The Cambridge Modern History/Volume VII/Chapter IV


CH. IV.


116


The fall of Louisbourg.


[1745-8


men, more than three-fourths of whom were furnished by Massachusetts alone, sailed out of Boston. They were well supplied \vith artillery and stores, and the force was commanded by a colonial soldier, William Pepperell. Arriving at Canso in Nova Scotia they awaited Admiral WaiTen, who shortly joined them with his squadron and proceeded to cruise off the coast and keep it clear of enemies.

On April 30th the New England fleet was in front of Louisbourg, a town strong in its natural situation, and fortified with the care and skill that its high importance required. Some twenty-five hundred militia and regulars, together with the able-bodied men of a population of about similar strength, manned its walls and outlying batteries. The besiegers encountered a most difficult task in landing upon the surf-beaten, rocky coast. Everything had to be carried ashore on the men’s backs, and it was a full fortnight before the New Englanders were ready to open their siege operations. Even then unsuspected difficulties were encountered, the chief of these being the marshy nature of the ground, which made the moving and mounting of guns, under the fire of the town, a most arduous proceeding. The energy and spirit however of the besiegers triumphed over ail obstacles, including their own lack of discipline, which was not unnaturally conspicuous. Outlying batteries were silenced or carried one by one, sallies were repelled, and the toTO was reduced by degrees to a heap of ruins. The powder ran short on both sides, but, when that of the New Englanders had been replenished, the town at length surrendered after a five weeks’ siege, and both garrison and inhabitants, to the number of over four thousand souls, were deported to France. The bugbear of all the sea-going and coast-dwelling folk of the northern and middle colonies was thus removed and the still graver danger to Nova Scotia averted, while the military prestige of New England received an impetus, the effects of which were considerable and enduring.

The news of the fall of Louisbourg reached England when good news was sorely needed — for the battle of Fontenoy had recently been lost, and Charles Edward had just landed in Scotland. It was greeted in London wth loud acclamations, cannon-firing, bell-ringing and bonfires. The achievement stands by itself as the only considerable warlike enter- prise imdertaken and carried through by the American colonists without the instigation, help or leadership of the mother-country, other than such assistance as Warren’s ships rendered in keeping the coast clear. Shirley, the organiser of the expedition, and Pepperell, its commander, were rewarded with baronetcies; and the cost was ultimately repaid by England. The value set upon Louisbourg by the French was sufficiently shown at the peace three years later, by the concessions they made in other continents for the sake of retaining it, while the chagrin felt at its restoration by the Americans and those concerned with America was not less marked.


1748]


The French colonies.


iir


So far the struggle between England and France had not been ^ seriously felt in America; but the ink was scarcely dry upon the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, when the French rulers of Canada commenced a policy, which forbade all hope of a lasting peace. The French repre- sentative at this jimctm’e was de la Gallissoniere, who was afterwards conspicuous as the opponent at Minorca of the ill-fated Byng. To him belongs the credit of those aggressions in the American hinterland which ultimately stirred England and her colonists to military endeavours on a scale hitherto undreamt of, and resulted in the eventual loss to France of her transatlantic empire. That the issue of so momentous a struggle, strange though it now seems, was for some time in doubt, should also be remembered to the fm-ther credit of the able Frenchman who conceived, his contemporaries who supported, his successors who continued, so daring a policy. At first sight, from our modern point of view, such a contest would seem a hopelessly unequal one. A few words to correct so natural an impression are indeed almost necessary, before proceeding to the struggle itself. When it is noted that the French in North America then numbered less than 80,000, while the British colonies contained a million white inhabitants, exclusively of negro slaves, this might seem to confirm rather than modify the impression in question. But here for military purposes the superiority of the English ended. All other advantages were with the French, and some of these were very great. Though Canada was numerically so feeble, consisting almost wholly of the settlements on the St Lawrence between and near Quebec and Montreal, its government was an absolute one. The King exercised an unquestioned rule in lay matters, and the Church in clerical. Canada’s vast fur-trade was the main object of its existence in the eyes of its owners, and the agricultural settlem were chiefly valued as growing food for those engaged in it or as furnishing soldiers for the protection of its interests. The mission of the English colonist was to make a home for himself whei-e he and perchance his children after him might live and die. Upon these sound lines the Anglo-American social and legal fabric rested. The statesmen who governed Canada from their high-perched palace on the rock of Quebec, had far wider, if less stable, aims than the practically self-governing English farmer or planter. The habitants, who under feudal tenure gathered in their limited harvests by the St La^\Tence, were not undervalued; indeed their comparative paucity was a matter for constant regret, but they were regarded as mere useful adjuncts to the fru’-trade, that great source of profit to the King and stiU more to his agents. In this not the King only and his immediate servants were interested, but every man of position and education in the colony. TTie territorial appetite and ambition of the fur-traders were insatiable; and their aims were the more formidable to civihsed rivals, since, unlike the more limited aggressions of the


CII. IV.


118


The New England colonies.


[l74S


slow-moving farmer, they did not directly menace the native with extermination. For the extension and support of such a system the Canadian peasantry, ignorant, superstitious, hardy, well treated, after the fashion of children, were admirable instruments. Every man was by law a soldier of the backwoods type, and, moreover, was prepared to rally to the national cause with unquestioning obedience and without expectation of pay, and to march with equal readiness against either Indian or English heretic.

How utterly opposite in these respects were the English colonies scarcely needs demonstration. It is, however, hardly possible to insist too strongly on the absence of homogeneity that distinguished them. Their subsequent union has in a great measure caused us to forget how sharp were the lines which divided one from the other, before the policy of France drove them into those crude attempts at combination which the folly of an English government afterwards perfected.

The New England provinces formed somewhat of an exception to this state of things. Similar in origin and in type and habits of thought, they fraternised more readily than the rest, and for defensive purposes had often been forced into a military co-operation. In them alone at this time was to be found military capacity or anything approaching to a warlike spirit. The rest of the colonies, succeeding one another on the Atlantic coast as it trended southwards to the newest settlement of Georgia, were but so many detached units with little mutual intercourse. Distances were great, population thin, means of transit primitive. They had all grown up on separate stocks, worked out their own individual destinies on varying lines, and, as a matter of fact, regarded each other with no little jealousy, while such outside intercourse as opportunity or inclination provided was mainly in the direction of the mother-country. This is not the place to take note of their contrasts, social and political. It will be sufficient to say that, unlike the men whom France sent to govern Canada, the Colonial officials, in accordance with the existing English system of patronage, were, as a rule, persons of inferior capacity, and, though small blame attaches to them on this account, lived in perennial disagreement with the provincial legislatures.

Speaking broadly, the Anglo-Saxon race in America at this time was confined between the AUeghanies and the sea. This was ample space for all present needs. To the average colonist it seemed no doubt, not unnaturally, ample for all time. Happily there were minds of a more prescient turn among them, while the fact that there were French statesmen who clearly foresaw the pressure of Anglo-Saxon civilisation upon the West has been sufficiently demonstrated. Behind the AUe- ghanies lay that vast and fertile region which drained into the Ohio and thence into the Mississippi. It was a better country, as a whole, than that already occupied by the British colonists. This, however,' was then a matter of no significance. It was as yet a far-away


1748-9J


French and British claims.


119


Indian-haunted wilderness, known only to a few hundred traders, hunters and voyageiirs of both British and French nationality.

The British provinces vaguely claimed everything that lay to the westward within their respective parallels. The French, on the strength of La Salle’s early discoveries, claimed with equal vagueness the entire basin of the Mississippi, whose head-waters extended to Lake Fj-ie. In other words, the English denied the right of the French to cross the Canadian lakes, while the French, on their part, desired to confine the English to the strip of country which they then occupied between the Alleghanies and the sea. But the French were preparing to put their theories into practice, and to secure the whole fur-trade of Western America. De la GaJlissoniere hoped to plant French settlements in the Ohio Valley as they had been planted in Canada. He intended that forts should be built and garrisoned, and that a firm alliance should be made with the Indian tribes on the strength of their instinctive dread of the English cultivator. Thus Canada and Louisiana would be linked together by a chain of forts and a combination of military force that would ceiLainly intimidate any land hunters or traders from the Atlantic colonies, at any rate till emigration from France should give substance to the settlements and add strength to the barrier which was designed to shut out the Anglo-Saxon from the West. Nor was it territorial greed only that prompted this ambitious scheme. It was felt that if the growing power of England in America remained unchecked it would so stimulate her prosperity as to make her a menace to France in everv’ peirt of the world.

In 1749 de la Gallissoniere made the first move in the game by sending his notable expedition of two hundred persons under Celeron into the heart of the Ohio wilderness. Here at certain spots they buried leaden plates on which the French monarch’s claim to the country was inscribed. At others they nailed shields bearing the arms of France upon the trees. Much rhetoric was expended on Indian audiences with the object of convincing them that Louis XV, not George II, was their father. British traders found in the Indian settlements were summarily expelled and letters written to the British authorities professing surprise that British subjects should be found poaching on French territory. The French were beyond a doubt less distasteful to the Indians than their rivals. They had more natural genius for winning the affection of the natives, and had no desire to settle their lands to the detriment of the game. On the other hand the French traders could not compete with the English in the matter of good weires and low prices — a veiy serious consideration and another urgent reason for checking if possible the British advance. De la Jonquiere and Duquesne, who succeeded de la Gallissoniere in the government of Canada, continued his policy. The harassed English traders went eastward with their grievances, while the commmiication of the formal and reiterated claims of the Canadian


CH. IV.


120


Collision in the West.


[i74&-


govemors to those of Pennsylvania and Virginia showed that the back- woodsmen were no self-interested alarmists, i

The temper of the colonies chiefly concerned remained however whoUy apathetic to a danger they scarcely realised. The question was beyond the limited vision of the average colonist, the scene of these forward movements too remote, the movements themselves were too insig- nificant. Having regard to the self-absorbed isolation that distinguished the nature of his life for the most part, one can hardly be surprised at his apathy. He could not easily di^fine what by the light of history seems to us now so clear, that the momentous question whether Frsmce or England was to dominate North America was on the eve of settlement. Happily there were some far-sighted men upon the spot who rose superior to colonial indifference, and thus while divining the future supported their views with energetic action. Conspicuous among these was Din- widdie, Deputy Governor of Virginia. In 1753 he despatched George Vihshington, then a capable, promising youth of twenty-one, to warn off the Fi'ench in their turn as interlopers. With the co-operation of some of his fellow-governors he followed up this futile formality by a strong appeal to the English ministry to have regard to the gravity of the situation. The answer was a permission to repel force by force, but it was accompanied by no promise of assistance, A small sum however was wrung from the reluctant and half-sceptical legislators of Virginia, and a handful of provincial troops was sent to construct a foi-t at the forks of the Ohio river — a spot soon to become one of famous and ensanguined memory and now buried among the roaring furnaces of Pittsburg. This was but a challenge. The French, pouring southward in small bodies through the shaggy forests that clothed this whole country, soon succeeded in driving these rustic sappers back. In the following summer the English retaliated with a provincial force of some four hundred men led by Washington. A brisk skirmish of vanguards, in which the French were captured and their leader killed, made a stir throughout North America and caused much talk in Europe. Soon afterwards Washington and his rough levies, after fighting behind entrenchments for the whole of a rainv July dav against overwhelming numbers, surrendered on favourable terms at the Great Meadows and were permitted to return to Virginia.

This was in 1754. The two nations were nominally still at peace and were to maintain for some time the curious fiction. The voice of Din- widdie however and the rifle-practice of the French at the Great Meadows had not fallen on deaf ears in England, and preparations were made for more serious movements. Meanwhile it will be well to say a few words about an American province of England that lay, physically and politi- cally, outside the old colonial group, but which was to play no insignifi- cant part in the coming war. Nova Scotia, then more often called Acadia, thrusting its rugged coast line far out into the Atlantic between Canada and the New England colonies, was of vastly more importance than its


- 1754 ]


French intrigues in Acadia.


121


territorial value and its thin population would suggest. Upon that northern fragment of the province known as Cape Breton Island, the embattled town and great fortress of Louisbourg, restored to France in 1748, froTOed over the misty seas. In the ample harbour, beneath its formidable batteries of big cannon, navies could ride secimely at anchor, and from such a base could effectually dominate these northern waters.

For forty years the Acadians, made famous by Longfellow’s pathetic but sadly misleading hexameters, had been British subjects. They had been governed with a leniency so remarkable as to be the despair of the Canadian authorities, lay and clerical, whose interest it was for many lu-gent reasons to spread discontent among them. The oath of allegiance, indispensable to the good government of ahen subjects, had been most tenderly administered. Their religion and their priesthood received full recognition, their lands remained imtaxed. The habitants themselves, simple, ignorant and superstitious, were incapable of sacrificing their lands and possessions for any abstract ideas of loyalty to a distant and shadowy monarch. AU they asked was to be left unmolested in their village life and peaceful agricultiu'e. But this placid acquiescence did not suit their old masters the French, who hoped some day to recover the province by their assistance, and in the meantime to make its possession as troublesome and as little valuable as possible to the English. To this end the Acadian priesthood, who were under the control of the Bishop of Quebec, were utilised as agents. Their mission was to preach dis- content with English rule and denounce acquiescence in it as a sin against Heaven. Thirty years however of practical experience of King George’s rule had been almost too much for the ceaseless thunders of the Church, when the short war of 1744 broke out which witnessed the captme of Louisbourg by Pepperell and Warren.

This event rekindled some faint sparks of the old feeling and redoubled the incendiary efforts of the Canadian government. These were inten- sified when the French, having received Louisbourg back in 1748, commenced to make it more formidable than ever, and thus compelled Great Britain to reply by founding to the south of it the town and naval station of Halifax. For now not merely was British officialism, repre- sented by two or three isolated forts, planted in Acadia, but the British axe was sounding in the forests of the eastern sea-board, and the advance of British civilisation threatened the supremacy of the French Acadian. The origin of Halifax differed from that of aU other British American settlements. It was purely the work of the government, who landed there in one year nearly 3000 immigrants, of whom the men were mostly soldiers thrown out of occupation by the peace. Cornwallis, uncle of the ill-fated general of Yorktown memory, was governor, an admittedly just and kindly man. He had a difficult task before him. The energies of the Canadian government, the French officials at Louisbourg £ind their willing tools the priests, now exerted themselves to the utmost to make


OH. IV.


122


Expulsion of the Acadiam.


[1755


rebels and malcontents of the simple Acadian peasantry. The most merci- less exponent of this heartless policy was a certain Abbe La Loutre, of whose performances even Frenchmen of his day wrote with horror and his employers with apologies that they themselves needed. The only- weapons at their disposal were fear and superstition. A fresh oath of ^egiance was for good reasons now required by Cornwallis; and few Acadian settlers, of their own accord, could have hesitated for a moment to repeat a form which had brought them such tangible material blessings. But they were given no choice: acquiescence in heretic rule weis repre- sented as a deadly sin against God. Those for whom this argument was not strong enough were threatened with a more visible terror, for the forests were full of Indians, many of them so-caUed Christians, and all under the influence of the French. To a peasantry so primitive in their faith and so superstitious, the threat of eternal damnation was generally^ convincing. To the more sceptical the immediate loss of their scalp was a worse alternative than the threat of expatriation so often uttered by the long-suflering British governors.

Crushed between these upper and nether millstones, great numbers of Acadians had fled in despair to the woods and had adopted a life of outlawry. Many left the country and their possessions, beginning life again in French territory. These courses were equally convenient to the French authorities, who showed no spark of feeling for their miserable compatriots. British settlers roimd Halifax were killed and scalped. The lives of the soldiers of the outlying garrisons were unsafe a mile from their forts. The history of Acadia from 1749 to 1755 is a woeful story. The cruel and masterful tactics of La Loutre and his abettors were con- temptuously vmdisguised. The British officials spared no efforts to recall the harassed and panic-stricken Acadian peasantry to their former happy condition, but their attempts were vain. A great struggle was at hand, and a population of professed malcontents, whatever the true reason of their attitude, was more than the ethics of the eighteenth centirry cotrld be expected to tolerate. An irltimatum was accordingly Issued. Its date was more than once defen-ed in the hopes of reason mastering terror; but finally it seemed to both colonial and British officials, men notable for their qualities of head and heart, that there was no alter- native but deportation. Everybody knows the sentimental side of the story of Evangeline, few the causes that compelled it. Some 8000 Acadians of all ages and both sexes were forcibly embarked and dis- tributed, with aU the regard for family ties possible in the circumstances, among the Atlantic colonies. It was a lamentable eviction, and the ultimate lot of its victims was anything but happy. It is a poor consolation to know that those who found their way to Quebec met with less consideration and kindness than those who were cast upon the charity of the Puritans of New England and the Anglicans of the South. This memorable incident, which resulted in Nova Scotia


1 ’ 755 ]


General JSraddock’s expedition.


123


becoming mainly British in blood as well as in allegiance, occurred in % September 1755.

A few weeks earlier an event of much greater significance had taken place to the southward. The urgent warnings of certain colonial governors to the English ministry in the previous year, coupled with the noise of these backwood skirmishes, had not fallen on deaf ears. Parlia- ment voted money for the defence of the colonies; and in the spring of 1755 the 44th and 48th regiments sailed from Cork for Virginia. They were each 500 strong, to be increased to 700 by enlistment in America. They went into camp at Alexandria, a place upon the Potomac river immediately opposite to the present city of Washington. The object of their attack was a stronghold named Fort Duquesne, constructed by the French on the Ohio on the site of one taken from the British, as noted above. The leader of the British force was General Braddock. He was a middle-aged man and an approved soldier of the type of the Duke of Cumberland his master. His faults were those of his period and have been emphasised and exaggerated by writers of both history and fiction, while his courage and honesty, though undisputed, have received less notice. He is said to have been given to violent language, to have been lacking in consideration for colonial susceptibilities, to have under- rated both provincial troops and Indians, and to have been over-confident in a style of war with which he was unfamiliar. Of many of these charges and others xmworthy of mention Braddock may be in whole or part acquitted. He had been led to expect active assistance from the colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania, whose interests were chiefly threatened by the French agencies; but, with the exception of 500 irregular troops to be paid by the Crown, he received none. Means of transport for his army through nearly 200 miles of forest wilderness and over rugged mountains were utterly lacking till Benjamin Franklin, of his own initiative, by threats and entreaties obtained the requisite number of waggons from the Pennsylvanian farmers. Much enthusiasm was exhibited at the presence of the redoubtable British infantry in America, but little practical help was given by the legislatures, and Braddock was sorely tried. Washington, however, who had formerly commanded the Virginian levies and was now the General’s aide-de-camp, was of great service.

The expedition started early in June from Fort Cumberland on the Potomac, some seventy miles above Alexandria, whence it was 122 miles to Fort Duquesne. The difficulties of this march through the primeval forests and over the high ridges and rugged defiles of the AUeghanies must be left to the imagination, since there is no space here for detail. The force consisted of about 1400 regulars and 600 provincials. Of the promised Indians, through no fault of the General, there were practically none. The French garrison at Fort Duquesne was believed to be strong, while the woods swarmed with Indians in the French interest. IMien about half the march had been accomplished with the utmost difficulty, Braddock

CH. IV.



124


3raddocMs defeat and death.


[1755


decided to push on with 1400 of the best troops. The catastrophe which overwhelmed this advancing force within nine miles of the French fort is t one of the most dramatic tragedies in our military annals. 600 Indians and 200 French and Canadians awaited the British at a spot well adapted to forest warfare, and virtually destroyed an army nearly twice their strength, of better discipline and equal courage. The story has been often told. The enemy, lurking behind trees and bushy ridges, themselves invisible, poured in a fire so rapid and so deadly that the redcoats, massed together, fell in heaps. For a time discipline to some extent prevailed, and crashing voUeys were fired in futile fashion into the woods whence came the pitiless leaden hail. But when the slaughter increased and no enemy could be seen, confusion seized upon the troops, who, huddled together in small knots, fired wildly in aU directions, killing more of their comrades than of their enemy.

Officers showed the noblest devotion, vainly endeavouring to lead parties of their men against the hidden foe but invariably falling in the very act, picked off by the marksman’s bullet. Braddock performed prodigies of valour and had five horses killed under him. Washington in like fashion was twice unhoreed and his coat riddled with balls. After two hours of slaughter and confusion, a general panic set in, and the survivors fled back along the road they had so laboriously made and traversed, not halting till they reached Dunbar’s camp sixty miles away. Braddock was shot in the lungs, and being borne along with the fugitives was bxiried four days later under forest leaves. Out of 1460 of all ranks who went into action 863 were killed or wounded. Out of 87 officers only 26 came off unscathed. Yet there was no seidous attempt at pursuit. This catastrophe caused a painful shock in England and spread consternation in the colonies. Its immediate effect was enormously to increase, among the Indians, the prestige that the French by their activity had already been acquiring, and to hurl on the defenceless frontiers of the middle and southeni colonies a horde of savages, thirsting for scalps and eager for blood.

Two expeditions of less import were undertaken this year in the North. War had not yet been formally declared between France and England; but, when Braddock’s corps was despatched from Cork, France answered the challenge by sending 3000 soldiers to Canada. Now Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts, was a man of energy and ability, and profoundly convinced of the urgency of the French question. He had brought 6000 provincials, mostly New Englanders, into the field. They were commanded by Johnson, an Irish gentleman of large possessions on the Indian frontier and of great influence with the friendly Indians of the Five Nations. The object was to operate from Albany and oppose the French forces which were massing on Lake Champlain, and which threatened to seize and hold the water-connexion flanking the New England colonies and leading direct from Canada to New York. The


1755 - 6 ] Failures on the Canadian frontier.


125


Marquis de Vaudreuil was now governor of Canada. He had 5000 regular ^ troops at his command, besides the large and invaluable Canadian militia and countless Indians. Baron Dieskau, an able soldier, was in command of the troops on Lake Champlain. Those who sweepingly attribute Braddock’s defeat to his professional spirit and European troops will find food for reflexion in the fact that a large force of provincials was ambushed by Dieskau’s Canadians and Indians on Lake George this same summer, with precisely the same results. The provincials however, being imdisciplined, ran away quicker and were moreover only three miles from their entrenchments, so that the slaughter was infinitely less. Dieskau, following up his success, was repulsed by Johnson and his troops in an attack on their encampment with considerable loss, and was himself badly wounded and taken prisoner. After a summer yielding no tangible results, the French and English forces faced each other through the winter of 1755-56 from the opposite ends of Lake George, the former at Ticonderoga, the latter at Forts Edward and William Henry.

Shirley, like some other capable administrators, had an ambition to shine as a soldier; so he personally took command of the third expedition which Braddock, Dinwiddie, himself, and others of less eminence had projected for the year 1756. Its object was the capture of Niagara, where a strong fort protected the western fur-trade of Canada. Shirley’s base of operations was Oswego, the only British outpost on the northern lakes and a thorn in the side of Canada. But his intentions were discovered from letters captured in Braddock’s baggage; and when he reached this solitary British station on the southern shores of Lake Ontario, he found Fort Frontenac (the present Kingston) on the Canadian side reinforced in such strength that he dared not leave Osweeo exposed to its attack. So, leaving 700 men, raw levies for the most part, to strengthen the defences, he retired to his administrative duties, which were of more importance to America than his military adventures. Washington in the meantime had been placed in command of 1500 provincials and ordered to protect the frontier.

The boundary-line was now pushed back along its whole length, and the labom’s of a generation were destroyed with all the horrible accom- paniments of savage warfare. Hundreds of persons, including women and children, were butchered. The French not only incited the Indians, but often led them. Panic seized even the oldest settlements and the eastern cities. The Quaker legislature of Pennsylvania earned the reproaches of posterity and the . execrations of its contemporaries by refusing to vote a dollar or a man for the public defence. Washington, with his small force on a frontier 400 miles long, was almost powerless, and wrote that he would sooner die a hundred deaths than witness the heart-rending scenes which his hard lot compelled him to see. The triumph of Canada on the other hand was somewhat damped by the

CH. IV.


126


Montcalm in Canada.


[l756


scarcity of food that prevailed there through the winter of 1755-56. But in May, 1756, war was formally declared; and the Marquis de Mont- calm sailed in the same month with supphes of aU kinds and 1200 fresh troops to take command of the Canadian forces. He was a man of high character and ability, then in his forty-fourth year, and had served with distinction in Europe. His immediate subordinates were de Levis, Bourlamaque, and de Bougainville, all three of them efficient soldiers.

England sent out Lord Loudon as commander-in-chief, the 35th regiment, 900 strong, sailing just before him, with Abercrombie and Webb. Loudon was a respectable soldier, but whoUy lacked vigour and initiative. He was quite unequal to a situation so strange and trying, and no match whatever for his able adversary with an army and a colony at his entire disposal. Montcalm indeed lost little time. In August he headed in person an expedition against Oswego and forced the garrison, some thousand strong, who should have been reinforced, to capitulate at discretion. Forts, houses, stores and shipping were de- molished. The place was temporarily erased from the map, and Ontario once more became a French lake. The blow was a severe one, and the English this summer had no successes of any kind to counterbalance it. It had been intended to send another expedition against Fort Duquesne along Braddock’s road, but Pennsylvania and Virginia refused ^ as- sistance, and the project had to be abandoned.

The chief operations of the summer had their centre at Albany, which may be roughly described as in the angle of the only two routes to Canada — ^the one leading north through Lakes George and Champlain to Montreal, the other westward up the Mohawk valley to Oswego on Lake Ontario. Tdie country they penetrated was a rugged and romantic wilderness, the historic battle-ground of eighteenth century America, much of it occupied by the Indians of the Five Nations, whom a tradi- tional policy and Johnson’s skilful diplomacy kept neutral or friendly in spite of French prestige. The efforts of the British were mainly directed towards the northern route and, as in the preceding year, to the expulsion of the French from the lodgements they had gained within such easy striking distance both of New York and the New England colonies.

There were as yet few British regulars in America. The newly arrived 35th and Braddock’s survivors were almost all that Loudon had at his disposal. But an army of several thousand provincials, mostly New Englanders, had taken the field, and were gathered under his orders. Except that they could handle a gun and possessed as much courage as could be expected without discipline, never was a people more calculated to be the despair of a commander than the Americans of that day. Every colony jealously controlled its o^vn levies and its own military expenditure, and set limits, not only to the term of the men’s services, but sometimes even to the districts in which those sendees were to be given. The New England militia regiments chose their own officers, usually their own social


1756]


Loudon and the British forces.


127


equals and neighbours, an arrangement in itself fatal to discipline. Sanitary « knowledge, even such as then possessed by regular armies, was entirely absent; and, in localities where men to-day seek camp life as a means of health, the colonial troops sickened by hundreds, and died by scores. Jealousies between the colonial leaders, and again between the colonial officers and those of the British regiments, increased the confusion. When to this are added the difficulties of campaigning in regions outside the food-producing area, wrapped in the gloom of imbroken forests and swarming with Indians, one ceases to wonder that North America proved the grave of such moderate reputations as George II’s generals brought out with them before the days of Pitt’s supremacy.

Loudon was of a desponding nature, and acquired a reputation for dilatoriness and other failings that was perhaps not fully deserved. The summer was consumed in strengthening Forts Edward and William Henry and in building the vast fleet of boats necessary for advancing down Lake George against the French, whose great fortress of Carillon or Ticonderoga, at the narrow entrance to Lake Champlain, bade defiance to the British and filled the surrounding forests with fierce bands of marauding scalp-hunting warriors, both red and white. Similar troops were also to be found on the British side, and that in increasing numbers as time went on — bands of hardy dare-devil rangers, drawn from the ranks of frontiermen and hunters and grouped under popular leaders like Stark and Rogers. The adventures of these men formed one long romance, while their services were invaluable. Their deeds of daring and heroism, their amazing fortitude, their hair-breadth escapes and their too often sanguinary deaths, add to the picturesqueness which so eminently distinguishes the story of these half-forgotten campaigns when read in detail. It is only possible here to remind the student that the intervals between those combined movements which general history can alone take note of were filled with performances whose simple narration makes fiction seem in comparison tame and poor; and it is far from wonderful that many British officers, fascinated by the dash and danger of these forest raids, sought service in them and, being for once the amateiu^, while the colonials were the experts, not seldom paid the penalty of their inexperience with their lives.

TTie winter of 1756-57 dragged through with little change in the respective positions of the two rival nations. Campaigning in a serious sense was out of the question at that season of the year. The require- ment of winter-quarters for the regular troops raised considerable friction. The inhabitants of the chief cities showed a reluctance to provide food and shelter for the men who had come to fight their battles that seems almost inexphcable. The health of the soldiers, the temper of the officers, and the good understanding, so vital at this crisis, suffered in consequence. Large numbers deserted their colours. The colonial militiaman left his colours from the natural yearning of a raw recruit

CH. IV.


128


Loudons failure against Louisbourg. [i756-7


for his home, and not seldom in despair of his long-deferred pay. The regular was tempted to desertion by a country which afforded good < hope of escaping recaptime and offered at the same time encouraiging prospects. /

Loudon had urged upon the government the doubtful polJcy of making the capture of Louisbourg their main object for the siammer campaign of 1757. They had followed his suggestion, and he was now ordered to New York with as many troops as the exigencies of colonial defence were supposed to admit of. This accomplished, he awaited the favourable moment to embark his force for Halifax, there to be joined by reinforcements from England, and a strong fleet under Admiral Holbome. Sir Charles Hardy, with a small squadron, w.as to be his convoy to Nova Scotia; but in the meantime news of a large French fleet off Louisbourg arrived, and Loudon dared not move,; He waited in vain for tidings of Holbome, till at length, urged by the necessity for action, he and Hardy decided to take the risks. Discovery by the French fleet would have meant certain ruin; but they took eviay precaution possible, and fortune favoured them. The transports arrivi^ at Halifax upon the last of June, and Holbome, with fifteen battle-sl'iips and over five thousand troops, joined them ten days later. The Kbyals, 17th, 27th, 28th, 43rd, 46th and 55th regiments of the line, each of them seven hundred strong, constituted the bulk of the reinforcements. The regiments previously with Loudon or in the Nova Scotia garrisons were three battalions of the Royal Americans, the 22nd, 42nd, 44th and 48th, besides American rangers. In all there were some eleven thousand troops, mainly regulars, collected at Halifax, the most for- midable army that had yet trodden American soil. But, like everything else connected with British strategy at that unhappy period, they were too late. A month was occupied in drilling and organising the troops and in vain endeavours to ascertain the military and naval strength at Louisbourg. The first report of this was so far encouraging that the army was actually embarked. Before setting sail, however, a second and more trustworthy account was received to the effect that 7000 troops, besides Indians and irregulars, were within the walls of the strongest fortress in America, and that 22 battle-ships, besides frigates, carrying 1300 guns, were riding in the harbour. A council of war pronounced this to be a hopeless outlook; and Loudon, leaving four regiments for the protection of Nova Scotia, sailed back with the remainder to New York. Admiral Holbome, being subsequently reinforced, endeavoured to tempt the French fleet out of Louisbourg. But La Motte, their commander, had no object in risking an engagement; and Holbome, while cmising off the coast, was caught in a hurricane, his fleet scat- tered, and some ships wrecked. A melancholy close was thus put to an iU-advised and badly executed campaign. Loudon has been made the scapegoat; his dilatoriness is the burden of most writers. He is even


Activity of Montcalm.


129


1757]


ridiculed for occupying the troops at Halifax in planting vegetables for the use of the sick and wounded in the looked-for siege of Louisbourg, and in practising siege-operations — a better and healthier alternative surely than the other one of drinking and idleness! The dUatoriness lay with the English government in despatching an expedition to an open harbour on the 5th of May that should have sailed rather on the 5th of March. Loudon has perhaps a greater blunder to answer for, namely, that of entering on a campaign which, at a critical moment, removed him with the cream of his troops from operations of more vital import. He had not reached New York before the error was brought home to him by a despatch-boat laden with the disastrous news that Fort William Heniy had fallen in lamentable fashion and that the waterway from the Hudson to Montreal was in the hands of the French.

While Loudon, as the lampooners said, was “ planting cabbages ” in Nova Scotia, Montcalm had vigorously thrown himself on the weakened frontier of New York. Dazzled by his brilliant achievement at Oswego, hundreds of western savages had flocked to his standard at Montreal, while the so-called Christian Indians of Canada needed no such incentive to take up the hatchet. Ticonderoga or CariUon, at the head of Lake Champlain, was to be the rallying-place; Fort William Henry, thirty miles off at the head of Lake George, the point of attack. The French commander, on his side, was not free from personal an- noyances. Vaudreuil, the governor, as a native-born Canadian, was jealous both of him and of his friends. The French troops on their part had no love for their Canadian brothers-in-arms. The civil admi- nistration from top to bottom battened on corruption. The Church claimed immense privileges, and was sometimes troublesome. But in the matter of making war these were trifles compared with the cumbrous and complex machinery that existed across the English frontier. There were no fanatical, jealous, parsimonious or ignorant legislators to be consulted, no supplies to be voted. The King found the money; the colonists were at any rate anxious to fight, however they might differ on other matters; and when the commander-in-chief gave the signal, every Canadian, without hope of pay, was ready to march with the French regiments, only anxious to prove his perennial though vain boast, that he was a better soldier than the regulars and equal to three Englishmen. 8000 men, including six royal regiments and a large body of the marine or colonial regulars, were at Ticonderoga in July. Montcalm was there himself, with the able de Levis as second in command. At the far end of the long, narrow, mountain-bordered lake in Fort William Henry, lay Colonel Munro with some 2000 men, nearly half of them raw militia recruits. Fourteen miles behind him, on the Hudson at Fort Edward, General Webb, commanding in Loudon’s absence, had a still smaller number of still worse troops. In his rear lay Albany


O. M. H. vn. CH. IV.


0


130


Capture of Fort William Henry.


[1757


and the English settlements, quaking with a fully justified trepidation and sorely weakened in their former faith in the invincibility of the mother-countiy.

The stor)" of the capture of Fort William Henry and its ghastly sequel is one of the dramatic episodes with which this period of American history abounds, though it can only be treated in brief outline here. Montcalm, with the help of boats and bateaux, expe- rienced little difficulty and no opposition in bringing his motley but effective host and formidable artillery to the raw clearing of the forest, not a stone’s throw from the lake shore, where the doomed fortress awaited its fate. His summons to surrender, coupled with a significant hint that the 1800 Indians with him, if exasperated by resistance, might prove uncontrollable, was curtly rejected by Munro, who did not wholly despair of help from Webb. The garrison, which contained Otway’s regiment (the 35th), was outnumbered by nearly four to one, and in average quality was at an even greater disadvantage. The British artillery was miserably inferior to that of the enemy, and the garrison was encumbered with women and children and a long sick list. Webb, who was responsible for the posts which kept the road to Albany open, had sent from Fort Edward all the men he could spare to Munro. To have faced the French in the open with less than 2000 raw militia, and at the same time left Fort Edward at the enemy’s mercy, would have been most hazardous. Yet Webb has been widely blamed for his inaction, probably on the principle followed by Loudon’s critics of “ once wrong always wong," for he had made mistakes before. Through a week the roar of artillery, the rattle of musketry, and the wild war-whoops of the Indians W'oke fierce echoes in the mountain gorges round Lake George. The defenders’ ammunition was nearly exliausted, their wretched cannon had burst or were dismounted. Sickness was raging, and the French trenches, armed with heavy artillery, had been pushed close to the ramparts. Entirely surrounded, cut off from sup- plies, Loudon being on the Atlantic and Webb hemmed in, Munro agreed to the inevitable capitulation. Canada could scarcely feed her own people and troops; accordingly the garrison, under the promise of not serving for eighteen months, were to be safely escorted with their moveables to Fort Edward. But all French subjects taken since the war began were to be restored; each prisoner so delivered was to release from his parole a member of the garrison. The fort was then abandoned for a large entrenchment near by which had been included in the defence.

It was at the evacuation of this temporary refuge that the bloody scene was enacted which has stained Montcalm’s memory. The Indians, though they had joined in the agreement, could not tolerate the sight of vanquished enemies marching off, not merely with their lives and scalps, but with their clothes, arms and small possessions. The outrage began with a scuffle; the war-whoop was raised; and a hundi-ed


1767]


Massacre of the garrison.


131


tomahawks flashed in the air. A scene of wild confusion followed; the • captive garrison had little means of resistance but imloaded muskets. The sick with the women and children were among them, and numbers of these fell instant victims to the fury of the savages. The escort was culpably insufficient, and proved heartlessly indifferent. Montcalm was thoroughly acquainted with the Indian nature, and detested its brutality while he recognised the value of his indispensable allies. When the catastrophe due to his carelessness occurred, he and his officers threw themselves into the tumult and exerted all their powers of persuasion and intimidation to stop the plunder and slaughter. The troops on guard, chiefly Canadians, callous to Indian excesses, would risk nothing. The French, more especially their officers, though late on the scene, behaved like men. Nearly a himdred of the weaker persons, however, had been butchered; 600 were made prisoners by the savages, and had to be redeemed at various later periods by French money; while numbers, stripped of their clothes, fled to the woods and found their way eventually to Fort Edward. Montcalm’s mistake cost the Fi’ench, as well as its more immediate victims, dear; for the English, with just reason, repudiated their part of an agreement which had been broken in such ruthless fashion. The guns and contents of Fort William Henry were canied to Canada; the fort itself was destroyed; and French craft plied on Lake George with as much impunity as on Lake Ontario.

This winter of 1757-58 was a gloomy one for the English in Americfi, whether colonists or soldiem. The French, firmly seated on the Ohio, were still hurling the Indians on the reeking frontiers of Pennsyl- vania, Maryland and Virginia, whose older settlements showed a remark- able lack of spirit. In the North the horrors of a greater war were detailed in hundreds of rural homesteads by disbanded soldiers who were without laurels to glorify their tales. The faith of the colonies had been gi’eatly shaken, though unjustly, in British troops, and much more reasonably in British generals. The latter, on their part, had cause to complain of many things and were not backward in their complaints. But they were shortly to be relieved; for Pitt was now in power. Few indeed at that dismal season coidd have dreamed that within three years the French power in America would have virtually ceased to exist. France indeed was now at the zenith of her success. Her failure as a true colonising power, however, is significantly illustrated by the fact that the Canadians, satiated as they were with glory, were almost starving, in a fertile country occupied for a century and a half. Yet, still land-hungi-y, France was grasping at a continent.

Pitt had risen to supreme power in the preceding June. The train of the late disasters had then already been laid, and he had to take the consequences and profit by them. By the new year the magic of his inspiration had begun to work; and the agents of his vigorous policy, both at home and abroad, were feeling the influence of his lofty

9—2


< H. IV.



132


Pitt in power.


[l75T-8


enthusiasm. France was not merely to be checked in America; she was to be crushed and evicted. It was there he clearly saw, and not in the * vast and endless turmoil of Exmopean strife, that the quarrel between France and England was to be decided. It was unfortunate for France that, almost at the moment when a great man possessed of these convictions stepped to the helm in England, French colonial interests should have changed hands with a precisely opposite result, and that ministers who had backed up the able conductors of the Canadian forward policy, with both sympathy and supplies, should have given place to others who shut their eyes to the future and failed to see the “handwriting on the wall.” Two French fleets, however, were already fitting out in Toulon and Rochefort respectively, for the carriage of troops and supplies to Canada. Pitt sent squadrons to check them, with the result that the one at Toulon could not get out, while the other was driven on the rocks.

Pitt’s American programme for the year 1758 differed from that of the preceding one in nothing but the men and methods by which it was to be carried out. Louisbourg was to be attacked by one force, Ticonderoga by another, Duquesne by a third; in short, the three chief pivots of French influence were to be destroyed. In the selection of his officers Pitt threw precedent to the winds, ignored seniority, rank and influence, and had regard to merit alone. To Forbes, a brave and capable soldier, was given the task of avenging Braddock; Loudon was abruptly recalled; and (Pitt’s only mistake) Abercrombie, his second in command, was left in his place. For the conquest of Louisbourg, the most important task of all, he recalled Amherst, then a colonel, from Grermany. His brigadiers were also men of comparatively humble rank, Lawrence and Whitmore of proved efficiency and American experience, and lastly James Wolfe, the eventual hero of the war. Wolfe was of Anglo-Irish stock, though bom at Westerham, the son of a general who had served under Marlborough, and was now thirty years of Ever since Dettingen, where at

sixteen he served as adjutant to his regiment, he had seen much service on the Continent and in Scotland. Without fortune or interest of the kind then useful he had forced his way to the command of a regiment at two-and-twenty. The heart of a lion beat in his sickly and lanky frame. Underneath his red hair and pale homely face was the cool quick brain of a military leader, matured by studious application rare enoi^h in the soldier of any period, while a quenchless spirit, fired with a high ambition for the glory of his country, shone through lustrous blue eyes that went far to redeem the shortcomings of face and figure. In the hapless expedition against Rochefort, in the preceding years, Wolfe had reaped what scanty credit was to be gained For yeare he had been chafing at the inactivity of peace, and had be^n forc4 to mntent himself with making his regiment the best discipHned in the British service. Now his chance had come.


1758]


The fall of Louishourg.


133


Eleven thousand men and an ample train of artiUeiy set out in • February, convoyed by Admiral Boscawen and a strong fleet. So terrible was the weather that it was the 10th of May before they reached Halifax, where a few regulars and militia joined them. For nearly a week in early Jime fleet and army lay tossing ofi" the surf- lashed coast, where Louisboimg, “ the Dunkirk of America,” the pride of France, armed to the teeth, lay frowning between a shaggy desert and a tiunbling foggy sea. The embattled town was flanked by an almost land-locked harboim where a French fleet lay in doubtful security, though it added 3000 sailors to a somewhat larger number of regulars, who, with the armed members of a hardy civic population of 4000, formed the garrison. A million sterling had been recently spent on strengthening the fortifications, now a mile and a half in circumference. 250 cannon and mortars gaped defiance from the walls, while the landing places on the adjacent coast had been fortified for immediate occupation. After much difficulty and at considerable risk, a landing was effected on July the 9th, in the face of a raging surf and a storm of grape and roimd shot. Wolfe, lately an inv^id at Bath, and since tortiued by weeks of sea-sickness, led in the foremost boat. Leaping into the surf, cane in hand, he headed the leading files against the opposing battery and carried it at the bayonet’s point. The whole force was then landed, the French outer defences driven in, the heavy artUlery and stores brought on shore, and the siege formally commenced.

There was no lack of energy now. Admiral and general for once worked in full accord. The trenches were pushed rapidly forward and the terrific fire of British artillery “served,” in the words of a French officer, “ with an activity not often seen,” played havoc with the masoniy, while a constant stream of bombs left the defenders, in a short time, not a spot in which they could with safety lay their heads. A sally in force was defeated and driven back. Wolfe was conspicuously active, now heading a charge, now erecting fresh batteries on the harbour side and working big guns with joyous energy. It was a gallant defence too, Drucour, the governor, behaved with infinite spirit; and his wife is said to have mounted the ramparts and personally animated the men who manned them. But by July 24th only fmu- guns were feebly answering the roar of Amherst’s artUleiy, and the place was a heap of ruins. The ships in the harbour were burned or taken, and there was no option but unconditional surrender, though even now the French officers were anxious to fight to the last. But the populace dreaded retaliation for the barbarities of the French Indians and insisted on capitulation. 5637 French soldiers and sailors were delivered up and sent prisoners to England. The greater part of the population was shipped to France, and 240 guns with a large supply of arms and stores passed to the victors. The news was received in England with transports of joy. Bells pealed and bonfires flared, while

C’H. IV.


134


The attack on Ticonderoga.


[l758


the captured standards were carried in solemn procession to St Paul’s, ^ for it was the first great success in America. Louisbourg was soon afterwards levelled to the groimd at enormous labour and cost. Its pride and power became but a memoiy, now this long time a faint one. The lines of its streets may even yet be traced upon the turf of the lonely promontory; and fragments of massive masonry may be still seen half buried beneath the verdure of more than a century’s growth.

There were now some thoughts of moving on Quebec, but the season seemed too short for so formidable a venture, and in the meantime came news of a great disaster on Lake George which hurried Amherst to New York with aU his available forces.

Even the colonial legislatures this year had caught some sparks of Pitt’s enthusiasm. He had called on them to furnish, clothe and pay 20,000 men, a force almost as large as the whole British army of a few years back. They had nobly responded, Massachusetts, seconded by Connecticut, bearing more than half the burden. With some 10,000 provincials and 6000 regulars, Abercrombie, after a month in camp, moved on to what was regarded as the certain destruction of Ticonderoga. Never had an American summer sun shone on a more brilliant and martial spectacle than the vast flotilla which drifted up the shining surface of the most beautiftil of American lakes to disaster undreamed of. Borne in more than a thousand boats and propelled by ten thousand glinting oar blades, went redcoats, plaided highlanders, and blue-coated provincials, with arms shining and banners flaunting in aU the pride and panoply of war, while the still morning air was filled with the sound of martial music and the stirring calls of trumpet and bugle made wild echoes in the mountain glens. Many of those who saw it have left us their impressions of that memorable scene: seldom perhaps has such a picture been set in such a frame.

Abercrombie was past fifty. If his lack of ability was suspected, it was in part counteracted by the presence of his brigadier. Lord Howe. The latter was now thirty -four. He was a promising officer, and beloved by the Americans. “The noblest Englishman that has appeared in my time and the best soldier in the British Army,” wrote Wolfe, who knew him well. Montcalm, with somewhat over 8000 men, all good regular troops, but with no chance of timely succour, waited at Ticonderoga, halting, as well he may have done, between many plans. The one adopted was a bold one and a sudden thought. The fort, for various reasons, did not commend itself as a point of resistance. Half a mile distant some rising ground seemed much more suitable. TTiis elevation his whole army toiled day and night to intrench. The trees, for a musket-shot round, were felled and left lying with their branches pointing outwards.

barricade of logs, eight feet high, was erected in a rude circle, while outside the barricade an almost impenetrable frieze of branches placed in krycrs with their points sharpened made access, even without opposition.


1768]


Failure of the attach.


135


no easy matter. Montcalm, who had de Levis and Bourlamaque with • him, knew well that against artillery he was powerless, and that a mere blockade without even firing a shot would soon reduce him. His only hope lay in some blundering on the part of the English commander; and a Frenchman of that day had fair cause to regard it as no forlorn one. Montcalm’s risk w'as justified by the sequel. Abercrombie came on without artillery or a competent engineer, and Lord How e was killed in a skirmish that took place as the troops were advancing through the woods from the landing-place. The French entrenchment, defended by 3500 good troops, was impervious to musketry or the bayonet. Abercrombie believed the defenders to be in greater force even than this, but nevertheless proceeded at once to launch the flower of his army upon the hopeless task. A lamentable scene ensued. The abatis of branches lining the ramparts was immovable and almost impenetrable. Behind it was a log waU, eight feet high, from which poured a continuous stream of lead. For foiu- hours the troops came on, regiment after regiment struggling \vildly and vainly, amid the labyrinth of branches, to reach the defences behind. Rarely have British soldiers exhibited more dauntless though futile heroism. Abercrombie blundered again in failing to see that he was sacrificing the lives of brave men in vain. Human endurance at length gave out: nearly 2000 men, of whom 1600 were regulars, had fallen in this short quarter of a summer day. The 42nd Highlanders in round numbei-s had lost 500 out of 1000 men. TFe mortality speaks for the valour of the troops, for there w'as no pursuit or outside fighting. Every man was shot, deliberately rushing on that hopeless wall of flame. The \dctorious French, whose losses were small, as they had fought under cover, were, as wtis natimd enough, elated to ecstacy, but, dreading a second attack of Abercrombie’s stiU formidable army, conducted probably with judgment and axtilleiy, they made every effort to reinforce Ticonderoga. In no long time, instead of 3000, 12,000 men were there; and for that season the path to Canada was unconquerable. Abercrombie, in the meantime, had conveyed his dispirited army back to its old camp, where Amherst joined him with the Louisbourg troops in October.

One enterprise saved Abercrombie’s immediate command from the blame of umelieved failure. This was the work of an able provincial officer, Bradstreet, who, with 3000 provincial troops, made a bold dash through the northern wilderness to Lake Ontario, and destroyed Frontenac, one of the great fortified trading-posts of the French. He captured its small garrison, together with a large quantity of stores and guns, bm’nt their fleet on Lake Ontario, and destroyed, as it turned out for ever, this ancient base of French attack.

A few words too must be said of the third great expedition which signalised this busy year, namely that of Forbes against Fort Duquesne, the key of the Ohio. Joseph Forbes was an able and devoted

CU. IV.


136 Capture of Frontenac and Fort Duquesne. [i758-9


officer. He had with him some 4000 provincials from the middle and southern colonies smd 1600 regulars, chiefly Highlanders. Before * setting out, his powers of organisation and diplomacy were heavily taxed, as in order to get his men and supplies he had to wrestle long and painfully with the perverse legislatures of Pennsylvania and her neighbours, who were very far indeed from emidating the zeal of New England, He finally started, not upon Braddock’s tracks, but, in the teeth of Virginian opinion, upon a new route to be laboriously opened step by step through the west of Pennsylvania. An able Swiss officer. Bouquet, was his second in command, while Washington, though opposed to the route, lent active assistance. Forbes’ health was utterly broken, but, borne on a hurdle between two horses, he stuck to his post with admirable courage. The strength of Fort Duquesne was quite unknown, so Grant, a Highland officer, with 500 of his own men and some rangers, went forward to investigate it. His zeal outrunning his discretion, he found himself, greatly outnumbered, in front of the enemy, and suffered a repetition of Braddock’s catastrophe on a less serious scale, not far from the spot where the bones of the victims of 1755, picked clean by wolves, were stiU whitening by the Monongahela. But British confidence could no longer be so readily shaken. Forbes pressed cautiously but steadily on through scalping Indians and French guerillas, securing the posts behind him as his axemen hewed their laborious way across the Alleghanies. The leaves were falling from the forest trees under the chill breath of November, and the task was not yet done. His officers urged sound and logical reasons for deferring the attack till spring. Forbes, however, swinging in his rude litter and in mortal pain, but, with prescience perhaps in his dying eyes, refused to listen, and with Bouquet, Washington and 2500 picked men pushed on to this hornets’ nest of French and Indian devilry. Their nerves strung up in expecta- tion of a fierce and critical encounter, Forbes and his men were amazed to find the place dismantled and forsaken, and stacks of fire-scorched chimneys rising out of a heap of charred ruins with the imburied bodies of Grant’s Highlanders lying round. The capture of Louisbourg and above aU the destruction of Frontenac, a source of supply to the Ohio posts, had helped, in the face of Forbes’ advance, to render Duquesne untenable. The French had vanished for ever from the Ohio. Their dream of western empire was at an end, and they had now to fio-ht for their veiy existence in America. Forbes in the meantime went°slowly back through the cold and sleet to die in Philadelphia, where some unrecorded grave holds the bones of a hero, whose momentous services received scant notice from his countrymen and whose very name has no longer any place in their memory.

The year 1759 was to be an even busier, and for the English a more triumphant one, than its predecessor. And it was to be made ever memorable by the capture of Quebec in the face of natui-al difficulties


1759 ] Wolfe takes the command against Quebec. 137


and physical odds that seemed insuperable. Amherst was to resume the imcompleted task of driving the French from Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain and if possible of fighting his way to Montreal, forming with the attack on Quebec by a fleet and army a combined movement, which if successful would place Canada at his feet. A third army under Prideaux, advancing up the Mohawk route, was to clear Lake Ontario and seize Niagara, where a large French post barred the way to Lake Erie and the western trade.

Wolfe had gone home after Louisbourg, full of honours; not however to display them but to try to patch up his wretched constitution at Bath, against such demands as Pitt, in the coming season, might make on his services. Here, not without murmurs from the jobbers and over- looked incapables, he received his appointment to the command against Quebec. Louisbourg was the rendezvous for the army placed under his orders, which consisted of something under 9000 men. He was still to remain only a colonel with temporary rank of major-general, and was just thirty -two. His brigadiers were Monkton, Murray and Townshend, all well-tried officers, though the appointment of the last-named was to some extent a concession to rank and interest. The troops were com- posed of the 15th, 43rd, 58th, 28th, 47th, 35th, 48th regiments, and the 78th (Highlandei-s) with two battalions of the 60th or Royal Americans, a corps of light infantry, three companies of picked Grena- diers and six companies of Colonials.

The French had always regarded the upper St Lawrence as unnavig- able for large war-ships. Bougainville had declared that 4000 men could hold Quebec against all comers, and that the English would be mad to attempt it. He had this winter been sent to France to beg for reinforcements, and had returned just in time to warn Montcalm that an English fleet and army were actually on the sea destined for Quebec. Such was that fine soldier’s energy that, when Wolfe and his men, partly by the assistance of compulsory pilotage and partly by daring and skilful ^glish seamanship, found themselves floating in the vast basin of Quebec, they beheld not four thousand but four times four thousand foes as strongly entrenched as natiu% and skill could make them.

Montcalm, despairing of help from France, had collected every man that could be spared from the prospective defence of Montreal against Amherst, and from the western posts, to hold the city of Quebec, which clings to the slopes and cro^vn of a lofty promontory between the main river and its confluent the St Charles. The St Lawrence here suddenly narrows to less than a mile in width, and theoretically hostile ships could not pass its batteries. Above the city for several miles almost precipitous cliffs di-op into the water from the north shore, practically secm-ing it from all attack upon that side. Below the city, and beyond the confluence of the St Charles, a high ridge follows the shore line for some six miles to where the Montmorency plunging down it in broad


CH. IV.


138


The siege of Quebec.


[1759


cataracts forms a natm’al barrier of defence. With a sufficient garrison of sailors and militia in the town, Montcalm had strongly entrenched * this six miles of ridge, having his headquarters at Beauport in its centre, and behind it lay 14,000 men, their right upon the St Charles, their left upon the chasms of the Montmorency. Even Wolfe’s gallant heart may well have sunk when he stood upon the point of the island of Orleans and took in the situation Nvith his glass. It was the end of Jime. He had less than four months in which either to capture the city, or retirni bag and baggage before the ice-bound northern winter — ^to his proud nature an intolerable alternative. Yet, to his eager and anxious gaze, the city seemed invulnerable. He could pound it with artillery and reduce the country outside the walls and the Beauport lines. For the rest he must trust to fortune and inspiration. He planted, though not immediately, a camp and batteries, where the Montmorency meets the St Lawrence, facing across the former stream the left wing of Montcalm’s entrenched lines. On the point of the island of Orleans, looking over to the city four miles distant, he had another camp, while the heights of Point Levis, confronting Quebec at a distance of less than a mile across the narrowed channel, were the obvious spot for his main batteries. Montcalm had keenly felt this danger. But Vaudreuil had overruled him, maintaining that cannon planted there could not command the upper town.

IVolfe was soon to prove Montcalm’s judgment the better one. He lost no time in driving off the feeble opposition on Point Levis and erecting formidable batteries upon the heights, which on July 12th began to play upon the town with terrible effect. But this brought Wolfe no nearer to its capture. In the meantime two attempts had been made with fire- ships to burn Saunders’ fleet, which lay in the basin, but both had been defeated by the courage of the sailors. Innumerable incidents filled the precious days passing all too swiftly. A night attack on the Point Levis batteries was easily repulsed. The surrounding villages that showed signs of being troublesome were intimidated. Attempts were made to find a ford up the rough defiles of the Montmorency whence Montcalm on the Beauport lines might be perhaps attacked in the rear, but to no purpose, ships ran the gauntlet of the Quebec batteries and destroyed French shipping above the town. Reconnaissance parties went up the river and accomplished such small successes as were in their power, drawing off by that means a few hundred men from Montcalm’s army to watch them. But the main object was no nearer achievement. Montcalm showed no disposition to move, and Wolfe in despair, though with much careful preparation, attempted a dash at the Beauport lines on July 31st. Wolfe himself led the boats under a heavy fire, which bespattered him with splinters and knocked his cane out of his hand. Any faint chance of success, however, was ruined by an unaccountable madness which seized the Louisbourg Grenadiers and Royal Americans ffiOth), a thousand of whom were the first to land upon the flat narrow strip below the


1769]


The siege of Quebec.


139


entrenched hills. Filled with an overweening confidence in their powers, without waiting for the regiments behind, or the orders of their own officers, who had nothing for it but to go with them, they threw them- selves upon the steep slopes from whose embattled crests a storm of grape and musketry could sweep them at wiU. They never reached the summit, but through the gloom of a sudden and drenching thunderstorm fell back to the boats with the loss of 443 men, including 36 officers. It was a sad fiasco, and added to the depression that was fast settling on Wolfe’s sen- sitive mind But his soldiers never for a moment lost faith in him; and, as he lay for some days in a critical condition, wracked with the pain of his recurrent maladies, and by mental torture at the thoughts of failure, one note of sympathy permeated the whole army and one chorus of joy greeted his recovery. August passed away, and, save for the fact that the churches, convents and houses of Quebec had been battered into ruins by Monkton’s guns on Point Levis, things were no further advanced; and news had come that Amherst could not reach Montreal.

Wolfe had already been up the river and looked at the cliffs which for six miles defended the plateau on whose eastern point Quebec was perched. When he rose from his sick bed on August 31 he had made, after consultation with his brigadiers, that famous resolution which cost him his life and gained him immortal fame. For its execution he could only employ some 4200 men, out of an army reduced by death and sickness to 7000. Abandoning the Montmorency camp on September 3rd, and leaving the remainder of his army at the Isle of Orleans and Point Levis, he marched up the south shore to where Admiral Holmes with some ships of the fleet well supplied with boats was awaiting him. Mont- calm was puzzled: Bougainville, who lay entrenched at Cap Rouge near to Wolfe’s new quarters, with 1500 men, was equally perplexed. Few besides the British general himself knew that he had selected for his despe- rate ventme a spot where, at the Anse du Foulon, a mile above Quebec, a rude path zigzagged up the cliff. After a few days of seemingly purpose- less manoeuvring up the river the critical moment arrived. While below Quebec, on the day and night of the 12th the guns of the fleet and batteries, in accordance with secret instructions, were by their unusual activity exciting suspicions of some fresh endeavour under cover of their fire, Wolfe with 3600 picked men in boats was waiting for midnight to drop down to the Anse du Foulon. Not without some good luck, they passed the unsuspecting sentries in the small hours of the morning and, before da^vn broke, were clambering up the two hmidred feet of bushy precipice that led to the plains of Abraham which fronted the city. Six hunched more men under Burton, who had waited for them across the river, crossed in the same boats and followed rapidly on their tracks. A weak outpost at the top was instantly overpowered. The alarm was given, but there were no facilities within reach for serious resistance. At daylight Wolfe was niarshalling on the plateau behind the city


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The Heights of Abraham.


[l759


and at his leisure the best body of troops perhaps that had fought for England since the days of Marlborough. Montcalm, away beyond the * city at Beauport, was awaked at six, from a few hours of well-earned sleep, with what seemed incredible reports. Leaping on his horse, he galloped along the Beauport lines towards Quebec till he reached a point whence he could see through the grey of the morning the red lines of the British infantry in very truth, stretched across the plains of Abraham. He had thought himself quite safe for the season; but, able soldier though he was, he had been clearly out-manceuvred. Montcalm was no boastful Canadian ranger but an experienced general, and had few delusions as to the issue of a fight with Wolfe’s troops in the open. He remarked curtly to his aide-de-camp that the situation was serious, and then set himself to his difficidt task amid the excitement with which the French lines from the city to the Montmorency were already throbbing.

It was past nine o’clock when a French force numerically about equal to Wolfe’s stood between him and the city. Montcalm was anxious to strike at once, since Bougainville with his 1500 men should by ordinary calculation be now in Wolfe’s rear, while the possession of the Anse du Foulon gave the latter the power of bringing up fresh troops and even artiUeiy. But Bougainville had not arrived, while the pick of Montcalm’s army, a mixture of regulars and militia, had now collected for a struggle in which the British leader regarded victory as already secured. Both sides were eager for the fray, when the French advanced to the attack. The British, who had been greatly annoyed by sharp- shooters from the bordering thickets, had nevertheless kept their ranks with admirable steadiness, and now, under strict orders to reserve their fire, awaited the French who delivered theirs in desultory fashion as they advanced. It was not till the enemy were within forty yards that the entire British line poured in their first volley with a uniform precision that enthusiasts declared had never been known off a parade-ground and with a result more crushing than had ever been witnessed from a single discharge upon a battle-field. Amid the confusion into which this withering fire threw the advancing French, Wolfe’s soldiers reloaded and pouring in one more volley rushed forward upon the shaken foe with bayonet and broadsword; Wolfe, already wounded in the wrist, led the Louisbourg grenadiers upon the right in person. The mass of the French, already beaten, were flying towards the city. Groups of white- coated regulars, proud in their regimental traditions of European wars and their own victories in American woods, offered a brave but futile resistance, while riflemen and Indians hidden in woods and cornfields poured in a sha^ fire upon the victorious enemy. At this moment, with the shouts of his \-ictorious troops in his ears and the fruits of his (kring already in his giasp, Wolfe received a ball in the groin, and almost immediately afterwards another passed through his lungs. He stiU


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struggled to keep his feet and, as he staggered into the arms of a lieutenant • of grenadiers, gasped out his concern lest his soldiers should see him fall. He was home to the rear and lived just long enough to give one last order and to yield up his noble spirit with the shouts of victory ringing in his eare. Monkton at almost the same moment was dangerously wounded. Upon this Townshend took command. Bougainville, like Montcalm, had been out-generalled. He arrived with his 1500 men just too late to make any attempt on his part justifiable. Montcalm had received a mortal woimd and was dying in Quebec. A panic had seized the whole French force; and, while Townshend was entrenching himself before the weak western ramparts of the city, the French army passing round his left were pui-suing their way towards Montreal. The English in fact had got between them and their sole somrce of supplies, while their ships held their river. The lines of Beauport, on this account alone, were no longer tenable. The city was left with a mere handful of men in garrison; and the governor, de Ramezay, surrendered it in four days. The French loss upon the plains of Abraham was about 1200, besides a considerable number of prisoners. The British had 58 kiUed and over 500 wounded. The precise number of French in the action is not clear. Probably 3600 is a sufficiently accurate estimate, exclusive of several hundred Indians. Wolfe had about the same number with him, for a battalion 500 strong had been left to guard the Anse du Foulon. Brigadier Murray was now placed in command of the captured city.

The fall of Quebec was greeted in England with transports of joy. Wolfe’s recent despatches had prepared people for the worst, and tbe public faith in the yoimg general, as was only natural, had begun to waver. Now, as if in rebound from its brief despondency, the whole nation went wild in an ecstasy of triumph, which even the victor’s death, seeing how infinitely glorious it was, could not diminish.

Amherst, in the meantime, though he had forced the French from Ticonderoga, found the road to Montreal a much more difficult one than had been anticipated. He was deplorably short of money, and had moreover to construct a lake fleet from the output of a single back- woods sawmilL The siunmer was filled with stirring incidents of partisan warfare. All hope however of supporting Wolfe w£is early given up; Amherst, if sure in his movements, was rmdoubtedly slow. It would have required a great leader to reach Quebec that season; and to expect a second Wolfe in the same army is unreasonable. Prideaux on the other hand had been successful, after an ably conducted campaign, in seizing Niagara; but, like Wolfe, he had (by ^e bursting of one of his own guns) lost his life in the moment of victory.

Montreal and the smaller posts on the banks of the St Lawrence were now almost all that was left to the French. De Levis was in command, and that able soldier, at the head of his brave regiments of regulars, now recovered from their passing panic, and a stiU considerable number of

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142 French attempts to recover Quebec. [1759-

faithful militia and Indians, made the tenui'e of Quebec by Murray and his 6000 men no easy matter. The glory of Wolfe’s exploit has some- «  what obscured the trials and merits of his immediate successors. Amherst and his army wintered in New York, Albany and other posts, looking forward with entire confidence, justified by the past summer work, to reaching Montreal in the coming season. Murray, however, isolated at Quebec amid the frozen waters and snowbound forests of the North, was in anything but a comfortable position. Barrington, the Secretary for War, had been lamentably neglectful. The troops had no winter clothes, and their pay was greatly in arrear: Quebec was almost in ruins and afforded miserable shelter. There was neither fresh meat nor vegetables; the harassed fire-scourged neighbourhood was itself half starving, and wood-chopping parties were continually attacked by disbanded militia- men and hostile Indians. The city too was most vulnerable from the Heights of Abraham, to which the French from the direction of Montreal had ready access. A w-inter attack by de Levis, who had stiU a large force at his command, burning for revenge though cramped by lack of provisions, was expected. Lastly sickness, due to scant clothing and bad food, was so rife among the garrison, that by the end of winter it had dwindled to 3000 effective men.

Early in April, 1760, de Levis with a force of twice that number moved up to the attack. Montcalm, surrounded by a friendly country, had failed to hold Quebec against numbers far inferior. Murray, in the midst of an unfriendly one, had now to hold it against a force more than twice the strength of his own. The British general however went out to meet de Levis, and on April 28 fought the battle of St Foy, just beyond the plains of Abraham, in which the loss of life was greater than in the more famous fight of the preceding September. De Levis had some 10,000 men with him, besides Indians, and after a fierce engagement drove Murray back into Quebec with the loss of a thousand men, though the French loss in killed and wounded was more than double that number. The British general has been blamed for going out to battle at such a disadvantage, and is frequently accused of having been dazzled by Wolfe’s fame and desirous of emulating his achievement. It must he said on Murray’s behalf that the ground was still frozen and impervious to entrenching tools, while the town itself, on that side, was harely defen- sible. The French now prepared for a formal siege. But the river was nearly free from ice. Either a French or a British fleet might appear at any moment, and it was well understood that upon the nationality of the first comer the fate of the city hung. On May 9th the British frigate Lowestoft, the precursor of others, sailed into the basin. De Levis’ scanty food supplies from the west would now be totally cut off; and he at once fell back on Montreal, Murray following him with 2200 men. Amherst too, with the new season, was gathering his forces at the old base upon the upper Hudson, to join in the final blow. The


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The capture of Montreal.


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Champlain route, now easy to force, he left to Colonel Haviland, while • with 10,000 men he ascended the Mohawk to Oswego on Lake Ontario, thence to descend the St La^vrence upon Montreal. Thus three powerful corps were converging upon this last stronghold of the Canadas; and the French forces, terribly diminished by death, sickness and the deser- tion of the militia, could only hope to harass the British advance, make a last stand at Montreal, and obtain the best terms they could.

Amherst, as we have seen, was not a dashing leader, but he was an admirable organiser. His difficulties in descending the rapids of the St Lawrence were very great, 90 men being drowned in the descent; but he reached Montreal actually upon the same day as Haviland, Murray arriving some twenty-four hours later. Vaudreuil the governor and the famous intendant Bigot were at Montreal. There too were de Levis, Bourlamaque and Bougainville with 2400 men, the remnant of that gallant force, which unsupported by the mother country had struggled with such devotion against adverse circumstances and sometimes against great odds. The militia had all returned home. The Indians, quick to desert a falling cause, had vanished into the woods. It was now but a matter of arranging terms of capitulation, though the soldiers themselves showed much genuine eagerness for further resistance. But the counsels of Vaudreuil and the civil powers prevailed against such useless expenditure of human life; and on September 8th, exactly a year after the death of Wolfe, the capitulation was signed. Under it the whole of Canada passed to the British Crown; and the Treaty of Pai’is (1763) left this arrangement undisturbed. The fact that the Catholic religion remained unmolested and that the language and, for all practical purposes, the laws of the inhabitants were in no way interfered with, is creditable to the combination of policy and humanity which dictated these concessions.


CH. JV.