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surrender of Canada decided forever that the English, and not the French, were to rule in the New World.
1. Toward two o'clock the tide began to ebb, and a fresh wind blew down the river. Two lanterns were raised into the maintop shrouds of the "Sutherland." It was the appointed signal; the boats cast off and fell down with the current, those of the light infantry leading the way. The vessels with the rest of the troops had orders to follow a little later.
2. For full two hours the procession of boats, borne on the current, steered silently down the St. Lawrence. The stars were visible, but the night was moonless and sufficiently dark. The general was in one of the foremost boats, and near him was a young midshipman, John Robinson, afterward Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. He used to tell in his later life how Wolfe, with a low voice, repeated Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard to the officers about him. Probably it was to relieve the intense strain of his thoughts. Among the rest was the verse which his own fate was soon to illustrate
"The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
"Gentlemen," he said, as his recital ended, "I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec." None were there to tell him that the hero is greater than the poet.
3. As they neared their destination the tide bore them in toward the shore, and the mighty wall of rock and forest towered in darkness on their left. The dead stillness was suddenly broken by the sharp "Qui vive?" of a French sentry, invisible in the thick gloom. "France!" answered a Highland officer of Fraser's regiment, from one
of the boats of the light infantry. He had served in Holland, and spoke French fluently.
“ À quel régiment ? '
"De la Reine," replied the Highlander. He knew that a part of that corps was with Bougainville. The sentry, expecting the convoy of provisions, was satisfied, and did not ask for the password.
4. Soon after, the foremost boats were passing the heights of Samos, when another sentry challenged them, and they could see him through the darkness running down to the edge of the water, within range of a pistolshot. In answer to his questions, the same officer replied in French," Provision-boats. Don't make a noise, the English will hear us." In fact, the sloop-of-war “ Hunter” was anchored in the stream not far off. This time, again, the sentry let them pass. In a few moments they rounded the headland above the Anse du Foulon. There was no sentry there. The strong current swept the boats of the light infantry a little below the intended landing-place. They disembarked on a narrow strand at the foot of heights as steep as a hill covered with trees can be. The twenty-four volunteers led the way, climbing with what silence they might, closely followed by a much larger body. When they reached the top, they saw in the dim light a cluster of tents at a short distance, and immediately made a dash at them. Vergor leaped from bed and tried to run off, but was shot in the heel and captured. His men, taken by surprise, made little resistance. One or two were caught, and the rest fled.
5. The main body of troops waited in their boats by the edge of the strand. The heights near by were cleft by a great ravine choked with forest-trees; and in its depths ran a little brook which, swollen by the late rains, fell
plashing in the stillness over a rock. Other than this no sound could reach the strained ear of Wolfe but the gurgle of the tide and the cautious climbing of his advance parties as they mounted the steeps at some little distance from where he sat listening. At length from the top came a sound of musket-shots, followed by loud huzzas, and he knew that his men were masters of the position. The word was given; the troops leaped from the boats and scaled the heights, some here, some there, clutching at trees and bushes, their muskets slung at their backs. Tradition still points out the place, near the mouth of the ravine, where the foremost reached the top. Wolfe said to an officer near him, "You can try it, but I don't think you'll get up." He himself, however, found strength to drag himself up with the rest. The narrow, slanting path on the face of the heights had been made impassable by trenches and abatis, but all obstructions were soon cleared away, and then the ascent was easy. In the gray of the morning the long file of red-coated soldiers moved quickly upward, and formed in order on the plateau above.
6. Before many of them had reached the top, cannon was heard close on the left. It was the battery at Samos firing on the boats in the rear and the vessels descending from Cape Rouge. A party was sent to silence it; this was soon effected, and the more distant battery at Sillery was next attacked and taken. As fast as the boats were emptied they returned for the troops left on board the vessels, and for those waiting on the southern shore under Colonel Burton.
7. The day broke in clouds and threatening rain. Wolfe's battalions were drawn up along the crest of the heights. No enemy was in sight, though a body of Canadians had sallied from the town and moved along the
strand toward the landing-place, whence they were quickly driven back. He had achieved the most critical part of his enterprise, yet the success that he coveted placed him in imminent danger. On one side was the garrison of Quebec and the army of Beauport, and Bougainville was on the other. Wolfe's alternative was victory or ruin; for if he should be overwhelmed by a combined attack, retreat would be hopeless. His feelings no man can know, but it would be safe to say that hesitation or doubt had no place in them.
8. He went to reconnoiter the ground, and soon came to the Plains of Abraham, so called from Abraham Martin, a pilot known as Maitre Abraham, who had owned a piece of land here in the early times of the colony. The Plains were a tract of grass, tolerably level in most parts, patched here and there with corn-fields, studded with clumps of bushes, and forming a part of the high plateau at the eastern end of which Quebec stood. On the south it was bounded by the declivities along the St. Lawrence; on the north by those along the St. Charles, or rather along the meadows through which that lazy stream crawled like a writhing snake. At the place that Wolfe chose for his battle-field the plateau was less than a mile wide.
9. Thither the troops advanced, marched by files till they reached the ground, and then wheeled to form their line of battle, which stretched across the plateau and faced the city. It consisted of six battalions and the detached grenadiers from Louisbourg, all drawn up in ranks three deep. Its right wing was near the brink of the heights along the St. Lawrence, but the left could not reach those along the St. Charles. On this side a wide space was perforce left open, and there was danger of being outflanked. To prevent this, Brigadier Townshend was sta
tioned here with two battalions, drawn up at right angles with the rest, and fronting the St. Charles. The battalion of Webb's regiment, under Colonel Burton, formed the reserve; the third battalion of Royal Americans was left to guard the landing; and Howe's light infantry occupied a wood far in the rear. Wolfe, with Monckton and Murray, commanded the front line, on which the heavy fighting was to fall, and which, when all the troops had arrived, numbered less than thirty-five hundred men.
10. Quebec was not a mile distant, but they could not see it, for a ridge of broken ground intervened about six hundred paces off. The first division of troops had scarcely come up when, about six o'clock, this ridge was suddenly thronged with white uniforms. It was the battalion of Guienne, arrived at the eleventh hour from its camp by the St. Charles. Some time after there was hot firing in the rear. It came from a detachment of Bougainville's command attacking a house where some of the light infantry were posted. The assailants were repulsed and the firing ceased. Light showers fell at intervals, besprinkling the troops as they stood patiently waiting the event.
Qui vive?" (kee veev) (3) is a French expression meaning "Who goes there?" À quel régiment?” (ä kěl′ rā zhĩ mòng) (3), "To what regiment?" "De la Reine" (duh lä rân) (3), “The Queen's."
There is a lesson in each flower,
A story in each stream and bower,