Wolfe and Montcalm: Their Lives, Their Times, and the Fate of a Continent
Wolfe and Montcalm: Their Lives, Their Times, and the Fate of a Continent

* Book Type:

Not Available Online
Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Joy Carroll
Audience: Trade
Specs: 4 black and white maps, bibliography, index
Pages: 296
Trim Size: 6" x 9" x 5/8"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20040703
Copyright Year: 2004
Price: Select Below

Wolfe and Montcalm: Their Lives, Their Times, and the Fate of a Continent

The 1759 battle on the Plains of Abraham, fought under James Wolfe and Louis-Joseph Montcalm, shaped North American and European history. Insightful and using primary-source material, this is the story of two contrasting individuals and their time.

A fascinating profile of two generals who shaped history.

In 1759, after the battle on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City, the English general James Wolfe and the French general, Louis-Joseph Montcalm lay mortally wounded, each hit by a sniper's bullet. Neither could know that the outcome on the Plains of Abraham would shape the history of both the United States and Canada.

After researching letters and journals and reading dozens of books, Joy Carroll has written a compelling account of the lives and times of the two generals which is both intimate and entertaining while maintaining the highest standards of historical accuracy. The generals shed their stuffy textbook images and emerge as real people who were brave, ambitious and colorful and coped with trials that would have broken the spirits of lesser men.

Wolfe and Montcalm is packed with fascinating accounts of the generals' mothers, lovers, friends, enemies, kings and moments of consuming passion, and the events that led up to the battle that changed the course of history. Find out what these men were really like. Read the true story of how they ended up in the French colony. How the British government failed Wolfe and the rulers of France abandoned Montcalm and how Wolfe won. Although the battle on the Plains of Abraham is the centerpiece of this work, the book also presents a rich tapestry of eighteenth century North America, France and England.


Joy Carroll began her writing career as a journalist on a daily newspaper and after writing a bestselling historical romance turned to Canadian history for subsequent books.


The Battle That Gave England Half a Continent

"The officers and men will remember what a determined body of soldiers inured to war is capable of doing against five weak French battalions mingled with a disorderly peasantry"
-- Major-General James Wolfe, on the eve of the battle

One morning in the fall of 1759, ten thousand men gathered on an empty tract of land just west of Quebec. In those days, soldiers dressed to kill. British privates fought in scarlet jackets faced with yellow and tall caps embroidered with the letters GR for George Rex. French regulars wore big black tricorns and long greyish-white coats with brass buttons that glinted in the sun. Each array of troops flew a national flag: the sleek gold lilies of France on white silk, and England's flame-red cross of St. George over St. Andrew's white cross on a sea of blue. They were about to fight a battle that would determine the future of North America.

And yet the presence of Major-General James Wolfe and his little army on the Plains of Abraham was, in itself, impossible. The field was a small square of grass and corn stalks perched two hundred feet above the mighty St. Lawrence. A few miles upriver from the fortress of Quebec, one faint trail led up the sheer bank and a second was clogged with fallen trees. General Louis-Joseph Montcalm had scoffed at his cohorts' fears that Wolfe might land on the beach, climb to the plateau and threaten the town. "We need not suppose that the enemy has wings," he told Canada's ruling council. But he was wrong, and his next pronouncement on the subject was less fanciful: "There they are where they should not be!"

At dawn on September 13 the sky over Quebec was leaden. Both generals dreaded thunderstorms because pouring rain stopped musket fire and violent winds ruined even the cleverest plan. This morning, troops on both sides were revved up for a final confrontation -- and it had to take place before the men lost their edge. The lateness of the season was a factor, too. Winter was approaching and a death-struggle in the snow was out of the question. Who was going to control Canada? The issue needed to be settled.

The siege of Quebec, occurring at "half-time" in the Seven Years' War, was the most decisive battle in the eighteenth century. This conflict, which for many years had been called the French and Indian War, was based mostly upon squabbles between France and England over colonies. England turned these endless skirmishes into a larger conflict by declaring war on France on May 18, 1756. France responded in June. The two countries had been warring for centuries for one reason or another, so the latest outbreak came as no surprise. Three years later, the battle on the Plains of Abraham was part of this ongoing struggle. The generals who fought it were players in a drama that had consequences they could never have imagined.

The two armies faced each other. The rain stopped. Tension mounted as officers on both sides tried to make themselves heard above the clamour of rattling gun-carriages, cursing soldiers and keening bagpipes. The rules of combat on an open field were rigid: all rows of costumed puppets must be in place, the lines perfectly straight; and they must be ready to wheel like clockwork. An hour passed before both generals were satisfied, and by then the sun had come out from behind the clouds. When at last the French advanced, it was a pretty sight: pale waves of white and blue rushing toward a frail scarlet ribbon sparked with gold. Uniforms were brighter than the autumn leaves, for this was a time when kings dressed their troops in the fancy outfits of the toy soldiers they had loved as children. But there was a practical side to the dazzle, too. In hand-to-hand fighting, a man could identify his enemy by the colour of his coat.

The idea of camouflaging armies was still far in the future, unless you counted the North American natives who slipped through primeval forests, silent and unseen. In Canada, an amorphous territory once known as New France, some of the wilder white bushrangers liked to imitate those Indian skills and went to war wearing paint, feathers and very little else. To the south, in the Thirteen Colonies, Major Robert Rogers trained a body of volunteers to fight Indian-style, creating the legendary Rogers' Rangers. But on that day on the Plains of Abraham, such tricks played only a minor role.

"The people long eagerly for two things -- bread and circuses' Juvenal wrote in the first century. It seemed to King George II of England that the Roman poet had got it right. In England, people loved a parade, especially a glittering army led by a marching band. King Louis XV of France noticed much the same thing in his country: soldiers who were brightly and tightly garbed became romantic figures, flirting their way through country fairs and Parisian masques, strutting into bloody frays. It suited men in high places to adorn the ranks with lace cuffs and greased pigtails, to doll up their officers in shiny braid and singular hats.

In the eighteenth century, privates and non-commissioned officers were always in the forefront, directly under fire from muskets and cannon, and senior officers and generals took their chances alongside them. How could it be otherwise? The huge underclass back home was hungry for heroes, men who inspired admiration and even awe. Such gods must be created, and a battlefield was the place for it. Glory for its own sake was still a strong driving force.

Under certain conditions, war was a spectator sport. A scrap between two armies was often confined to a specific area (a valley, town or bridge), and civilians who loitered around the edge were relatively safe. A great many accounts of battles were provided by curious onlookers, tourists or friends of those involved in the action. It was a form of entertainment for townspeople, much more thrilling than watching a simple hanging. Here was an opportunity to see men die, to shiver at the cries of mangled horses, to recoil from explosions and to vomit at the sight of spilled guts. During the siege of Quebec, the field was fringed with bushes and evergreens sheltering watchers along the cliff as well as roads to the west. The town's fortified wall overlooked the Buttes-à-Neveu, a ridge where military forces often mustered. On that September day, people peered over the parapets. Some held spyglasses, as if they had a balcony seat in a theatre.

Crowds came to cheer on their friends and relatives and to pray for a French victory. Most Canadians kept an eye on the veteran campaigner Lieutenant-General Louis-Joseph Montcalm as he plunged along the lines on his big black charger, firing up his men with cries and gestures. Others were fascinated by a spindly, scarlet-coated Major-General James Wolfe as he inspected his battalions on foot and directed the action with a walking stick. Aficionados might have noticed that Montcalm and Wolfe had one thing in common: they led by example, always out front, always an easy target.



    Part One

  1. Wolfe's Military Heritage
  2. Horrors and Heroics
  3. Montcalm's Army Career
  4. Whispers at Court
  5. Siege of Fort William Henry
  6. Ticonderoga: Montcalm's Stunning Victory
  7. Unrest in the Colony
  8. Part Two

  9. The Walls of Louisbourg
  10. The Worst Posting in Canada
  11. The King and His Mistress
  12. Hoping for Another Miracle
  13. Bitter Exchanges: Townshend and Wolfe
  14. Montmorency Falls: Wolfe's First Major Defeat
  15. General Wolfe Is on the Recovery
  16. Wolfe's Letter to Pitt
  17. Part Three

  18. A Hazardous Scheme
  19. Enemy Forces Seem Considerable
  20. The Plains of Abraham
  21. Wolfe Killed, Montcalm Fatally Wounded
  22. Holding the Fort
  23. A Public Scandal
  24. A Final Clash
  25. The Honours of War
  26. Afterword

Author Events   Firefly Books Fall 2021 Catalog PDF