Classic History Books


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

their swords and pistols. One day they stopped when they heard the post-horn blowing at the gate; and
both of them became very much excited when George's father came out himself with a big official

envelope marked 'On His Majesty's Service' and addressed to 'James Wolfe, Esquire.' Inside was a

commission as second lieutenant in the Marines, signed by George II and dated at St James's Palace,

November 3, 1741. Eighteen years later, when the fame of the conquest of Canada was the talk of the

kingdom, the Wardes had a stone monument built to mark the spot where Wolfe was standing when the

squire handed him his first commission. And there it is to-day; and on it are the verses ending,

This spot so sacred will forever claim
A proud alliance with its hero's name.

Wolfe was at last an officer. But the Marines were not the corps for him. Their service companies were
five thousand miles away, while war with France was breaking out much nearer home. So what was his

delight at receiving another commission, on March 25, 1742, as an ensign in the 12th Regiment of Foot!

He was now fifteen, an officer, a soldier born and bred, eager to serve his country, and just appointed to a

regiment ordered to the front! Within a month an army such as no one had seen since the days of

Marlborough had been assembled at Blackheath. Infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers, they were all

there when King George II, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cumberland came down to review

them. Little did anybody think that the tall, eager ensign carrying the colours of the 12th past His Majesty

was the man who was to play the foremost part in winning Canada for the British crown.

 

CHAPTER II. THE YOUNG SOLDIER 1741-1748

Wolfe's short life may be divided into four periods, all easy to remember, because all are connected with
the same number-seven. He was fourteen years a boy at home, with one attempt to be a soldier. This

period lasted from 1727 to 1741. Then he was seven years a young officer in time of war, from 1741 to

1748. Then he served seven years more in time of peace, from 1748 to 1755. Lastly, he died in the

middle, at the very climax, of the world-famous Seven Years' War, in 1759.

After the royal review at Blackheath in the spring of 1742 the army marched down to Deptford and
embarked for Flanders. Wolfe was now off to the very places he had heard his father tell about again and

again. The surly Flemings were still the same as when his father knew them. They hated their British

allies almost as much as they hated their enemies. The long column of redcoats marched through a

scowling mob of citizens, who meanly grudged a night's lodging to the very men coming there to fight

for them. We may be sure that Wolfe thought little enough of such mean people as he stepped out with

the colours flying above his head. The army halted at Ghent, an ancient city, famous for its trade and

wealth, and defended by walls which had once resisted Marlborough.

At first there was a good deal to do and see; and George Warde was there too, as an officer in a cavalry
regiment. But Warde had to march away; and Wolfe was left without any companion of his own age, to

pass his spare time the best way he could. Like another famous soldier, Frederick the Great, who first

won his fame in this very war, he was fond of music and took lessons on the flute. He also did his best to

improve his French; and when Warde came back the two friends used to go to the French theatre. Wolfe

put his French to other use as well, and read all the military books he could find time for. He always kept

his kit ready to pack; so that he could have marched anywhere within two hours of receiving the order.

And, though only a mere boy-officer, he began to learn the duties of an adjutant, so that he might be fit

for promotion whenever the chance should come.

Months wore on and Wolfe was still at Ghent. He had made friends during his stay, and he tells his

 

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