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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Fall of Quebec

By Samuel Niles (1674–1762)

[From A Summary Historical Narrative of the Wars in New-England. Completed, 1760.]

AS the people in Quebec and the inhabitants of the several settlements and villages on the River St. Lawrence refused to accept of the offers made them by General Wolfe in manifesto, four large parties were sent out to destroy the country. Two of them proceeded by land, and the other two by water, down the river. And, while they lay at [Isle] Madame, they saw two villages, which were large, on fire; for the rangers made great havoc through the country. A man-of-war was sent down to a place called the Straits of Belleisle, to destroy a village there; where they lost twelve men, and some were wounded. On the 28th of August, two ships, the “Lowestoffe” and “Hunter,” went by the town, in the evening, to join Captain Rous in the “Sunderland.” The French fired smartly on them, killed one man and wounded two.

Some short time before the 13th of September, General Wolfe crossed the river, and got above Quebec, with his small Prussian army as it was called (I suppose, for their courage and remarkable success), consisting of about 4,000 men; and, in about two hours after, General Montcalm, that headed the French army of twelve thousand,—some said more,—with a troop of five hundred horse in their front, [advanced] to give General Wolfe battle in the Plain of Abraham, as it was called by the French. The French kept a continued fire as they advanced toward our army; but General Wolfe’s order to his men was, not to fire until the enemy came within about twenty rods of them, and, was said, in a manner within the reach of their bayonets; but to squat, and secure themselves as much as possible from the fury of the fire on them. His orders were punctually obeyed; and when the enemy advanced to the distance before mentioned, when his men had sustained three fires from the adversary, the word of command was to fire; which was performed in such a manner as broke the order of the horse, and threw them into the utmost confusion,—probably by the wounding some and killing others of the horses, their riders falling from them, and stumbling one on another, and on slain men under their feet. It may easily be conceived what a consternation they must suddenly [have been] thrown into; so that under a surprise, and panic fear of what would follow, [they] soon began to retreat, and soon after made their flight. Our men pursued them, and made havoc in their pursuit,—beating them out of their trenches, and following them, as was said, to their sally-ports,—so that the action lasted but about fifteen minutes. However, in this time, the brave and renowned General Wolfe received two balls, as was said, through his body, that ended his days with his conquest; yet survived so long as to ask how the affair stood; and when he heard that the enemy, were defeated and [had] fled, he said he could then die in peace; and, accordingly, soon expired. Thus died a courageous and successful British hero; greatly and very deservedly lamented in the land, as an instrument in the hand of God, that had wrought such a wonderful deliverance, never to be forgotten, for the poor people in the country, in reducing Quebec into subjection to the Crown of Great Britain,—Quebec, I say, that had so long been the source and sink of all the barbarous cruelties that had been committed by the French, and Indians in their interest, at times of peace as well as in times of war, almost from the first settling of the English in this country. May God have glory, and the people, in our frontier settlements especially, reap the comfort of living quietly in their dwellings, free from the fear of the enemy, and be excited to fear God, and set up his worship, and maintain it in its gospel purity,—lamentably neglected in such places, for the most part: for which, and the growing corruptions of the land, we may conclude God has put the weapons of war, slaughter, and bloodshed, into our heathen and other enemies’ hands, and given them commission to make the miserable havoc and spoils which they have done in the country; which we now hope, in the mercy of God, to be freed from. To return. In this action, Montcalm, the French general, was slain, and the second in command under him; the third wounded and taken prisoner; and the fourth killed. General Wolfe being killed, and General Monckton wounded in his lungs, the command of the army devolved on General Townsend, who, being advanced to the walls of Quebec, sent in a summons for a surrender of the city; acquainting them withal, that if they refused, and he was put upon storming the town, he would put all he found in it to the sword,—and those also, as it was said, that were their prisoners, taken in their flight, which were about two hundred in number: which they soon complied with. Upon their swearing allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and approving themselves accordingly, then they should be protected, and freely enjoy their own religion, estates, and properties, without any molestation: agreeably to demands made at first by General Wolfe in his manifesto, before any acts of hostility were begun….

The Governor of Quebec, Vaudreuil, stole out of the town in the time of the battle, and escaped: so that the city was surrendered by Monsieur Ramsey, then in chief command. It was reported by a person of veracity, as was said, who had been a prisoner with the French two years, that in that time, as he was in Canada, this Vaudreuil, then Governor, invited him one day to dine with him. He accordingly went; and, when he came thither, the Governor conducted him into a fine and large apartment, hung all round the room with Englishmen’s scalps: showing him that such an one was a colonel’s, and another a lieutenant-colonel’s scalp; such a captain’s; and such and such were the scalps of under English officers. It was also said he had a vault, prepared and improved for that purpose, where the scalps of English people were stowed in bulk….

The body of General Wolfe was carried home in the “Lowestoffe” man-of-war, to [be] enshrined in a cabinet of honor with the laurels of victories he had won in America; whose magnanimity and warlike prowess induced his Britannic Majesty to confer on him the honor and trust of a commander over his troops in two important enterprises,—in the first, [as] second in command under the brave General Amherst, in the reduction of Cape Breton, and territories thereto belonging, as has been briefly related; and then as chief of the land forces in recovering Quebec (the King of France’s chief strength and glory in this land); who sacrificed his life in the conquest, and died victorious. It was said, that—under and together with the agreeable news of the surrender of Quebec—when it first reached the garrison at Crown Point, the death of General Wolfe was so affecting to the British forces there, that scarce any of them were able to refrain from shedding tears, as it was an alloy to the joy and satisfaction which otherwise doubtless would have run through the country and nation, with the tokens and marks of a laudable triumph, not in our own strength or desert, but in thankful praises to God, that had so wonderfully wrought our deliverance from the insulting cruelties of the French and Indians, that had not only destroyed great numbers of our people, but prevented the enlargement of settlements in the inland parts of the several Governments.


It was very remarkable, among many other instances in the siege of Quebec, that when the troops were passing by the city to the assistance of General Wolfe, in boats and transports, though the enemy’s fire was so hot and violent from their several batteries, yet their red-hot balls and others were so directed, in Providence, that [while] some fell short, and many in the midst of them, they, notwithstanding, got up safely, with little or no damage. It was also remarkable, as was reported, that, in the time of the siege, the English prisoners desired to be released out of the prison, but were denied; and though bombs and cannon-balls fell and destroyed the houses round about and on every side, yet the prison escaped, and none in it were hurt. The deliverance of the poor prisoners, at the surrender of Quebec, must be as life from the dead—to escape out of that loathsome stinking cell where so many English people had successively perished under French tyranny and cruelty, in the most miserable manner, according to all accounts had from thence, from one time to another, especially in ruptures between the English and French crowns, to all of our people that are so miserable as to fall into their hands; for as it is the French maxim, that no faith is to be kept with heretics; so, in consequence, no favor is to be shown them when they fall within the reach of their inhuman barbarities.


When the command of the army, by General Wolfe’s death, devolved on General Townsend, he observed an old Highlander in the front of the army, laying about him with the most surprising strength and agility,—bearing down all before him,—till, almost spent with the fatigue, he retired behind a breastwork of dead bodies, most of which, as was said, he had slain with the force of his own sword; where he drew breath for a short time, and then, casting off his upper coat as too cumbersome, he returned again to the charge, and at every blow brought a Frenchman to the ground. The General, admiring his intrepid behavior, after the engagement was over sent for him; and, after he had bestowed on him the proper encomiums his gallant behavior deserved, he asked him how he could leave his native country, in such an advanced age, to follow the fortunes of war. The Highlander replied, his hatred to the French, on account of their perfidious behavior on many occasions, had made him leave his family now, when he was seventy years old, as a volunteer, in order to take revenge upon them before his death. General Townsend was so highly pleased with the magnanimity of this old soldier, that he took him home when he returned from Quebec, and presented him to Mr. Pitt, by whom he was introduced to his Majesty; who was graciously pleased to give him a lieutenant’s commission, with the liberty of serving in any corps or in any country he chose; or, if he had rather return to his family, to have a lieutenant’s full pay during life. He had made himself, together with the honors conferred on him by the King, so remarkable, that as he walked the streets in London, it was told, they that saw him cried, “There goes the brave old Highlander! Long live the gallant old boy.” This soldier’s sword,—with which he so valiantly distinguished himself,—as he said, has descended down from father to son, in succession, for three hundred years, as a particular legacy. It was an excellent weapon; and he was so extremely fond of it that he always took it to bed with him. He said his promotion flowed so fast on him, that he hoped to be a colonel, though then near seventy-three years of age. His name was Malcolm Macpherson, of Phones in Badenoch. He after returned to this country.