Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

. (page 15 of 126)
Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 15 of 126)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the island of Bic, one hundred and fifty
miles iip the river St. Lawrence, the sec
ond rendezvous.

All the forces, land and sea, were in a
state of high confidence, and impatient
for action. They were just ready to start,
when bad news arrived. Darrell had lost
his chance at the French squadron, which
had given him the slip and sailed up the
St. Lawrence. This, however disappoint
ing, did not bate a jot of the confident
enthusiasm which filled the heart of ev
ery British soldier and sailor. On the
6th of June, as the splendid fleet cleared
the dismal, snow-covered shores of Cape
Breton, the troops drew up on the decks,
and the crews manned the yards of each
vessel, from the proudest ship-of-the-line
to the humblest tender, and gave one
shout of joyful hope of soon meeting the
enemy. There was victory in the full
sound of this burst of confident enthusi
asm. The men relied upon their own
strength and courage, and trusted in the
skill of their leaders. Each tar knew

Saunders to be every inch a sailor. No
soldier doubted the courage and ability
of young Wolfe. Affection, too, warmed
the faith of every follower into devotion
to his leaders. Saunders, and more espe
cially Wolfe, were beloved b}^ their men.

With fine weather and favorable winds
the fleet moved on gallantly past New
foundland, in its mantle of snow ; along
the Bird islands, with a " ten-knot breeze ;"
and, on the llth of June, came up with
the Gaspe headland. One frigate, how
ever, had pushed on ahead. the Richmond,
which bore the impatient Wolfe, and which
with his eagerness to be foremost he had
selected as the fastest in the fleet. On
the 13th of June, the dangers of the island
of Anticosti, lying threateningly at the
mouth of the gulf of St. Lawrence, were
safely passed ; and, on the 18th, the fleet
came to anchor not far from the island
of Bic. At this point, although the ships
had " kept well together," the Richmond,
with Wolfe aboard, had already arrived-,
having been to this moment far in ad
vance of all the rest.

The fleet moved on again the next day.
There was a calm off the mouth of the
Saguenay, where there was some danger
of wreck to the small vessels from the
current-drifts, but from which they were
fortunately relieved by the evening wind
blowing off the land ; there was a cap
ture of a French vessel, with a distin
guished lady belonging to the family of
the marquis de Vaudreuil, governor of
Canada, and some nuns, all of whom were
most courteously treated, and sent to
Quebec ; and nothing more of incident
until the whole fleet came to anchor in




the evening of the 23d of June, off the
village of St. Joseph. Here there was a
slight brush with the enemy. Some sur-
v ; ey-boats were shot at by the inhabitants,
and the English took summary revenge
with a company of grenadiers, who, with
lire and slaughter, laid waste the Cana
dian hamlet.

On the 26th of June, the whole fleet
of men-of-war and transports anchored off
the island of Orleans, from which could
be distinctly seen the lofty cliffs of jag
ged slate on which QUEBEC stood, with its
citadel grimly defiant. Wolfe s love of
action for, although judicious, he was
impetuously prompt would not allow
him to waste a moment. He ordered his
troops at once to make ready to land ;
and on the very first night he sent a small
reconnoitring force of forty rangers, un
der the command of a lieutenant, to make
their way silently to the island, and gain
what intelligence they could. The ran
gers landed cautiously and without ob
servation, but, in groping their way qui
etly over the ground, came suddenly
upon a large number of the inhabitants,
busily engaged in burying in the earth
their valuables, to secure them against
the invaders. The British officer looked
somewhat aghast at the overpowering
crowd, but, finding that his only safety
was in audacity, boldly confronted them,
and began at once an onslaught. The
Canadians struggled manfully for awhile,
but, fearful of a larger body of the ene
my in reserve, soon gave way and fled.

The English were too glad at their
happy escape, to risk anything by pur
suit, and, quietly making their way to a

neighboring farmhouse, rested there un
til the next morning. During the night
all the inhabitants made their escape,
leaving the island in possession of the
lieutenant and his twoscore of rangers.
They were, however, soon joined by the
whole of Wolfe s troops, who landed early
in the day. The boats had made for a
cove, and the men landed on a spot near
a church, on the walls of which the priest
had reverently inscribed an appeal " to
the worthy officers of the British army,"
invoking them to spare the holy edifice
and its sacred altars. The church was

While the men encamped on the beau
tiful island, and, when off duty, lingered
with delight over its fertile fields and rich
gardens, all in the freshness and bloom
of early summer, their anxious command
er was thoughtful only of duty. His first
impulse was to make his way, in compa
ny with the chief-engineer and an escort,
to the farthest west of the island, that he
might look upon the scene of the great
work in which his whole mind was now

"A magnificent but disheartening scene
lay before him," says Warburton. " On
the summit of the highest eminence, over
the strait in the great river from whence
the basin before him opened, the French
flag waved. The crest of the rocky height
was crowned with formidable works, re
doubted and flanked. On every favora
ble spot, above, below, or on the rugged
ascent, were batteries bristling with guns.
This stronghold formed the right flank
of a position eight miles in extent ; the
falls and the deep and rapid stream of



[PART i.

the Montmorenci was the left. The
shoals and rocks of the St. Lawrence pro
tected the broad front ; and the rich val
ley of the St. Charles, with the prosper
ous and beautiful villages of Charlesburg
and Beauport, gave shelter and hospitali
ty in the rear. A crested bank of some
height over the great river marked the
main line of the defences from east to
west ; parapets, flanked at every favora
ble spot, aided their natural strength.
Crowded on the embattled bank, swarm
ing in the irregular village-streets, and
formed in masses on the hills beyond,
were twelve thousand French and Cana
dian troops, led* by the gallant Mont-

Wolfe looked on with momentary feel
ings of despair ; and, as he gazed, ponder
ing upon the undertaking which loomed
in such immensity before his imagination,
there came up a heavy cloud, which had
gathered over the city, and now burst in
a violent storm over his head. The hur
ricane blew with great fury ; and, as the
lightning flashed, the terrible effects of
the raging wind were visible. The fleet
of vessels were in a state of great com
motion, being thrown about almost at the
mercy of the agitated waters. The iron
chains which moored the transports were
rent in twain as if they had been of straw;
the small boats were reft from their moor
ings, and dashed in useless wrecks upon
the shore ; and the great ships-of-the-line
could hardly hold to their heavy anchors.

Wolfe, almost overwhelmed with what
appeared to be an omen of fatal disaster
to his great enterprise, turned away from
the melancholy scene in deep thought,

full of sad presage for the future. His
mind, however, soon turned in retrospect
to the land he had left, and to that coun
try which had intrusted him with the
guardianship of its glory.

Other feelings now stirred his heroic
soul ; despair and irresolution gave way
to hope and firmness. He had promised
that "no dangers or difficulties should
discourage him," and he now determined
that none should. As the calm self-reli
ance which belongs to genius settled up
on his mind, and all the disordered fan
cies which had momentarily vexed his
thoughts were scattered, Nature, as if in
sympathy with the noble Wolfe, became
also lulled to quiet. The storm passed
suddenly away ; and, as night darkened,
all was in repose, with but a star here
and there gently twinkling a faint light.

The British soldiers now encamped,
and all soon were sleeping on their arms,
except the watchful sentinels who passed
to and fro along the shore. As the night
advanced, the darkness deepened, and
the quiet became more still. Nothing
was heard but the ripple of the water,
and nothing seen but the waving glim
mer of scarcely a star, here and there, in
the slight surf -where the waves beat at
the feet of the sentinels. Some dark ob
jects appear suddenly, however, like black
clouds, floating on the surface of the riv
er. Those on the watch are bewildered
as they look upon the strange phenome
non, and exchange whispering words of
surprise and doubt. In a moment, before
the sentinels have decided to arouse the
drowsy camp, there burst from those dark
objects, which had now floated, with the




tide, into the neighborhood of the an
chored fleet, a terrible volley of hissing
bombs., rattling muskets, and booming
cannon. Louder and more frequent was
heard the noisy cannonade ; nearer and
nearer approached the dreaded objects.
Now, in an instant, when almost within
reach of the English fleet, the mystery
was revealed by one burst of lurid light.
The sentries did not pause to look, where
all was now as bright as noonday, but
turned and fled in fright toward the camp,
arousing every soldier in confused alarm.
The whole army was panic-stricken, and
each affrighted man wandered about, lost
in bewilderment, and regardless of disci
pline and order.

Some officers, more cool than their
comrades, hurried to the farthest extrem
ity of the island looking toward Quebec.
Here, in the blaze of light, which threw
its bright glare over the whole scene,
they could see that the cause of the com
motion was the appearance of a number
of fire-ships, which the enemy had sent
down to destroy the English fleet. The
contrivance had failed, for the " diaboli
cal machines" had blazed prematurely,
and thus failed of their intended effect.
Admiral Saunders had coolly, but with
bated breath, watched the threatening
approach ; and when he saw that the fire-
ships, from the premature discharge of
their explosives, had been deprived of
their chief means of injury, he coolly or
dered out boats to grapple with them,
and tow them far out of reach of harm
to his fleet.

Order in the course of the night was
restored to the camp on the island of Or-

leans. Next day, before commencing a
systematic attack, Wolfe sent forth to the
inhabitants of Canada this proclamation



This was a clever production, undoubt
edly from Wolfe s own pen. Nothing
could have been more judiciously word
ed ; but its author hardly expected any
other effect from it than it produced. It
was more for the purpose, as is usual with
military conquerors, to give a coloring of
right and a tone of confidence to his new
enterprise, than to persuade those to
whom it was addressed to forsake their
own country in its adversity, and to em
brace with affection that country s bitter
est enemy. The proclamation was met,
on the side of the French, by an earnest
appeal to the Canadians from their priests,
to fight for their faith, against the heretic



[PART i.

English ; and counter-manifestoes from

O /

the fierce Montcalm, containing some ter
rible threats against traitors.

The Canadians, of course, remained
faithful to their country, and proved their
devotion by liberal contributions of men
and means to the cause. More than this :
they became so ferocious in their enmity,
that they joined with the Indians in in
flicting savage cruelties upon all the Eng
lish who fell into their hands. Wolfe ap
pealed to the humanity of Montcalm, to
stop these atrocities ; but the French gen

eral could not, or would not. The almost
feminine sensibility of the brave and hu
mane Wolfe was so far worked into a fer
mentation of cruel anger by the result
of his appeal to the humanity of Mont-
calm, that he issued this order:



Such is war, that even the gentlest
spirit is curdled into cruel rage by its
touch of blood !


The British Fleet draws nigh Quebec. Point Levi taken. De Vaudreuil and Montcalm quarrel. The French strive ii
drive away the British Fleet. Quebec not yet taken. Wolfe s First Manoeuvres. The British Rangers in the Forest.
Pursued by the Savages. The Murder of the Innocents. Failure of Wolfe on the Montmorenci. De Chassier a
Night-Attack. Its Catastrophe. Admiral Holmes moves his Ships farther up the St. Lawrence. Consternation of
the French. Wolfe takes a Survey, and does not admire the Prospect of the Heights of Quebec. Wolfe s Second
Attempt and Failure. A Touching Incident. Ochterlony and Peyton, the Two Friends. Escape from the Savages
Death of Ochterlony, and Safety of Peyton. Wolfe unsuccessful, but not despondent. News from Johnson and
Amherst, and its Effect. Wolfe s Illness. The General commands, and forms Plans, on his Sick-Bed. A French
Priest arouses his Flock to Action. Mutual Barbarity.


by the effects of the storm, from
which his ships had so greatly suffered,
of their insecurity, was now anxious to
move them from the channel between
the island of Orleans and the south shore,
where they were moored, to the safer an
chorage of the " Basin," facing the city.
Point Levi, however, which commanded
the place to which he proposed to take
the fleet, was held by the enemy, with a
considerable force of artillery, by which
they could keep up an annoying fire.
Monckton was accordingly ordered by

Wolfe to pass over from the island of
Orleans with his brigade, and drive away
the French from the point. After some
difficulty, and two or three repulses,
Monckton finally succeeded in his object,
and the village of Levi fell into his pos
session. The Canadian troops and Indi
ans were forced to fly, and, crossing the
St. Lawrence, took refuge within the
walls of Quebec.

The loss of Point Levi was severely
felt by Montcalm, who had, with his usual
judgment, early discovered the impor
tance of the position, and had strongly



urged upon the marquis de Vaudreuil
the necessity of so strengthening it as to
resist any attempt of the English. The
governor had, however, obstinately ob
jected ; and when the result that Montr
calm had feared occurred, and the town
of Levi was taken by his enemy, he was
so vexed, that he never forgave De Vau
dreuil. From that time, the two were
no longer friends. This quarrel fatally
interfered with the success of the French

The English, once in possession of Point
Levi, began to fortify it with batteries,
placed upon various elevations which
commanded Quebec ; and were able, al
though the distance across the river was
three quarters cf a mile, to throw a dam
aging fire upon the city. The French
for awhile made a useless effort to dis
lodge Monckton s force, by means of float
ing batteries moored in the river; but
they were soon silenced by the guns of
one of Saunders s frigates, sent to drive
away the annoyance.

Wolfe daily increased his fortifications
on Point Levi, and continued to fire with
great effect upon the city. With red-hot
balls and bombshells he succeeded in set
ting fire to over forty houses in one night,
destroying the greater part of the lower
town, and so angering the inhabitants,
that they volunteered to cross the St.
Lawrence in a body and drive away the
invaders. This was, however, but a tem
porary fit of enthusiasm ; and the citizens,
becoming more discreet, thought better
of their rash determination, and retired
from their ruined habitations to the se
curity of the citadel, which, perched on

July 9,

the heights, the English guns could not

The British had now been a fortnight
before Quebec ; and, although they had
made good their possession of
the St. Lawrence, and had suc
ceeded in keeping up a brisk fire from
the Point-Levi batteries, no impression
had been made upon the citadel itself,
and the object of the expedition seemed
almost as remote from accomplishment
as ever.

Wolfe now determined upon a plan of
operations by which he hoped to get at
the enemy more effectually. Montcalm
had extended his camp from the citadel,
along the northern bank of the St. Law
rence, as far as the river and falls of
Montmorenci. Wolfe proposed to land
his forces on the side of this river and
these falls opposite to the farthest east
ern extremity of the French encamp
ment. In order to divert the enemy,
while Wolfe was engaged in crossing the
St. Lawrence to the Montmorenci, the
smaller vessels of the fleet were worked
in close to the northern shore, and began
to play their guns upon the French, and
with such success, that they were forced
to draw back their troops from the bor
der of the river to the higher ground

Monckton, too, was ordered to make a
diversion, on Point Levi, toward Quebec.
He accordingly sent out a small compa
ny of his rangers, under Lieutenant Rog
ers, to prepare the way for a larger move
ment on the southern shore of the river.
The rangers pushed on with such zeal,
that they got lost in the thick woods,




and, night coming on, were forced to pass
it in the forest, sleeping on their arms.
Next morning, while making their way
to Monckton s camp, they observed, in
some rising smoke, signs of habitation,
and accordingly, having cautiously ad
vanced, came upon a log-house, where
they found a Canadian settler and his
three children, the eldest of whom was
less than fifteen years. They were taken
captive, and were being led back to the
camp, when suddenly the whoop of the
Indian sounded upon their ears, and they
discovered that a large body of these sav
ages were close upon their track.

There was no hope now but in conceal
ment and flight. The rangers, skilled in
forest-warfare, plunged at once into the
woods, and strove to dodge the Indian pur
suit amonff the trees and undergrowth.


They moved on with the greatest possi
ble haste, dragging their prisoners with
them, and endeavored to keep so silent
as not to be heard by the savages, who
were beating the woods like so many
bloodhounds. Silence, however, was im
possible. The Canadian father and his
eldest son were readily kept quiet ; but
the two younger children, who w T ere al
most infants, kept up such a continual
cry of fear and anguish, that it was found
impossible to stop them. Threats were
tried in vain, and persuasions were found
equally useless. They were urged by
Lieutenant Rogers to leave him, and find
their way home ; but they would not be
entreated, and continued their lamenta
tions, so that the woods rang with their
cries. The savages, guided by the noise,
were fast approaching. Rogers was al

most in despair. His only hope was now
in a terrible sacrifice. The children must
be silenced ; and silenced they were, by
death ! A sword was plunged into the
heart of each of the innocents, and their
bodies cast aside, to be eaten by the
wolves. Rogers now succeeded in reach
ing Monckton s camp in safety with all
his rangers and the bereaved remnant of
his prisoners.

Wolfe succeeded without difficulty in
conveying a large force from the island
of Orleans to the opposite bank of the
river, and there encamped them. The
river and the falls of Montmorenci were
now between him and the enemy : he
was on the east side of the stream, whose
course is north and south, and they on
the west. The falls, with a descent of
three hundred feet, and the rapids of the
river, near where Wolfe was encamped,
formed an impassable barrier between
the two camps. The ground which the
English, after a slight struggle with the
Indians and bush-rangers, now held, was
in a commanding position, and so lofty,
that from its cliffs the eye readily looked
down within the intrenchments of the
enemy on the opposite side. A crossing-
place was now searched for, and a ford
found some three miles distant from the
mouth of the Montmorenci. But the
French side was so well protected by the
natural barriers of precipice and throng
ing woods, and the strong intrenchments
which the alert Montcalm had thrown
up, that it seemed almost impracticable
to attempt it. Several efforts were, not
withstanding, made which, however,
were repulsed each time by a murderous




fire from the Indians hidden in the forest
covert. Wolfe now abandoned for ever
all hope of crossing at that point.

Montcalm became confident and more
daring when he found Wolfe s plan had
failed ; and, believing that the English
had made a fatal error in dividing their
force, tried to profit by it. He accord
ingly sent a body of troops from Quebec
to the south bank of the St. Lawrence,
to the west of Point Levi, where Monck-
ton was encamped, and gave orders for
a night-attack. Wolfe, hearing of this
movement, made his way across at once,
and took command in person of the troops
in Monckton s camp. Not conscious of
the dangers which were pressing to over
whelm them in the darkness, the British
soldiers threw themselves down, after a
day s hard duty at the w T orks, and now
lay in profound repose.

Two thousand French, Canadians, and
savages, as soon as the shades of evening
had begun to fall, took up their silent
march. De Chassier, a brave man, lord
of the domain of Point Levi, and familiar
with every landmark and forest-path, led
the force. This was separated, as it ap
proached the British camp, into two di
visions. One was sent in advance, and
the other followed at some distance in
the rear. As the first proceeded through
the wood in the increasing darkness, the
men became suddenly alarmed, and fled
back in confusion. The other division
oming up, and hearing the approaching
footsteps of their retreating comrades,
took them for the enemy, and commenced
a deadly fire, which was returned ; and
the awful mistake was not discovered

until seventy had been killed, and both
parties had been put to flight in opposite
directions ! The only result of this un
fortunate expedition was this sad suici
dal slaughter.

While the British troops were busily
engaged on Point Levi and the bank of
the Montmorenci, in throwing up their
intrenchments, Wolfe continued active in
studying the defences of the enemy, and
the natural position of the surrounding
country. A portion of the fleet, under
Admiral Holmes, having been moved du
ring the night, much to the surprise and
alarm of the inhabitants of Quebec, up
the St. Lawrence, and even beyond that
city, where they were anchored, Wolfe
seized the opportunity of taking a survey
of the northern bank of the river, to the
west of the town. He accordingly took
a barge and pushed off from the shore
to the nearest ship in the stream. The
barge was observed, and immediately the
enemy s guns began to play upon her;
but she happily succeeded, with only the
loss of her mast, in carrying her precious
freight to the safe guardianship of a sev
enty-four. Wolfe did not like the look
of things above Quebec. The northern
banks of the St. Lawrence rose in rugged
precipices from the shore, there as else
where, about the site of the formidable
citadel. Moreover, the French had de
fended the approach by intrenchments
and a strong battery at Sillery, which
crowned the high ground of the northern

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 15 of 126)