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

was so good that Pitt, now in supreme control for the next four years, made a note of it and marked him
down for promotion and command.

Both came sooner than any one could have expected. Pitt was sick of fleets and armies that did nothing
but hold councils of war and then come back to say that the enemy could not be safely attacked. He made

up his mind to send out real fighters with the next joint expedition. So in 1758 he appointed Wolfe as the

junior of the three brigadier-generals under Amherst, who was to join Admiral Boscawen - nicknamed

'Old Dreadnought' - in a great expedition meant to take Louisbourg for good and all.

Louisbourg was the greatest fortress in America. It was in the extreme east of Canada, on the island of
Cape Breton, near the best fishing-grounds, and on the flank of the ship channel into the St Lawrence. A

fortress there, in which French fleets could shelter safely, was like a shield for New France and a sword

against New England. In 1745, just before the outbreak of the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, an army of

New Englanders under Sir William Pepperrell, with the assistance of Commodore Warren's fleet, had

taken this fortress. But at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, when Wolfe had just come of age, it was

given back to France.

Ten years later, when Wolfe went out to join the second army that was sent against it, the situation was
extremely critical. Both French and British strained every nerve, the one to hold, the other to take, the

greatest fortress in America. A French fleet sailed from Brest in the spring and arrived safely. But it was

not nearly strong enough to attempt a sea-fight off Louisbourg, and three smaller fleets that were meant

to join it were all smashed up off the coast of France by the British, who thus knew, before beginning the

siege, that Louisbourg could hardly expect any help from outside. Hawke was one of the British

smashers this year. The next year he smashed up a much greater force in Quiberon Bay, and so made 'the

eye of a Hawke and the heart of a Wolfe' work together again, though they were thousands of miles apart

and one directed a fleet while the other inspired an army.

The fortress of Louisbourg was built beside a fine harbour with an entrance still further defended by a
fortified island. It was garrisoned by about four thousand four hundred soldiers. Some of these were hired

Germans, who cared nothing for the French; and the French-Canadian and Indian irregulars were not of

much use at a regular siege. The British admiral Boscawen had a large fleet, and General Amherst an

army twelve thousand strong. Taking everything into account, by land and sea, the British united service

at the siege was quite three times as strong as the French united service. But the French ships, manned by

three thousand sailors, were in a good harbour, and they and the soldiers were defended by thick walls

with many guns. Besides, the whole defence was conducted by Drucour, as gallant a leader as ever drew

sword.

Boscawen was chosen by Pitt for the same reason as Wolfe had been, because he was a fighter. He
earned his nickname of 'Old Dreadnought' from the answer he made one night in the English Channel

when the officer of the watch called him to say that two big French ships were bearing down on his

single British one. 'What are we to do, sir?' asked the officer. 'Do?' shouted Boscawen, springing out of

his berth, 'Do? - Why, damn 'em, fight 'em, of course!' And they did. Amherst was the slow-and-sure

kind of general; but he had the sense to know a good man when he saw one, and to give Wolfe the

chance of trying his own quick-and-sure way instead.

A portion of the British fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy had been cruising off Louisbourg for
some time before Boscawen's squadron hove in sight on June 2. This squadron was followed by more

than twice its own number of ships carrying the army. All together, there were a hundred and fifty-seven

 

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