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Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 14


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They succeeded in landing unobserved by any of the sentinels posted along the shore, where they had to wait for the boats fetching over the second detachment, there not being boats enough. Before this arrived they began to climb the rocks by a narrow track, so steep and rugged that they could only ascend by clinging to the bushes and projecting crags. Directly above their heads was a watch-post of a captain and a hundred and fifty men. There, as they drew near the summit, colonel Howe - a brother of lord Howe, who fell at Ticonderoga - leading the van, the watch became aware of a noise, and fired down the rocks, directed by the sound. The English soldiers imprudently returned the volley upwards, instead of reserving it for their gaining the ascent. They continued their scramble up, however, with redoubled ardour, and the French, on their sudden appearance, panic-struck, fled. The captain was wounded and seized, and begged the English officers to give him a certificate of his bravery, otherwise he declared he should be shot. The second detachment soon followed them, and the whole little army stood on the heights above the town before the break of day.

When Montcalm was informed of this wonderful fact, he thought it merely some new feint to draw him from his lines; but when he had ascertained with his own eyes the truth, he said, "I see them, indeed, where they ought not to be; but, as we must fight, I shall crush them." He immediately led his troops over the bridge of the St. Charles, and up to the eminence above the town. There he found the English already advanced in order of battle to within cannon-shot of Quebec. Wolfe had drawn them up with much judgment. His left wing was formed in what military men call en potence, that is, facing two ways, so as to guard against being outflanked. In this wing, too, he had placed a regiment of Highlanders, one of those which Pitt had formed, and which had already shown its bravery. On this occasion they had been the first to scale the precipice, and, climbing like cats or monkeys, by seizing rocks and bushes, had greatly encouraged the rest. His right, extending towards the St. Lawrence, had in the van the grenadiers who had distinguished themselves at the taking of Louisburg, supported by a regiment of the line. Wolfe had taken his post on this wing. The sailors had managed to drag up one cannon, and they had seized four other small guns at the battery they had passed; that was all their artillery. But in this respect Montcalm was no better off, for in his haste he had only brought along with him two guns. He had ordered a cloud of Indians to hover on the left of the English, and had lined the thickets and copses with one thousand five hundred of his best marksmen. These concealed skirmishers fired on the advancing picquets of the English with such effect, that they fell back in confusion; but Wolfe hastened forward, encouraged them to dash on, and ordered the first line to reserve their fire till within forty yards of the enemy. The men well obeyed the order, and marched briskly on without firing a shot, whilst the French came hurrying forward, firing as they came. They killed many of the English, but, as soon as these came within the forty yards' distance, they poured so steady and well-directed a volley into the enemy as did dreadful execution. Wolfe, with his characteristic enthusiasm, was in the front line, encouraging them by voice and action, and in less than half an hour the French ranks broke, and many began to fly. Meantime Wolfe, exposing himself to the very hottest fire, had been wounded in the wrist by nearly the first discharge; and he had scarcely wrapped his handkerchief around it, when another bullet hit him in the groin. Still appearing to pay no attention to these serious wounds, he was in the act of inciting his men to fresh efforts, when a ball pierced his chest, and he fell. He was carried to the rear, and, whilst he seemed to be in the very agony of death, one of those around him cried, "See how they run!" "Who run?" exclaimed Wolfe, raising himself, with sudden energy, on his elbow. "The enemy," replied the officer; "they give way in all directions." "God be praised!" ejaculated Wolfe; "I die happy!" and, falling back, he expired. Nearly at the same moment brigadier Monckton was severely wounded, and brigadier Townshend took the command, and completed the victory. Montcalm, also, had fallen. He was struck by a musket-ball whilst endeavouring to rally his men, and was carried into the city, where he died the next day. When told that he could not live - "So much the better," replied this brave and able man; "I shall not then live to see the surrender of Quebec." His second in command was also mortally wounded, and being taken on board the English ships, also died the next day. Of the French, one thousand five hundred had fallen, and six hundred and forty of the English. On the 18th September, five days after the battle, the city capitulated, the garrison marching out with the honours of war, and under engagement to be conveyed to the nearest French port. Other fragments of the defeated army retired to Montreal.

Whilst the people of England were awaiting, in gloomy anticipation, the news of our discomfiture in Canada, in three days after Wolfe's desponding letter came f the news of his victory and his death, with the assurance that the capital of Canada was in our hands, and, in effect, that that great colony was our own. The effect may be conceived. Astonishment, sorrow, and rejoicing were wonderfully mingled; mourning was worn by all classes for the fallen conqueror. His remains were soon after received with the highest honours, and laid by those of his father in the parish church of Greenwich. A monument in Westminster Abbey was proposed for him by Pitt, and unanimously voted by the commons. Since then, at the suggestion of lord Dalhousie, the people of Quebec, who are a mixture of French and English, have raised an obelisk in the government gardens of that city, bearing the names of both Wolfe and Montcalm. There also stands a small column on the Heights of Abraham, marking the spot where Wolfe fell.

Whilst this glorious news came from the west, from the east kept coming tidings equally stirring. In India colonel Coote, afterwards famous as Sir Eyre Coote, defeated the French under Lally, and made himself master of all Arcot. General Ford defeated the marquis de Conflans, and took Masulipatam, and afterwards defeated a detachment of Dutch, which had landed from Java to aid our enemies in Bengal. Ford completely routed them, and took the seven ships which had brought them over, and which lay in the Hooghley.

At sea, Sir Edward Hawke attacked the French fleet under admiral Conflans at the mouth of the Vilaine in Quiberon Bay. The situation, amid rocks and shoals, and with a sea running high, so late in the year as the 20th of November, was most perilous, but Hawke scorned all danger, attacked the French fleet close under their own shores, took two men-of-war, sunk four more, including the admiral's ship, the "Soleil Royal," and caused the rest, more or less damaged, to take refuge up the river. Two of our own vessels were stranded in the night, but their crews and stores were saved. For this brilliant action, which crippled the French navy for the remainder of the war, Hawke was thanked by parliament, received from the king a pension of one thousand five hundred pounds a-year for his own and his son's life, and, in the next reign, was raised to the peerage. Thurot, meantime, had escaped out of Dunkirk, but with only five ships, which kept out of the way by seeking shelter in the ports of Sweden and Norway.

In Germany, Frederick of Prussia was hard put to it. A fresh army of Russians, under general Soltikow, advanced to the Oder, and another army of Austrians, under Laudohn, advanced to form a junction with them. To prevent this, Frederick sent general Wedel to encounter the Russians, but he was defeated by them on the 23rd of July, with heavy loss. Frederick himself then hastened against them, but, before his arrival, the Austrians had joined Soltikow, making a united force of sixty thousand, which Frederick attacked, on the 12th of August, with forty-eight thousand, at the village of Kunersdorff, close to Frankfort- on-the-Oder. At first, he was successful; but, attempting to push his advantages, he was completely beaten, the whole of his army being killed or scattered to three thousand men. So completely did his ruin now seem accomplished, that, expecting the Russians, Austrians, Poles, Swedes, and Saxons, to come down on him on all sides, he once more contemplated taking the poison that he still carried about him; wrote a letter to that effect to his prime minister, and directed the oath of allegiance to be taken to his nephew, and that his brother, prince Henry, should be regent; but finding that the Russians, who had lost twenty thousand men, were actually drawing off, he again took courage, was soon at the head of thirty thousand men, and with these was hastening to the relief of Dresden, when he was paralysedĽ by the news that general Finck, with twelve thousand men, had suffered himself to be surrounded at Maxen, and compelled to surrender. Despairing of relieving Dresden during this campaign, Frederick eventually took up his winter quarters at Freyberg, in Saxony, and employed himself in raising and drilling fresh soldiers; compelled, however, to pay his way by debasing both the Prussian coin and the English gold, which he received in subsidy, by a very large alloy.

Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick was more successful. He was at the head of an army of fifty-five thousand men, including ten or twelve thousand English, under lord George Sackville. As the French had taken Frankfort-on-the-Maine, he left the British and Hanoverian troops, amounting to twenty-eight thousand men, to watch the French, under marshal de Coutades, upon the Lippe, and set out to drive back the other divisions of the French, under De Broglie. He found these amount to thirty-five thousand strong, but he did not hesitate to engage them at Bergen, on the Nidda, near Frankfort. After a hard-fought battle, he was defeated with a loss of two thousand men and five pieces of cannon. De Broglie pushed rapidly after him, formed a junction with Coutades, and speedily reduced Cassel, Munster, and Minden. There appeared every prospect of the whole electorate of Hanover being again overrun by them. The archives were once more sent off to Stade, ready for embarkation. But Ferdinand now displayed the superiority of his generalship. He left five thousand of his troops, with an air of carelessness, in the way of the French, who, unsuspicious of any stratagem, hastened forward to surprise them, when, to their astonishment, they found the whole of Ferdinand's army had been brought up in the night, and were drawn up behind a ridge near Minden. To approach Ferdinand's forces, they were obliged to pass a narrow ground betwixt a river and a marsh, and were so cramped that they committed the very error which cost them the battle of Blenheim. They placed the cavalry in the centre, and made wings of their infantry. The cavalry made a succession of furious charges on Ferdinand's centre, but this stood compact and immovable, till the French horse, being discouraged, the allies charged in their turn, and the centre of the army, the cavalry, being thus driven back, the whole line gave way.

At this moment, Ferdinand sent orders to lord George Sackville to charge with the cavalry, which had been kept in reserve, and thus complete the destruction of the flying French. But lord George, who had at St. Malo been charged with cowardice, and who had been constantly quarrelling with Ferdinand, as well as his own second in command, the marquis of Granby, now, like lord Lucan since at Balaklava, did not appear to comprehend the order, and sate still. Ferdinand had sent first captain Wintzingerode, whom he possibly did not fully understand; but he then dispatched to him captain Ligonier to order him to charge with the cavalry. Instead of obeying, he declared the orders contradictory, for colonel Fitzroy now rode up ordering him to advance with the British cavalry. Ligonier said, "They disagree in numbers only: the order is the same - to advance," and Fitzroy added, "My orders are positive; the French are in disorder! Here is a glorious opportunity for the English to distinguish themselves!" Colonel Sloper, who heard the words, said to Ligonier, "For God's sake, repeat your orders to that man, that he may not pretend not to understand them, for it is near half an hour ago that he has received orders to advance, and yet we are here still; but you see the condition he is in!" But all was in vain; lord George exclaimed, "Surely his highness does not mean me to break the line; I will ride to the prince himself." But Ferdinand, having lost patience, sent word to the marquis of Granby to advance, and he promptly obeyed, but it was now too late; the French had got half an hour's start. Thus the English cavalry was deprived of all share in the victory; but the English foot had borne the chief brunt of the attack, being in the centre. Six British regiments, in fact, for a time maintained the whole shock of the French.

On the same day Ferdinand's nephew, the hereditary prince of Brunswick, who was also nephew of Frederick of Prussia, defeated the duke de Brissac, who was posted to keep open the French communication with Hervorden, so that, the passes being closed, the French were compelled to retreat to Frankfort again, where they took up their winter quarters; but Cassel, Munster, and Marburg were again cleared of them, nor would they have remained in quiet at Frankfort, but that Ferdinand was obliged to send the hereditary prince with strong reinforcements to Frederick after the defeat of Kunersdorff, and the surrender at Maxen. The rejoicings in England over the victory of Minden were great. George sent prince Ferdinand twenty thousand pounds, which, however, he took care to charge to the house of commons, and settled on him a pension of two thousand pounds a year. Frederick repaid him in a cheaper manner - by an indifferent ode in French.

As for lord George Sackville, he was so indignant at the pointed manner in which prince Frederick noticed his disgraceful conduct in his general orders, thanking Granby for his prompt advance, adding the assurance that, had he been at the head of the cavalry, the result would have been very different, and warning all his generals to obey instantly all orders brought by his aides-de-camp, that he demanded leave from home to resign and return to England. These requests were immediately complied with, and on arrival he called for a court-martial, which was granted. On this occasion, like Byng, he was as haughty and overbearing as he had been backward in the battle. He browbeat the witnesses and insulted his judges, so that Horace Walpole observed, had he been for an instant as resolute at Minden, his character had been established for ever. After a patient hearing of evidence on both sides, the court-martial decided that lord George had been guilty of disobeying the orders of his commander-in-chief, and was unfit to serve his majesty in any capacity whatever. Fortunately for lord George, as for some aristocratic officers of our time, if he did not immediately become promoted for his bad conduct, he did in the next reign, for to have incurred the censure of George II. was the direct road to the regard of George III. On the 10th of August of this year died Ferdinand VI. of Spain. He was a well-meaning but weak monarch. The death of his queen, Barbara of Portugal, who had kept him firm to the English alliance in the preceding August, preyed on his mind and hastened his own. He was succeeded by his half-brother, the king of Naples, who ascended the throne as Charles III., and his third son, Don Ferdinand, succeeded him as king of Naples under a regency. Charles was a man, like his predecessor, of no striking abilities, but of much justice and mildness; and during his reign he kept down the inquisition, abolished torture, and was a friend to literature, art, and general improvement. He banished the late king's minion, the singer Farinelli, and retained as minister general Wall, an Irishman, who had been Spanish ambassador in London.

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