Robert Tomes.

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

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shore of the river. Wolfe, therefore, for
the present, turned his attention else

Near where the Montmorenci empties



[PART i.

into the St. Lawrence, the stream, after
its turbulent course over the falls and
rapids, becomes smooth, and at low tide
go shallow, that it can in some places be
crossed on foot. Montcalm, conscious of
the natural facilities here for the approach
of the enemy, had fortified the place with
a redoubt below the bank ; while the bank
itself rose so precipitately, and was so
strongly intrenched, that even if an op
posing force should succeed in gaining
the shore, they would have a tough work
before them in an attempt to scale the
precipitous heights in the very mouths
of a threatening battery. Wolfe, how
ever, growing impatient as he had al
ready been five weeks before Quebec, and
had done nothing to satisfy the impulsive
energies of his restless spirit was now
resolved upon the desperate undertaking
of throwing his troops across to this very
point, so strongly resisting, and present
ing so little hope, even to the most dar
ing and resolute. The general, notwith
standing, undertook it, and failed. The
brigades succeeded in getting across from
the opposite side of the Montmorenci,
and Monckton s force landed in fine or
der from Point Levi. But the grenadiers
were in too great a hurry, and, pushing
with too much eagerness for the intrench-
ments, were repulsed, and came flying
back in disorder; although Monckton s
men, with admirable coolness, formed and
held the ground where they had landed,
and thus prevented a precipitate and con
fused retreat. The attack had been de
layed by the grounding of some of the
boats. Night was now approaching, and
the tide rising fast; so Wolfe withdrew

his men, and give up the attempt as fu

In this unfortunate repulse, there oc
curred an incident which so beautifully
illustrates the manly affection of comrade
for comrade, and affords so bright a rev
elation of the gentle goodness of brave
hearts, while even steeled to the cruel
duties of war, that we interweave with
heightened pleasure this pure page of
brotherly feeling with the leaves of the
" Battles of America," stained as they are
by fratricidal blood :

Captain Ochterlony and Ensign Pey
ton belonged to the regiment of Royal
Americans. They were nearly of an age.
which did not exceed thirty. The first
was a North Briton, the other a native
of Ireland. Both were agreeable in per
son and unblemished in character, and
connected together by the ties of mutual
friendship and esteem. On the day that
preceded the attempt which \ve have just
related, Captain Ochterlony had been
obliged to fight a duel with one of the
German officers of the mercenary troops
employed under Wolfe, in which, though
he wounded and disarmed his antagonist,
yet he himself received a dangerous hurt
under the right arm, in consequence of
which his friends insisted on his remain
ing in camp during the action of the fol
lowing day. But his spirit was too great
to comply with this remonstrance. He
declared it should never be said that " a
scratch," received in a private rencounter
had prevented him from doing his dutj
when his country required his service ;
and he took the field, though he was
hardly able to carry his arms. In lead-




ing up his men to the enemy s intrench-
ments, he was shot through the lungs
with a musket-ball ; but he still contin
ued advancing, until, by the loss of blood,
he became too weak to proceed farther.

About the same time, Mr. Peyton was
lamed by a shot, which shattered the
small bone of his left leg. The soldiers,
in their retreat, earnestly begged, with
tears in their eyes, that Captain Ochter-
lony w r ould allow them to carry him and
the ensign off the field. Mr. Peyton, with
a generous disdain, rejected their good
offices, declaring that he would not leave
his captain in such a situation; and in a
little time they remained the sole survi
vors on that part of the field.

Captain Ochterlony sat down by his
friend; and, as they expected nothing
but immediate death, they took leave of
each other. Yet they did not altogether
lose hope of protection as prisoners ; for
the captain, seeing a French soldier with
two Indians approach, started up and ac
costed them in the French tongue, which
he perfectly understood, and expressed
his expectation that he and his compan
ion would be treated as officers and gen
tlemen. The Frenchman, however, came
up to Mr. Peyton, as he lay upon the
ground, and snatched his laced hat from
him, and robbed Ochterlony of his watch
and money. This outrage was a signal
to the Indians, who seemed to be entire
ly under the control of the French mis
creant, to begin. Accordingly, one of
these savages struck at the captain be
hind with the buti>end of his musket, but,
missing his head, at which he armed, the
blow fell upon his shoulder. At the same

moment the other Indian, with his muzzle
to the breast of the unfortunate Ochter
lony, poured its contents into his chest.
" Peyton," cried out the captain, " the
villain has shot me !" The savage, not
yet satiated in his cruelty, then sprang
upon him and stabbed him in the belly
with his tomahawk. The captain was
without a single weapon of defence. The
Frenchman and his associate savages now
strove to strangle him with his own sash ;
and he seemed completely at their mer
cy, struggling upon his knees with all his

Peyton, observing the position of his
friend, lifted himself from the ground,
and, levelling his double-barrelled mus
ket, brought one of the savages down,
who fell dead upon the spot. The sur
viving Indian now made for Peyton, who
seeing the savage coming, fired with a
sure aim his second barrel at him, but
apparently without effect. The Indian
then returned the fire, which wounded
Peyton in the shoulder ; and, to complete
his bloody work, rushed upon him and
thrust his bayonet through his body.
The young English officer was, however,
not yet despatched ; and, as a second at
tempt was being made with the bayonet,
he seized the musket of the Indian, and,
dragging him close to him, succeeded in
drawing the dagger at his side, and
plunged it into his antagonist. Now en
sued a fierce struggle for life or death ;
but Peyton managed to get the better of
the Indian, and with another thrust with
the poniard the savage rolled over, and,
with one last agony, breathed no more.
At this moment the young British officer



[PART ..

was seized with an uncontrollable curi
osity to find out whether his shot, which
had seemed to be a sure one, had taken
effect. On stripping the blanket off the
dead body of the savage, he discovered
that his ball had passed quite through
the chest !

Peyton now managed to raise himself
on one leg, and to hobble toward the
place where he saw his friend Ochterlony
standing up, with the Frenchman at his
side, not far from the French battery.
" Captain, I am glad to see," cried out his
friend, " that you have at last got under
protection ; but beware of that villain
with you, who is more barbarous than the
savages themselves ! God bless you, my
dear fellow ! I see some Indians coming
this way, and expect to be murdered im

The Indians were, indeed, coming
some thirty of them who, having left
off pillaging and scalping the dead who
had fallen in the late unfortunate attempt,
were now making for Peyton. He, dis
abled as he was, made a run for life, but
had not proceeded far, when he found
himself unable to continue his flight. He
now came to a stop, and had just loaded
his musket, when two of the Indians,
ahead of their fellow-savages, came al
most within range of his lire ; but, as he
aimed at them, they suddenly paused,
awaiting the coming up of the others.
The French, in the meantime, began to
play with their cannon and musketry up
on the poor, solitary, and maimed Pey
ton ! This was his almost hopeless posi
tion, when he caught a sight in the dis
tance of a Highland officer, to whom he

waved his hand, in signal of distress. It
was fortunately noticed, and three men
were immediately sent to his aid.

The three British soldiers, in spite of a
terrible fire, succeeded in reaching Pey
ton, and one of them bore him off on his
shoulders. The Highland officer was his
kinsman, and, having heard that Peyton
had dropped on the field, had come out
with a party ; and, driving off the oppo
sing French and savages, had thus suc
ceeded in bringing him rescue, and car
rying him off in triumph. Ochterlony
was conveyed as a prisoner to Quebec,
where he soon after died of his wounds
the surgeons declaring that he might
have recovered of the two shots in his
breast, if it had not been for the fatal
plunge of the savage s tomahawk in the
belly. *

The failure at the Montmorenci so
wrought upon the sensitive nature of
Wolfe, and his feeble constitution had
been so broken by fatigue and exposure,
that he now fell ill, and was prostrate in
his camp with fever and dysentery. His
proud soul recognised death alone as the
alternative of conquest ; and, while there
was life, he resolutely strove for victory.
He now, stretched as he was on the bed
of sickness, bated not a jot of his energy
and resolute courage. He issued his or
ders with his usual promptness, and ex
ercised his command with the same strict
ness of discipline. The impetuous rush
of the grenadiers had lost the day, and
he now sternly rebuked them :

" The check which the grenadiers met

* Smollett tells this story, and we have repeated it very
nearly in his own words.




with will, it is hoped," said Wolfe, " be a
lesson to them for the time to come.
Such impetuous, irregular, and unsoldier-
like proceedings, destroy all order, and
put it out of the general s power to exe
cute his plans. The grenadiers could not
suppose that they alone could beat the
French army ; therefore it was necessary
the corps under Brigadiers Townshend
and Monckton should have time to join
them, that the attack might be general.
The very first fire of the enemy was suf
ficient to have repulsed men who had
lost all sense of order and military disci
pline. Amherst s and the Highland regi
ment, by the soldierlike and cool manner
in which they formed, would undoubted
ly have beaten back the whole Canadian
army if they had ventured to attack them.
The loss, however, is very inconsiderable,
and may be easily repaired when a favor
able opportunity offers, if the men will
show a proper attention to their offi

Wolfe, however, was not the man to
linger despondingly upon the errors of
the past. His impulsive spirit was ever
looking forward with hope to the future,
and his sense of duty prompted him to
act as long as there was any chance of
doing something for the cause to which
he had pledged his service and his honor.
There was no hesitation in his conduct ;
and he promptly sent Murray, immedi
ately after the repulse on the Montmo-
renci, with twelve hundred men, to aid
Admiral Holmes in effecting a landing-
above Quebec. Little, however, was ac
complished by this movement, as Mont-
calm had so strongly fortified every point,

and so diligently guarded against sur
prise, that it was found impossible to do
more than destroy the small village of
Dechambaultin the course of the passage
up the river. Some prisoners of distinc
tion were here taken, and letters found
upon them, which gave the first informa
tion of the success of Amherst at Crown
Point, and that of Johnson at Niagara.
This news was brought back by Murray
exultingly, with the hope of cheering his
general ; Wolfe, however, derived but lit-
tie comfort from the intelligence, as he
saw at once that there was no hope now
of aid from either Johnson or Amherst,
so dilatory had been their progress.

Wolfe now became so ill, that he could
no longer bear the daily presence of his
officers ; but his mind continually dwelt
upon the great undertaking, the fate of
which rested on him alone. He devised
plans of attack, and from his bed dictated
their several details, with this general
letter to his brigadiers :

" That the public service may not suf
fer from the general s indisposition, he
begs the brigadiers will meet and con
sult together for the public utility and
advantage, and consider of the best meth
od to attack the enemy.

" If the French army be attacked and
defeated, the general concludes that the
town would immediately surrender, be
cause he does not find that they have
any provision in that place.

" The general is of opinion that the
army should be attacked in preference
to the place, because of the difficulties of
penetrating from the lower to the upper
town ; in which attempt neither the guns




of the shipping nor of our own batteries
could be of much use."

Wolfe s plans, which accompanied this
letter, were all in accordance with his
view of attacking the army and not the
citadel based upon operations against
the French encampment extending along
the northern shore from the city of Que
bec to the river Montmorenci. The brig
adiers met and deliberated, and finally
determined on another and bolder pro
ject, said to have been suggested* by
Colonel George Townshend, that heroic
officer who had abandoned rank, position,
parliamentary influence, and the endear
ments of domestic life, to share in the
hardships and dangers of the American
campaign. Wolfe did not hesitate to
adopt the daring suggestion of his infe
rior in command, and now bent all his
energies to crown it with triumph.

The whole army welcomed the pros
pect of some decisive action. They had
been harassed by the irregular warfare
with the Indians and Canadians, who were
constantly provoking them into skirmish
es, which merely fevered cruelty with a
thirst for blood, and brought them no
nearer to the settlement of the great
struggle. The Christian soldier was laps
ing into the barbarity of the heathen sav
age. In fact, the cdnversion would seem
already to have been made. For exam
ple : A French priest armed some eighty

* YVarburton.

of his flock, and fortified himself in a
large stone-house, about ten miles east
ward of the British camp at Montmoren
ci. Thence he sent a message, challen
ging to combat, an English detachment
posted in his neighborhood. At the same
time, with eccentric French courtesy, he
sent a polite invitation to the English
commander to do him the honor of dining
with him, offering him a safe-conduct for
the occasion. The invitation was cour
teously refused. Soon after, a company
of light-troops, with a fieldpiece, was sent
against the belligerent French priest and
his flock. The English placed themselves
in a wood near by, and by a stratagem
succeeded in enticing the. French out of
their fortified house ; and, surrounding
some thirty of them, killed and scalped
the whole, including the gallant priest
That the victims were disguised as Indi
ans, was pleaded as an excuse for the
savage cruelty with which they were

With such unholy and unsatisfactory
warfare to noble spirits, it was not sur
prising that the whole army was eager
for a change. The soldiers, too, suffered
from hardships and want of provisions.
Horseflesh had already been served out
as occasional rations. Moreover, two
months had been passed in vain, and all
felt the impatience which awaits imsatr
isfied expectation.

* Warburton.





Wolfe s Letter to Pitt. The Great Commoner s Dismay. Walpole s Babble. Townshend suggests a Plan for the Cam
paign. Wolfe adopts it. Reconnoitres the Heights. Finds a Place of Landing. Wolfe s Cove. The Army kept
in Ignorance. The Wisdom of the Caution. A Deserter from the French. The Enemy losing Heart. Montealm
writes despairingly to Count Mole. His Remarkable Prophecy. The British proceed to the Attack. Wolfe s Night-
Sail. His Song. The Plan of the Attack. Wolfe and Gray s Elegy. Wolfe on the Shore. The British on the
Heights of Abraham. Montealm doubtful. Assured at last. The Battle. Gallantry on Both Sides. Wolfe falls.
The British victorious. Wolfe dies " happy." De Bougainville blusters loudly, and flies. Montcalm s Heroic Death.
News of the Victory reaches England. Joy and Sorrow. Honor to the Brave. End of the Canadian Campaign.


WOLFE, after several weeks of ill
ness, had sufficiently recovered his
strength to present himself again to his
troops. He showed, as always, the same
undaunted air of confidence to his sol
diers, cheering them by his inspiriting
words, and encouraging them by his self-
reliant example. His tone, however, to
the British government was more dis
trustful. "I am so far recovered," he
wrote, " as to do business ; but my con
stitution is entirely ruined, without the
consolation of having done any consid
erable service to the state, or without
any prospect of it." Pitt was dismayed
at these despairing words, and began to
tremble for the glory of his country, and
to fear lest he had intrusted it to the
guardianship of feeble hands. The unfa
vorable news began to circulate in Lon
don, and its great people to quake with
fear. Walpole caught up the echo from
the aristocratic circle which gathered
about the personages of state, and re
peated it in a gossiping letter : " In short,
you must not," he says, "be surprised
that we have failed at Quebec, as we cer
tainly shall How this little army will

get away from a much larger, and in this

season, and in that country, I don t guess
yes, I do." Walpole s "guess," which
was sure, in accordance with his small,
tittle-tattle spirit, to take a mean direc
tion, was very far from doing justice to
the great character of Wolfe. Walpole
"guessed" that the British would run
away !

The plan which Wolfe had adopted, at
the suggestion of Townshend, was to con
vey a large force above the town, and
thus draw Montealm from his citadel to
an open fight. This was the general de
sign : the details were now to be settled.

Wolfe allowed no weakness or tardy
convalescence to interfere with the activ
ity of his movements. He started him
self at once on board one of the frigates
in Admiral Holmes s squadron, and, sail
ing up the stream, landed in a cove on
the northern bank of the St. Lawrence,
three miles above Quebec, while
the men-of-war diverted with a
busy fire the various French batteries,
and covered the landing of the general
and his brigadiers who accompanied him.
The place where they had driven in the
boat was slightly hollowed out in the
course of that great volcanic movement

Sept, 9,




which, ages ago, had reft in two the land,
and made way for the rush of the waters,
which now calmly flow, in the beautiful
river St. Lawrence, between its rugged
banks of slate. The place has ever since
been called " Wolfe s Cove." From the
scant spot of alluvial shore where Wolfe
landed, there led up the precipice, which
frowned high above, a narrow and wind
ing way to the summit. Once at the top,
the ground becomes almost like a table
land, and stretches with but gentle ele
vations to the walls of Quebec, which
stands upon a part of this high level, and
defiantly from its guarded height, raised
upon steep sides of stone, would seem to
scorn all invaders.

Wolfe resolved upon taking his troops
up the path at the foot of which he had
landed, and which led to the " Plains of
Abraham," as the level land at the top
of the headlong cliff was called. This
was such a daring resolve so hazardous,
so remote from probability and apparent
possibility that even Montcalm, with
all his vigilant foresight, could not anti
cipate it. Secrecy was absolutely neces
sary, and it was therefore determined to
land the troops in the dead of night,
Wolfe took great care to keep his own
counsel ; and, although he at once made
active and thorough preparations for car
rying out his design, he let no word es
cape, by which the precise object of his
operations might be known to the sol
diers, and his plans thus exposed to the
chance of reaching the enemy through a
deserter. In his orders to the
troops, he spoke of their embar
kation and disembarkation, specifying

Sept, 11,

the hours of the night ; and directed the
men to be quite silent, and not on any
account, when about to land, to fire from
the boats. He said nothing, however
about the specific object of his design,
but confined himself to the general order
to " the army to hold themselves in readi
ness to land and attack the enemy."

Wolfe s caution was wise ; for, on the
very morning which preceded the night
of his proposed attempt, one of
his soldiers deserted to the ene
my. Knowing nothing, however, this fel
low had nothing to communicate to the
French. One of Montcalm s regulars, who
in his turn deserted to the English camp,
had more to say. From him it was
learned that the French general believed
the attack would only be made on the
Montmorenci side, and accordingly still
kept his main force below the town ; that
a large detachment of troops had been
sent off (thus weakening the garrison of
Quebec) to meet Amherst, whose success
at Crown Point, and that of Johnson at
Niagara, had greatly alarmed the Canar
dians ; that M. de Bougainville, with fifteen
hundred men, was watching the move
ments of the British fleet above the town ;
and, finally, that the French were in great
want of provisions, and much disheart

The French had too much occasion to
lose heart. The British fleet rode in their
waters, in triumphant mastery of the St.
Lawrence, cutting oft all hope of aid by
sea. Amherst and Johnson threatened
the Canadian frontier by land. And,
worse than all, the able Montcalm was
thwarted by the obstinate resistance to




his plans by the less capable De Vau-
dreuil. " You have sold your country !"
cried out the general, in excited rage
against the governor ; " but while I live,"
added the resolute Montcalm, " I will not
deliver it up !" He wrote, almost in the
bitterness of despair, to M. de Mole, presi
dent of the Parliament of France : " The
enemy are in a condition to offer battle
when they please, and I can not refuse
them, although I shall be beaten. My
Canadians, without discipline, and deaf
to the call of the drum, will fly at the
first charge ; and what will be left for
me, but to be overwhelmed without a
resource ? Such is my position a posi
tion so terrible for a general, that it gives
me some awful moments of reflection !
But, come what will, be assured I shall
not survive the loss of the colony. There
are times when all that is left for a gen
eral is to die with honor." He then " con
soles" himself, as he declares, with a re
markable prophecy of the fatality which
should attend British dominion by the
conquest of Canada : " I shall console my
self, writes Montcalm, with the serious
earnestness of a prophet of wo, " for my
defeat, by the certain conviction that that
defeat will one day be worth more to my
country than a single victory, and that
the conqueror, in widening his dominion,
will but open for himself a tomb." Mont
calm was conscious that his chief danger
lay above Quebec, and wrote : " Unless
Wolfe lands above the town, and forces
me to a battle, I am safe." Yet, on the
very night that the danger he feared
threatened him, he knew nothing of its
ipproach !

The British troops were embarked.
Wolfe himself was on board. The night
had set in. The evening was clear. The
wind was fair, with the promise of a fresl
breeze to carry the ships rapidly up the
St. Lawrence. The plan of sending the
larger vessels, with the mock show of
landing a force on the northern bank of
the river, near the Montmorenci,had been
successful, and the enemy were still un
suspicious of Wolfe s real design. The
British general now issued his last orders,
in which, having reminded his army that
the fate of Canada might be determined
by a vigorous blow struck at this moment,
he tells them mysteriously, still keeping
his secret, that they are to land where
the French would least expect it. " The
first body that gets on shore is to march
directly to the enemy. The battalions
must form on the upper ground with ex
pedition, and be ready to charge what
ever presents itself. .... The officers and

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 16 of 126)