Life of George Washington

The brief Canadian summer was over; they were in the month of September.
The camp at Montmorency was broken up. The troops were transported to Point
Levi, leaving a sufficient number to man the batteries on the Isle of
Orleans. On the fifth and sixth of September the embarkation took place
above Point Levi, in transports which had been sent up for the purpose.
Montcalm detached De Bougainville with fifteen hundred men to keep along
the north shore above the town, watch the movements of the squadron, and
prevent a landing. To deceive him, Admiral Holmes moved with the ships of
war three leagues beyond the place where the landing was to be attempted.
He was to drop down, however, in the night, and protect the landing. Cook,
the future discoverer, also, was employed with others to sound the river
and place buoys opposite the camp of Montcalm, as if an attack were
meditated in that quarter.

Wolfe was still suffering under the effects of his late fever. “My
constitution,” writes he to a friend, “is entirely ruined, without the
consolation of having done any considerable service to the state, and
without any prospect of it.” Still he was unremitting in his exertions,
seeking to wipe out the fancied disgrace incurred at the Falls of
Montmorency. It was in this mood he is said to have composed and sung at
his evening mess that little campaigning song still linked with his name:

Why, soldiers, why
Should we be melancholy, boys?
Why, soldiers, why?
Whose business ’tis to die!

Even when embarked in his midnight enterprise, the presentiment of death
seems to have cast its shadow over him. A midshipman who was present,
[Footnote: Afterwards Professor John Robison, of Edinburgh.] used to
relate, that as Wolfe sat among his officers, and the boats floated down
silently with the current, he recited, in low and touching tones, Gray’s
Elegy in a country churchyard, then just published. One stanza may
especially have accorded with his melancholy mood.

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

“Now, gentlemen,” said he, when he had finished, “I would rather be the
author of that poem than take Quebec.”

The descent was made in flat-bottomed boats, past midnight, on the 13th of
September. They dropped down silently with the swift current. “_Qui va
la?_” (who goes there?) cried a sentinel from the shore. “_La
France_,” replied a captain in the first boat, who understood the French
language. “_A quel regiment?_” was the demand. “_De la Reine_”
(the queen’s), replied the captain, knowing that regiment was in De
Bougainville’s detachment. Fortunately, a convoy of provisions was expected
down from De Bougainville’s, which the sentinel supposed this to be.
“_Passe_,” cried he, and the boats glided on without further
challenge. The landing took place in a cove near Cape Diamond, which still
bears Wolfe’s name. He had marked it in reconnoitering, and saw that a
cragged path straggled up from it to the Heights of Abraham, which might be
climbed, though with difficulty, and that it appeared to be slightly
guarded at top. Wolfe was among the first that landed and ascended up the
steep and narrow path, where not more than two could go abreast, and which
had been broken up by cross ditches. Colonel Howe, at the same time, with
the light infantry and Highlanders, scrambled up the woody precipices,
helping themselves by the roots and branches, and putting to flight a
sergeant’s guard posted at the summit. Wolfe drew up the men in order as
they mounted; and by the break of day found himself in possession of the
fateful Plains of Abraham.

Montcalm was thunderstruck when word was brought to him in his camp that
the English were on the heights threatening the weakest part of the town.
Abandoning his intrenchments, he hastened across the river St. Charles and
ascended the heights, which slope up gradually from its banks. His force
was equal in number to that of the English, but a great part was made up of
colony troops and savages. When he saw the formidable host of regulars he
had to contend with, he sent off swift messengers to summon De Bougainville
with his detachment to his aid; and De Vaudreuil to reinforce him, with
fifteen hundred men from the camp. In the mean time he prepared to flank
the left of the English line and force them to the opposite precipices.
Wolfe saw his aim, and sent Brigadier Townshend to counteract him with a
regiment which was formed _en potence_, and supported by two
battalions, presenting on the left a double front.

The French, in their haste, thinking they were to repel a mere scouting
party, had brought but three light field-pieces with them; the English had
but a single gun, which the sailors had dragged up the heights. With these
they cannonaded each other for a time, Montcalm still waiting for the aid
he had summoned. At length, about nine o’clock, losing all patience, he led
on his disciplined troops to a close conflict with small arms, the Indians
to support them by a galling fire from thickets and corn-fields. The French
advanced gallantly, but irregularly; firing rapidly, but with little
effect. The English reserved their fire until their assailants were within
forty yards, and then delivered it in deadly volleys. They suffered,
however, from the lurking savages, who singled out the officers. Wolfe, who
was in front of the line, a conspicuous mark, was wounded by a ball in the
wrist. He bound his handkerchief round the wound and led on the grenadiers,
with fixed bayonets, to charge the foe, who began to waver. Another ball
struck him in the breast. He felt the wound to be mortal, and feared his
fall might dishearten the troops. Leaning on a lieutenant for support; “Let
not my brave fellows see me drop,” said he faintly. He was borne off to the
rear; water was brought to quench his thirst, and he was asked if he would
have a surgeon. “It is needless,” he replied; “it is all over with me.” He
desired those about him to lay him down. The lieutenant seated himself on
the ground, and supported him in his arms. “They run! they run! see how
they run!” cried one of the attendants. “Who run?” demanded Wolfe,
earnestly, like one aroused from sleep. “The enemy, sir; they give way
every where.” The spirit of the expiring hero flashed up. “Go, one of you,
my lads, to Colonel Burton; tell him to march Webb’s regiment with all
speed down to Charles’ River, to cut off the retreat by the bridge.” Then
turning on his side; “Now, God be praised, I will die in peace!” said he,
and expired, [Footnote: Hist. Jour. of Capt. John Knox, vol. i., p.
79.]–soothed in his last moments by the idea that victory would obliterate
the imagined disgrace at Montmorency.

Brigadier Murray had indeed broken the centre of the enemy, and the
Highlanders were making deadly havoc with their claymores, driving the
French into the town or down to their works on the river St. Charles.
Monckton, the first brigadier, was disabled by a wound in the lungs, and
the command devolved on Townshend, who hastened to re-form the troops of
the centre, disordered in pursuing the enemy. By this time De Bougainville
appeared at a distance in the rear, advancing with two thousand fresh
troops, but he arrived too late to retrieve the day. The gallant Montcalm
had received his death-wound near St. John’s Gate, while endeavoring to
rally his flying troops, and had been borne into the town.

Townshend advanced with a force to receive De Bougainville; but the latter
avoided a combat, and retired into woods and swamps, where it was not
thought prudent to follow him. The English had obtained a complete victory;
slain about five hundred of the enemy; taken above a thousand prisoners,
and among them several officers; and had a strong position on the Plains of
Abraham, which they hastened to fortify with redoubts and artillery, drawn
up the heights.

The brave Montcalm wrote a letter to General Townshend, recommending the
prisoners to British humanity. When told by his surgeon that he could not
survive above a few hours; “So much the better,” replied he; “I shall not
live to see the surrender of Quebec.” To De Ramsey, the French king’s
lieutenant, who commanded the garrison, he consigned the defence of the
city. “To your keeping,” said he, “I commend the honor of France. I’ll
neither give orders, nor interfere any further. I have business to attend
to of greater moment than your ruined garrison, and this wretched country.
My time is short,–I shall pass this night with God, and prepare myself for
death. I wish you all comfort; and to be happily extricated from your
present perplexities.” He then called for his chaplain, who, with the
bishop of the colony, remained with him through the night. He expired early
in the morning, dying like a brave soldier and a devout Catholic. Never did
two worthier foes mingle their life blood on the battle-field than Wolfe
and Montcalm. [Footnote: Knox; Hist. Jour., vol. i., p. 77.]

Preparations were now made by the army and the fleet to make an attack on
both upper and lower town; but the spirit of the garrison was broken, and
the inhabitants were clamorous for the safety of their wives and children.
On the 17th of September, Quebec capitulated, and was taken possession of
by the British, who hastened to put it in a complete posture of defence. A
garrison of six thousand effective men was placed in it, under the command
of Brigadier-general Murray, and victualled from the fleet. General
Townshend embarked with Admiral Saunders, and returned to England; and the
wounded General Monckton was conveyed to New York, of which he afterwards
became governor.

Had Amherst followed up his success at Ticonderoga the preceding summer,
the year’s campaign would have ended, as had been projected, in the
subjugation of Canada. His cautious delay gave De Levi, the successor of
Montcalm, time to rally, concentrate the scattered French forces, and
struggle for the salvation of the province.

In the following spring, as soon as the river St. Lawrence opened, he
approached Quebec, and landed at Point an Tremble, about twelve miles off.
The garrison had suffered dreadfully during the winter from excessive cold;
want of vegetables and of fresh provisions. Many had died of scurvy, and
many more were ill. Murray, sanguine and injudicious, on hearing that De
Levi was advancing with ten thousand men, and five hundred Indians, sallied
out with his diminished forces of not more than three thousand. English
soldiers, he boasted, were habituated to victory; he had a fine train of
artillery, and stood a better chance in the field than cooped up in a
wretched fortification. If defeated, he would defend the place to the last
extremity, and then retreat to the Isle of Orleans, and wait for
reinforcements. More brave than discreet, he attacked the vanguard of the
enemy; the battle which took place was fierce and sanguinary. Murray’s
troops had caught his own headlong valor, and fought until near a third of
their number were slain. They were at length driven back into the town,
leaving their boasted train of artillery on the field.

De Levi opened trenches before the town the very evening of the battle.
Three French ships, which had descended the river, furnished him with
cannon, mortars, and ammunition. By the 11th of May, he had one bomb
battery, and three batteries of cannon. Murray, equally alert within the
walls, strengthened his defences, and kept up a vigorous fire. His garrison
was now reduced to two hundred and twenty effective men, and he himself,
with all his vaunting spirit, was driven almost to despair, when a British
fleet arrived in the river. The whole scene was now reversed. One of the
French frigates was driven on the rocks above Cape Diamond; another ran on
shore, and was burnt; the rest of their vessels were either taken, or
destroyed. The besieging army retreated in the night, leaving provisions,
implements, and artillery behind them; and so rapid was their flight, that
Murray, who sallied forth on the following day, could not overtake them.

A last stand for the preservation of the colony was now made by the French
at Montreal, where De Vaudreuil fixed his headquarters, fortified himself,
and called in all possible aid, Canadian and Indian.

The cautious, but tardy Amherst was now in the field to carry out the plan
in which he had fallen short in the previous year. He sent orders to
General Murray to advance by water against Montreal, with all the force
that could be spared from Quebec; he detached a body of troops under
Colonel Haviland from Crown Point, to cross Lake Champlain, take possession
of the Isle Aux Noix, and push on to the St. Lawrence, while he took the
roundabout way with his main army by the Mohawk and Oneida rivers to Lake
Ontario; thence to descend the St. Lawrence to Montreal.

Murray, according to orders, embarked his troops in a great number of small
vessels, and ascended the river in characteristic style, publishing
manifestoes in the Canadian villages, disarming the inhabitants, and
exacting the oath of neutrality. He looked forward to new laurels at
Montreal, but the slow and sure Amherst had anticipated him. That worthy
general, after delaying on Lake Ontario to send out cruisers, and stopping
to repair petty forts on the upper part of the St. Lawrence, which had been
deserted by their garrisons, or surrendered without firing a gun, arrived
on the 6th of September at the island of Montreal, routed some light
skirmishing parties, and presented himself before the town. Vaudreuil found
himself threatened by an army of nearly ten thousand men, and a host of
Indians; for Amherst had called in the aid of Sir William Johnson, and his
Mohawk braves. To withstand a siege in an almost open town against such
superior force, was out of the question; especially as Murray from Quebec,
and Haviland from Crown Point, were at hand with additional troops. A
capitulation accordingly took place on the 8th of September, including the
surrender not merely of Montreal, but of all Canada.

Thus ended the contest between France and England for dominion in America,
in which, as has been said, the first gun was fired in Washington’s
encounter with De Jumonville. A French statesman and diplomatist consoled
himself by the persuasion that it would be a fatal triumph to England. It
would remove the only check by which her colonies were kept in awe. “They
will no longer need her protection,” said he; “she will call on them to
contribute toward supporting the burdens they have helped to bring on her,
and _they will answer by striking off_ all _dependence_.”
[Footnote: Count de Vergennes, French ambassador at Constantinople.]



For three months after his marriage, Washington resided with his bride at
the “White House.” During his sojourn there, he repaired to Williamsburg,
to take his seat in the House of Burgesses. By a vote of the House, it had
been determined to greet his instalment by a signal testimonial of respect.
Accordingly, as soon as he took his seat, Mr. Robinson, the Speaker, in
eloquent language, dictated by the warmth of private friendship, returned
thanks, on behalf of the colony, for the distinguished military services he
had rendered to his country.

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