Classic History Books


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

French hopes suddenly flared up all through the camp when the word flew round that three strange
men-of-war just reported down off Beauport were the vanguard of a great French fleet. But daylight

showed them to be British, and British bent on immediate and vigorous attack. Two of these frigates

made straight for the French flotilla, which fled in wild confusion, covered by the undaunted Vauquelin

in the Atalante, which fought a gallant rearguard action all the twenty miles to

Pointe-aux-Trembles, where she was driven ashore and forced to strike her colours, after another, and

still more desperate, resistance of over two hours. That night Levis raised the siege in despair and retired

on Montreal. Next morning Lord Colville arrived with the main body of the fleet, having made the

earliest ascent of the St Lawrence ever known to naval history, before that time or since.

Then came the final scene of all this moving drama. Step by step overpowering British forces closed in
on the doomed and dwindling army of New France. They closed in from east and west and south, each

one of their converging columns more than a match for all that was left of the French. Whichever way he

looked, Levis could see no loophole of escape. There was nothing but certain defeat in front and on both

flanks, and starvation in the rear. So when the advancing British met, all together, at the island of

Montreal, he and his faithful regulars laid down their arms without dishonour, in the fully justifiable

belief that no further use of them could possibly retrieve the great lost cause of France in Canada.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Wolfe is one of the great heroes in countless books of modern British history, by far the greatest hero in
the many books about the fight for Canada, and the single hero of four biographies. It was more than a

century after his triumphant death before the first of these appeared: The Life of Major-General

James Wolfe
by Robert Wright. A second Life of Wolfe appeared a generation later, this time in the
form of a small volume by A. G. Bradley in the 'English Men of Action' series. The third and fourth

biographies were both published in 1909, the year which marked the third jubilee of the Battle of the

Plains. One of them, Edward Salmon's General Wolfe, devotes more than the usual perfunctory

attention to the important influence of sea-power; but it is a sketch rather than a complete biography, and

it is by no means free from error. The other is The Life and Letters of James Wolfe by Beckles

Willson.

The histories written with the best knowledge of Wolfe's career in Canada are: the contemporary
Journal of the Campaigns In North America
by Captain John Knox, Parkman's Montcalm and
Wolfe
, and The Siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham by A. G. Doughty
and G. W. Parmelee. Knox's two very scarce quarto volumes have been edited by A. G. Doughty for the

Champlain Society for republication in 1914. Parkman's work is always excellent. But he wrote before

seeing some of the evidence so admirably revealed in Dr Doughty's six volumes, and, like the rest, he

failed to understand the real value of the fleet.

END

 

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