Pitt, Prime Minister op
England—Fall of Louisburg—Abercrombie's Defeat at Ticonderoga—Bradstreet
Captures Fort Frontenac—Fort Du Quesne Reduced — Re-named Fort Pitt
—British Victories around the World-The Hero of Louisburg—1758. Sir
William Johnson reduces Niagara — Amherst occupies Ticonderoga -1759.
The disasters of the
British only served to arouse their intenser energy and firmer
determination. William Pitt, for a time excluded from the cabinet of the
nation, now seized the helm of state. His lofty courage, noble
patriotism and honest administration were the guarantee of success. He
resolved on the absolute conquest of Canada, even at the cost of
England's "last shilling and last man." Lord Loudon was recalled, and
(generals Abercrombie, Amherst, Wolfe and Howe were appointed
commanders. The military forces were increased to fifty thousand men. It
was resolved to attack Louisburg, Du Quesne, Ticonderoga, Quebec and
Montreal. The French girded themselves for what they felt to be the
death-wrestle. "We will bury ourselves, if need be," wrote Montcalm,
"beneath the ruins of the colony."
The first blow was struck at Louisburg.
Its fortress had fallen greatly into decay since the siege of 1745; but
it was garrisoned by three thousand five hundred men, and supported by
ten ships of war. Early in June, Admiral Boscawen, with thirty-seven
ships of war, and one hundred and twenty transports conveying twelve
thousand troops, appeared off the harbour. Wolfe, with a strong force,
gallantly landed through the surf, and seized the outworks of the fort.
The siege was vigorously pressed by day and night for seven weeks. The
resistance was brave but ineffectual. When town and fortress were well
nigh demolished by shot and shell, Louisburg capitulated. Its
inhabitants were conveyed to France, and the garrison and sailors, over
five thousand in number, were sent prisoners to England. The fortress,
constructed at such cost and assailed and defended with such valour,
soon fell into utter ruin. Where giant navies rode and earth-shaking war
achieved such vast exploits, to-day the peaceful waters of the placid
bay kiss the deserted strand, and a small fishing hamlet and a few
mouldering ruin-mounds mark the grave of so much military pomp, and
power, and glory.
But this victory was
followed by a terrible disaster. In the month of June, Lord Abercrombie,
with an army of sixteen thousand men, had set out from Albany for the
attack on Ticonderoga. On a brilliant July morning he embarked his whole
force, in over a thousand batteaux, on Lake George, and in bannered pomp
and splendour sailed down the lovely lake to the narrows of Carillon, as
the French called Ticonderoga. In a preliminary skirmish three hundred
French were captured or killed; but Lord Howe, the favourite of the
army, fell at the head of the column. Montcalm, who had with him nearly
four thousand of his best troops, had strengthened a naturally
formidable position by an earthwork, before which sloped a steep glacis,
covered with an impenetrable abattis of felled trees and sharpened
stakes. The assault was gallantly made. For six long hours, again and
again the columns were hurled against the terrible abattis, and as often
staggered and recoiled before a withering point-blank lire of cannon and
musketry. Baffled and broken, with the loss of two thousand men, the
more than decimated army retreated panic-stricken to their batteaux, and
speedily placed the length of the lake between them and the victorious
The disgrace of this
disaster was partly retrieved by the capture of Fort Frontenac, the
French naval depot at the foot of Lake Ontario, by Colonel Bradstreet.
With three thousand men he advauced by way of the • Mohawk and Oswego
rivers, and crossing the lake in open boats, invested the fort, which
was guarded by only one hundred and sixty men. After two days'
bombardment it surrendered, and was burned to the ground, together with
an immense quantity of stores and seven armed vessels. Thus, without the
loss of a man, was destroyed the French naval supremacy on Lake Ontario.
In the west, General
Forbes, with a force of six thousand provincials and regulars, advanced
against Fort Du Quesne. Stricken with mortal illness, he was borne, a
dying man, across the Alleghanies in a litter. Colonel Washington had
the honour of planting the red-cross flag on the ramparts of Fort Pitt,
as it was thenceforth called. The name' of the Great Commoner is
inscribed forever on the gateway of the Ohio valley, in the designation
of the city of Pittsburg.
The toils were
gathering around the doomed colony of Canada. A fervent appeal was made
to the mother country for assistance. But the exhaustion produced by the
European war, and by the prodigality of the court, prevented the sending
of reinforcements. "When the house is on fire," said the minister, "one
does not mind the stables." The colonists rallied for a supreme effort
for the defence of their hearths and homes. Famine stared them in the
face. The half-tilled acres brought forth but meagre crops, and the
shameless exactions of Bigot were more grinding than ever.
The entire population
from sixteen to sixty was summoned to the field, but though every sixth
soul in the colony responded, they mustered only fifteen thousand, of
whom many were unavailable for service. The chief dependence was upon
ten skeleton regiments of regulars, in which ghastly gaps were worn by
siege and sortie, by famine and disease. To these the British opposed
fifty thousand well-armed troops and copious reserves.
England, like a rampant
lion, was rousing herself for conquest. The House of Commons voted
£12,000,000 sterling for the war. Pitt infused his own spirit into every
branch of the service. The world was ringing with British victories. A
merchant's clerk, with a handful of men, had conquered an empire where
the foot of Alexander had faltered. Senegal, Goree, Guadaloupe, her
fairest tropical possessions, were wrested from France. Alike on the
banks of the Ganges and on the banks of the Ohio, on the forts of the
Gold Coast and on the ramparts of Louisburg, the red-cross banner waved
triumphantly, and it was destined soon to crown the heights of Quebec.
In the Indian Seas, on the Spanish Main, on the Atlantic, and on the
Pacific, Britain's fleets were everywhere victorious.
Pitt chose his
instruments well. With the instinct of genius he discerned the
surpassing merit of the young hero of Louisburg, and entrusted to him
the conquest of Quebec. Though only thirty-three years of age, Wolfe was
a veteran soldier, having been eighteen years in the army. At twenty-two
he was a lieutenant-colonel, and at Dettingen, Fontenoy, and Culloden,
by his almost reckless bravery, he had won distinguished honours. Though
raised so rapidly to the rank of general, even envy breathed no word of
detraction against his name, and he commanded the love and admiration of
the entire army.
To Amherst was assigned
the reduction of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and the capture of
Montreal: and to Prideaux the destruction of Fort Niagara. These
movements were sustained by forces amounting to fifty thousand men,
which were to concentrate at Quebec for the last act of the drama. The
French were to act strictly on the defensive, retiring, in case of
defeat, on Quebec, where the final stand was to be made.
The first blow fell on
Niagara. General Prideaux advanced, by way of the Mohawk and Oswego
rivers, in many batteaux to Niagara. A brisk fire was opened, but
Prideaux being killed by the bursting of a mortar, the command devolved
on Johnson. M. Pouchot, the French commandant, had summoned to his -aid
the garrisons of Detroit, Presqu' Isle, and the western forts. M.
D'Aubrey was hastening to his relief with a force of seventeen hundred
French and Indians, when he was intercepted below the Falls by Johnson,
and utterly defeated, with the capture of the greater part of his force.
Hereupon Pouchot surrendered, with six hundred men. The control of the
great lakes passed away from the French forever, and General Stanwix
speedily reduced all the western forts.
In the month of June,
General Amherst, with an army eleven thousand strong, reached Lake
George from Albany. Mindful of Abercrombie's disaster, he observed
exceeding caution on approaching the lines of Carillon. But the genius
of Montcalm was absent, and De Bourlemaque retired within the fort,
which was garrisoned by three thousand men. After four days' vigorous
resistance, the fort was mined, fired, and abandoned. A tremendous
explosion occurred, but Amherst promptly occupied the smoking ruins.
Fort Frederic (Crown Point) was also abandoned by the French, who
strongly entrenched themselves at Isle aux Noix, at the northern
extremity of Lake Champlain, which they determined to hold to the last
extremity, as the gateway of Canada.