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Arrival at Sorel. Voyage down the St. Lawrence. Morning View of Quebec. The Walls of Quebec.
French engineer named Sorel built a fort there as early as 1665, and the present town occupies its site. Our boat tarried there an hour for passengers and freight, but it grew too dark to see much of the town. A motley group crowded the narrow wharf, and when we left, the forward deck was covered with cabbages, leeks, and onions for the Quebec market, which afforded perfume gratuitously for the whole boat.
Sorel was a place of considerable importance at the time of our Revolution. Standing at the mouth of a navigable river, and at the narrowest part of the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec, its possession was important to both belligerents. When the Americans approached Canada in 1775, Colonel M'Lean, with a Scotch regiment of Royal Highlanders, went up from Quebec and took station there. When Carleton left Montreal to reenforce the garrison at St. John's, M'Lean was to join him near Longueuil; but the unexpected repulse of the former by the Green Mountain Boys, and the spreading of American detachments over the country east of the St. Lawrence, between it and the Richelieu, so alarmed M-Lean, that he not only fell back precipitately to Sorel, but abandoned that post to Col. onel Easton, and retired to Quebec. At Sorel, Colonel Easton did good service a few weeks later, when, with floating batteries and cannon on shore, he disputed the passage of the British fleet retreating from Montreal, and captured the whole flotilla, with General Prescott.
Leaving Sorel, we passed several islands, and then entered Lake St. Peter's, an expansion of the St. Lawrence about twenty-five miles long, and having an average width of nine miles. A half moon dimly lighted the sluggish waters, and defined an outline of the huge serpent of smoke which our vessel left trailing behind. The shores disappeared in the night shadows, and one after another of the passengers retired to bed, until the promenade deck was deserted, except by two young ladies, whose sweet voices charmed us for an hour with “Dearest May” and kindred melodies. It was near midnight when the nightingales ceased their warbling, and I sought the repose of my state-room.
Three Rivers, St. Anne's, the Richelieu Rapids, Cape Rouge, Chaudière, Sillery Cove, and New Liverpool were all passed during our slumbers, but we were upon the deck in the morning in time to catch the first glimpse of Quebec in the distance. A forest of masts, above which loomed Cape Diamond crowned with the gray citadel and its threatening ordnance, were the first objects in view. But as our vessel made a graceful sweep toward Point Levi, and “rounded to” at the Queen's Wharf, I think I never saw a more picturesque scene. It was just at sunrise, and the morning was cloudless. As the orb of day came up from the eastern hills, the city, spread out upon the steep acclivities and along the St. Charles, reflected back its bright rays from a thousand windows, and roofs of polished tin. All was a-glow with luster, except the dark walls and the shipping, and for the moment the creations of Aladdin's Lamp seemed before us. The enchantment was soon over, and was succeeded by the sober prose of travel, as we passed slowly to the upper town along the narrow and crooked Mountain Street, through Prescott Gate, closely jammed in a pigmy coach. We found comfortable quarters at the - Albion, on Palace Street, one of the most respectable English hotels in the upper city. After breakfast we ordered a barouche, to visit the Falls of Montmorenci, the Plains of Abraham, and other places of note, and obtained a permit from the commandant to enter the citadel. Before making the interesting tour, let us turn to a map of the city, trace out its walls and gates and general topography, and consult the chronicle of its history; then we shall view its ce. lebrities understandingly.
Explanation of THE DIAGRAM.–A is the St. Charles River; B, the St. Lawrence; a is Palace Gate; o, Gate St. John's; c, Gate St. Louis; d, Governor's Garden, wherein is a stone monument in memory of Wolfe and Montcalm; e, the portion of Cape Diamond at the foot of which Montgomery was killed; f, the grand battery; g, Prescott Gate; h, Hope Gate; o is a bold point of rock in the Sault-au-Matelot, where Arnold was wounded. The walls here given, with the citadel, inclose the upper town.
Situation of Quebec. Early Settlements and Growth. French Operations in America. Approach of Wolfe to Quebec.
Quebec is situated upon and around a lofty promontory at the confluence of the St. Law. rence and the St. Charles Rivers, and is so strongly guarded against intruders, by steep acclivities on nearly three sides, that it has been aptly named the “Gibraltar of America.” Art has added strength to these natural defenses, and, except on the rear, it is absolutely impregnable to any known implements of war. Before it spreads out a magnificent basin, where a hundred ships of the line might ride at anchor; and around it, as far as the eye can reach, industry has planted a beautiful garden. The plains of the St. Charles, the towering Cap Tourment, the Falls of Montmorenci and of the Chaudière, the lovely Island of Orleans, and the pleasant slopes of Point Levi, unite, with the city itself, to make up a cluster of attractions with which those of few places on earth can vie. July, The foundation of the city was laid two hundred and forty years ago, by Samuel * Champlain, and yet it is just upon the margin of the primeval forest, which extends from a narrow selvage of civilization along the St. Lawrence to the Arctic regions. When Champlain, with great parade, laid the foundation stone of the future city, Old Hochelaga (now Montreal), discovered by Cartier more than a hundred years before, was blotted from existence, and but a few whites were planting corn and sowing wheat where the Indian gardens had flourished. Religion and commerce joined hands, and the new city soon became the capital of French dominion in America. From it missionaries and traders went westward to obtain peltry and furs, make geographical discoveries, and convert the heathen, and in a few years the French language was heard in the deep forests that skirted the vast lakes, from the Thousand Islands at the foot of Ontario to the broad waters of the Huron. Immigration steadily augmented the population, churches and convents were erected," and the bastioned walls of old Fort St. Louis, mounted with cannon, were piled around the temples of the Prince of Peace at Quebec; for the treacherous Algonquin, the wily Iroquois, and the bloody Huron, though mutual enemies, coalesced in jealousy of the French and a desire to crush their rising strength. As the colony increased in power, and, through its missionaries, in influence over the Indian tribes, the more southern English colonies became jealous, and a deep-seated animosity between them prevailed for a generation. At length the two governments quarreled, and their respective colonies gladly espoused each the cause of the parent state. To guard the St. Lawrence, the French built a strong fortress upon the Island of Cape Breton, and also began a cordon of forts along the lakes and the Ohio and Mississippi. Frontenac, Oswego, Niagara, Duquesne, and Detroit arose along the frontier. Fleets and armies came from the Old World; the colonists armed and formed strong battalions; the savage tribes were feasted, and bribed, and affiliated with European warriors, and wilderness America became a battle arena. In a little while the different fortresses changed masters; Louisburgh, the strong-hold of French military power in America, fell before the skill and bravery of Amherst and Wolfe; and at the beginning of 1759 Quebec was the only place of considerable importance in possession of the French.
We have considered, in a preceding chapter, the success of Amherst and Wolfe in the capture of Louisburgh, and the high reputation which that event gave them. Pitt, relying upon the skill and bravery of these two commanders, resolved, if possible, to conquer all Canada in a single campaign, intrusting the chief command to Amherst. That general, with a large force, attempted to join Wolfe at Quebec, by sweeping Lake Champlain and capturing Montreal; he was unsuccessful, and Wolfe alone had the glory of the siege of Quebec.
Wolfe embarked eight thousand troops at Louisburgh, under convoy of a fleet of twentytwo ships of the line, and an equal number of frigates and smaller armed vessels, commanded by Admirals Saunders and Holmes. He landed his army safely near the Church of St. LauJune 27, rent, upon the Island of Orleans, a few miles below Quebec, where, under the direc
17% tion of Sir Guy Carleton (afterward governor of Canada), batteries were erected.
* These were placed upon the most accessible portions of the promontory, and near them the rude buildings of the people were erected. To these circumstances Mr. Hawkins, author of a capital “Guide to Quebec,” ascribes the present irregular course of the streets.
Position of Montcalm's Army. British Possession of Orleans and Point Levi. Land near Montmorenc'.
The brave and accomplished Montcalm, with an army of thirteen thousand men, six battalions of which were regulars, and the others Canadians and Indians, occupied the city with a garrison, and a strongly intrenched camp upon the heights of Beaufort, extending from the St. Charles to the River Montmorenci. The center of the camp and Montcalm's
headquarters were at Beaufort. The whole front was intrenched and well defended from the English cannon. Beyond the right wing a bridge was thrown across the St. Charles, and strongly protected, to keep up a communication with the city. There were also two batteries for its defense, placed upon hulks sunk in the channel. Wolfe sent General Monkton to take possession of Point Levi, opposite Quebec. He landed at Beaumont, and marched up to the point with little opposition, where he erected batteries, from which the shots dealt destruction upon the lower town lying upon the St. Charles, but had no effect upon the walls of the city. Finding efforts from that point unavailing, Wolfe, with his division on Orleans, crossed the north channel of the St. Lawrence, and encamped near the left bank of the Montmorenci, within cannonshot of the left wing of the enemy on the other side of the river. He met with fierce opposition, but succeeded in maintaining his ground and erecting two batteries there. Still, Quebec was too distant to be affected by any of his works, and he resolved upon the bold measure of storming the strong camp of the enemy. On the last day of July the troops at Point Levi, and a large number of grenadiers under General Monkton, crossed the St. Lawrence in the boats of the fleet, and landed a little above the Montmorenci. At the same time those below Montmorenci, under Generals Townshend and Murray, crossed that stream by fording it near its mouth, at low water, and joined the other division upon the beach. The enemy at once made arrangements to receive them. The right of the French was
* This sketch is taken from Durham Terrace, near the north wall of the Castle Garden. In the foreground are the tops of the houses below in Champlain, Notre Dame, and St. Peter's Streets, and in the distance, across the St. Lawrence, is seen Point Levi, with its pretty little village, its church and wharves. On the extreme left, in the distance, is the upper end of the Island of Orleans, which divides the channel. The point seen is the place where Wolfe erected batteries.
Junction of the English Division. Severe Battle, Wolfe disheartened. Camp broken up. Wolfe’s cove.
under Baron de St. Ours, the center under De Senezergues, and the left under M. Herbin. The garrison in the city was commanded by M. de Ramezay. It was nearly night when the English divisions joined, and heavy thunder-clouds were rolling up from the west. The grenadiers, impatient of restraint, rushed madly upon the enemy's works, before the other troops that were to sustain them had time to form. Consequently they were driven back to the beach with a severe loss, and sought shelter behind a redoubt which had been abandoned by the enemy. The French kept up a galling fire, till the gathering tempest burst with great fury upon the belligerents. Night closed in while the storm was yet raging. The tide came roaring up against the current of the St. Lawrence with uncommon strength, and the British were obliged to retreat to their camp across the Montmorenci, to avoid submersion on the beach by the foaming waters. The loss of the English in that unfortunate attempt was one hundred and eighty killed and six hundred and fifty wounded. Wolfe was greatly dispirited by this event, for he was very sensitive to censure, and that he expected for this miscarriage. The emotions of his mind, co-operating with fatigue of body upon his delicate constitution, brought on a fever and dysentery, that nearly proved fatal. It was nearly a month before he was able to resume the command. When sufficiently recovered to write, he drew up a letter to Pitt, in which, after detailing the events, referring to his illness, and frankly confessing that he had called a council of war, he said, “I found myself so ill, and am still so weak, that I begged the general officers to consult together for the general safety. . . . . . . We have almost the whole force of Canada to oppose us. In this situation there is such a choice of difficulties, that I own myself at a loss how to determine. The affairs of Great Britain require the most vigorous measures; but then the courage of a handful of brave men should be exerted only where there is some hope of a favorable event.” When this letter reached England, it excited consternation and anger." Pitt feared that he had mistaken his favorite general, and that the next news would be that he had either been destroyed or had capitulated. But in the conclusion of his melancholy epistle Wolfe had said he would do his best; and that best turned out a miracle of war. He declared that he would rather die than be brought to a court-martial for miscarrying, and, in conjunction with Admiral Saunders, he concerted a plan for scaling the Heights of Abraham, and gaining possession of the elevated plateau at the back of Quebec, on the side where the fortifications were the weakest, as the French engineers had trusted to the precipices and the river beneath.” The camp at Montmorenci was broken up, and the artillery and troops were conveyed across to Point Levi, whence they were taken some distance up the river by a portion of the fleet under Holmes, while Saunders, with the rest of the fleet, remained behind to make a feigned attack upon the intrenchments at Beauport. Montcalm, unable to comprehend these movements, remained in his camp, while Bourgainville was stationed a little above the Plains of Abraham, to watch the operations of the division of the English fleet that sailed up the river. At night the troops were all embarked in flat-boats, and proceeded up the river with the tide. Bourgainville saw them, and marched up the shore to prevent their landing. It was starlight, yet so cautiously did the boats, with muffled oars, move down the river toward daylight, with ebb tide, that they were unperceived by the French detachment, and landed safely in a cove below Sillery, now called Wolfe's Cove. The first division was commanded by Lieutenant-colonel (afterward General) Sir William Howe, and were all on shore at dawn. The light infantry scrambled up the woody precipice, and dispersed a French guard under Captain de Verjer,” while the rest of the army clambered up a winding and steep ravine.
* The news of the failure of Wolfe at Montmorenci reached England on the morning of the 16th of October, and was published in an extra Gazette of that date. The same evening Captain Hale arrived and brought the news of the triumph upon the Plains of Abraham. The general grief was suddenly changed into great joy, and a day for public thanksgiving was set apart by the old king.
* Pictorial History of England, iv., 609.
* The French guard, who could not comprehend the noise below them, fired down the precipice at ran
Ascent of the English to the Plains of Abraham. The Battle-ground. Preparations for Battle. Wolfe's Ravine.
The second division, under General Townshend, landed in good order, and before sunrise five thousand British troops were drawn up in battle array upon the Plains of Abraham, three hundred feet above the St. Lawrence. The appearance of the English troops upon the heights was the first intimation Montcalm had of the real intentions of his enemy. He at once saw the imminent danger to which the city and garrison were exposed, and immediately marched his whole army across the St. Charles to attack the English. He brought his troops into battle line about ten o'clock in the morning. He had two field pieces; the English but one, a light six pounder, which some sailors succeeded in dragging up the ravine at about eight o'clock in the morning. I am indebted to Alfred Hawkins, Esq., of Quebec, for the following account of the position of the two armies, and the present localities identified therewith : “The battle-ground presents almost a level surface from the brink of the St. Lawrence to the St. Foy Road. The Grand Allée, or road to Cape Rouge, running parallel to that of St. Foy, passes through its center. That road was commanded by a field redoubt, a four-gun battery on the English left, which was captured by the light infantry. The remains of this battery are distinctly seen near the present race-stand. There were also two other redoubts, one upon the rising ground in the rear of Mr. C. Campbell's house—the scene of Wolfe's death —and the other toward the St. Foy Road, which it was intended to command. On the site of the country seat called Marchmont, at present the residence of Major-general Sir James Hope, K.C.B., there was also a small redoubt commanding the intrenched path leading to the cove. This was taken possession of by the advanced guard of the light infantry immediately on ascending the height. At the time of the battle the plains were without fences or inclosures, and extended to the walls on the St. Louis side. The surface was dotted over with bushes, and the roads on either side were more dense than at present, affording shelter to the French and Indian marksmen. “In order to understand the relative position of the two armies, if a line be drawn to the St. Lawrence from the General Hospital, it will give nearly the front of the French army at ten o'clock, after Montcalm had deployed into line. His right reached beyond the St. Foy Road, where he made dispositions to turn the left of the English. Another parallel line, somewhat in advance of Mr. C. G. Stewart's house on the St. Foy Road, will give the front of the British army before Wolfe charged at the head of the grenadiers of the twenty-second, fortieth, and forty-fifth regiments, who had acquired the honorable title of the Louisburgh Grenadiers, from having been distinguished at the capture of that place, under his own command, in 1758. To meet the attempt of Montcalm to turn the British left, General Townshend formed the fifteenth regiment en potence, or representing a double front. The light infantry were in the rear of the left, and the reserve was placed near the right, formed in eight subdivisions, a good distance apart.” Wolfe placed himself on the right, at the head of the twenty-eighth regiment of Louisburgh Grenadiers, who were burning with a desire to avenge their defeat at the Montmorenci. The English had waited four hours for the approach of the French, and were fully
September 13, 1759.
dom, and so the British fired up. They all fled but the captain, who was wounded and taken prisoner. It is said the poor fellow begged the British officer to sign a certificate of his courage and fidelity, lest he should be punished for accepting a bribe, in the belief that Wolfe's bold enterprise would be deemed impossible without corruption. * This scene is about half way up the ravine from Wolfe's Cove, looking down the road, which is a steep and winding way from the river to the summit of the Plains of Abraham. It is a cool, shaded nook—a delightful retreat from the din and dust of the city in summer.