[Published under the Auspices of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec.]
A PARALLEL OF MILITARY ERRORS, OF WHICH THE FRENCH
AND ENGLISH ARMIES WERE GUILTY, DURING THE
CAMPAIGN OF 1759, IN CANADA.
The Marquis de Montcalm :— Having ardently desired a conversation with you, sir, upon the operations of a campaign which proved to both of us so fatal, I have sought you continually amongst the shades ever since I descended here, where I soon followed you.
General Wolfe :— I can assure you, sir, I was equally impatient to meet with you. Some of my countrymen, arrived here since the battle of the 13th September, informed me that there was only an interval of a few hours in our sharing the same hard fate. They gave me some accounts of that event which joined Canada to the British dominions; but as they had a very imperfect knowledge of the circumstances, and entirely ignorant of your plan of operations, I have little information from them, and I am heartily glad that chance at last has procured me the pleasure of seeing you.
Montcalm :— Will you permit me, sir, before our conversation becomes serious, to offer some reflections upon the difference in our destiny. Your nation rendered you the greatest honours; your body was conveyed to London, and buried there magnificently in Westminster Abbey, amongst your kings. Generous Britons erected to your memory a superb monument over your grave, at 4 public expense; and your name, most dear to your countrymen, is ever in their mouths, accompanied with praise and regret. But in my country what a strange indifference? What sensation did my death make upon my compatriots? My conduct denounced and censured without measure, is the continual subject of conversation for gossiping fools and knaves, who form the majority in all communities, and prevail against the infinitely small number to be found of honest, judicious, impartial men, capable of reflection. The Canadians and savages who knew the uprightness of my soul, ever devoted to the interests of my beloved king and country, they alone rendered me justice, with a few sincere friends, who, not daring to oppose themselves openly to the torrent of my enemies, bewailed in secret my unhappy fate, and shed on my tomb their friendly tears.
Wolfe :— In this blessed abode, inaccessible to prejudice, I vow to you, sir, I envy your condition, notwithstanding the horrible injustice and ingratitude of your countrymen. What can give more pleasure and self-satisfaction than the esteem and approbation of honest men? You were severely regretted and lamented by all those who were capable of discerning and appreciating your superior merit, talents, and eminent qualities. Disinterested persons of probity must respect your virtue. All officers versed in the art of war will justify your military tactics, and your operations can be blamed only by the ignorant. Were my army consulted, they would be as many witnesses in your favour. Your humanity towards prisoners won you the heart of all my soldiers. They saw with gratitude and veneration your continual care and vigilance to snatch them from out of the hands of the Indians, when those barbarians were ready to cut their throats, and prepared to make of human flesh their horrible banquets; refusing me even tears at my death, they weeped and bewailed your hard fate; I see in my mausoleum the proof only of 5 human weakness! What does that block of marble avail to me in my present state? The monument remains, but the conqueror has perished. The affection, approbation and regret of the worthiest part of mankind is greatly preferable and much above the vain honours conferred by a blind people, who judge according to the event, and are incapable to analyse the operations. I was unknown to them before the expedition which I commanded in Canada; and if fortune, to whom I entirely owe my success, had less favoured me, perhaps, like Byng, I would have been the victim of a furious and unruly populace. The multitude has and can have success only for the rule of their judgment.
Montcalm :— I am much obliged to you, sir, for your favourable opinion of me. Let us leave weak mortals to crawl from error to error, and deify to-day what they will condemn to-morrow. It is at present, when the darkness is dispelled from before our eyes, that we can contemplate at leisure the passions of men, who move as the waves of the sea, push on each other and often break upon the rocks; and in our present state, when all prejudices are at an end, let us examine impartially the operations of 1759, which was the epocha of the loss to France of her northern colonies in America.
Wolfe :— Most willingly, sir, and to show my frankness, I own to you I was greatly surprised on arriving with the English fleet at Quebec without meeting with any opposition by the French in the River St. Lawrence.
Montcalm :— You had reason to be so. It was not my fault that you did not meet with many obstacles in your way. I proposed to have a redoubt and battery erected upon Cape Tourmente, which is a rock above fifty feet high, facing the Traverse at the east1 end of the Island of 6 Orleans, where all the vessels cross from the north to the south side of the St. Lawrence river. They are obliged to approach very near the Cape before they enter into the Traverse, and its height above the men-of-war would have secured it against the effect of the artillery. Besides, this rock, almost perpendicular, commanding all round it, the fort would have been impregnable, and not susceptible of being besieged. Thus the first of your ships which approached to pass the Traverse would have been raked by the plunging fire of the battery from stern to bowsprit, and must have been sunk. I had likewise the project of placing a battery and a redoubt upon the upper point of the bay which is opposite to the west end of Isle aux Coudres. The current between this island and the main land being incredibly rapid at low water, all the vessels coming up the river must have cast anchor there to wait until the next tide; and my artillery upon the point of that bay would have battered your ships at anchor from fore to aft; have put in a most terrible confusion your ships, who could not have taken up their anchors without being instantly dashed to pieces against the rocks by the violence of the current, forced, as they would have been by it, to have their bowsprits always pointed to the battery, without being able to fire at it. Your fleet would have had no knowledge of the battery until they were at anchor, so you may easily judge how it would have distressed them. I proposed this, but I did not command in chief; it was the Marquis de Vaudreuil, Governor General of Canada, who should have ordered it to be put into execution.
Wolfe :— If they had executed your project, it would have puzzled us, and retarded for some time our operations.
Montcalm :— That was all I could wish for, as I was always sensible of the great advantage, in certain situations, of gaining time from the enemy, especially in 7 such a climate as Canada, where the summer is so short that it is impossible to keep the field longer than from the month of May till the beginning of October, and your fleet arrived at Isle aux Coudres at the end of June.
Wolfe :— There is no doubt that you are in the right. Our fleet arrived in the River St. Lawrence six weeks too late, which is commonly the fate of all great naval expeditions. Fleets are seldom ready to sail at the time appointed; and this often renders fruitless the best concocted enterprise by sea, from the uncertainty of the arrival of the army at its destination. The smallest delay is often dangerous, as it gives the enemy the time to prepare themselves for defence, without hurry or confusion.
Montcalm :— I will not conceal from you, sir, that I always looked upon the distribution you made of your army upon your landing near Quebec, as diametrically opposed to the established principles in castrametation. It is a known axiom in the art of war, that an army ought to be encamped in such a manner as to have a free and easy communication with all its parts; that they may unite quickly without any obstruction, and be able to defend and sustain each other reciprocally over the whole extent of the camp, in case any part of it is attacked. You divided your army in three different camps; one of them upon the Pointe Levis, another upon the Island of Orleans, and the third at the Sault de Montmorency. The two branches of the St. Lawrence river, which forms the Island of Orleans, each of them about half a mile broad, separated your three camps, without a possibility of establishing a communication between them; and your camp upon the Pointe Levis was at a distance of six miles from your camp at the Sault de Montmorency. Your position was such that had we fallen with our army on any of your three camps, we would have cut them to pieces, before those of your other two camps could have come to their assistance. The knowledge for 8 choosing an advantageous ground for encamping an army, always appears to me to be one of the most essential talents requisite in a general. How could you remain quietly in such a dangerous position during two months, without trembling?
Wolfe :— What hindered you then, sir, from executing that which appeared to you so easy?
Montcalm :— We attempted it, but with very bad success. Seven days after your landing at the Pointe Levis, Mr. Dumas, Major of the Colony troops, was sent to attack your camp at the Pointe Levis, with a body of fifteen hundred men, who, in the night, crossed the River St. Lawrence at Quebec, without being discovered by your advanced guards. But they were no sooner landed and marching, than, struck with a panic, the utmost disorder suddenly ensued; their heads turned, and, losing their senses entirely, they fired at each other, believing themselves attacked by your army, In short, they immediately fled back to their boats with the greatest precipitation and confusion. Discouraged by this bad beginning, M. de Vaudreuil would never listen to any proposals of further attempts upon your camps; and it was decided to keep ourselves for the future upon the defensive.
Wolfe :— It appears to me, however, that you were not encamped in a proper manner to be upon the defensive. Your army did not amount to ten thousand men, and your camp extended seven or eight miles.
Montcalm :— I agree with you, and am sensible that the longer the line, the weaker it is in its several parts. I am convinced that it is impossible to prevent a line from being forced; and I believed likewise that, landing on a coast where there are several leagues of it to be defended, equally susceptible of descent, it is the same case as lines. He who attacks has all his force concentrated at a single point, which he may choose as he pleases; anywhere in the extent 9 of his lines; on the contrary, he who is attacked in his entrenchments has his force divided over the whole extent of his lines, and does not know on what part of them the enemy has the intention to make his real attack, so that he must be everywhere equally strong and guarded over all the ground occupied by his army. Thus the head of a column of a great depth of ranks must infallibly pierce through lines who have only at most two or three men deep; and by feint attacks all over the front of a line, you cannot weaken one part of it by drawing troops from it to fortify another part of it, unless the point of the enemy’s principal attack is manifestly known. It is certainly the same with regard to landings, where all the extent of the sea coast may be threatened at the same time, although it is a common opinion that a coast may be defended, and that an enemy may be repulsed in his attempt to make a descent by open force.
I know not a better method to oppose a descent than to have bodies of troops in battle, ready to rush upon the enemy, with their bayonets upon their muskets, attacking the moment the enemy land, whilst they are yet few and in confusion from the disorder which must necessarily happen at their coming out of their boats, and before they can present a considerable front in battle.
My project of defence was to encamp on rising ground at Quebec, called by the French, Les Hauteurs d’Abraham, and make Quebec serve as the centre and pivot to all my operations, since it was evident that the fate of Canada depended entirely on its being preserved to us or taken by you, which decided whether that colony should remain to its ancient possessors or become your prize.
With this in view, I intrenched the borders of the St. Charles river, and remained encamped at Quebec until, receiving tidings of your fleet having arrived in the St. Lawrence river, M. de Levis, an officer of great merit and distinction, 10 proposed to change the position of our camp, by carrying our left wing to the Sault de Montmorency, and our right to the St. Charles river: this, as you say, made it six miles long on the north side of Quebec, and gave us greater appearance of being on the offensive than on the defensive.
He pretended that the presenting a great front to the enemy would give us a bold look, and inspire respect. As there can be no positive certainty in any military operation, from unforeseen accidents which often overturn the best combined project, I readily sacrificed to him my opinion, without insisting upon it. In this new position M. de Vaudreuil commanded the right of our camp, near Quebec; M. de Levis the left, at the Sault de Montmorency; and I commanded the centre, at Beauport.
Wolfe :— Had you continued on the heights of Abraham you would have saved Quebec, but you would have abandoned to me all the country where I might have destroyed, burnt and ruined all the settlements at some leagues round it.
Montcalm :— That may be, but Canada would not have been taken, and certainly you durst not penetrate far into the country, leaving Quebec behind you. Had you attacked me, I would have had the advantage of the rising ground, which I would have fortified with intrenchments, and with a chain of redoubts from Quebec to Cap Rouge, where these heights terminate in a deep ravine, with a small river at the bottom of it, overhung with rocks, at three leagues from Quebec. This advantageous position, not to be successfully attacked by any number of men, would have been my advanced post.
My right would have been applied to Quebec, and sustained by it. I never could guess, sir, your idea in reducing that town to ashes as you did, by throwing upon it continually, from your batteries on the opposite side of the river, that immense number of carcases and shells.11
It seems to me that when an army besieges a town, it is with the intention, on its surrendering, to keep possession of it, and have houses in it to lodge the troops, instead of heaps of ruins. This conduct was still more essentially necessary from the season being advanced, and from the impossibility of carrying-on any kind of house building during the winter. Moreover, the utter destruction of that town reduced to ashes could not hasten its being taken a moment sooner. You could do no harm to our batteries, which were much higher than ours; it is not by destroying houses that towns are taken. You always battered houses, without reflecting that it is only by ruining the fortifications — the defences — and by a breach in the walls, that success may be hoped for in sieges; and it is certain that you lavished a prodigious quantity of warlike stores very uselessly.
What advantages could you expect by ruining and distressing the inhabitants of Quebec, whose houses you burnt?
It was destroying alone for the pleasure of doing injury, without any advantage accruing to you from it.
Wolfe :— My inaction during the whole summer should have made you perceive what little hopes I had of succeeding in my expedition; should it turn out fruitless after the sum it had cost England, the news of Quebec being reduced to ashes might blind the extravagant English populace, and blunt their fanatical fury.
Montcalm :— The day that you landed at the Sault de Montmorency, where you encamped immediately with a body of four thousand men, in all appearance you did not know that the River Montmorency was fordable in the wood about a mile to the north of your camp, where fifty men in front might pass the ford with water only up to their knees. Had you passed it immediately, you might have fallen upon the left of our army, cut them to pieces, and pursued them two miles, as far as the ravine of Beauport, before they could assemble a sufficient number of men to be able to resist 12 you. You might have even encamped upon the north side of that ravine, which, having it before you, would have been a very advantageous post, and brought you several miles nearer to Quebec. In this case it is highly probable that we would have been obliged to abandon to you all the ground between the St. Charles river and the ravine.
To return to my first project of encamping upon the heights of Abraham, our left was in the greatest security, not knowing that there was a ford in that river until some hours after your landing at the Sault.
Wolfe :— Is it then surprising that I should be ignorant of that ford, since you did not know it yourself? Besides, it is only the inhabitants in the neighbourhood of rivers, swamps and lakes, who can give positive and sure information about them. And supposing I had found some of your Canadians at their houses there, they are so inviolably attached to their religion, king and country, that they would sooner have led me into a snare than instruct me in anything that could be prejudicial to their army.
Those whom a general sends to examine the locale of a country must do it very superficially upon their own observations, without consulting or interrogating the peasants in the neighbourhood.
Montcalm :— Whilst your soldiers were employed in making their camp, and pitching their tents, M. de Levis, and his aide-de-camp Johnstone, were looking at you from the opposite side of the Sault. His aide-de-camp having asked him if he was positively certain there was no ford in the Montmorency river, M. de Levis answering that there was not, and that he had been himself to examine it to its source, at a lake in the woods, about ten or twelve miles from the Sault. An inhabitant who overheard this conversation, told the aide-de-camp: “The General is mistaken; there is a ford which the inhabitants thereabouts pass 13 every day in carrying their corn to a mill;” and he added that he had crossed it lately, with water not above his knees.
The aide-de-camp related to M. de Levis immediately his conversation with the Canadian, who would not believe there was a ford, and, examining him roughly, the Canadian was seized with awe, and respect for the General; his tongue faltered in his mouth, and he durst not boldly assert the truth. The aide-de-camp, in a whisper to the Canadian, ordered him to find out a person who had crossed the ford lately, and bring him immediately to M. de Levis’ lodgings. The Canadian came to him in a moment, with a man who had crossed it the night before, with a sack of wheat upon his back, where he had found only eight inches deep of water.
The aide-de-camp being thus assured of the fact, ordered, in M. de Levis’ name, a detachment to be sent instantly, with the necessary tools to intrench itself.
Wolfe :— Had I been so lucky as you, sir, to discover that ford, there is no doubt I would not have let slip so favourable an opportunity of distinguishing myself, and would have fallen like lightning upon that part of your camp. There can be nothing more dangerous than the neighbourhood of rivers and swamps, that have not been sounded and examined with the greatest care and attention. Negligence, ignorance and a headstrong obstinacy are equally fatal in military affairs; and the misfortune of a Lieutenant-General, in Scotland, against the Highlanders at the battle of Prestonpans, made so deep an impression upon me that I am always on my guard when near such places.
Montcalm :— How can you, sir, justify your imprudence in running headlong into the woods opposite to our intrenchments, with two thousand men, who naturally ought to have been cut to pieces, and neither you nor any man of your detachment escape? Nine hundred Indians had invested you all round at a pistol shot from you, and had 14 already cut off your retreat, without your perceiving it. So soon as the Indians had surrounded you in the wood, they sent their officer Langlade to acquaint M. de Levis that they had got you in their net, but that your detachment, appearing to be about two thousand men, greatly superior to them in number, they begged earnestly of M. de Levis to order M. de Repentigny to pass the ford with eleven hundred men, which he commanded in these intrenchments, and join them; that they would be answerable upon their heads if a single man of your detachment should get back to your camp; and they did not think themselves strong enough to strike upon you without this reinforcement of Canadians. There were a great many officers at M. de Levis’ lodgings when Langlade came to him on behalf of the Indians, and this General having consulted them, after giving his own opinion of the affair: “that it was dangerous to attack an army in the wood, as they could not know the number of men there; that it might be all the English army, which consequently might bring on a general engagement without being prepared for it; and that if he happened to be repulsed, he would be blamed for engaging in an affair without holding previously an order from his superiors, M. de Vaudreuil and M. de Montcalm.” The officers respected too much the General not to be of his way of thinking, and it must ever be so from flattery. His aide-de-camp alone maintained a different opinion, out of a real friendship for M. de Levis. He told them that there was not the smallest probability it could be all the English army, since the Indians, who never fail to magnify the number, computed them at only two thousand men. That even supposing it to be the whole English army, it would be the most lucky thing that could happen to us to have a general engagement in the woods, where a Canadian is worth three disciplined soldiers, as a soldier in a plain is worth three Canadians; and that nothing was more essential than 15 to select the propitious moment and the way of fighting for those who composed the two-thirds of the army, which was the case with the Canadians. On the contrary, the English army was almost entirely composed of regulars with very few militia.
That M. de Levis could not do better than in ordering M. de Repentigny to cross the river immediately with his detachment en échelon, and join the Indians, without losing moments very precious; that at the same time he should send instantly to inform me of his adventure, in order to make all the army advance towards the ford, each regiment taking the place of the other marched off; so that the Regiment Royal Roussillon, the nearest to the ford, should go off directly to take the post that Repentigny would quit in crossing the river, and observing the same for the rest of the army; that by this means the engaging a general affair was much to be wished for, supposing all the English army to be in the woods opposite the ford; in short, that if there was a possibility of our being defeated and repulsed in the woods, which could scarce happen, according to all human probability, we had our retreat assured in the depth of these woods, well known to the Canadians, where the English troops could not pursue them, so that in no shape could M. de Levis run the least risk.
His aide-de-camp added, that when fortune offers her favours, “they ought to be snatched with avidity.” These reasons made no impression on M. de Levis, and Langlade was sent back to the Indians with a negative reply.
There was two miles from M. de Levis’ quarters to the place where the Indians were in ambush. Langlade came back with new entreaties and earnest solicitations to induce M. de Levis to make Repentigny cross the ford with his detachment, but the General could not be prevailed upon to give a positive order to Repentigny to join the Indians.
He wrote a letter to Repentigny by Langlade, wherein he told him “having the greatest confidence in his prudence 16 and good conduct, he might pass the river with his detachment, if he saw a certainty of success.” His aide-de-camp told him, whilst he was sealing the letter, that Repentigny had too much judgment and good sense to take upon himself an affair of that importance; and his opinion of Repentigny was immediately justified by his answer; he asked M. de Levis to give him a clear and positive order. After thus loitering about an hour and a-half, M. de Levis resolved at last to go himself to the ford, and give there his orders verbally; but he had scarce got half way to it when he heard a brisk fire. The Indians, losing all patience, after having remained so long hid at a pistol shot from you, like setter dogs upon wild fowl, at last gave you a volley, killed about a hundred and fifty of your soldiers, and then retired without losing a man. It is evident that had Repentigny passed the river with his detachment of eleven hundred Canadians, you must have been cut to pieces, and that affair would have terminated your expedition. Your army could have no more hopes of succeeding after such a loss; their spirits would have been damped, and Canada would have been secure from any further invasion from Great Britain.
Fortune was always as favourable to you, as she constantly frowned upon us. M. de Levis is not to be blamed; an officer who serves under the orders of others can only be reproached when he does not execute punctually the orders he receives from his superiors; and he has always reason to be cautious and diffident in such cases where his honour and reputation may be engaged, as none can be positively certain of the issue of any military enterprise, and if success does not crown the venture, of which you have voluntarily burthened yourself, though undertaken from the best of motives and apparently for the good of the service, thousands of mouths will open to spit venom against you.
But of all others, the ignorant amongst the military, and 17 the knaves, to screen themselves, will surely be violent: this is so much the more astonishing, in the profession of arms, where sentiments of honour and honesty ought to be the foundation.
Wolfe :— My intention in approaching so near your post at the ford was to examine it carefully, as I then had formed the design to attack it, little imagining that such a considerable detachment as I had with me would have been exposed to be set on by your Indians. Accustomed to European warfare, I could never have thought that a body of men should have been so long, so close to me without discovering them. Your intrenchments there appeared to be very trifling, but the sight of earth thrown up is respectable, and not to be despised.
Montcalm :— Your attack of the 31st of July, at the only place of our camp which was inaccessible, appeared to me unaccountable. From Quebec to Beauport, which was about four miles, it is a marshy ground, very little higher than the surface of the St. Lawrence at full tide. The heights begin at the ravine at Beauport, and rise gradually all along the border of the river, until at Johnstone’s redoubt and battery — where you made your descent and attack — they become a steep high hill, which ends in a deep precipice at the Sault de Montmorency. Opposite to Johnstone’s redoubt it is so steep that your soldiers could scarce be able to climb it, even without the encumbrance of their arms.
Besides this natural fortification, we had a continued intrenchment all along the edge of the hill, from Beauport to the Sault, so traced and conducted by M. Johnstone that it was everywhere flanked, and the sloping of it served as a glacis; thus the fire from the front and flanks would have destroyed the three-fourths of your army before they could reach the top of the hill.18
But supposing that some of your troops had reached the top of the hill, up to our trenches, after surmounting these difficulties, my grenadiers were drawn up in battle behind them, ready to charge upon them, with their bayonets upon their muskets, the instant any of your soldiers should appear at the trenches.
The swampy, sinking ground, from the redoubt to the foot of the hill, was not one of the smallest difficulties you had in your way to come at us.
It is true the Scotch Highlanders, who were your forlorn hope, had got over it and had reached the foot of the hill, though certainly very few returned; but these turfy swamps, when a certain number of men have passed them, become at last impassible, and your soldiers must have sunk down in it above the head, multitudes of them perishing there in the most useless and disagreeable manner. Thus, sir, I hope you see clearly the folly and rashness of that attack, and that your army must have been totally destroyed, without hope, had not heaven wrought a miracle in your favor, after a long cessation of them, which alone could save you.
You were no sooner hotly engaged in the attack, without a possibility of withdrawing yourself out of the scrape, when from a clear sunshine there fell in that most critical juncture, of a sudden, the most violet even, down pour of rain from a cloud, which, as the cloud that saved Eneas from the fury of Diomed, placed you immediately out of our sight, so that in an instant we could not see half way down the hill. You profited, as a wise man, of this event to make good your retreat. When the shower was over and we could see you, we found, to our sorrow, that you had escaped us, and that you were then out of the reach of our fire, marching, in a well-formed column, back to your camp at the Sault, well satisfied to have got out of that adventure with the loss only of between five and six hundred men.
It was a long time before I could be persuaded that you 19 were in earnest. I had always expected your descent and attack would have been betwixt the St. Charles river and the ravine at Beauport. All that tract of ground, about four miles extent, was every where favourable to you, if you had made your real descent in the middle of it, opposite to M. Vaudreuil’s lodging, with feint attacks at Johnstone’s redoubt, and at the Canardière near the River St. Charles, forcing our intrenchments there, which could not resist an instant a well-formed column. The head of it, composed of the Scotch Highlanders, might have easily penetrated into the plain, separating our army into two parts by the centre, having lodged yourself in the south side of the ravine of Beauport, and have taken the hornwork upon the St. Charles river, sword in hand, without much difficulty or loss of men. In short, all this might have been effected in an hour’s time, without meeting with an considerable resistance from our army, thus divided and opened by the centre; and a complete victory, which would have crushed us to pieces without hope, would have crowned you with justly merited laurels.
Wolfe :— I own to you, sir, I was greatly deceived with regard to the height and steepness of the hill, which did not appear considerable, even with a telescope, from the River St. Lawrence; it was only when I got to the redoubt that I saw it as it really is. I began at seven in the morning to fire at your camp from my battery at the Sault (of forty cannons) mostly four-and-twenty pounders. The Centurion, a man-of-war of sixty guns, did the same, as also the Two Cats, which had on board all the tools necessary for the workmen. They gave you continually their broadsides, firing upon your camp, as I did from my battery, like platoons of infantry.
I dare say you never saw artillery better served and kept up until six in the evening, when I began my landing at low water. I imagined that this terrible cannonade all 20 that day, without a moment’s intermission, would have intimidated your Canadians and make them quit the trenches; my battery at the Sault being thirty or forty feet higher than your camp, we saw them down at the shore. Certainly you must have lost a great number of men.
Montcalm :— That brave militia deserves justly the greatest praise. Not a man of them stirred from his post, and they showed as much ardour, courage and resolution as my regular troops. I had no more than fifty men killed and wounded by your furious cannonade, which proves how little cannons are hurtful in comparison to the dread and respect they inspire. Permit me, sir, to tell you that your countrymen, the English appear to me, from their conduct in Canada, to be as rash, inconsiderate and hot-headed as the French, who have ever enjoyed that character, notwithstanding your countrymen’s reputation for coolness and phlegmatic bravery, since I have seen several examples of their attacking us before hey had examined the locale, or known our position: and if the two nations are compared impartially, I am persuaded that you will do us the justice to own that in our operations in Canada we have shown much more circumspection and coolness than your English generals. Our attack of the 31st July, without having procured beforehand an exact knowledge of the hill and of the places adjacent, is not the first example of great temerity and impatience on their part.
The proximity of your camp to this hill might have furnished you the means to have a thorough knowledge of our position, by sending proper persons to cross over the ford of the River Montmorency where it falls into the River St. Lawrence, and where it is fordable at low water.
They might, in a dark night and bad weather, have not only examined the steepness of the height, but have even gone over all our camp without being discovered; I always imagined you did so until the day of your attack, which 21 soon convinced me of the contrary. Your brother in arms, Abercrombie, our predecessor in the command of the army, committed the same fault at Ticonderoga as you did the 31st of July; but it cost him much dearer, the clouds which saved you not having come to his assistance.
I set out from Montreal on the 5th of May, 1758, to go to Ticonderoga, with all my regular troops — the regiments of La Sarre, La Reine, Royal Roussillon, Berne, Guienne, Languedoc, Berry of two battalions, and the independent companies of the marine detached in Canada; the regiments from France not being recruited, the whole amounted to only about four thousand men.
I had no positive information that the English army had formed the design to come by the lake St. Sacrament in order to attack Ticonderoga (Carillon), and from thence to go to Montreal — but I suspected it, from the proximity of this ford to your settlement upon lake St. Sacrament; nor did I cease beseeching continually M. Vaudreuil, who was then at Quebec, to send me with all possible diligence the Canadian militia, which was the principal force for the defence of the colony.
M. Vaudreuil, who has neither common sense, nor judgment, could not find out that my military conjectures were grounded; and instead of sending me the Canadians, he gave them permission to remain at Montreal, sixty leagues from Ticonderoga, to attend to their agricultural pursuits.
I dare not allege that he was informed, by the Indians of the Iroquois nation, that the object of the English was to invade Canada; that their army was on their way to lake St. Sacrament; that it was with the view of sacrificing me, and making me the victim of a cabal. Who led him and governed him blindly, that he kept from me the Canadians.
The 7th of July my conjectures were verified by the arrival of the English army at the Chûte, where lake St. Sacrament terminates, about four miles from Ticonderoga, consisting 22 of six thousand three hundred men, commanded by General Abercrombie, who had succeeded to General Braddock, killed the year before at the River Ohio.
The return of a detachment which I had placed at the Chûte, as an advanced post, who had lost an hundred and fifty men, killed by the English on their arrival there, was a sad confirmation of the bad news. It is scarce possible to imagine a more dangerous and critical situation than mine — without the aid of Canadians, whose way of fighting was so essential to me in the woods — more useful in those countries than regular troops. Fort Carillon, or Ticonderoga, was a square, regularly fortified, each face of it about seventy fathoms in length.
It had four bastions — the walls of masonry, doubled with a rampart, as likewise a ditch, covered way, and glacis. M. de Bourlamarque, an officer of great merit and intelligence, had added a half moon to it.
To retire with my four thousand troops would have been abandoning the colony to General Abercrombie, as the fort could not hold out long against so considerable an army; and being on that side the key of Canada, with the possession of it in the hands of the English, they might go directly to Montreal, and be there in fifteen days, without finding on their way the least obstruction; on the other hand, the match was very unequal in opposing four thousand men to thirteen thousand. There was, however, no room for hesitating, in the choice, and I was soon resolved to save the colony by a bold and desperate stroke or die, gloriously, sword in hand. I made everybody work hard all the night between the 7th and 8th July, cutting down trees to make an intrenchment (CCCC), which, when finished, was very weak, trifling, and could scarce serve as a breast-work to cover the troops.
The engineers, having cut off the branches, laid the trees upon a line on the heights, three or four of them placed 23 horizontally one upon the other, which scarce made it above three feet high — so low that your soldiers might easily have jumped over it; — they made a line of the branches, at two paces distance, on the outside of the trenches (HH). It is certain that if the engineers had only thrown the trees with their heads outwards, and their branches sharpened in pricking points at their ends, it would have made a much stronger intrenchment, more difficult to be forced, and built much sooner.2 I had not the time to continue the trenches down to the hollow (DD), at the foot of the height, and I placed there two companies of grenadiers.
The hollow upon the right of the height, where the intrenchment was the worst of all my lines, was the post of the companies of marines (C); the regiments lined the rest of the trenches. Next day, the 8th of July, the English army appeared on the borders of the woods, about three hundred fathoms from the front of our intrenchment on the height, and instantly advanced to the attack, formed in three columns (EE), without halting a moment to examine the locale. Two of the columns attacked the height with the utmost impetuosity, but being very soon entangled among the branches, on the outside of the trenches, and impeded by them, they lost there a great many men; some few got through and, jumping into our trenches, were killed by our soldiers with bayonets.
The American riflemen were posted on two heights (GG), which commanded our trenches, from whence they saw sideways in some parts of them, and in others the rear of the soldiers (K).
The regiment of Berry was, above all others, worried and tormented by their fire — one of these heights being scarce above eighty paces from the intrenchments. The third 24 column attacked the hollow upon our right; but receiving a brisk fire at its front from the colony troops, and at the same time upon its right flank from the regiments on the height, the column soon wavered, wheeled to the right, and, presenting its front to the height, got out of the reach of the fire from the right of the colony troops; upon which Mr. Raymond, who commanded them, went out of the trenches with the right wing of these troops, and attacked the left flank of the column, whilst its head and right flank were fired at from the height and from the left of the colony troops in the trenches.
The column, distressed by this firing, yet, nevertheless, keeping firm at the foot of the height, put in disorder the regiment of Berry, who abandoned that part of the intrenchment (II) above it.
The moment I perceived the disorder, I ran there, encouraged the soldiers of the regiment, made them return to their post, and supported them by the grenadiers, whom I had kept in order of battle, at a small distance from the trenches, as a reserve, to be employed wherever the line might be forced by your troops, to charge upon them headlong, their bayonets upon their muskets, without firing: having neglected nothing that the short time allowed me to do, in order to make a vigorous defence — without aught to reproach myself with — had I been overpowered by your army; and having always preserved coolness and presence of mind so as to be able to remedy immediately any disorders during this long and well disputed attack.
General Abercrombie was at last obliged to retire, after having continued some hours, with the greatest obstinacy, his attempt to force our intrenchments, — with the loss of two thousand men.3
I acquitted myself of my duty: this always affords a sweet satisfaction in all the events of life; and, even to the 25 vanquished and unfortunate, it must yield great comfort and consolation. I had only twelve hours to prepare to defend myself with five thousand men against thirteen thousand.
How can General Abercrombie’s rash and blind conduct be accounted for, for attacking us without examining or knowing our position? It is astonishing.
During twelve hours that he remained at the Chûte after landing there, he had time to send and examine the ground round the fort Ticonderoga; and they might have had a perfect knowledge of our position from a hill, covered with big trees, on the opposite side of the river of the Chûte (P);4 this hill was much higher than any part of our intrenchments, and not a musket shot from them; he might have gone there himself with safety, having that river between us.
Had he halted only a short time after his arrival on the borders of the wood, about six hundred paces from our trenches, he might, even from thence, have examined the locale at his leisure. But, seized with impatience, he hurried to the attack without stopping there a moment — and it is not when an action is engaged that one can then examine the enemy’s position; or, if he had advanced upon us the moment of his landing at the Chûte, the 7th instant, instead of loitering there twelve hours, he would not have found even those shabby intrenchments; and having so few (regular) troops, irrespective of the Canadians, I would have been obliged, on his appearing, to abandon to him all that part of the country, and retire to Montreal, leaving only a garrison at Fort Carillon. It was certainly through his ignorance of the locale that I repulsed him, Instead of being myself cut to pieces; nor had I any means of retreat, and my troops must have been all killed or taken prisoners, 26 if his third column had marched along the borders of the wood upon their left; this would have put them out of the reach of the fire from the height, they could fall upon the right flank of the trenches of the colony troops, who could not have resisted a moment the impulse of the column; instead of wheeling and changing its plan of attack by presenting its head to the height, had he always advanced forward to attack the centre of the intrenchments of the marine, he would have easily pierced through it; then, wheeling to the right, go up the height, which is there of an easy ascent, and fire upon the rear of the troops, who opposed your other two columns, they must have been put to flight, the trenches abandoned, and, even upon the sight of your third column coming up the height, I must, of necessity, have instantly retreated to the fort the best way I could; there to embark my army in my boats and carry it down Lake Champlain, without being able to make a resistance at Fort Frederic, as it is commanded by hills behind it, about the distance of two hundred paces from its walls, which makes it a very advantageous post. What would have been still worse for me, if my trenches had been forced, there is a space of five leagues between Fort Frederic and Ticonderoga, by the River St. Frederic, which, about half way, is scarce above fifty or sixty fathoms broad, and is a most advantageous post, where not a boat would pass by, and must cut off entirely the communication with lake Champlain, as it is an equal distance from the Chûte or from Ticonderoga.
General Abercrombie might have sent a body of troops to establish there a post, in which case we must have laid down our arms and surrendered ourselves prisoners to him, for want of subsistence, and from the impossibility of retreating by land.
General Abercrombie might have likewise penetrated easily at the hollow, which I had not the time to intrench, 2 where I had placed two companies of volunteers; and this would have had equally fatal consequences for me, as the third column might have been on the other side of the height, the ascent there not being steep or of difficult access.
But his attacks were always obstinately directed at the most difficult places of the height, as if there had been a cloud before his eyes to hinder him from seeing to his right and left what was visible to the most ignorant officer.
Wolfe :— That was a most glorious day for you, sir, — worthy of the ambition of a great man. Our columns were only at ten steps distance from your intrenchments, and all our army saw you perfectly well, constantly at work encouraging and exciting the ardour of your soldiers, hurrying over your lines perpetually some paces from your trenches; exposing your person too rashly compared to the custom of our army, your eye glancing over the whole, with the attitude of a lion. General Abercrombie perceived, clearly, the disorder upon your right when the regiment of Berry was about to retire, and redoubled his efforts to profit by it. But you were everywhere, travelling from place to place, with the swiftness of the eagle; never at a loss; reforming the smallest disorder so soon as it was visible, and preventing it from spreading, as it generally does, like a flash of lightning. This affair won you so great a reputation in England for capacity and talent, that I own to you, sir, the idea of having an antagonist of your knowledge and merit, made me during the campaign always irresolute, vacillating in my opinions and undecided in my projects. I cannot condemn my predecessors who had the command of the English armies in Canada. The way of fighting of the Canadians and Indians in the woods is so different from that practised in Europe, that I readily believe the most able General, with an army of the best disciplined troops, in following exactly the rules of the art of war, — whose principles are sure, fixed and demonstrable in European warfare, — may 28 be easily cut to pieces in those vast forests by a very few Indians. There was an outcry in England against General Braddock, for allowing his army of four thousand men to be cut to pieces at the River Ohio,5 in the year 1755, by six hundred and fifty Canadians and Indians only, much more than they blame General Abercrombie.
The reason of it is clear. Abercrombie lived to return to England: the living always find means to justify themselves. But Braddock was killed: the dead are always in the wrong, and never find disinterested advocates to plead their cause. Braddock’s order of march — criticised by our French Generals — may, at first sight, appear singular; and may pretend that he must of necessity have been beat, in consequence of the bad disposition of it. But analyze it, and you will find nothing else than the common rule practised through all Europe in passing through a wood: an army formed in three columns — the artillery, baggage, waggons, and cavalry being the column of the centre, between the other two columns of infantry; half of the Grenadiers at their head to support the Pioneers employed in opening a road through the wood for the passage of the carts and artillery, and the rest in the rear, to close of march. Braddock was invested on all sides by the Canadians, and dispersed in the wood, each of them behind a tree, marking out his victim; so that every musket-shot brought down a soldier, and at every discharge they flew from tree to tree. What can regular troops do in such a case? Close their ranks and files each moment, as did Braddock, direct a continual fire at the woods, without perceiving a man, and be cut to pieces without seeing an enemy. There 29 is no other method for troops to defend themselves against the Indians than what I practised, with success, when I was surprised by them at the ford of the River Montmorency: the soldiers, with fixed bayonets, dispersed themselves, rushed on in disorder towards the places where they perceived the smoke of the Indians’ discharge; and by these means my detachment in the woods chased away your nine hundred Indians, who in a moment disappeared entirely, and suffered me to retire at my leisure to my camp.
Montcalm :— I verily believe, sir, that your idea is just. The Indians told me, on their return, that it was now no more possible to fight you as formerly, since the English had learned their (the Indians’) way of fighting. There cannot be a greater advantage for a General than the entire knowledge of the country — the seat of war: without this, he must always grope in the dark — be foiled in his operations — rest often inactive, uncertain in his projets; and be only inactive and on the defensive, as you were all the summer as much as me. You were absolutely master of the River St. Lawrence by your men-of-war, who had ascended it, passing by Quebec with incredible boldness, and scorning the most murderous fire from the batteries of the town so near them. You had an infinite number of boats at your disposal, with all the sailors of your fleet for rowers. What, then, could hinder you from sending a body of twelve or fifteen hundred men in different detachments, with engineers and able officers, in order to be continually landing, to get a thorough knowledge of the country, draw plans of all the advantageous positions which abound there; and this detachment, if well led, might have gone even to Montreal without finding any opposition in their course. Their descriptions and plans of the country would have enlightened you, and furnished the means of destroying and crushing our army without fighting: this is the touchstone to prove superior talents and capacity in a General. The 30 gaining of a battle is very often the effect of mere chance. But reducing an enemy without fighting must be the result of well-combined operations, — is the essence of military science, and was always the most radient and distinctive trait in the conduct and character of the great men whom history has handed down to us. Grounded upon the instructions received from the engineers and officers of their detachments, you might have verified their observations by your prisoners, who say always more than they intend, when examined with kindness, coolness, and with a seeming indifference. The only achievement which you performed during two months that you lay constantly loitering in your camps, looking at us, was your attack of the 31st of July; and your expedition to Deschambault, where you sent a body of two thousand men, fourteen leagues up the river from Quebec, to burn and pillage a poor, miserable peasant’s house, in which was the baggage of some French regiments! But the detachment had no intention of examining the locale of the country. Had they gone to Jacques Cartier, only three leagues from Deschambault, they would have discovered there a post strong by nature, which certainly cannot be inferior to the Thermopylæ so celebrated by the Greeks, and capable of being defended — you being the masters of the River St. Lawrence — by as few men as Leonidas had with him against the most numerous army. But your detachment at Deschambault, upon the appearance of my cavalry, composed merely of two hundred undisciplined Canadians on horseback, commanded by the Chevalier de LaRochebeaucourt, ran to their boats and embarked with great disorder and confusion, as if our army had been at their heels, without having remained there above two hours. Jacques Cartier — which takes its name from he who first discovered the River St. Lawrence, and who, having lost his ship, passed there the winter amongst the Indians — in an immense ravine, with a rapid, shaggy 31 river full of large rocks, that runs between the two heights, whose tops are about two hundred fathoms distant from each other; theirs sides are as glacis, with a view from their tops to the bottom — four or five hundred feet deep — which strikes the eyes with horror on looking down that vast precipice. Its side, facing the River St. Lawrence, is a steep perpendicular rock; and the ground to the north is impracticable from the lakes, swamps, and sinking turf, where at each step a person must plunge over the head and perish. It must be impossible to turn round it and leave it behind, since the Canadians and the Indians never discovered a passage through the woods. Thus the only means of approaching this fort must have been by landing at Deschambault. From thence to Jacques Cartier, it is an easy and gradually rising ascent. Had you seized this extraordinary fort, you would have cut off my communication with Montreal, from whence I drew daily my supplies for the army: in this event, I had no other alternative than allowing my army to perish of famine, or surrender the colony. But as we had been sent from Europe, not to destroy the inhabitants, but, on the contrary, to save and defend them, I must have immediately concluded by capitulating for Canada upon the best terms I could obtain from you. I hope I have demonstrated clearly to you that, had you been acquainted with the locale, you could have made the glorious conquest of Canada without shedding a drop of blood.
Wolfe :— You argue, sir, at your ease! How was it possible to examine and know the locale of that country, your bloodhounds — the Indians and Canadians — being constantly at our heels: one cannot send out scouts in Canada, as is done in Europe.
Montcalm :— Why not? Men cannot be in two places at the same time; and you managed to find everywhere Indians and Canadians in your way! There are many 32 kinds of irregular troops in Europe as bad to deal with as the Indians in woods and in wooded countries. But your army was always so struck with terror and dread, that, constantly blinded with fear, the shadow of an Indian set them a trembling. Nevertheless, the New England independent companies, formed by Roger, who afterwards beat the Indians with equal numbers in their own way of fighting behind trees, should have removed the formidable impression they have always made upon the English. Self-preservation is natural to all mankind, and the hour of death must strike with horror the bravest man. But fear is pardonable amongst soldiers only when there exists a real cause for fear; and is not to be tolerated when groundless: this is so much the case of your soldiers with regard to the Indians, that, demoralized by fear, they suffer themselves to be butchered by a vastly inferior number of Indians, without ever thinking of defending themselves, even when they know they will have no quarter. In any danger, soldiers ought to be accustomed to look coolly death in the face, — they, whose duty is to die when the Sovereign demands it: such is the contract they sign with the latter on their entering into his service.
These sentiments may be often the means of one’s preserving life instead of losing it. Noting is more incomprehensible to me, in all your conduct in Canada, than your landing at Anse des Mères on the 13th September (the fatal day which deprived us both of our existence, but freed us from mortal folly), at the foot of a steep hill, where a few men at the top of it, with sticks and stones only, must have easily beaten you back on your attempt to climb it, and where we had three posts of one hundred men each: one of them commanded by Douglas, captain in the regiment of Languedoc; another by Rimini captain in the regiment La Sarre; and the third by de Vergor, captain in 33 the Colony troops, at whose post6 you made your descent. These three hundred men, had they done their duty, should have been more than sufficient to have repulsed you ignominiously at this steep hill; and you never would have got to the top had you met with the smallest resistance. I own that your daring surpasses my conception.
Wolfe :— I do not pretend to justify my project by its success, but by my combinations, which answered exactly as I had foreseen, and which demonstrate my scheme to have been well concerted. In giving you this account of it, I am persuaded that you will not blame me for undertaking an attempt so absurd in appearance, and yet most reasonable when examined impartially. In all expeditions composed of sea and land forces, it seldom fails that disputes, animosities, jealousies and quarrels arise between the different commanders equal in authority; and it is a miracle if you see the Admiral and the General unanimously of the same opinion with regard to operations. The sea and the land service are sciences whose principles are entirely different; as certainly there can be no analogy between the working of a ship and the drill of a regiment. Nevertheless, the Admiral meddles continually with the land operations, and the General will have the fleets do things that are impossible — both of them equally ignorant of each other’s service; from whence results a clashing discord in their operations, when sent out with equal power. If each of them would confine himself to that part of the art of war which he has studied, and have only in his soul the good and welfare of his King and Country, these mixed expeditions of land and sea would succeed much better than they generally do. The naval officers tormented me a great deal, and were still more troublesome as the season advanced. They held a council of war on board the flagship 34 on the 10th September, when it was determined to set sail immediately for Europe, seeing the imminent dangers to which His Majesty’s fleet would be exposed in those tempestuous seas by remaining any longer before Quebec; and, in consequence of this decision, orders were given to some men-of-war to take up their anchors and fall down the river, while orders were issued at the same time to begin the general preparations for the immediate departure of all the fleet. The 12th, there came two deserters to me from one of your three posts you just now mentioned, who belonged to the French regiments, and were well informed. Upon examining them, I discovered that your posts were guarded very negligently; that de Bougainville, who was at Cap Rouge, proposed to send down, the night following, some boats loaded with provisions, and that your three posts had their orders to let these boats pass unmolested. The idea instantly occurred to me to profit by this discovery; and I ran to the Admiral, communicated to him what I had learned from the French deserters, begged him most earnestly to suffer me to make a last attempt before the embarkation of my army. I promised him that if there were twenty muskets fired from your posts, I would then desist immediately without further thought than to embark speedily in order to return to England. The council consented to my demand, and I began my landing at eleven at night. When my boats approached the two posts of Douglas and Rimini, upon their sentinels calling “Qui vive!” my soldiers answered them in French, “Bateaux des vivres,” upon which they suffered them to go on without stopping them, as they might have done, in order to receive the password. Not finding a sentry at your third post, commanded by De Vergor, I landed there with diligence, and all my army was ashore before this post perceived our men, without firing but one musket, which wounded De Vergor in the heel, who was immediately 35 taken prisoner without finding any man of his detachment with him.7 I began my operation by landing there a Sergeant with ten Grenadiers, ordering him to advance always straight before him briskly, with long steps, and not to halt unless he was discovered by the enemy. A Lieutenant, with a detachment of Grenadiers, followed him, having the same orders, to halt instantly if they fired at him. The silence continuing, I then landed all my Grenadiers, who followed the Sergeant and the Lieutenant; and by degrees all my army landed without the least noise, disorder or confusion. The silence soon convinced me that they were not discovered; dissipated my fears, and assured me of the success of my enterprise. The head of the column, which was the guide to the rest of the army, got up the hill with difficulty, the others following them at their heels. If your guards had been vigilant and done their duty, all I risked was the Sergeant and Lieutenant, with a few Grenadiers. I would have stopped at the first discharge, as it would have been madness and unpardonable to attack by main force a hill so inaccessible that, even without an enemy at the top to repel them, my men had much difficulty to climb it. Moreover, I was assured by your deserters you had no troops on the heights of Abraham. You see now, sir, that it was not a heedless, ill-concerted project, — but a sure operation, without risking much. An invariable principle with me has ever been to make an attack where it appears the most difficult; and it generally meets with success, as the point is commonly ill-guarded, frequently entirely neglected, and scarcely comprehended in the plan of defence. I am not alone of this opinion, Cardinal Ximenes says, that “Ferdinand, King of Arragon, fitted out two 36 armies against the Moors, under the conduct of Count D’Aguilar, and ordered them to enter into the mountains of Grenada at the same time, by the places the most difficult,” and consequently the least-guarded. He gained a most complete victory over the Moors. The most difficult gorges of mountains, when not guarded where only a single man can pass, a hundred thousand may do the same. It is then an easy operation, by forming your men in battle as soon as they get through the passage, and provided that they are not immediately discovered by the enemy. When once you have a front capable to oppose and stand firm, it increases every instant, as you may be convinced that the soldiers go through the dangerous passage with great quickness. Besides, the enemy is always disconcerted by a surprise; demoralized by an unforeseen incident, he becomes timid and alarmed, and may be looked upon as already vanquished before the action begins. The landing at Cap Breton was executed according to my system. The enemy does not expect you at a place of difficult access; it is where he does not expect me that I would make my principal attack. Commonly, men suffer most where they are most seen.8 But if they are entirely neglected — as it happened at Louisbourg — it is a fault of the General, who should be answerable for it. But the General having placed upon them a sufficient number of troops in proportion to their difficulties, can he be blamed if the officers of these posts do not do their duty?
Montcalm :— Can there be any divine or human law to punish a man for the faults of others? Should they not answer personally? It has often happened that the safety of a whole army has depended upon a subaltern’s guard! 37 You see that the deserters caused you to make a last attempt — prevented your embarking your army for England — your giving up your enterprise — and, in short, ended in adding Canada to the British dominions; and perhaps a vigilant officer at that post (Wolfe’s Cove) might have hindered the soldiers from deserting, which would at once have removed a first cause which produced so many extraordinary effects. Your system may be good, if executed with great prudence and precaution. But should the enemy be informed of your design, which he may be by a deserter acquainted with your great preparations, as you were with the negligence of our posts, it is an excellent opportunity to have your army cut to pieces and catch a tartar; as it must have been your case at the Sault de Montmorency (on the 31st July), had it not been for that sudden shower of rain, which came to your rescue in the critical moment, when your destruction was otherwise inevitable. At least, sir, confess the injustice of mankind. They reproach me with being the cause of your success! They accuse me of having sacrificed the welfare of my army through jealousy and ill-feeling! My king and country — for whom I would have shed, with pleasure, every drop of my blood — and those who view my case the most favourably, look on me as a giddy, ignorant officer! All these scandalous, atrocious lies and calumnies were spread everywhere by a set9 of men who, from their immoderate thirst of riches, would, to serve their interest, have betrayed their king and country. Those vile, mercenary souls knew that I detested them as much as I constantly cherished honest men, whose noble sentiments endeared them to me. My death was very happy for them. Had I lived to return to Europe, I would have had no difficulty to justify all my conduct, and crush these wretches like vermin. Covetousness and avarice carried them to Canada: 38 they left their honour and honesty in France on embarking, easily forgetting what it is to be just and patriotic. I would have soon confounded them. Truth supports oppressed innocence, and, sooner or later, dispels the clouds which too often overshadow it. I shall give you a faithful and exact account of my conduct with regard to the operations of the 13th September, following scrupulously truth, which has always been the rule of my actions and is held in great veneration by me; and I hope to demonstrate to you that if the end of that campaign covered you with glory, Fortune was the chief agent, who reunited in your power a great number of circumstances, the absence of any one of which sufficed to render your expedition fruitless.
Some days after the action of the 31st of July, M. de Levis was sent by M. Vaudreuil to command at Montreal, upon a false report that a body of English was coming to attack Canada by Lake Champlain — a story trumped up by my enemies to deprive me of M. de Levis, in whom I had the greatest confidence, on account of his talents: I cannot say he made me a just acknowledgment of my sentiments towards him. I went to his lodgings a few hours before his departure, which was kept a secret from the army; and as I was little acquainted with his plan of defence for the left of our camp, at the Sault de Montmorency, I begged of him, as a favour, to leave me his aide-de-camp, M. Johnstone, who had a perfect knowledge of the locale of that part of the country. Your boats having caused us an alarm in the night between the 10th and 11th of September, by their appearance opposite to the ravine of Beauport, I remained at M. Vaudreuil’s until one in the morning, when I left him in order that I might return to my lodging — having with me M. Montreuil, Major-General of the army, and M. Johnstone. On my sending away M. de Vaudreuil, after giving him my orders, I related immediately to M. Johnstone all the measures I had concerted with M. 39 de Vaudreuil, in case you (Gen. Wolfe) made a descent at daybreak. He answered me, that your army being now assembled at Pointe Levis, and part of it gone before Quebec, on the south side of the River St. Lawrence, it appeared very doubtful where you might attempt a descent — whether above the town, or below it towards the Canardière; he added, that he believed a body of troops might be advantageously placed upon the heights of Abraham, where they could with certainty confront you whenever you landed. I approved greatly of his idea. I called back Montreuil — who was as yet not far from us — and I ordered him to send the regiment of Guienne — which was encamped near the hornwork at the River St. Charles — to pass the night upon the heights of Abraham. Next morning — the 11th — I wrote to Montreuil, ordering him to make this regiment encamp upon the heights of Abraham, and remain there until further orders. Thus, in consequence of my repeated orders, I had all the reason possible to believe that this regiment constituted a permanent post there; so that the declaration of the deserters from the three posts, who could not know this, might have led you into a dangerous snare, worse than that of the 31st July. Why this regiment continued the 12th in this camp at the hornwork, in spite of my express orders to encamp upon the heights, I know not; and can only attribute Montreuil’s disobedience of my orders to the weakness of his judgment and understanding. It is nevertheless evident that, if you had found the Regiment of Guienne upon the top of the hill — where it ought to have been, had my orders been obeyed — you would have been repulsed shamefully with a much greater loss than you met with on the 31st July at the Sault; the height where you made your descent, the 13th of September, being infinitely steeper than that there which obliged you to make a speedy retreat, favoured by the providential shower. Or, perhaps you would have 40 embarked immediately your army, without any further attempt, to return to England, after a most ruinous and fruitless expedition — the campaign ending with an incredible expense to your nation — fruitless; and, by this means, the colony of Canada would have been for ever delivered from such formidable armies.
As soon as your army was reunited in a single camp at Pointe Levis, after having been so long separated, upon you sending a body of troops up the River St. Lawrence, I detached M. de Bougainville, with fifteen hundred of my best troops — composed of all my Grenadiers, of the Volunteers from the French Regiments, of my best Canadians and Indians; and I likewise gave him some small guns. I ordered him strictly to follow all your movements, by ascending the river when you went up, and descending as you did the same: in short, to be an army of observation, with only the river between you — nevr to lose sight of you — ever ready to oppose your passage up the river, and to fall on you with the swiftness of the eagle the moment you attempted to land on our side of it. He sent to inform me, the 13th of September, that all your army had descended to your camp at Pointe Levis. But he remained loitering with his detachment at Cap Rouge — three leagues from Quebec! Why did he not follow you to the heights of Abraham, according to his orders? Why did he not send me back my Grenadiers and Volunteers — the very flower of their regiments? informing me, as also the posts of Douglas and Rimini, that he would send down that night. I cannot conceive the reasons for such conduct: it is beyond all conception! He was informed, between seven and eight in the morning, by the fugitives from the three posts, that your army was landed and drawn up in battle upon the heights of Abraham; upon which he left Cap Rouge with his detachment, no doubt with the intention to join me. But, instead of taking the road to Lorette, or to the 41 General Hospital along the borders of the River St. Charles, which led both of them to our camp, he followed the heights of Abraham, where he was evidently certain by his information to find there your army to intercept him; and it could never be his design to fight you with fifteen hundred men! He found a house on his way, with three or four hundred of your troops barricading it, and was very desirous to take them prisoners. M. le Noire, Captain in the Regiment La Sarre — having more bravery than prudence and knowledge of the art of war — attacked the house with the most astonishing boldness, and had more than half of his company of Volunteers killed: he received himself two wounds — one of them by a ball through the body, and the other in his hand. De Bougainville, intent on taking the house, waited there the arrival of the cannon, to force it; but when the cannon arrived, it unluckily happened that the balls had been forgotten at Cap Rouge, which obliged him to return there, abandoning the house without a moment’s reflection. How much more important it would have been to direct his march towards the General Hospital, in order to join my army! Thus were precious moments wasted ridiculously in the most trifling manner. De Bougainville — who has a great deal of wit, good sense, many good qualities — was protected by a very great person at Court; he is personally brave, has but little knowledge in the military science, having never studied it.
The night between the 12th and 13th of September, when you made your descent, M. Poularies, commander of the Regiment Royal Roussillon, who encamped behind my lodgings at Beauport, came to me, at midnight, to inform me that they saw boats opposite to his regiment. Upon which I immediately ordered all the army to line the trenches; and I sent Marcel — who served me as Secretary and aide-de-camp — to pass the night at M. de Vaudreuil’s, giving him one of my Cavaliers of Ordnance, ordered Marcel, if there was anything 42 extraordinary in that quarter, to inform me of it speedily by the Cavalier. I was out and walked with Poularies and Johnstone, between my house and the ravine of Beauport, until one in the morning, when I sent Poularies to his regiment, and I continued there with Johnstone. All night my mind was in the most violent agitation, which I believe proceeded from my uneasiness for the boats and provisions that de Bougainville had acquainted me, would be sent down the river that night; and I repeated often to Johnstone, that I trembled lest they should be taken, “that loss would ruin me without resource, having provisions only for two days’ subsistence to our army.” It appears to me that my extraordinary sufferings that night were a presage of my cruel fate some hours afterwards. At daybreak they fired some cannon from our battery at Samos, near Sillery. I then had no more doubts of our boats being taken by you. Alas! I would never had imagined that my provisions were in safety at Cap Rouge with de Bougainville, and that you were upon the heights of Abraham since midnight, without my being informed of an event of so great importance, and which was known through all the right of our camp.
The day clearing up, having news from Marcel at M. de Vaudreuil’s, who had always my Cavalier of Ordnance with him, and perceiving no changes in your camp at Pointe Levis, my mind was more composed on reflecting that, if anything extraordinary had happened, I would certainly have been informed of it. I then sent Johnstone to order all the army to their tents, having passed the night in the trenches, and retired to my lodgings after drinking some dishes of tea with Johnstone. I desired him to order the servants to saddle the horses, in order to go to M. de Vaudreuil’s and be informed of the cause of the firing from our battery at Samos. Not a soul having come to me from the right of our camp since midnight when I sent there Marcel, I set out with Johnstone between six and seven in the morning. Heavens, what was my surprise! when opposite to M. de Vaudreuil’s lodgings, 43 the first news of what had passed during the night was the sight of your army upon the heights of Abraham, firing at the Canadians scattered amongst the bushes. I met at the same time M. de Vaudreuil coming out of his lodgings, and having spoke to him an instant, I turned away to Johnstone, and told him: “the affair is serious! run with the greatest speed to Beauport; order Poularies to remain there at the Ravine with two hundred men, and to send me all the rest of the left to the heights of Abraham with the utmost diligence.”
Johnstone having delivered my orders to Poularies, he quitted him an instant to give some instructions to my servants at my lodgings; returning to rejoin me, he found Poularies in the Ravine with M. de Sennezergue, Brigadier-General and Lieutenant-Colonel of the Regiment of La Sarre, and de Lotbinière, Captain of the Colony troops and aide-de-camp to M. de Vaudreuil. Poularies stopped Johnstone to make him repeat to them my orders, which he did; and at the same time advised Poularies, as a friend, to disobey them, by coming himself to the heights of Abraham with every man of the left, since it was evident that the English army — already landed near Quebec — could never think of making a second descent at Beauport; and that it was manifest there would be in a few hours an engagement upon the heights which would immediately decide the fate of the Colony. Poularies then showed Johnstone a written order — signed “Montreuil” — which Lotbinière had brought to him from M. de Vaudreuil, “That not a man of the left should stir from the camp!” Johnstone declared to them, upon his honour, that it was word for word my orders and my intentions; and he entreated Poularies, in the most pressing manner, to have no regard for that order signed “Montreuil,” as the want of two thousand men, which formed the left of our camp, must be of the greatest consequence in the battle. M. de Sennezergue — an officer of the greatest worth and 44 honour, who fell a few hours afterwards — told Johnstone: “That he (Johnstone) should take it upon him to make all the left march off immediately.” Johnstone answered: “That, being only the bearer of my orders, he could take nothing upon him. But if he was in M. de Sennezergue’s place, Brigadier-General, and, by M. de Levis’ absence, the next in command of the army, he would not hesitate a moment to make the left march, without any regard whatsoever to any order that might be hurtful to the King’s service, in that critical juncture.” Johnstone left them irresolute and doubtful how to act, clapped spurs to his horse, and rejoined me immediately upon the heights.”
I don’t know, any more than a thousand others, the particulars relative to the action of the 13th of September. I am ignorant of who it was that made our army take their abominable and senseless position, by thrusting it betwixt your army and Quebec, where there were no provisions, and the best of our troops absent with de Bougainville; it certainly must have been dictated by an ignorant and stupid blockhead! I certainly had no hand in it: the piquets and part of the troops were already marched up the heights before I came to the Canardière, or ever knew that you were landed; and all the right of our army was marching after them when I arrived at their encampment. The only proper course to be taken in our position, and which would have been apparent to any man of common sense who had the least knowledge of the art of war, was to quit our camp coolly — calmly — without disorder or confusion, and march to Lorette; from thence cross over to St. Foix — which is two leagues from Quebec and a league from Cap Rouge — and when joined there by M. de Bougainville’s detachment, to advance then and attack you as soon as possible. By these means you would have found yourself between two fires, by a sally from the town the moment that I attacked you on the other side. I was no sooner upon the heights than I 45 perceived our horrible position, — pressed against the town-walls, without provisions for four-and-twenty hours, and a moral impossibility for us to retire, being drawn up in battle at the distance of a musket-shot from your army. Had I made an attempt to go down the heights, in order to repass the River St. Charles and return to my camp, I would have exposed my left flank to you, and my rear would have been cut to pieces without being able to protect and support it. Had I entered into the town, in an instant you would have invested us in it, without provisions, by carrying down your left wing to the River St. Charles — an easy movement of a few minutes. I saw no remedy other for us than to worry your army by a cannonade, having the advantage over you of a rising ground suitable for batteries of cannon, hoping, by thus harassing you, that you might retire in the night, as certainly you could never be so rash as to think of attacking us under the guns of the town; at least I would have made my retreat, taking advantage of the darkness of the night, to get myself out of the scrape where the ignorance of others had thrown me. I sent several persons with orders to M. de Ramsay, King’s Lieutenant (Deputy Governor), who was in command at Quebec, to send me, with all possible haste, the five-and-twenty brass field pieces that were in position on the palace battery, near our army; and precisely at the same instant when Johnstone came to me on the heights, with the news of the order which prevented the left of our army to join me, a sergeant arrived from M. de Ramsay — the fourth person I had sent to him with my orders — with a categorical answer from him: “That he had already sent me three pieces of artillery; and that he could not send me any more, having his town to defend!” What could be de Ramsay’s reasons for such a monstrous conduct, or who it was who inspired him with such a daring disobedience? I know not.
1. “His town” — as he called it — was defended by our 46 army which covered it, being drawn up in battle about two hundred fathoms from it; and its safety depended entirely upon the event of a battle.
2. There were in Quebec about two hundred pieces of cannon, most of them twenty-four and thirty-six pounders.
3. Small field-pieces, two or three pounders — such as the palace battery — could they be of the least service for the defence of a town?
4. A commander of Quebec, as Kin’s Lieutenant or sub-Lieutenant, such as de Ramsay was — not Governor, — or even M. de Vaudreuil himself, Governor General of Canada, at that moment in the town, — could they have any authority to refuse me all the assistance I could desire from Quebec, by my particular commission of Commander-in-Chief of the troops in Canada, when my army was at the gates of the town, and your army deployed ready to fight? A thousand other queries suggest themselves; but of what avail?
I assembled immediately a council of war, composed of all the commanding officers of the several regiments, to hear their opinion as to what was to be done in our critical situation. Some of them maintained you were busy throwing up breastworks. Others, that you appeared bent on descending in the valley, to order to seize the bridge of boats on the St. Charles river with the hornwork, with the object of cutting off our communication with the left wing of our army, which remained at Beauport pursuant to the order signed by Montreuil. In effect, a movement your army made in that moment towards the windmill and Borgia’s house, upon the edge of the height, seemed to favour this conjecture. But an instant afterwards, the Canadians having set fire to that house and chased you from it, you retook your former position. Others alleged, that the more we delayed attacking you, the more your army would be strong, imagining that your troops had not yet all landed. In short, there was not a single member of the war council who was not of 47 opinion to charge upon you immediately. Can it be credited that these officers — to the dishonour of mankind — who were the most violent to attack you, denied it afterwards, and became the most ardent censors of my conduct in not deferring the battle? What could I do in my desperate situation? Even a Marshal Turenne would have been much puzzled to get out of such a dilemma, in which they had entangled me either through design or ignorance. I listened with attention to their opinion, without opening my lips, and at last answered them: — “It appears to me, gentlemen, that you are unanimous for giving battle; and that the only question now is, how to charge the enemy?” Montreuil said it would be better to attack in columns. I answered him: “That we would be beat before our columns could be formed so near to the enemy; and, besides, that our columns must be very weak, not having Grenadiers to place at their heads.” I added, “that since it is decided to attack, it must be in Front Baudière (?)” I sent all the officers to their posts, and ordered the drummers to beat the charge.
Our onset was neither brisk nor long. We went on in confusion — were repulsed in an instant; and it could not naturally be otherwise from the absence of our Volunteers and Grenadiers, and de Bougainville at Cap Rouge with the best of our Canadians; the Montreal regiments with Poularies at Beauport, and league and a half from the battlefield. The example of the bravest soldiers in a regiment — the Grenadiers and Volunteers — suffices to infuse courage in the most timid, who can follow the road shown to them, but cannot lead the way. The brave Canadian Militia saw us with heavy hearts, grief and despair, from the other side of the St. Charles river, cut to pieces upon the heights, stopped, as they were, in the hornwork, and prevented by superior orders from rushing to our assistance. About two hundred brave and resolute Canadians rallied in the hollow 48 at the bakehouse, and returned upon the heights. They fell instantly upon your left wing with incredible rage; stopped your army for some minutes from pursuing our soldiers in their flight, by attracting your attention to them; resisted, undaunted, the shock of your left; and, when repulsed, they disputed the ground inch by inch from the top to the bottom of the height, pursued by your troops down to the valley at the bakehouse, opposite to the hornwork. These unfortunate heroes — who were most of them cut to pieces — saved your army the loss of a great many men, by not being hotly pursued; and if your left, who followed these two hundred Canadians down to the plain, had crossed it from the bakehouse to the River St. Charles, only three or four hundred paces, they would have cut off the retreat of our army, invested the three-fourths of them in Quebec, without provisions, and M. de Vaudreuil, next day, must have surrendered the town and asked to capitulate for the colony. But your conduct cannot be blamed, as it is always wise and prudent in giving — as Pyrrhus advises — a golden bridge to one’s enemy in fight.
You see, sir, by this true and faithful account of the battle of the 13th September, and of what preceded it, how many different and unforeseen events, fortune was obliged to unite in your favour to render you successful in your expedition against Canada; the failure of any one of which would have sufficed to frustrate your enterprise. It would appear that heaven had decreed that France should lose this colony. Let us now conclude, sir, that I have as little deserved the blame, scorn, contempt and injustice which my country heaped on my memory, as you do the excessive honours they lavished on your’s in England; and that the ablest General in Europe, placed in my circumstances, could not have acted otherwise than I did. Moreover, I was under M. de Vaudreuil — the weakest man alive, although a most obstinate automaton — and could not freely 49 follow my ideas as if I had been Commander-in-Chief. In my country the law is equal: we neither punish, nor recompense.
The Marquis of Montcalm, endeavouring to rally the troops in their disorderly flight, was wounded in the lower part of the belly.10 He was conveyed immediately to Quebec, and lodged in the house of M. Arnoux, the King’s surgeon, who was absent with M. de Bourlamarque: his brother — the younger Arnoux — having viewed the wound, declared it mortal. This truly great and worthy man heard Arnoux11 pronounce his sentence of death with a firm and undaunted soul: his mind calm and serene; his countenance soft and pleasing; and with a look of indifference whether he lived or died. He begged of Arnoux to be so kind and outspoken as to tell him how many hours he thought he might yet live? Arnoux answered him, that he might hold out until three in the morning. He spent that short period of life conversing with a few officers upon indifferent subjects with great coolness and presence of mind, and ended his days about the hour Arnoux had foretold him. His last words were: — “I die12 content, 50 since I leave the affairs of the King, my dear master, in good hands; I always had a high opinion of the talents of M. de Levis.” I will not undertake the panegyric of this great man: a true patriot and lover of his king and country, possessing many rare and good qualities. Had he by chance been born in England his memory would have been celebrated, and transmitted with honour to posterity. Illustrious by his virtue and genius, he deserves to live in history; he was an unfortunate victim to the insatiable avarice of some men, and a prey to the immoderate ambitions of others. His ashes, mingled with those of Indians, repose neglected far from his native country, without a 51 magnificent tomb or altars; General Wolfe has statues in England in commemoration of the many faults he committed during his expedition in Canada. “How many obscure dead,” says a modern author, “have received the greatest honours by titles yet more vain? O injustice of mankind! The mausolea adorn the temples to repeat continually false praise; and history, which ought to be the sacred asylum of truth, shows that statues and panegyrics are almost always the monuments of prejudice, and that flattery seeks to immortalise unjust reputations.”
When I was informed of M. de Montcalm’s misfortune, I sent him immediately his servant Joseph, begging him to acquaint me if I could be of any service to him, and in that case I would be with him at Quebec immediately. Joseph came back in a moment to the hornwork, and grieved me to the inmost of my soul by M. de Montcalm’s answer: “that it was needless to come to him, as he had only a few hours to live, and he advised me to keep with Poularies until the arrival of M. de Levis at the army.” Thus perished a great man, generally unknown and unregretted by his countrymen — a man who would have become the idol and ornament of any other country in Europe.
The French army in flight, scattered and entirely dispersed, rushed towards the town. Few of them entered Quebec; they went down the heights of Abraham, opposite to the Intendant’s Palace (past St. John’s gate) directing their course to the hornwork, and following the borders of the River St. Charles. Seeing the impossibility of rallying our troops, I determined myself to go down the hill at the windmill, near the bakehouse13 and from thence across over the meadows to the hornwork, resolved not to approach Quebec from my apprehension of being shut up there with a part of our army, which might have been the case if the 52 victors had drawn all the advantage they could have reaped from our defeat. It is true the death of the general-in-chief — an event which never fails to create the greatest disorder and confusion in an army — may plead as an excuse for the English neglecting so easy an operation as to take all our army prisoners.
But, instead of following immediately my ideas, I was carried off by the flow of the fugitives, without being able to stop them or myself until I got to a hollow swampy ground, where some gunners were endeavouring to save a field-piece which stuck there, and I stayed an instant with them to encourage them to draw it to the town. Returning back upon the rising ground, I was astonished to find myself in the centre of the English army, who had advanced whilst I was in the hollow with the gunners, and taking me for a general, on account of my fine black horse, they treated me as such by saluting me with a thousand musket shots from half of the front of their army, which had formed a crescent,. I was, nevertheless, bent on reaching the windmill, and I escaped their terrible fire without any other harm than four balls through my clothes, which shattered them; a ball lodged in the pommel of my saddle, and four balls in my horse’s body, who lived, notwithstanding his wounds, until he had carried me to the hornwork.
It it impossible to imagine the disorder and confusion that I found in the hornwork.14 The dread and consternation was general. M. de Vaudreuil listened to everybody, and was always of the advice of he who spoke last. No order was given with reflection and with coolness, none knowing what to order or what to do. When the English had repulsed the two hundred Canadians that had gone up the height at the same time that I came down from it, pursuing 53 them down to the bakehouse, our men lost their heads entirely; they became demoralized, imagining that the English troops, then at the bakehouse, would in an instant cross the plain and fly over the St. Charles river into the hornwork as with wings. It is certain that when fear once seizes hold of men it not only deprives them totally of their judgment and reflection, but also of the use of their eyes and their ears, and they become a thousand times worse than the brute creation, guided by instinct only, or by that small portion of reason which the author of nature has assigned it, since it preserves the use of it on all occasions. How much inferior to them do the greater portion of mankind appear, with their boasted reason, when reduced to madness and automata, on occasions when they require the more the use of their reason.
The hornwork had the River St. Charles before it, about seventy paces broad, which served it better than an artificial ditch; its front, facing the river and the heights, was composed of strong, thick, and high palisades, planted perpendicularly, with gunholes pierced for several pieces of large cannon in it; the river is deep and only fordable at low water, at a musket shot before the fort. This made it more difficult to be forced on that side than on its other side of earthworks facing Beauport, which had a more formidable appearance; and the hornwork certainly on that side was not in the least danger of being taken by the English, by an assault from the other side of the river. On the appearance of the English troops on the plain of the bakehouse, Montguet and La Motte, two old captains in the Regiment of Bearn, cried out with vehemence to M. de Vaudreuil, “that the hornwork would be taken in an instant, by an assault, sword in hand; that we would be all cut to pieces without quarter, and that nothing else would save us but an immediate and general capitulation of Canada, giving it up to the English.”54
Montreuil told them that, “a fortification such as the hornwork was not to be taken so easily.” In short, there arose a general cry in the hornwork to cut the bridge of boats.15 It is worthy of remark, that not a fourth of our army had yet arrived at it, and the remainder, by cutting the bridge, would have been left on the other side of the river as victims to the victors. The regiment ‘Royal Roussillon’ was at that moment at the distance of a musket-shot from the hornwork, approaching to pass the bridges. As I had already been in such adventures, I did not lose my presence of mind, and having still a shadow remaining of that regard, which the army accorded me on account of the esteem and confidence which M. de Levis and M. de Montcalm had always shown me publicly, I called to M. Hugon, who commanded, for a pass in the hornwork, and begged of him to accompany me to the bridge. We ran there, and without asking who had given the order to cut it, we chased away the soldiers with their uplifted axes ready to execute that extravagant and wicked operation.
M. de Vaudreuil was closeted in a house in the inside of the hornwork with the Intendant and with some other persons. I suspected they were busy drafting the articles for a general capitulation, and I entered the house, where I had only time to see the Intendant with a pen I his hand writing upon a sheet of paper, when M. de Vaudreuil told me I had no business there. Having answered him that what he said was true, I retired immediately, in wrath, to see them intent on giving up so scandalously a dependency for the preservation of which so much blood and treasure had been expended. On leaving the house, I met M. Dalquier, an old, brave, downright honest man, commander of the regiment of Bearn, with the true character of a good officer — the marks of Mars all over his body. I 55 told him it was being debated within the house, to give up Canada to the English by a capitulation, and I hurried him in to stand up for the King’s cause, and advocate the welfare of his country. I then quitted the hornwork to join Poularies at the Ravine16 of Beauport; but having met him about three or four hundred paces from the hornwork, on his way to it, I told him what was being discussed there. He answered me, that sooner than consent to capitulation, he would shed the last drop of his blood. He told me to look on his table and house as my own, advised me to go there directly to repose myself, and clapping spurs to his horse, he flew like lightning to the hornwork.
As Poularies was an officer of great bravery, full of honour and of rare merit, I was then certain that he and Dalquier would break up the measures of designing men. Many motives induced me to act strenuously for the good of the service; amongst others, my gratitude for the Sovereign who had given me bread; also, my affection and inviolable friendship for M. de Levis in his absence, who was now Commander-in-Chief of the French armies in Canada by the death of M. de Montcalm. I continued sorrowfully jogging on to Beauport, with a very heavy heart for the loss of my dear friend, M. de Montcalm, sinking with weariness and lost in reflection upon the changes which Providence had brought about in the space of three or four hours.
Poularies came back to his lodgings at Beauport about two in the afternoon, and he brought me the agreeable news of having converted the project of a capitulation into a retreat to Jacques-Cartier, there to wait the arrival of M. de Levis; and they despatched a courier immediately to Montreal to inform him of our misfortune at Quebec, which, to all appearance, would not have happened to us if M. de Vaudreuil 56 had not sent him away, through some political reason, to command there, without troops except those who were with M. de Bourlamarque at L’Isle aux Noix — an officer of great knowledge. The departure of the army was agreed upon to be at night, and all the regiments were ordered to their respective encampments until further orders. The decision for a retreat was to be kept a secret, and not even communicated to the officers. I passed the afternoon with Poularies, hoping each moment to receive from Montreuil — Major-General of the army — the order of the retreat for the regiment Royal Roussillon; but having no word of it at eight o’clock in the evening, and it being a dark night, Poularies sent his Adjutant to M. de Vaudreuil to receive his orders for the left. Poularies instantly returned to inform him that the right of our army was gone away with M. de Vaudreuil without his having given any orders concerning the retreat, and that they followed the highway to the hornwork. Castaigné, his Adjutant, could give no further account of this famous retreat, only that all the troops on our right were marched off, It can be easily imagined how much we were confounded by this ignorant and stupid conduct, which can scarce appear credible to the most ignorant military man.
Poularies sent immediately to inform the post next to his regiment of the retreat, with orders to acquaint all the left of it, from post to post, between Beauport and the Sault de Montmorency.
I then set out with him and his regiment, following those before us as the other posts to our left followed us, without any other guides, orders or instructions with regard to the roads we should take, or where we should go to; this was left to chance, or at least was a secret which M. de Vaudreuil kept to himself in petto. It was a march entirely in the Indian manner; not a retreat, but a horrid, abominable flight, a thousand times worse than that in the morning upon 57 the heights of Abraham, with such disorder and confusion that, had the English known it, three hundred men sent after us would have been sufficient to destroy and cut all our army to pieces. Except the regiment Royal Roussillon, which Poularies, always a rigid and severe disciplinarian, kept together in order, there were not to be seen thirty soldiers together of any other regiment. They were all mixed, scattered, dispersed, and running as hard as they could, as if the English army was at their heels. There never was a more favourable position to make a beautiful, well-combined retreat, in bright day, and in sight of the English Army looking as us, without having the smallest reason to fear anything within their power to oppose it, as I had obtained a perfect knowledge of the locale from Beauport o the Sault de Montmorency during some months that I was there constantly with M. de Levis and M. de Montcalm. I thought myself in a position to foretell to Poularies the probable order of retreat, and the route which would be assigned to each regiment for their march to the Lorette village. I was greatly deceived, and indeed could never have foreseen the route which our entire army followed to reach Lorette, and which prolonged our march prodigiously for the centre of our army, and still more for our left at the Sault de Montmorency. There is a highway in a straight line from the Sault de Montmorency to Lorette, which makes a side of a triangle formed by another highway from the Sault to Quebec, and by another road from Lorette to the hornwork, which formed the base. In the highway from the Sault to the hornwork there are eight or nine cross roads of communication from it to the road from the Sault to Lorette, which are shorter as they approach to the point of the angle of the Sault. Thus it was natural to believe that our army, being encamped all along the road from the Sault to the hornwork, each regiment would have taken one of these cross roads, the nearest to his encampment, in order to take the straight road from the Sault to Lorette, 58 instead of coming to the hornwork to take there the road from Quebec to Lorette, by which the left had double the distance to march, besides being more liable by approaching the hornwork so near to the English, to make them discover the retreat.
The army, by this operation would have arrived all at the same time in the road from the Sault to Lorette by the difference in the length of these cross roads, and would have naturally formed a column all along that road; and as it was not a forced retreat, they had the time from twelve at noon until eight at night to send off all the baggage by cross roads to Lorette, without the English perceiving it; but supposing them even fully aware of our design, which might have been executed in open day, they no way could disturb our operations without attacking the hornwork, and attempting the passage of the River St. Charles — a very difficult and dangerous affair — where they might be easily repulsed, exposing themselves in a moment to lose the fruits of their victory, without enjoying it; and consequently they would have been insane had they ventured on such a rash enterprise. Instead of these wise measures, which common sense alone might have dictated, tents, artillery, the military stores, baggage, and all other effects, were left as a present to he English; the officers save only a few shirts, or what they could carry in their pockets: the rest was lost. In fact, it would appear, by this strange conduct, that a class of men there, from interested views, were furiously bent on giving up the colony to the English, so soon as they could have a plausible pretext to colour their designs, — by lopping off gradually all the means possible to defend it any longer. M. de Vaudreuil had still other kind offices in reserve for the English. He wrote to de Ramsay, King’s Lieutenant and Commander in Quebec,17 as soon as the retreat 59 was decided: — “That he might propose a capitulation for the town eight-and-forty hours after the departure of our army from our camp at Beauport, upon the best conditions he could obtain from the English.” We ran along in flight all night; and at daybreak M. de Bougainville, with his detachment, joined us near Cap Rouge. In the evening, our army arrived at Pointe-aux-Trembles — five leagues from Quebec — where it passed the night, and next day came to Jacques-Cartier. The English had so little suspicion of our retreat, seeing our tents standing without any change at our camp, that Belcour — an officer of La Rochebaucourt’s cavalry — having returned to it with a detachment, two days after our flight, he found everything he same as when we left it. He went into the hornwork with his detachment and fired the guns (pointed) at the heights of Abraham towards the English army, which greatly alarmed them.
[The remainder of the manuscript alludes more particularly to the campaign conducted by Chevalier de Levis, which ended, in 1760, by the capitulation of Montreal.]
Extract of the Register of Marriages, Baptisms and Deaths of the French Cathedral at Quebec, for 1759: —
“L’an mil sept cens cinquante-neuf, le quatorzième du mois de Septembre, a été inhumé dans l’Eglise des Religieuses Ursulines de Québec, haut et puissant Seigneur Louis Joseph Marquis de Montcalm, Lieutenant Général des armées du Roy, Commandeur de l’ordre Royal et militaire de St. Louis, Commandant en chef des troupes de terre en l’Amérique Septentrionale, décédé le même jour de ses blessures au combat de la veille, muni des sacrements qu’il a reçus avec beaucoup de piété et de Religion. Etoient présents à son inhumation MM. Resche, Cugnet et Collet, chanoines de la Cathédrale, M. de Ramezay, Commandant de la Place, et tout le corps des officiers.
“RESCHE, Ptre. Chan.
[English translation by S. Rhoads, M. D., and Bill Thayer : —
“The year seventeen hundred fifty nine, the fourteenth of the month of September, high and mighty Lord Louis Joseph Marquis de Montcalm, Lieutenant-General of the King's Armies, Commander of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, Commander-in-Chief of the land forces in North America, has been buried in the Church of the Ursuline Nuns of Quebec, deceased this same day from his wounds from the combat the day before, fortified with the sacraments that he received with much piety and Faith. Messrs. Resche, Cugnet and Collet, canons of the Cathedral, Mr. de Ramezay, Garrison Commander, and the entire body of the officers were present at his burial.
“RESCHE, Prt. Can.*
* Ptre., in French is the abbreviation for prêtre, a ‘priest.’ Chne., and, I assume, Chan., are both abbreviations for chanoine, a ‘canon.’ In the Catholic church, a canon can be a priest, or a lay member of the church. I do not know if this explains the difference in the different spellings of the abbreviations used here. It seems to me that Resche is both a priest and a canon, while Collett may be a lay canon. I asked Bill, who is bilingual in French and English (and who kindly fine-tuned my translation), and he knows nothing more about the issue either. Just as puzzled, he did say that the problem is illustrative of his own apt maxim:
“Moral: when dealing with canons, it's best not to go off half-cocked.”
I tend to agree with him — Elf.Ed.
1 Formerly, inward bound ships, instead of taking the south channel lower down than Goose Island, struck over from Cape Tourmente, and took the south channel between Madame Island and Pointe Argentenay.
2 General Abercrombie’s army consisted of 6,000 regular troops and 7,000 provincials, according to the English; but the French gave them out to be 6,300 troops, and 13,000 provincials — in all 19,300 men.
3 The French say the English lost between four and five thousand men.
4 Unfortunately, the plans here alluded to do not accompany the manuscript.
5 This contest is generally denominated the Battle of the Monongahela. Capt. Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu commanded the Canadians, and achieved a most brilliant victory over General Braddock and George Washington; the English losing their provisions, baggage, fifteen cannon, many small arms, the military chest, Braddock’s papers. Washington, after the battle, wrote: “We have been beaten, shamefully beaten, by a handful of French.” — (J. M. L[eMoine].)
6 De Vergor’s post apparently stood about a 100 yard to the east of the spot on which Wolfe’s Field-cottage has since been built. The ruins still exist. — J. M. L.)
7 De Vergor’s guard was composed chiefly of Militiamen from Lorette, who on that day had obtained leave to go and work on their farms, provided they also worked on a farm Captain De Vergor owned. — “Mémoires sur les Affaires de la Colonie de 1749-60.” Some historians have intimated that De Vergor — a protége of Bigot’s — was a traitor to his King. — (J. M. L.)
8 I incline more to General Wolfe’s opinion than what Voltaire reports in the war of 1781, to have been the King of Prussia’s maxim: — “That we ought always to do what the enemy is afraid of.” Where the enemy is afraid of anything in particular, he has there his largest force, and is there more on his guard than anywhere else. — (Manuscript Note.)
9 Bigot’s coterie. — (J. M. L.)
10 It was reported in Canada, that the ball which killed that great, good and honest man, was not fired by an English musket. But I never credited this.
11 Arnoux gave me this account of his last moments. — Manuscript Notes.
12 The place where Montcalm died appears yet shrouded in doubt. It is stated, in Knox’s Journal, that, on being wounded, Montcalm was conveyed to the General Hospital, towards which the French squadrons in retreat had to pass to regain, over the bridge of boats, their camp at Beauport. The General Hospital was also the head-quarters of the wounded — both English and French. It has been supposed that Arnoux’s house, where Montcalm was conveyed, stood in St. Louis street. No where does it appear that Montcalm was conveyed to his own residence on the ramparts (on which now stands the residence of R. H. Wurtele, Esquire). As the city surrendered five days after the great battle, it was likely to be bombarded — and, moreover, one-third of the houses in it had been burnt and destroyed — we do not see why the wounded General should have been conveyed from the battle-field to the Château St. Louis — certainly an exposed situation in the event of a new bombardment; and, moreover, the city itself, after and during the battle, was considered so insecure that the French army, instead of retreating to it for shelter, hurried past the General Hospital, over the bridge, to their camp at Beauport. There is a passage in Lieutenant-Colonel Beatson’s Notes on the Plains of Abraham, which we give: — “The valiant Frenchman (Montcalm), regardless of pain, relaxed not his efforts to rally his broken battalions in their hurried retreat towards the city until he was shot through the loins, when within a few hundred yards of St. Louis Gate.a And so invincible was his fortitude that not even the severity of this mortal stroke could abate his gallant spirit or alter his intrepid bearing. Supported by two grenadiers — one at each side of his horse — he re-entered the city; and in reply to some women, who, on seeing blood flow from his wounds as he rode down St. Louis street, on his way to the Château, exclaimed: Oh, mon Dieu! mon Dieu! Le Marquis est tué !!! he courteously assured them that he was not seriously hurt, and begged of them not to distress themselves on his account. — Ce n’est rien! ce n’est rien! Ne vous affligez pas pour moi, mes bonnes amies.”b
a M. Garneau, in his Histoire du Canada, says: — “The two Brigadier-Generals, M. de Senezergues and the Baron de St. Ours, fell mortally wounded; and Montcalm (who had already received two wounds), while exerting himself to the utmost to rally his troops and preserve order in the retreat, was also mortally wounded in the loins by a musket-ball. He was at that moment between Les Buttes-a-Neveu and St. Louis Gate.” From the city, on the one side, and from the battle-field, on the other, the ground rises until the two slopes meet and form a ridge; the summit of which was formerly occupied by a windmill belonging to a man named Neveu or Nepveu. About midway between this ridge and St. Louis Gate, and to the southward of the St. Louis Road, are some slight eminences, still known by the older French residents as Less Buttes-a-Nepveu or Neveu’s hillocks, and about three-quarters of a mile distant from the spot where the British line charged. — R. S. Beatson.
b For these particulars I am indebted to my friend Mr. G. B. Faribault — a gentleman well known in Canada for his researches into the history of the Colony; whose information on this subject was derived from his much respected fellow-citizen the Hon. John Malcolm Frazer — grandson of one of Wolfe’s officers, and now (1854) one of the oldest inhabitants of Quebec; where, in his childhood and youth, he had the facts, as above narrated, often described to him by an elderly woman who, when about eighteen years of age, was an eye-witness of the scene. — R. S. Beatson.
13 This bakehouse appears to have been some where at the foot of Abraham’s hill.
14 The excavations of these French works are very visible to this day behind Mr. G. H. Parke’s residence, Ringfield, Charlesbourg road. The hornwork appears to have covered about twelve acres of ground, surrounded by a ditch.
15 It crossed the St. Charles a little higher up than the Marine Hospital, at the foot of Crown street. — (J. M. L)
16 A small bridge supported on masonry has since been built at this spot, exactly across the main road at Brown’s mills. — (J. M. L)
17 The deliberations of the council of war, called at M. Daine’s, Mayor of Quebec, on the 15th September, 1759, published in de Ramsay’s Memoires, in 1861, by the Literary and Historical Society, have done an effective, though a tardy, justice to de Ramsay’s memory. — (J. M. L)