Classic History Books


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

behind, dashed in among the astonished gunners with the bayonet, cleared them all out, and spiked every
gun. Howe left three companies there to hold the battery against Bougainville later in the day, and

returned with the other seven to Wolfe. It was now six o'clock. The third brigade had landed, the whole

of the ground at the top was clear; and Wolfe set off with 1,000 men to see what Montcalm was doing.

Quebec stands on the eastern end of a sort of promontory, or narrow tableland, between the St Lawrence
and the valley of the St Charles. This tableland is less than a mile wide and narrows still more as it

approaches Quebec. Its top is tilted over towards the St Charles and Beauport, the cliffs being only 100

feet high there, instead of 300, as they are beside the St Lawrence; so Wolfe, as he turned in towards

Quebec, after marching straight across the tableland, could look out over the French camp. Everything

seemed quiet; so he made his left secure and sent for his main body to follow him at once. It was now

seven. In another hour his line of battle was formed, his reserves had taken post in his rear, and a brigade

of seamen from Saunders's fleet were landing guns, stores, blankets, tents, entrenching tools, and

whatever else he would need for besieging the city after defeating Montcalm. The 3,000 sailors on the

beach were anything but pleased with the tame work of waiting there while the soldiers were fighting up

above. One of their officers, in a letter home, said they could hardly stand still, and were perpetually

swearing because they were not allowed to get into the heat of action.

The whole of the complicated manoeuvres, in face of an active enemy, for three days and three nights, by
land and water, over a front of thirty miles, had now been crowned by complete success. The army of

5,000 men had been put ashore at the right time and in the right way; and it was now ready to fight one of

the great immortal battles of the world.

'The thin red line.' The phrase was invented long after Wolfe's day. But Wolfe invented the fact. The six
battalions which formed his front, that thirteenth morning of September 1759, were drawn up in the first

two-deep line that ever stood on any field of battle in the world since war began. And it was Wolfe alone

who made this 'thin red line,' as surely as it was Wolfe alone who made the plan that conquered Canada.

Meanwhile Montcalm had not been idle; though he was perplexed to the last, because one of the stupid
rules in the French camp was that all news was to be told first to Vaudreuil, who, as governor-general,

could pass it on or not, and interfere with the army as much as he liked. When it was light enough to see

Saunders's fleet, the island of Orleans, and the Point of Levy, Montcalm at once noticed that Wolfe's men

had gone. He galloped down to the bridge of boats, where he found that Vaudreuil had already heard of

Wolfe's landing. At first the French thought the firing round the Foulon was caused by an exchange of

shots between the Samos battery and some British men-of-war that were trying to stop the French

provision boats from getting in there. But Vergor's fugitives and the French patrols near Quebec soon

told the real story. And then, just before seven, Montcalm himself caught sight of Wolfe's first redcoats

marching in along the Ste Foy road. Well might he exclaim, after all he had done and Vaudreuil had

undone: 'There they are, where they have no right to be!'

He at once sent orders, all along his six miles of entrenchments, to bring up every French regular and all
the rest except 2,000 militia. But Vaudreuil again interfered; and Montcalm got only the French and

Canadian regulars, 2,500, and the same number of Canadian militia with a few Indians. The French and

British totals, actually present on the field of battle, were, therefore, almost exactly equal, 5,000 each.

Vaudreuil also forgot to order out the field guns, the horses for which the vile and corrupt Bigot had been

using for himself. At nine Montcalm had formed up his French and colonial regulars between Quebec

and the crest of rising ground across the Plains beyond which lay Wolfe. Riding forward till he could see

 

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