Classic History Books


William Wood - The Winning of Canada: A Chronicle of Wolfe

Hundred Years' War was won, not by the British Navy alone, much less by the Army alone, but by the
united service of both, fighting like the two arms of one body, the Navy being the right arm and the

Army the left. The heart of this whole Second Hundred Years' War was the Seven Years' War; the British

part of the Seven Years' War was then called the 'Maritime War'; and the heart of the 'Maritime War' was

the winning of Canada, in which the decisive blow was dealt by Wolfe.

We shall see presently how Navy and Army worked together as a united service in 'joint expeditions' by
sea and land, how Wolfe took part in two other joint expeditions before he commanded the land force of

the one at Quebec, and how the mighty empire-making statesman, William Pitt, won the day for Britain

and for Greater Britain, with Lord Anson at the head of the Navy to help him, and Saunders in command

at the front. It was thus that the age-long vexed question of a Greater France or a Greater Britain in

America was finally decided by the sword. The conquering sword was that of the British Empire as a

whole. But the hand that wielded it was Pitt; the hilt was Anson, the blade was Saunders, and the point

was Wolfe.

 

CHAPTER V. LOUISBOURG 1758

In 1755 Wolfe was already writing what he thought were farewell letters before going off to the war.
And that very year the war, though not formally declared till the next, actually did break out in America,

where a British army under Braddock, with Washington as his aide-de-camp, was beaten in Ohio by the

French and Indians. Next year the French, owing to the failure of Admiral Byng and the British fleet to

assist the garrison, were able to capture Minorca in the Mediterranean; while their new general in

Canada, Montcalm, Wolfe's great opponent, took Oswego. The triumph of the French fleet at Minorca

made the British people furious. Byng was court-martialled, found guilty of failure to do his utmost to

save Minorca, and condemned to death. In spite of Pitt's efforts to save him, the sentence was carried out

and he was shot on the quarter-deck of his own flagship. Two other admirals, Hawke and Saunders, both

of whom were soon to see service with Wolfe, were then sent out as a 'cargo of courage' to retrieve the

British position at sea. By this time preparations were being hurried forward on every hand. Fleets were

fitting out. Armies were mustering. And, best of all, Pitt was just beginning to make his influence felt.

In 1757, the third year of war, things still went badly for the British at the front. In America Montcalm
took Fort William Henry, and a British fleet and army failed to accomplish anything against Louisbourg.

In Europe another British fleet and army were fitted out to go on another joint expedition, this time

against Rochefort, a great seaport in the west of France. The senior staff officer, next to the three

generals in command, was Wolfe, now thirty years of age. The admiral in charge of the fleet was Hawke,

as famous a fighter as Wolfe himself. A little later, when both these great men were known throughout

the whole United Service, as well as among the millions in Britain and in Greater Britain, their names

were coupled in countless punning toasts, and patriots from Canada to Calcutta would stand up to drink a

health to 'the eye of a Hawke and the heart of a Wolfe.' But Wolfe was not a general yet; and the three

pottering old men who were generals at Rochefort could not make up their minds to do anything but talk.

These generals had been ordered to take Rochefort by complete surprise. But after spending five days in

front of it, so that every Frenchman could see what they had come for, they decided to countermand the

attack and sail home.

Wolfe was a very angry and disgusted man. Yet, though this joint expedition was a disgraceful failure, he
had learned some useful lessons, which he was presently to turn to good account. He saw, at least, what

such expeditions should not attempt; and that a general should act boldly, though wisely, with the fleet.

More than this, he had himself made a plan which his generals were too timid to carry out; and this plan

 

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