[Footnote 659: Grant to Forbes, no date. "Les rapports sur le nombre des Francais varient de 3,000 a 1,200." Bouquet a Forbes, 17 Sept. 1758. Bigot says that 3,500 daily rations were delivered at Fort Duquesne throughout the summer. Bigot au Ministre, 22 Nov. 1758. In October the number had fallen to 1,180, which included Indians. Ligneris a Vaudreuil, 18 Oct. 1758.]
His only hope was in the detachment he had sent to the rear under Lewis to guard the baggage. But Lewis and his men, when they heard the firing in front, had left their post and pushed forward to help their comrades, taking a straight course through the forest; while Grant was retreating along the path by which he had advanced the night before. Thus they missed each other; and when Grant reached the spot where he expected to find Lewis, he saw to his dismay that nobody was there but Captain Bullitt and his company. He cried in despair that he was a ruined man; not without reason, for the whole body of French and Indians was upon him. Such of his men as held together were forced towards the Alleghany, and, writes Bouquet, "would probably have been cut to pieces but for Captain Bullitt and his Virginians, who kept up the fight against the whole French force till two thirds of them were killed." They were offered quarter, but refused it; and the survivors were driven at last into the Alleghany, where some were drowned, and others swam over and escaped. Grant was surrounded and captured, and Lewis, who presently came up, was also made prisoner, along with some of his men, after a stiff resistance. Thus ended this mismanaged affair, which cost the English two hundred and seventy three killed, wounded, and taken. The rest got back safe to Loyalhannon.
[Footnote 660: On Grant's defeat, Grant to Forbes, no date, a long and minute report, written while a prisoner. Bouquet a Forbes, 17 Sept. 1758. Forbes to Pitt, 20 Oct. 1758. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 1 Nov. 1758. Letters from camp in Boston Evening Post, Boston Weekly Advertiser, Boston News Letter, and other provincial newspapers of the time. List of Killed, Wounded, and Missing in the Action of Sept. 14. Gentleman's Magazine, XXIX. 173. Hazard's Pennsylvania Register, VIII. 141. Olden Time, I. 179. Vaudreuil, with characteristic exaggeration, represents all Grant's party as killed or taken, except a few who died of starvation. The returns show that 540 came back safe, out of 813.]
The invalid General was deeply touched by this reverse, yet expressed himself with a moderation that does him honor. He wrote to Bouquet from Raystown: "Your letter of the seventeenth I read with no less surprise than concern, as I could not believe that such an attempt would have been made without my knowledge and concurrence. The breaking in upon our fair and flattering hopes of success touches me most sensibly. There are two wounded Highland officers just now arrived, who give so lame an account of the matter that one can draw nothing from them, only that my friend Grant most certainly lost his wits, and by his thirst of fame brought on his own perdition, and ran great risk of ours."
[Footnote 661: Forbes to Bouquet, 23 Sept. 1758.]
The French pushed their advantage with spirit. Early in October a large body of them hovered in the woods about the camp at Loyalhannon, drove back a detachment sent against them, approached under cover of the trees, and, though beaten off, withdrew deliberately, after burying their dead and killing great numbers of horses and cattle. But, with all their courageous energy, their position was desperate. The militia of Louisiana and the Illinois left the fort in November and went home; the Indians of Detroit and the Wabash would stay no longer; and, worse yet, the supplies destined for Fort Duquesne had been destroyed by Bradstreet at Fort Frontenac. Hence Ligneris was compelled by prospective starvation to dismiss the greater part of his force, and await the approach of his enemy with those that remained.
[Footnote 662: Burd to Bouquet, 12 Oct. 1758. Bouquet a Forbes, 13 Oct. 1758. Forbes to Pitt, 20 Oct. 1758. Letter from Loyalhannon, 14 Oct., in Olden Time, I. 180. Letters from camp, in Boston News Letter. Ligneris a Vaudreuil, 18 Oct. 1758. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 20 Nov. 1758.]
His enemy was in a plight hardly better than his own. Autumnal rains, uncommonly heavy and persistent, had ruined the newly-cut road. On the mountains the torrents tore it up, and in the valleys the wheels of the wagons and cannon churned it into soft mud. The horses, overworked and underfed, were fast breaking down. The forest had little food for them, and they were forced to drag their own oats and corn, as well as supplies for the army, through two hundred miles of wilderness. In the wretched condition of the road this was no longer possible. The magazines of provisions formed at Raystown and Loyalhannon to support the army on its forward march were emptied faster than they could be filled. Early in October the elements relented; the clouds broke, the sky was bright again, and the sun shone out in splendor on mountains radiant in the livery of autumn. A gleam of hope revisited the heart of Forbes. It was but a flattering illusion. The sullen clouds returned, and a chill, impenetrable veil of mist and rain hid the mountains and the trees. Dejected Nature wept and would not be comforted. Above, below, around, all was trickling, oozing, pattering, gushing. In the miserable encampments the starved horses stood steaming in the rain, and the men crouched, disgusted, under their dripping tents, while the drenched picket-guard in the neighboring forest paced dolefully through black mire and spongy mosses. The rain turned to snow; the descending flakes clung to the many-colored foliage, or melted from sight in the trench of half-liquid clay that was called a road. The wheels of the wagons sank in it to the hub, and to advance or retreat was alike impossible.
Forbes from his sick bed at Raystown wrote to Bouquet: "Your description of the road pierces me to the very soul." And a few days later to Pitt: "I am in the greatest distress, occasioned by rains unusual at this season, which have rendered the clay roads absolutely impracticable. If the weather does not favor, I shall be absolutely locked up in the mountains. I cannot form any judgment how I am to extricate myself as everything depends on the weather, which snows and rains frightfully." There was no improvement. In the next week he writes to Bouquet: "These four days of constant rain have completely ruined the road. The wagons would cut it up more in an hour than we could repair in a week. I have written to General Abercromby, but have not had one scrape of a pen from him since the beginning of September; so it looks as if we were either forgot or left to our fate." Wasted and tortured by disease, the perplexed commander was forced to burden himself with a multitude of details which would else have been neglected, and to do the work of commissary and quartermaster as well as general. "My time," he writes, "is disagreeably spent between business and medicine."
[Footnote 663: Forbes to Bouquet, 15 Oct. 1758. Ibid., 25 Oct. 1758. Forbes to Pitt, 20 Oct. 1758.]
In the beginning of November he was carried to Loyalhannon, where the whole army was then gathered. There was a council of officers, and they resolved to attempt nothing more that season; but, a few days later, three prisoners were brought in who reported the defenceless condition of the French, on which Forbes gave orders to advance again. The wagons and all the artillery, except a few light pieces, were left behind; and on the eighteenth of November twenty-five hundred picked men marched for Fort Duquesne, without tents or baggage, and burdened only with knapsacks and blankets. Washington and Colonel Armstrong, of the Pennsylvanians, had opened a way for them by cutting a road to within a day's march of the French fort. On the evening of the twenty-fourth, the detachment encamped among the hills of Turkey Creek; and the men on guard heard at midnight a dull and heavy sound booming over the western woods. Was it a magazine exploded by accident, or were the French blowing up their works? In the morning the march was resumed, a strong advance-guard leading the way. Forbes came next, carried in his litter; and the troops followed in three parallel columns, the Highlanders in the centre under Montgomery, their colonel, and the Royal Americans and provincials on the right and left, under Bouquet and Washington. Thus, guided by the tap of the drum at the head of each column, they moved slowly through the forest, over damp, fallen leaves, crisp with frost, beneath an endless entanglement of bare gray twigs that sighed and moaned in the bleak November wind. It was dusk when they emerged upon the open plain and saw Fort Duquesne before them, with its background of wintry hills beyond the Monongahela and the Alleghany. During the last three miles they had passed the scattered bodies of those slain two months before at the defeat of Grant; and it is said that, as they neared the fort, the Highlanders were goaded to fury at seeing the heads of their slaughtered comrades stuck on poles, round which the kilts were hung derisively, in imitation of petticoats. Their rage was vain; the enemy was gone. Only a few Indians lingered about the place, who reported that the garrison, to the number of four or five hundred, had retreated, some down the Ohio, some overland towards Presquisle, and the rest, with their commander, up the Alleghany to Venango, called by the French, Fort Machault. They had burned the barracks and storehouses, and blown up the fortifications.
[Footnote 664: Letter from a British Officer in the Expedition, 25 Feb. 1759, Gentleman's Magazine, XXIX. 171.]
The first care of the victors was to provide defence and shelter for those of their number on whom the dangerous task was to fall of keeping what they had won. A stockade was planted around a cluster of traders' cabins and soldiers' huts, which Forbes named Pittsburg, in honor of the great minister. It was not till the next autumn that General Stanwix built, hard by, the regular fortified work called Fort Pitt. Captain West, brother of Benjamin West, the painter, led a detachment of Pennsylvanians, with Indian guides, through the forests of the Monongahela, to search for the bones of those who had fallen under Braddock. In the heart of the savage wood they found them in abundance, gnawed by wolves and foxes, and covered with the dead leaves of four successive autumns. Major Halket, of Forbes' staff, had joined the party; and, with the help of an Indian who was in the fight, he presently found two skeletons lying under a tree. In one of them he recognized, by a peculiarity of the teeth, the remains of his father, Sir Peter Halket, and in the other he believed that he saw the bones of a brother who had fallen at his father's side. The young officer fainted at the sight. The two skeletons were buried together, covered with a Highland plaid, and the Pennsylvanian woodsmen fired a volley over the grave. The rest of the bones were undistinguishable; and, being carefully gathered up, they were all interred in a deep trench dug in the freezing ground.
[Footnote 665: Stanwix to Pitt, 20 Nov. 1759.]
[Footnote 666: Galt, Life of Benjamin West, I. 64 (ed. 1820).]
The work of the new fort was pushed on apace, and the task of holding it for the winter was assigned to Lieutenant-Colonel Mercer, of the Virginians, with two hundred provincials. The number was far too small. It was certain that, unless vigorously prevented by a counter attack, the French would gather in early spring from all their nearer western posts, Niagara, Detroit, Presquisle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, to retake the place; but there was no food for a larger garrison, and the risk must be run.
The rest of the troops, with steps quickened by hunger, began their homeward march early in December. "We would soon make M. de Ligneris shift his quarters at Venango," writes Bouquet just after the fort was taken, "if we only had provisions; but we are scarcely able to maintain ourselves a few days here. After God, the success of this expedition is entirely due to the General, who, by bringing about the treaty with the Indians at Easton, struck the French a stunning blow, wisely delayed our advance to wait the effects of that treaty, secured all our posts and left nothing to chance, and resisted the urgent solicitation to take Braddock's road, which would have been our destruction. In all his measures he has shown the greatest prudence, firmness, and ability." No sooner was his work done, than Forbes fell into a state of entire prostration, so that for a time he could neither write a letter nor dictate one. He managed, however, two days after reaching Fort Duquesne, to send Amherst a brief notice of his success, adding: "I shall leave this place as soon as I am able to stand; but God knows when I shall reach Philadelphia, if I ever do." On the way back, a hut with a chimney was built for him at each stopping-place, and on the twenty-eighth of December Major Halket writes from "Tomahawk Camp:" "How great was our disappointment, on coming to this ground last night, to find that the chimney was unlaid, no fire made, nor any wood cut that would burn. This distressed the General to the greatest degree, by obliging him after his long journey to sit above two hours without any fire, exposed to a snowstorm, which had very near destroyed him entirely; but with great difficulty, by the assistance of some cordials, he was brought to." At length, carried all the way in his litter, he reached Philadelphia, where, after lingering through the winter, he died in March, and was buried with military honors in the chancel of Christ Church.
[Footnote 667: Bouquet to Chief Justice Allen, 15 Nov. 1758.]
[Footnote 668: Forbes to Amherst, 26 Nov. 1758.]
[Footnote 669: Halket to Bouquet, 28 Dec. 1758.]
If his achievement was not brilliant, its solid value was above price. It opened the Great West to English enterprise, took from France half her savage allies, and relieved the western borders from the scourge of Indian war. From southern New York to North Carolina, the frontier populations had cause to bless the memory of the steadfast and all-enduring soldier.
So ended the campaign of 1758. The centre of the French had held its own triumphantly at Ticonderoga; but their left had been forced back by the capture of Louisbourg, and their right by that of Fort Duquesne, while their entire right wing had been well nigh cut off by the destruction of Fort Frontenac. The outlook was dark. Their own Indians were turning against them. "They have struck us," wrote Doreil to the Minister of War; "they have seized three canoes loaded with furs on Lake Ontario, and murdered the men in them: sad forerunner of what we have to fear! Peace, Monseigneur, give us peace! Pardon me, but I cannot repeat that word too often."
NOTE: The Bouquet and Haldimand Papers in the British Museum contain a mass of curious correspondence of the principal persons engaged in the expedition under Forbes; copies of it all are before me. The Public Record Office, America and West Indies, has also furnished much material, including the official letters of Forbes. The Writings of Washington, the Archives and Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, and the magazines and newspapers of the time may be mentioned among the sources of information, along with a variety of miscellaneous contemporary letters. The Journals of Christian Frederic Post are printed in full in the Olden Time and elsewhere.
The Brink of Ruin
"Never was general in a more critical position than I was: God has delivered me; his be the praise! He gives me health, though I am worn out with labor, fatigue, and miserable dissensions that have determined me to ask for my recall. Heaven grant that I may get it!"
Thus wrote Montcalm to his mother after his triumph at Ticonderoga. That great exploit had entailed a train of vexations, for it stirred the envy of Vaudreuil, more especially as it was due to the troops of the line, with no help from Indians, and very little from Canadians. The Governor assured the Colonial Minister that the victory would have bad results, though he gives no hint what these might be; that Montcalm had mismanaged the whole affair; that he would have been beaten but for the manifest interposition of Heaven; and, finally, that he had failed to follow his (Vaudreuil's) directions, and had therefore enabled the English to escape. The real directions of the Governor, dictated, perhaps, by dread lest his rival should reap laurels, were to avoid a general engagement; and it was only by setting them at nought that Abercromby had been routed. After the battle a sharp correspondence passed between the two chiefs. The Governor, who had left Montcalm to his own resources before the crisis, sent him Canadians and Indians in abundance after it was over; while he cautiously refrained from committing himself by positive orders, repeated again and again that if these reinforcements were used to harass Abercromby's communications, the whole English army would fall back to the Hudson, and leave baggage and artillery a prey to the French. These preposterous assertions and tardy succors were thought by Montcalm to be a device for giving color to the charge that he had not only failed to deserve victory, but had failed also to make use of it. He did what was possible, and sent strong detachments to act in the English rear; which, though they did not, and could not, compel the enemy to fall back, caused no slight annoyance, till Rogers checked them by the defeat of Marin. Nevertheless Vaudreuil pretended on one hand that Montcalm had done nothing with the Canadians and Indians sent him, and on the other that these same Canadians and Indians had triumphed over the enemy by their mere presence at Ticonderoga. "It was my activity in sending these succors to Carillon [Ticonderoga] that forced the English to retreat. The Marquis de Montcalm might have made their retreat difficult; but it was in vain that I wrote to him, in vain that the colony troops, Canadians and Indians, begged him to pursue the enemy." The succors he speaks of were sent in July and August, while the English did not fall back till the first of November. Neither army left its position till the season was over, and Abercromby did so only when he learned that the French were setting the example. Vaudreuil grew more and more bitter. "As the King has intrusted this colony to me, I cannot help warning you of the unhappy consequences that would follow if the Marquis de Montcalm should remain here. I shall keep him by me till I receive your orders. It is essential that they reach me early." "I pass over in silence all the infamous conduct and indecent talk he has held or countenanced; but I should be wanting in my duty to the King if I did not beg you to ask for his recall."
[Footnote 670: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Aout, 1758.]
[Footnote 671: Much of the voluminous correspondence on these matters will be found in N.Y. Col. Docs., X.]
[Footnote 672: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Avril, 1759.]
[Footnote 673: Ibid.]
He does not say what is meant by infamous conduct and indecent talk; but the allusion is probably to irreverent utterances touching the Governor in which the officers from France were apt to indulge, not always without the knowledge of their chief. Vaudreuil complained of this to Montcalm, adding, "I am greatly above it, and I despise it." To which the General replied: "You are right to despise gossip, supposing that there has been any. For my part, though I hear that I have been torn to pieces without mercy in your presence, I do not believe it."
[Footnote 674: Vaudreuil a Montcalm, 1 Aout, 1758.]
[Footnote 675: Montcalm a Vaudreuil, 6 Aout, 1758.]
In these infelicities Bigot figures as peacemaker, though with no perceptible success. Vaudreuil's cup of bitterness was full when letters came from Versailles ordering him to defer to Montcalm on all questions of war, or of civil administration bearing up war. He had begged hard for his rival's recall, and in reply his rival was set over his head.
[Footnote 676: Ordres du Roy et Depeches des Ministres, 1758, 1759.]
The two yokefellows were excellently fitted to exasperate each other: Montcalm, with his southern vivacity of emotion and an impetuous, impatient volubility that sometimes forgot prudence; and Vaudreuil, always affable towards adherents, but full of suspicious egotism and restless jealousy that bristled within him at the very thought of his colleague. Some of the by-play of the quarrel may be seen in Montcalm's familiar correspondence with Bourlamaque. One day the Governor, in his own house, brought up the old complaint that Montcalm, after taking Fort William Henry, did not take Fort Edward also. The General, for the twentieth time, gave good reasons for not making the attempt. "I ended," he tells Bourlamaque, "by saying quietly that when I went to war I did the best I could; and that when one is not pleased with one's lieutenants, one had better take the field in person. He was very much moved, and muttered between his teeth that perhaps he would; at which I said that I should be delighted to serve under him. Madame de Vaudreuil wanted to put in her word. I said: 'Madame, saving due respect, permit me to have the honor to say that ladies ought not to talk war.' She kept on. I said: 'Madame, saving due respect, permit me to have the honor to say that if Madame de Montcalm were here, and heard me talking war with Monsieur le Marquis de Vaudreuil, she would remain silent.' This scene was in presence of eight officers, three of them belonging to the colony troops; and a pretty story they will make of it."
These letters to Bourlamaque, in their detestable handwriting, small, cramped, confused, without stops, and sometimes almost indecipherable, betray the writer's state of mind. "I should like as well as anybody to be Marshal of France; but to buy the honor with the life I am leading here would be too much." He recounts the last news from Fort Duquesne, just before its fall. "Mutiny among the Canadians, who want to come home; the officers busy with making money, and stealing like mandarins. Their commander sets the example, and will come back with three or four hundred thousand francs; the pettiest ensign, who does not gamble, will have ten, twelve, or fifteen thousand. The Indians don't like Ligneris, who is drunk every day. Forgive the confusion of this letter; I have not slept all night with thinking of the robberies and mismanagement and folly. Pauvre Roi, pauvre France, cara patria!" "Oh, when shall we get out of this country! I think I would give half that I have to go home. Pardon this digression to a melancholy man. It is not that I have not still some remnants of gayety; but what would seem such in anybody else is melancholy for a Languedocian. Burn my letter, and never doubt my attachment." "I shall always say, Happy he who is free from the proud yoke to which I am bound. When shall I see my chateau of Candiac, my plantations, my chestnut grove, my oil-mill, my mulberry-trees? O bon Dieu! Bon soir; brulez ma lettre."
[Footnote 677: The above extracts are from letters of 5 and 27 Nov. and 9 Dec. 1758, and 18 and 23 March, 1759.]
Never was dispute more untimely than that between these ill-matched colleagues. The position of the colony was desperate. Thus far the Canadians had never lost heart, but had obeyed with admirable alacrity the Governor's call to arms, borne with patience the burdens and privations of the war, and submitted without revolt to the exactions and oppressions of Cadet and his crew; loyal to their native soil, loyal to their Church, loyal to the wretched government that crushed and belittled them. When the able-bodied were ordered to the war, where four fifths of them were employed in the hard and tedious work of transportation, the women, boys and old men tilled the fields and raised a scanty harvest, which always might be, and sometimes was, taken from them in the name of the King. Yet the least destitute among them were forced every winter to lodge soldiers in their houses, for each of whom they were paid fifteen france a month, in return for substance devoured and wives and daughters debauched.
[Footnote 678: Memoire sur le moyen d'entretenir 10,000 Hommes de Troupes dans les Colonies, 1759.]
No pains had been spared to keep up the courage of the people and feed them with flattering illusions. When the partisan officer Boishebert was tried for peculation, his counsel met the charge by extolling the manner in which he had fulfilled the arduous duty of encouraging the Acadians, "putting on an air of triumph even in defeat; using threats, caresses, stratagems; painting our victories in vivid colors; hiding the strength and successes of the enemy; promising succors that did not and could not come; inventing plausible reasons why they did not come, and making new promises to set off the failure of the old; persuading a starved people to forget their misery; taking from some to give to others; and doing all this continually in the face of a superior enemy, that this country might be snatched from England and saved to France." What Boishebert was doing in Acadia, Vaudreuil was doing on a larger scale in Canada. By indefatigable lying, by exaggerating every success and covering over every reverse, he deceived the people and in some measure himself. He had in abundance the Canadian gift of gasconade, and boasted to the Colonial Minister that one of his countrymen was a match for from three to ten Englishmen. It is possible that he almost believed it; for the midnight surprise of defenceless families and the spreading of panics among scattered border settlements were inseparable from his idea of war. Hence the high value he set on Indians, who in such work outdid the Canadians themselves. Sustained by the intoxication of flattering falsehoods, and not doubting that the blunders and weakness of the first years of the war gave the measure of English efficiency, the colonists had never suspected that they could be subdued.
[Footnote 679: Proces de Bigot, Cadet, et autres, Memoire pour le Sieur de Boishebert.]
But now there was a change. The reverses of the last campaign, hunger, weariness, and possibly some incipient sense of atrocious misgovernment, began to produce their effect; and some, especially in the towns, were heard to murmur that further resistance was useless. The Canadians, though brave and patient, needed, like Frenchmen, the stimulus of success. "The people are alarmed," said the modest Governor, "and would lose courage if my firmness did not rekindle their zeal to serve the King."
[Footnote 680: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 10 Avril, 1759.]
"Rapacity, folly, intrigue, falsehood, will soon ruin this colony which has cost the King so dear," wrote Doreil to the Minister of War. "We must not flatter ourselves with vain hope; Canada is lost if we do not have peace this winter." "It has been saved by miracle in these past three years; nothing but peace can save it now, in spite of all the efforts and the talents of M. de Montcalm." Vaudreuil himself became thoroughly alarmed, and told the Court in the autumn of 1758 that food, arms, munitions, and everything else were fast failing, and that without immediate peace or heavy reinforcements all was lost.
[Footnote 681: Doreil au Ministre, 31 Juillet, 1758. Ibid. 12 Aout, 1758. Ibid. 31 Aout, 1758. Ibid. 1 Sept. 1758.]
The condition of Canada was indeed deplorable. The St. Lawrence was watched by British ships; the harvest was meagre; a barrel of flour cost two hundred francs; most of the cattle and many of the horses had been killed for food. The people lived chiefly on a pittance of salt cod or on rations furnished by the King; all prices were inordinate; the officers from France were starving on their pay; while a legion of indigenous and imported scoundrels fattened on the general distress. "What a country!" exclaims Montcalm. "Here all the knaves grow rich, and the honest men are ruined." Yet he was resolved to stand by it to the last, and wrote to the Minister of War that he would bury himself under its ruins. "I asked for my recall after the glorious affair of the eighth of July; but since the state of the colony is so bad, I must do what I can to help it and retard its fall." The only hope was in a strong appeal to the Court; and he thought himself fortunate in persuading Vaudreuil to consent that Bougainville should be commissioned to make it, seconded by Doreil. They were to sail in different ships, in order that at least one of them might arrive safe.
Vaudreuil gave Bougainville a letter introducing him to the Colonial Minister in high terms of praise: "He is in all respects better fitted than anybody 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." Concerning Doreil he wrote to the Minister of War: "I have full confidence in him, and he may be entirely trusted. Everybody here likes him." While thus extolling the friends of his rival, the Governor took care to provide against the effects of his politic commendations, and wrote thus to his patron, the Colonial Minister: "In order to condescend to the wishes of M. de Montcalm, and leave no means untried to keep in harmony with him, I have given letters to MM. Doreil and Bougainville; but I have the honor to inform you, Monseigneur, that they do not understand the colony, and to warn you that they are creatures of M. de Montcalm."
[Footnote 682: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Marine, 4 Nov. 1758.]
[Footnote 683: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Guerre, 11 Oct. 1758.]
[Footnote 684: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Marine, 3 Nov. 1758.]
The two envoys had sailed for France. Winter was close at hand, and the harbor of Quebec was nearly empty. One ship still lingered, the last of the season, and by her Montcalm sent a letter to his mother: "You will be glad to have me write to you up to the last moment to tell you for the hundredth time that, occupied as I am with the fate of New France, the preservation of the troops, the interest of the state, and my own glory, I think continually of you all. We did our best in 1756, 1757, and 1758; and so, God helping, we will do in 1759, unless you make peace in Europe." Then, shut from the outer world for half a year by barriers of ice, he waited what returning spring might bright forth.
Both Bougainville and Doreil escaped the British cruisers and safely reached Versailles, where, in the slippery precincts of the Court, as new to him as they were treacherous, the young aide-de-camp justified all the confidence of his chief. He had interviews with the ministers, the King, and, more important than all, with Madame de Pompadour, whom he succeeded in propitiating, though not, it seems, without difficulty and delay. France, unfortunate by land and sea, with finances ruined and navy crippled, had gained one brilliant victory, and she owed it to Montcalm. She could pay for it in honors, if in nothing else. Montcalm was made lieutenant-general, Levis major-general, Bourlamaque brigadier, and Bougainville colonel and chevalier of St. Louis; while Vaudreuil was solaced with the grand cross of that order. But when the two envoys asked substantial aid for the imperilled colony, the response was chilling. The Colonial Minister, Berryer, prepossessed against Bougainville by the secret warning of Vaudreuil, received him coldly, and replied to his appeal for help: "Eh, Monsieur, when the house is on fire one cannot occupy one's self with the stable." "At least, Monsieur, nobody will say that you talk like a horse," was the irreverent answer.
[Footnote 685: Ordres du Roy et Depeches des Ministres, Janvier, Fevrier, 1759.]
Bougainville laid four memorials before the Court, in which he showed the desperate state of the colony and its dire need of help. Thus far, he said, Canada has been saved by the dissensions of the English colonies; but now, for the first time, they are united against her, and prepared to put forth their strength. And he begged for troops, arms, munitions, food, and a squadron to defend the mouth of the St. Lawrence. The reply, couched in a letter to Montcalm, was to the effect that it was necessary to concentrate all the strength of the kingdom for a decisive operation in Europe; that, therefore, the aid required could not be sent; and that the King trusted everything to his zeal and generalship, joined with the valor of the victors of Ticonderoga. All that could be obtained was between three and four hundred recruits for the regulars, sixty engineers, sappers, and artillerymen, and gunpowder, arms, and provisions sufficient, along with the supplies brought over by the contractor, Cadet, to carry the colony through the next campaign.
[Footnote 686: Memoire remis au Ministre par M. de Bougainville, Decembre, 1758.]
[Footnote 687: Le Ministre a Montcalm, 3 Fev. 1759.]
[Footnote 688: Ordres du Roy et Depeches des Ministres, Fevrier, 1759.]
Montcalm had intrusted Bougainville with another mission, widely different. This was no less than the negotiating of suitable marriages for the eldest son and daughter of his commander, with whom, in the confidence of friendship, he had had many conversations on the matter. "He and I," Montcalm wrote to his mother, Madame de Saint-Veran, "have two ideas touching these marriages,—the first, romantic and chimerical; the second, good, practicable." Bougainville, invoking the aid of a lady of rank, a friend of the family, acquitted himself well of his delicate task. Before he embarked for Canada, in early spring, a treaty was on foot for the marriage of the young Comte de Montcalm to an heiress of sixteen; while Mademoiselle de Montcalm had already become Madame d'Espineuse. "Her father will be delighted," says the successful negotiator.
[Footnote 689: Montcalm a Madame de Saint-Veran, 24 Sept. 1758.]
[Footnote 690: Lettres de Bougainville a Madame de Saint-Veran, 1758, 1759.]
Again he crossed the Atlantic and sailed up the St. Lawrence as the portentous spring of 1759 was lowering over the dissolving snows of Canada. With him came a squadron bearing the supplies and the petty reinforcement which the Court had vouchsafed. "A little is precious to those who have nothing," said Montcalm on receiving them. Despatches from the ministers gave warning of a great armament fitted out in English ports for the attack of Quebec, while a letter to the General from the Marechal de Belleisle, minister of war, told what was expected of him, and why he and the colony were abandoned to their fate. "If we sent a large reinforcement of troops," said Belleisle, "there would be great fear that the English would intercept them on the way; and as the King could never send you forces equal to those which the English are prepared to oppose to you, the attempt would have no other effect than to excite the Cabinet of London to increased efforts for preserving its superiority on the American continent."
"As we must expect the English to turn all their force against Canada, and attack you on several sides at once, it is necessary that you limit your plans of defence to the most essential points and those most closely connected, so that, being concentrated within a smaller space, each part may be within reach of support and succor from the rest. How small soever may be the space you are able to hold, it is indispensable to keep a footing in North America; for if we once lose the country entirely, its recovery will be almost impossible. The King counts on your zeal, courage, and persistency to accomplish this object, and relies on you to spare no pains and no exertions. Impart this resolution to your chief officers, and join with them to inspire your soldiers with it. I have answered for you to the King; I am confident that you will not disappoint me, and that for the glory of the nation, the good of the state, and your own preservation, you will go to the utmost extremity rather than submit to conditions as shameful as those imposed at Louisbourg, the memory of which you will wipe out." "We will save this unhappy colony, or perish," was the answer of Montcalm.
[Footnote 691: Belleisle a Montcalm, 19 Fev. 1759.]
It was believed that Canada would be attacked with at least fifty thousand men. Vaudreuil had caused a census to be made of the governments of Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. It showed a little more than thirteen thousand effective men. To these were to be added thirty-five hundred troops of the line, including the late reinforcement, fifteen hundred colony troops, a body of irregulars in Acadia, and the militia and coureurs-de-bois of Detroit and the other upper posts, along with from one to two thousand Indians who could still be counted on. Great as was the disparity of numbers, there was good hope that the centre of the colony could be defended; for the only avenues by which an enemy could approach were barred by the rock of Quebec, the rapids of the St. Lawrence, and the strong position of Isle-aux-Noix, at the outlet of Lake Champlain. Montcalm had long inclined to the plan of concentration enjoined on him by the Minister of War. Vaudreuil was of another mind; he insisted on still occupying Acadia and the forts of the upper country: matters on which he and the General exchanged a correspondence that widened the breach between them.
[Footnote 692: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Avril, 1759. The Memoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760, says 15,229 effective men.]
Should every effort of resistance fail, and the invaders force their way into the heart of Canada, Montcalm proposed the desperate resort of abandoning the valley of the St. Lawrence, descending the Mississippi with his troops and as many as possible of the inhabitants, and making a last stand for France among the swamps of Louisiana.
[Footnote 693: Memoire sur le Canada remis au Ministre, 27 Dec. 1758._]
In April, before Bougainville's return, he wrote to his wife: "Can we hope for another miracle to save us? I trust in God; he fought for us on the eighth of July. Come what may, his will be done! I wait the news from France with impatience and dread. We have had none for eight months; and who knows if much can reach us at all this year? How dearly I have to pay for the dismal privilege of figuring two or three times in the gazettes!" A month later, after Bougainvile had come: "Our daughter is well married. I think I would renounce every honor to join you again; but the King must be obeyed. The moment when I see you once more will be the brightest of my life. Adieu, my heart! I believe that I love you more than ever."
Bougainville had brought sad news. He had heard before sailing from France that one of Montcalm's daughters was dead, but could not learn which of them. "I think," says the father, "that it must be poor Mirete, who was like me, and whom I loved very much." He was never to know if this conjecture was true.
To Vaudreuil came a repetition of the detested order that he should defer to Montcalm on all questions of war; and moreover that he should not take command in person except when the whole body of the militia was called out; nor, even then, without consulting his rival. His ire and vexation produced an access of jealous self-assertion, and drove him into something like revolt against the ministerial command. "If the English attack Quebec, I shall always hold myself free to go thither myself with most of the troops and all the militia and Indians I can assemble. On arriving I shall give battle to the enemy; and I shall do so again and again, till I have forced him to retire, or till he has entirely crushed me by excessive superiority of numbers. My obstinacy in opposing his landing will be the more a propos, as I have not the means of sustaining a siege. If I succeed as I wish, I shall next march to Carillon to arrest him there. You see, Monseigneur, that the slightest change in my arrangements would have the most unfortunate consequences."
[Footnote 694: Ordres du Roy et Depeches des Ministres, Lettre a Vaudreuil, 3 Fev. 1759.]
[Footnote 695: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Avril, 1759.]
Whether he made good this valorous declaration will presently be seen.
* * * * *
NOTE. The Archives de la Guerre and the Archives de la Marine contain a mass of letters and documents on the subjects treated in the above chapter; these I have carefully read and collated. The other principal authorities are the correspondence of Montcalm with Bourlamaque and with his own family; the letters of Vaudreuil preserved in the Archives Nationales; and the letters of Bougainville and Doreil to Montcalm and Madame de Saint-Veran while on their mission to France. For copies of these last I am indebted to the present Marquis de Montcalm.
Captain John Knox, of the forty-third regiment, had spent the winter in garrison at Fort Cumberland, on the hill of Beausejour. For nearly two years he and his comrades had been exiles amid the wilds of Nova Scotia, and the monotonous inaction was becoming insupportable. The great marsh of Tantemar on the one side, and that of Missaguash on the other, two vast flat tracts of glaring snow, bounded by dark hills of spruce and fir, were hateful to their sight. Shooting, fishing, or skating were a dangerous relief; for the neighborhood was infested by "vermin," as they called the Acadians and their Micmac allies. In January four soldiers and a ranger were waylaid not far from the fort, disabled by bullets, and then scalped alive. They were found the next morning on the snow, contorted in the agonies of death, and frozen like marble statues. St. Patrick's Day brought more cheerful excitements. The Irish officers of the garrison gave their comrades a feast, having laid in during the autumn a stock of frozen provisions, that the festival of their saint might be duly honored. All was hilarity at Fort Cumberland, where it is recorded that punch to the value of twelve pounds sterling, with a corresponding supply of wine and beer, was consumed on this joyous occasion.
[Footnote 696: Knox, Historical Journal, I. 228.]
About the middle of April a schooner came up the bay, bringing letters that filled men and officers with delight. The regiment was ordered to hold itself ready to embark for Louisbourg and join an expedition to the St. Lawrence, under command of Major-General Wolfe. All that afternoon the soldiers were shouting and cheering in their barracks; and when they mustered for the evening roll-call, there was another burst of huzzas. They waited in expectancy nearly three weeks, and then the transports which were to carry them arrived, bringing the provincials who had been hastily raised in New England to take their place. These Knox describes as a mean-looking set of fellows, of all ages and sizes, and without any kind of discipline; adding that their officers are sober, modest men, who, though of confined ideas, talk very clearly and sensibly, and make a decent appearance in blue, faced with scarlet, though the privates have no uniform at all.
At last the forty-third set sail, the cannon of the fort saluting them, and the soldiers cheering lustily, overjoyed to escape from their long imprisonment. A gale soon began; the transports became separated; Knox's vessel sheltered herself for a time in Passamaquoddy Bay; then passed the Grand Menan, and steered southward and eastward along the coast of Nova Scotia. A calm followed the gale; and they moved so slowly that Knox beguiled the time by fishing over the stern, and caught a halibut so large that he was forced to call for help to pull it in. Then they steered northeastward, now lost in fogs, and now tossed mercilessly on those boisterous waves; till, on the twenty-fourth of May, they saw a rocky and surf-lashed shore, with a forest of masts rising to all appearance out of it. It was the British fleet in the land-locked harbor of Louisbourg.
On the left, as they sailed through the narrow passage, lay the town, scarred with shot and shell, the red cross floating over its battered ramparts; and around in a wide semicircle rose the bristling back of rugged hills, set thick with dismal evergreens. They passed the great ships of the fleet, and anchored among the other transports towards the head of the harbor. It was not yet free from ice; and the floating masses lay so thick in some parts that the reckless sailors, returning from leave on shore, jumped from one to another to regain their ships. There was a review of troops, and Knox went to see it; but it was over before he reached the place, where he was presently told of a characteristic reply just made by Wolfe to some officers who had apologized for not having taught their men the new exercise. "Poh, poh!—new exercise—new fiddlestick. If they are otherwise well disciplined, and will fight, that's all I shall require of them."
Knox does not record his impressions of his new commander, which must have been disappointing. He called him afterwards a British Achilles; but in person at least Wolfe bore no likeness to the son of Peleus, for never was the soul of a hero cased in a frame so incongruous. His face, when seen in profile, was singular as that of the Great Conde. The forehead and chin receded; the nose, slightly upturned, formed with the other features the point of an obtuse triangle; the mouth was by no means shaped to express resolution; and nothing but the clear, bright, and piercing eye bespoke the spirit within. On his head he wore a black three-cornered hat; his red hair was tied in a queue behind; his narrow shoulders, slender body, and long, thin limbs were cased in a scarlet frock, with broad cuffs and ample skirts that reached the knee; while on his left arm he wore a band of crape in mourning for his father, of whose death he had heard a few days before.
James Wolfe was in his thirty-third year. His father was an officer of distinction, Major-General Edward Wolfe, and he himself, a delicate and sensitive child, but an impetuous and somewhat headstrong youth, had served the King since the age of fifteen. From childhood he had dreamed of the army and the wars. At sixteen he was in Flanders, adjutant of his regiment, discharging the duties of the post in a way that gained him early promotion and, along with a painstaking assiduity, showing a precocious faculty for commanding men. He passed with credit through several campaigns, took part in the victory of Dettingen, and then went to Scotland to fight at Culloden. Next we find him at Stirling, Perth, and Glasgow, always ardent and always diligent, constant in military duty, and giving his spare hours to mathematics and Latin. He presently fell in love; and being disappointed, plunged into a variety of dissipations, contrary to his usual habits, which were far above the standard of that profligate time.
At twenty-three he was a lieutenant-colonel, commanding his regiment in the then dirty and barbarous town of Inverness, amid a disaffected and turbulent population whom it was his duty to keep in order: a difficult task, which he accomplished so well as to gain the special commendation of the King, and even the goodwill of the Highlanders themselves. He was five years among these northern hills, battling with ill-health, and restless under the intellectual barrenness of his surroundings. He felt his position to be in no way salutary, and wrote to his mother: "The fear of becoming a mere ruffian and of imbibing the tyrannical principles of an absolute commander, or giving way insensibly to the temptations of power till I became proud, insolent, and intolerable,—these considerations will make me wish to leave the regiment before next winter; that by frequenting men above myself I may know my true condition, and by discoursing with the other sex may learn some civility and mildness of carriage." He got leave of absence, and spent six months in Paris, where he was presented at Court and saw much of the best society. This did not prevent him from working hard to perfect himself in French, as well as in horsemanship, fencing, dancing, and other accomplishments, and from earnestly seeking an opportunity to study the various armies of Europe. In this he was thwarted by the stupidity and prejudice of the commander-in-chief; and he made what amends he could by extensive reading in all that bore on military matters.
His martial instincts were balanced by strong domestic inclinations. He was fond of children; and after his disappointment in love used to say that they were the only true inducement to marriage. He was a most dutiful son, and wrote continually to both his parents. Sometimes he would philosophize on the good and ill of life; sometimes he held questionings with his conscience; and once he wrote to his mother in a strain of self-accusation not to be expected from a bold and determined soldier. His nature was a compound of tenderness and fire, which last sometimes showed itself in sharp and unpleasant flashes. His excitable temper was capable almost of fierceness, and he could now and then be needlessly stern; but towards his father, mother, and friends he was a model of steady affection. He made friends readily, and kept them, and was usually a pleasant companion though subject to sallies of imperious irritability which occasionally broke through his strong sense of good breeding. For this his susceptible constitution was largely answerable, for he was a living barometer, and his spirits rose and fell with every change of weather. In spite of his impatient outbursts, the officers whom he had commanded remained attached to him for life; and, in spite of his rigorous discipline, he was beloved by his soldiers, to whose comfort he was always attentive. Frankness, directness, essential good feeling, and a high integrity atoned for all his faults.
In his own view, as expressed to his mother, he was a person of very moderate abilities, aided by more than usual diligence; but this modest judgment of himself by no means deprived him of self-confidence, nor, in time of need, of self-assertion. He delighted in every kind of hardihood; and, in his contempt for effeminacy, once said to his mother: "Better be a savage of some use than a gentle, amorous puppy, obnoxious to all the world." He was far from despising fame; but the controlling principles of his life were duty to his country and his profession, loyalty to the King, and fidelity to his own ideal of the perfect soldier. To the parent who was the confidant of his most intimate thoughts he said: "All that I wish for myself is that I may at all times be ready and firm to meet that fate we cannot shun, and to die gracefully and properly when the hour comes." Never was wish more signally fulfilled. Again he tells her: "My utmost desire and ambition is to look steadily upon danger;" and his desire was accomplished. His intrepidity was complete. No form of death had power to daunt him. Once and again, when bound on some deadly enterprise of war, he calmly counts the chances whether or not he can compel his feeble body to bear him on till the work is done. A frame so delicately strung could not have been insensible to danger; but forgetfulness of self, and the absorption of every faculty in the object before him, shut out the sense of fear. He seems always to have been at his best in the thick of battle; most complete in his mastery over himself and over others.
But it is in the intimacies of domestic life that one sees him most closely, and especially in his letters to his mother, from whom he inherited his frail constitution, without the beauty that distinguished her. "The greatest happiness that I wish for here is to see you happy." "If you stay much at home I will come and shut myself up with you for three weeks or a month, and play at piquet from morning till night; and you shall laugh at my short red hair as much as you please." The playing at piquet was a sacrifice to filial attachment; for the mother loved cards, and the son did not. "Don't trouble yourself about my room or my bedclothes; too much care and delicacy at this time would enervate me and complete the destruction of a tottering constitution. Such as it is, it must serve me now, and I'll make the best of it while it holds." At the beginning of the war his father tried to dissuade him from offering his services on board the fleet; and he replies in a letter to Mrs. Wolfe: "It is no time to think of what is convenient or agreeable; that service is certainly the best in which we are the most useful. For my part, I am determined never to give myself a moment's concern about the nature of the duty which His Majesty is pleased to order us upon. It will be a sufficient comfort to you two, as far as my person is concerned,—at least it will be a reasonable consolation,—to reflect that the Power which has hitherto preserved me may, if it be his pleasure, continue to do so; if not, that it is but a few days or a few years more or less, and that those who perish in their duty and in the service of their country die honorably." Then he proceeds to give particular directions about his numerous dogs, for the welfare of which in his absence he provides with anxious solicitude, especially for "my friend Caesar, who has great merit and much good-humor."
After the unfortunate expedition against Rochefort, when the board of general officers appointed to inquire into the affair were passing the highest encomiums upon his conduct, his parents were at Bath, and he took possession of their house at Blackheath, whence he wrote to his mother: "I lie in your chamber, dress in the General's little parlor, and dine where you did. The most perceptible difference and change of affairs (exclusive of the bad table I keep) is the number of dogs in the yard; but by coaxing Ball [his father's dog] and rubbing his back with my stick, I have reconciled him with the new ones, and put them in some measure under his protection."
When about to sail on the expedition against Louisbourg, he was anxious for his parents, and wrote to his uncle, Major Wolfe, at Dublin: "I trust you will give the best advice to my mother, and such assistance, if it should be wanted, as the distance between you will permit. I mention this because the General seems to decline apace, and narrowly escaped being carried off in the spring. She, poor woman, is in a bad state of health, and needs the care of some friendly hand. She has long and painful fits of illness, which by succession and inheritance are likely to devolve on me, since I feel the early symptoms of them." Of his friends Guy Carleton, afterwards Lord Dorchester, and George Warde, the companion of his boyhood, he also asks help for his mother in his absence.
His part in the taking of Louisbourg greatly increased his reputation. After his return he went to Bath to recruit his health; and it seems to have been here that he wooed and won Miss Katherine Lowther, daughter of an ex-Governor of Barbadoes, and sister of the future Lord Lonsdale. A betrothal took place, and Wolfe wore her portrait till the night before his death. It was a little before this engagement that he wrote to his friend Lieutenant-Colonel Rickson: "I have this day signified to Mr. Pitt that he may dispose of my slight carcass as he pleases, and that I am ready for any undertaking within the compass of my skill and cunning. I am in a very bad condition both with the gravel and rheumatism; but I had much rather die than decline any kind of service that offers. If I followed my own taste it would lead me into Germany. However, it is not our part to choose, but to obey. My opinion is that I shall join the army in America."
Pitt chose him to command the expedition then fitting out against Quebec; made him a major-general, though, to avoid giving offence to older officers, he was to hold that rank in America alone; and permitted him to choose his own staff. Appointments made for merit, and not through routine and patronage, shocked the Duke of Newcastle, to whom a man like Wolfe was a hopeless enigma; and he told George II. that Pitt's new general was mad. "Mad is he?" returned the old King; "then I hope he will bite some others of my generals."
At the end of January the fleet was almost ready, and Wolfe wrote to his uncle Walter: "I am to act a greater part in this business than I wished. The backwardness of some of the older officers has in some measure forced the Government to come down so low. I shall do my best, and leave the rest to fortune, as perforce we must when there are not the most commanding abilities. We expect to sail in about three weeks. A London life and little exercise disagrees entirely with me, but the sea still more. If I have health and constitution enough for the campaign, I shall think myself a lucky man; what happens afterwards is of no great consequence." He sent to his mother an affectionate letter of farewell, went to Spithead, embarked with Admiral Saunders in the ship "Neptune," and set sail on the seventeenth of February. In a few hours the whole squadron was at sea, the transports, the frigates, and the great line-of-battle ships, with their ponderous armament and their freight of rude humanity armed and trained for destruction; while on the heaving deck of the "Neptune," wretched with sea-sickness and racked with pain, stood the gallant invalid who was master of it all.
The fleet consisted of twenty-two ships of the line, with frigates, sloops-of-war, and a great number of transports. When Admiral Saunders arrived with his squadron off Louisbourg, he found the entrance blocked by ice, and was forced to seek harborage at Halifax. The squadron of Admiral Holmes, which had sailed a few days earlier, proceeded to New York to take on board troops destined for the expedition, while the squadron of Admiral Durell steered for the St. Lawrence to intercept the expected ships from France. In May the whole fleet, except the ten ships with Durell, was united in the harbor of Louisbourg. Twelve thousand troops were to have been employed for the expedition; but several regiments expected from the West Indies were for some reason countermanded, while the accessions from New York and the Nova Scotia garrisons fell far short of the looked-for numbers. Three weeks before leaving Louisbourg, Wolfe writes to his uncle Walter that he has an army of nine thousand men. The actual number seems to have been somewhat less. "Our troops are good," he informs Pitt; "and if valor can make amends for the want of numbers, we shall probably succeed."
[Footnote 697: See Grenville Correspondence, I. 305.]
Three brigadiers, all in the early prime of life, held command under him: Monckton, Townshend, and Murray. They were all his superiors in birth, and one of them, Townshend, never forgot that he was so. "George Townshend," says Walpole, "has thrust himself again into the service; and, as far as wrongheadedness will go, is very proper for a hero." The same caustic writer says further that he was of "a proud, sullen, and contemptuous temper," and that he "saw everything in an ill-natured and ridiculous light." Though his perverse and envious disposition made him a difficult colleague, Townshend had both talents and energy; as also had Monckton, the same officer who commanded at the capture of Beausejour in 1755. Murray, too, was well matched to the work in hand, in spite of some lingering remains of youthful rashness.
[Footnote 698: Horace Walpole, Letters III. 207 (ed. Cunningham, 1857).]
[Footnote 699: Ibid. George II., II. 345.]
On the sixth of June the last ship of the fleet sailed out of Louisbourg harbor, the troops cheering and the officers drinking to the toast, "British colors on every French fort, port, and garrison in America." The ships that had gone before lay to till the whole fleet was reunited, and then all steered together for the St. Lawrence. From the headland of Cape Egmont, the Micmac hunter, gazing far out over the shimmering sea, saw the horizon flecked with their canvas wings, as they bore northward on their errand of havoc.
NOTE: For the material of the foregoing sketch of Wolfe I am indebted to Wright's excellent Life of him and the numerous letters contained in it. Several autograph letters which have escaped the notice of Mr. Wright are preserved in the Public Record Office. The following is a characteristic passage from one of these, written on board the "Neptune," at sea, on the sixth of June, the day when the fleet sailed from Louisbourg. It is directed to a nobleman of high rank in the army, whose name does not appear, the address being lost (War Office Records: North America, various, 1756-1763): "I have had the honour to receive two letters from your Lordship, one of an old date, concerning my stay in this country [after the capture of Louisbourg,] in answer to which I shall only say that the Marshal told me I was to return at the end of the campaign; and as General Amherst had no other commands than to send me to winter at Halifax under the orders of an officer [Brigadier Lawrence] who was but a few months before put over my head, I thought it was much better to get into the way of service and out of the way of being insulted; and as the style of your Lordship's letter is pretty strong, I must take the liberty to inform you that ... rather than receive orders in the Government [of Nova Scotia] from an officer younger than myself (though a very worthy man), I should certainly have desired leave to resign my commission; for as I neither ask nor expect any favour, so I never intend to submit to any ill-usage whatsoever."
Many other papers in the Public Record Office have been consulted in preparing the above chapter, including the secret instructions of the King to Wolfe and to Saunders, and the letters of Amherst to Wolfe and to Pitt. Other correspondence touching the same subjects is printed in Selections from the Public Documents of Nova Scotia, 441-450. Knox, Mante, and Entick are the best contemporary printed sources.
A story has gained currency respecting the last interview of Wolfe with Pitt, in which he is said to have flourished his sword and boasted of what he would achieve. This anecdote was told by Lord Temple, who was present at the interview, to Mr. Grenville, who, many years after, told it to Earl Stanhope, by whom it was made public. That the incident underwent essential changes in the course of these transmissions,—which extended over more than half a century, for Earl Stanhope was not born till 1805,—can never be doubted by one who considers the known character of Wolfe, who may have uttered some vehement expression, but who can never be suspected of gasconade.
Wolfe at Quebec
In early spring the chiefs of Canada met at Montreal to settle a plan of defence. What at first they most dreaded was an advance of the enemy by way of Lake Champlain. Bourlamaque, with three battalions, was ordered to take post at Ticonderoga, hold it if he could, or, if overborne by numbers, fall back to Isle-aux-Noix, at the outlet of the lake. La Corne was sent with a strong detachment to intrench himself at the head of the rapids of the St. Lawrence, and oppose any hostile movement from Lake Ontario. Every able-bodied man in the colony, and every boy who could fire a gun, was to be called to the field. Vaudreuil sent a circular letter to the militia captains of all the parishes, with orders to read it to the parishioners. It exhorted them to defend their religion, their wives, their children, and their goods from the fury of the heretics; declared that he, the Governor, would never yield up Canada on any terms whatever; and ordered them to join the army at once, leaving none behind but the old, the sick, the women, and the children. The Bishop issued a pastoral mandate: "On every side, dearest brethren, the enemy is making immense preparations. His forces, at least six times more numerous than ours, are already in motion. Never was Canada in a state so critical and full of peril. Never were we so destitute, or threatened with an attack so fierce, so general, and so obstinate. Now, in truth, we may say, more than ever before, that our only resource is in the powerful succor of our Lord. Then, dearest brethren, make every effort to deserve it. 'Seek first the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.'" And he reproves their sins, exhorts them to repentance, and ordains processions, masses, and prayers.
[Footnote 700: Memoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760.]
[Footnote 701: I am indebted for a copy of this mandate to the kindness of Abbe Bois. As printed by Knox, it is somewhat different, though the spirit is the same.]
Vaudreuil bustled and boasted. In May he wrote to the Minister: "The zeal with which I am animated for the service of the King will always make me surmount the greatest obstacles. I am taking the most proper measures to give the enemy a good reception whenever he may attack us. I keep in view the defence of Quebec. I have given orders in the parishes below to muster the inhabitants who are able to bear arms, and place women, children, cattle, and even hay and grain, in places of safety. Permit me, Monseigneur, to beg you to have the goodness to assure His Majesty that, to whatever hard extremity I may be reduced, my zeal will be equally ardent and indefatigable, and that I shall do the impossible to prevent our enemies from making progress in any direction, or, at least, to make them pay extremely dear for it." Then he writes again to say that Amherst with a great army will, as he learns, attack Ticonderoga; that Bradstreet, with six thousand men, will advance to Lake Ontario; and that six thousand more will march to the Ohio. "Whatever progress they may make," he adds, "I am resolved to yield them nothing, but hold my ground even to annihilation." He promises to do his best to keep on good terms with Montcalm, and ends with a warm eulogy of Bigot.
[Footnote 702: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Mai, 1759.]
[Footnote 703: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 20 [?] Mai, 1759.]
It was in the midst of all these preparations that Bougainville arrived from France with news that a great fleet was on its way to attack Quebec. The town was filled with consternation mixed with surprise, for the Canadians had believed that the dangerous navigation of the St. Lawrence would deter their enemies from the attempt. "Everybody," writes one of them, "was stupefied at an enterprise that seemed so bold." In a few days a crowd of sails was seen approaching. They were not enemies, but friends. It was the fleet of the contractor Cadet, commanded by officer named Kanon, and loaded with supplies for the colony. They anchored in the harbor, eighteen sail in all, and their arrival spread universal joy. Admiral Durell had come too late to intercept them, catching but three stragglers that had lagged behind the rest. Still others succeeded in eluding him, and before the first of June five more ships had come safely into port.
When the news brought by Bougainville reached Montreal, nearly the whole force of the colony, except the detachments of Bourlamaque and La Corne, was ordered to Quebec. Montcalm hastened thither, and Vaudreuil followed. The Governor-General wrote to the Minister in his usual strain, as if all the hope of Canada rested in him. Such, he says, was his activity, that, though very busy, he reached Quebec only a day and a half after Montcalm; and, on arriving, learned from his scouts that English ships-of-war had already appeared at Isle-aux-Coudres. These were the squadron of Durell. "I expect," Vaudreuil goes on, "to be sharply attacked, and that our enemies will make their most powerful efforts to conquer this colony; but there is no ruse, no resource, no means which my zeal does not suggest to lay snares for them, and finally, when the exigency demands it, to fight them with an ardor, and even a fury, which exceeds the range of their ambitious designs. The troops, the Canadians, and the Indians are not ignorant of the resolution I have taken, and from which I shall not recoil under any circumstance whatever. The burghers of this city have already put their goods and furniture in places of safety. The old men, women, and children hold themselves ready to leave town. My firmness is generally applauded. It has penetrated every heart; and each man says aloud: 'Canada, our native land, shall bury us under its ruins before we surrender to the English!' This is decidedly my own determination, and I shall hold to it inviolably." He launches into high praise of the contractor Cadet, whose zeal for the service of the King and the defence of the colony he declares to be triumphant over every difficulty. It is necessary, he adds, that ample supplies of all kinds should be sent out in the autumn, with the distribution of which Cadet offers to charge himself, and to account for them at their first cost; but he does not say what prices his disinterested friend will compel the destitute Canadians to pay for them.
[Footnote 704: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 28 Mai, 1759.]
Five battalions from France, nearly all the colony troops, and the militia from every part of Canada poured into Quebec, along with a thousand or more Indians, who, at the call of Vaudreuil, came to lend their scalping-knives to the defence. Such was the ardor of the people that boys of fifteen and men of eighty were to be seen in the camp. Isle-aux-Coudres and Isle d'Orleans were ordered to be evacuated, and an excited crowd on the rock of Quebec watched hourly for the approaching fleet. Days passed and weeks passed, yet it did not appear. Meanwhile Vaudreuil held council after council to settle a plan of defence, They were strange scenes: a crowd of officers of every rank, mixed pell-mell in a small room, pushing, shouting, elbowing each other, interrupting each other; till Montcalm in despair, took each aside after the meeting was over, and made him give his opinion in writing.
[Footnote 705: Journal du Siege de Quebec depose a la Bibliotheque de Hartwell, en Angleterre. (Printed at Quebec, 1836.)]
He himself had at first proposed to encamp the army on the plains of Abraham and the meadows of the St. Charles, making that river his line of defence; but he changed his plan, and, with the concurrence of Vaudreuil, resolved to post his whole force on the St. Lawrence below the city, with his right resting on the St. Charles, and his left on the Montmorenci. Here, accordingly, the troops and militia were stationed as they arrived. Early in June, standing at the northeastern brink of the rock of Quebec, one could have seen the whole position at a glance. On the curving shore from the St. Charles to the rocky gorge of the Montmorenci, a distance of seven or eight miles, the whitewashed dwellings of the parish of Beauport stretched down the road in a double chain, and the fields on both sides were studded with tents, huts, and Indian wigwams. Along the borders of the St. Lawrence, as far as the eye could distinguish them, gangs of men were throwing up redoubts, batteries, and lines of intrenchment. About midway between the two extremities of the encampment ran the little river of Beauport; and on the rising ground just beyond it stood a large stone house, round which the tents were thickly clustered; for here Montcalm had made his headquarters.
[Footnote 706: Livre d'Ordres, Disposition pour s'opposer a la Descente.]
A boom of logs chained together was drawn across the mouth of the St. Charles, which was further guarded by two hulks mounted with cannon. The bridge of boats that crossed the stream nearly a mile above, formed the chief communication between the city and the camp. Its head towards Beauport was protected by a strong and extensive earthwork; and the banks of the stream on the Quebec side were also intrenched, to form a second line of defence in case the position at Beauport should be forced.
In the city itself every gate, except the Palace Gate, which gave access to the bridge, was closed and barricaded. A hundred and six cannon were mounted on the walls. A floating battery of twelve heavy pieces, a number of gunboats, eight fireships, and several firerafts formed the river defences. The largest merchantmen of Kanon's fleet were sacrificed to make the fireships; and the rest, along with the frigates that came with them, were sent for safety up the St. Lawrence beyond the River Richelieu, whence about a thousand of their sailors returned to man the batteries and gunboats.
[Footnote 707: This number was found after the siege. Knox, II. 151. Some French writers make it much greater.]
In the camps along the Beauport shore were about fourteen thousand men, besides Indians. The regulars held the centre; the militia of Quebec and Three Rivers were on the right, and those of Montreal on the left. In Quebec itself there was a garrison of between one and two thousand men under the Chevalier de Ramesay. Thus the whole number, including Indians, amounted to more than sixteen thousand; and though the Canadians who formed the greater part of it were of little use in the open field, they could be trusted to fight well behind intrenchments. Against this force, posted behind defensive works, on positions almost impregnable by nature, Wolfe brought less than nine thousand men available for operations on land. The steep and lofty heights that lined the river made the cannon of the ships for the most part useless, while the exigencies of the naval service forbade employing the sailors on shore. In two or three instances only, throughout the siege, small squads of them landed to aid in moving and working cannon; and the actual fighting fell to the troops alone.
[Footnote 708: See Appendix H.]
[Footnote 709: Ibid.]
Vaudreuil and Bigot took up their quarters with the army. The Governor-General had delegated the command of the land-forces to Montcalm, whom, in his own words, he authorized "to give orders everywhere, provisionally." His relations with him were more than ever anomalous and critical; for while Vaudreuil, in virtue of his office, had a right to supreme command, Montcalm, now a lieutenant-general, held a military grade far above him; and the Governor, while always writing himself down in his despatches as the head and front of every movement, had too little self-confidence not to leave the actual command in the hands of his rival.
Days and weeks wore on, and the first excitement gave way to restless impatience. Why did not the English come? Many of the Canadians thought that Heaven would interpose and wreck the English fleet, as it had wrecked that of Admiral Walker half a century before. There were processions, prayers, and vows towards this happy consummation. Food was scarce. Bigot and Cadet lived in luxury; fowls by thousands were fattened with wheat for their tables, while the people were put on rations of two ounces of bread a day. Durell and his ships were reported to be still at Isle-aux-Coudres. Vaudreuil sent thither a party of Canadians, and they captured three midshipmen, who, says Montcalm, had gone ashore pour polissonner, that is, on a lark. These youths were brought to Quebec, where they increased the general anxiety by grossly exaggerating the English force.
[Footnote 710: Memoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760.]
At length it became known that eight English vessels were anchored in the north channel of Orleans, and on the twenty-first of June the masts of three of them could plainly be seen. One of the fireships was consumed in a vain attempt to burn them, and several firerafts and a sort of infernal machine were tried with no better success; the unwelcome visitors still held their posts.
Meanwhile the whole English fleet had slowly advanced, piloted by Denis de Vitre, a Canadian of good birth, captured at sea some time before, and now compelled to serve, under a threat of being hanged if he refused. Nor was he alone; for when Durell reached the place where the river pilots were usually taken on board, he raised a French flag to his mast-head, causing great rejoicings among the Canadians on shore, who thought that a fleet was come to their rescue, and that their country was saved. The pilots launched their canoes and came out to the ships, where they were all made prisoners; then the French flag was lowered, and the red cross displayed in its stead. The spectators on shore turned from joy to despair; and a priest who stood watching the squadron with a telescope is said to have dropped dead with the revulsion of feeling.
[Footnote 711: Memorial de Jean-Denis de Vitre au Tres-honorable William Pitt.]
Towards the end of June the main fleet was near the mountain of Cape Tourmente. The passage called the Traverse, between the Cape and the lower end of the Island of Orleans, was reputed one of the most dangerous parts of the St. Lawrence; and as the ships successively came up, the captive pilots were put on board to carry them safely through, on pain of death. One of these men was assigned to the transport "Goodwill," in which was Captain Knox, who spoke French, and who reports thus in his Diary: "He gasconaded at a most extravagant rate, and gave us to understand that it was much against his will that he was become an English pilot. The poor fellow assumed great latitude in his conversation, and said 'he made no doubt that some of the fleet would return to England, but they should have a dismal tale to carry with them; for Canada should be the grave of the whole army, and he expected in a short time to see the walls of Quebec ornamented with English scalps.' Had it not been in obedience to the Admiral, who gave orders that he should not be ill-used, he would certainly have been thrown overboard." The master of the transport was an old sailor named Killick, who despised the whole Gallic race, and had no mind to see his ship in charge of a Frenchman. "He would not let the pilot speak," continues Knox, "but fixed his mate at the helm, charged him not to take orders from any person but himself, and going forwards with his trumpet to the forecastle, gave the necessary instructions. All that could be said by the commanding officer and the other gentlemen on board was to no purpose; the pilot declared we should be lost, for that no French ship ever presumed to pass there without a pilot. 'Ay, ay, my dear,' replied our son of Neptune, 'but, damn me, I'll convince you that an Englishman shall go where a Frenchman dare not show his nose.' The "Richmond" frigate being close astern of us, the commanding officer called out to the captain and told him our case; he inquired who the master was, and was answered from the forecastle by the man himself, who told him 'he was old Killick, and that was enough.' I went forward with this experienced mariner, who pointed out the channel to me as we passed; showing me by the ripple and color of the water where there was any danger, and distinguishing the places where there were ledges of rocks (to me invisible) from banks of sand, mud, or gravel. He gave his orders with great unconcern, joked with the sounding-boats which lay off on each side with different colored flags for our guidance; and when any of them called to him and pointed to the deepest water, he answered: 'Ay, ay, my dear, chalk it down, a damned dangerous navigation, eh! If you don't make a sputter about it you'll get no credit in England.' After we had cleared this remarkable place, where the channel forms a complete zigzag, the master called to his mate to give the helm to somebody else, saying, 'Damn me if there are not a thousand places in the Thames fifty times more hazardous than this; I am ashamed that Englishmen should make such a rout about it.' The Frenchman asked me if the captain had not been there before. I assured him in the negative; upon which he viewed him with great attention, lifting at the same time his hands and eyes to heaven with astonishment and fervency."
[Footnote 712: Others, as well as the pilot, were astonished. "The enemy passed sixty ships of war where we hardly dared risk a vessel of a hundred tons." "Notwithstanding all our precautions, the English, without any accident, by night, as well as by day, passed through it [the Traverse] their ships of seventy and eighty guns, and even many of them together." Vaudreuil au Ministre, 22 Oct. 1759.]
Vaudreuil was blamed for not planting cannon at a certain plateau on the side of the mountain of Cape Tourmente, where the gunners would have been inaccessible, and whence they could have battered every passing ship with a plunging fire. As it was, the whole fleet sailed safely through. On the twenty-sixth they were all anchored off the south shore of the Island of Orleans, a few miles from Quebec; and, writes Knox, "here we are entertained with a most agreeable prospect of a delightful country on every side; windmills, watermills, churches, chapels, and compact farmhouses, all built with stone, and covered, some with wood, and others with straw. The lands appear to be everywhere well cultivated; and with the help of my glass I can discern that they are sowed with flax, wheat, barley, peas, etc., and the grounds are enclosed with wooden pales. The weather to-day is agreeably warm. A light fog sometimes hangs over the highlands, but in the river we have a fine clear air. In the curve of the river, while we were under sail, we had a transient view of a stupendous natural curiosity called the waterfall of Montmorenci."
That night Lieutenant Meech, with forty New England rangers, landed on the Island of Orleans, and found a body of armed inhabitants, who tried to surround him. He beat them off, and took possession of a neighboring farmhouse, where he remained till daylight; then pursued the enemy, and found that they had crossed to the north shore. The whole army now landed, and were drawn up on the beach. As they were kept there for some time, Knox and several brother officers went to visit the neighboring church of Saint-Laurent, where they found a letter from the parish priest, directed to "The Worthy Officers of the British Army," praying that they would protect the sacred edifice, and also his own adjoining house, and adding, with somewhat needless civility, that he wished they had come sooner, that they might have enjoyed the asparagus and radishes of his garden, now unhappily going to seed. The letter concluded with many compliments and good wishes, in which the Britons to whom they were addressed saw only "the frothy politeness so peculiar to the French." The army marched westward and encamped. Wolfe, with his chief engineer, Major Mackellar, and an escort of light infantry, advanced to the extreme point of the island.
Here he could see, in part, the desperate nature of the task he had undertaken. Before him, three or four miles away, Quebec sat perched upon her rock, a congregation of stone houses, churches, palaces, convents, and hospitals; the green trees of the Seminary garden and the spires of the Cathedral, the Ursulines, the Recollets, and the Jesuits. Beyond rose the loftier height of Cape Diamond, edged with palisades and capped with redoubt and parapet. Batteries frowned everywhere; the Chateau battery, the Clergy battery, the Hospital battery, on the rock above, and the Royal, Dauphin's, and Queen's batteries on the strand, where the dwellings and warehouses of the lower town clustered beneath the cliff.
Full in sight lay the far-extended camp of Montcalm, stretching from the St. Charles, beneath the city walls, to the chasm and cataract of the Montmorenci. From the cataract to the river of Beauport, its front was covered by earthworks along the brink of abrupt and lofty heights; and from the river of Beauport to the St. Charles, by broad flats of mud swept by the fire of redoubts, intrenchments, a floating battery, and the city itself. Above the city, Cape Diamond hid the view; but could Wolfe have looked beyond it, he would have beheld a prospect still more disheartening. Here, mile after mile, the St. Lawrence was walled by a range of steeps, often inaccessible, and always so difficult that a few men at the top could hold an army in check; while at Cap-Rouge, about eight miles distant, the high plateau was cleft by the channel of a stream which formed a line of defence as strong as that of the Montmorenci. Quebec was a natural fortress. Bougainville had long before examined the position, and reported that "by the help of intrenchments, easily and quickly made, and defended by three or four thousand men, I think the city would be safe. I do not believe that the English will make any attempt against it; but they may have the madness to do so, and it is well to be prepared against surprise."
Not four thousand men, but four times four thousand, now stood in its defence; and their chiefs wisely resolved not to throw away the advantages of their position. Nothing more was heard of Vaudreuil's bold plan of attacking the invaders at their landing; and Montcalm had declared that he would play the part, not of Hannibal, but of Fabius. His plan was to avoid a general battle, run no risks, and protract the defence till the resources of the enemy were exhausted, or till approaching winter forced them to withdraw. Success was almost certain but for one contingency. Amherst, with a force larger than that of Wolfe, was moving against Ticonderoga. If he should capture it, and advance into the colony, Montcalm would be forced to weaken his army by sending strong detachments to oppose him. Here was Wolfe's best hope. This failing, his only chance was in audacity. The game was desperate; but, intrepid gamester as he was in war, he was a man, in the last resort, to stake everything on the cast of the dice.
The elements declared for France. On the afternoon of the day when Wolfe's army landed, a violent squall swept over the St. Lawrence, dashed the ships together, drove several ashore, and destroyed many of the flatboats from which the troops had just disembarked. "I never saw so much distress among shipping in my whole life," writes an officer to a friend in Boston. Fortunately the storm subsided as quickly as it rose. Vaudreuil saw that the hoped-for deliverance had failed; and as the tempest had not destroyed the British fleet, he resolved to try the virtue of his fireships. "I am afraid," says Montcalm, "that they have cost us a million, and will be good for nothing after all." This remained to be seen. Vaudreuil gave the chief command of them to a naval officer named Delouche; and on the evening of the twenty-eighth, after long consultation and much debate among their respective captains, they set sail together at ten o'clock. The night was moonless and dark. In less than an hour they were at the entrance of the north channel. Delouche had been all enthusiasm; but as he neared the danger his nerves failed, and he set fire to his ship half an hour too soon, the rest following his example.