had already burned more than a league and a half of country to the south
of Quebec, opposite Pointe-aux-Trembles. The motive which governed him
in proceeding to extremities, whose cruelty caused him much inward
self-reproach, arose from his dread of public opinion in England, where
an account was already being asked of the blood that had been uselessly
shed and the enormous cost of the expedition. He, therefore, resolved to
be at least able to say that he had left nothing but ruins behind him.
From this time on his hordes of rangers, supported by the Highlanders
and light infantry, swarmed over both sides of the St. Lawrence, torch
in hand. Their course could easily be followed by the clouds of smoke
which filled the air by day, and the sinister light at night which
proceeded from the lurid glow of burning houses, stables and barns. The
inhabitants withdrew to the upper borders of the parishes on mountains
and hills overlooking the woods, and viewed in despair the progress of
these devastations. Cries and lamentations broke out in one group after
another as they saw the flames burst from the roofs of their dwellings.
Montcalm was struck with pity for the militia of the most exposed
parishes. He organized nine different parties to follow and destroy the
incendiaries, many of whom never returned from their cruel mission. The
rangers, notwithstanding the injunctions of Wolfe, continued their
practice of scalping those who fell into their hands. All the parishes
of the Island of Orleans, those on the south shore opposite to it, those
of the Cote de Beauprd, from Montmorency Falls to Cap Tourmente, all the
settlements about the coast of Baie St. Paul, and the opposite ones on
the south shore, for a distance of ten leagues, stretching from Riviere
Ouelle to L'lslet, were reduced to ashes. Despite the orders of the
English general to spare the churches, several of them were destroyed.
"The English," remarked Montcalm in a passage we are loath to credit,
"faithful imitators of the ferocity of our Indians, took the scalps of
several of the inhabitants of the south shore. Would any one believe
that a civilized nation could become so rabid as to mutilate dead bodies
in cold blood? Such barbarity would have been abolished amongst the
Indians if it had been possible to correct them. They were well paid for
prisoners, but got very little for scalps. Every precaution was taken,
but without avail; but at all events we had not to reproach ourselves
with having followed their example."
Montcalm's policy of acting strictly on the defensive prevented him from
opposing these ravages otherwise than by small parties, who were able to
retaliate but ineffectually. He gave increased attention to the north
side of the river above Quebec, where the ruin of the country increased
the imminent danger of the cutting of his line of communication with his
depots of supplies, which, in a few days, would have placed him at the
mercy of his adversary. He ordered Colonel de Bougainville with a
thousand men and Rochebeaucour's cavalry to range along the river, to
watch closely all the movements of the enemy, and energetically to
repulse them whenever they came within reach. The task was exceedingly
difficult and fatiguing, for the English threatened several points at
the same time, keeping their troops continually oh the march and
few days earlier Montcalm had written in his journal:—"A violent
north-east wind with a thick fog kept the army and the garrison very
alert. To be beaten is an ordinary misfortune to the feeblest; but the
height of misfortune is to be surprised."
When he remarked to Bourlamaque: "I do not know which of us three will
be the soonest defeated," it might have been said that he had a vague
presentiment of his own fate.
situation was discouraging. The bombardment of the town, which had
continued without ceasing, had increased the number of ruins. In one day
alone a hundred and sixty-seven houses had been burned in the Lower
Town, and several cellars were ruined by bombs and covered over with
debris, which buried a large quantity of valuable goods and merchandise.
This was the richest quarter of the town. Several wealthy citizens lost
all they had in the ruins. All round the town, and for twenty-five
leagues below it, the country presented the same scene of desolation.
The distress in the army had become so extreme that disorder and
desertions were the order of the day. Notwithstanding threats, and even
punishments, many of the Canadians returned to their homes to harvest
their crops and secure other provisions to guard against starvation
during the coming winter. Several of them, whose houses had been
destroyed, were also obliged to construct shelter for their families and
for whatever cattle they had been able to save. It is said that over two
thousand Canadians thus abandoned the camp.
Every time that the wind turned from the northeast several English
vessels attempted the passage by Quebec, and very often they succeeded,
despite the cannonading from the town. By the end of August Admiral
Holmes found himself in command of a dozen vessels, some of which were
anchored at various points between Sillery and St. Augustin, while the
others floated up and down with the tide, for the purpose of tiring the
French troops detailed to watch their movements. The proximity of this
fleet had forced the French vessels to ascend to Grondines. British
barges thronged the river to such an extent that it was with the
greatest danger that the boats with provisions, all of which had to be
brought by water from Montreal and Three Rivers, were able to continue
on their way. The overland route had become so difficult and so slow for
want of horses, vehicles, and men to drive them, that the army was
almost deprived of food. The soldiers were reduced to three-quarters of
a pound of bread and the people to one quarter, as in the worst times of
Since the attack at Montmorency the halls of the general hospital had
not sufficed to contain all the wounded who had been taken there. Every
available apartment had been fitted up for their-reception, even the
chapel, the barns, stables, sheds and other outbuildings. As the
situation of the monastery, in the midst of the St. Charles valley,
sheltered it from the bombardment of the town, a good number of families
had sought refuge there at the commencement of the siege, as well as the
Ursulines and the hospital sisters of the Hotel-Dieu. The three
communities, thus united, rivalled each other in zeal and charity,
spending both day and night in attendance upon the sick. Their delicate
care of the wounded English soldiers came to the ears of their generals,
who testified their gratitude.
Mgr. de Pontbriand, who had withdrawn to the presbytery of Charlesbourg,
where he was gradually yielding to the disease which was soon to carry
him off, visited the hospital, nevertheless, almost every day, to
console the sick.
miles away, in the mansard of a house at L'Ange-Gardien, near the
English camp, Wolfe was the victim of a fever which was sapping his
remaining strength. Captain Knox, when he crossed over from Pointe Lévis
one morning to receive the general's orders for his brigade, learned
that he had been unable to come downstairs to dinner.
From the commencement of the siege Wolfe had been the soul of his army.
He was able to hold. it in his hand, because it had such thorough
confidence in his military talents. He had astonished it by an activity
which seemed incompatible with his frail frame. Passing unceasingly from
one shore to the other he seemed to be everywhere at once. At the
appearance in a camp of his tall and slender frame his soldiers,
animated by his influence, set to work or rushed to combat with the
ardour that devotion inspired. When it was deprived of his presence the
army felt itself paralysed. His own uneasiness communicated itself to
his entire command, and the rumour spread from one camp to the other
that the campaign was nearing its end, and that the fleet would soon set
sail for England.
Wolfe, anxious that his sickness should not retard operations, handed
the command over to the three brigadier-generals, Monckton, Townshend
and Murray, together with a memoir containing three plans of attack. By
the first he proposed to ascend the Montmorency River at night with a
part of his army, and to cross it nine miles from its mouth, in the
forest, and then to fall upon the rear of the camp at Beauport, while
the remainder of the troops attacked it in front. By the second he would
ford the shallows below the Falls at night with the Montmorency army
corps, and march them along the entrenchments until a suitable locality
for ascending the heights was found. Monckton, with the troops from
Pointe Levis, was to hold himself in readiness to disembark as soon as
the light infantry should have climbed the hill. The third plan resolved
itself into a renewal of the attack of the thirty-first by the right of
the Beauport camp.
three brigadiers did not agree to any of these plans because they
thought that if they did succeed in dislodging Montcalm he would retire
behind the entrenchments at the St. Charles River, and the campaign
would be over before they could drive him from them. It is singular that
the only plan Wolfe does not mention in this memoir was the one the
French general feared the most. This was that of cutting the line of
communication from his base of supplies by throwing an army corps on the
north shore which would force him to give battle. This was the plan
which the three brigadiers proposed as a last resort.
Wolfe accepted this plan more out of respect for the good judgment of
his three brigadiers than from any conviction of its success. The low
state of his spirits, as well as his physical condition, seemed to have
deprived him of his usual perspicacity.
from the moment the project was adopted he exerted the same energetic
will power as if he had been certain of success, though without his
natural enthusiasm. His greatest trouble was the fear that he might not
be strong enough to lead his army in person. "I know that you cannot
cure me," he said to his physician, "but if you can fix me up so that I
will not suffer any pain for two or three days, and that I can do my
duty; that is all I ask."
last day of August he felt well enough to go out. Knox says in his
journal: " His Excellency, General Wolfe, is convalescent to the
inconceivable joy of the whole army." The letter which the general wrote
to his mother that same day, the last one she received from him, shows
how utterly despondent he had become:—
"Dear madame,—My writing to you will convince you that no personal
evils, worse than defeats and disappointments, have fallen upon me. . .
My antagonist has wisely shut himself up in inaccessible entrenchments,
so that I can't get at him without spilling a torrent of blood, and that
perhaps to little purpose. The Marquis de Montcalm is at the head of a
great number of bad soldiers, and I am at the head of a small number of
good ones that, wish for nothing so much as to fight him; but the wary
old fellow avoids an action, doubtful of the behaviour of his army.
People must be of the profession to understand the disadvantages and
difficulties we labour under, arising from the uncommon natural strength
of the country."
the presence of his intimate friends Wolfe disclosed the bitterness of
his thoughts, and at times in his worst attacks of melancholy he would
exclaim that if he did not succeed he would never return to England to
be exposed, as other unfortunate generals had been, to the censures and
reproaches of an ignorant populace.
general envied his adversary whom fortune seemed to favour. The latter,
nevertheless, believed himself to be in as great difficulties at that
very time, and he also disclosed to his close acquaintances his anxiety
and his troubles. The evening of September 2nd, seated by his camp, in
the house which he occupied at Montmorency Falls, he wrote to
Bourlamaque: "The night is dark, and it is raining; our troops are afoot
and dressed in their tents; those to the right and in the town are
particularly watchful. I am booted, and my horse is saddled, which is,
in truth, my ordinary manner at night—a series of interruptions, alarms,
visits and counsels from the Indians. ... I wish you were here. . . .
For I cannot be everywhere, though I multiply myself as well as I can,
and I have not been undressed since June 23rd."
cloud of anxiety which hung over the Beauport camp cleared up for some
time. The news from Montreal was more reassuring. Lévis said that
Johnson's army did not threaten the rapids; that Amherst remained in St.
Frederic, and that moreover Bourlamaque was in a position to hold
Ile-aux-Noix to the end of the campaign. Bourlamaque himself had written
saying so to Vaudreuil. The movements of the English army around Quebec
seemed to indicate an early raising of the siege. For several days past
Wolfe had been taking down his batteries from the heights of
Montmorency. Soon it was evident that he would break up the camp at the
Falls, and on September 3rd he had completely evacuated it, after having
set fire to the entrenchments.
This evening," wrote Montcalm to Ldvis, the same day, " the right will
be reinforced by two thousand men ; I will visit it to-morrow, and
Pou-lariez will be commander-in-chief from the Falls to the Beauport
church. We have nineteen vessels above Quebec, and Bougainville is
acting as a coastguard. I am establishing myself in de Salaberry's
house, so as to have a wide range of observation, and to be within easy
range of all points." The tone of satisfaction which characterizes this
letter serves to show the feeling of relief which was springing up in
the breasts of the people and of the army at the Falls. The news quickly
spread on all sides, and the colony re-echoed with shouts of joy, for it
was generally believed that the British movements were but the signal
for the raising of the siege. The generals, however, did riot share in
this delusion. "However flattering this idea may be," Vaudreuil wrote to
Lévis, "I do not really entertain it, and out of prudence I am preparing
for the maintenance of the army up till October 15th." It was easy to
see that the enemy's tactics were only to divert their attention. Wolfe
profited by every favourable wind to bring up more vessels above Quebec.
He reassembled his three army corps at Pointe Lévis, so that they would
be ready to descend upon some other point and to strike a decisive blow
if possible. Where was this point to be? This it was impossible to
guess, for even Wolfe himself did not know. He had resolved to make an
attack above Quebec, and he waited for circumstances to decide the
Montcalm made a new disposal of his camp; four hundred militiamen from
Montreal guarded the left, and one hundred and eighty the winter fords.
Repentigny's reserves occupied the position of the Guyenne regiment
which then camped on the right, being reinforced the evening before by
six hundred men from Montreal; and the Royal-Roussillon regiment drew up
near Repentigny's position, on the plateau by the Beauport church. A
chain of posts joined Montmorency Falls with the town, which was
somewhat reinforced. Already Malartic and several of the officers,
foreseeing the catastrophe of the thirteenth, said that the precautions
taken to guard the Beauport line were excessive, "and that there was not
enough trouble taken with the others." Vaudreuil gave the same advice,
particularly about the Foulon (Wolfe's Cove) which was only guarded by
about a hundred men; but Montcalm persisted in believing that the cliff
was inaccessible. To the representations which the governor had
previously made to him on the subject, he had replied: "I assure you
that a hundred posted men would stop the army and give us time to wait
for daylight and to march there from the right." After fresh
remonstrances he insisted: "It is not to be supposed that the enemies
have wings so that they can in the same night cross the river,
disembark, climb the obstructed acclivity, and scale the walls, for
which last operation they would have to carry ladders."
During September 3rd Bougainville spent an hour at de Salaberry's house
telling the commander of the uneasiness caused him by the manoeuvres of
Admiral Holmes, Whose fleet had approached the town. It was probably the
last time that Bougainville saw the general, whom he loved as a father
and admired as a hero. The next day the battalion of Guyenne was ordered
to advance to the Heights of Abraham, to be ready to help at the first
signal, whether from Bougainville, the camp, or the town. The English
cannon taken from Montmorency Falls to Pointe Lévis, having augmented
the batteries, the bombardment was redoubled in intensity.
"The town," remarks Folignd, "could not be in a more pitiable state
unless it were razed." On the evening of the fourth the enemy, profiting
by a good wind and a dark night, succeeded in getting a convoy of
vessels loaded with baggage and munition past Quebec.
During the afternoon of the fifth Murray left the Lévis camp with four
battalions to join Admiral Holmes's fleet above Sillery, and the next
day Monckton and Townshend followed him with three others. Rumigny, who
commanded a detachment of the La Sarre regiment at Sillery, had seen the
troops passing along the cliffs at Lévis, and turned the fire of his
batteries upon them whilst they were fording the Etchemin River to
embark in the neighbouring bay.
Upon receiving news of this march the general assembly had been sounded
at the Beauport camp and the companies of grenadiers and Repentigny's
reserve, with nearly all the Indians, of whom there were still a good
number, though many had returned to their homes, were ordered to
Repentigny's reserve was stationed at the foot of a hill which led to
the St. John Gate, and the grenadier companies at the fork of the Samos
and Sillery roads. Vaudreuil wrote to Bougainville: "I need not tell
you, sir, that the safety of the colony is in your hands; that certainly
the enemy's plan is to sever our communication by disembarking on the
north shore; and that vigilance alone can ward him off." He then
detailed to him his orders, and added: "By this arrangement there should
be from L'Anse des Meres and Cap Rouge the following force: One hundred
and fifty men between L'Anse des M&res and the Foulon; thirty men at
Samos; fifty men at St. Michel; fifty men at Sillery; two hundred men at
Then he gave him a table of the other forces at his disposal, "as much
for the purpose of garrisoning the other posts as for rising in a body,
not including Indians," the whole forming a force of two thousand one
hundred men. He added: "I think, sir, that with that and a little good
fortune, you will do good work.
do not need to instruct you . . . to establish the regiment of Guyenne
in the central point . . . . In a word, you have
carte blanche as to the means you employ."
Finally, having always felt uneasy about the post at the Foulon he told
him to add to it fifty men from Repentigny's company, the most
experienced of the Canadian troops. The next day Montbeillard sent with
the two field-guns a little note which betrayed the same anxiety as
Malartic had already expressed:
wish that all your country was bristling with arms and entrenched as
this is, for it would spare you much going and coming. However, you are
conducting a fine campaign, and I hope that it may finish as it has
commenced, and that we may see your trouble and work crowned with the
glory they deserve."
English army had just re-embarked upon its vessels, and an order from
General Wolfe, who had rejoined it during the night of the sixth, had
warned all hands to be ready for an early landing. All were worn out
with the length of the siege and. impatient to be on the move.
frigate, The Sea
Horse, had received on board the 43rd
Regiment in which John Knox served. "Captain Smith and his officers
entertained us in a most princely manner," said he, "and very obligingly
made it their principal care to render our crowded situation as
agreeable as possible."
the morning of the seventh, after a night of storm and wind, the sun
rose in a mild and clear atmosphere. Admiral Holmes's squadron raised
anchor before Sillery, and re-ascended the stream by tacking about in a
light breeze, aided by the rising tide. Each time that the vessels took
a tack towards the north side the French settlers and Indians, concealed
on the edge of the shore, sent a number of bullets among the red-coats
and the motley uniforms which swarmed on the decks. The squadron cast
anchor opposite the Cap Rouge River, whose two banks, opening out in the
form of a funnel, presented, at this time, a spectacle as animated as it
was picturesque. Bougainville had established his headquarters there,
and had made entrenchments at the edge of the bay, where several of his
floating batteries were moored. "The enemy," says Knox, "number about
one thousand six hundred men, besides their cavalry, who are clothed in
blue, and mounted on neat light horses of different colours.
They seem very alert, parading and counter-marching between the woods on
the heights in their rear and their breastworks, in order to make their
numbers show to great advantage."
French battalions advanced to the mouth of the river, and drew up in
line of battle; the cavalry dismounted and formed to the right of the
infantry, then the whole detachment descended the hill, and lined the
entrenchments, with loud cries, which Knox covers with ridicule,
remarking, "How different, how nobly awful, and expressive of true
valour is the custom of the British troops!"
English chronicler did not reflect that the French had Indians in their
ranks, and that the best means of bringing them into the combat was to
imitate their war cries.
floating batteries cannonaded some of the vessels, whose barges filled
with troops passed up and down the river as if to attempt a descent; but
after divers movements they retired without approaching the shore. It
was only a feint, destined to keep Bougainville's principal corps at Cap
"Whilst a descent was premeditated elsewhere, perhaps lower down," says
Knox, "on his side Admiral Saunders affected to menace the right of the
Beauport camp by taking soundings and placing buoys in front of La
Wolfe, accompanied by some officers on board the
Hunter, went as far as Pointe-aux-Trembles to
reconnoitre, and returned as perplexed as ever.
continual rains of the next two days caused operations to be suspended,
and fear was entertained for the health of the troops crowded on board
the vessels. Sixteen hundred men were disembarked at St. Nicholas under
Monckton, who placed them in the church and some houses which had
escaped the fire.
This bad weather exposed the French army more than ever to lack of
provisions. "You are very lucky," said Bigot to Bougainville, "that your
neighbours do not make you turn out; how would the infantry get along
Our camp is full of water, the bridges on the roads are carried away,
and carts cannot be used. We must hope for fine weather, without which
we would be very much embarrassed." Montcalm took advantage of this
delay to dictate to his secretary the plans of a camp for the following
"The campaign here," he said, when forwarding this plan to Levis, "is
far from finished, although the enemy has left the Falls. On the
contrary, the fire from the batteries upon the town has been increased.
A small squadron of twenty ships and fifty or sixty barges has been
opposite Sillery and Cap Rouge for three days. Bougainville is watching
them, his line being much drawn out. At ten o'clock last night one
hundred barges drawn up in line of battle in mid-stream made a false
attack. I must say that I wish you were here, and that the Marquis de
Vaudreuil would send you an order to this effect conditional on there
being nothing to fear and all being well." At the end of the same letter
he added: " I would you were here to unravel the intricacies of the
situation, for I fear an attack at any point." Next morning, he added:
"There is work to be done here in which Lapause can serve you in advance
in case the colony is saved, which it is not as yet. Do not write
anything to the Marquis de Vaudreuil, but to me alone. In truth if there
is nothing to fear on your part, I own, my dear chevalier, that I wish
you were here, where all is not yet said."
very day upon which the French general was writing these anxious lines
his antagonist expressed more gloomy thoughts in a letter to Lord
Holdernesse, written on board the
Sutherland anchored opposite Cap Rouge. The
appearance of the sky this stormy day was in harmony with his dismal
thoughts. The north-east wind which blew between the two cliffs whistled
mournfully through the rigging and whitened the waves around the
admiral's vessel. The rain which beat against the porthole windows
allowed .only a feeble light to enter the cabin in which Wolfe sat. His
face was extremely pale, for he had scarcely recovered from a recent
attack of illness. After having given the secretary of state a
resumé of the operations of the siege, of the
obstacles which he had encountered, and of the preparations for a final
effort which he feared was useless, he concluded with this discouraging
farewell: "The Marquis of Montcalm has a
numerous body of armed men (I cannot call it an army), and the strongest
country perhaps in the world. Our fleet blocks up the river above and
below the town, but can give no manner of aid in an attack upon the
Canadian army. We are now here with about thirty-six hundred men,
waiting to attack them when and wherever they can best be got at. I have
so far recovered as to be able to attend to my duty, but my constitution
is entirely ruined, without the consolation of having done any
considerable service to the state, or without any prospect of it."
is a curious thing that Wolfe in the letter just quoted should have
stated that the fleet could give
no manner of aid in an
attack upon the Canadian army. His situation
appeared to him sufficiently desperate, for he could detail at the most
five thousand men for his final operations, and with all his contempt
for the Canadian militia he recognized Montcalm's ability to draw every
advantage from a position of unique strength.
last news received from Amherst left no hope of assistance from that
side, and Vaudreuil took the wise precaution to keep the St. Lawrence
closed above the Richelieu Rapids. Notwithstanding the most pressing
entreaties he had refused to risk the vessels which he had taken up the
river, in an engagement with Admiral Holmes. Their presence prevented
Wolfe from executing his design of sending a detachment to attack
Bourlamaque's army in the rear, and to open the way from Canada to the
forces of Amherst. "All this," he said, "might have been easily done
with ten floating batteries, carrying each a gun, and twenty
flat-bottomed boats, if there had been no ships in the river."
the morning of the tenth the wind changed to the south-west, and the sun
rose radiant behind the hills of Pointe Lévis. Wolfe, who had already
searched all the bays and rocks of the north shore, from Quebec to
Pointe-aux-Trembles, took with him Brigadier Townshend, Engineer
Mackellar and some officers, and descended to a half league above
Quebec, opposite the Foulon, better known as Wolfe's Cove. This place
was pointed out to him, it is said, by Major Stobo.
Wolfe carefully examined with the aid of a telescope a cutting through
which the St. Denis brook flowed over the edge of the cliff, and which
is today hidden by a forest of full-grown trees. On each side,
especially towards the east, the escarpment gives way and forms a
declivity by which the public road passes. He counted the tents, whose
white cones stood out among the trees on the edge of the cliff. There
were only a dozen, and there seemed to be very little movement round
them. Wolfe concluded that the post was not very well, guarded, and that
a night surprise would be possible. But the enterprise seemed so daring
that he did not venture to propose it directly to the council of war. He
took indirect means. At least so affirmed two annalists of the siege,
Chevalier Johnstone and the author of the
Journal tenu a Parmee, both of whom served in
the French camp. It is strange that the English chroniclers do not
mention this fact, not even Knox, whose work is so complete.
"The manoeuvres of the enemy above Quebec, which we had watched for some
days," says the journal, "and the knowledge which we had of the
character of Mr. Wolfe, a daring, impetuous and intrepid warrior,
prepared us for a last attack. It had, in fact, been definitely resolved
upon in the English army. They had held a council of war, as we
afterwards learned from different English officers, after breaking up
camp at the Falls, where all the general officers were unanimously in
favour of raising the siege. The officers of the fleet drew attention to
the fact that the season was so far advanced that each day rendered
navigation in the river more perilous, and the land officers, disgusted
by the length of a campaign as fruitless as it was trying, thought it
useless to stay any longer before entrenchments which seemed to them
unassailable. Moreover, one and another added that their army, always a
prey to sickness, was gradually decreasing. Then General Wolfe seeing
that he could not gain anything by running counter to the general
opinion, cleverly adopted other means. He declared to the members of the
council that far from differing from their opinions he quite recognized
the uselessness of prolonging the siege, that also, in the proposition
he was about to make, he wished to lay aside his prerogatives as
general, and to act upon their opinion. . . 'Finally, gentlemen,' he
told them, 'the glory of our arms seems to me to demand that we do not
retire without making a last attempt. I ask you urgently not to refuse.
I wish that, in this circumstance . . . our first step will be towards
the gates of the city.'
am going to try, with this end in view, to get a detachment, of one
hundred and fifty men only, through the woods at Sillery. Let all the
army be prepared to follow. If this first detachment meets with
resistance from the enemy I give my word of honour that regarding our
reputation as free from all reproach, I will not hesitate to re-embark.'
The zeal which animated so brave a general was taken up by all the
officers who heard him, and all occupied themselves in preparing for the
execution of so noble a project."
Wolfe, who knew how greatly his presence raised the courage of his
troops, paid a visit to each vessel. He gave on this occasion an
evidence of his solicitude for his men which made a profound impression.
Having learned that two officers of the 43rd Regiment were indisposed he
expressed his sympathy with them, and even offered them his canoe to
take them to Pointe Lévis. But while assuring him of
their gratitude for his kindness and condescension,
they said that no consideration could make them leave their post till
they had seen the end of this undertaking.
Some one remarked that one of these officers was very ill and had a
feeble constitution. Wolfe interrupted him, exclaiming: "Don't speak to
me of constitution; this officer has good spirits, and with good spirits
a man can do anything."
several days previously Admiral Holmes's squadron had raised anchors
before Sillery at each tide, the ships being allowed to drift as far as
St. Augustin, and often beyond that point, coming down again with the
ebb. This continuous game of hide and seek wore out Bougainville's
troops who were forced to march day and night to remain opposite the
vessels, and prevent a landing.
Finally, all being ready, the night of September 12th was fixed for the
attack. From this moment a series of unparalleled circumstances
contributed to Wolfe's marvellous success. Fortune, which had so far
appeared so hostile to the English general, seemed now to grant him all
her favour. That invisible power which pagans call fate, and which
Christians know as Providence, decreed the triumph of his cause.
deserters from the Royal-Roussillon regiment who had escaped from
Bougainville's camp during the night of Wednesday, .the twelfth, gave
assurances that the post at the Foulon was poorly guarded, and the
captain of the
Hunter learned that a convoy of provisions
was to be sent down to Beauport. The difficulties of land transportation
had forced the commissariat to resort to this perilous expedient. A
trial had been made before, and had proved successful. The boatmen chose
dark nights, and floated noiselessly down with their cargo close by the
north shore, in the shadow of the cliffs. This information gave Wolfe
his opportunity, and he resolved to profit by it. He would precede the
convoy, and try to deceive the sentinels by passing himself off as
During the morning of that day the detachments from St. Nicholas had
been again re-embarked, and Colonel Burton had orders to gather all the
available troops from Pointe Lévis and the Island of Orleans at
nightfall, and to follow the cliff up to opposite Wolfe's Cove, where
lie would wait ready to cross at the first signal.
That same day Wolfe issued his last proclamation from the
Sutherland: "The enemy's force is now
divided, great scarcity of provisions now in their camp, and universal
discontent among the Canadians; the second officer in command is gone to
Montreal or St. Johns, which gives reason to think that General Amherst
is advancing into the colony ; a vigorous blow struck by the army at
this juncture may determine the fate of Canada. Our troops below are in
readiness to join us, all the light artillery and tools are- embarked at
the Point of Levis, and the troops will land where the French seem least
to expect it. The first body that gets on shore is to march directly to
the enemy, and drive . them from any little post they may occupy; the
officers must be careful that the succeeding bodies do not, by any
mistake, fire upon those who go on before them. The battalions must form
on the upper ground, with expedition, and be ready to charge whatever
presents itself. When the artillery and troops are landed, a corps will
be left to secure the landing-place, while the rest march on and
endeavour to bring the French and Canadians to battle. The officers and
men will remember what their country expects from them, and what a
determined body of soldiers, inured to war, is capable of doing, against
five weak French' battalions mingled with a disorderly peasantry."
Fortunately this proclamation was not made known to the English army
till after the departure of a deserter from the Royal Americans who had
stolen away that same day. On the eve of the thunderbolt which was about
to fall upon him Montcalm wrote two notes, one to Bourlamaque and the
other, probably the last he ever penned with his own hand, to Lévis.
Both clearly show that he was in a most despondent frame of mind,
although in the second he says : " Should the English remain here even
until November 7th we will hold out."
sunset the marquis went down to the Beauport shore, accompanied by
Marcel, and after having examined a battery which he had just enlarged,
he walked along the entrenchment with his companion for some time,
closely observing Admiral Saunders' fleet, the large vessels of which
had spread their sails and were approaching the beach at La Canardiére,
whilst a large number of barges full of marines were assembling towards
the point of the Island of Orleans. It was the commencement of a false
attack, arranged between Wolfe and the admiral, to keep the main body of
the French troops below Quebec. The whole fleet was soon in motion and
the vessels exchanged signals with the Island of Orleans, Pointe Lévis,
and amongst themselves ; the bombardment of the town was renewed with
redoubled fury, and joined its distant roar to the closer cannonade of
the vessels which were sweeping the Beauport flats as if preparing for a
landing. This display of force, coinciding with the close of day,
recalled the scenes of July 31st, and completely deceived Montcalm as to
the enemy's real intentions. As twilight faded into a night remarkable
for its darkness, the camp fires glimmered along the Beauport slope,
from Montmorency to the town. The general, still chatting to his
secretary, was returning to the de Sala-berry manor, when M. de
Poulariez came to tell him that a number of barges were approaching the
flat occupied by his regiment. Montcalm at once ordered the troops to
man the trenches. At the same time he despatched Captain Marcel, with
one of his orderlies, to Vaudreuil asking him to come and give him the
benefit of his advice as soon as circumstances would warrant his doing
so. In the meantime he continued to pay alternate visits to the manor
and the Beauport ravine with M. de Poulariez and Chevalier Johnstone.
His conversation, which was always animated, acquired a decidedly
emotional tone as the night advanced, for he felt a presentiment of
approaching danger which, however, he could not account for. At one
o'clock in the morning he sent Poulariez to his regiment, and continued
his walk with Johnstone.
chief source of anxiety was the boats loaded with provisions, which
according to Bougainville, should come down that night:—
tremble," he remarked several times to the chevalier, "lest they be
taken and their loss undo us completely; for we have only provisions
enough for a few days."
the very same hour Wolfe, too, had presentiments which pointed to an
early death. A codicil had been added on July 29th to the will which he
had made in June. As a token of his esteem for and attachment to his
colleagues in command, he left his silver to Admiral Saunders, his
accoutrements to Monckton, and his papers and books to Carleton. All his
orders being given, and having nothing to do but wait for the tide, he
summoned to his cabin on board the
Sutherland one of the companions of his youth
in whom he had great confidence, John Jervis, commander of the sloop of
who later became admiral with the title of Lord St. Vincent. He spent an
hour with him, and told him of his presentiments. When saying adieu he
took from his waistcoat the medallion containing the portrait of Miss
Lowther, and giving it to his friend, begged him to give it to his
fiancde when he returned to England, if his present fears were realized.
twenty-two vessels under Admiral Holmes lifted anchor at Cap Rouge only
at nightfall. The tide, which was near the turn, took them but a short
distance beyond St. Augustin, and they came down with the ebb as they
had done on previous days, so that no new movement would awaken the
suspicion of the guard. Meanwhile all was activity on board the vessels.
The troops knew that they were to make an attack that night, but only a
few officers knew where the landing was to be made.
soldiers were cleaning their arms,' and the crews were preparing to man
the boats. Two days before Colonel Howe, commander of the light
infantry, a brother of the hero who fell the previous year at Carillon,
had called for volunteers from his finest battalion, and had chosen
twenty-four men to whom was given the honour of leading the way.
night mists which overhung the river intensified the darkness, and made
it impossible to see at any distance, but in the shadowy forms which
glided on the water, the French sentinels on the crest of Cap Rouge
recognized the fleet, and signalled the fact that it had passed.
Bougainville, however, was convinced that it would again come, up with
the rising tide, as before, and so did not think it necessary to follow.
There can be no doubt that Bougainville, who modestly admitted himself
to be an apprentice in the art of war, was duped on this occasion by
Wolfe's masterly strategy. The morning of the battle found him at
Pointe-aux-Trembles, nearly twenty miles from the scene of action. For
this he has been excused. He had, however, neglected to follow the
advice of the governor, who, after having pointed out to him that the
Foulon post was not well enough guarded, told him to add to it fifty men
from Repentigny's company. "Bougainville," says Johnstone, "had much
spirit, good sense, and many fine qualities . . . . but with all his
bravery he was very ignorant of military science, which he had never
studied." Thanks to influence at court and the favour of Mme. de
Pompadour he had passed from aide-decamp to the rank of colonel, to the
great discontent of several older and more deserving officers. On the
evening of the twelfth he sent word that the English army had gone back
to the camp at Pointe Levis, although all appearances were against their
having done so, and instead of following the fleet without ever losing
sight of it, as he had been ordered to do, he remained inactive at Cap
Rouge, with his whole detachment. Why did he not move towards the
Heights of Abraham, as the English did so? Why did he not send back the
grenadiers and volunteers who were the soul of their regiments? Why,
after having informed Vaudreuil and Montcalm, as well as the posts of
Rumigny, of Douglas, and of Vergor, that he would that night send boats
with provisions, did he not advise them of his change of plans, so that
they might not expect them? All this Johnstone concludes is
what is unpardonable on Bougainville's part is that, contrary to the
admonitions of the governor, which were repeated in the letter in which
Vaudreuil gave him
carte blanche as to the means he was to
employ, he changed the commander of the Foulon, or at least allowed him
to leave three or four days after, placing the post in the hands of
Vergor, who had been censured a few years before for having given up the
fort of Beausdjour almost without resistance. The army, like the
generals, relied implicitly upon him. Only the previous evening
Montbeillard writing to him from Beauport, said: "We bivouac here every
night, but are foolish to do so, for you are keeping a lookout for us."
During all the previous summer he had an opportunity of seeing the
untiring watchfulness of Lévis, who when stationed on the Montmorency
River, in a position similar to his own, had never made a mistake. Lévis,
however, was no longer in Quebec.
Towards midnight one lantern was hoisted in the main top-mast shrouds of
It was the signal agreed upon. The first division immediately took their
places in the boats, and got in line, followed closely by the rest of
the army, the light infantry forming the advance guard. At two o'clock,
on a signal from the general, whose boat was at the head of the line,
all the boats were put in motion. The soldiers had been ordered to keep
absolute silence, the crews to make as little noise as possible, and
only to use their oars to steer with, for the ebbing tide and the
south-westerly breeze which had sprung up, rapidly sent them shoreward.
Admiral Holmes's vessels were to start three-quarters of an hour later,
with the rest of the troops. There was no moon, and the light of the
stars, veiled by the September mist, was hardly perceptible. The deathly
silence was broken only by the lapping of the water against the sides of
the boats, and by the noise of the wind in the trees on the cliffs to
more than an hour the long file of boats glided in silence following the
contour of the shore. No sound was heard on the heights, and everything
seemed to show that they were undiscovered. Wolfe, seated in the stern
of his boat, conversed in a low tone from time to time with the officers
about him. One of them, John Robinson, who later became professor of
natural science at the Edinburgh University, tells of the profound
impression which the general's conversation made upon him.
melancholy thoughts which had taken possession of him returning, he
sought to find expression for them in poetry, and began to recite Gray's
beautiful " Elegy in a Country Churchyard," which had only recently been
published.1 Had he some presentiment of the fate which
awaited him when, in a voice full of emotion, he repeated the lines,
never more true than in his own case,
"The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
"Gentlemen," he exclaimed, finishing the quotation, "I would rather have
been the author of that elegy than take Quebec." "Qui
vive/" cried a sentinel, invisible in the
shade, to one of the boats of the light infantry, which just then
skirted the Samos shore within pistol shot.
replied a captain of Fraser's Highlanders, who was a good French
scholar. The sentinel, thinking that it was the "convoy of provisions
mentioned by Bougainville, allowed the boats to pass without demanding
the password, or assuring himself of the truth. A few minutes afterwards
a rustling of branches was heard, indicating that some one was coming
down the hill at the Foulon, followed by a fresh "Qui
repeated the captain, and he added in French, "Do not make a noise; it
is the provisions; we may be overheard." The sloop of war,
was anchored near by. "Pass," said the sentinel, who did not come down
any further. The force of the current carried the boats of the light
infantry a little below the bay.
twenty-four volunteers, conducted by Captain Delaune, jumped out on the
sand, and advanced to the foot of the cliff, which is very steep at this
point, and is now covered with trees and brushwood as it was then. With
their guns strapped on their backs they started to climb the cliff,
helping themselves by taking hold of branches and shrubs. They arrived
at the summit without being once fired upon, and advanced to the open
clearing, closely followed by a stronger detachment. Day was beginning
to dawn and the white tents could be seen against the dark background.
They rushed upon the sentinels, who, upon perceiving them, fired a few
shots, and fell back towards the tents. Vergor was in bed, sound asleep,
and was awakened by the shots and cries of alarm. He rushed to the
defence with the soldiers from the tents near by. There were only about
thirty in all, for Vergor had sent the remainder, mostly
habitants of Lorette, to gather in their
crops, on condition, it seems, that they would attend to his crops on
the land which he owned in that parish. A picket of the light infantry
which had disembarked a little higher up was marching to the aid of the
volunteers. Vergor, caught between two fires, made but a feeble
resistance, and received a ball in his heel. One man only of his
detachment was captured. The others succeeded in escaping into the
neighbouring woods, aided by the darkness.
Wolfe, remaining upon the beach, waited for a signal before sending up
more troops. For some time nothing disturbed the silence of the night
except the rustling of the wind and the murmur of the St. Denis brook,
which, swollen by the last rain, dashed down the mountainside. Suddenly
shots were heard, accompanied by the call to arms, and then more
shooting and confused clamour. Finally, the hurrahs of the English
announced that the post was taken, and Wolfe gave the order to advance,
without showing the joy he felt.
the first division, consisting of about sixteen hundred men, jumped out
of their boats, preceded by the sappers, who, in a few instants, cleared
the road of the fallen trees which obstructed the way. One part of the
division was thus engaged, while the rest were climbing to the right and
left catching hold of the bushes and rocks to help themselves.
Wolfe, to whom the excitement of the moment gave new strength, climbed
the hill with a light step, and quickly arranged the troops in line of
battle as they reached the top. The left wing extended towards Sillery,
and the right in the direction of Quebec, the whole line facing the St.
Louis road. The fusilade at the Foulon had given the alarm to the
battery at Samos, and it opened a lively fire upon the boats, damaging
some and killing and wounding a few officers and men. Colonel Howe was
detailed with the light infantry to capture this post, and that at
Sillery whose battery opened a hot fire upon the squadron which had just
approached the shore, and anchored in the Foulon. The two garrisons,
assailed by superior forces, and seeing that they were about to be
surrounded, retreated towards Cap Rouge. A part of Anstruther's regiment
went to take possession of the houses along the Sillery road.
During these occurrences a constant stream of troops was disembarking,
immediately to climb the hill and form up on the plateau above.
troops were so quickly brought ashore that before six o'clock in the
morning Colonel Burton's men from the other side of the river had been
brought over to Wolfe's Cove. In the meantime daylight broke, the rising
sun of September 13th, hidden by the clouds from whose grey heights
occasional light showers fell, presaging a rainy day. No enemy had' yet
appeared on the undulating tree-dotted plain, which extended before the
army. It almost seemed as if the English troops had been merely
assembled upon it for a drill parade, for only the bombardment which had
been redoubled when news of the successful landing came, recalled war's
When we reflect that the price of this enormous advantage had been only
a difficult climb, and three insignificant skirmishes, we are almost
dumbfounded. All the causes which should have contributed to the failure
of so daring an undertaking, had rather conspired to its success.'
Firstly, the Guyenne regiment, which had been posted on the Plains of
Abraham, was withdrawn against all common sense.
Secondly, two deserters of the Royal-Roussillon, revealed to Wolfe the
fact that the Foulon was negligently guarded, and that the Plains of
Abraham were unprotected.
Thirdly, Bougainville, contrary to Vaudreuil's advice, had not
reinforced the post at the Foulon with Repentigny's fifty chosen men.
Fourthly, two French prisoners had revealed the fact that a convoy of
provisions was expected to come down the river.
Fifthly, Bougainville warned the different posts that the convoy was
coming, and, though it did not go down, he neglected to countermand his
order to allow it to pass.
Sixthly, the deserter from the Royal Americans had left before the
proclamation had been made by Wolfe, and so could not give any news of
the intended attack.
Seventhly, Bougainville who had always followed Admiral Holmes's fleet,
step by step, and kept it in sight, saw it come down from Cap Rouge, and
did not follow it.
Eighthly, the commander of the Foulon had been replaced three or four
days before by Captain Vergor, the poorest soldier in the colony.
Ninthly, this officer hud allowed almost all his men to go away on the
night of the twelfth.
Tenthly, he kept no lookout whatever and was sound asleep when the
even one of these chances had not occurred the attack would probably
have been prevented or at least delayed in its execution, and possibly
turned into an overwhelming disaster. If, for instance, the Guyenne
regiment had been kept on the Plains of Abraham, according to the
dictates of the merest prudence, it would have arrived in time to
surprise the English regiment while they were disordered and climbing
the cliff, and would have met them with so disastrous a fire that a
frightful slaughter would have been the inevitable result, while the
batteries at Samos and Sillery, enfilading them at the same time, would
have completed their ruin. Wolfe would have lost his reputation as a
commander before Quebec, and would to-day be placed in the same category
with Phipps or Sir Hovenden Walker. England, discouraged by the failure
of this expedition, which had cost an enormous amount, would probably
have given up its idea of conquering the place, and New France would
still have belonged to its former masters, a prey to the abuses which
followed Louis XV until they fell before the Revolution.
While the three brigadiers saw that everything was in order Wolfe
advanced a short distance towards Quebec to choose a suitable
battle-ground, and decided upon a fairly level piece of ground which has
since become immortal as the Plains of Abraham. It had been so named
because one of the earliest Canadian settlers, Abraham Martin, a former
pilot, nicknamed Maitre Abraham, had acquired the plot, and cleared it.
The plateau is about three-quarters of a mile wide, and is bounded on
the right by a steep cliff, at the foot of which flows the St. Lawrence,
and on the left by the Cote Ste. Genevieve, below which the river St.
Charles winds slowly through the valley that bears its name. The two
cliffs, meeting over a mile to the eastward, form Cape Diamond crowned
by the citadel of Quebec. Two parallel roads cross the Plains of
Abraham. One, the St. Louis road, leads from St. Louis Gate to Sillery;
the other, the Ste. Foy road, emerges from the St. John Gate and leads
to the parish of Ste. Foy. In front of the plateau lies a slight ravine.
The ground, sloping gently downwards and then rising, ascends again to
form the Buttes-a-Neveu which extend to the city walls. Here and there
amongst the fields of wheat and the pasture-lands which formed part of
the Plains were groups of trees and shrubbery. From the top of Ste.
Genevieve hill the eye ranges over the parishes of Lorette,
Charlesbourg, and Beauport, the basin of the St. Charles, the Island of
Orleans, and the parishes of L'Ange-Gardien, Chateau Richer, Ste. Anne,
and St. Joachim, being bounded on the horizon by Cap Tourmente. The
scene recalls in its extent and picturesqueness the road from Naples at
Castellamare. All that is wanted is a pall of smoke to crown Ste. Anne's
Mountain over twenty miles, distant, and we have a picture of Vesuvius.
Canadian and Indian sharpshooters presently appeared at the borders of
the woods, and killed and wounded a few men. The army had turned, facing
the city, and the general divided it into three columns and advanced
towards the Plains.
was at this moment that Montcalm was informed of the descent at the
Foulon. Vaudreuil was still unaware of it.
general's secretary was no longer with the governor ; he had followed
Major Dumas to the battery at La Canardi£re, who, warned by the patrols
at the water's edge that the barges seen by Poulariez were ascending
towards the town, had ordered the Quebec militia to leave the
entrenchments and proceed along the beach. At the first gleam of
daylight all danger seemed to have disappeared, and the men were
entering their tents when the firing at Samos was heard.
Montcalm had just left Johnstone, after having taken a cup of tea with
him to refresh himself as he had not slept all night, and had given
orders to have his horses saddled. He arrived at La Canardiére, and
entering the seminary with his secretary, stated with some emotion that
his worst fears were being realized, and that the convoy of provisions
was being attacked and perhaps taken. A few moments later a Canadian
entered completely out of breath. He said that he was the only survivor
from Vergor's post, which had been surprised and seized by the English,
who were now masters of the heights. "We knew so well," says Montcalm's
secretary, "the difficulty of reaching this point, even if it were not
guarded, that we did not entertain a word of the tale, believing that
the man's head had been turned by fear. I went home to take some rest,
begging M. Dumas to send to headquarters for news, and to let me know if
there was anything to be done. All the time we could hear firing in the
distance, and the town was signalling, but, as fate would have it, we
did not send for further information."
Chevalier Bernetz had sent a courier to the camp, who met Major-General
Montreuil on the road. Montreuil had just received tidings of what had
occurred from a fugitive, and immediately advanced the Guyenne regiment,
and hastened to advise Montcalm, who at once gave orders to send forward
a force consisting of one battalion and six hundred of the Montreal men.
He followed on their heels, leaving the camp under command of M. de
Senezergues. When, between seven and eight in the morning, the white
lines of the Guyenne regiment commenced to cross the Buttes-a-Neveu,
Wolfe halted his army, and ranged it in order of battle, two ranks deep,
a short distance from the ravine. It covered the space between the
summit of the cliff and the Ste. Foy road, and faced the town which was
less than a mile distant, but was hidden from sight by the rising
ground. Monckton commanded the right with the Louisbourg grenadiers and
Otway's, Bragg's, and Kennedy's regiments; Murray had the centre with
Lascelles' regiment, and Townshend held the left with Amherst's regiment
and the Royal Americans. This wing did not reach the Cote Ste. Genevi&ve.
Wolfe had taken up a strong position in the house of a man named Borgia
and some other buildings near the Ste. Foy road, along which the two
last-named regiments were placed, facing in two different directions, in
order to prevent any attempt of the French right to flank the British
left. The light infantry, recalled from Sillery, were drawn up in three
columns a few paces to the rear. Colonel Burton commanded the reserve
formed by Webb's regiment, sub-divided into eight distinct bodies
separated by long intervals. The effective force of the army was five
thousand two hundred and twenty-nine men of all ranks. The third
battalion of the Royal Americans was left to maintain communication with
the landing-place. Lastly Anstruther's detachment, stationed, as we have
seen, in the houses at Sillery, was to keep Bougainville's corps in
Vaudreuil was only informed of the landing at a quarter to six by a
contradictory note from the Chevalier de Bernetz, who said that the
enemy had descended upon the Foulon, but that he thought they had
re-embarked. He did not know the whole truth till after Montcalm's
departure. At a quarter to seven he sent a special orderly to
Bougainville with this message: "It seems to be absolutely certain that
the enemy has disembarked at the Foulon; we have put most of the troops
in motion, and can hear light firing. ... I am waiting for news from
you, and to know if the enemy has attempted anything on your side." He
added the following postscript, "The enemy seems to have a large force.
I have no doubt that you are watching all their movements, and will
follow them; and depend on your doing so."
couriers followed one another with more and more alarming news. Montcalm
could scarcely believe his eyes when, on arriving at the river St.
Charles, he distinctly saw the rows of red-coats on the brink of the
Cote Ste. Genevi&ve.
"The situation is serious," he said to Johnstone, who accompanied him.
"Return as quickly as possible to Beauport, and order Poulariez to send
at once the rest of the left to the Heights of Abraham." Then he spurred
his horse, and with set face and never speaking a word, he crossed the
bridge and the St. Charles valley at full speed proceeding towards Cote
entire army was soon in motion, with the exception of the guards for the
batteries and the bridge. In the city the excitement and alarm were
beyond description. The citizens were suddenly awakened by the cry: "The
English are at the gates." All who did not carry arms, old men, women
and children ran to the north of the town, gaining the ramparts and the
cape, and watching with mute anxiety the troops moving from the Beauport
road to the town. They marched at full speed, the regiments of the line
easily distinguished by their white uniforms, flags flying, and drums
beating, and the militia clothed in every conceivable fashion, but
habitant costume. After crossing the bridge
they were divided into three columns, the first marching up Palace Hill,
the second up the Cote-a-Coton, and the third up the Cote d'Abraham.
While these last two were advancing to the westward of the city walls
the first, entering by Palace Gate, passed out by the St Louis and St.
John Gates. The women and children recoiled at sight of the
ferocious-looking Indians with their war-paint, their scalps, and their
feather head-dress. Families peered into the ranks of the militia
searching for a brother, a husband, or a father, to embrace them before
the battle which the constant fusilade showed to be imminent. Every one
believed that the long-expected crisis had arrived, and all that a
people holds dear, their religion, their country, their homes, nay, even
their very existence, was at stake.
Montcalm was stupefied on perceiving before him, not a detachment, as he
had expected, but the whole of Wolfe's army. He hastened from right to
left, counting the regiments, and noted the Highlanders in the centre,
their multi-coloured uniforms standing out in bold relief against the
red of the English lines and the nasal tones of their bagpipes mingling
with the shrill notes of the fifes and trumpets. From the grey sky light
showers fell from time to time. Colonel Fontbonne, commander of the
.Guyenne regiment, had posted his men with much intelligence and
bravery. After having extended them to deceive the enemy he profited by
the unevenness of the ground to throw out skirmishers in front, who
exchanged a well-directed fire with the British marksmen.
Three or four hundred Canadian sharpshooters were also thrown out, those
on the left being stationed in a field of corn which was in ear, and
behind groups of pine trees, cedars, and hawthorns, and those on the
right in a small wood crossed by the Ste. Foy road. These inconvenienced
the English troops to such an extent that their commander kept them
lying prone on the ground for some time to avoid the bullets. Montcalm
arranged his men in order in three lines as they arrived. The militia
formed the two wings, and the regiments of the fine were in the centre,
in the same order as they occupied at Beauport camp, viz., the
Royal-Roussillon nearest to the river, then those of Guyenne, Béarn,
Languedoc and La Sarre. Major Dumas commanded the strongest party of the
Canadians which was placed on the right. Some pieces of artillery,
summoned from the city, were also speedily brought to reply to the fire
of grape-shot which had been opened by two of the English cannon.
Montcalm ordered his secretary, who had arrived with ammunition, to
place two guns on the Ste. Foy road, and to concentrate their fire on
Borgia's house, which three hundred men of the light infantry had taken
possession of in advance of their lines. Some Canadians, however,
shortly dashed upon it in spite of the heavy fire, and set it ablaze,
thus driving out its occupants, who retired to their respective
regiments. An orderly from Vaudreuil, who was advancing with the rest of
the troops, at this moment handed Montcalm a note entreating him not to
precipitate the attack. "The success," said this note, "which the
English have already gained in forcing our posts, should be the ultimate
source of their defeat; but it is to our interest not to be over hasty.
The English should be attacked simultaneously by our army and the
fifteen hundred men whom we could easily obtain from the city, as well
as by de Bougainville's corps. In this way they will be completely
surrounded, and will have no other resource than to retreat towards
their left, where their defeat would again be inevitable."
military men acknowledge that this would have been the best course to
follow, but Montcalm neglected the advice with scorn. "Nothing was more
calculated," says the
Journal kept at the army commanded by Montcalm,
"to make up the mind of a general who was always ready to be jealous of
the part that even the private soldier had in his successes. His
ambition was to hear no one mentioned but himself, and this in no
inconsiderable degree contributed to his thwarting enterprises in which
he could not advance his own glory."
was quite evident that Montcalm's first care on seeing, when he arrived
at the Plains, that he had all Wolfe's army to contend with, should have
been to communicate with de Bougainville. It was not yet seven o'clock
in the morning. In less than an hour and a half a horseman could have
crossed the St. Charles valley, re-ascended the Lorette road to the Ste.
Foy church, and given de Bougainville the order to hasten on as quickly
as possible. His army would have been ready to march by nine o'clock,
and would thus have arrived by about eleven.
the meanwhile Montcalm would have had time to summon the garrison of
Quebec, and to draw it up in line with the fifteen hundred men whom the
governor would have brought. He would thus have attacked the front of
the English army with more than six thousand men, whilst the
elite of his army, composed of more than two
thousand soldiers, would have fallen upon the British in the rear. What
the result would have been is not hard to guess. But the man who,
according to Montcalm's expression, "so well knew how to take in a
situation," was not there. "I remained a moment with Montcalm," says the
general's secretary, "and he remarked to me: 'We cannot avoid the issue.
The enemy is entrenching and already has two cannon. If we give him time
to make his position good we can never attack him with the few troops we
have.' He added excitedly, "Is it possible that Bougainville does not
hear that?' and left without giving me time to answer him anything more
than that our forces were certainly small."
Montcalm then held a council of war with the commanders of the different
corps ; but they, knowing that he had resolved to attack, did not dare
to oppose him, or made very timid objections, as did Montreuil. Lévis,
alone, had he been present, would have been able to calm the general's
excitement by his coolness, and by the influence which he had over him,
and might have stopped him from rushing into action.
regular and colonial troops, which Montcalm had at hand at the time, did
not amount to more than three thousand and five or six hundred men, most
of them militia. The
elite of the army, the grenadiers and
volunteers, were, as we have just seen, at Cap Rouge with Bougainville.
In addition to this, a month before, eight hundred of the best soldiers
from the five regiments now about to give battle, had been sent away
with the Chevalier de Lévis.
only part of the army engaged up to this time were the Canadians on the
right, who, led by Dumas, had dislodged the light infantry from Borgia's
house. Favoured by the small wood, which served them as a shelter, they
ran out and attacked the infantry each time they saw it advance, and had
already repulsed it three times. "The Canadians, fighting in this
manner," says the
Journal kept in the army commanded by Montcalm,
"certainly surpass all the troops of the universe, owing to their skill
repeated successes of these brave militiamen, and the ardour shown by
the rest of the troops inspired Montcalm with too much confidence. He
forgot that the Canadians would lose their superiority in the open
field, and that most of them were poorly armed, only having their
hunting guns. Some of them had not even bayonets, but had replaced them
by knives which they had fixed, as best they could, to the ends of their
guns. The army, which was inferior to the enemy in numbers, and worn out
after a forced march of from one to two leagues—those who had last
arrived being still out of breath—also lost all chance of meeting the
British on even terms, as regards position, when it descended into an
uneven hollow obstructed with trees, where its ranks were sure to be
broken even before they reached the height which the enemy occupied. The
fear of giving the British time to entrench themselves and receive
reinforcements, finally prevailed over all other considerations.
Montcalm rode in front of his line of battle and amongst the ranks,
animating the men by his words of encouragement, with that chivalrous
and martial air which they so much admired. A young militiaman of
eighteen, Joseph Trahan, who was present at the action, and who lived to
be an old man, often, spoke of the singular impression which the general
made upon him on this occasion. "I recall very plainly," he said, "Montcalm's
conduct before the combat. He mounted a brown or black horse in front of
our lines, holding up his sword as if to excite us to do our duty. He
wore a uniform with large sleeves, one of which falling back revealed
the white line of his cuff."
was ten o'clock. The clouds had dispersed, and the sun shed over the
field its blaze of light, and made the bayonets, the sabres, the red
uniforms of the English, and the Highlanders' tartans glitter and flame
with colour in front of the French. Wolfe, who seemed to be everywhere,
and was easily recognized by his height, marched at the head of his
regiments, which he had advanced to the edge of the ravine. No one knew
better than he the danger of his position. A few shots heard from the
Sillery side led him to think that Bougainville was advancing, and would
soon be on his rear. If the French general retarded the attack to
combine his movement with that of the colonel, he felt that his position
would be a desperate one indeed. But the same good fortune which had so
favoured the success of the daring deed which he had just accomplished,
inspired him with faith in his ultimate triumph. He passed in front of
his regiments, pointing out the enemy with his sword, and haranguing his
soldiers, telling them that for them it was either victory or death, for
retreat was impossible.
Montcalm sounded the charge. His army moved forward with flags flying
and uttering their war cry in the old time fashion. The force moved
rapidly onward, being joined on the way by the groups of sharpshooters,
who had not had time to re-enter the ranks. This caused a slight delay.
His command had not reached the foot of the ravine when its lines,
broken by the irregularity of the ground, conveyed to the English the
idea that the attack was being made in irregular columns.
regiments tried to reform as they ascended the slope, and then halted
within about half-musket range of the foe. During the momentary silence
which followed little was heard save the cries of command repeated along
the front of the army, and then followed a volley by all three ranks at
once, instead of a part of the fire being reserved so as to keep up the
fusilade. This first volley, being hastily made in the distance, had
little effect. The Canadians, most of whom were stationed in the second
line, lay on the ground to reload, according to their custom, and
thereby caused some confusion. The English, who had been ordered by
their commander to load their guns with two bullets, approached the
enemy before firing, and from the height on which they stood poured in a
well-directed fire, which 198 decimated the front rank, and threw it
into confusion. The English centre, especially, whose simultaneous
discharge sounded "like the report of a cannon," made a frightful void
in the army's lines. A cloud of smoke enveloped the two armies while
both continued to advance, and the fight was short, but keen. The two
brave commanders of the La Sarre and Guyenne regiments, Senezergues and
Fontbonne, were now mortally wounded, as was also the second in command
on the right, M. St Ours. Lieutenant-Colonel Privat, of the Languedoc
regiment, was dangerously wounded, and Adjutant Malartic had two horses
killed under him.
the English side Colonel Carletonwaswounded in the head, and Brigadier
Monckton received a bullet wound in the body. "While Montcalm ran from
one point to another trying to strengthen his disordered forces, Wolfe
directed the attack in person on the right of his army. A ball struck
him on the wrist, and he bandaged it with his handkerchief. He was
leading the grenadiers, and gave them the order to charge, when a second
bullet inflicted a severe wound. Nevertheless, still faithful to the
maxim which he so often quoted, to the effect that " while a man is able
to do his duty, and to stand and hold his arms, it is infamous to
retire," he continued to advance, his bright new uniform a target for
the Canadian sharpshooters, hidden in the thickets, from which dense
clouds of smoke arose. Not long afterwards a third ball struck him in
the chest He staggered, and, seeing that he was losing consciousness, he
said to an officer of artillery who was near him:—"Support me; my brave
soldiers must not see me fall." Lieutenant Brown, of the grenadiers,
Grenadier Henderson and another soldier ran forward and bore him to the
rear, where, at his request, they laid him on the grass in a hollow of
the ground. One of the officers volunteered to go in search of a
surgeon. "It is useless," sighed the general, "I'm done for."
was apparently unconscious when one of those supporting him cried: "They
run! They run !"
"Who run?" Wolfe quickly asked, as if just awakened from a heavy
"The enemy," replied the officer, "they give way everywhere."
Wolfe replied: "One of you run quickly to Colonel Burton, and tell him
to descend in all haste with his regiment towards the St. Charles River,
seize the bridge, and cut off the retreat." He then turned on his side,
murmuring "God be praised, I die happy," and expired.
last volleys of the two armies were fired with the muzzles of their
muskets almost touching. Wolfe had imparted his impetuosity to his
troops. The bayonet charge ordered by him at the time he fell, caused
the French centre to give way, and the whole French army to turn to the
rear, but "the overthrow was not total except amongst the regular
troops. The Canadians accustomed to retire
like the ancient Parthians, and to turn again to face the enemy with
even more confidence than before, rallied in some places," principally
in the little wood to the right, where they held part of the English
regiments in check.
mass of the fugitives, listening neither to the general nor to their
officers, threw themselves into the valley to regain the hornwork, the
rest fleeing towards the city. Montcalm, carried away by this torrent,
was trying to rally some companies in front of the St. Louis Gate, when
he received two wounds in succession, one in the groin, the other in the
thigh. The artillery officer who acted as his secretary during the siege
was near him trying to save one of the cannon. He says, "I saw M.
Montcalm arrive on horseback supported by three soldiers. I entered the
city with him, where the Chevalier de Bernetz gave me some orders which
I ran to carry out on the ramparts." . . . The crowd which had rushed
out to see the issue of the combat, was returning and crowded St. Louis
Street when some women seeing him pass, pale and covered with blood,
cried out, "O My God! My God !the marquis is killed!"
is nothing! it is nothing!" replied the dying general turning towards
them, "do not distress yourselves for me, my good friends."
Vaudreuil had almost reached the heights when his army was overthrown,
and he tried in vain to rally the regiments. His voice was lost amid the
tumult of the Bight. A part of the Canadians, more amenable to his
orders, retraced their steps, and hurried to aid the brave militiamen
who were defending the ground, step by step, with the courage of
despair, in the woods on the Ste. Foy road, and again in some underbrush
near the St. John Gate.
Indians, like the birds of prey they were, fled headlong as soon as the
fighting began, and awaited an opportunity of spreading over the
battlefield to scalp, mutilate and plunder the dead and wounded.
Townshend, upon whom the command had devolved, did not profit by the
victory as he might have done, for it would have been easy for him to
have seized the gates and entered the town during the general confusion.
Murray was detained on the left by the stubbornness of the Canadians. As
soon as the French ranks broke, the Highlanders, whom he commanded,
sprang forward, claymore in hand, uttering their fear-inspiring war cry.
All fled before them until they reached the edge of the wood, but there
they were stopped by a well-directed fire of musketry. After useless
efforts to dislodge the Canadians, the Highlanders were forced to beat a
retreat to reform on the St. Louis road. They then received orders to
descend westward to the edge of the Ste. Geneviéve hill in order to take
the woods in the rear, and at the same time drive from the edge of the
cliff the bands of Canadian sharpshooters who were defending the
descent. "They killed and wounded a large number of our men," said
Lieutenant Fraser, " and forced us to retreat a little to reform our
ranks." They were then brought, for the third time to the attack, now
reinforced on the right and on the left by the Anstruther regiment and
the second battalion of the Royal Americans, respectively. A fresh
struggle followed, and was sustained "by the Canadians with incredible
stubbornness and ardour," to quote Chevalier Johnstone, who was a
witness of this heroic conflict. "When repulsed they disputed the ground
inch by inch from the top to the bottom of the height." In the middle of
the valley arose the military bakery, surrounded by several houses. The
Canadians made a final stand there, and for a considerable time held the
three opposing regiments in check. "It was at this time, and while in
the bushes," reports Fraser, "that our regiment suffered most."
Chevalier Johnstone, who has described this brilliant action, says that
these unfortunate heroes were almost all killed on the spot, but that
they saved a large number of fugitives, and gave the French army time to
take shelter in the hornwork.