Classic History Books


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

juniors; with the result that his Quebec army was better officered than any other British land force of the
time.

The three brigadiers next in command to Wolfe - Monckton, Townshend, and Murray - were not chosen
simply because they were all sons of peers, but because, like Howe and Boscawen, they were first-rate

officers as well. Barre and Carleton were the two chief men on the staff. Each became celebrated in later

days, Barre in parliament, and Carleton as both the saviour of Canada from the American attack in 1775

and the first British governor-general. Williamson, the best gunnery expert in the whole Army,

commanded the artillery. The only troublesome officer was Townshend, who thought himself, and whose

family and political friends thought him, at least as good a general as Wolfe, if not a better one. But even

Townshend did his duty well. The army at Halifax was supposed to be twelve thousand, but its real

strength was only nine thousand. The difference was mostly due to the ravages of scurvy and camp fever,

both of which, in their turn, were due to the bad food supplied by rascally contractors. The action of the

officers alone saved the situation from becoming desperate. Indeed, if it had not been for what the

officers did for their men in the way of buying better food, at great cost, out of their own not well-filled

pockets, there might have been no army at all to greet Wolfe on his arrival in America.

The fleet was the greatest that had ever sailed across the seas. It included one-quarter of the whole Royal
Navy. There were 49 men-of-war manned by 14,000 sailors and marines. There were also more than 200

vessels - transports, store ships, provision ships, etc. - manned by about 7,000 merchant seamen. Thus

there were at least twice as many sailors as soldiers at the taking of Quebec. Saunders was a most capable

admiral. He had been flag-lieutenant during Anson's famous voyage round the world; then Hawke's best

fighting captain during the war in which Wolfe was learning his work at Dettingen and Laffeldt; and then

Hawke's second-in-command of the 'cargo of courage' sent out after Byng's disgrace at Minorca. After

Quebec he crowned his fine career by being one of the best first lords of the Admiralty that ever ruled the

Navy. Durell, his next in command, was slower than Amherst; and Amherst never made a short cut in his

life, even to certain success. Holmes, the third admiral, was thoroughly efficient. Hood, a still better

admiral than any of those at Quebec, afterwards served under Holmes, and Nelson under Hood; which

links Trafalgar with Quebec. But a still closer link with 'mighty Nelson' was Jervis, who took charge of

Wolfe's personal belongings at Quebec the night before the battle and many years later became Nelson's

commander-in-chief. Another Quebec captain who afterwards became a great admiral was Hughes,

famous for his fights in India. But the man whose subsequent fame in the world at large eclipsed that of

any other in this fleet was Captain Cook, who made the first good charts of Canadian waters some years

before he became a great explorer in the far Pacific.

There was a busy scene at Portsmouth on February 17, when Saunders and Wolfe sailed in the flagship
H.M.S. Neptune, of 90 guns and a crew of 750 men. She was one of the well-known old 'three-deckers,'

those 'wooden walls of England' that kept the Empire safe while it was growing up. The guard of

red-coated marines presented arms, and the hundreds of bluejackets were all in their places as the two

commanders stepped on board. The naval officers on the quarter-deck were very spick and span in their

black three-cornered hats, white wigs, long, bright blue, gold-laced coats, white waistcoats and breeches

and stockings, and gold-buckled shoes. The idea of having naval uniforms of blue and white and gold -

the same colours that are worn to-day - came from the king's seeing the pretty Duchess of Bedford in a

blue-and-white riding-habit, which so charmed him that he swore he would make the officers wear the

same colours for the uniforms just then being newly tried. This was when the Duke of Bedford was first

lord of the Admiralty, some years before Pitt's great expedition against Quebec.

 

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