Classic History Books


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

The sailors were also in blue and white; but they were not so spick and span as the officers. They were a
very rough-and-ready-looking lot. They wore small, soft, three-cornered black hats, bright blue jackets,

open enough to show their coarse white shirts, and coarse white duck trousers. They had shoes without

stockings on shore, and only bare feet on board. They carried cutlasses and pistols, and wore their hair in

pigtails. They would be a surprising sight to modern eyes. But not so much so as the women! Ships and

regiments in those days always had a certain number of women for washing and mending the clothes.

There was one woman to about every twenty men. They drew pay and were under regular orders just like

the soldiers and sailors. Sometimes they gave a willing hand in action, helping the 'powder-monkeys' -

boys who had to pass the powder from the barrels to the gunners - or even taking part in a siege, as at

Louisbourg.

The voyage to Halifax was long, rough, and cold, and Wolfe was sea-sick as ever. Strangely enough,
these ships coming out to the conquest of Canada under St George's cross made land on St George's Day

near the place where Cabot had raised St George's cross over Canadian soil before Columbus had set foot

on the mainland of America. But though April 23 might be a day of good omen, it was a very bleak one

that year off Cape Breton, where ice was packed for miles and miles along the coast. On the 30th the

fleet entered Halifax. Slow old Durell was hurried off on May 5 with eight men-of-war and seven

hundred soldiers under Carleton to try to stop any French ships from getting up to Quebec. Carleton was

to go ashore at Isle-aux-Coudres, an island commanding the channel sixty miles below Quebec, and mark

out a passage for the fleet through the 'Traverse' at the lower end of the island of Orleans, thirty miles

higher up.

On the 13th Saunders sailed for Louisbourg, where the whole expedition was to meet and get ready. Here
Wolfe spent the rest of Map, working every day and all day. His army, with the exception of nine

hundred American rangers, consisted of seasoned British regulars, with all the weaklings left behind; and

it did his heart good to see them on parade. There was the 15th, whose officers still wear a line of black

braid on their uniforms in mourning for his death. The 15th and five other regiments - the 28th, 43rd,

47th, 48th, and 58th - were English. But the 35th had been forty years in Ireland, and was Irish to a man.

The whole seven regiments were dressed very much alike: three-cornered, stiff black hats with black

cockades, white wigs, long-tailed red coats turned back with blue or white in front, where they were

fastened only at the neck, white breeches, and long white gaiters coming over the knee. A very different

corps was the 78th, or 'Fraser's,' Highlanders, one of the regiments Wolfe first recommended and Pitt first

raised. Only fourteen years before the Quebec campaign these same Highlanders had joined Prince

Charlie, the Young Pretender, in the famous ''45.' They were mostly Roman Catholics, which accounts

for the way they intermarried with the French Canadians after the conquest. They had been fighting for

the Stuarts against King George, and Wolfe, as we have seen, had himself fought against them at

Culloden. Yet here they were now, under Wolfe, serving King George. They knew that the Stuart cause

was lost for ever; and all of them, chiefs and followers alike, loved the noble profession of arms. The

Highlanders then wore 'bonnets' like a high tam-o'-shanter, with one white curly feather on the left side.

Their red coats were faced with yellow, and they wore the Fraser plaid hung from the shoulders and

caught up, loopwise, on both hips. Their kilts were very short and not pleated. Badger sporrans, showing

the head in the middle, red-and-white-diced hose, and buckled brogues completed their wild but martial

dress, which was well set off by the dirks and claymores that swung to the stride of the mountaineer.

Each regiment had one company of grenadiers, picked out for their size, strength, and steadiness, and one
company of light infantry, picked out for their quickness and good marksmanship. Sometimes all the

grenadier companies would be put together in a separate battalion. The same thing was often done with

 

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