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Wolfe and Montcalm


It is only proper to mention that Vaudreuil wag largely responsible for the failure of Bougainville's mission. He commended Doreil to the minister of war: "I have full confidence in him, and he may be entirely trusted," and of Bougainville he wrote to the minister of marine: "He is in all respects better fitted than any one else to inform you of the state of the colony. I have given him my instructions, and you can trust entirely in what he tells you." The virtue of these recommendations was seriously impaired by the confidential letter which Vaudreuil wrote to the minister of marine: "I have given letters to MM. Doreil and Bougainville, but I have the honour to inform you that they are creatures of M. de Montcalm."


The author has here followed a prevalent tradition which has been seriously questioned by competent historians. The story was not introduced for the purpose of casting discredit upon Wolfe, but rather for the purpose of enforcing the point of George Ill's well-known reply to the allegation that Wolfe was mad. Parkman in the third volume of his "Montcalm and Wolfe" (page 35) has argued against the probability of the story, and Wood and Doughty both urge its unreliability on the ground of Temple's incapacity to appreciate Wolfe, and because of the length of time which elapsed between the alleged occurrence and its narration at second hand to Mahon.


The fate of nations certainly did not depend upon the young commander's personal appearance. The concourse of testimony has up to the present led us to believe that Wolfe was uncompromisingly ugly,, and the "receding forehead and chin" of the Abbe Casgrain's description, "which made his profile seem to be an obtuse angle," is merely in keeping with tradition. Both Dr. Doughty and Major Wood insist upon the inaccuracy of this description of Wolfe, and assert that West in his famous but unreliable picture perpetuated the features of a certain Captain Montresor, one of Wolfe's engineers during the siege. Dr. Doughty declares in favour of the portrait in the National Gallery as the most authentic likeness which we have of Wolfe.


The author has given the figures with substantial correctness. In this present paragraph the naval force is assumed to be an integral part of the army of attack. There is justification in doing so when we consider the important part which the navy played in the operations. The whole British army consisted of nine thousand men. Of these four thousand eight hundred and twenty were present at the final battle, although only three thousand one hundred were in the firing line. There are no official returns of the French forces at the battle. During the whole siege Montcalm had approximately seventeen thousand men at his disposal, but only a small proportion of these were seasoned troops. At the Battle of the Plains he had about five thousand militia and regulars.


Much reference is made of necessity in this book to the inhuman aspects of the campaign. All that can be said with regard to the practice of scalping is that honours were even, and that both Wolfe and Montcalm made repeated and ineffectual efforts to hold the rangers, Indians and woodsmen in check.


Wolfe's indecision was in part at least an element in his strategy It is a part of the art of war to keep the enemy guessing, and Montcalm's testimony is sufficient evidence of Wolfe's success in this particular. We must also bear in mind that abrupt changes in plan were often necessitated by the frequent desertions to the enemy. A letter written by James Gibson on July 20th is an interesting commentary on the situation: "Within the space of five hours we received at the general's request three different orders of consequence, which were contradicted immediately after their reception, which, indeed, has been the constant practice of the general ever since we have been here, to the no small amazement of every one who has the liberty of thinking. Every step he takes is wholly his ownóI'm told he asks no one's opinion, and wants no advice; and, therefore, as he conducts without an assistant, the honour or . . . will be in "proportion to his success."

Page 160

Neither Vaudreuil nor Montcalm considered the Foulon to be as dangerous as the country above Cap Rouge.


Vaudreuil did suggest the addition of fifty men of Repentigny's troops to the corps of Vergor at the Foulon, but he wrote to Bougainville that if provisions were scarce he would not send them. The truth is that neither Montcalm nor Vaudreuil dreamed of the possibility of a landing in force above the town. Yet to provide against remote contingencies Montcalm wished to have the Guyenne regiment stationed upon the Heights of Abraham, and gave orders to that effect which Vaudreuil revoked.

Pages 176, 177

Bougainville's sentinels doubtless saw the large vessels at Cap Rouge, but there is nothing to indicate that they saw the small boats with Wolfe's troops drop down the river.


We do not know why the Abbe Casgrain assumes that Bougainville is responsible for Vergor's appointment. From the correspondence it is evident that Bougainville was first informed of Vergor's appointment by Vaudreuil. See letter Vaudreuil to Bougainville, September 6th, in ''The Siege of Quebec," Vol. IV., page 99.

Page 185

We might add an eleventhly to this list. When Wolfe was dropping down the river he passed close beside the Hunter, and was amazed to see the crew running to quarters and bringing the guns to bear upon his boat It appears that his captain had been informed by a deserter that the French provision boats were coming down the river that night, and Wolfe's boat, not unnaturally, was mistaken for one of these. We have seen how cleverly Wolfe afterwards utilized this information.

Page 187

Vaudreuil was informed of Wolfe's descent earlier than Montcalm, and while Montcalm was with him he received a confirmatory despatch from Bernetz giving fuller particulars of the landing.

Page 194

Montcalm could scarcely have arrived at the Plains of Abraham before eight or eight-thirty. We also know that Bougainville was as high up as Pointe-aux-Trembles on the night of the twelfth.

Page 195

There is much doubt as to what Montcalm really said when arriving upon the field of battle.

Page 215

Shortly after this Vaudreuil wrote a letter to the minister of marine defaming Montcalm: "From the moment of M. de Montcalm's arrival in this colony down to that of his death he did not cease to sacrifice everything to his boundless ambition. He sowed dissension among the troops, tolerated the most indecent talk against the government, attached to himself the most disreputable persons, used means to corrupt the most virtuous; and, when he could not succeed, became their cruel enemy."

Page 219

Montcalm wrote from his death-bed a letter to Townshend which has been preserved. It reads as follows: "SiróBeing obliged to surrender Quebec to your arms, I have the honour to recommend our sick and wounded to Your Excellency's kindness and to ask the execution of the traits d'echange agreed upon by His Most Christian Majesty and His Britannic Majesty. I beg Your Excellency to rest assured of the high esteem and respectful consideration with which I have the honour to be, Your most humble and obedient servant, Montcalm."

The letter quoted on page 219 has not been proved to be genuine. It is scarcely likely that Montcalm wrote two death-bed letters to the same person.

Page 230

Readers of the books of Dr. Doughty and Major Wood will observe that both these authorities are much more lenient than is the Abbe Casgrain towards de Ramezay in the matter of the capitulation of Quebec.

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