Life of George Washington

One of the first offices of the army was to collect and bury, in one common
tomb, the bones of their fellow-soldiers who had fallen in the battles of
Braddock and Grant. In this pious duty it is said every one joined, from
the general down to the private soldier; and some veterans assisted, with
heavy hearts and frequent ejaculations of poignant feeling, who had been
present in the scenes of defeat and carnage.

The ruins of the fortress were now put in a defensible state, and
garrisoned by two hundred men from Washington’s regiment; the name was
changed to that of Fort Pitt, in honor of the illustrious British minister,
whose measures had given vigor and effect to this year’s campaign; it has
since been modified into Pittsburg, and designates one of the most busy and
populous cities of the interior.

The reduction of Fort Duquesne terminated, as Washington had foreseen, the
troubles and dangers of the southern frontier. The French domination of the
Ohio was at an end; the Indians, as usual, paid homage to the conquering
power, and a treaty of peace was concluded with all the tribes between the
Ohio and the lakes.

With this campaign ended, for the present, the military career of
Washington. His great object was attained, the restoration of quiet and
security to his native province; and, having abandoned all hope of
attaining rank in the regular army, and his health being much impaired, he
gave up his commission at the close of the year, and retired from the
service, followed by the applause of his fellow-soldiers, and the gratitude
and admiration of all his countrymen.

His marriage with Mrs. Custis took place shortly after his return. It was
celebrated on the 6th of January, 1759, at the White House, the residence
of the bride, in the good old hospitable style of Virginia, amid a joyous
assemblage of relatives and friends.



Before following Washington into the retirement of domestic life, we think
it proper to notice the events which closed the great struggle between
England and France for empire in America. In that struggle he had first
become practised in arms, and schooled in the ways of the world; and its
results will be found connected with the history of his later years.

General Abercrombie had been superseded as commander-in-chief of the forces
in America by Major-general Amherst, who had gained great favor by the
reduction of Louisburg. According to the plan of operations for 1759,
General Wolfe, who had risen to fame by his gallant conduct in the same
affair, was to ascend the St. Lawrence in a fleet of ships of war, with
eight thousand men, as soon as the river should be free of ice, and lay
siege to Quebec, the capital of Canada. General Amherst, in the mean time,
was to advance, as Abercrombie had done, by Lake George, against
Ticonderoga and Crown Point; reduce those forts, cross Lake Champlain, push
on to the St. Lawrence, and co-operate with Wolfe.

A third expedition, under Brigadier-general Prideaux, aided by Sir William
Johnson and his Indian warriors, was to attack Fort Niagara, which
controlled the whole country of the Six Nations, and commanded the
navigation of the great lakes, and the intercourse between Canada and
Louisiana. Having reduced this fort, he was to traverse Lake Ontario,
descend the St. Lawrence, capture Montreal, and join his forces with those
of Amherst.

The last mentioned expedition was the first executed. General Prideaux
embarked at Oswego on the first of July, with a large body of troops,
regulars and provincials,–the latter partly from New York. He was
accompanied by Sir William Johnson, and his Indian braves of the Mohawk.
Landing at an inlet of Lake Ontario, within a few miles of Fort Niagara, he
advanced, without being opposed, and proceeded to invest it. The garrison,
six hundred strong, made a resolute defence. The siege was carried on by
regular approaches, but pressed with vigor. On the 20th of July, Prideaux,
in visiting his trenches, was killed by the bursting of a cohorn. Informed
by express of this misfortune, General Amherst detached from the main army
Brigadier-general Gage, the officer who had led Braddock’s advance, to take
the command.

In the mean time, the siege had been conducted by Sir William Johnson with
courage and sagacity. He was destitute of military science, but had a
natural aptness for warfare, especially for the rough kind carried on in
the wilderness. Being informed by his scouts that twelve hundred regular
troops, drawn from Detroit, Venango, and Presque Isle, and led by D’Aubry,
with a number of Indian auxiliaries, were hastening to the rescue, he
detached a force of grenadiers and light infantry, with some of his Mohawk
warriors, to intercept them. They came in sight of each other on the road,
between Niagara Falls and the fort, within the thundering sound of the one,
and the distant view of the other. Johnson’s “braves” advanced to have a
parley with the hostile redskins. The latter received them with a
war-whoop, and Frenchman and savage made an impetuous onset. Johnson’s
regulars and provincials stood their ground firmly, while his red warriors
fell on the flanks of the enemy. After a sharp conflict, the French were
broken, routed, and pursued through the woods, with great carnage. Among
the prisoners taken were seventeen officers. The next day Sir William
Johnson sent a trumpet, summoning the garrison to surrender, to spare the
effusion of blood, and prevent outrages by the Indians. They had no
alternative; were permitted to march out with the honors of war, and were
protected by Sir William from his Indian allies. Thus was secured the key
to the communication between Lakes Ontario and Erie, and to the vast
interior region connected with them. The blow alarmed the French for the
safety of Montreal, and De Levi, the second in command of their Canadian
forces, hastened up from before Quebec, and took post at the fort of
Oswegatchie (now Ogdensburg), to defend the passes of the St. Lawrence.

We now proceed to notice the expedition against Ticonderoga and Crown
Point. In the month of July, General Amherst embarked with nearly twelve
thousand men, at the upper part of Lake George, and proceeded down it, as
Abercrombie had done in the preceding year, in a vast fleet of whale-boats,
batteaux, and rafts, and all the glitter and parade of war. On the 22d, the
army debarked at the lower part of the lake, and advanced toward
Ticonderoga. After a slight skirmish with the advanced guard, they secured
the old post at the saw-mill.

Montcalm was no longer in the fort; he was absent for the protection of
Quebec. The garrison did not exceed four hundred men. Bourlamarque, a brave
officer, who commanded, at first seemed disposed to make defence; but,
against such overwhelming force, it would have been madness. Dismantling
the fortifications, therefore, he abandoned them, as he did likewise those
at Crown Point, and retreated down the lake, to assemble forces, and make a
stand at the Isle Aux Noix, for the protection of Montreal and the

Instead of following him up, and hastening to co-operate with Wolfe,
General Amherst proceeded to repair the works at Ticonderoga, and erect a
new fort at Crown Point, though neither were in present danger of being
attacked, nor would be of use if Canada were conquered. Amherst, however,
was one of those cautious men, who, in seeking to be sure, are apt to be
fatally slow. His delay enabled the enemy to rally their forces at Isle Aux
Noix, and call in Canadian reinforcements, while it deprived Wolfe of that
co-operation which, it will be shown, was most essential to the general
success of the campaign.

Wolfe, with his eight thousand men, ascended the St. Lawrence in the fleet,
in the month of June. With him came Brigadiers, Monckton, Townshend and
Murray, youthful and brave like himself, and like himself, already schooled
in arms. Monckton, it will be recollected, had signalized himself, when a
colonel, in the expedition in 1755, in which the French were driven from
Nova Scotia. The grenadiers of the army were commanded by Colonel Guy
Carleton, and part of the light infantry by Lieutenant-Colonel William
Howe, both destined to celebrity in after years, in the annals of the
American Revolution. Colonel Howe was brother of the gallant Lord Howe,
whose fall in the preceding year was so generally lamented. Among the
officers of the fleet, was Jervis, the future admiral, and ultimately Earl
St. Vincent; and the master of one of the ships, was James Cook, afterwards
renowned as a discoverer.

About the end of June, the troops debarked on the large, populous, and
well-cultivated Isle of Orleans, a little below Quebec, and encamped in its
fertile fields. Quebec, the citadel of Canada, was strong by nature. It was
built round the point of a rocky promontory, and flanked by precipices. The
crystal current of the St. Lawrence swept by it on the right, and the river
St. Charles flowed along on the left, before mingling with that mighty
stream. The place was tolerably fortified, but art had not yet rendered it,
as at the present day, impregnable.

Montcalm commanded the post. His troops were more numerous than the
assailants but the greater part were Canadians, many of them inhabitants of
Quebec; and he had a host of savages. His forces were drawn out along the
northern shore below the city, from the river St. Charles to the Falls of
Montmorency, and their position was secured by deep intrenchments.

The night after the debarkation of Wolfe’s troops a furious storm caused
great damage to the transports, and sank some of the small craft. While it
was still raging, a number of fire-ships, sent to destroy the fleet, came
driving down. They were boarded intrepidly by the British seamen, and towed
out of the way of doing harm. After much resistance, Wolfe established
batteries at the west point of the Isle of Orleans, and at Point Levi, on
the right (or south) bank of the St. Lawrence, within cannon range of the
city. Colonel Guy Carleton, commanded at the former battery; Brigadier
Monckton at the latter. From Point Levi bombshells and red-hot shot were
discharged; many houses were set on fire in the upper town, the lower town
was reduced to rubbish; the main fort, however, remained unharmed.

Anxious for a decisive action, Wolfe, on the 9th of July, crossed over in
boats from the Isle of Orleans, to the north bank of the St. Lawrence, and
encamped below the Montmorency. It was an ill-judged position, for there
was still that tumultuous stream, with its rocky banks, between him and the
camp of Montcalm; but the ground he had chosen was higher than that
occupied by the latter, and the Montmorency had a ford below the falls,
passable at low tide. Another ford was discovered, three miles within land,
but the banks were steep, and shagged with forest. At both fords the
vigilant Montcalm had thrown up breastworks, and posted troops.

On the 18th of July, Wolfe made a reconnoitring expedition up the river,
with two armed sloops, and two transports with troops. He passed Quebec
unharmed, and carefully noted the shores above it. Rugged cliffs rose
almost from the water’s edge. Above them, he was told, was an extent of
level ground, called the Plains of Abraham, by which the upper town might
be approached on its weakest side; but how was that plain to be attained,
when the cliffs, for the most part, were inaccessible, and every
practicable place fortified?

He returned to Montmorency disappointed, and resolved to attack Montcalm in
his camp, however difficult to be approached, and however strongly posted.
Townshend and Murray, with their brigades, were to cross the Montmorency at
low tide, below the falls, and storm the redoubt thrown up in front of the
ford. Monckton, at the same time, was to cross, with part of his brigade,
in boats from Point Levi. The ship Centurion, stationed in the channel, was
to check the fire of a battery which commanded the ford; a train of
artillery, planted on an eminence, was to enfilade the enemy’s
intrenchments; and two armed, flat-bottomed boats, were to be run on shore,
near the redoubt, and favor the crossing of the troops.

As usual, in complicated orders, part were misunderstood, or neglected, and
confusion was the consequence. Many of the boats from Point Levi ran
aground on a shallow in the river, where they were exposed to a severe fire
of shot and shells. Wolfe, who was on the shore, directing every thing,
endeavored to stop his impatient troops until the boats could be got
afloat, and the men landed. Thirteen companies of grenadiers, and two
hundred provincials were the first to land. Without waiting for Brigadier
Monckton and his regiments; without waiting for the co-operation of the
troops under Townshend; without waiting even to be drawn up in form, the
grenadiers rushed impetuously towards the enemy’s intrenchments. A sheeted
fire mowed them down, and drove them to take shelter behind the redoubt,
near the ford, which the enemy had abandoned. Here they remained, unable to
form under the galling fire to which they were exposed, whenever they
ventured from their covert. Monckton’s brigade at length was landed, drawn
up in order, and advanced to their relief, driving back the enemy. Thus
protected, the grenadiers retreated as precipitately as they had advanced,
leaving many of their comrades wounded on the field, who were massacred and
scalped in their sight, by the savages. The delay thus caused was fatal to
the enterprise. The day was advanced; the weather became stormy; the tide
began to make; at a later hour, retreat, in case of a second repulse, would
be impossible, Wolfe, therefore, gave up the attack, and withdrew across
the river, having lost upwards of four hundred men, through this headlong
impetuosity of the grenadiers. The two vessels which had been run aground,
were set on fire, lest they should fall into the hands of the enemy.
[Footnote: Wolfe’s Letter to Pitt, Sept. 2d, 1759.]

Brigadier Murray was now detached with twelve hundred men, in transports,
to ascend above the town, and co-operate with Rear-admiral Holmes, in
destroying the enemy’s shipping, and making descents upon the north shore.
The shipping were safe from attack; some stores and ammunition were
destroyed; some prisoners taken, and Murray returned with the news of the
capture of Fort Niagara, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point, and that Amherst was
preparing to attack the Isle Aux Noix.

Wolfe, of a delicate constitution and sensitive nature, had been deeply
mortified by the severe check sustained at the Falls of Montmorency,
fancying himself disgraced; and these successes of his fellow-commanders in
other parts increased his self-upbraiding. The difficulties multiplying
around him, and the delay of General Amherst in hastening to his aid,
preyed incessantly on his spirits; he was dejected even to despondency, and
declared he would never return without success, to be exposed, like other
unfortunate commanders, to the sneers and reproaches of the populace. The
agitation of his mind, and his acute sensibility, brought on a fever, which
for some time incapacitated him from taking the field.

In the midst of his illness he called a council of war, in which the whole
plan of operations was altered. It was determined to convey troops above
the town, and endeavor to make a diversion in that direction, or draw
Montcalm into the open field. Before carrying this plan into effect, Wolfe
again reconnoitred the town in company with Admiral Saunders, but nothing
better suggested itself.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 | View All | Next -»

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.