Sunday, October 29, 2017

Episode 016: Treaty of Paris and the Wilkes Affair




Last week, the British crushed the Cherokee uprising on the Carolina frontier.  The new Bute Ministry also began picking off French and then Spanish colonies in the West Indies, all the while looking for some way to end the war before Britain drowned in debt.

Battle of Signal Hill

Although the war on the North American continent had essentially ended in 1760,  Gen. Amherst would have one final tussle with the French in 1762.

With the French gone, other than small contingents in Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley, and with the British Navy preventing any cross Atlantic attacks, Amherst focused the bulk of his limited resources on the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region, where Indians were likely to be his greatest problems.  He also looked further west to Detroit and the Illinois valley, to make sure those western tribes were aware that France was gone forever and that they would be working with the British going forward.

As a result, a pacified region like Newfoundland had only a token force of about 300 regulars.  In May 1762, a few French ships slipped past the British blockade.  A force of about 800 French regulars landed on St. John’s in late June.  The British garrison on the island was focused on preventing enemy ships from using the waters.  When the French landed on the other side of the Island and attacked by land, they took the local garrison by surprise, and occupied Fort William relatively easily.

You may ask why the French bothered to land a few hundred troops without any support or hope of significant reinforcement given the continuing blockade.  Certainly, 800 French troops were not going to retake Canada.  Rather, the importance of holding the Island was to provide a basis for continuing to claim fishing rights in the North Atlantic.  This was a major economic boon for France and one it did not want to relinquish when the war ended.  The French realized they could not hold out if the British made any serious effort to reclaim the island.  But if they continued to hold it when the treaty ending the war was signed, it would help to support their claim for fishing rights.

Battle of Signal Hill (from Louvre Museum - Paris)
It took months for Amherst to assemble and deploy an army of over 1000 regulars and militia (some estimates say 1500) to retake the fort. Meanwhile the French prepared for invasion by setting up defensive artillery on the high ground, known as Signal Hill.

Gen. Amherst’s own son Lt. Col. William Amherst led the British force, which landed in September.  He was able to surprise the French by scaling cliffs on the seaward side of Signal Hill.  A brief but bloody encounter ensued in what became known as the battle of Signal Hill.  The British captured the high ground.  From there, they began a bombardment of the Fort itself.  The isolated French army surrendered after three days.  The British once again held the island, captured the French force as prisoners, and eventually returned them to France.

This final battle with the French in North America was minor and the outcome virtually guaranteed.  But the French incursion should have been a lesson about leaving small outposts who would be unable to defend themselves if trouble actually came.

The British Army Shrinks

After Gen. Jeffery Amherst’s armies had expelled the French from Montreal in 1760, he set about establishing military governments to maintain the newly conquered territories in Canada and the west.  The British divided Canada into three military districts. Quebec remained under the command of Gen. James Murray, Trois-Rivières fell under the command of Col. Ralph Burdon.  Montreal became command for Thomas Gage, who had been promoted to Brigadier General during the war.

In total, Amherst had about 16,000 regulars to maintain order in all of North America.  In London, that seemed like too much.  Almost immediately, London began reducing these numbers with instructions to deploy 2000 to the West Indies (the Caribbean) immediately and to plan for another 6000-7000 to be deployed in the fall for the planned invasion of Martinique.  By the following year, cost cutting measures and demand for soldiers elsewhere, cut Amherst’s North American troop levels to below 8000 regulars. In order to maintain control of all the forts and outposts, Amherst would be forced to rely on colonial militia, which he had come to despise almost as much as the militia despised him.

Gen. Jeffery Amherst
(from Dictionary Canadian Biography)
Amherst was also under pressure to cut costs.  One easy cut was the large and expensive annual gifts that Britain gave to friendly tribes.  Now that the French were gone, there was no need to buy the friendship and loyalty of the local Indians.  They had no choice but to work with the British.  Despite the warnings from Indian Agent William Johnson, Amherst reduced or eliminated all government assistance to the Indians.

Another major problem was the supply of all the outposts.  Military units from Pittsburgh to the Illinois Valley had to be supplied with food and other supplies. The cost of shipping that hundreds of miles was expensive.  Amherst began permitting settlements around most of the forts and outposts.  That way, local farmers and  hunters could provide food to the outposts at more reasonable prices.

The settlements also provided an outlet for pressure in many colonies for western expansion.  By controlling settlement to specific areas, Amherst hoped to avoid the problems of settlements popping up all over the place at random and  causing problems.  The settlements around forts provided crops and a local market for trade goods that benefited the garrisons. So, as long as everyone was satisfied with that and followed his orders, there would not be any problem, administrative costs would fall, and peace and order would prevail.  Who thinks that’s going to happen?

Amherst continued to require more than 10,000 colonial militia to help maintain the forts and relieve regulars who were needed elsewhere in the Empire.  Continued subsidies from London assured payment and the continued participation of militia in almost the numbers that Amherst requested.  In both 1761 and 1762, the colonies, with the notable exceptions of Pennsylvania and Maryland, provided over 9000 men.  Many served full year terms, allowing them to be used in fort garrisons far from home.

Even so, militia costs remained high.  Without any immediate danger of invasion, most colonists wanted to get back to their lives, not perform garrison duty in some far off wilderness Fort.

Amherst continued to loathe the colonials.  They rarely met enlistment quotas.  They tended to show up late to relieve soldiers.  They were, in his opinion, overpaid, and still managed to enrich themselves even more by embezzling supplies whenever given the chance.  Even worse, colonial merchants continued to trade with the enemy.  Trade with the French islands in the West Indies remained a profitable market for New England merchants.  Amherst’s views were fairly common among British officers.

What the British never really appreciated was that colonists were not in the same desperate circumstances that many British peasants found themselves back in the British Isles.  The abundance of land and rapidly growing number of towns and villages meant that most young men in America who were willing to make an effort could find themselves working their own farm or succeeding in some professional trade.  In Britain, the lack of opportunity drove some young men to accept the miserable life of a professional soldier.  Colonists had other options.  If you wanted to enlist them, you needed to pay them enough to have recruits give up their other opportunities.

Treaty of Paris (1763)

Militia costs were only a small portion of the increasing war debt that drove the ministry to end the war as soon as possible.  Despite the continuing British victories, Bute was determined to end the war.  Throughout the spring and summer of 1762, Bute met secretly with the French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Étienne-François de Choiseul, duke de Choiseul, offering quite generous terms to bring the war to an end.  Only the King himself knew about the negotiations. When the negotiations became public, the rest of the government and the British public were outraged at how much Bute had offered to give away from the hard fought victories of the war.

Duke de Choiseul
(from Wikipedia)
Grenville refused to have anything to do with the negotiations, meaning the ministry would need a new advocate in the House of Commons.  Bute finally turned to our old friend Henry Fox.  Although Fox was not popular among the public, he was an able tactician, skilled in moving legislation through the House.

By November, 1762, Britain, France, and Spain had reached a preliminary treaty based on the Bute - Choiseul negotiations.

Britain had conquered the French colonies of Canada, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago.  It had also captured a number of  the French trading posts in India, and along the African coast.  It also captured the Spanish colonies of Manila (in the Philippines) and Havana (in Cuba).

France had captured the Island of Minorca in the Mediterranean as well as some British trading posts in Sumatra

Spain had captured the border fortress of Almeida in Portugal, and Portuguese colony: Colonia del Sacramento in modern day Uruguay.

Changes in North American boarders - Treaty of Paris
(from weebly)
Under the Treaty, Canada would remain in British hands, as would all lands east of the Mississippi River.  France would receive only the right to two small islands off the coast of Newfoundland:  Saint Pierre and Miquelon.  The value of these islands was to give the French the ability to have a base to exercise fishing rights off the North Atlantic coast, a highly profitable French industry before the war.  The rest of Canada had largely been a financial drain on France.  Losing it was not considered a terrible loss.  Of much greater importance as the recovery of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint Lucia, which provided highly valuable cash crops for France.  Britain kept several other islands: Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent, and Tobago.

The Treaty permitted France to retain ownership of land claims west of the Mississippi.  However, France had already ceded that territory to Spain in the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762.  Even the French negotiators were unaware of the Treaty of Fontainebleau at the time they negotiated the Treaty of Paris.  I’ve never read a definitive explanation as to why the French gave up that land.  But maintaining a small strip between Spanish and English claims would be untenable and expensive in the long term, with no obvious economic benefit.  Further, it may have been a continuing inducement to keep Spain in the war with England.

Earl of Bute
(from Wikipedia)
Also as part of the Treaty of Paris, France and Spain ceded back all the territories captured from Britain.  Britain returned Cuba and the Philippines to Spain.  In exchange, Spain ceded East and West Florida to Britain, land that was not even in contention during the War.  It was, however, the price of recovering Havana and it ensured there would no be continuing border disputes between Spain and Britain in North America.  There were a few other detailed provisions, but that’s the main gist.  If you want to know more, you can read the full text of the Treaty of Paris.

Public opposition to the Treaty ran high in Britain.  Bute was accused of giving away the hard won benefits of war.  William Pitt had to be carried into the House of Commons on his sickbed to deliver a 3 ½ hour diatribe against the Treaty.  Despite public opinion and Pitt’s opposition, the Treaty easily sailed through the House of Commons with 80% support and a voice vote in the House of Lords.  The final Treaty went into effect in February 1763.  A week later, Prussia and Austria entered their own treaty, which essentially gave each side what they had prior to the beginning of the war.  So with all the paperwork done, what became known as the Seven Years War came to an end.

The Wilkes Affair

Before I end today, I want to touch on one final subject in England.  It helps to underscore the deep divisions in England and introduces to a British radical who became a champion of in the Colonies during their fight for liberty.

As I mentioned, although the Treaty of Paris had swept through Parliament, it remained unpopular with the British public.  It’s advocate Prime Minister Lord Bute also became the subject of public scorn.  Still, the opposition needed a focal point from which to attack the ministry.

Richard Grenville, Earl of
Temple (from Wikipedia)
John Wilkes was a minor member of the House of Commons, and a long time ally of the Pitt faction in Parliament.  He was also an outspoken opponent of the Bute Ministry and its policies.

After Pitt resigned from the ministry in 1761, his brother-in-law Richard Grenville, 2nd Earl Temple also resigned.  Temple then decided to finance Wilkes as the editor of a newspaper called the North Briton.  The newspaper was dedicated to attacking Bute personally, as well as all of his policies.  In addition to its attacks on Treaty of Paris, the North Briton savaged Bute over his Cider Tax.  This tax was a relatively minor but highly unpopular tax on cider production in England.  Parliament had enacted it to help defray some costs of the war.  But the public hated it, not only because of its cost, but because of the intrusion of tax collectors into their businesses.

Shortly after the Treaty of Paris concluded in 1763, Bute decided the public attacks, many of them from the North Briton, had become too much.  He resigned as Prime Minister.  The King, not happy about the resignation, grudgingly decided to make Temple’s brother, George Grenville, the next Prime Minister.

The North Briton
(from John Wilkes Club)
You would think that victory would be enough to calm the opposition.  Wilkes, however, decided to take things up a notch.  When the King gave a speech to Parliament regarding the Treaty of Paris in April 1763, the North Briton issued a scathing criticism.  It was one thing to attack a politician.  Going after the King himself was quite another.  Wilkes claimed he was only attacking the speech, which he said Bute had written, not the King.  But that subtlety was lost.

The government brought charges of seditious libel against Wilkes and 48 co-conspirators, threw him in the Tower of London, and issued a general warrant to search for incriminating papers.  Unlike a regular warrant, a general warrant permitted authorities to use their own discretion to decide who and what to search.  There were virtually no limits to it.  Overnight, Wilkes became a hero to the opposition condemning the attack on free speech, free press, and the use of general warrants.

Wilkes’ real saving grace though was that he was still a Member of Parliament.  Members could only be prosecuted for a few limited crimes, such as treason.  Seditious libel was not among them.  After a week in the Tower, the court released Wilkes, who promptly brought a legal action for trespass against the Secretary of State, the Earl of Halifax, for issuing the general warrants.

However, the government was not done with Wilkes.  Among the papers seized at his home was a work entitled “Essay on Woman” an obscene parody of Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man.”  Accused of blasphemy and pornography, Parliament began an action to expel Wilkes from his seat, after which time he could be prosecuted for his crimes.  Wilkes fled to Paris before Parliament could complete  the expulsion.
John Wilkes
(from Wikipedia)

In 1768, he would return from exile, and was almost immediately reelected to Parliament.  Still, eager to resolve the legal actions against him, Wilkes waived parliamentary immunity and was sentenced to two years and a £1000 fine.  He then submitted a petition to the Commons complaining of illegality in the proceedings against him. On Feb. 3, 1769, the House of Commons expelled him once again, only to see him re-elected again on Feb. 15.  The House then expelled him again, along with a resolution stating that he could not serve if elected again.  Once again, voters elected him, but the House seated his opponent, being the candidate with the most votes who was eligible to serve in Parliament.

Wilkes continued to be involved in radical politics for decades,  He was elected to numerous other offices, including Lord Mayor of London, where he played a minor role in publicizing the battles of Lexington and Concord, which I will discuss in a future episode. In 1774, he won another seat in Parliament, which finally decided to allow him to take his seat.

Wilkes became a hero to radical Whigs in Britain for his stand for free speech, against general warrants, and for the idea that voters should be permitted to choose their own representatives.  His politics played particularly well in America where many of his positions, became political fodder for independence and eventually found their way into the US Bill of Rights.

Next week, I want to introduce three topics, the Parson’s Cause, where we first meet a young Lawyer named Patrick Henry, the Bishop’s controversy, where New England Puritans continuing dislike of the Church of England flares up, and growing colonial concerns over Britain’s renewed interest in enforcing trade tariffs.

Next Episode 17: Parsons Cause, Bishops, and Trade

Previous Episode 15: Anglo-Cherokee War, West Indies, and Spain

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (https://amrev.podbean.com).

Further Reading

Web Sites:

Battle of Signal Hill: http://www.freedomsystem.org/battle-of-signal-hill

A contemporary account by Adm. Colville of the recapture of St. John’s. http://ngb.chebucto.org/Articles/colville-1762.shtml

Treaty of Paris, 1763 (full text): http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/paris763.asp

Milestones, Treaty of Paris 1763: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1750-1775/treaty-of-paris

The Treaty of Peace: https://www.britannica.com/event/Seven-Years-War/The-treaties-of-peace

John Wilkes: http://spartacus-educational.com/PRwilkes.htm

John Wilkes (1725-1798): http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/wilkes.htm

The North Briton, Issue 45: http://www.constitution.org/cmt/wilkes/north_briton_45.html

Free eBooks:
(links to archive.org unless otherwise noted)

A Letter from a member of the opposition to Lord B------, (1763).

Reflections on the Terms of Peace, (1763).

Life of John Wilkes, by Horace Bleackley (1917).

Correspondence of William Pitt, Vol. 2, by William Taylor & John Pringle (eds) (1838).

Wilkes and the City, by Sir William Treloar (1917).

Biographies of John Wilkes and William Cobbett, by J.S. Watson (1870).

The North Briton, by John Wilkes (1764) (all issues of the paper in one bound volume).

The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham Vol. 2, by Basil Williams (1914)

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, by Fred Anderson (2000).

John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty, by Arthur Cash (2006).

Empire of Fortune, by Francis Jennings (1988).

* (Book links to Amazon.com are for convenience.  They are not an endorsement of Amazon, nor does this site receive any compensation for any links).


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Episode 015: Anglo-Cherokee War, West Indies, & Spain




The war with the French in North America had pretty much ended with the fall of Montreal in 1760. War continued to rage in Europe, Africa, and Asia though.  Having secured North America, and with the British Navy dominating the Atlantic, William Pitt decided to hit the French even harder in the West Indies.  But before he could do that, the British discovered that even a French Free North America still required some military attention.

The Cherokee War

The Cherokee were a fairly large tribe in the south. Generally, they had had relatively friendly relations with South Carolina, as they sat on the western frontier of the colony.  Problems began to grow after a large number of Cherokee traveled up to Pennsylvania in 1758 to help Gen. Forbes capture Fort Duquesne.  Back in Episode 12, I mentioned that Forbes had treated the Cherokee poorly. They ended up ditching him and heading home with the arms and ammunition he had provided to them.  On the way back home, settlers in western Virginia accused the Cherokee of raiding their farms and taking property.  Virginia militia ended up tracking down and killing at least 30 Cherokee warriors, scalping the Indians to exchange for reward money in Williamsburg.

Gov. Sir William Lyttelton
(from Wikipedia)
When the warriors returned home ticked off and well armed, they found that South Carolinians had been poaching on their land, killing off the deer they needed for winter meat and their fur trade.  Many Cherokee wanted to exact revenge.  A chief named Little Carpenter called for moderation.  In the spring of 1759, he went to meet with the Governor of South Carolina to see if he could arrange a payment in compensation for the harm done.  Governor Lyttelton essentially told the Chief, you get nothing, you lose, good day sir!

Frustrated by South Carolina’s refusal even to hold serious talks over incursions on their land, angry Cherokee warriors started attacking isolated cabins on the border of Cherokee lands, killing around 30 frontier settlers that summer.  In response, Lyttelton cut off all gun powder sales to the Cherokee.  Since powder was critical to the tribe’s ability to hunt, they were divided on whether to go to all out war, or seek an accommodation.

In the fall of 1759, another group of moderate Cherokee leaders returned to Charleston to meet with the Governor and see if they could work out an agreement.  Lyttelton responded by locking up the delegation, holding them hostage until the Cherokee turned over the warriors who had killed settlers over the summer.  This essentially guaranteed war since Lyttelton had locked up all the moderate Cherokee leaders, leaving the war faction leaders in charge.

The Governor sent a large contingent of militia, with the Cherokee hostages, to Fort Prince George in Cherokee country.  He demanded the tribes turn over for trial anyone who had killed any colonists before he would release the hostages.  This was not going to happen.  Cherokee responded by attacking more settlers, killing or capturing more than 100 over the winter.  By January 1760, the militia terms were up and smallpox was beginning to ravage the Fort.  Most of the militia went home, leaving a small winter garrison, with the hostages at the Fort.

Sketch of Cherokee Country (from missedinhistory.com)
The Cherokee ended up besieging the Fort, making occasional attacks.  When one of these killed the Fort’s commander, the South Carolina militia responded by killing all of their Cherokee hostages.

Seeing the situation beginning to spin out of control, Lyttelton called for raising more troops to crush the Cherokee uprising.  Then, in March 1760, he got an appointment to be Governor of Jamaica and left the mess for someone else to fix.

The Cherokee continued in open warfare along the South Carolina frontier.   In addition to Fort Prince George, Indian raids attacked Fort Ninety-Six, Fort Dobbs and Fort Loudoun.

Archibald Montgomery
(from Wikipedia)
In April, Col. Archibald Montgomery arrived with 1300 British regulars. Joined by several hundred militia, they entered Cherokee country.  For much of the summer, Montgomery engaged in a series of minor skirmishes.  He relieved forts being attacked and destroyed several Cherokee villages.  At what became known as the First Battle of Echoe (sometimes spelled Etchoe), the British took about 90 casualties and Cherokee about 50, although estimates vary. By August, Montgomery marched to Charleston and set sail for New York, claiming victory and going home.

The Cherokee warriors, however, never got the memo that the British had won.  From the Cherokee perspective, they had driven the British from their territory.  The Cherokee were still very much at war.  They had besieged Fort Loudoun deep in Cherokee territory, in what is today Tennessee.  In August, just as Montgomery’s expedition was setting sail for New York, the soldiers at Fort Loudoun agreed to surrender the Fort in exchange for safe passage back to Fort Prince George.  The Cherokee allowed them out, but did not so much grant safe passage as much as a head start.  A day later, the Cherokee chased down the retreating garrison and attacked them.  The Indians killed about 25 soldiers including the Fort commander, who they scalped while alive and tortured to death.  The Cherokee took the surviving 200 men as prisoners.

Despite their military success, the Cherokee were running drastically short on food and supplies, particularly ammunition.  They could not get any neighboring tribes to ally with them, as they became more isolated over the winter of 1760-61.

James Grant
(from Clan Grant Society)
In the spring 1761, Maj. James Grant, the same officer who had been captured in the ambush near Fort Duquesne in 1758 and who also served under Col. Montgomery the year before, led 2800 soldiers into Cherokee country, where they met a force of 1000 warriors at the Second Battle of Echoe.  The battle again was bloody on both sides, but the Cherokee used up what remained of their ammunition.

For the next few months, Grant’s plan was to make the Cherokee feel the full wrath of the British military.  Grant’s men burned any crops or buildings they could find.  They took no prisoners, immediately executing any Cherokee who fell into their hands.  In total, Grant destroyed at least 15 villages, an estimated 15,000 acres of Cherokee crops and an unknown number of people.

Three Cherokee in London 1762 (from Wikipedia)
By August, the Cherokee were ready to sue for peace.  Little Carpenter met with Grant at Fort Prince William.  The Cherokee agreed to release any prisoners they held as well as captured livestock.  They also agreed to move the Cherokee border 26 miles further inland, giving up a large chunk of their territory.  A final peace agreement signed in December 1761 formally ended hostilities.

The British essentially won, but the Cherokee had reminded them that they were a force to be respected.  They could make life miserable for the colonists if they were pushed too far.  Unlike the French, they were not going anywhere.

War moves to the Caribbean

For the British, the Cherokee uprising was a minor distraction.  Pitt wanted to put his focus on the West Indies, what we today call the Caribbean, where slave covered islands produced massive wealth in the form of sugar and spice.  With the French Navy now in tatters, these French colonial islands made relatively easy targets.

In 1759, the British attempted a half-hearted attack on the French island of Martinique in the Caribbean.  Martinique remained in French control, but the British did capture the nearby island of Guadalupe.  After the destruction of the French Navy at Quiberon Bay, the British Navy had the upper hand and in 1761 captured the small island of Dominica.

While the small French garrison put up resistance, the British quickly overran them and took control of the island.  Once the British took control, the civilians seemed content with the relatively generous terms of surrender.  The French speaking inhabitants could continue to live as they had, speaking French and practicing their Catholic religion.  They just had to swear loyalty to King George.  After that, trade actually improved as they got access to other British markets to sell produce from their coffee plantations.

West Indies, 1750 (from Kronoskaf)
In 1762, Pitt decided to up the game once more, sending an expedition to capture the larger island of Martinique, along with St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent, and Tobago.  These French islands were highly profitable sugar plantations that provided a valuable source of income for France. Rather than have his forces sit around in winter garrisons in Canada now that the French had left, Pitt decided to use them in the Caribbean.

Robert Monckton, his wounds from Quebec now healed, led a detachment of 8000 regulars and American militia to Martinique in January 1762.  By early February, Monckton’s forces defeated the French garrison and secured the Island for Britain.  Soon thereafter, the British took St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tobago, and Grenada.  In each case, the locals willingly accepted their new government and benefited from trade within the British mercantile system.

More Political Changes in London

Pitt, however, would not lead Britain for the final stage of the war.  Pitt’s increasingly aggressive war policies were in clear conflict with those of King George III, who wanted to wrap up the war as quickly as possible.  The King wanted his own man in government, a Tory leader named John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.  In 1755, Bute had become the tutor for the future George III.  The two became close confidants and political allies.  The King saw Pitt and Newcastle as his grandfather’s men still pushing his grandfather’s policies.  He wanted to replace them, but could not simply remove them while they were winning a popular war.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of
Bute (from Wikipedia)
In late 1761, Pitt saw that Spain was about to enter the war.  He pushed for Britain to declare war on Spain first so that they could take the initiative.  Bute had begun attending cabinet meetings at the King’s request, despite still having no official position in the Administration.  Bute, unofficially serving as the voice of the King, opposed expanding the war. Following Bute’s lead, most of the Cabinet also opposed Pitt.

Supporting the King’s view that the war needed to be ended, not expanded, was the ever increasing concern of cost.  The national debt had risen to over £130 million, nearly double what it was at the beginning of the war. By modern measure, the debt was more than 150% of the entire British GDP.  Lenders were becoming more reluctant to finance the debt with the Bank of England, and were demanding higher interest rates.  With the war still bleeding millions each year, Newcastle was concerned that the slightest financial panic could bring down the whole economy.  Newcastle had developed a good working relationship with Pitt over the past few years.  So when Newcastle opposed Pitt’s plan for war with Spain, Pitt decided he was too isolated.  In October 1762, Pitt tendered his resignation to King George.

With Pitt’s departure, the ministry needed a new leader for the House of Commons. They settled on George Grenville.  Because Grenville was a political ally and brother-in-law to Pitt, it would not be apparent to Britain’s enemies how much this leadership change indicated a change in British resolve to continue the war effort.  The British needed to appear willing to continue the war in order to ensure good terms in a final treaty. Grenville, however, would be more focused on getting the deficit under control and looking for an opportunity to end the war, even as Britain continued to take more enemy territory and prosecute the war on the continent.

George Grenville
(from Wikipedia)
Prime Minister Newcastle would not remain in power much longer either.  Bute and his Tory allies began to undercut Newcastle at Treasury.  Newcastle told the King he would have to resign if this did not stop.  The King’s response was essentially I guess you will be leaving then.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Newcastle retired permanently this time.  He would continue to serve in the House of Lords, but would never again be Prime Minister.  At last the King had an opportunity to install his friend, Lord Bute as Prime Minister. The British government would now be run by a Tory Prime Minister for the first time since King George I came to power nearly half a century earlier.

Aside from being a Tory, Bute was an outsider to English politics.  He was a Scot by birth and upbringing.  His family was not closely tied into the London establishment.  His only grasp on power was his close relationship with the King.

Nevertheless he shared the King’s view that Britain needed to wrap up the war and get its debt under control.  Bute advised Prussian King Frederick (later called Frederick the Great) to wrap up his war with Russia and Austria as Britain wanted to close the spigot of military aid.  Frederick essentially told him to buzz off, and this is literally what he said: “Learn your duty better, and take note that it is not your place to proffer me such foolish and impertinent advice.”

After that slam, Bute actually reached out to the enemy, the new Russian Czar Peter III, asking him to keep his troops in the field against Prussia in order to force Federick into peace negotiations. Peter, despite being at war with Prussia, was actually an admirer of Frederick.  Peter ended up sending Bute’s note to Frederick who then had even more reason to loathe a supposed ally who was corresponding with the enemy against him.  Any possibility there might have been for a working relationship between Bute and Frederick was now completely dead.  Czar Peter’s Prussian fetish did not win him any friends at home though.  A few months later his own wife, Catherine (later Catherine the Great) overthrew her husband and renewed Russia’s war against Prussia.

Despite having a King and a Prime Minister who wanted to end the war quickly, actually ending the war was proving impossible.  Pitt’s policy of capturing more colonies around the world was rolling on its own momentum.  It’s pretty hard politically to tell your armies and navies to stop winning so much.  Other European powers now began to fear that the British Empire would soon come to dominate the continent.

Spain Joins the War

By this time, France knew it was in serious trouble of permanently losing valuable real estate around the world.  King Louis finally convinced his cousin, King Charles III of Spain to enter what was called the “Family Compact” in August 1761 promising support for France in its war with Britain.  While still officially neutral, Spain promised to enter the war if not over by May 1762.

As I mentioned, Pitt had gone nuts over this agreement and wanted to go to war in the fall of 1761.  The government refused and he ended up resigning over the issue.  Despite Pitt’s departure in October, by November the new administration sent an ultimatum to Spain demanding that Spain declare it would not ally itself with France in the war, or Britain would consider the two countries at war.  Having heard nothing, Britain declared war on Spain on January 4, 1762.  By the time Spain responded with its own declaration on Jan. 18, British ships were already en route to take Cuba, and London had sent orders to India to dispatch a British force to take the Philippines.  So rather than wrapping up the war as hoped, the British added a new enemy combatant and opened up several more sections of the world for battle.

Spain invaded Portugal in May, obliging the British to provide troops for its ally’s defense.  A British force in Portugal led by Lord Loudoun, who had failed in North America years before, led an effective defense against the Spanish assault on Lisbon.  A daring young Brigadier named John Burgoyne helped by destroying several Spanish supply bases.  Burgoyne had the capable assistance of a highly effective newly promoted Lt. Col. named Charles Lee, who had fought at Fort Carillon a few years earlier.  Remember both of those names as we will see them again in a few years.

While the British fought Spain to a stalemate in Portugal, another force of 12,000 descended on Havana Cuba.  Havana was the hub of the Spanish colonial system in America.  Britain controlled the Atlantic, but the fortress defenses to Havana Harbor were impregnable to any fleet.  As a result, the British force had to land several miles away, and assault Havana by land.

The Capture of Havana 1762 (from Wikimedia)
The British landing began on June 7, 1762.  George Keppel, Earl of Albemarle led the British force, joined by 2000 more as Gen. Monckton deployed from Martinique.  Under capable field officers including Col. Guy Carleton and Col. William Howe, the British army launched an effective siege against Havana.  Cuba’s greatest threat though, was disease.  After one month about 1000 British soldiers were dead from yellow fever, malaria, and other tropical illnesses.  Another 3000 were incapacitated by illness. The lack of clean drinking water became a major problem.

By late July, 4000 more reinforcements arrived from North America.  About half were regular army and half were colonial militia.  By mid-August, Havana had fallen to the siege.  But the tropical diseases continued to take their toll.  Nearly half of the invading British force succumbed to disease.  Fortunately for the British, Cuban civilians accepted the new government under generous surrender terms that allowed them to carry on with their lives as before, and to take advantage of new access to British trading partners.  It appeared that Britain had put another large and valuable colony into its empire.

Next week: Britain finally ends the war with the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

Next Episode 16: Treaty of Paris & Wilkes Affair

Previous Episode 14: Canada Becomes British & Britain Gets King George III

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (https://amrev.podbean.com).

Further Reading

Web Sites:

The Cherokee War: http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/cherokee-war-1759-1761

The Cherokee War: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/North_Carolina/_Texts/LEEIWNC/12*.html

French and Indian War in the Carolinas: http://www.carolana.com/NC/Royal_Colony/french_indian_war.html

Outacite Ostenaco and the Cherokee-Virginia Alliance in the French and Indian War, by Douglas Wood: https://textbooks.lib.wvu.edu/wvhistory/files/html/02_wv_history_reader_wood

Fort Prince George: https://sites.google.com/site/pickenscountyhistoricalsociety/fort-prince-george

British Expedition against the Cherokee, 1760: http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1760_-_British_expedition_against_the_Cherokee_Indians

British Expedition against the Cherokee, 1761:
http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1761_-_British_expedition_against_the_Cherokee_Indians

The Two Battles of Echete Pass, by Richard Thornton (2017): https://peopleofonefire.com/the-two-battles-of-echete-pass-forgotten-but-dramatic-events-during-the-french-and-indian-war.html

Seven Years War in the Caribbean: http://caribya.com/caribbean/history/seven.years.war

British Expedition against Domenica, 1761: http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1761_-_British_expedition_against_Dominica

British Expedition against Martinique, 1762:
http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1762_-_British_expedition_against_Martinique

British Expedition against Cuba, 1762: http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1762_-_British_expedition_against_Cuba

Pitt the Elder Resigns: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/pitt-elder-resigns

Free eBooks:
(links to archive.org unless otherwise noted)

The Cambridge Modern History, Vol 6, by John Acton, et al (1902) (discusses Pitt’s departure from office, Spain’s entry into the war, and other details of the Seven Years War).

William Pitt Earl Of Chatham, by Arthur Innes (1907).

Some Observations on the Two Campaigns Against the Cherokee Indians, in 1760 and 1761, by Philopatrios (1762).

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, by Fred Anderson (2000).

A Far-Flung Gamble: Havana 1762, by David Greentree (2010).

The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians Through the Era of Revolution, by Tom Hatley (1993).

Empire of Fortune, by Francis Jennings (1988).

Peace and War on the Anglo-Cherokee Frontier, 1756-63, by John Stuart Oliphant (2001).

Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756-1763, by Daniel J. Tortora (2015).

* (Book links to Amazon.com are for convenience.  They are not an endorsement of Amazon, nor does this site receive any compensation for any links).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Episode 014: Canada Becomes British & Britain Gets King George III




Although things were looking good for the British in America after the fall of Louisbourg and Quebec, there still remained work to be done in 1760.  A large French force remained at Montreal, which continued to threaten Quebec.  The danger of major French relief force faded after the British naval victory at Quiberon Bay late in 1759.  There, the British destroyed the last major French fleet that could threaten them in the Atlantic.

Quiberon Bay, 1759, by Nicholas Pocock (1812)
(original at Royal Museums Greenwich)
I have deliberately avoided describing in much detail the massive war that the major powers were fighting in Europe during this time.  The war had spread worldwide, not just Europe, but also to the Caribbean, Africa and India.

Clearly most of Pitt’s concern was over these other theaters of war.  He wanted to threaten French colonies all over the world.  America was just one of many regions in contention.  But if we are ever going to get to the actual American Revolution we do not have time to focus on the many interesting battles and conflicts throughout the rest of the world at this time.

Suffice it to say the British naval victory at Quiberon Bay in late 1759 essentially wiped out the French Navy.  The British now dominated the Atlantic, preventing any arms, ammunition, or other supplies from reaching the increasingly isolated French forces in Canada.

Planned Assault on Montreal

Gen. Jeffrey Amherst believed that one more offensive in America would push out the remaining French military still clinging to their defenses.  Aside from a few western outposts, virtually all French forces massed in and around Montreal.

For the 1760 fighting season, Amherst planned a three pronged attack on the remaining French forces now concentrated at Montreal. Amherst would personally lead the main force of 12,000 regulars and militia from Albany to Oswego, and down the St. Lawrence to Montreal.  A second army under Gen. William Haviland would move from Crown Point along the Richelieu River toward Montreal.  At the same time, Gen. Murray would send a contingent from Quebec up the St. Lawrence also converging on Montreal.

British movements toward Montreal
(from University of Ottawa)
All of this would require another major enlistment drive for 1760.  Despite the good money, many former volunteers were reluctant to return.  The British tended to hold men past their enlistments, took them further than promised to more miserable places without adequate supplies, and often reneged on promised bonuses for continued service.  This had soured many.  The British had held militia over the winter, beyond their enlistments, in order to rebuild the forts needed for the coming season.  The militia were not happy about this and wanted to go home.  Everyone else was much more reluctant to volunteer for another campaign, not knowing if they would be held longer too.

To raise the necessary 14,500 militia for the campaign, colonies had to offer record high pay and bonuses. While London had reimbursed much of past costs, the colonies were still so far in debt that they felt obliged to raise the required quotas.  Otherwise, London might turn off the tap and stop sending the large amounts of gold and silver on which the colonial governments now depended.  In the end, the colonies met their quotas, but they were racking up record amounts of debt that someone would have to pay back at some point.  With recruiting at acceptable levels, the Generals could begin their final offensive against the French in America.

Battle of Sainte Foy (or Second Battle of Quebec)

We last left Gen. Murray as the commander of British forces at Quebec.  The more senior Generals had all died or gone home for the winter.  Murray stayed with the garrison at Quebec, holding off the French forces that still hoped to retake the city.

Gen. Amherst wanted Murray to lead a contingent of soldiers to Montreal where they hoped to finish off the French Army in Canada.  Before Murray could play his role in the attack though, he still had to deal with the French forces outside Quebec.
François-Gaston de Lévis
(from Wikimedia)

With Montcalm’s death at the Battle of Quebec, his second in command François-Gaston de Lévis, Duc de Lévis (whom I’ll just call Lévis) took command of the Canada’s armies.  In April 1760, Lévis assembled an army of over 7000 men, mostly regulars.  These were a combination of the French regulars who had fled Quebec right before it fell, as well as the relief force that arrived too late.

Most militia and Indians had had enough and simply stayed home. Lévis wanted to take back Quebec before the small winter garrison of British regulars could be reinforced.  He thought he could pull this off using just his regulars. Lévis scheduled his attack on Quebec for early spring for maximum advantage.  It was too early for the British navy to provide relief and supplies to the winter garrison at Quebec.  In an era before central heating, long winters were miserable experiences that often led to ill health, especially when there was insufficient food to get through the winter.  As a result, by early spring, Murray’s 7000 British regulars were reduced to around 4000 who were ready for duty.  Around 1000 had died over the winter and another 2000 were too sick to fight.

As Gen. Lévis led his army toward Quebec, he encountered Gen. Murray at the small town of Sainte Foy, about six miles outside of Quebec.  Murray had received word of the French movement, but was mostly in Sainte Foy to cover the retreat of his outposts before the main French Army overran them. While Murray’s army was smaller, and most of his men probably in worse health, they were all experienced regulars whom Murray trusted to fight well.

The British began to fall back in good order toward the Plains of Abraham, the scene of the prior year’s battle.  Lévis began to deploy soldiers in a flanking maneuver.  Before they could fully deploy, Murray ordered an advance on the French position, hoping to catch the French before they formed their lines.  In doing so, his men left the high ground and got caught in a bloody firefight.  British cannon sank into the swampy fields and became immovable.

The French counterattack was too much for the British lines.  They spiked their cannons and retreated back behind the walls of Quebec. The battle, sometimes called the Second Battle of Quebec, was actually bloodier than the first.  The French took over 800 casualties and the British over 1100.  With the British back behind the walls of Quebec, the French began to set up for a siege.

The outcome of a siege, would not be decided by the field combatants.  Whichever navy could bring reinforcements first, would be able to take Quebec.  But since the French navy had lost all ability to cross the Atlantic, the British navy would almost certainly arrive first.  France had deployed a relief force, but the British sank most of the ships just after they left harbor.  The few that made it to the Gulf of St. Lawrence found the British navy ahead of them.  The remaining French ships either fled or were sunk.

When the British ship HMS Vanguard sailed up the St. Lawrence on May 16, 1760, Murray knew he no longer had to worry about conserving ammunition.  He renewed an all out artillery barrage against the French lines.  Lévis realized the fight was over.  The French scrambled back to their ships and moved back up river to Montreal where they could consolidate their forces for the final showdown. The British had secured Quebec.

Murray Advances on Montreal

With supplies and reinforcements once again arriving in Quebec, Murray began organizing his offensive to take Montreal.  He received orders from Amherst describing the three part invasion in which he would participate.  By July, Murray was leading a force of 2200 regulars upriver toward Montreal.  Before he could reach the City, Murray would have to get past a garrison of 2000 French regulars entrenched at Trois-Rivieres, or Three Rivers.  The entrenchments there meant either a lengthy siege, or a bloody and risky assault on well entrenched forces.

James Murray
Murray decided the best option was to ignore them.  He simply took his troops around Trois-Rivieres and continued on his way to Montreal.  While this left enemy troops in his rear, he knew that they could only do anything if they left their defenses.  Once they did that, it would be much easier to fight them on open ground.  Besides, more British soldiers, another 2000 men from Louisbourg would be following behind him shortly.  The French would also find themselves trapped between two armies.

Murray slowly made his way upriver, demanding local inhabitants swear loyalty to Britain.  The policy of treating the locals well was paying off. Most accepted their new rulers and were willing to sell the British food for the journey.  The civilians seemed in no mood to rejoin militias and take up arms against the British in what clearly seemed a lost cause.  If the British would let them keep their farms and property and go on with their lives in Canada, that was probably their best option.

On September 1, Murray began landing his soldiers outside of Montreal.  They took their time, digging in defensive entrenchments, awaiting the arrival of Amherst and Haviland with the large armies they had promised.

Amherst Advances on Montreal

Amherst did not begin his offensive until Aug. 10 and Haviland on Aug. 11, due to delays getting the necessary supplies.  Like Murray, both Amherst and Haviland would each have to face French forces before they could reach Montreal.  Amherst would have to get past Fort Lévis, commanded by the capable Capt. Pouchot, who had been forced to surrender at Fort Niagara.  Pouchot had only 300 men compared to about 11,000 that Amherst commanded.  His fort was on an island in the middle of the river.  No British ship could pass without being attacked by French cannon.  Amherst would have to stop his advance and besiege the small fort before he could continue.  The result was inevitable, but the delay cost Amherst a little over a week.
Lord Jeffrey Amherst
(from Wikimedia)

Next, Amherst had to face the rapids on the St. Lawrence.  Although he lost only 21 men in the siege of Fort Lévis, he lost about 80 in drowning accidents on the rapids.  It could have been much worse if militia and Indians had chosen to attack him there.  But again, no one seemed eager to fight a lost cause.  Like Murray, most locals that Amherst encountered were willing to sign oaths of allegiance and sell goods to the army.  Among Amherst’s army, William Johnson commanded an Iroquois force of several hundred warriors.  Although Amherst was not a fan in using Indians among his forces, the Iroquois proved valuable in encouraging local tribes to support the British, providing local guides and making the trip much easier.  Amherst arrived in sight of Montreal on Sept. 5, only a few days after Murray had begun his landing.

Haviland Advances on Montreal

Haviland’s army of about 3500 men had to besiege a French force of about 1450 at Île aux Noix, an island at the northern tip of Lake Champlain where it met the Richelieu River.  Like Amherst, Haviland would have to stop for a siege if he wanted to use the river.

Haviland used his artillery to shell the small island for days.  Within a week, the French pulled out and moved back to Montreal.  This gave Haviland an easy river route to Montreal, although he continued to move cautiously to avoid any ambush.  What slowed him up more than anything was French deserters trying to surrender, and locals coming into camp to take the oath of allegiance. Haviland arrived in Montreal within a few days of Amherst.

Montreal Surrenders

On Sunday, Sept, 8, as the overwhelming British armies prepared to lay siege to Montreal, the French called for a truce.  At first, they asked for an armistice to determine whether the war in Europe had ended.  Gen. Amherst denied this obvious delaying tactic and gave them four hours to surrender.  The 4000 man French army inside Montreal was in a terrible condition.  Only about 2000 men were fit for duty.  All the militia and Indian allies had fled the area.  They were short on ammunition and supplies given the failure of France to provide any supply ships for more than a year. Facing a British combined force of over 18,000 the only question was whether to die honorably in battle, or surrender and save lives and property.

Capitulation of Montreal (from Virtual Museum of Canada)
Amherst made the choice easier by offering fairly generous terms of surrender. Civilians would be permitted to remain and keep their property, as long as they swore loyalty to King George.  There would be no looting, massacres, or mass deportations.  He refused, however, to grant the French soldiers the honors of war. They would be permitted to retain their personal possessions and return to France, but not with their arms or their colors.  There were still too many hard feelings about the French massacres at British forts to offer anything more than that.

Gen. Lévis did not want to accept this dishonor and sought permission from the Governor General to remove his forces from the city and continue fighting.  Gov. Vaudreuil, however, refused this and ordered him to surrender.  He was not going to endanger the civilians over a point of military honor. Lévis fumed but obeyed. He did, however, have his officers burn their regimental colors rather than surrender them to the British.

With the terms of surrender accepted on Sept. 9, 1760 the French military presence in Canada came to an end.  Britain would control the country and its people for the next century.

End of an Era

With the fall of Montreal, the war in Canada was essentially over.  This was certainly good news for William Pitt back in London, but not a surprise, given the course of events over the prior year.  Pitt was much more focused on the war in Europe, the raids on French colonies in Africa, and the battles for India.  Pitt’s successes had greatly improved his favor with the King.  George II was much more inclined to trust the judgment of his most valuable minister, whom he had disliked so intensely only a few years earlier.

The improved relationship, however, would not continue.  On the morning of Oct. 25, 1760, the King awoke early and went to use the toilet.  Shortly thereafter, servants heard a crash and rushed to the King’s assistance.  The 77 year old King George II had suffered an aortic aneurysm and died within minutes.  His grandson would be crowned King George III.  Although the coronation would take place nearly a year later, during which time the young King needed to find a Queen, he began to assume his duties almost immediately.

King George III

George III was the first British monarch in several generations to have been born and raised in Britain.  Unlike the first two Georges, he did not consider himself a Hanoverian who ruled Britain. He considered himself a British King who also happened to rule Hanover.

Also unlike his two predecessors, George III wanted to take a much more active role in running the government. Politicians had gotten used to a prime minister running affairs with the King providing only minimal background guidance.  To have this new 22 year old leader telling them how to do things certainly caused some concern.

King George III
Coronation portrait
(from Wikimedia)
Pitt and George III had been on friendly terms and political allies years earlier.  But as Pitt had gained more favor with George II, and supported the costly European defense of Hanover and the German States, Pitt and the future King had parted ways.  By the time George III took the throne, he and Pitt were political adversaries.  The new King had seen Pitt’s move to serve in George II’s government as a betrayal.  Pitt’s success, however, made an immediate removal impossible.  But the King was looking for an opportunity to dump Pitt as soon as he could.

With the war in America essentially over, and with British superiority on the high seas, Pitt began pouring even more men and money into the European theater as George II had always wanted and which Britain’s allies in Prussia and the German States were demanding.  The new King, however, was definitely not a fan of this policy.

One of the new King’s concerns was the considerable debt that Pitt was incurring.  Pitt was spending millions of pounds each year, paying for soldiers in America, Europe, and throughout the world to prop up British interests.  There did not seem to be any clear strategy to repay this enormous debt. This division would only widen over time, causing problems for the government.

Next week: The Cherokee rise up in America, Pitt leaves the Ministry, and Britain expands the war around the world.

Next Episode 15: Anglo-Cherokee War, West Indies, and Spain

Previous Episode 13: The Battle of Quebec (1759)

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (https://amrev.podbean.com).

Further Reading

Web Sites:

Battle of Quiberon Bay: https://www.thoughtco.com/seven-years-war-battle-quiberon-bay-2361165

Battle of Sainte Foy: http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1760-04-28_-_Battle_of_Sainte-Foy

Capitulation of Montreal: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/capitulation-of-montreal-1760

1760 - British three pronged attack against Montreal: http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=1760_-_British_three_pronged_attack_against_Montreal

King George II: https://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=george2

Free eBooks:
(links to archive.org unless otherwise noted)

Montreal, 1535-1914, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2  by William H. Atherton (1914).

The Siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Vol. 1, by Arthur Doughty & George Parmelee - also, Vol. 2Vol. 3Vol. 4Vol. 5, & Vol. 6 (1901).

The Battle of the Plains, by J.M. Harper (1909).

The Fall of New France, 1755-1760, by Gerald E. Hart, (1888).

The History of Canada, Vol. 4,  by William Kingsford (1889).

An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America for the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760Vol 1Vol. 2, & Vol. 3, by John Knox (1914).

Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 3, by Francis Parkman (1885).

Memoir Upon the Late War in North America, Between the French and English, 1755-60Vol. 1, & Vol. 2, by Pierre Pouchot (1866).

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, by Fred Anderson (2000).

All Canada in the Hands of the British: General Jeffery Amherst and the 1760 Campaign to Conquer New France, by Douglas Cubbison (2014).

Empire of Fortune, by Francis Jennings (1988).

The Reign of George III, 1760-1815 (Oxford History of England), by J. Steven Watson (1960).

* (Book links to Amazon.com are for convenience.  They are not an endorsement of Amazon, nor does this site receive any compensation for any links).



Sunday, October 8, 2017

Episode 013: The Battle of Quebec (1759)




Gen. Jeffery Amherst took command of North American operations following his victory at Louisbourg, at the end of 1758.  Around the same time, William Pitt granted Col. James Wolfe, now brevetted to the rank of Major General, an independent command to capture Quebec.  Wolfe returned to Louisbourg in February 1759 to prepare for a spring attack on the last great French stronghold in Canada.

James Wolfe

Wolfe had an impressive command for someone only 32 years old.  But he was not inexperienced. The son of British General Edward Wolfe, James had joined his father’s regiment in 1740 at age 13. He had seen considerable military action in Europe during the War of Austrian Succession (known as King George’s War in America) rising to the rank of Lt. Col. When the Seven Years War began, he became a full Colonel.  His bravery and gallantry in Europe during 1757, caught William Pitt’s attention.  Pitt decided to send him to America where he served as second in command to Gen. Amherst in the Battle of Louisbourg.
James Wolfe
(from Wikipedia)

After Louisbourg fell in 1758, Wolfe returned to London on sick leave.  For years he had had “consumption” which flared up at times, and also killed his brother.  Historians speculate that he had tuberculosis.  In any event, the most recent bout did not keep him from returning to take command of the army sent against Quebec.

All three of Wolfe’s subordinates for the operation: Robert Monckton, Lord George Townshend, and James Murray were older than Wolfe and, more importantly, came from socially superior families. They all resented Wolfe’s command and did not work well with him.  Still, they were soldiers and would obey orders.  With 8500 regulars to take the city, Wolfe set out to conquer Quebec.

British Forces Arrive at Quebec

Complications departing Louisbourg led to a late start on June 4, 1759.  By June 28, the force had occupied the Île d'Orléans just across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec.
Marquis de Montcalm-Gozen

The French Commander, Gen. Montcalm himself, had organized Quebec’s defenses.  His well designed defenses frustrated Wolf at every turn, preventing him from getting across the river where he could begin a siege.  Over the course of the summer Wolfe tried to find a way to break the defense. The British began shelling the city from a distance on July 12.  While it did cause some harm, it presented no chance of forcing a surrender.  The French well knew that this would be their last stand in Canada.  If they did not win here, the game was over.  Montcalm, his soldiers, and the civilians in general, were determined to block the British at all costs.

Frustrated with the slow pace of things, Wolfe tried a bold frontal assault, landing his infantry six miles down river and marching on the city.  This proved impossible, as entrenched French and Canadian forces killed or wounded nearly 500 soldiers while talking very little damage themselves.

Wolfe turned to a scorched earth policy.  He burned and destroyed all the farms and outbuildings for miles around Quebec, allowing his men to rape and kill civilians at will.  He hoped to anger the French to the point where they would leave their protective walls and come out for an open fight. Montcalm, however, refused to take the bait.  His men were well supplied, behind seemingly impregnable defenses.

Montcalm had concentrated virtually all of Canada’s remaining military forces in Quebec, meaning his Regulars and militia totaled nearly 15,000.  This however, included many questionable militia as Montcalm was scraping the bottom of the barrel for men.  Montcalm did, have a few regiments of top notch French regulars and some experienced militia, against the smaller 8500 British attacking force. Even so, Wolfe believed his well trained regulars could prevail in a traditional face to face land battle if he could provoke one:
"My antagonist has wisely shut himself up, in inaccessible entrenchments, so that I can't get at him, without spilling a torrent of blood, and that perhaps to little purpose. The Marquis de Montcalm is at the head of a great number of bad soldiers & I am at the head of a small number of good ones, that wish for nothing so much as to fight him – but the wary old fellow avoids an action; doubtful of the behavior of his army."
Siege of Quebec (from: Wikipedia)
To make matters worse, Wolfe’s troops began to drop from disease after spending several hot summer months on a swampy island.  More than one-third of them had become incapacitated by sickness. Wolfe himself became so sick that he was bedridden for several days in August.  His greatest fear seemed to be that he would die ignominiously from disease before he had a chance to fight a major battle as a commander.

In desperation, Wolfe convened a council of war with his three generals to get their views on another all out infantry assault on the French lines.  Wolfe remained on bad terms with his commanders, who mostly seemed to be waiting for him to fail or die.  He did not really want their opinion, but the military etiquette required such councils prior to any major operation, particularly one that might go terribly wrong and for which the commander did not want to be singled out for blame.  His three Generals unanimously rejected his plan.  He could have overruled them, but was so sick that he felt doing so might be seen as acting out of delirium.

Wolfe knew that if he did not do anything by the end of September, he would have to retreat in failure.  The naval fleet would have to leave before the winter ice locked their ships.  The army could not remain without naval support.  By all appearances, Wolfe saw his two likely outcomes as dying from disease or overseeing a retreat back to Louisbourg, having accomplished nothing.  Either way, he knew his subordinates would blame him for the failure.  One of them, Townshend, was also a member of Parliament and a friend of William Pitt.  Wolfe’s reputation as a capable officer would be ruined.  Just as all seemed lost, Wolfe received some helpful advice.

Secret Passage

Capt. Robert Stobo is an unsung hero of this adventure so far.  Stobo had served with Col. Washington way back at the battle of Fort Necessity in 1754, or as I like to call it, Episode 5.  He was one of the hostages that the French took in order to guarantee the return of French prisoners per Washington’s agreement.  While held at Fort Duquesne, Stobo had drawn a sketch of the fort’s defenses that he gave to a friendly Indian to aid a British attack.  This was the sketch that the tribal chief provided to Gen. Braddock as he began his ill-fated attempted assault on Fort Duquesne in 1755.  When the French captured Braddock’s baggage after his death in battle, they found Stobo’s sketches.  They tried and convicted Stobo as a spy. He only lived because the order to cut off his head and stick it on a pike outside the city had to go back to France for ratification.  Officials back in France never gave approval.  Stobo, who had been moved back to Quebec already, figured his best bet was to attempt an escape.  On his third attempt in May 1759, Stobo finally escaped the French and promptly offered his services to Gen. Wolfe.

Stobo told Wolfe about a relatively unguarded footpath that led from the river up to the Plains of Abraham, just a few miles west of Quebec. If Wolfe could get sufficient men and cannon onto the Plains, he would either force Montcalm into the infantry battle he wanted, or could bring up siege cannon to take out the city walls.  Wolfe told no one about this secret path, not even his top generals.  He even sent Stobo away, asking him to carry some important documents to Gen. Amherst.

The Plains of Abraham by Hervey Smyth (1797)
(from Wikimedia Commons)
On Sept. 5, Wolfe commanded his troops to move up river.  His officers assumed he had taken their advice to look for an entry point many miles upriver to cut off the enemy supplies.  His force of 3600 moved past Quebec to the point his subordinates had recommended.  A few days later, he sent another 1000 men, leaving his base with mostly the sick, who were not combat ready.  Wolfe continued to keep all his officers in the dark and without further orders until 8:30pm on Sept. 12.  At that time he ordered his army were to board ships at 9:00 PM and sail back down river about two miles to the secret footpath that Stobo had identified.

By all appearances, Wolfe did not seem terribly optimistic that his plan was going to work.  He handed over his will and instructions for dissemination of his papers and other personal effects in the event of his death.  He planned to go ashore in one of the first landing craft, and to be at the head of the invasion force.  Still terribly sick, it looked like he simply wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.

The boats ferried the first troops downriver around 2:00 AM.  French sentries heard the boats.  French speaking British officers called out that they were bringing supplies down to the city and they were permitted to pass without further challenge.  Wolfe climbed the footpath with the advance force and reached the plains of Abraham without incident.  With him was the highly capable Lt. Col. William Howe, youngest brother of Col. George Howe who was killed at the first raid near Fort Carillon in 1758, if you don’t remember, see Episode 10.  The advance force took out a small French sentry camp, but not before they sent a runner to warn Montcalm of the attack.

By 4:00 AM, only Wolfe and the 200 man advance force were on the Plains of Abraham.  The first full wave was still disembarking at the river.  French artillery fired on the second wave as it moved downstream.

Gen. Robert Monkton
(from Wikimedia)
Wolfe probably expected to face a more effective French defense. If he were killed with the advance guard, his second in command, Gen. Monckton would likely call off the attack and pull back.  Monckton had already expressed disapproval of the plan.  At least Wolfe would die nobly trying to engage the enemy, rather than suffer a death from disease without glory.  But the failure of the French to mount much of any defense left Wolfe surprisingly alive.  Not sure what to do next, he ordered his commanders, still disembarking below, to halt the landing. Fortunately, they ignored his order and the main force continued to make its way to the Plains.

By dawn seven battalions stood on the Plains of Abraham in line of battle.  Five more battalions were still making their way up the footpath from the river.  So far, they had only met with a few French skirmishers, presumably sent out to see what was going on.  They even managed to bring up two 6 pound brass cannon (the “6 pounds” refers to the weight of the cannonballs they threw, not the weight of the much heavier cannons themselves).

The Plains of Abraham

I always thought “the Plains of Abraham” was some lofty name with a Biblical reference.  It turns out, the name comes from a guy named Abraham Martin who had settled in the area in the 1630’s and had begun farming there.  It was a wide flat plain covering several hundred acres, perfect for a traditional line battle favored by professional European officers like Wolfe and Montcalm.

French Gen. Montcalm had spent all night setting up defenses northwest of the city at Beauport. British sailors had put out markers in the river near Beauport, presumably as guides for landing craft to avoid hidden sand bars.  It was a ruse to distract Montcalm.  It worked.  Montcalm assumed the British transports traveling upriver were a ruse to distract him from a landing at Beauport, not the other way around.  Instead, the British army stood several thousand strong on the Plains of Abraham facing the southeastern walls of the city, one of its weakest points.

By 7:00 AM, Montcalm came back to the Plains of Abraham, apparently stunned by the British infantry lines facing him.  He saw the cannons and saw the British beginning their entrenchments for a siege.  He sent for reinforcements, but knew they would take hours to arrive.  At present, he could only field about 4500 soldiers to face the similarly sized British force.

In fact, though, the British were not entrenching.  They did not have any more than the two small cannons they already had on the field.  Wolfe expected to be dead by now and to have his Generals retreating.  He had not planned properly for a full scale siege.  His army’s entrenching tools were stilling sitting in the ships at the river below.  His men were only lying down on the field to make themselves smaller targets to the snipers and cannon firing at them.  If French reinforcements did arrive, the British would be surrounded on three sides, with the only avenue of retreat being the small footpath that had taken all night to climb.  Despite their incredible luck so far, they were still facing the very real possibility of a slaughter.

Montcalm, however did not wait.  He did not know that more British were not coming nor that they could not mount a proper siege.  Montcalm therefore sent his infantry forward to meet the British on the field of battle.  When the French lines advanced to within about 150 yards, they fired.  This was still too far to hit much of anyone.  A few British fell, but the lines of professionals quickly closed the gaps.  One of those hit was Wolfe himself.  He received a shot through his wrist, but casually wrapped it in a handkerchief and continued with his duties.

The Death of Gen. Wolfe by Benjamin West (1770)
(from National Gallery of Canada)
As the French reloaded, the British line stood impassively, still not firing back.  There were too many militia in the French lines.  As the regulars reloaded, the militia began to take cover or fall to the ground to avoid fire.  As a result, the French line began to fall apart.  Individual units advanced, but did not maintain a solid line of battle. When the French got within 60 yards of the British line, the British regulars fired a destructive volley followed by a bayonet charge into the enemy.  The already broken French line now fled back to the city walls.  The only return fire came from the fields off to the side where enemy snipers could pick off only a few of the advancing British.  One of the few hit was once again Gen. Wolfe.  This time, he sustained two fatal shots to his torso.  His second in command, Monckton also sustained a serious wound around the same time.  Gen. Murray had led his men on a wild charge that had taken him away from the main force.  Wolfe’s aid Isaac Barré, a name you might want to remember, also took a shot to his face.  He would live, but was out of commission for now.

George Townshend
(from Wikimedia)
Finally, Gen. Townshend came forward to take command.  He quickly reestablished the British lines and returned order.  By noon, both sides had suffered around 700 casualties each.  Less than 10% of those were deaths, but given the medical care of the day, many of the wounded would not survive long.  On the French side, Montcalm was among the wounded, out of commission, and would die the following morning.  The next two highest ranking French officers had also been killed.  Eventually the civilian Governor of Canada Vaudreuil conferred with the highest ranking officers available and decided to evacuate the city.  The main army would leave and try to link up with relief forces for a counter attack.  Meanwhile 2200 local militia were left in charge of defending Quebec against the British Army.  No one had much hope in them, as they left them with papers on how to ask for surrender terms.  As the French regulars departed the City, they left behind these militia, along with large amounts of supplies and ammunition.

Siege of Quebec

The cautious Townshend still did not dare send his infantry against the walls of the city, where artillery could cut them down.  Rather, he waited for British artillery to arrive so that he could begin a proper siege. The British siege began the next day, as British cannon finally arrived for use.  The British did not even bother to fire their artillery as their entrenchment lines moved closer to the city over several days.  The cannon only had to sit in the entrenchments to deter a French charge as the British dug ever closer entrenchments.  Defensive fire from the French was largely ineffective.  By September 17, the British were in position to open fire point blank on the walls of the City.  As they prepared to open fire, the commander of Quebec’s remaining forces offered terms of surrender.

James Murray
(from National Galleries Scotland)
Townsend surprised the defenders by agreeing to all of their terms.  Defenders were granted the honors of war.  The British would protect the civilians and their property.  They were free to continue to practice their Roman Catholic religion.  French militiamen were free to remain in the city as long as they gave up their arms and swore an oath of loyalty to King George.  Any possible French attempt to string out the negotiations until a relief force could arrive had failed because the British simply agreed to everything.

There was good reason for this.  Townshend’s position was tenuous.  If a relief column did arrive, his forces would be in a dangerous position.  Further, his small force required the cooperation of the civilians. He simply did not have enough soldiers to fight off a relief force and control a hostile population.

In fact, a relief force was only about one day away when the British occupied Quebec.  When the French arrived, they did not have the equipment to lay siege now that the British were behind the walls of Quebec.  The French constructed a fort nearby and waited for an opportunity to retake Quebec.

British Occupation

By mid-October, the British fleet needed to leave.  No one really wanted to stay in Quebec for the winter, but all able bodied soldiers were needed for its defense.  Mockton still recovering from wounds, opted to leave for New York.  Townshend decided to return to London.  The most junior General Murray remained in command.  His men would have to endure a difficult winter on short rations.  However, Quebec had fallen and the British stood victorious.

Next Week: Canada becomes British, and Britain gets a new King.

Next Episode 14: Canada Becomes British & Britain Gets King George III

Previous Episode 12: Forts Duquesne, Niagara, and Carillon Fall

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (https://amrev.podbean.com).

Further Reading

Web Sites:

Battle of Quebec: http://www.britishbattles.com/battle-of-quebec.htm

Gen. James Wolfe: http://www.militaryheritage.com/wolfe.htm

Robert Stobo Biography: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/stobo_robert_3E.html

The Fantastic Adventures Of Captain Stobo, by Robert Alberts American Heritage Vol. 14, Iss. 5, Aug. 1963: https://www.americanheritage.com/content/fantastic-adventures-captain-stobo

Isaac Barré: Advocate for the Americans in the House of Commons, by Bob Ruppert, Journal of Am. Rev., Aug. 11, 2015: https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/08/isaac-barre-advocate-for-americans-in-the-house-of-commons

The Battle That Won An Empire, Sir Basil Hart, American Heritage Vol. 11, Iss. 1, Dec. 1959: https://www.americanheritage.com/content/battle-won-empire

Free eBooks:
(links to archive.org unless otherwise noted)

Montreal, 1535-1914, Vol. 1, by William H. Atherton (1914).

The Siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Vol. 1, by Arthur Doughty & George Parmelee - also, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, & Vol. 6 (1901).

The Battle of the Plains, by J.M. Harper (1909).

The Fall of New France, 1755-1760, by Gerald E. Hart, (1888).

The History of Canada, Vol. 4,  by William Kingsford (1889).

The battle of Quebec from Captain John Knox's "Historical journal of the campaigns in North America for the years 1757, 1758, 1759 and 1760" by John Knox (1896) (a short contemporary account by a British Captain who participated in the Battle).

An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America for the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760Vol 1Vol. 2, & Vol. 3, by John Knox (1914).

Journal of the siege of Quebec, 1760, by James Murray (1871) (a short contemporary account by one of Wolfe’s field generals).

Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 3, by Francis Parkman (1885).

Memoir Upon the Late War in North America, Between the French and English, 1755-60Vol. 1, & Vol. 2, by Pierre Pouchot (1866).

Memoirs of Major Robert Stobo of the Virginia Regiment, by Robert Stobo (1854).

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, by Fred Anderson (2000).

Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe, by Stephen Brumwell (2007).

Empire of Fortune, by Francis Jennings (1988).

Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution, by D. Peter MacLeod (2016).

Quebec: The Story of Three Sieges, by Stephen Manning (2009).

Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle, by C.P. Stacey (2014 - original 1959).

* (Book links to Amazon.com are for convenience.  They are not an endorsement of Amazon, nor does this site receive any compensation for any links).