Classic History Books


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

Montcalm is at the head of a great number of bad
soldiers and I am at the head of a small number of

good ones, that wish for nothing so much as to fight

him; but the wary old fellow avoids an action, doubtful

of the behaviour of his army. People must be of the

profession to understand the disadvantages and

difficulties we labour under, arising from the uncommon

natural strength of the country.

On September 2 he wrote his last letter to Pitt. He had asked the doctors to 'patch him up,' saying that if
they could make him fit for duty for only the next few days they need not trouble about what might

happen to him afterwards. Their 'patching up' certainly cleared his fevered brain, for this letter was a

masterly account of the whole siege and the plans just laid to bring it to an end. The style was so good,

indeed, that Charles Townshend said his brother George must have been the real author, and that Wolfe,

whom he dubbed 'a fiery-headed fellow, only fit for fighting,' could not have done any more than sign his

name. But when George Townshend's own official letter about the battle in which Wolfe fell was also

published, and was found to be much less effective than Wolfe's, Selwyn went up to Charles Townshend

and said: 'Look here, Charles, if your brother wrote Wolfe's letter, who the devil wrote your brother's?'

Wolfe did not try to hide anything from Pitt. He told him plainly about the two defeats and the terrible
difficulties in the way of winning any victory. The whole letter is too long for quotation, and odd scraps

from it give no idea of Wolfe's lucid style. But here are a few which tell the gist of the story:

I found myself so ill, and am still so weak, that I
begged the generals to consult together. They are all

of opinion, that, as more ships and provisions are

now got above the town, they should try, by conveying

up five thousand men, to draw the enemy from his

present position and bring him to an action. I have

acquiesced in their proposal, and we are preparing to

put it into execution. The admiral will readily join

in any measure for the public service. There is such

a choice of difficulties that I own myself at a loss

how to determine. The affairs of Great Britain I know

require the most vigorous measures. You may be sure

that the small part of the campaign which remains

shall be employed, as far as I am able, for the honour

of His Majesty and the interest of the nation. I am

sure of being well seconded by the admirals and

generals; happy if our efforts here can contribute to

the success of His Majesty's arms in any other part

of America.

On the 31st, the day he wrote to his mother and had his long talk with Saunders, Wolfe began to send his
guns and stores away from the Montmorency camp. Carleton managed the removal very cleverly; and on

September 3 only the five thousand infantry who were to go up the St Lawrence were left there. Wolfe

tried to tempt Montcalm to attack him. But Montcalm knew better; and half suspected that Wolfe himself

 

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