Classic History Books


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

officer came out for his clothes and other effects. Wolfe then sent in twenty guineas for his rescuer, with
a promise that, in return for the kindness shown to Ochterloney, the General Hospital would be specially

protected if the British took Quebec. Towards the end of August Ochterloney died; and both sides ceased

firing while a French captain came out to report his death and return his effects.

This was by no means the only time the two enemies treated each other like friends. A party of French
ladies were among the prisoners brought in to Wolfe one day; and they certainly had no cause to

complain of him. He gave them a dinner, at which he charmed them all by telling them about his visit to

Paris. The next morning he sent them into Quebec with his aide-de-camp under a flag of truce. Another

time the French officers sent him a kind of wine which was not to be had in the British camp, and he sent

them some not to be had in their own.

But the stern work of war went on and on, though the weary month of August did not seem to bring
victory any closer than disastrous July. Wolfe knew that September was to be the end of the campaign,

the now-or-never of his whole career. And, knowing this, he set to work - head and heart and soul - on

making the plan that brought him victory, death, and everlasting fame.

 

CHAPTER VII. THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM September 13, 1759

On August 19 an aide-de-camp came out of the farmhouse at Montmorency which served as the
headquarters of the British army to say that Wolfe was too ill to rise from his bed. The bad news spread

like wildfire through the camp and fleet, and soon became known among the French. A week passed; but

Wolfe was no better. Tossing about on his bed in a fever, he thought bitterly of his double defeat, of the

critical month of September, of the grim strength of Quebec, formed by nature for a stronghold, and then

- worse still - of his own weak body, which made him most helpless just when he should have been most

fit for his duty.

Feeling that he could no longer lead in person, he dictated a letter to the brigadiers, sent them the secret
instructions he had received from Pitt and the king, and asked them to think over his three new plans for

attacking Montcalm at Beauport. They wrote back to say they thought the defeats at the upper fords of

the Montmorency and at the heights facing the St Lawrence showed that the French could not be beaten

by attacking the Beauport lines again, no matter from what side the attack was made. They then gave him

a plan of their own, which was, to convey the army up the St Lawrence and fight their way ashore

somewhere between Cap Rouge, nine miles above Quebec, and Pointe-aux-Trembles, twenty-two miles

above. They argued that, by making a landing there, the British could cut off Montcalm's

communications with Three Rivers and Montreal, from which his army drew its supplies. Wolfe's letter

was dictated from his bed of sickness on the 26th. The brigadiers answered him on the 29th. Saunders

talked it all over with him on the 31st. Before this the fate of Canada had been an affair of weeks. Now it

was a matter of days; for the morrow would dawn on the very last possible month of the siege -

September.

After his talk with Saunders Wolfe wrote his last letter home to his mother, telling her of his desperate
plight:

The enemy puts nothing to risk, and I can't in conscience
put the whole army to risk. My antagonist has wisely

shut himself up in inaccessible entrenchments, so that

I can't get at him without spilling a torrent of blood,

and that perhaps to little purpose. The Marquis de

 

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