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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XIV.—Campaigns of 1758 and 1759


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 enemy.

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.


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