CHRONICLES OF CANADA Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton In thirty-two volumes
THE WINNING OF CANADA A Chronicle of Wolfe
By WILLIAM WOOD TORONTO, 1915
Any life of Wolfe can be artificially simplified by treating his purely military work as something complete in itself and not as a part of a greater whole. But, since such treatment gives a totally false idea of his achievement, this little sketch, drawn straight from original sources, tries to show him as he really was, a co-worker with the British fleet in a war based entirely on naval strategy and inseparably connected with international affairs of world-wide significance. The only simplification attempted here is that of arrangement and expression.
Quebec, April 1914.
I. THE BOY II. THE YOUNG SOLDIER III. THE SEVEN YEARS' PEACE IV. THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR V. LOUISBOURG VI. QUEBEC VII. THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM VIII. EPILOGUE—THE LAST STAND
THE BOY 1727-1741
Wolfe was a soldier born. Many of his ancestors had stood ready to fight for king and country at a moment's notice. His father fought under the great Duke of Marlborough in the war against France at the beginning of the eighteenth century. His grandfather, his great-grandfather, his only uncle, and his only brother were soldiers too. Nor has the martial spirit deserted the descendants of the Wolfes in the generation now alive. They are soldiers still. The present head of the family, who represented it at the celebration of the tercentenary of the founding of Quebec, fought in Egypt for Queen Victoria; and the member of it who represented Wolfe on that occasion, in the pageant of the Quebec campaign, is an officer in the Canadian army under George V.
The Wolfes are of an old and honourable line. Many hundreds of years ago their forefathers lived in England and later on in Wales. Later still, in the fifteenth century, before America was discovered, they were living in Ireland. Wolfe's father, however, was born in England; and, as there is no evidence that any of his ancestors in Ireland had married other than English Protestants, and as Wolfe's mother was also English, we may say that the victor of Quebec was a pure-bred Englishman. Among his Anglo-Irish kinsmen were the Goldsmiths and the Seymours. Oliver Goldsmith himself was always very proud of being a cousin of the man who took Quebec.
Wolfe's mother, to whom he owed a great deal of his genius; was a descendant of two good families in Yorkshire. She was eighteen years younger than his father, and was very tall and handsome. Wolfe thought there was no one like her. When he was a colonel, and had been through the wars and at court, he still believed she was 'a match for all the beauties.' He was not lucky enough to take after her in looks, except in her one weak feature, a cutaway chin. His body, indeed, seems to have been made up of the bad points of both parents: he had his rheumatism from his father. But his spirit was made up of all their good points; and no braver ever lived in any healthy body than in his own sickly, lanky six foot three.
Wolfe's parents went to live at Westerham in Kent shortly after they were married; and there, on January 2, 1727, in the vicarage—where Mrs Wolfe was staying while her husband was away on duty with his regiment—the victor of Quebec was born. Two other houses in the little country town of Westerham are full of memories of Wolfe. One of these was his father's, a house more than two hundred years old when he was born. It was built in the reign of Henry VII, and the loyal subject who built it had the king's coat of arms carved over the big stone fireplace. Here Wolfe and his younger brother Edward used to sit in the winter evenings with their mother, while their veteran father told them the story of his long campaigns. So, curiously enough, it appears that Wolfe, the soldier who won Canada for England in 1759, sat under the arms of the king in whose service the sailor Cabot hoisted the flag of England over Canadian soil in 1497. This house has been called Quebec House ever since the victory in 1759. The other house is Squerryes Court, belonging then and now to the Warde family, the Wolfes' closest friends. Wolfe and George Warde were chums from the first day they met. Both wished to go into the Army; and both, of course, 'played soldiers,' like other virile boys. Warde lived to be an old man and actually did become a famous cavalry leader. Perhaps when he charged a real enemy, sword in hand, at the head of thundering squadrons, it may have flashed through his mind how he and Wolfe had waved their whips and cheered like mad when they galloped their ponies down the common with nothing but their barking dogs behind them.
Wolfe's parents presently moved to Greenwich, where he was sent to school at Swinden's. Here he worked quietly enough till just before he entered on his 'teens. Then the long-pent rage of England suddenly burst in war with Spain. The people went wild when the British fleet took Porto Bello, a Spanish port in Central America. The news was cried through the streets all night. The noise of battle seemed to be sounding all round Swinden's school, where most of the boys belonged to naval and military families. Ships were fitting out in English harbours. Soldiers were marching into every English camp. Crowds were singing and cheering. First one boy's father and then another's was under orders for the front. Among them was Wolfe's father, who was made adjutant-general to the forces assembling in the Isle of Wight. What were history and geography and mathematics now, when a whole nation was afoot to fight! And who would not fight the Spaniards when they cut off British sailors' ears? That was an old tale by this time; but the flames of anger threw it into lurid relief once more.
Wolfe was determined to go and fight. Nothing could stop him. There was no commission for him as an officer. Never mind! He would go as a volunteer and win his commission in the field. So, one hot day in July 1740, the lanky, red-haired boy of thirteen-and-a-half took his seat on the Portsmouth coach beside his father, the veteran soldier of fifty-five. His mother was a woman of much too fine a spirit to grudge anything for the service of her country; but she could not help being exceptionally anxious about the dangers of disease for a sickly boy in a far-off land of pestilence and fever. She had written to him the very day he left. But he, full of the stir and excitement of a big camp, had carried the letter in his pocket for two or three days before answering it. Then he wrote her the first of many letters from different seats of war, the last one of all being written just before he won the victory that made him famous round the world.
Newport, Isle of Wight, August 6th, 1740.
I received my dearest Mamma's letter on Monday last, but could not answer it then, by reason I was at camp to see the regiments off to go on board, and was too late for the post; but am very sorry, dear Mamma, that you doubt my love, which I'm sure is as sincere as ever any son's was to his mother.
Papa and I are just going on board, but I believe shall not sail this fortnight; in which time, if I can get ashore at Portsmouth or any other town, I will certainly write to you, and, when we are gone, by every ship we meet, because I know it is my duty. Besides, if it is not, I would do it out of love, with pleasure.
I am sorry to hear that your head is so bad, which I fear is caused by your being so melancholy; but pray, dear Mamma, if you love me, don't give yourself up to fears for us. I hope, if it please God, we shall soon see one another, which will be the happiest day that ever I shall see. I will, as sure as I live, if it is possible for me, let you know everything that has happened, by every ship; therefore pray, dearest Mamma, don't doubt about it. I am in a very good state of health, and am likely to continue so. Pray my love to my brother. Pray my service to Mr Streton and his family, to Mr and Mrs Weston, and to George Warde when you see him; and pray believe me to be, my dearest Mamma, your most dutiful, loving and affectionate son,
To Mrs. Wolfe, at her house in Greenwich, Kent.
Wolfe's 'very good state of health' was not 'likely to continue so,' either in camp or on board ship. A long peace had made the country indifferent to the welfare of the Army and Navy. Now men were suddenly being massed together in camps and fleets as if on Purpose to breed disease. Sanitation on a large scale, never having been practised in peace, could not be improvised in this hurried, though disastrously slow, preparation for a war. The ship in which Wolfe was to sail had been lying idle for years; and her pestilential bilge-water soon began to make the sailors and soldiers sicken and die. Most fortunately, Wolfe was among the first to take ill; and so he was sent home in time to save him from the fevers of Spanish America.
Wolfe was happy to see his mother again, to have his pony to ride and his dogs to play with. But, though he tried his best to stick to his lessons, his heart was wild for the war. He and George Warde used to go every day during the Christmas holidays behind the pigeon-house at Squerryes Court and practise with their swords and pistols. One day they stopped when they heard the post-horn blowing at the gate; and both of them became very much excited when George's father came out himself with a big official envelope marked 'On His Majesty's Service' and addressed to 'James Wolfe, Esquire.' Inside was a commission as second lieutenant in the Marines, signed by George II and dated at St James's Palace, November 3, 1741. Eighteen years later, when the fame of the conquest of Canada was the talk of the kingdom, the Wardes had a stone monument built to mark the spot where Wolfe was standing when the squire handed him his first commission. And there it is to-day; and on it are the verses ending,
This spot so sacred will forever claim A proud alliance with its hero's name.
Wolfe was at last an officer. But the Marines were not the corps for him. Their service companies were five thousand miles away, while war with France was breaking out much nearer home. So what was his delight at receiving another commission, on March 25, 1742, as an ensign in the 12th Regiment of Foot! He was now fifteen, an officer, a soldier born and bred, eager to serve his country, and just appointed to a regiment ordered to the front! Within a month an army such as no one had seen since the days of Marlborough had been assembled at Blackheath. Infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers, they were all there when King George II, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cumberland came down to review them. Little did anybody think that the tall, eager ensign carrying the colours of the 12th past His Majesty was the man who was to play the foremost part in winning Canada for the British crown.
THE YOUNG SOLDIER 1741-1748
Wolfe's short life may be divided into four periods, all easy to remember, because all are connected with the same number-seven. He was fourteen years a boy at home, with one attempt to be a soldier. This period lasted from 1727 to 1741. Then he was seven years a young officer in time of war, from 1741 to 1748. Then he served seven years more in time of peace, from 1748 to 1755. Lastly, he died in the middle, at the very climax, of the world-famous Seven Years' War, in 1759.
After the royal review at Blackheath in the spring of 1742 the army marched down to Deptford and embarked for Flanders. Wolfe was now off to the very places he had heard his father tell about again and again. The surly Flemings were still the same as when his father knew them. They hated their British allies almost as much as they hated their enemies. The long column of redcoats marched through a scowling mob of citizens, who meanly grudged a night's lodging to the very men coming there to fight for them. We may be sure that Wolfe thought little enough of such mean people as he stepped out with the colours flying above his head. The army halted at Ghent, an ancient city, famous for its trade and wealth, and defended by walls which had once resisted Marlborough.
At first there was a good deal to do and see; and George Warde was there too, as an officer in a cavalry regiment. But Warde had to march away; and Wolfe was left without any companion of his own age, to pass his spare time the best way he could. Like another famous soldier, Frederick the Great, who first won his fame in this very war, he was fond of music and took lessons on the flute. He also did his best to improve his French; and when Warde came back the two friends used to go to the French theatre. Wolfe put his French to other use as well, and read all the military books he could find time for. He always kept his kit ready to pack; so that he could have marched anywhere within two hours of receiving the order. And, though only a mere boy-officer, he began to learn the duties of an adjutant, so that he might be fit for promotion whenever the chance should come.
Months wore on and Wolfe was still at Ghent. He had made friends during his stay, and he tells his mother in September: 'This place is full of officers, and we never want company. I go to the play once or twice a week, and talk a little with the ladies, who are very civil and speak French.' Before Christmas it had been decided at home—where the war-worn father now was, after a horrible campaign at Cartagena—that Edward, the younger son, was also to be allowed to join the Army. Wolfe was delighted. 'My brother is much to be commended for the pains he takes to improve himself. I hope to see him soon in Flanders, when, in all probability, before next year is over, we may know something of our trade.' And so they did!
The two brothers marched for the Rhine early in 1743, both in the same regiment. James was now sixteen, Edward fifteen. The march was a terrible one for such delicate boys. The roads were ankle-deep in mud; the weather was vile; both food and water were very bad. Even the dauntless Wolfe had to confess to his mother that he was 'very much fatigued and out of order. I never come into quarters without aching hips and knees.' Edward, still more delicate, was sent off on a foraging party to find something for the regiment to eat. He wrote home to his father from Bonn on April 7: 'We can get nothing upon our march but eggs and bacon and sour bread. I have no bedding, nor can get it anywhere. We had a sad march last Monday in the morning. I was obliged to walk up to my knees in snow, though my brother and I have a horse between us. I have often lain upon straw, and should oftener, had I not known some French, which I find very useful; though I was obliged the other day to speak Latin for a good dinner. We send for everything we want to the priest.'
That summer, when the king arrived with his son the Duke of Cumberland, the British and Hanoverian army was reduced to 37,000 half-fed men. Worse still, the old general, Lord Stair, had led it into a very bad place. These 37,000 men were cooped up on the narrow side of the valley of the river Main, while a much larger French army was on the better side, holding bridges by which to cut them off and attack them while they were all clumped together. Stair tried to slip away in the night. But the French, hearing of this attempt, sent 12,000 men across the river to hold the place the British general was leaving, and 30,000 more, under the Duc de Gramont, to block the road at the place towards which he was evidently marching. At daylight the British and Hanoverians found themselves cut off, both front and rear, while a third French force was waiting to pounce on whichever end showed weakness first. The King of England, who was also Elector of Hanover, would be a great prize, and the French were eager to capture him. This was how the armies faced each other on the morning of June 27, 1743, at Dettingen, the last battlefield on which any king of England has fought in person, and the first for Wolfe.
The two young brothers were now about to see a big battle, like those of which their father used to tell them. Strangely enough, Amherst, the future commander-in-chief in America, under whom Wolfe served at Louisbourg, and the two men who succeeded Wolfe in command at Quebec —Monckton and Townshend—were also there. It is an awful moment for a young soldier, the one before his first great fight. And here were nearly a hundred thousand men, all in full view of each other, and all waiting for the word to begin. It was a beautiful day, and the sun shone down on a splendidly martial sight. There stood the British and Hanoverians, with wooded hills on their right, the river and the French on their left, the French in their rear, and the French very strongly posted on the rising ground straight in their front. The redcoats were in dense columns, their bayonets flashing and their colours waving defiance. Side by side with their own red cavalry were the black German cuirassiers, the blue German lancers, and the gaily dressed green and scarlet Hungarian hussars. The long white lines of the three French armies, varied with royal blue, encircled them on three sides. On the fourth were the leafy green hills.
Wolfe was acting as adjutant and helping the major. His regiment had neither colonel nor lieutenant-colonel with it that day; so he had plenty to do, riding up and down to see that all ranks understood the order that they were not to fire till they were close to the French and were given the word for a volley. He cast a glance at his brother, standing straight and proudly with the regimental colours that he himself had carried past the king at Blackheath the year before. He was not anxious about 'Ned'; he knew how all the Wolfes could fight. He was not anxious about himself; he was only too eager for the fray. A first battle tries every man, and few have not dry lips, tense nerves, and beating hearts at its approach. But the great anxiety of an officer going into action for the first time with untried men is for them and not for himself. The agony of wondering whether they will do well or not is worse, a thousand times, than what he fears for his own safety.
Presently the French gunners, in the centre of their position across the Main, lit their matches and, at a given signal, fired a salvo into the British rear. Most of the baggage wagons were there; and, as the shot and shell began to knock them over, the drivers were seized with a panic. Cutting the traces, these men galloped off up the hills and into the woods as hard as they could go. Now battery after battery began to thunder, and the fire grew hot all round. The king had been in the rear, as he did not wish to change the command on the eve of the battle. But, seeing the panic, he galloped through the whole of his army to show that he was going to fight beside his men. As he passed, and the men saw what he intended to do, they cheered and cheered, and took heart so boldly that it was hard work to keep them from rushing up the heights of Dettingen, where Gramont's 30,000 Frenchmen were waiting to shoot them down.
Across the river Marshal Noailles, the French commander-in-chief, saw the sudden stir in the British ranks, heard the roaring hurrahs, and supposed that his enemies were going to be fairly caught against Gramont in front. In this event he could finish their defeat himself by an overwhelming attack in flank. Both his own and Gramont's artillery now redoubled their fire, till the British could hardly stand it. But then, to the rage and despair of Noailles, Gramont's men, thinking the day was theirs, suddenly left their strong position and charged down on to the same level as the British, who were only too pleased to meet them there. The king, seeing what a happy turn things were taking, galloped along the front of his army, waving his sword and calling out, 'Now, boys! Now for the honour of England!' His horse, maddened by the din, plunged and reared, and would have run away with him, straight in among the French, if a young officer called Trapaud had not seized the reins. The king then dismounted and put himself at the head of his troops, where he remained fighting, sword in hand, till the battle was over.
Wolfe and his major rode along the line of their regiment for the last time. There was not a minute to lose. Down came the Royal Musketeers of France, full gallop, smash. through the Scots Fusiliers and into the line in rear, where most of them were unhorsed and killed. Next, both sides advanced their cavalry, but without advantage to either. Then, with a clear front once more, the main bodies of the French and British infantry rushed together for a fight to a finish. Nearly all of Wolfe's regiment were new to war and too excited to hold their fire. When they were within range, and had halted for a moment to steady the ranks, they brought their muskets down to the 'present.' The French fell flat on their faces and the bullets whistled harmlessly over them. Then they sprang to their feet and poured in a steady volley while the British were reloading. But the second British volley went home. When the two enemies closed on each other with the bayonet, like the meeting of two stormy seas, the British fought with such fury that the French ranks were broken. Soon the long white waves rolled back and the long red waves rolled forward. Dettingen was reached and the desperate fight was won.
Both the boy-officers wrote home, Edward to his mother; James to his father. Here is a part of Edward's letter:
My brother and self escaped in the engagement and, thank God, are as well as ever we were in our lives, after not only being cannonaded two hours and three-quarters, and fighting with small arms [muskets and bayonets] two hours and one-quarter, but lay the two following nights upon our arms; whilst it rained for about twenty hours in the same time, yet are ready and as capable to do the same again. The Duke of Cumberland behaved charmingly. Our regiment has got a great deal of honour, for we were in the middle of the first line, and in the greatest danger. My brother has wrote to my father and I believe has given him a small account of the battle, so I hope you will excuse it me.
A manly and soldier-like letter for a boy of fifteen! Wolfe's own is much longer and full of touches that show how cool and observant he was, even in his first battle and at the age of only sixteen. Here is some of it:
The Gens d'Armes, or Mousquetaires Gris, attacked the first line, composed of nine regiments of English foot, and four or five of Austrians, and some Hanoverians. But before they got to the second line, out of two hundred there were not forty living. These unhappy men were of the first families in France. Nothing, I believe, could be more rash than their undertaking. The third and last attack was made by the foot on both sides. We advanced towards one another; our men in high spirits, and very impatient for fighting, being elated with beating the French Horse, part of which advanced towards us; while the rest attacked our Horse, but were soon driven back by the great fire we gave them. The major and I (for we had neither colonel nor lieutenant-colonel), before they came near, were employed in begging and ordering the men not to fire at too great a distance, but to keep it till the enemy should come near us; but to little purpose. The whole fired when they thought they could reach them, which had like to have ruined us. However, we soon rallied again, and attacked them with great fury, which gained us a complete victory, and forced the enemy to retire in great haste. We got the sad news of the death of as good and brave a man as any amongst us, General Clayton. His death gave us all sorrow, so great was the opinion we had of him. He had, 'tis said, orders for pursuing the enemy, and if we had followed them, they would not have repassed the Main with half their number. Their loss is computed to be between six and seven thousand men, and ours three thousand. His Majesty was in the midst of the fight; and the duke behaved as bravely as a man could do. I had several times the honour of speaking with him just as the battle began and was often afraid of his being dashed to pieces by the cannon-balls. He gave his orders with a great deal of calmness and seemed quite unconcerned. The soldiers were in high delight to have him so near them. I sometimes thought I had lost poor Ned when I saw arms, legs, and heads beat off close by him. A horse I rid of the colonel's, at the first attack, was shot in one of his hinder legs and threw me; so I was obliged to do the duty of an adjutant all that and the next day on foot, in a pair of heavy boots. Three days after the battle I got the horse again, and he is almost well.
Shortly after Dettingen Wolfe was appointed adjutant and promoted to a lieutenancy. In the next year he was made a captain in the 4th Foot while his brother became a lieutenant in the 12th. After this they had very few chances of meeting; and Edward, who had caught a deadly chill, died alone in Flanders, not yet seventeen years old. Wolfe wrote home to his mother:
Poor Ned wanted nothing but the satisfaction of seeing his dearest friends to leave the world with the greatest tranquillity. It gives me many uneasy hours when I reflect on the possibility there was of my being with him before he died. God knows it was not apprehending the danger the poor fellow was in; and even that would not have hindered it had I received the physician's first letter. I know you won't be able to read this without shedding tears, as I do writing it. Though it is the custom of the army to sell the deceased's effects, I could not suffer it. We none of us want, and I thought the best way would be to bestow them on the deserving whom he had an esteem for in his lifetime. To his servant—the most honest and faithful man I ever knew—I gave all his clothes. I gave his horse to his friend Parry. I know he loved Parry; and for that reason the horse will be taken care of. His other horse I keep myself. I have his watch, sash, gorget, books, and maps, which I shall preserve to his memory. He was an honest and good lad, had lived very well, and always discharged his duty with the cheerfulness becoming a good officer. He lived and died as a son of you two should. There was no part of his life that makes him dearer to me than what you so often mentioned—he pined after me.
It was this pining to follow Wolfe to the wars that cost poor Ned his life. But did not Wolfe himself pine to follow his father?
The next year, 1745, the Young Pretender, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie,' raised the Highland clans on behalf of his father, won several battles, and invaded England, in the hope of putting the Hanoverian Georges off the throne of Great Britain and regaining it for the exiled Stuarts. The Duke of Cumberland was sent to crush him; and with the duke went Wolfe. Prince Charlie's army retreated and was at last brought to bay on Culloden Moor, six miles from Inverness. The Highlanders were not in good spirits after their long retreat before the duke's army, which enjoyed an immense advantage in having a fleet following it along the coast with plenty of provisions, while the prince's wretched army was half starved. We may be sure the lesson was not lost on Wolfe. Nobody understood better than he that the fleet is the first thing to consider in every British war. And nobody saw a better example of this than he did afterwards in Canada.
At daybreak on April 16, 1746, the Highlanders found the duke's army marching towards Inverness, and drew up in order to prevent it. Both armies halted, each hoping the other would make the mistake of charging. At last, about one o'clock, the Highlanders in the centre and right could be held back no longer. So eager were they to get at the redcoats that most of them threw down their muskets without even firing them, and then rushed on furiously, sword in hand. ''Twas for a time,' said Wolfe, 'a dispute between the swords and bayonets, but the latter was found by far the most destructable [sic] weapon.' No quarter was given or taken on either side during an hour of desperate fighting hand to hand. By that time the steady ranks of the redcoats, aided by the cavalry, had killed five times as many as they had lost by the wild slashing of the claymores. The Highlanders turned and fled. The Stuart cause was lost for ever.
Again another year of fighting: this time in Holland, where the British, Dutch, and Austrians under the Duke of Cumberland met the French at the village of Laffeldt, on June 21, 1747. Wolfe was now a brigade-major, which gave him the same sort of position in a brigade of three battalions as an adjutant has in a single one; that is, he was a smart junior officer picked out to help the brigadier in command by seeing that orders were obeyed. The fight was furious. As fast as the British infantry drove back one French brigade another came forward and drove the British back. The village was taken and lost, lost and taken, over and over again. Wolfe, though wounded, kept up the fight. At last a new French brigade charged in and swept the British out altogether. Then the duke ordered the Dutch and Austrians to advance: But the Dutch cavalry, right in the centre, were seized with a sudden panic and galloped back, knocking over their own men on the way, and making a gap that certainly looked fatal. But the right man was ready to fill it. This was Sir John Ligonier, afterwards commander-in-chief of the British Army at the time of Wolfe's campaigns in Canada. He led the few British and Austrian cavalry, among them the famous Scots Greys, straight into the gap and on against the dense masses of the French beyond. These gallant horsemen were doomed; and of course they knew it when they dashed themselves to death against such overwhelming odds. But they gained the few precious moments that were needed. The gap closed up behind them; and the army was saved, though they were lost.
During the day Wolfe was several times in great danger. He was thanked by the duke in person for the splendid way in which he had done his duty. The royal favour, however, did not make him forget the gallant conduct of his faithful servant, Roland: 'He came to me at the hazard of his life with offers of his service, took off my cloak and brought a fresh horse; and would have continued close by me had I not ordered him to retire. I believe he was slightly wounded just at that time. Many a time has he pitched my tent and made the bed ready to receive me, half-dead with fatigue.' Nor did Wolfe forget his dumb friends: 'I have sold my poor little gray mare. I lamed her by accident, and thought it better to dismiss her the service immediately. I grieved at parting with so faithful a servant, and have the comfort to know she is in good hands, will be very well fed, and taken care of in her latter days.'
After recovering from a slight wound received at Laffeldt Wolfe was allowed to return to England, where he remained for the winter. On the morrow of New Year's Day, 1748, he celebrated his coming of age at his father's town house in Old Burlington Street, London. In the spring, however, he was ordered to rejoin the army, and was stationed with the troops who were guarding the Dutch frontier. The war came to an end in the same year, and Wolfe went home. Though then only twenty-one, he was already an experienced soldier, a rising officer, and a marked man.
THE SEVEN YEARS' PEACE 1748-1755
Wolfe was made welcome in England wherever he went. In spite of his youth his name was well known to the chief men in the Army, and he was already a hero among the friends of his family. By nature he was fond of the society of ladies, and of course he fell in love. He had had a few flirtations before, like most other soldiers; but this time the case was serious. The difference was the same as between a sham fight and a battle. His choice fell on Elizabeth Lawson, a maid of honour to the Princess of Wales. The oftener he saw her the more he fell in love with her. But the course of true love did not, as we shall presently see, run any more smoothly for him than it has for many another famous man.
In 1749, when Wolfe was only twenty-two, he was promoted major of the 20th Regiment of Foot. He joined it in Scotland, where he was to serve for the next few years. At first he was not very happy in Glasgow. He did not like the people, as they were very different from the friends with whom he had grown up. Yet his loneliness only added to his zeal for study. He had left school when still very young, and he now found himself ignorant of much that he wished to know. As a man of the world he had found plenty of gaps in his general knowledge. Writing to his friend Captain Rickson, he says: 'When a man leaves his studies at fifteen, he will never be justly called a man of letters. I am endeavouring to repair the damages of my education, and have a person to teach me Latin and mathematics.' From his experience in his own profession, also, he had learned a good deal. In a letter to his father he points out what excellent chances soldiers have to see the vivid side of many things: 'That variety incident to a military life gives our profession some advantages over those of a more even nature. We have all our passions and affections aroused and exercised, many of which must have wanted their proper employment had not suitable occasions obliged us to exert them. Few men know their own courage till danger proves them, or how far the love of honour or dread of shame are superior to the love of life. This is a knowledge to be best acquired in an army; our actions are there in presence of the world, to be fully censured or approved.'
Great commanders are always keen to learn everything really worth while. It is only the little men who find it a bore. Of course, there are plenty of little men in a regiment, as there are everywhere else in the world; and some of the officers were afraid Wolfe would insist on their doing as he did. But he never preached. He only set the example, and those who had the sense could follow it. One of his captains wrote home: 'Our acting colonel here is a paragon. He neither drinks, curses, nor gambles. So we make him our pattern.' After a year with him the officers found him a 'jolly good fellow' as well as a pattern; and when he became their lieutenant-colonel at twenty-three they gave him a dinner that showed he was a prime favourite among them. He was certainly quite as popular with the men. Indeed, he soon became known by a name which speaks for itself—'the soldier's' friend.'
By and by Wolfe's regiment marched into the Highlands, where he had fought against Prince Charlie in the '45. But he kept in touch with what was going on in the world outside. He wrote to Rickson at Halifax, to find out for him all he could about the French and British colonies in America. In the same letter, written in 1751, he said he should like to see some Highland soldiers raised for the king's army and sent out there to fight. Eight years later he was to have a Highland regiment among his own army at Quebec. Other themes filled the letters to his mother. Perhaps he was thinking of Miss Lawson when he wrote: 'I have a certain turn of mind that favours matrimony prodigiously. I love children. Two or three manly sons are a present to the world, and the father that offers them sees with satisfaction that he is to live in his successors.' He was thinking more gravely of a still higher thing when he wrote on his twenty-fifth birthday, January 2, 1752, to reassure his mother about the strength of his religion.
Later on in the year, having secured leave of absence, he wrote to his mother in the best of spirits. He asked her to look after all the little things he wished to have done. 'Mr Pattison sends a pointer to Blackheath; if you will order him to be tied up in your stable, it will oblige me much. If you hear of a servant who can dress a wig it will be a favour done me to engage him. I have another favour to beg of you and you'll think it an odd one: 'tis to order some currant jelly to be made in a crock for my use. It is the custom in Scotland to eat it in the morning with bread.' Then he proposed to have a shooting-lodge in the Highlands, long before any other Englishman seems to have thought of what is now so common. 'You know what a whimsical sort of person I am. Nothing pleases me now but hunting, shooting, and fishing. I have distant notions of taking a very little house, remote upon the edge of the forest, merely for sport.'
In July he left the Highlands, which were then, in some ways, as wild as Labrador is now. About this time there was a map made by a Frenchman in Paris which gave all the chief places in the Lowlands quite rightly, but left the north of Scotland blank, with the words 'Unknown land here, inhabited by the "Iglandaires"!' When his leave began Wolfe went first to Dublin—'dear, dirty Dublin,' as it used to be called—where his uncle, Major Walter Wolfe, was living. He wrote to his father: 'The streets are crowded with people of a large size and well limbed, and the women very handsome. They have clearer skins, and fairer complexions than the women in England or Scotland, and are exceeding straight and well made'; which shows that he had the proper soldier's eye for every pretty girl. Then he went to London and visited his parents in their new house at the corner of Greenwich Park, which stands to-day very much the same as it was then. But, wishing to travel, he succeeded, after a great deal of trouble, in getting leave to go to Paris. Lord Bury was a friend of his, and Lord Bury's father, the Earl of Albemarle, was the British ambassador there. So he had a good chance of seeing the best of everything. Perhaps it would be almost as true to say that he had as good a chance of seeing the worst of everything. For there were a great many corrupt and corrupting men and women at the French court. There was also much misery in France, and both the corruption and the misery were soon to trouble New France, as Canada was then called, even more than they troubled Old France at home.
Wolfe wished to travel about freely, to see the French armies at work, and then to go on to Prussia to see how Frederick the Great managed his perfectly disciplined army. This would have been an excellent thing to do. But it was then a very new thing for an officer to ask leave to study foreign armies. Moreover, the chief men in the British Army did not like the idea of letting such a good colonel go away from his regiment for a year, even though he was going with the object of making himself a still better officer. Perhaps, too, his friends were just a little afraid that he might join the Prussians or the Austrians; for it was not, in those days, a very strange thing to join the army of a friendly foreign country. Whatever the reason, the long leave was refused and he went no farther than Paris.
Louis XV was then at the height of his apparent greatness; and France was a great country, as it is still. But king and government were both corrupt. Wolfe saw this well enough and remembered it when the next war broke out. There was a brilliant society in 'the capital of civilization,' as the people of Paris proudly called their city; and there was a great deal to see. Nor was all of it bad. He wrote home two days after his arrival.
The packet [ferry] did not sail that night, but we embarked at half-an-hour after six in the morning and got into Calais at ten. I never suffered so much in so short a time at sea. The people [in Paris] seem to be very sprightly. The buildings are very magnificent, far surpassing any we have in London. Mr Selwin has recommended a French master to me, and in a few days I begin to ride in the Academy, but must dance and fence in my own lodgings. Lord Albemarle [the British ambassador] is come from Fontainebleau. I have very good reason to be pleased with the reception I met with. The best amusement for strangers in Paris is the Opera, and the next is the playhouse. The theatre is a school to acquire the French language, for which reason I frequent it more than the other.
In Paris he met young Philip Stanhope, the boy to whom the Earl of Chesterfield wrote his celebrated letters; 'but,' says Wolfe, 'I fancy he is infinitely inferior to his father.' Keeping fit, as we call it nowadays, seems to have been Wolfe's first object. He took the same care of himself as the Japanese officers did in the Russo-Japanese War; and for the same reason, that he might be the better able to serve his country well the next time she needed him. Writing to his mother he says:
I am up every morning at or before seven and fully employed till twelve. Then I dress and visit, and dine at two. At five most people go to the public entertainments, which keep you till nine; and at eleven I am always in bed. This way of living is directly opposite to the practice of the place. But no constitution could go through all. Four or five days in the week I am up six hours before any other fine gentleman in Paris. I ride, fence, dance, and have a master to teach me French. I succeed much better in fencing and riding than in the art of dancing, for they suit my genius better; and I improve a little in French. I have no great acquaintance with the French women, nor am likely to have. It is almost impossible to introduce one's self among them without losing a great deal of money, which you know I can't afford; besides, these entertainments begin at the time I go to bed, and I have not health enough to sit up all night and work all day. The people here use umbrellas to defend them from the sun, and something of the same kind to secure them from the rain and snow. I wonder a practice so useful is not introduced into England.
While in Paris Wolfe was asked if he would care to be military tutor to the Duke of Richmond, or, if not, whether he knew of any good officer whom he could recommend. On this he named Guy Carleton, who became the young duke's tutor. Three men afterwards well known in Canada were thus brought together long before any of them became celebrated. The Duke of Richmond went into Wolfe's regiment. The next duke became a governor-general of Canada, as Guy Carleton had been before him. And Wolfe—well, he was Wolfe!
One day he was presented to King Louis, from whom, seven years later; he was to wrest Quebec. 'They were all very gracious as far as courtesies, bows, and smiles go, for the Bourbons seldom speak to anybody.' Then he was presented to the clever Marquise de Pompadour, whom he found having her hair done up in the way which is still known by her name to every woman in the world. It was the regular custom of that time for great ladies to receive their friends while the barbers were at work on their hair. 'She is extremely handsome and, by her conversation with the ambassador, I judge she must have a great deal of wit and understanding.' But it was her court intrigues and her shameless waste of money that helped to ruin France and Canada.
In the midst of all these gaieties Wolfe never forgot the mother whom he thought 'a match for all the beauties.' He sent her 'two black laced hoods and a vestale for the neck, such as the Queen of France wears.' Nor did he forget the much humbler people who looked upon him as 'the soldier's friend.' He tells his mother that his letters from Scotland have just arrived, and that 'the. women of the regiment take it into their heads to write to me sometimes.' Here is one of their letters, marked on the outside, 'The Petition of Anne White':
Collonnell,—Being a True Noble-hearted Pittyful gentleman and Officer your Worship will excuse these few Lines concerning ye husband of ye undersigned, Sergt. White, who not from his own fault is not behaving as Hee should towards me and his family, although good and faithfull till the middle of November last.
We may be sure 'Sergt. White' had to behave 'as Hee should' when Wolfe returned!
In April, to his intense disgust, Wolfe was again in Glasgow.
We are all sick, officers and soldiers. In two days we lost the skin off our faces with the sun, and the third were shivering in great coats. My cousin Goldsmith has sent me the finest young pointer that ever was seen; he eclipses Workie, and outdoes all. He sent me a fishing-rod and wheel at the same time, of his own workmanship. This, with a salmon-rod from my uncle Wat, your flies, and my own guns, put me in a condition to undertake the Highland sport. We have plays, we have concerts, we have balls, with dinners and suppers of the most execrable food upon earth, and wine that approaches to poison. The men of Glasgow drink till they are excessively drunk. The ladies are cold to everything but a bagpipe—I wrong them—there is not one that does not melt away at the sound of money.'
By the end of this year, however, he had left Scotland for good. He did not like the country as he saw it. But the times were greatly against his doing so. Glasgow was not at all a pleasant place in those narrowly provincial days for any one who had seen much of the world. The Highlands were as bad. They were full of angry Jacobites, who could never forgive the redcoats for defeating Prince Charlie. Yet Wolfe was not against the Scots as a whole; and we must never forget that he was the first to recommend the raising of those Highland regiments which have fought so nobly in every British war since the mighty one in which he fell.
During the next year and part of the year following, 1754-55, Wolfe was at Exeter, where the entertainments seem to have been more to his taste than those at Glasgow. A lady who knew him well at this time wrote: 'He was generally ambitious to gain a tall, graceful woman to be his partner, as well as a good dancer. He seemed emulous to display every kind of virtue and gallantry that would render him amiable.'
In 1755 the Seven Years' Peace was coming to an end in Europe. The shadow of the Seven Years' War was already falling darkly across the prospect in America. Though Wolfe did not leave for the front till 1757, he was constantly receiving orders to be ready, first for one place and then for another. So early as February 18, 1755, he wrote to his mother what he then thought might be a farewell letter. It is full of the great war; but personal affairs of the deeper kind were by no means forgotten. 'The success of our fleet in the beginning of the war is of the utmost importance.' 'It will be sufficient comfort to you both to reflect that the Power which has hitherto preserved me may, if it be His pleasure, continue to do so. If not, it is but a few days more or less, and those who perish in their duty and the service of their country die honourably.'
The end of this letter is in a lighter vein. But it is no less characteristic: it is all about his dogs. 'You are to have Flurry instead of Romp. The two puppies I must desire you to keep a little longer. I can't part with either of them, but must find good and secure quarters for them as well as for my friend Caesar, who has great merit and much good humour. I have given Sancho to Lord Howe, so that I am reduced to two spaniels and one pointer.' It is strange that in the many books about dogs which mention the great men who have been fond of them —and most great men are fond of dogs—not one says a word about Wolfe. Yet 'my friend Caesar, who has great merit and much good humour,' deserves to be remembered with his kind master just as much, in his way, as that other Caesar, the friend of Edward VII, who followed his master to the grave among the kings and princes of a mourning world.
THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR 1756-1763
Wolfe's Quebec campaign marked the supreme crisis of the greatest war the British Empire ever waged: the war, indeed, that made the Empire. To get a good, clear view of anything so vast, so complex, and so glorious, we must first look at the whole course of British history to see how it was that France and England ever became such deadly rivals. It is quite wrong to suppose that the French and British were always enemies, though they have often been called 'historic' and 'hereditary' foes, as if they never could make friends at all. As a matter of fact, they have had many more centuries of peace than of war; and ever since the battle of Waterloo, in 1815, they have been growing friendlier year by year. But this happy state of affairs is chiefly because, as we now say, their 'vital interests no longer clash'; that is, they do not both desire the same thing so keenly that they have to fight for it.
Their vital interests do not clash now. But they did clash twice in the course of their history. The first time was when both governments wished to rule the same parts of the land of France. The second time was when they both wished to rule the same parts of the oversea world. Each time there was a long series of wars, which went on inevitably until one side had completely driven its rival from the field.
The first long series of wars took place chiefly in the fourteenth century and is known to history as the Hundred Years' War. England held, and was determined to hold, certain parts of France. France was determined never to rest till she had won them for herself. Whatever other things the two nations were supposed to be fighting about, this was always the one cause of strife that never changed and never could change till one side or other had definitely triumphed. France won. There were glorious English victories at Cressy and Agincourt. Edward III and Henry V were two of the greatest soldiers of any age. But, though the English often won the battles, the French won the war. The French had many more men, they fought near their own homes, and, most important of all, the war was waged chiefly on land. The English had fewer men, they fought far away from their homes, and their ships could not help them much in the middle of the land, except by bringing over soldiers and food to the nearest coast. The end of it all was that the English armies were worn out; and the French armies, always able to raise more and more fresh men, drove them, step by step, out of the land completely.
The second long series of wars took place chiefly in the eighteenth century. These wars have never been given one general name; but they should be called the Second Hundred Years' War, because that is what they really were. They were very different from the wars that made up the first Hundred Years' War, because this time the fight was for oversea dominions, not for land in Europe. Of course navies had a good deal to do with the first Hundred Years' War and armies with the second. But the navies were even more important in the second than the armies in the first. The Second Hundred Years' War, the one in which Wolfe did such a mighty deed, began with the fall of the Stuart kings of England in 1688 and went on till the battle of Waterloo in 1815. But the beginning and end that meant most to the Empire were the naval battles of La Hogue in 1692 and Trafalgar in 1805. Since Trafalgar the Empire has been able to keep what it had won before, and to go on growing as well, because all its different parts are joined together by the sea, and because the British Navy has been, from that day to this, stronger than any other navy in the world.
How the French and British armies and navies fought on opposite sides, either alone or with allies, all over the world, from time to time, for these hundred and twenty-seven years; how all the eight wars with different names formed one long Second Hundred Years' War; and how the British Navy was the principal force that won the whole of this war, made the Empire, and gave Canada safety then, as it gives her safety now—all this is much too long a story to tell here. But the gist of it may be told in a very few words, at least in so far as it concerns the winning of Canada and the deeds of Wolfe.
The name 'Greater Britain' is often used to describe all the parts of the British Empire which lie outside of the old mother country. This 'Greater Britain' is now so vast and well established that we are apt to forget those other empires beyond the seas which, each in its own day, surpassed the British Empire of the same period. There was a Greater Portugal, a Greater Spain, a Greater Holland, and a Greater France. France and Holland still have large oversea possessions; and a whole new-world continent still speaks the languages of Spain and Portugal. But none of them has kept a growing empire oversea as their British rival has. What made the difference? The two things that made all the difference in the world were freedom and sea-power. We cannot stop to discuss freedom, because that is more the affair of statesmen; but, at the same time, we must not forget that the side on which Wolfe fought was the side of freedom. The point for us to notice here is that all the freedom and all the statesmen and all the soldiers put together could never have made a Greater Britain, especially against all those other rivals, unless Wolfe's side had also been the side of sea-power.
Now, sea-power means more than fighting power at sea; it means trading power as well. But a nation cannot trade across the sea against its rivals if its own ships are captured and theirs are not. And long before the Second Hundred Years' War with France the other sea-trading empires had been gradually giving way, because in time of war their ships were always in greater danger than those of the British were. After the English Navy had defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 the Spaniards began, slowly but surely, to lose their chance of making a permanent Greater Spain. After the great Dutch War, when Blake defeated Van Tromp in 1653, there was no further chance of a permanent Greater Holland. And, even before the Dutch War and the Armada, the Portuguese, who had once ruled the Indian Ocean and who had conquered Brazil, were themselves conquered by Spain and shut out from all chance of establishing a Greater Portugal.
So the one supreme point to be decided by the Second Hundred Years' War lay between only two rivals, France and Britain. Was there to be a Greater France or a Greater Britain across the seas? The answer depended on the rival navies. Of course, it involved many other elements of national and Imperial power on both sides. But no other elements of power could have possibly prevailed against a hostile and triumphant navy.
Everything that went to make a Greater France or a Greater Britain had to cross the sea—men, women, and children, horses and cattle, all the various appliances a civilized people must take with them when they settle in a new country. Every time there was war there were battles at sea, and these battles were nearly always won by the British. Every British victory at sea made it harder for French trade, because every ship between France and Greater France ran more risk o being taken, while every ship between Britain and Greater Britain stood a better chance of getting safely through. This affected everything on both competing sides in America. British business went on. French business almost stopped dead. Even the trade with the Indians living a thousand miles inland was changed in favour of the British and against the French, as all the guns and knives and beads and everything else that the white man offered to the Indian in exchange for his furs had to come across the sea, which was just like an enemy's country to every French ship, but just like her own to every British one. Thus the victors at sea grew continually stronger in America, while the losers grew correspondingly weaker. When peace came, the French only had time enough to build new ships and start their trade again before the next war set them back once more; while the British had nearly all their old ships, all those they had taken from the French, and many new ones.
But where did Wolfe come in? He came in at the most important time and place of all, and he did the most important single deed of all. This brings us to the consideration of how the whole of the Second Hundred Years' War was won, not by the British Navy alone, much less by the Army alone, but by the united service of both, fighting like the two arms of one body, the Navy being the right arm and the Army the left. The heart of this whole Second Hundred Years' War was the Seven Years' War; the British part of the Seven Years' War was then called the 'Maritime War'; and the heart of the 'Maritime War' was the winning of Canada, in which the decisive blow was dealt by Wolfe.
We shall see presently how Navy and Army worked together as a united service in 'joint expeditions' by sea and land, how Wolfe took part in two other joint expeditions before he commanded the land force of the one at Quebec, and how the mighty empire-making statesman, William Pitt, won the day for Britain and for Greater Britain, with Lord Anson at the head of the Navy to help him, and Saunders in command at the front. It was thus that the age-long vexed question of a Greater France or a Greater Britain in America was finally decided by the sword. The conquering sword was that of the British Empire as a whole. But the hand that wielded it was Pitt; the hilt was Anson, the blade was Saunders, and the point was Wolfe.
In 1755 Wolfe was already writing what he thought were farewell letters before going off to the war. And that very year the war, though not formally declared till the next, actually did break out in America, where a British army under Braddock, with Washington as his aide-de-camp, was beaten in Ohio by the French and Indians. Next year the French, owing to the failure of Admiral Byng and the British fleet to assist the garrison, were able to capture Minorca in the Mediterranean; while their new general in Canada, Montcalm, Wolfe's great opponent, took Oswego. The triumph of the French fleet at Minorca made the British people furious. Byng was court-martialled, found guilty of failure to do his utmost to save Minorca, and condemned to death. In spite of Pitt's efforts to save him, the sentence was carried out and he was shot on the quarter-deck of his own flagship. Two other admirals, Hawke and Saunders, both of whom were soon to see service with Wolfe, were then sent out as a 'cargo of courage' to retrieve the British position at sea. By this time preparations were being hurried forward on every hand. Fleets were fitting out. Armies were mustering. And, best of all, Pitt was just beginning to make his influence felt.
In 1757, the third year of war, things still went badly for the British at the front. In America Montcalm took Fort William Henry, and a British fleet and army failed to accomplish anything against Louisbourg. In Europe another British fleet and army were fitted out to go on another joint expedition, this time against Rochefort, a great seaport in the west of France. The senior staff officer, next to the three generals in command, was Wolfe, now thirty years of age. The admiral in charge of the fleet was Hawke, as famous a fighter as Wolfe himself. A little later, when both these great men were known throughout the whole United Service, as well as among the millions in Britain and in Greater Britain, their names were coupled in countless punning toasts, and patriots from Canada to Calcutta would stand up to drink a health to 'the eye of a Hawke and the heart of a Wolfe.' But Wolfe was not a general yet; and the three pottering old men who were generals at Rochefort could not make up their minds to do anything but talk. These generals had been ordered to take Rochefort by complete surprise. But after spending five days in front of it, so that every Frenchman could see what they had come for, they decided to countermand the attack and sail home.
Wolfe was a very angry and disgusted man. Yet, though this joint expedition was a disgraceful failure, he had learned some useful lessons, which he was presently to turn to good account. He saw, at least, what such expeditions should not attempt; and that a general should act boldly, though wisely, with the fleet. More than this, he had himself made a plan which his generals were too timid to carry out; and this plan was so good that Pitt, now in supreme control for the next four years, made a note of it and marked him down for promotion and command.
Both came sooner than any one could have expected. Pitt was sick of fleets and armies that did nothing but hold councils of war and then come back to say that the enemy could not be safely attacked. He made up his mind to send out real fighters with the next joint expedition. So in 1758 he appointed Wolfe as the junior of the three brigadier-generals under Amherst, who was to join Admiral Boscawen—nicknamed 'Old Dreadnought'—in a great expedition meant to take Louisbourg for good and all.
Louisbourg was the greatest fortress in America. It was in the extreme east of Canada, on the island of Cape Breton, near the best fishing-grounds, and on the flank of the ship channel into the St Lawrence. A fortress there, in which French fleets could shelter safely, was like a shield for New France and a sword against New England. In 1745, just before the outbreak of the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, an army of New Englanders under Sir William Pepperrell, with the assistance of Commodore Warren's fleet, had taken this fortress. But at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, when Wolfe had just come of age, it was given back to France.
Ten years later, when Wolfe went out to join the second army that was sent against it, the situation was extremely critical. Both French and British strained every nerve, the one to hold, the other to take, the greatest fortress in America. A French fleet sailed from Brest in the spring and arrived safely. But it was not nearly strong enough to attempt a sea-fight off Louisbourg, and three smaller fleets that were meant to join it were all smashed up off the coast of France by the British, who thus knew, before beginning the siege, that Louisbourg could hardly expect any help from outside. Hawke was one of the British smashers this year. The next year he smashed up a much greater force in Quiberon Bay, and so made 'the eye of a Hawke and the heart of a Wolfe' work together again, though they were thousands of miles apart and one directed a fleet while the other inspired an army.
The fortress of Louisbourg was built beside a fine harbour with an entrance still further defended by a fortified island. It was garrisoned by about four thousand four hundred soldiers. Some of these were hired Germans, who cared nothing for the French; and the French-Canadian and Indian irregulars were not of much use at a regular siege. The British admiral Boscawen had a large fleet, and General Amherst an army twelve thousand strong. Taking everything into account, by land and sea, the British united service at the siege was quite three times as strong as the French united service. But the French ships, manned by three thousand sailors, were in a good harbour, and they and the soldiers were defended by thick walls with many guns. Besides, the whole defence was conducted by Drucour, as gallant a leader as ever drew sword.
Boscawen was chosen by Pitt for the same reason as Wolfe had been, because he was a fighter. He earned his nickname of 'Old Dreadnought' from the answer he made one night in the English Channel when the officer of the watch called him to say that two big French ships were bearing down on his single British one. 'What are we to do, sir?' asked the officer. 'Do?' shouted Boscawen, springing out of his berth, 'Do?—Why, damn 'em, fight 'em, of course!' And they did. Amherst was the slow-and-sure kind of general; but he had the sense to know a good man when he saw one, and to give Wolfe the chance of trying his own quick-and-sure way instead.
A portion of the British fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy had been cruising off Louisbourg for some time before Boscawen's squadron hove in sight on June 2. This squadron was followed by more than twice its own number of ships carrying the army. All together, there were a hundred and fifty-seven British vessels, besides Hardy's covering squadron. Of course, the men could not be landed under the fire of the fortress. But two miles south of it, and running westward from it for many miles more, was Gabarus Bay with an open beach. For several days the Atlantic waves dashed against the shore so furiously that no boat could live through their breakers. But on the eighth the three brigades of infantry made for three different points, [Footnote: White Point, Flat Point, and Kennington Cove. See the accompanying Map of the siege.] respectively two, three, and four miles from the fortress. The French sent out half the garrison to shoot down the first boatloads that came in on the rollers. To cover the landing, some of Boscawen's ships moved in as close as they could and threw shells inshore: but without dislodging the enemy.
Each of the three brigades had its own flag—one red, another blue, and the third white. Wolfe's brigade was the red, the one farthest west from Louisbourg, and Wolfe's did the fighting. While the boats rose and fell on the gigantic rollers and the enemy's cannon roared and the waves broke in thunder on the beach, Wolfe was standing up in the stern-sheets, scanning every inch of the ground to see if there was no place where a few men could get a footing and keep it till the rest had landed. He had first-rate soldiers with him: grenadiers, Highlanders, and light infantry.
The boats were now close in, and the French were firing cannon and muskets into them right and left. One cannon-ball whizzed across Wolfe's own boat and smashed his flagstaff to splinters. Just then three young light infantry officers saw a high ledge of rocks, under shelter of which a few men could form up. Wolfe, directing every movement with his cane, like Gordon in China a century later, shouted to the others to follow them; and then, amid the crash of artillery and the wild welter of the surf, though many boats were smashed and others upset, though some men were shot and others drowned, the landing was securely made. 'Who were the first ashore?' asked Wolfe, as the men were forming up under the ledge. Two Highlanders were pointed out. 'Good fellows!' he said, as he went up to them and handed each a guinea.
While the ranks were forming on the beach, the French were firing into them and men were dropping fast. But every gap was closed as soon as it was made. Directly Wolfe saw he had enough men he sprang to the front; whereupon they all charged after him, straight at the batteries on the crest of the rising shore. Here there was some wild work for a minute or two, with swords, bayonets, and muskets all hard at it. But the French now saw, to their dismay, that thousands of other redcoats were clambering ashore, nearer in to Louisbourg, and that these men would cut them off if they waited a moment longer. So they turned and ran, hotly pursued, till they were safe in under the guns of the fortress. A deluge of shot and shell immediately belched forth against the pursuing British, who wisely halted just out of range.
After this exciting commencement Amherst's guns, shot, shell, powder, stores, food, tents, and a thousand other things had all to be landed on the surf-lashed, open beach. It was the sailors' stupendous task to haul the whole of this cumbrous material up to the camp. The bluejackets, however, were not the only ones to take part in the work, for the ships' women also turned to, with the best of a gallant goodwill. In a few days all the material was landed; and Amherst, having formed his camp, sat down to conduct the siege.
Louisbourg harbour faces east, runs in westward nearly a mile, and is over two miles from north to south. The north and south points, however, on either side of its entrance, are only a mile apart. On the south point stood the fortress; on the north the lighthouse; and between were several islands, rocks, and bars that narrowed the entrance for ships to only three cables, or a little more than six hundred yards. Wolfe saw that the north point, where the lighthouse stood, was undefended, and might be seized and used as a British battery to smash up the French batteries on Goat Island at the harbour mouth. Acting on this idea, he marched with twelve hundred men across the stretch of country between the British camp and the lighthouse. The fleet brought round his guns and stores and all other necessaries by sea. A tremendous bombardment then silenced every French gun on Goat Island. This left the French nothing for their defence but the walls of Louisbourg itself.
Both French and British soon realized that the fall of Louisbourg was only a question of time. But time was everything to both. The British were anxious to take Louisbourg and then sail up to Quebec and take it by a sudden attack while Montcalm was engaged in fighting Abercromby's army on Lake Champlain. The French, of course, were anxious to hold out long enough to prevent this; and Drucour, their commandant at Louisbourg, was just the man for their purpose. His wife, too, was as brave as he. She used to go round the batteries cheering up the gunners, and paying no more attention to the British shot and shell than if they had been only fireworks. On June 18, just before Wolfe's lighthouse batteries were ready to open fire, Madame Drucour set sail in the venturesome Echo, a little French man-of-war that was making a dash for it, in the hope of carrying the news to Quebec. But after a gallant fight the Echo had to haul down her colours to the Juno and the Sutherland. We shall hear more of the Sutherland at the supreme moment of Wolfe's career.
Nothing French, not even a single man, could now get into or out of Louisbourg. But Drucour still kept the flag up, and sent out parties at night to harass his assailants. One of these surprised a British post, killed Lord Dundonald who commanded it, and retired safely after being almost cut off by British reinforcements. Though Wolfe had silenced the island batteries and left the entrance open enough for Boscawen to sail in, the admiral hesitated because he thought he might lose too many ships by risking it. Then the French promptly sank some of their own ships at the entrance to keep him out. But six hundred British sailors rowed in at night and boarded and took the only two ships remaining afloat. The others had been blown up a month before by British shells fired by naval gunners from Amherst's batteries. Drucour was now in a terrible, plight. Not a ship was left. He was completely cut off by land and sea. Many of his garrison were dead, many more were lying sick or wounded. His foreigners were ready for desertion. His French Canadians had grown down-hearted. All the non-combatants wished him to surrender at once. What else could he do but give in? On July 27 he hauled down the fleurs-de-lis from the great fortress. But he had gained his secondary object; for it was now much too late in the year for the same British force to begin a new campaign against Quebec.
Wolfe, like Nelson and Napoleon, was never content to 'let well enough alone,' if anything better could possibly be done. When the news came of Montcalm's great victory over Abercromby at Ticonderoga, he told Amherst he was ready to march inland at once with reinforcements. And after Louisbourg had surrendered and Boscawen had said it was too late to start for Quebec, he again volunteered to do any further service that Amherst required. The service he was sent on was the soldier's most disgusting duty; but he did it thoroughly, though he would have preferred anything else. He went with Hardy's squadron to destroy the French settlements along the Gulf of St Lawrence, so as to cut off their supplies from the French in Quebec before the next campaign.
After Rochefort Wolfe had become a marked man. After Louisbourg he became an Imperial hero. The only other the Army had yet produced in this war was Lord Howe, who had been killed in a skirmish just before Ticonderoga. Wolfe knew Howe well, admired him exceedingly, and called him 'the noblest Englishman that has appeared in my time, and the best soldier in the army.' He would have served under him gladly. But Howe—young, ardent, gallant, yet profound—was dead; and the hopes of discerning judges were centred on Wolfe. The war had not been going well, and this victory at Louisbourg was the first that the British people could really rejoice over with all their heart.
The British colonies went wild with delight. Halifax had a state ball, at which Wolfe danced to his heart's content; while his unofficial partners thought themselves the luckiest girls in all America to be asked by the hero of Louisbourg. Boston and Philadelphia had large bonfires and many fireworks. The chief people of New York attended a gala dinner. Every church had special thanksgivings.
In England the excitement was just as great, and Wolfe's name and fame flew from lip to lip all over the country. Parliament passed special votes of thanks. Medals were struck to celebrate the event. The king stood on his palace steps to receive the captured colours, which were carried through London in triumph by the Guards and the Household Brigade. And Pitt, the greatest—and, in a certain sense, the only—British statesman who has ever managed people, parliament, government, navy, and army, all together, in a world-wide Imperial war—Pitt, the eagle-eyed and lion-hearted, at once marked Wolfe down again for higher promotion and, this time, for the command of an army of his own. And ever since the Empire Year of 1759 the world has known that Pitt was right.
In October 1758 Wolfe sailed from Halifax for England with Boscawen and very nearly saw a naval battle off Land's End with the French fleet returning to France from Quebec. The enemy, however, slipped away in the dark. On November 1 he landed at Portsmouth. He had been made full colonel of a new regiment, the 67th Foot (Hampshires), and before going home to London he set off to see it at Salisbury. [Footnote: Ten years later a Russian general saw this regiment at Minorca and was loud in his praise of its all-round excellence, when Wolfe's successor in the colonelcy, Sir James Campbell, at once said: 'The only merit due to me is the strictness with which I have followed the system introduced by the hero of Quebec.'] Wolfe's old regiment, the 20th (Lancashire Fusiliers), was now in Germany, fighting under the command of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, and was soon to win more laurels at Minden, the first of the three great British victories of 1759—Minden, Quebec, and Quiberon.
Though far from well, Wolfe was as keen as ever about anything that could possibly make him fit for command. He picked out the best officers with a sure eye: generals and colonels, like Carleton; captains; like Delaune, a man made for the campaigns in Canada, who, as we shall see later, led the 'Forlorn Hope' up the Heights of Abraham. Wolfe had also noted in a third member of the great Howe family a born leader of light infantry for Quebec. Wolfe was very strong on light infantry, and trained them to make sudden dashes with a very short but sharp surprise attack followed by a quick retreat under cover. One day at Louisbourg an officer said this reminded him of what Xenophon wrote about the Carduchians who harassed the rear of the world-famous 'Ten Thousand.' 'I had it from Xenophon' was Wolfe's reply. Like all great commanders, Wolfe knew what other great commanders had done and thought, no matter to what age or nation they belonged: Greek, Roman, German, French, British, or any other. Years before this he had recommended a young officer to study the Prussian Army Regulations and Vauban's book on Sieges. Nor did he forget to read the lives of men like Scanderbeg and Ziska, who could teach him many unusual lessons. He kept his eyes open everywhere, all his life long, on men and things and books. He recommended his friend. Captain Rickson, who was then in Halifax, to read Montesquieu's not yet famous book The Spirit of Laws, because it would be useful for a government official in a new country. Writing home to his mother from Louisbourg about this new country, that is, before Canada had become British, before there was much more than a single million of English-speaking people in the whole New World, and before most people on either side of the Atlantic understood what a great oversea empire meant at all, he said: 'This will sometime hence, be a vast empire, the seat of power and learning. Nature has refused them nothing, and there will grow a people out of our little spot, England, that will fill this vast space, and divide this great portion of the globe with the Spaniards, who are possessed of the other half of it.'
On arriving in England Wolfe had reported his presence to the commander-in-chief, Lord Ligonier, requesting leave of absence in order that he might visit his relatives. This was granted, and the Wolfe family met together once more and for the last time.
Though he said little about it, Wolfe must have snatched some time for Katherine Lowther, his second love, to whom he was now engaged. What had happened between him and his first love, Miss Lawson, will probably never be known. We know that his parents were opposed to his marrying her. Perhaps, too, she may not have been as much in love as he was. But, for whatever reason, they parted. Then he fell in love with beautiful Katherine Lowther, a sister to the Earl of Lonsdale and afterwards Duchess of Bolton.
Meanwhile Pitt was planning for his Empire Year of 1759, the year of Ferdinand at Minden, Wolfe at Quebec, and Hawke in Quiberon Bay. Before Pitt had taken the war in hand nearly everything had gone against the British. Though Clive had become the British hero of India in 1757, and Wolfe of Louisbourg in 1758, there had hitherto been more defeats than victories. Minorca had been lost in 1756; in America Braddock's army had been destroyed in 1755; and Montcalm had won victories at Oswego in 1756, at Fort William Henry in 1757, and at Ticonderoga in 1758. More than this, in 1759 the French were preparing fleets and armies to invade England, Ireland, and Scotland; and the British people were thinking rather of their own defence at home than of attacking the French abroad.
Pitt, however, rightly thought that vigorous attacks from the sea were the best means of defence at home. From London he looked out over the whole world: at France and her allies in the centre, at French India on his far left, and at French Canada on his far right; with the sea dividing his enemies and uniting his friends, if only he could hold its highways with the British Navy.
To carry out his plans Pitt sent a small army and a great deal of money to Frederick the Great, to help him in the middle of Europe against the Russians, Austrians, and French. At the same time he let Anson station fleets round the coast of France, so that no strong French force could get at Britain or Greater Britain, or go to help Greater France, without a fight at sea. Then, having cut off Canada from France and taken her outpost at Louisbourg, he aimed a death-blow at her very heart by sending Saunders, with a quarter of the whole British Navy, against Quebec, the stronghold of New France, where the land attack was to be made by a little army of 9,000 men under Wolfe. Even this was not the whole of Pitt's plan for the conquest of Canada. A smaller army was to be sent against the French on the Great Lakes, and a larger one, under Amherst, along the line of Lake Champlain, towards Montreal.
Pitt did a very bold thing when he took a young colonel and asked the king to make him a general and allow him to choose his own brigadiers and staff officers. It was a bold thing, because, whenever there is a position of honour to be given, the older men do not like being passed over and all the politicians who think of themselves first and their country afterwards wish to put in their own favourites. Wolfe, of course, had enemies. Dullards often think that men of genius are crazy, and some one had told the king that Wolfe was mad. 'Mad, is he?' said the king, remembering all the recent British defeats on land 'then I hope he'll bite some of my other generals!' Wolfe was not able to give any of his seniors his own and Lord Howe's kind of divine 'madness' during that war. But he did give a touch of it to many of his juniors; with the result that his Quebec army was better officered than any other British land force of the time.
The three brigadiers next in command to Wolfe—Monckton, Townshend, and Murray—were not chosen simply because they were all sons of peers, but because, like Howe and Boscawen, they were first-rate officers as well. Barre and Carleton were the two chief men on the staff. Each became celebrated in later days, Barre in parliament, and Carleton as both the saviour of Canada from the American attack in 1775 and the first British governor-general. Williamson, the best gunnery expert in the whole Army, commanded the artillery. The only troublesome officer was Townshend, who thought himself, and whose family and political friends thought him, at least as good a general as Wolfe, if not a better one. But even Townshend did his duty well. The army at Halifax was supposed to be twelve thousand, but its real strength was only nine thousand. The difference was mostly due to the ravages of scurvy and camp fever, both of which, in their turn, were due to the bad food supplied by rascally contractors. The action of the officers alone saved the situation from becoming desperate. Indeed, if it had not been for what the officers did for their men in the way of buying better food, at great cost, out of their own not well-filled pockets, there might have been no army at all to greet Wolfe on his arrival in America.
The fleet was the greatest that had ever sailed across the seas. It included one-quarter of the whole Royal Navy. There were 49 men-of-war manned by 14,000 sailors and marines. There were also more than 200 vessels— transports, store ships, provision ships, etc.—manned by about 7,000 merchant seamen. Thus there were at least twice as many sailors as soldiers at the taking of Quebec. Saunders was a most capable admiral. He had been flag-lieutenant during Anson's famous voyage round the world; then Hawke's best fighting captain during the war in which Wolfe was learning his work at Dettingen and Laffeldt; and then Hawke's second-in-command of the 'cargo of courage' sent out after Byng's disgrace at Minorca. After Quebec he crowned his fine career by being one of the best first lords of the Admiralty that ever ruled the Navy. Durell, his next in command, was slower than Amherst; and Amherst never made a short cut in his life, even to certain success. Holmes, the third admiral, was thoroughly efficient. Hood, a still better admiral than any of those at Quebec, afterwards served under Holmes, and Nelson under Hood; which links Trafalgar with Quebec. But a still closer link with 'mighty Nelson' was Jervis, who took charge of Wolfe's personal belongings at Quebec the night before the battle and many years later became Nelson's commander-in-chief. Another Quebec captain who afterwards became a great admiral was Hughes, famous for his fights in India. But the man whose subsequent fame in the world at large eclipsed that of any other in this fleet was Captain Cook, who made the first good charts of Canadian waters some years before he became a great explorer in the far Pacific.