quebec, where the river, narrowing to a width of twelve hundred yards, brought the city within cannon-shot from the southern bank. It was the only place, in fact, from which it could be reached. It is said Montcalm had been anxious to occupy it, and intrench it with four thousand men, but was overruled on the supposition that the upper town, about which official Quebec felt most concern, would be outside its range of fire. If this was so, they were soon to be undeceived.

The occupation of Point Levis by Monckton's brigade, which Wolfe now ordered on that service, need not detain us. They crossed from the camp of Orleans to the village of Beaumont, which was seized with slight resistance. Thence moving on along the high road to Point Levis, they found the church and village occupied by what Knox, who was there, estimates at a thousand riflemen and Indians. The Grenadiers charging the position in front, and the Highlanders and light infantry taking it in the rear, it was stormed with a loss of thirty men, and Monckton then occupied a position which, so far as artillery fire was concerned, had Quebec at its mercy. The brigadier, who had fully expected to find French guns there, at once began to intrench himself on this conspicuous spot, while floating batteries now pushed out from Quebec and began throwing shot and shell up at his working-parties, till Saunders sent a frigate forward to put an end to what threatened to be a serious annoyance.

The French had changed their minds about the danger of Monckton's guns, though not a shot had yet been fired, and agitated loudly for a sortie across the river. Montcalm thought poorly of the plan; but a miscellaneous force of fifteen hundred Canadians, possessed of more ardor than cohesion, insisted on attempting a night assault. They landed some way up the river, but did not so much as reach the British position. The difficulties of a combined midnight movement were altogether too great for such irregulars, and they ended by firing upon one another in the dark and stampeding for their boats, with a loss of seventy killed and wounded.

Two brigades were now in midstream on the Isle of Orleans and one on Point Levis. Landing artillery and stores, intrenching both positions, and mounting siege-guns at the last-named one consumed the first few days of July. Wolfe's skill in erecting and firing batteries had been abundantly demonstrated at Louisburg; and though his head-quarters were on the island, he went frequently to superintend the preparations for the bombardment of Quebec. On July 12th a rocket leaped into the sky from Wolfe's camp. It was the signal for the forty guns and mortars that had been mounted on Point Levis to open on the city that Vaudreuil and his friends had fondly thought was out of range. The first few shots may have encouraged the delusion, as they fell short; but the gunners quickly got their distance, and then began that storm of shot and shell which rained upon the doomed city, with scarce a respite, for upward of eight weeks.

Houses, churches, and monasteries crashed and crumbled beneath the pitiless discharge. The great cathedral, where the memories and the trophies of a century's defiance of the accursed heretic had so thickly gathered, was gradually reduced to a skeleton of charred walls. The church of Notre Dame de la Victoire, erected in gratitude for the delivery of the city from the last and only previous attack upon it sixty years before, was one of the first buildings to suffer from the far more serious punishment of this one. Wolfe, though already suffering from more than his chronic ill-health, was ubiquitous and indefatigable; now behind Monckton's guns at Point Levis, now with Townshend's batteries at Montmorency, now up the river, ranging with his glass those miles of forbidding cliffs which he may already have begun to think he should one day have to climb. Some of Saunder's ships were in the Basin, between Orleans and Quebec, and frequently engaged with Montcalm's floating batteries; while in the mean time the roar of artillery from a dozen different quarters filled the simmering July days, and lit the short summer nights with fiery shapes, and drew in fitful floods the roving thunder-clouds that at this season of the year in North America are apt to lurk behind the serenest sky.

Fighting at close quarters there was, too, in plenty, though of an outpost and backwoods kind. Bois Herbert, with his painted Canadians and Abernakis Indians, and Stark and young Rogers with their colonial rangers - Greek against Greek - scalped each other with a hereditary ferocity that English and French regulars knew nothing of. In bringing a fleet up to Quebec, British sailors had already performed one feat pronounced impossible by Canadian tradition. They now still further upset their enemies' calculations by running the gauntlet of the batteries of Quebec and placing the Sutherland, with several smaller ships, at some distance up the river. This cost Montcalm six hundred men, whom he had to send under Dumas to watch the squadron. But all this brought the end no nearer. Time was exceeding precious, and July was almost out. Necessary messages were continually passing under flags of truce, and superfluous notes of defiance sometimes accompanied them. "You may destroy the town," said De Ramezay to Wolfe, "but you will never get inside it." "I will take Quebec," replied the fiery stripling, "if I stay here till November."

Through the whole weary month of August little occurred that the exigencies of our space would justify recording. Montcalm considered himself safe, and he even allowed two thousand Canadians to leave for the harvest. Wolfe had a thousand men of his small force sick or wounded in hospital. Amherst, it was reported, had taken Ticonderoga, but there was little likelihood of his getting through to their assistance. Prideaux, in the Far West, as it then was, had captured Niagara. It was a great success, but it in no way helped Wolfe. It must not be supposed, however, that August had passed away in humdrum fashion. The guns had roared with tireless throats, and the lower town was a heap of ruins. Far away down both banks of the St. Lawrence the dogs of war had raged through seigniories and hamlets. Between the upper and the nether millstone of Wolfe's proclamations and Montcalm's vengeance, the wretched peasantry were in a sore plight. Raided through and through by the fierce guerillas of North American warfare, swept bare of grain and cattle for Wolfe's army, the fugitives from smoking farms and hamlets were glad to seek refuge in the English lines, where the soldiers generously shared with them their meagre rations. More than one expedition had been sent up the river. Admiral Holmes, with over twenty ships, was alredy above the town, and had driven the French vessels, which had originally taken refuge there, to discharge their crews and run up shallow tributaries.

Wolfe's intention now was to place every man that he could spare on board the ships in the upper river, and his entire force was reduced by death, wounds, and sickness to under seven thousand men. On September 3d, with slight annoyance from an ill-directed cannon fire, he removed the whole force at Montmorency across the water to the camps of Orleans or Point Levis. On the following day all the troops at both these stations which were not necessary for their protection were paraded; for what purpose no one knew, least of all the French, who from their lofty lines could mark every movement in the wide panorama below, and were sorely puzzled and perturbed. Some great endeavor was in the wind, beyond a doubt; but both Wolfe and his faithful ally, the admiral, did their utmost to disguise its import. And for this very reason it would be futile, even if necessary, to follow the fluctuating manoeuvres that for the next few days kept the enemy in constant agitation: the sudden rage of batteries here, the threatening demonstrations of troop-laden boats there, the constant and bewildering movement of armed ships at every point. It was well designed and industriously maintained, for the sole purpose of harassing the French and covering Wolfe's real intention.

On the night of September 4th the general was well enough to dine with Monckton's officers at Point Levis, but the next day he was again prostrate with illness, to the great anxiety of his army. He implored the doctor to "patch him up sufficiently for the work in hand; after that nothing mattered." Chronic gravel and rheumatism, with a sharp low fever, aggravated by a mental strain of the severest kind, all preying on a sickly frame, were what the indomitable spirit there imprisoned had to wrestle with. On the 6th, however, Wolfe struggled up, and during that day and the next superintended the march of his picked column, numbering some four thousand men, up the south bank of the river. Fording, near waist-deep, the Etchemain River, they were received beyond its mouth by the boats of the fleet, and, as each detachment arrived, conveyed on board. The Forty-eighth, however, seven hundred strong, were left, under Colonel Burton, near Point Levis to await orders.

The fleet, with Wolfe and some thirty-six hundred men on board, now moved up to Cap Rouge, behind which, at the first dip in the high barrier of cliffs, was Bougainville with fifteen hundred men (soon afterward increased), exclusive of three hundred serviceable light cavalry. The cove here was intrenched, and the French commander was so harried with feigned attacks that he and his people had no rest. At the same time, so well was the universal activity maintained that Montcalm, eight miles below, was led to expect a general attack at the mouth of the Charles River, under the city. Throughout the 8th and 9th the weather was dark and rainy and the wind from the east, an unfavorable combination for a movement requiring the utmost precision. On the 10th the troops from the crowded ships were landed to dry their clothes and accoutrements. Wolfe and his brigadiers now finally surveyed that line of cliffs which Montcalm had declared a hundred men could hold against the whole British army. It was defended here and there by small posts. Below one of these, a mile and a half above the city, the traces of a zigzag path up the bush-covered precipice could be made out, though Wolfe could not see that even this was barricaded. Here, at the now famous Anse du Foulon, he decided to make his attempt.

The ships, however, kept drifting up and down between Cap Rouge and the city, with a view to maintaining the suspense of the French. Each morning Wolfe's general orders to the soldiers were to hold themselves in readiness for immediate action, with as full directions for their conduct as was compatible with the suppression of the spot at which they were to fight. On the night of the 11th the troops were reembarked, and instructions sent to Burton to post the Forty-eighth on the south shore opposite the Anse du Foulon. On the following day Wolfe published his last orders, and they contained a notable sentence: "A vigorous blow struck by the army at this juncture may determine the fate of Canada." Almost at the same moment his gallant opponent from his head-quarters at Beauport was writing to Bourlamaque at Montreal that he gave the enemy a month or less to stay, but that he himself had no rest night or day, and had not had his boots or clothes off for a fortnight. Another Frenchman was informing his friends that what they knew of that "impetuous, bold, and intrepid warrior, Monsieur Wolfe," gave them reason to suppose he would not leave them without another attack.

A suspicious calm brooded over the British squadron off Cap Rouge as Bougainville watched it from the shore throughout the whole of the 12th. The men were under orders to drop into their boats at nine, and were doubtless busy looking to their arms and accoutrements. By a preconcerted arrangement the day was spent after a very different fashion in the Basin of Quebec. Constant artillery fire and the continual movement of troops against various parts of the Beauport lines engaged the whole attention of Montcalm, who had, in fact, little notion what a number of men had gone up the river with Wolfe.

When night fell upon the ruined city and the flickering campfires of the long French lines, the tumult grew louder and the anxiety greater. The batteries of Point Levis and the guns of Saunders' ships redoubled their efforts. Amid the roar of the fierce artillery, served with an activity not surpassed during the whole siege, Montcalm, booted and spurred, with his black charger saddled at the door, awaited some night attack. The horse would be wanted yet, but for a longer ride than his master anticipated, and, as it so turned out, for his last one. Up the river at Cap Rouge all was silence, a strange contrast to the din below. The night was fine, but dark, and was some three hours old when a single light gleamed of a sudden from the Sutherland's main-mast. It was the signal for sixteen hundred men to drop quietly into their boats. A long interval of silence and suspense then followed, till at two o'clock the tide began to ebb, when a second lantern glimmered from Wolfe's ship. The boats now pushed off and drifted quietly down in long procession under the deep shadow of the high northern shore.

The ships followed at some distance with the remainder of the force under Townshend, the Forty-eighth, it will be remembered, awaiting them below. The distance to be traversed was six miles, and there were two posts on the cliffs to be passed. French provision-boats had been in the habit of stealing down in the night, and to this fact, coupled with the darkness, it seems Wolfe trusted much. He was himself in one of the leading boats, and the story of his reciting Gray's Elegy, in solemn tones while he drifted down, as he hoped, to victory and, as he believed, to death, rests on good authority. ^1 [Footnote 1: That of Professor Robinson, of Edinburgh University, who was present as a midshipman.]

The tide was running fast, so that the rowers could ply their oars with a minimum of disturbance. From both posts upon the cliff their presence was noticed, and the challenge of a sentry rang out clear upon the silent night. On each occasion a Highland officer, who spoke French perfectly, replied that they were a provision convoy, to the satisfaction of the challengers. But the risk was undeniable, and illustrates the hazardous nature of the enterprise. Wolfe's friend, Captain Howe, brother of the popular young nobleman who fell at Ticonderoga, with a small body of picked soldiers, was to lead the ascent, and as the boats touched the narrow beach of the Anse de Foulon he and his volunteers leaped rapidly on shore. Some of the boats accidentally overran the spot, but it made little difference, as the narrow path was, in any case, found to be blocked, and the eager soldiers were forced to throw themselves upon the rough face of the cliff, which was here over two hundred feet high, but fortunately sprinkled thick with stunted bushes. Swiftly and silently Howe and his men scrambled up its steep face. No less eagerly the men behind, as boat after boat discharged its load of red-coats under Wolfe's eye on the narrow shore, followed in their precarious steps.

Day was just beginning to glimmer as the leading files leaped out onto the summit and rushed upon the handful of astonished Frenchmen before them, who fired a futile volley and fled. The shots and cries alarmed other posts at some distance off, yet near enough to fire in the direction of the landing-boats. It was too late, however; the path had now been cleared of obstacles, and the British were swarming onto the plateau. The first sixteen hundred men had been rapidly disembarked, and the boats were already dashing back for Townshend's brigade, who were approaching in the ships, and for the Forty-eighth, awaiting them on the opposite shore.

The scattered French posts along the summit were easily dispersed, while the main army at Beauport, some miles away, on the far side of the city, were as yet unconscious of danger. Bougainville and his force back at Cap Rouge were as far off and as yet no wiser. Quebec had just caught the alarm, but its weak and heterogeneous garrison had no power for combined mobility. By six o'clock Wolfe had his whole force of forty-three hundred men drawn up on the plateau, with their backs to the river and their faces to the north. Leaving the Royal Americans, five hundred forty strong, to guard the landing-place, and with a force thus reduced to under four thousand he now marched toward the city, bringing his left round at the same time in such fashion as to face the western walls, scarcely a mile distant.

As Wolfe drew up his line of battle on that historic ridge of table-land known as the Plains of Abraham, his right rested on the cliff above the river, while his left approached the then brushy slope which led down toward the St. Charles Valley. He had outmanoeuvred Montcalm; it now remained only to crush him. Of this Wolfe had not much doubt, though such confidence may seem sufficiently audacious for the leader of four thousand men, with twice that number in front of him and half as many in his rear, both forces commanded by brave and skilful generals. But Wolfe counted on quality, not on numbers, which Montcalm himself realized were of doubtful efficacy at this crucial moment.

The French general, in the mean time, had been expecting an attack all night at Beauport, and his troops had been lying on their arms. It was about six o'clock when the astounding news was brought him that the British were on the plateau behind the city. The Scotch Jacobite, the Chevalier Johnstone, who has left us an account of the affair, was with him at the time, and they leaped on their horses - he to give the alarm toward Montmorency, the general to hasten westward by Vaudreuil's quarters to the city. "This is a serious business," said Montcalm to Johnstone as he dug his spurs into his horse's flanks. Vaudreuil, who in his braggart, amateur fashion had been "crushing the English" with pen and ink and verbal eloquence this last six weeks, now collapsed, and Montcalm, who knew what a fight in the open with Wolfe meant, hastened himself to hurry forward every man that could be spared.

Fifteen hundred militia were left to guard the Beauport lines, while the bulk of the army poured in a steady stream along the road to Quebec, over the bridge of the St. Charles, some up the slopes beyond, others through the tortuous streets of the city, on to the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm, by some at the time, and by many since, has been blamed for precipitating the conflict, but surely not with justice! He had every reason to count on Bougainville and his twenty-three hundred men, who were no farther from Wolfe's rear than he himself was from the English front. The British held the entire water. Wolfe once intrenched on the plateau, the rest of his army, guns, and stores could be brought up at will, and the city defences on that side were almost worthless. Lastly, provisions with the French were wofully scarce; the lower country had been swept absolutely bare. Montcalm depended on Montreal for every mouthful of food, and Wolfe was now between him and his source of supply.

By nine o'clock Montcalm had all his men in front of the western walls of the city and was face to face with Wolfe, only half a mile separating them. His old veterans of William Henry, Oswego, and Ticonderoga were with him, the reduced regiments of Bearn, Royal Rousillon, Languedoc, La Sarre, and La Guienne, some thirteen hundred strong, with seven hundred colony regulars and a cloud of militia and Indians. Numbers of these latter had been pushed forward as skirmishers into the thickets, woods, and cornfields which fringed the battle-field, and had caused great annoyance and some loss to the British, who were lying down in their ranks, reserving their strength and their ammunition for a supreme effort. Three pieces of cannon, too, had been brought to play on them - no small trial to their steadiness; for, confident of victory, it was not to Wolfe's interest to join issue till Montcalm had enough of his men upon the ridge to give finality to such a blow. At the same time the expected approach of Bougainville in the rear had to be watched for and anticipated.

It was indeed a critical and anxious moment! The Forty-eighth regiment were stationed as a reserve of Wolfe's line, though to act as a check rather to danger from Bougainville than as a support to the front attacks in which they took no part. Part, too, of Townshend's brigade, who occupied the left of the line nearest to the wooded slopes in which the plain terminated, were drawn up en potence, or at right angles to the main column, in case of attacks from flank or rear. The Bougainville incident is, in fact, a feature of this critical struggle that has been too generally ignored, but in such a fashion that inferences might be drawn, and have been drawn, detrimental to that able officer's sagacity. Theoretically he should have burst on the rear of Wolfe's small army, as it attacked Montcalm, with more than twenty-three hundred tolerable troops.

He was but six miles off, and it was now almost as many hours since the British scaled the cliff. Pickets and a small battery or two between himself and Wolfe had been early in the morning actually engaged. The simple answer is that Bougainville remained ignorant of what was happening. Nothing but an actual messenger coming through with the news would have enlightened him, and in the confusion none came till eight o'clock. The sound of desultory firing borne faintly against the wind from the neighborhood of the city had little significance for him. It was a chronic condition of affairs, and Bougainville's business was to watch the upper river, where an attack was really expected. It was a rare piece of good-fortune for Wolfe that the confusion among the French was so great as to cause this strange omission. But then it was Wolfe's daring that had thus robbed a brave enemy of their presence of mind and created so pardonable a confusion.

The constituents of that ever-memorable line of battle which Wolfe drew up on the Plains of Abraham must of a surety not be grudged space in this account. On the right toward the cliffs of the St. Lawrence were the Twenty-eighth, the Thirty-fifth, the Forty-third, and the Louisburg Grenadiers under Monckton; in the centre, under Murray, were the Forty-seventh, Fifty-eighth, and the Seventy-eighth Highlanders; with Townshend on the left were the Fifteenth (en potence) and the Second battalion of the Sixtieth or Royal Americans - in all somewhat over three thousand men. In reserve, as already stated, was Burton with the Forty-eighth, while Howe with some light infantry occupied the woods still farther back, and the Third battalion of the Sixtieth guarded the landing-place. None of these last corps joined in the actual attack.

When Montcalm, toward ten o'clock, under a cloudy but fast-clearing sky, gave the order to advance, he had, at the lowest estimate from French sources, about thirty-five hundred men, exclusive of Indians and flanking skirmishers, who may be rated at a further fifteen hundred. The armies were but half a mile apart, and the French regulars and militia, being carefully but perhaps injudiciously blended along their whole line, went forward with loud shouts to the attack.

The British, formed in a triple line, now sprang to their feet and moved steadily forward to receive the onset of the French. Wolfe had been hit on the wrist, but hastily binding up the shattered limb with his handkerchief, he now placed himself at the head of the Louisburg Grenadiers, whose temerity against the heights of Beauport, in July, he had soundly rated. He had issued strict orders that his troops were to load with two bullets, and to reserve their fire till the enemy were at close quarters. He was nobly obeyed, though the French columns came on firing wildly and rapidly at long range, the militia throwing themselves down, after their backwoods custom, to reload, to the disadvantage of the regular regiments among whom they were mixed. The British fire, in spite of considerable punishment, was admirably restrained, and when delivered it was terrible.

Knox tells us that the French received it at forty paces, that the volleys sounded like single cannon-shots, so great was the precision, and French officers subsequently declared they had never known anything like it. Whole gaps were rent in the French ranks, and in the confusion which followed the British reloaded with deliberation, poured in yet another deadly volley, and with a wild cheer rushed upon the foe. They were the pick of a picked army, and the shattered French, inured to arms in various ways though every man of them was, had not a chance. Montcalm's two thousand regulars were ill-supported by the still larger number of their comrades, who, unsurpassed behind breastworks or in forest warfare, were of little use before such an onslaught. The rush of steel, of bayonet on the right and centre, of broadsword on the left, swept everything before it and soon broke the French into a flying mob, checked here and there by brave bands of white-coated regulars, who offered a brief but futile resistance.

Wolfe, in the mean time, was eagerly pressing forward at the head of his Grenadiers, while behind him were the Twenty-eighth and the Thirty-fifth, of Lake George renown. One may not pause here to speculate on the triumph that must at such a moment have fired the bright eyes that redeemed his homely face and galvanized the sickly frame into a very Paladin of old, as sword in hand he led his charging troops. Such inevitable reflections belong rather to his own story than to that of the long war which he so signally influenced, and it was now, in the very moment of victory, as all the world well knows, that he fell.

He was hit twice in rapid succession - a ball in the groin which did not stop him, and a second through the lungs, against which his high courage fought in vain. He was seen to stagger by Lieutenant Browne of the Grenadiers and Second regiment, who rushed forward to his assistance. "Support me," exclaimed Wolfe, "lest my gallant fellows should see me fall." But the lieutenant was just too late, and the wounded hero sank to the ground; not, however, before he was also seen by Mr. Henderson, a volunteer, and almost immediately afterward by an officer of artillery, Colonel Williamson, and a private soldier whose name has not been preserved. The accurate Knox himself was not far off, and this is the account given him by Browne that same evening, and seems worthy to hold the field against the innumerable claims that have been set up in the erratic interests of "family tradition."

These four men carried the dying general to the rear, and by his own request, being in great pain, laid him upon the ground. He refused to see a surgeon, declared it was all over with him, and sank into a state of torpor. "They run; see how they run!" cried out one of the officers. "Who run?" asked Wolfe, suddenly rousing himself. "The enemy, sir; egad, they give way everywhere." "Go, one of you, my lads," said the dying general, "with all speed to Colonel Burton, and tell him to march down to the St. Charles River and cut off the retreat of the fugitives to the bridge." He then turned on his side, and exclaiming, "God be praised, I now die in peace," sank into insensibility, and in a short time, on the ground of his victory which for all time was to influence the destinies of mankind, gave up his life contentedly at the very moment, to quote Pitt's stirring eulogy, "when his fame began."



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