Classic History Books

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

might make another attack on the Beauport lines. When everything was ready, all the men at the Point of
Levy who could be spared put off in boats and rowed over towards Beauport, just as Monckton's men

had done on the disastrous last day of July. At the same time the main division of the fleet, under

Saunders, made as if to support these boats, while the Levis batteries thundered against Quebec. Carleton

gave the signal from the beach at Montmorency when the tide was high; and the whole five thousand

infantry marched down the hill, got into their boats, and rowed over to where the other boats were

waiting. The French now prepared to defend themselves at once. But as the two divisions of boats came

together, they both rowed off through the gaps between the men-of-war. Wolfe's army had broken camp

and got safely away, right under the noses of the French, without the loss of a single man.

A whole week, from September 3 to 10, was then taken up with trying to see how the brigadiers' plan
could be carried out.

This plan was good, as far as it went. An army is even harder to supply than a town would be if the town
was taken up bodily and moved about the country. An army makes no supplies itself, but uses up a great

deal. It must have food, clothing, arms, ammunition, stores of all kinds, and everything else it needs to

keep it fit for action. So it must always keep what are called 'communications' with the places from

which it gets these supplies. Now, Wolfe's and Montcalm's armies were both supplied along the St

Lawrence, Wolfe's from below Quebec and Montcalm's from above. But Wolfe had no trouble about the

safety of his own 'communications,' since they were managed and protected by the fleet. Even before he

first saw Quebec, a convoy of supply ships had sailed from the Maritime Provinces for his army under

the charge of a man-of-war. And so it went on all through the siege. Including forty-nine men-of-war, no

less than 277 British vessels sailed up to Quebec during this campaign; and not one of them was lost on

the way, though the St Lawrence had then no lighthouses, buoys, or other aids to navigation, as it has

now, and though the British officers themselves were compelled to take the ships through the worst

places in these foreign and little-known waters. The result was that there were abundant supplies for the

British army the whole time, thanks to the fleet.

But Montcalm was in a very different plight. Since the previous autumn, when Wolfe and Hardy had laid
waste the coast of Gaspe, the supply of sea-fish had almost failed. Now the whole country below Quebec

had been cut off by the fleet, while most of the country round Quebec was being laid waste by the army.

Wolfe's orders were that no man, woman, or child was to be touched, nor any house or other buildings

burnt, if his own men were not attacked. But if the men of the country fired at his soldiers they were to be

shot down, and everything they had was to be destroyed. Of course, women and children were strictly

protected, under all circumstances, and no just complaint was ever made against the British for hurting a

single one. But as the men persisted in firing, the British fired back and destroyed the farms where the

firing took place, on the fair-play principle that it is right to destroy whatever is used to destroy you.

It thus happened that, except at a few little villages where the men had not fired on the soldiers, the
country all round Quebec was like a desert, as far as supplies for the French were concerned. The only

way to obtain anything for their camp was by bringing it down the St Lawrence from Montreal, Sorel,

and Three Rivers. French vessels would come down as far as they dared and then send the supplies on in

barges, which kept close in under the north shore above Quebec, where the French outposts and batteries

protected them from the British men-of-war that were pushing higher and higher up the river. Some

supplies were brought in by land after they were put ashore above the highest British vessels. But as a

hundred tons came far more easily by water than one ton by land, it is not hard to see that Montcalm's

men could not hold out long if the St Lawrence near Quebec was closed to supplies.


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