Classic History Books


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

Wolfe, Montcalm, the brigadiers, and every one else on both sides knew this perfectly well. But, as it
was now September, the fleet could not go far up the much more difficult channel towards Montreal. If it

did, and took Wolfe's army with it, the few French men-of-war might dispute the passage, and some

sunken ships might block the way, at all events for a time. Besides, the French were preparing to repulse

any landing up the river, between Cap Rouge, nine miles above Quebec, and Deschambault, forty miles

above; and with good prospect of success, because the country favoured their irregulars. Moreover, if

Wolfe should land many miles up, Montcalm might still hold out far down in Quebec for the few days

remaining till October. If, on the other hand, the fleet went up and left Wolfe's men behind, Montcalm

would be safer than ever at Beauport and Quebec; because, how could Wolfe reach him without a fleet

when he had failed to reach him with one?

The life-and-death question for Wolfe was how to land close enough above Quebec and soon enough in
September to make Montcalm fight it out on even terms and in the open field.

The brigadiers' plan of landing high up seemed all right till they tried to work it out. Then they found
troubles in plenty. There were several places for them to land between Cap Rouge, nine miles above

Quebec, and Pointe-aux-Trembles, thirteen miles higher still. Ever since July 18 British vessels had been

passing to and fro above Quebec; and in August, Murray, under the guard of Holmes's squadron, had

tried his brigade against Pointe-aux-Trembles, where he was beaten back, and at Deschambault, twenty

miles farther up, where he took some prisoners and burnt some supplies. To ward off further and perhaps

more serious attacks from this quarter, Montcalm had been keeping Bougainville on the lookout,

especially round Pointe-aux-Trembles, for several weeks before the brigadiers arranged their plan.

Bougainville now had 2,000 infantry, all the mounted men - nearly 300 - and all the best Indian and

Canadian scouts, along the thirteen miles of shore between Cap Rouge and Pointe-aux-Trembles. His

land and water batteries had also been made much stronger. He and Montcalm were in close touch and

could send messages to each other and get an answer back within four hours.

On the 7th Wolfe and the brigadiers had a good look at every spot round Pointe-aux-Trembles. On the
8th and 9th the brigadiers were still there; while five transports sailed past Quebec on the 8th to join

Holmes, who commanded the up-river squadron. Two of Wolfe's brigades were now on board the

transports with Holmes. But the whole three were needed; and this need at once entailed another

difficulty. A successful landing on the north shore above Quebec could only be made under cover of the

dark; and Wolfe could not bring the third brigade, under cover of night, from the island of Orleans and

the Point of Levy, and land it with the other two twenty miles up the river before daylight. The tidal

stream runs up barely five hours, while it runs down more than seven; and winds are mostly down. Next,

if, instead of sailing, the third brigade marched twenty miles at night across very rough country on the

south shore, it would arrive later than ever. Then, only one brigade could be put ashore in boats at one

time in one place, and Bougainville could collect enough men to hold it in check while he called in

reinforcements at least as fast on the French side as the British could on theirs. Another thing was that the

wooded country favoured the French defence and hindered the British attack. Lastly, if Wolfe and

Saunders collected the whole five thousand soldiers and a still larger squadron and convoy up the river,

Montcalm would see the men and ships being moved from their positions in front of his Beauport

entrenchments, and would hurry to the threatened shore between Cap Rouge and Pointe-aux-Trembles

almost as soon as the British, and certainly in time to reinforce Bougainville and repulse Wolfe.

The 9th was Wolfe's last Sunday. It was a cheerless, rainy day; and he almost confessed himself beaten
for good, as he sat writing his last official letter to one of Pitt's friends, the Earl of Holderness. He dated

 

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