Classic History Books


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

above the Foulon. He wanted to examine the Cove well through his telescope at dead low tide, as he
intended to land his army there at the next low tide. Close beside him sat young Robison, who was not an

officer in either the Army or Navy, but who had come out to Canada as tutor to an admiral's son, and

who had been found so good at maps that he was employed with Wolfe's engineers in making surveys

and sketches of the ground about Quebec. Shutting up his telescope, Wolfe sat silent a while. Then, as

afterwards recorded by Robison, he turned towards his officers and repeated several stanzas of Gray's

Elegy
. 'Gentlemen,' he said as he ended, 'I would sooner have written that poem than beat the French
to-morrow.' He did not know then that his own fame would far surpass the poet's, and that he should win

it in the very way described in one of the lines he had just been quoting -

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

At half-past eight in the evening he was sitting in his cabin on board Holmes's flagship, the
Sutherland
, above Cap Rouge, with 'Jacky Jervis' - the future Earl St Vincent, but now the youngest
captain in the fleet, only twenty-four. Wolfe and Jervis had both been at the same school at Greenwich,

Swinden's, though at different times, and they were great friends. Wolfe had made up a sealed parcel of

his notebook, his will, and the portrait of Katherine Lowther, and he now handed it over to Jervis for safe

keeping.

But he had no chance of talking about old times at home, for just then a letter from the three brigadiers
was handed in. It asked him if he would not give them 'distinct orders' about 'the place or places we are to

attack.' He wrote back to the senior, Monckton, telling him what he had arranged for the first and second

brigades, and then, separately, to Townshend about the third, which was not with Holmes but on the

south shore. After dark the men from the island and the Point of Levy had marched up to join this

brigade at Etchemin, the very place where Wolfe had made his plan on the 10th, as he stood and looked

at the Foulon opposite.

His last general orders to his army had been read out some hours before; but, of course, the Foulon was
not mentioned. These orders show that he well understood the great issues he was fighting for, and what

men he had to count upon. Here are only three sentences; but how much they mean! 'The enemy's force

is now divided. A vigorous blow struck by the army at this juncture may determine the fate of Canada.

The officers and men will remember what their country expects of them.' The watchword was 'Coventry,'

which, being probably suggested by the saying, 'Sent to Coventry,' that is, condemned to silence, was as

apt a word for this expectant night as 'Gibraltar,' the symbol of strength, was for the one on which

Quebec surrendered.

Just before dark Holmes sent every vessel he could spare to make a show of force opposite
Pointe-aux-Trembles, in order to hold Bougainville there overnight. But after dark the main body of

Holmes's squadron and all the boats and small transports came together opposite Cap Rouge. Just before

ten a single lantern appeared in the Sutherland's main topmast shrouds. On seeing this, Chads

formed up the boats between the ships and the south shore, the side away from the French. In three hours

every man was in his place. Not a sound was to be heard except the murmur of the strong ebb-tide setting

down towards Quebec and a gentle south-west breeze blowing in the same direction. 'All ready, sir!' and

Wolfe took his own place in the first boat with his friend Captain Delaune, the leader of the twenty-four

men of the 'Forlorn Hope,' who were to be the first to scale the cliff. Then a second lantern appeared

above the first; and the whole brigade of boats began to move off in succession. They had about eight

miles to go. But the current ran the distance in two hours. As they advanced they could see the flashes

 

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