J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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ever impress it on the mind of the visitor. A century back, over this
same locality, the tide of battle surged for several hours when
Wolfe's army had ascended the cliff. No later than 1860, the crumbling
bones of fallen warriors were discovered whilst laying the foundation
of the flag-staff to the east of the house. They were buried again
carefully under the same flagstaff - erected to salute the Prince of
Wales when passing Marchmont. Let us hear one of the actors on that
eventful September morning of 1759 - Capt. John King: -

"Before day break," says he, "this morning we made a descent upon the
north shore, about half a mile to the eastward of Sillery; and the
light troops were fortunately, by the rapidity of the current, carried
lower down, between us and Cape Diamond. We had in this detachment
thirty flat-bottomed boats, containing about 1600 men. This was a
great surprise on the enemy, who, from the natural strength of the
place, did not suspect, and consequently were not prepared against, so
bold an attempt. The chain of sentries which they had posted along the
summit of the heights, galled us a little and picked off several men
(in the boat where I was one man was killed; one seaman, with four
soldiers, were slightly, and two mortally wounded, and some officers),
before our light infantry got up to dislodge them. This grand
enterprise was conducted and executed with great good order and
discretion; as fast as we landed the boats were put off for
reinforcements, and the troops formed with much regularity; the
General, with Brigadiers Monckton and Murray, were ashore with the
first division. We lost no time, but clambered up one of the steepest
precipices that can be conceived, being almost a perpendicular and of
an incredible length; as soon as we gained the summit all was quiet,
and not a shot was heard, owing to the excellent conduct of the
infantry under Colonel Howe. It was by this time clear day-light. Here
we formed again, the river and the south country in our rear, our
right extending to the town, our left to Sillery, and halted a few
moments. The general then detached the light troops to our left to
rout the enemy from their battery, and to disable their guns, except
they should be rendered serviceable to the party who were to remain
there; and this service was soon performed. We then faced to the right
and marched towards the town by files, till we came to the Plains of
Abraham, an even piece of ground which Wolfe had made choice of, while
we stood forming upon the hill. Weather showery; about six o'clock the
enemy first made their appearance upon the heights, between us and the
town; whereupon we halted and wheeled to the right, forming the line
of battle."

For some time past Marchmont has been occupied by Col. Ferdinand
Turnbull, of the Q. O. Canadian Hussars.


"After the conquest of Quebec, the troops had to make shift for
quarters wherever they could find a habitable place; I myself made
choice of a small house in the lane leading to the Esplanade,
where Ginger the Gardner now lives (1828), and which had belonged
to Paquet the schoolmaster - although it was scarcely habitable
from the number of our shells that had fallen through it. However,
as I had a small party of the company, I continued to get a number
of little jobs done towards making it passably comfortable for the
men, and for my own part I got Hector Munro, who was a joiner by
trade, to knock up a kind of "cabinet" (as the Canadians called
it) in one corner of the house for myself. We had a stove, but our
Highlanders, who know no better, would not suffer the door to be
closed, as they thought if they could not naturally _see_ the
fire, it was impossible that they could _feel_ it. In this
way they passed the whole of the winter; three or four would sit
close up to the door of the stove, and when these were a little
warmed, three or four others would relieve them, and so on. Some
days they were almost frozen to death, or suffocated by the smoke,
and to mend the matter they had nothing better than green wood!

I contrived somehow or other to procure six blankets, so that
notwithstanding that I was almost frozen during the day, being the
whole winter out on duty, superintending the party of our
Highlanders, making fascines in the woods, still I passed the
nights pretty comfortably. 'Twas funny enough to see, every
morning, the whole surface of the blankets covered with ice, from
the heat of my breath and body. We wore our kilts the whole of
this time, but there was no accident, as we were sheltered by the
woods. I bought myself a pair of leather breeches, but I could not
walk in them, so I laid them aside.

When the spring came round, the French again made their appearance
on high ground between the town and Abraham's Plains, and General
Murray must needs march us out to fight them. At this time
scarcely a man in the garrison but was afflicted with colds or
coughs. The day fixed on orders was the 28th April, 1760, at seven
in the morning, and cold and raw enough it was! Before the sortie
I took a biscuit and, spread a bit of butter over it, and I set
about 'cranching' it, and said to Hector Munro, for whom I had a
great attachment: "You had better do as I am doing, for you cannot
know when you may be able to get your next meal." Hector answered,
"I will not touch anything; I have already taken my last meal, for
something tells me that I shall never require another meal in this
world." "Hout! man," said I, "you are talking nonsense; take a
biscuit, I tell you." But no, Hector would have none! Well, the
hour came for parading, and we were soon afterwards marched out of
the garrison. It was my lot to act as covering sergeant to
Lieutenant Fraser of our Grenadiers, who had already been wounded
at the affair of the Falls, through the belly and out at his back,
without his scarcely having felt it. (This Lieutenant Fraser was
nephew to my friend Captain Baillie, who was the first man killed
at the landing at Louisbourg, and who, had he lived, would have
been the means of securing to me my commission, as had been the
understanding between him and Colonel Fraser, when I volunteered
in Scotland for service in America). Early in the action with the
French, Lieut. Fraser received a shot in the temple, which felled
him to the very spot on which he then stood, and as not an inch of
ground was to be lost, I had to move up into line, which I could
not have done without my resting one foot upon his body! The
affair went altogether against us, and we had to retreat back into
the town. When I got back to my quarters, I there found poor
Hector Munro, who not being able to walk, had been carried in,
owning to a wound he had received in the lower part of the belly,
through which his bowels were coming out! He had his senses about
him, and reminded me of our conversation just before the battle.
He was taken to the Hôtel Dieu, where he died the next morning, in
great agony. When I first saw the French soldiers I thought them a
dirty, ragged set - their clothing was originally white. Many of
them, particularly in the 'Regiment de la Reine,' had a bit of
blue ribbon to the buttonhole of their coat, with a little white
shell fixed to it, which they called 'Papa,' and this, it seems,
was a mark of honour for having distinguished themselves on some
former occasion. I, at first, mistook them for Freemasons! After
the battle of the Plains of Abraham, on the 13th September, fifty-
nine, when a great many of the French lay killed and wounded on
the field (we killed seventy-two officers alone) it was horrid to
see the effect of blood and dust on their white coats! They lay
there as thick as a flock of sheep, and just as they had fallen,
for the main body had been completely routed off the ground, and
had not an opportunity of carrying away their dead and wounded
men. I recollect to have lost a regimental coat by their means.
There was no place about the town to put the wounded in, and they
had to be carried down the bank to Wolfe's cove, and from thence
put into boats and taken across to the lower ferry-place at Point
Levis, for the purpose of their being placed under the care of our
surgeons at the church (St Joseph's), which was converted into a
temporary hospital. Our men had nothing better to carry them on
than a handbarrow with canvass laid across it. By this means it
required two of our men to carry one of them to the top of the
hill at Point Levis.

The business going on very slowly, I at last got out of patience
looking at them, so I set to work and took up a wounded man to my
own share, and did not let him down at the top of the hill but
landed him safe at the temporary hospital. By the time that we had
done with them I was fatigued enough, and 'afaith, I spoiled my
red coat into the bargain!

The poor fellows would cry out lustily when they were in an uneasy
position, but we could not understand a word of what they said.
One of them had one of his cheeks lying flat down upon his
shoulder, which he got by attempting to run away, though he had a
Highlander at his heels. When the French gave themselves up
quietly they had no harm done them, but faith! if they tried to
outrun a Heelandman they stood but a bad chance, for whash went
the broadsword!" - (_Related in August, 1828, as stated in the
Diary of Volunteer Sergt. Jas. Thompson._)


"The hill they climb'd, and halted at its top, of more than mortal

"The horror of the night, the precipice scaled by Wolfe the empire he
with a handful of men added to England, and the glorious catastrophe
of contentedly terminating life where his fame began... Ancient story
may be ransacked, and ostentatious philosophy thrown into the account,
before an episode can be found to rank with Wolfe's." - (_William

The successful landing at this spot of the English forces, who, in 1759,
invaded Quebec, no less than its scenery, lends to Wolfesfield peculiar
interest. Major, afterwards General, John Hale, later on conspicuous for
gallantry during the long and trying siege of Quebec, in 1775-6, was one
of the first men who, in 1759, put his foot on the heights in front of the
locality where now stands the dwelling, having climbed up the hill by the
_ruisseau St. Denis_, heading the flank Company of the Lascelles or
47th Regiment. General Wolfe made the main body of the army march up,
Indian file, by a pathway which then existed where the high road is at
present. At the head of this path may yet be seen the remains of the
French entrenchments, occupied on that day by a militia guard of 100 men,
chiefly Lorette militiamen, a portion of whom had that very night obtained
leave to go and work on their farms, [224.] who fired at Major Hale's
party, and then, says an old manuscript, thinking they had to deal with
the whole English army, they surrendered, with their officer, Capt. De
Vergor, who, being wounded, could not escape, and exclaimed, "Sauvez
vous." This was shortly after midnight, and Wolfe, notwithstanding the
grievous indisposition he was then labouring under, organized a plan to
get up supplies and ammunition from the _bateaux_, this he had
accomplished by four in the morning, when he drew up his men on Marchmont
field. The sailors of the _bateaux_ were the men employed in carrying
up the provisions and ammunition. Wolfe had grog served out to them as
they reached, tired and panting, the top of the hill with their loads,
using to each kind and encouraging words. The crowning success which
followed is lengthily described elsewhere. The first house built at
Wolfesfield was by Captain Kenelm Chandler, [225] David Munro, Esquire,
was the next proprietor. The occupant for forty years was an old and
respected Quebec merchant, well known as the "King of the Saguenay," on
account of the extensive mills he owned in that region - William Price,
Esq., the respected father of a patriarchal family of sons and daughters.
Mr. Price added much to the beauty of the place, which enjoys a most
picturesque river view. In front of the dwelling there is a fine lawn,
shaded by some old thorn and oak trees, with comfortable rustic seats
close by the ravine St. Denis. This ravine is a favourite locality for
botanizing excursionists. Wolfesfield, without being as extensive as some
of the surrounding estates, is one of the most charming rural homes Quebec
can boast of.

As these pages are going through the press, we clip from a Quebec journal
the following tribute to the worth of our late excellent neighbour, Wm.
Price, Esq., a son of the Laird of Wolfesfield:


"A large and costly monument in granite is now in course of erection
at Chicoutimi to the memory of the late Wm. Price. The people of
Chicoutimi are erecting the monument as a token of their respect and
admiration for the memory of their late representative in the
Legislative Assembly of Quebec. The column will be fifty feet in
height, and will, it is expected, be completed by the month of
September next. Being placed upon an elevated site, it will be visible
for many miles up and down the Saguenay river."


The following dramatic account of the capture of Quebec is taken from
the fifth volume of Mr. Carlyle's _Biography of Frederick the Great_:

"Above Quebec, night of September 12-13th, in profound silence, on the
stream of the St. Lawrence, far away, a notable adventure is going on.
Wolfe, from two points well above Quebec ('as a last shift, we will
try that way'), with about five thousand men, is silently descending
in rafts, with purpose to climb the heights somewhere on this side of
the city, and be in upon it, if Fate will. An enterprise of almost
sublime nature; very great, if it can succeed. The cliffs all beset to
his left hand; Montcalm, in person, guarding Quebec with his main

Wolfe silently descends; mind made up; thoughts hushed quiet into one
great thought; in the ripple of the perpetual waters, under the grim
cliffs and the eternal stars. Conversing, with his people, he was
heard to recite some passages of Gray's _Elegy_, lately come out
to those parts; of which, says an ear-witness, he expressed his
admiration in an enthusiastic degree: 'Ah, these are tones of the
Eternal Melodies, are not they? A man might thank heaven had he such a
gift; almost as we might for succeeding here, gentlemen!'

Next morning (Thursday, 13th September, 1759), Wolfe, with his 5.000,
is found to have scrambled up some woody neck in the height, which was
not quite precipitous; has trailed one cannon with him, the seamen
busy bringing up another; and by ten of the clock, stands ranked (just
somewhat in the Frederick way, though on a small scale); ready at all
points for Montcalm, but refusing to be over-ready. Montcalm on first
hearing of him, had made haste: _Oui, je les vois où ils ne doivent
pas être; je vais les écraser_ (to smash them)!" said he, by way of
keeping his people in heart. And he marches up beautifully skilful,
neglecting none of his advantages. His numerous Canadian
sharpshooters, preliminary Indians in the bushes, with a provoking
fire. 'Steady!' orders Wolfe; 'from you, not one shot till they are
within thirty yards!' And Montcalm, volleying and advancing, can get
no response, more than from Druidic stones; till at thirty yards, the
stones become vocal - and continued so at a dreadful rate; and in a
space of seventeen minutes, have blown Montcalm's regulars, and their
second in command, and their third into ruin and destruction. In about
seven minutes more the army was done 'English falling on with bayonet,
Highlanders with claymore'; fierce pursuit, rout total - and Quebec and
Canada as good as finished. The thing is yet well known to every
Englishman; and how Wolfe himself died in it, his beautiful death."


Elm Grove, until recently owned, though not inhabited, by the Marquise de
Bassano, will be familiar to many, from having been the residence during
the summer of 1878, of His Holiness the Pope's Apostolic Ablegate - Bishop

This eminent prelate, prematurely struck down by death at Newfoundland, in
the midst of his mission of peace and good will to all men spent many
busy, let us hope pleasant, hours in this cool retreat.

The plantation of elms from which this seat takes its name, together with
other trees, conceals the dwelling so entirely from the road, that unless
by entering the grounds no idea can be formed of their beauty and extent;
amidst the group of trees there is one of lordly dimensions, in the centre
of the garden. The new dwelling at Elm Grove is a stately, substantial
structure; its internal arrangement and heating apparatus, indicate
comfort and that _bien-être_ for which Quebec homes are proverbial. A
winding, well-wooded approach leads up to the house from the porter's
lodge and main road. From the upper windows an extensive view of
Charlesbourg, Lorette, Beauport, Point Levi and surrounding parishes may
be obtained.

Elm Grove, owned for many years by John Saxton Campbell, Esq., was
purchased in 1856 by J. K. Boswell, Esq., who resided there for nearly
twenty years. John Burstall, Esquire, late of Kirk Ella, has within a few
months acquired it from Madame la Marquise de Bassano, and it bids fair
ere long to take its place among the first and best kept country seats in
the environs of the city.


".....let us pierce into the midnight depth
Of yonder grove, of wildest, largest growth,
That, forming high in air a woodland quire,
Nods o'er the mount beneath"

There is a peculiar feature noticeable about Quebec country seats which
speaks volumes for their attractiveness as healthy and pleasant retreats;
not only have they been at all times sought after by wealthy and permanent
residents, Canadian born, but also by men of European birth, holding for
the time being the highest position in the country, both under the French
and under the English monarchs. Thus the celebrated Intendant Talon was
the first owner of Belmont; Intendant Bigot had his luxurious château at
Charlesbourg; Attorney General Ruette D'Auteuil used, near two centuries
back, to spend his summer months at Sillery, where, later on, Bishop
Dosquet, a French ecclesiastic, had his pretty villa at Samos (Woodfield).
Vaudreuil was also a Canadian land-owner. Later on Governor Murray
purchased extensively on the St. Foy road, amongst others, Belmont and the
"Sans Bruit" farm, Governor Haldimand must have his lodge at Montmorenci
Falls, subsequently occupied by the father of our august Queen; Hector
Theophilus Cramahé (afterwards Lieut.-Governor), in 1762, had his estate -
some 500 acres of cornfield and meadows - at Cap Rouge, now Meadowbank,
owned by Lt.-Col. Chs. Andrew Shears. The Prime Minister of Canada, in
1854, and a late Governor of British Guiana, Sir Francis Hincks, following
in the footsteps of Sir Dominick Daly, must needs locate himself on the
St. Lewis road, and in order to be close to his chief, the late Earl of
Elgin, then residing at Spencer Wood, the Premier selected and purchased
Thornhill, across the road, one of the most picturesque country seats in
the neighbourhood. You barely, as you pass, catch a glimpse of its
outlines as it rests under tall, cone-like firs on the summit of a
hillock, to which access is had through a handsomely laid out circuitous
approach between two hills. An extensive fruit and vegetable garden lies
to the east of the house; a hawthorn hedge dotted here and there with some
graceful young maple and birch trees, fringes the roadside; a thorn
shrubbery of luxuriant growth encircles the plantation of evergreens along
the side of the mound which slopes down to the road, furnishing a splendid
croquet lawn. One of the chief beauties of the landscape is the occasional
glimpses of the Grande Allée and Spencer Wood, obtained from the house.
The dwelling was erected many years ago by Alexander Simpson, Esq., then
Manager of the Bank of Montreal, at Quebec. Forming a portion of it to the
west, and looking towards Charlesbourg, there is a snug English-looking
little nest, "Woodside," with the prettiest of thorn and willow hedges.
Thornhill has exchanged hands, and been for many years the seat of
Archibald Campbell, Esq., P.S.C., at Quebec.


On the South side of the St. Louis road, past Wolfe and Montcalm's famed
battle-field, two miles from the city walls, lies, embowered in verdure,
the most picturesque domain of Sillery - one might say of Canada - Spencer
Wood. [226]

This Celebrated Vice-Regal Lodge was (1780-96) known as Powell Place, when
owned by General Henry Watson Powell. It took its name of Spencer Wood
from the Right Honorable Spencer Perceval, [227] the illustrious relative
of the Hon. Henry Michael Perceval, whose family possessed it from 1815 to
1833, when it was sold to the late Henry Atkinson, Esquire, an eminent and
wealthy Quebec merchant. Hon. Mr. Perceval, member of the Executive and
Legislative Council, had been H. M.'s Collector of Customs at Quebec for
many years, and until his death which took place at sea, 12th October,
1829. The Percevals lived for many years in affluence in this sylvan
retreat. Of their elegant receptions Quebecers still cherish pleasant
reminiscences. Like several villas of England and France, Spencer Wood had
its periods of splendor alternated by days of loneliness and neglect,
short though they were. Spencer Wood, until 1849, comprised the adjoining
property of Spencer Grange. Mr. Atkinson that year sold the largest half
of his country seat - Spencer Wood - to the Government, as a gubernatorial
residence for the hospitable and genial Earl of Elgin, reserving the
smaller half (now owned by the writer), on which he built conservatories,
vineries, a pinery, orchid house, &c., far more extensive than those of
Spencer Wood proper. Though the place was renowned for its magnificence
and princely hospitality in the days of Lord Elgin, there are amongst the
living plenty to testify to the fact that the lawns, walks, gardens, and
conservatories were never kept up with the same intelligent taste and
lavish expenditure as they were during the sixteen years (1833-1849) when
this country seat owned for its master Mr. Atkinson.


Through the kindness of Mrs. Peter Sheppard, of Quebec, we are enabled
to furnish some further particulars touching the estimable and
accomplished lady who, during the protracted sojourn of her family at
Spencer Wood, seems to have won the hearts of all those admitted to
her charmed circle some fifty years ago. Mrs. Sheppard [228] not only
renders to the worth of her lamented friend a merited tribute, she
also furnishes a curious page of Quebec history, Quebec festivities in
the olden times, which may interest our readers. "The Honorable
Michael H. Perceval was closely connected with the Earl of Egmont's
family, who were Percevals. The "Spencer" was borrowed from the Earl's
eldest son "Spencer;" the name was given to their beautiful domain
purchased from old LeHoullier about 1815, as well as to their eldest
son, Col. (now Major General) Spencer Perceval, who was here in
garrison in 1840, in the Coldstream Guards, as well as his uncle, Col.

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 31 of 59)