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Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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Dumont's mill (a few yards to the east of the dwelling of J. W.
Dunscomb, Esq.)

"The victory of 1759 was a fitting reward of Wolfe's valour, punished
the infamies of the Bigot _régime_ and withdrew Canada from the
focus of the terrible chastisement which awaited France soon after - in
the Reign of Terror - for her impiety and immorality. The victory of
April, 1760, was a comforting incident - a species of compensation to a
handful of brave and faithful colonists, for the crushing disaster
which had befallen their cause, the preceding September. It was the
crowning - though bootless victory - to the recent brilliant, but
useless success of the French arms at Carillon, Monongahela, Fort
George, Ticonderoga, Beauport Flats. It was, moreover, the last title,
added to numerous others, to the esteem and respect of their
conquerors."

Of the second battle of the Plains, that of 28th April 1760, called by
some writers "The battle of Ste. Foye," by others "The battle of Sillery
Wood," so bloody in its results, so protracted in its duration, we have in
_Garneau's History_ the first complete account, the historian Smith
having glossed over with striking levity this "French victory." The loss
of the rival Generals, at the battle of the Plains, of September, 1759,
though an unusual incident in warfare, was not without precedent Generals
Braddock and DeBeaujeu in 1755, had both sealed on the battlefield their
devotion to their country with their blood on the shores of the
Monongahela, in Ohio; in this case as in that of Wolfe and Montcalm, he
whose arms were to prevail, falling first.

In 1759, everything conspired to transform this conflict into an important
historical event. Even after the lapse of a century, one sometimes is fain
to believe, it sums up all which Europe recollects of primitive Canada.
The fall of Quebec did not merely bring to a close the fierce rivalry of
France and England in America. It lent an immense prestige to Great
Britain, by consolidating her maritime supremacy over France - a supremacy
she then so highly prized. The event, after the discouraging news which
had prevailed, was heralded all over England by the ringing of the bells,
and public thanksgiving. Bonfires blazed through the length and breadth of
the land, it was a national victory which King, Peers and Commons could
not sufficiently extol, and still what has been the ultimate result? By
removing the French power from Canada - the only counterpoise to keep down
the restless and thriving New England colonies, New England, from being
strong got to be defiant. The surrender of Canada hastened the American
Revolution. The rule of Britain soon ceased to exist in the New England
Provinces; and later on, in 1810, by the abrogation of the right of search
on the high seas, her maritime supremacy became a dead letter. As Mr.
Chauveau has remarked, "if the independence of America meant the lessening
of the British prestige, it remains yet to be proved that France has
benefitted thereby."

How much of these momentous changes can be traced to the incidents
(perhaps the treason of Bigot), [203] which made the scale of victory
incline to British valour on the 13th of September, 1759!

Those desirous of obtaining a full account of the two battles of the
Plains are referred among other works, to "Quebec Past and Present." I
shall merely borrow from Col. Beatson's very rare volume details not to be
found in the ordinary histories.

"It has," says Col Beatson, "been alleged that Montcalm in hastening
to meet the British on an open plain, and thereby to decide in a
single battle, the fate of a fertile Province nearly equal in extent
to one-half of Europe, was not only forgetful of his usual caution,
but acted with culpable temerity."

Such action, however, proceeded from no sudden impulse, but from a
noble resolve deliberately formed after the most mature consideration
and recorded some time previously.

Painfully convinced how little security the weak defences of the city
could afford against the determined assault of well disciplined and
ably led troops, he believed that however great the risk of meeting
his daring adversary in the open field, this course was the only one
that seemed to promise him any chance of success. Besides, he had a
force numerically [204] superior to that of the English General, could
he have concentrated them at one spot. Bougainville with the flower of
the French army, the grenadiers and volunteers, 3,000 strong,
according to professor Dussieux, was at Cap Rouge, six miles from the
battlefield and took no part in the fight, having arrived there more
than one hour after the fate of Canada was decided. 1,500 men had been
left at the Beauport camp to repel the feint by Admiral Saunders'
ships, on the morning of the 13 Sept., 1759. The Charlesbourg, Lorette
and Beauport militia had been granted leave to return home that week,
to look after their harvest: a curious coincidence.

The French army was as follows, viz:
Left | The Royal Roussillon Regiment, a battalion Regulars. Militia.
Wing | of the marines, or colony troops, and
| Canadian militia........................... 1,300 2,300
Centre. - The Regiments of Béarn and militia. ...... 720 1,200
Right | The Regiments of La Sarre and Languedoc,
Wing | a battalion of the marine, and militia..... 1,600 400
- - - - - -
3,620 3,900

Wolfe's _field-state_ on the morning of the 13th September, showed
only 4,828 men of all ranks, from the General downwards; but of these
every man was a trained soldier.

And within little more than an hour's march from the Plains, he could
not honourably have remained inactive while believing that only a part
of the enemy's force was in possession of such vantage ground; and
neither the dictates of prudence [205] nor his own chivalrous spirit
and loyal regard for the national honour, would permit him to betray a
consciousness of weakness by declining the combat, on finding himself
unexpectedly confronted by the whole of Wolfe's army. Relying,
doubtless, on the prestige of his victories during the campaign of the
proceeding year (1758) in which he had been uniformly successful, and
in which at Ticonderoga, with four thousand men he had defeated
General Abercromby at the head of nearly four times that number - he
endeavoured by a confident bearing and encouraging expressions [206]
to animate his troops with hopes which he himself could scarcely
entertain; and though almost despairing of success, boldly resolved to
attempt, by a sudden and vigorous onset, to dislodge his rival before
the latter could intrench himself in his commanding position, and it
is surely no blot on his fame that the superior discipline and
unflinching steadiness of his opponents, the close and destructive
volley [207] by which the spirited but disorderly advance of his
battalions was checked, and the irresistible [208] charge which
completed their confusion, rendered unavailing his gallant effort to
save the colony; for (to borrow the words of the eloquent historian of
the _Peninsular War_), "the vicissitudes of war are so many that
disappointment will sometimes attend the wisest combinations; and a
ruinous defeat, the work of chance close the career of the boldest and
most sagacious of Generals, so that to judge a commander's conduct by
the event alone is equally unjust and unphilosophical."

In the remarkable letter said to have been addressed to his cousin, M.
de Molé, _Président au Parlement de Paris_, and dated _from the camp
before Quebec, 22nd August_, 1759," - a fortnight before the battle -
MONTCALM thus pathetically describes how hopeless would be the
situation in the event of WOLFE effecting a landing near the city;
and, with a firm heart, foretold his own fate,

"Here I am, my dear cousin, after the lapse of more than three months
still contending with Mr. WOLFE, who has incessantly bombarded Quebec
with a fury unexampled in the attack of any place, which the besieger
has wished to retain after his capture.

"Nearly all the whole of Lower Town has been destroyed by his
batteries and of the Upper Town a great part is likewise in ruins. But
even if he leaves not one stone upon another, he will never obtain
possession of the capital of the colony whilst his operations continue
to be confined to the opposite side of the river.

"Notwithstanding all his efforts during these three months, be has
hitherto made no progress towards the accomplishment of his object. He
is ruining us, but without advantage to himself. The campaign can
scarcely last another month, in consequence of the approach of the
autumnal gales, which are so severe and so disastrous to shipping.

"It may seem that, after so favourable a prelude, the safety of the
colony can scarcely be doubtful. Such, however, is not the case, as
the capture of Quebec depends on a _coup-de-main_. The English have
entire command of the river, and have only to effect a landing on this
side, where the city without defences is situated. Imagine them in a
position to offer me battle! _which I could no longer decline, and
which I ought not to gain_.

"Indeed, if M. WOLFE understands his business he has only to receive
my first fire, give a volley in return, and then charge; when my
Canadians - undisciplined, deaf to the sound of the drum, and thrown
into confusion by his onset - would be incapable of resuming their
ranks. Moreover, as they have no bayonets with which to oppose those
of the enemy, nothing would remain for them but flight; and then -
behold me beaten without resource.

"Conceive my situation! a most painful one for a General-in-Chief, and
which causes me many distressing moments.

"Hitherto, I have been enabled to act successfully on the defensive;
but will a continuance in that course prove ultimately successful?
that is the question which events must decide! Of this, however, you
may rest assured, that I shall probably not survive the loss of the
colony. There are circumstances which leave to a General no choice but
that of dying with honour; such may soon be my fate; and I trust that
in this respect posterity will have no cause to reproach my memory."
[209]

MONTCALM, conspicuous in front of the left wing of his line, and
WOLFE, at the head of the 28th Regiment, and the Louisbourg
Grenadiers, towards the right of the British line, must have been
nearly opposite to each other at the commencement of the battle, which
was most severe in that part of the field; and, by a singular
coincidence each of these heroic leaders had been twice wounded during
the brief conflict before he received his last and fatal wound.

But the valiant Frenchman, regardless of pain, relaxed not his efforts
to rally his broken battalions in their hurried retreat towards the
city, until he was shot through the loins, when within a few yards of
the St. Louis Gate. And so invincible was his fortitude that not even
the severity of this mortal stroke could abate his gallant spirit or
alter his intrepid bearing. Supported by two grenadiers - one at each
side of his horse - he re-entered the city; and in reply to some woman
who, on seeing blood flow from his wounds as he rode down St. Louis
street, on his way to the château, [210] exclaimed, _Oh, mon Dieu!
mon Dieu! le marquis est tué!_ courteously assured them that he was
not seriously hurt, and beg them not to distress themselves on his
account. _Ce n'est rien! Ce n'est rien! Ne vous affligez pas pour
moi, mes bonnes amies._ The last words of WOLFE - imperishably
enshrined in history - excite, after the lapse of a century, the
liveliest admiration and sympathy, and similar interest may, perhaps
be awakened by the narrative of the closing scene in the eventful
career of his great opponent.

On the 24th of March, 1761, the French troops who had served in Canada
under Montcalm, through M de Bougainville, applied to the British
Government for leave to raise a monument to the illustrious dead hero.
The British Government, through Mr. Pitt, sent back to Paris on the
10th April, 1761, a graceful letter of acquiescence. The inscription
had been prepared by the _Académie des Inscriptions et Belles
Lettres_. Unfortunately the marble on which the inscription was
engraved by some cause or other never reached Canada. However, in
1831, Lord Aylmer erected over the tomb of the marquis, in the
Ursuline Convent, a simple mural tablet of white marble, having the
following concise and beautiful epitaph from his Excellency's own
pen -

HONNEUR
à
MONTCALM
Le Destin en lui dérobant la Victoire
L'a récompensé par une mort glorieuse.

In the course of the following year (1832), there was also erected by
his Lordship a small monument on the battle-field to indicate the spot
where WOLFE expired, which structure, having become injured, has since
given place to a pedestal and column about thirty-five feet high,
surmounted by a Roman helmet wreathed with a laurel, and sword; both
in bronze.

On two sides of the pedestal are inserted bronze panels, with
inscriptions cast in bold relief; one of which thus briefly records
the place, circumstances, and date of the conquering hero's death:

Here Died
WOLFE
Victorious
September the 13th, 1759.

The other is as follows:

"This pillar was erected
By the British Army in Canada, A.D. 1849;
His Excellency Lieut.-General Sir Benjamin
d'Urban,
G.C.B.; K.C.H.; K.C.T.S., &c.,
Commander of the Forces,
To replace that erected by Governor-General
Lord Aylmer, G.C.B.,
Which was broken and defaced, and is deposited
underneath.

From the foregoing, all admit that the Plains of Abraham must recall
memories equally sacred to both nationalities inhabiting Quebec.

The 13th September, 1759, and the 28th April, 1760, are two red-letter
days in our annals; the undying names of Wolfe and Montcalm claim the
first, the illustrious names of Levis and Murray, the second.

In the September engagement Montcalm's right wing rested on the Ste.
Foye road; his left on the St. Louis road, near the Buttes-à-Nepveu
(Perrault's Hill.)

In the April encounter, Murray's hardy warriors occupied the greatest
portion of the north-western section of the plateau. His right wing
rested on Coteau Ste. Genevieve, St. John Suburbs, and his left
reached to the edge of the cliff, overhanging the St Lawrence, near
Marchmont. On the 13th September, the French began the fight; on the
28th April it was the British who fired first. Fifteen years later, in
1775, the Heights of Abraham became the camping ground of other foes.
This time the British of New England were pitted against the British
of New France; we all know with what result.


_BATTLEFIELD PARK._

The departure from our shores of England's red coated legions, in
1871, amongst other voids, left waste, untenanted, and unoccupied, the
historic area, for close on one century reserved as their parade and
exercising grounds on review days - The Plains of Abraham. This famous
battle-field does not, we opine, belong to Quebec alone; it is the
common property of all Canada. The military authorities always so
careful in keeping its fences in repair handed it over to the
Dominion, which made no provision for this purpose. On the 9th March,
1875, the Dominion Government leased it to the Corporation of the city
of Quebec, for ten years of the lease under which it was held from the
Religious Ladies of the Ursulines of Quebec, provided the Corporation
assumed the conditions of the lease, involving an annual rental of two
hundred dollars.

The extensive conflagration of June 1876, which laid waste one-half of
St. Louis Suburbs, and the consequent impoverished state of the
municipal finances prevented the City authorities from voting any
money to maintain in proper order the fences of the Plains. Decay,
ruin and disorder were fast settling on this sacred ground, once
moistened by the blood of heroes, when the citizens of Quebec
spontaneously came to the rescue. No plan suggested to raise the
necessary funds obtained more favour than that of planting it with
some shade-trees, and converting it into a Driving Park. This idea
well carried out would, in a measure, associate it with the everyday
life of all citizens of all denominations. Its souvenir, its wondrous
river-views alone would attract thousands. It would be open
_gratis_ to all well-behaved pedestrians. The fatigued tradesman,
the weary labourer, may at any time saunter round and walk to the
brink of the giddy heights facing Levi; feast their eyes on the
striking panorama unrolled at their feet; watch the white winged
argosies of commerce float swan-like on the bosom of the mighty flood,
whilst the wealthy citizen, in his panelled carriage, would take his
afternoon drive round the Park _en payant_. The student, the
scholar, the traveller might each in turn find here amusement, and
fresh air and shade, and with sketch book and map in hand, come and
study or copy the formation of the battle-field and its monument;
whilst the city _belle_ on her palfrey, or the youthful equestrian,
fresh from college, might enjoy a canter round the undulating course
in September on all days, except that Autumn week sacred to the turf,
ever since 1789, selected by the sporting fraternity.

In November, 1876, an association was formed, composed as follows: His
Honour the Lieut.-Governor, His Worship the Mayor, Chief Justice
Meredith, Hon. Judge Tessier, Hon. E. Chinic, Hon. D. E. Price, Chs.
E. Levey, Hon. P. Garneau, Col. Rhodes, John Gilmour, John Burstall,
Hon. C. C. DeLéry, J. Bte. Renaud, Jos. Hamel, J. M. LeMoine, Hon.
Thos. McGreevy, Hon. C. Alleyn, C. F. Smith, A. P. Caron, Thos.
Beckett, James Gibb, R. R. Dobell, with E. J. Meredith, Secretary.
Hon. E. Chinic, and Messrs. C. F. Smith, and R. R. Dobell were named
Trustees to accept for the nominal sum of $1, the lease held by the
City Corporation, the Corporation continuing liable for the annual
rent of $200. Though the late period of the season prevented the
association from doing anything, beyond having the future Park
suitably fenced in, the praiseworthy object in contemplation has not
been lost sight of, and active measures in furtherance of the same
will yet be taken.

It would be unjust to close this hasty sketch without awarding a word
of praise and encouragement to one of the most active promoters of the
scheme, R. R. Dobell, Esq., of Beauvoir, Sillery. (These lines penned
in 1876, we recall this day, with regret, the excellent idea of
Battlefield Park having fallen through, on the promoters discovery
that the 99 years lease, granted by the Ursuline Nuns would expire in
a very few years, when the Nuns would resume the site).


_THE DUKE OF KENT'S LODGE, - MONTMORENCI._

"Oh! give me a home where the cataract's foam
Is admired by the poor and the rich, as they roam
By thy banks, Montmorenci, so placid and fair,
Oh! what would I give, could I find a home there."

The Montmorenci heights and beaches have become famous on account of the
successful defence made there during the whole summer of 1759, by
Montcalm, against the attacks of Wolfe's veterans. Finally, the French
lines having been deemed impregnable on the Beauport side, a fort and
barracks [211] were repeatedly talked of at Isle aux Coudres, to winter
the troops. Wolfe was, however, overruled in his councils, and a spot near
Sillery pointed out for a descent, possibly by a French renegade, Denis de
Vitré, [212] probably by Major Stobo, who, being allowed a good deal of
freedom during his captivity, knew the locality well. Stobo had been all
winter a prisoner of war in the city, having been sent down from Fort
Necessity, on its surrender, to Quebec, in 1754, by the French, from whom
he escaped in the beginning of May, 1759, and joined Durell and Saunders'
fleet long before it reached Point Levi. These same heights, celebrated
for their scenery, were destined, later on, to acquire additional interest
from the sojourn thereat of a personage of no mean rank - the future father
of our august Sovereign.

Facing the roaring cataract of Montmorenci stands the "Mansion House,"
built by Sir Frederic Haldimand, C.B., [213] when Governor of the
Province - here Sir Frederic entertained, in 1782, the Baronness Redesdale,
the wife of the Brunswick General, who had come over with Burgoyne to
fight the continentals in 1775, - a plain-looking lodge, still existing, to
which, some years back, wings have been added, making it considerably
larger. This was the favourite summer abode of an English Prince. His
Royal Highness Edward Augustus, Colonel of the Royal Fusileers,
subsequently Field Marshal the Duke of Kent, "had landed here," says the
_Quebec Gazette_ of the 18th August, 1791, from H. M. ships _Ulysses_ and
_Resistance_, [214] in seven weeks from Gibraltar, with the 7th or Royal
Regiment of Fusileers." The Prince had evidently a strong fancy for
country life, as may be inferred by the fact that, during his prolonged
stay in Halifax, as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, he owned also, seven
miles out of the city, a similar rustic lodge, of which Haliburton has
given a charming description. 'Twas on the 11th of August the youthful
colonel, with his fine regiment, landed in the Lower Town; on the 12th was
held in his honour, at the Château St. Louis, a levée, whereat attended
the authorities, civil, military and clerical, together with the gentry.
In the afternoon "the ladies were presented to the Prince in the Château."
Who, then, attended this levée? Did he dance? If so, who were his
partners? No register of names; no list of Edward's partners, such as we
have of the Prince of Wales. [215] No _Court Journal_! Merely an entry of
the names of the signers of the address in the _Quebec Gazette_ of the
18th August, 1791. Can we not, then, re-people the little world of Quebec
of 1791? - bring back some of the principal actors of those stormy
political, but frolicsome times? Let us walk in with the "nobility and
gentry," and make our best bow to the scion of royalty. There, in fall
uniform, you will recognize His Excellency Lord Dorchester, the Governor-
General, one of our most popular administrators; next to him, that tall,
athletic military man, is the Deputy Governor-General, Sir Alured Clark.
He looks eager to grasp the reins of office from his superior, who will
set sail for _home_ in a few days. See how thoughtful the Deputy Governor
appears; in order to stand higher with his royal English master he
chuckles before-hand over the policy which gives to many old French
territorial divisions, right English names - Durham, Suffolk, Prince
Edward, York, Granville, Buckinghamshire, Herefordshire, Kent. The western
section of Canada will rejoice in the new names of Hesse, Luneberg,
Nassau, Mecklenburg. That Deputy Governor will yet live to win a _baton_
[216] of Field Marshal under a Hanoverian sovereign. He is now in close
conversation with Chief Justice William Smith, senior. Round there are a
bevy of Judges, Legislative Councillors, Members of Parliament, all done
up to kill, _à l'ancienne mode_, by Monsigneur Jean Laforme, [217] court



Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 29 of 59)