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Commanders of the French & Indian War

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Commanders of the French & Indian War
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Author(s): William Wood
Date Published: 2012/04
Page Count: 176
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-863-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-862-0

Protagonists for an Empire

The Seven Years War as it was fought in the New World is known today as the French and Indian War. The significance of the global conflict of which it was a part is now often underestimated, but its outcome essentially decided which nation—indeed which language—would be the most dominant for centuries to come. The British and Colonial forces were led by a number of notable commanders, but one, Major-General James Wolfe, is perhaps the most well known. He was a remarkable figure, slight, frail and in his late twenties when the war was declared, though he had already seen campaigning in the Jacobite Rebellion, the War of Austrian Succession and at Louisbourg by the time of his notable victory at Quebec. His opponent, one of the most notable French military commanders of his time, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, achieved notable success in his campaigns in America, but in 1759, after the British had momentously scaled the Heights of Abraham at Quebec, he was brought to battle by Wolfe and the French were so decisively beaten that the action essentially cost them the continent. This book traces the careers of these two distinguished soldiers who both lost their lives at the Battle of Quebec. Originally published separately these two short accounts have been brought together in a single good value edition.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

With the opposite shore lost Montcalm had now no means of keeping Wolfe at any distance. But Montcalm had chosen his position with skill, and it was so strong by nature that it might yet be held till the autumn, if only he was allowed to defend it in his own way. His left was protected by the Montmorency River, narrow, but deep and rapid, with only two fords, one in thick bush, where the British regulars would have least chance, and another at the mouth, directly under the fire of the French left. His centre was the six miles of ground stretching towards Quebec between the Montmorency and the little river St Charles. Here the bulk of his army was strongly entrenched, mostly on rising ground, just beyond the shore of the great basin of the St Lawrence, the wide oozy tidal flats of which the British would have to cross if they tried to attack him in front. His right was Quebec itself and the heights of the north shore above.<br>
Wolfe pitched his camp on the far side of the cliffs near the Falls of Montmorency; and one day tried to cross the upper fords, four miles above the falls, to attack Montcalm in the rear. But Montcalm was ready for him in the bush and beat him back.<br>
The next British move was against the left of Montcalm’s entrenchments. On July 31 Wolfe’s army was busy at an early hour; and all along the French front men-of-war were under way with their decks cleared for action. At ten o’clock, when the tide was high, two small armed ships were run aground opposite the French redoubt on the beach a mile from the falls; and they, the men-of-war, and Wolfe’s batteries beyond the falls, all began to fire on the redoubt and the trenches behind it. Montcalm fired back so hard at the two armed ships that the British had to leave them. Then he gave orders for his army to be ready to come at a moment’s notice, but to keep away from the threatened point for the present. By this means, and from the fact that his trenches had been very cleverly made by his own French engineers, he lost very few men, even though the British kept up a furious fire.<br>
The British kept cannonading all day. By four o’clock one British brigade was trying to land beside the two stranded armed ships, and the two other brigades were seen to be ready to join it from their camp at Montmorency. The redcoats had plenty of trouble in landing; and it was not till six that their grenadiers, a thousand strong, were forming up to lead the attack. Suddenly there was an outburst of cheering from the British sailors. The grenadiers mistook this for the commencement of the attack. They broke their ranks and dashed madly at the redoubt. The garrison at once left it and ran back, up the hill, into the trenches. The grenadiers climbed into it, pell-mell; but, as it was open towards its rear, it gave them no cover from the terrific fire that the French, on Montcalm’s signal, now poured into them. Again they made a mad charge, this time straight at the trenches. Montcalm had called in every man there was room for, and such a storm of bullets, grape-shot, cannon-balls, and shells now belched forth that even British grenadiers could not face it. A thunderstorm burst, with a deluge of rain; and, amid the continued roar of nature’s and man’s artillery, half the grenadiers were seen retreating, while half remained dead or wounded on the field.<br>
The two redcoat brigades from Montmorency had now joined the remnant of the first, which had had such a rough experience. Montcalm kept his men well in hand to meet this more formidable attack. But Wolfe had had enough. The first brigade went back to its boats. The second and third brigades marched back to Montmorency along the beach in perfect order, the men waving their hats in defiance at the French, who jumped up on top of their earthworks and waved defiance back. Before retiring the British set fire to the two stranded ships. The day had been as disastrous for Wolfe as glorious for Montcalm.<br>
August was a hard month for both armies. Montcalm had just won his fourth victory over the British; and he would have saved Canada once more if only he could keep Wolfe out of Quebec till October. Wolfe was ill, weak, disappointed, defeated. But his army was at least perfectly safe from attack. With a powerful fleet to aid him Wolfe was never in any danger in the positions he occupied. His army was always well provisioned; even luxuries could be bought in the British camp. The fleet patrolled the whole course of the St Lawrence; convoys of provision ships kept coming up throughout the siege, and Montcalm had no means of stopping a single vessel.<br>
Montcalm could not stop the ships; but the ships could stop him. He was completely cut off from the rest of the world, except from the country above Quebec; and now that was being menaced too. The St Lawrence between Quebec and Montreal was the only link connecting the different parts of New France, and the only way by which Quebec could be provisioned. The course of the campaign could not have been foretold; and Montcalm had to keep provisions in several places along the river above Quebec, in case he had to retreat. It would have been foolish to put all the food into Quebec, as he would not be able to take enough away with him, should he be obliged to leave for Montreal or perhaps for the Great Lakes, or even for a last desperate stand among the swamps of New Orleans. ‘You must keep a foothold in America.’—‘I shall do everything to keep it, or die.’ Quebec was the best of all footholds. But if not Quebec, then some other place not so good: Montreal; an outpost on the Great Lakes; a camp beyond the Mississippi; or even one beside the Gulf of Mexico.<br>
So, for every reason, Montcalm was quite as anxious about the St Lawrence above Quebec as he was about Quebec itself. Ever since July 18 Admiral Saunders had been sending more and more ships up the river, under cover of the fire from the Levis batteries. In August things had grown worse for Montcalm. Admiral Holmes commanded a strong squadron in the river above Quebec. Under his convoy one of Wolfe’s brigades landed at Deschambault, forty miles above Quebec, and burnt a magazine of food and other stores. This step promised disaster for the French. Montcalm sent Bougainville up along the north shore with 1,000 men to watch the enemy and help any of the French posts there to prevent a landing. Whenever Saunders and Wolfe sent further forces in that direction Montcalm did the same. He gave Bougainville more men. He strengthened both the shore and floating batteries, and by means of mounted messengers he kept in almost hourly touch with what was going on.<br>
The defence of the north shore above Quebec was of the last importance. The only safe way of feeding Quebec was by barges from Montreal, Sorel, and Three Rivers, which came down without any trouble to the Richelieu rapids, a swift and narrow part of the St Lawrence near Deschambault, where some small but most obstructive French frigates and the natural difficulties in the river would probably keep Holmes from going any higher. There was further safety to the French in the fact that Wolfe could not take his army to this point from Montmorency without being found out in good time to let Montcalm march up to meet him.
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