Quebec Battlefields

THE CANADIAN PRESS patriotically gave the “Appeal to History” a circulation of 3,000,000, by reprinting it verbatim from the King’s Printer’s advance edition of moo copies in each language, published on Montcalm’s birthday, the 29th of February. During March all the questions, misunderstandings and suggestions which came to light in any part of the French- or English-speaking world were carefully considered ; and the Head-quarters Committee now submit the General Appeal to the public in its revised, enlarged and final form.

The Committee can reassure the Public on a most important point. The additions to the political and military sources of original informa tion on the Seven Years’ War, and the introduction of complete naval documents for the first time, have naturally invalidated every account of Wolfe’s Siege of Quebec written before the present century.

But, most fortunately, the effect of all this original research is to heighten the glory of the four military chiefs—Montcalm, Lévis, Wolfe and Murray—even though the overwhelming influence of Sea Power on the issue of the war in general is now brought home to the Quebec campaigns in particular. And, as the collection of all the original evidence is now practically complete, it is safe to say that the good name of the soldiers and sailors engaged, and of the different peoples they represented to such advantage, is secure for ever, and that, no matter what probing question may be raised, the answer of history will always be—there is nothing to fear from the truth.

THE QUEBEC BATTLEFIELDS, 1690-1775 AN APPEAL TO HISTORY

THE Plains of Abraham stand alone among the world’s immortal battlefields, as the place where an empire was lost and won in the first clash of arms, the balance of victory was redressed in the second, and the honour of each army’ was heightened in both.

Famous as they are, however, the Plains are not the only battlefield at Quebec, nor even the only one that is a source of pride to the French- and English-speaking peoples. In less than a century Americans, British, French and French-Canadians took part in four sieges and five battles. There were decisive actions ; but the losing side was never disgraced, and the winning side was always composed of allied forces who shared the triumph among them. American Rangers accompanied Wolfe, and French-Canadians helped Carleton to save the future Dominion ; while French and French-Canadians together won the day under Frontenac, under Montcalm at Montmorency, and under Lévis at Ste. Foy.

There is no record known—nor even any legend in tradition-of so many momentous feats of arms performed, on land and water, by fleets and armies of so many different peoples, with so much alternate victory and such honour in defeat—and all within a single scene. And so it is no exaggeration of this commemorative hour, but the lasting, well-authenticated truth to say, that, take them for all in all, the fields of battle at Quebec are quite unique in universal history.

And is not to-day also unique as an opportunity of taking occasion by the hand, to set this priceless ground apart from the catalogue of common things, and preserve it as an Anglo-French heirloom for all time to come ? An appeal to history would be most appropriate to any year within the final decade of the Hundred Years’ Peace between the once-contending powers of France, the British Empire, and thé United States. But 1908 is by far the best year among the ten ; for it marks the 300th birthday of that Canada which has become the senior of all the oversea self-governing dominions of King Edward VII—and under what king could we more fitly celebrate this imperishable entente cordiale d’honneur?

The secret instructions sent out from France in 1759 were the death warrant of Montcalm : La guerre est le tombeau des Montcalm ” .. . it is indispensable to keep a foothold. . The King counts upon your zeal, courage and tenacity.” Montcalm replied : “. . I shall do everything to save this unhappy colony, or die.” And he kept his word. He had already done splendid service in a losing cause ; stemming the enemy’s advance by three desperate rear-guard victories in three successive years. Now he stood at bay for the last time. The country was starving. The corrupt Intendant and his myrmidons were still preying on all that was left of its resources. The army had numbers enough, and French and Canadian gallantry to spare. But the Governor added spiteful interference to the other distractions of a divided command. The mail that brought the final orders was the first for eight months ; and Old France and New were completely separated by a thousand leagues of hostile sea, in whose invisible, constricting grasp Quebec had long been held.

In June Admiral Saunders led up the St. Lawrence the greatest fleet in any part of the world, Saunders was a star of the service even among the galaxy then renowned at sea. With him were the future Lord St. Vincent, the future Captain Cook, who made the first British chart of the River, and several more who rose to high distinction. His fleet comprised a quarter of the whole Royal Navy; and, with its convoy, numbered 277 sail of every kind. Splendidly navigated by twice as many sea-men as Wolfe’s 9000 soldiers, the fleet and convoy made the besiegers an amphibious force at Quebec, while also holding the River eastward against all comers.

Wolfe, worn out, half despairing, twice repulsed, at last saw his chance, the only one he might ever have. He knew that disease was wasting him away, and that he was about to stake his whole reputation on a most daring venture. And he must have felt the full poignancy of the now famous line, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave,” when he repeated Gray’s Elegy to the officers in his reconnoitring boat off Sillery Point the day before the battle. But he was a profoundly apt master of the art of war ; and his undauntable spirit soared with the hope of death in victory. Planning and acting entirely on his own initiative he crowned three nights and days of finely combined manoeuvres, on land and water, over a front of thirty miles, by the consummate stratagem which placed the first of all two-deep thin red lines across the Plains of Abraham exactly at the favour-able moment. And who that knows battle and battlefield knows of another scene and setting like this one on that 13th morning of September ?

“All Nature contains no scene more fit for mighty deeds than the stupendous amphitheatre in the midst of which Wolfe was waiting to play the hero’s part. For the top of the promontory made a giant stage, where his army now stood between the stronghold of New France and the whole dominion of the West. Immediately before him lay his chosen battlefield ; beyond that, Quebec. To his left lay the northern theatre, gradually rising and widening, throughout all its magnificent expanse, until the far-ranging Laurentians closed in the view with their rampart-like blue semi-circle of eighty miles. To his right, the southern theatre where league upon league of undulating upland rolled outward to a still farther-off horizon, whose wider semi-circle, curving in to overlap its northern counterpart, made the vast mountain-ring complete. While, east and west, across the arena where he was about to contend for the prize of half a continent, the majestic River, full-charged with the right-hand force of Britain, ebbed and flowed, through gates of empire, on its uniting course between Earth’s greatest Lakes and greatest Ocean. And here, too, at these Narrows of Quebec, lay the fit meeting place of the Old World with the New. For the westward river gate led on to the labyrinthine waterways of all America, while the eastward stood more open still —flung wide to all the Seven Seas.”

Meanwhile, Montcalm had done all he could against false friends and open enemies. He had repulsed Wolfe’s assault at Montmorency and checkmated every move he could divine through the impenetrable screen of the British fleet. A week before the battle he had sent a regiment to guard the Heights of Abraham ; and, on the very eve of it, had ordered back the saine regiment to watch the path up which Wolfe came next morning. But the Governor again counter-ordered!

There they are where they have no right to be !—said Montcalm, as he spurred on to reconnoitre the red wall that had so suddenly sprung up across the Plains. He had no choice but instant action. “… he rode down the front of his line of battle, stopping to say a few stirring words to each regiment as he passed. Whenever he asked the men if they were tired, they said they were never tired before a battle ; and all ranks showed as much eagerness to come to close quarters as the British did themselves. . . Montcalm towered aloft and alone—the last great Frenchman of the Western ‘World .. . he never stood higher in all manly minds than on that fatal day. And, as he rode before his men there, his presence seemed to call them on like a drapeau vivant of France herself.” He fought like a general and died like a hero.

Never were stauncher champions than those two leaders and their six brigadiers. ” Let us remember how, on the victorious side, the young coin mander was killed in the forefront of the fight ; how his successor was wounded at the head of his brigade ; and how the command-in-chief passed from hand to hand, with bewildering rapidity, till each of the four British Generals had held it in turn during the space of one short half-hour : then, how the devotion of the four Generals on the other side was even more conspicuous, since every single one of these brave men laid down his life to save the day for France : and, above all, let us remember how lasting the twin renown of Wolfe and Montcalm themselves should be, when the one was so con-summate in his victory, and the other so truly glorious in defeat.”

The next year saw the second battle of the Plains, when Lévis marched down from Montreal, over the almost impassable spring roads, and beat back Murray within the walls, after a most desperate and bloody fight. At the propitious moment Lévis rode along his line, with his hat on the point of his sword as the signal for a general charge, in which the French-Canadians greatly distinguished themselves. He quickly invested the town and drove the siege home to the utmost. “At nine o’clock on the night of the i 5th of May three men-of-war came in together. The officer commanding at Beauport immediately sent Lévis a dispatch to say the French ships had just arrived. But the messenger was stopped by Murray’s outposts. Lévis himself was meanwhile preparing to advance on Quebec in force ; when a prisoner, who had just been taken, told him these vessels were the vanguard of the British fleet ! Of course, he raised the siege at once. But he retired unconquered ; and Vauquelin covered his line of retreat by water as gallantly as he had made his own advance by land. Thus France left Quebec with all the honours of war.

There’s the call of the blood—of the best of our living, pulsing, quickening blood to-day–a call to every French and English ear—from this one ground alone :—and therefore an irresistible appeal from all the Battlefields together. The cause of strife is long since outworn and cast aside only its chivalry remains The meaner passions, jealousies and schemes arose and flourished most in courts, and parliaments, and mobs, of different countries, far asunder. But the finer essence of the fatherlands was in the men who actually met in arms. And here, now and forever, are the field, the memory and the inspiration of all that is most heroic in the contending races.

From Champlain to Carleton, in many troublous times during 167 years, Quebec was the scene of fateful action for Iroquois and Huron for French of every quarter, from Normandy and Brittany to Languedoc and Roussillon ; for French-Canadians. of the whole long waterway from the Lakes and Mississippi to the St. Lawrence and Atlantic ; for Americans from their thirteen colonies ; for all the kindred of the British Isles—English, Irish, Scotch and Welsh, Channel Islanders and Orcadians and for Newfoundlanders, the first Anglo-Canadians, and the forerunners of the United Empire Loyalists.

Champlain, in 16o8, first built his Abitacion against the menace of the wilderness. In 1629 the Kirkes sailed up and took his Fort St. Louis in the name of Charles I, who granted the unconsidered trifle of ” The Lordship and County of Canada ” to his good friend, Sir William Alexander, Baronet of Nova Scotia ! But in 1690 the summons of Sir William Phips was victoriously answered by Frontenac—from the mouth of my cannon. In 1759 Montcalm won his fourth victory by repulsing Wolfe at Montmorency : then both died on the Plains, where Lévis and Murray fought again next year. Finally, on the last day of 1775, French and English first stood together as the British defence of Canada, under Carleton, against the Americans under Montgomery and Arnold. This is our true wonder-tale of war ; and we have nothing to fear from the truth.

Is it to be thought of that we should fail to dedicate what our forefathers have so consecrated as the one field of glory common to us all ? There is no question of barring modern progress—the energy for which we inherit from these very ancestors ; and no town should ever be made a mere ” show place,” devoted to the pettier kinds of touristry and dilettante antiquarian delights. But Quebec has room to set aside the most typical spots for commemoration ; and this on the sound business principle of putting every site to its most efficient use. So there remains nothing beyond the time and trouble and expense of making what will become The Quebec Battlefields Park. This will include the best of the Plains of Abraham, and the best of every other centre of action that can be preserved in whole, or part, or only in souvenir by means of a tablet. Appropriate places within these limits could be chosen to commemorate the names of eleven historic characters : Champlain, who founded Canada ; Montcalm, Wolfe, Lévis, Murray, Saunders and Vauquelin, who fought for her ; Cook and Bougainville, the circumnavigators, who did her yeoman service ; and Frontenac and Carleton, who saved her, in different ways, to the same end, and from the common enemy.

But no historic sites will be obscured, much less obliterated ; and no incongruous features of a park will mar the appeal which the battlefields make to the historic imagination. One distinctive name is required to include the Plains and every other great war-landmark round Quebec. Wolfe’s quarters were seven miles below the Plains, the point where Vauquelin made his last stand is twenty miles above. What other single name could cover all three except The Quebec Battlefields, which is both self-explaining and unique ? The word Park is a mere official designation of an administrative entity : it will never live in history or literature or everyday talk. And The Plains of Abraham will no more lose their name and identity in a Battlefields Park than Quebec has lost either name or identity in the Dominion of Canada. Instead, their identity will regain its full extent, which will be an open book for all who come to read the story of their hero-making fights. And, as for their own familiar name—that, being immortal, can never suffer change.

High above all, on a calm central summit of this field of double victory and fourfold glory, the Angel of Peace will stand in benediction of the scene. In her blest presence we heirs of a fame told round the world in French and English speech can dwell upon a bounteous view that has long forgotten the strange, grim face of war. But remember! . the statue will rest upon a field of battle ; and our own peace rests on ancestral prowess. The very ground reminds us of supreme ordeals. And though, in mere size, it is no more, to the whole vast bulk of Canada, than the flag is to a man-of-war, yet, like the flag, it is the sign and symbol of a people’s soul.