“Bold Wolfe and Cautious Amherst” By Stephen Brumwell

Award-winning writer and historian Stephen Brumwell examines how a breakdown in the strategy behind Britain’s major North American offensive of 1759 led to a dramatic confrontation on Quebec’s Plains of Abraham.


The map is reproduced from 'Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe', by Stephen Brumwell, courtesy of Continuum Books

As 1758 drew to a close, voluminous dispatches crossed the Atlantic from London to New York. They contained instructions from Britain’s ministerial war-leader William Pitt, to his commander-in-chief in North America, Major-General Jeffery Amherst. Having conquered the key French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton that summer, Amherst was now ordered to oversee operations that would build upon that crucial victory, and sound the death-knell of Canada in the coming year.1

Like that implemented in 1758, the strategy thrashed-out for 1759 by Pitt and the British Army’s overall commander, Sir John Ligonier, envisaged simultaneous attacks on several fronts. The most important of these would be an amphibious expedition up the St Lawrence River against Quebec. Its troops would be commanded by 32-year-old James Wolfe, a mere colonel, but promoted to major-general for the duration of his campaign; once his objective had been secured, Wolfe would become a brigadier under the command of Amherst, his senior by ten years.

Besides the formidable logistical task of ensuring that the necessary troops, supplies and shipping were all concentrated at Louisbourg by 7 May, the projected start date of Wolfe’s expedition, Amherst was also to orchestrate his own ‘irruption’ into Canada via Crown Point, at the foot of Lake Champlain, or by La Galette, on the St Lawrence River facing Lake Ontario, or by both routes if possible. Amherst was instructed to attack Montreal or Quebec, ‘or both of the said places successively’, either in one body or by splitting his forces. In addition, as secondary objectives, Amherst was to re-establish Oswego, destroyed by the French in 1756, and if viable, to push operations as far west as Niagara.

Amherst was urged to start his own campaign by 1 May, as nothing was so crucial for the various operations in North America – particularly that against Quebec – ‘as putting the forces early in motion, on the other frontiers of Canada, and thereby distracting the enemy and obliging them to divide their strength’. To reinforce this essential point, Ligonier wrote a personal letter to his protégé Amherst on 12 February 1759, hoping that operations would be ‘so concerted as to take place at the same time as near as the nature of the thing will permit, which cannot fail of creating a diversion equally advantageous to both’.2

The essence of the 1759 plan, therefore, was that Canada must face synchronized assaults on a minimum of two fronts. This was clear to Wolfe from the outset. Writing to Amherst from Bath on 29 December, the same day that Pitt sent out his instructions, Wolfe promised to ‘find employment for a good part of the force of Canada’, thereby helping to clear Amherst’s path to Montreal. Unless the enemy managed to inject strong reinforcements, Wolfe added, he could see nothing to stop him and Amherst uniting ‘for their destruction’.3 Amherst too plainly grasped the plan’s essentials: on 6 May he wrote to Wolfe from his headquarters in Albany, explaining his intention to ‘take post at Oswego and make an attack on Niagara’ and to keep the French ‘in hot water at La Gallette’. Amherst continued:

‘I will close in upon the enemy to the utmost I can at the time you are up the [St Lawrence] River and till then I will act so as to give them jealousies in different corners at a greater distance and distract them and force them to abandon some posts or divide to defend them [so] that they shall weaken themselves everywhere which I hope will ensure success to us’.4

By mid-May, Wolfe had reached his expedition’s appointed rendezvous at Louisbourg. From there, on the 19th, he wrote a revealing letter to his uncle, Major Walter Wolfe in Dublin. This set out his priorities, and also reflected his Secret Instructions: these emphasized that he and his naval colleague, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Saunders, were only to embark upon any ‘ulterior’ – or additional – operations, after they had secured their primary objective of Quebec. Wolfe wrote:

‘If I find the enemy is strong, audacious, and well commanded, I shall proceed with the utmost caution and circumspection, giving Mr Amherst time to use his superiority. If they are timid, weak, and ignorant, we shall push them with the more vivacity, that we may be able before the summer is gone to assist the Commander-in-Chief’.5

Upon arriving before Quebec in late June, Wolfe immediately discovered that the first of these scenarios applied, and he reacted accordingly. The city was defended by a large army under the command of the experienced Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. Indeed, in defiance of all military convention – which reckons that a besieging force should outnumber the defenders by a ratio of four or five to one – Wolfe’s 9,000 men were heavily outnumbered by Montcalm’s 14,000. Put simply, Quebec was a tough nut to crack, far more so than the planners back in London had anticipated. From the outset, it was obvious to Wolfe that he’d require assistance from Amherst’s forces to achieve his own objective. This became ever clearer as Wolfe’s inadequate forces grappled inconclusively with Montcalm’s extensive fortifications during July and August in an effort to engage and destroy the Marquis’s army. Not only was such co-operation assumed by letter-writers within both armies, whose opinions were published in newspapers, but it was also reflected in the official orders issued by Wolfe at Quebec. Those read to the troops on 5 July left no doubt of this:

‘The object of ye campaign is to compleat ye conquest of Canada and to finish ye war in America. The army under ye Commander-in-Chief will enter ye colony on ye side of Montreal, while ye fleet and army here attack ye Governour-General and his forces’.6

Given what was known of New France’s resources, and the size of the army massed against him at Quebec, Wolfe concluded that Amherst would face only light opposition on the Lake Champlain front, and that his progress would therefore be swift. Writing to Brigadier Edward Whitmore at Louisbourg on 11 August, he conjectured that both Ticonderoga and Crown Point must by then be in British hands.7 This was correct. By early August, Amherst held both posts, which had been evacuated by forces under Brigadier-General François-Charles de Bourlamaque; with about 3000 regulars and militia, he was to make his real stand at Isle-aux-Noix, at the northern head of Lake Champlain. In addition, in late July, the western wing of Amherst’s army captured Fort Niagara, so raising hopes of a separate strike against Montreal from the west. Confirmation of all these conquests reached Wolfe on 25 August, when Brigadier-General James Murray returned from an upriver raiding expedition with prisoners and intelligence.

From Wolfe’s perspective, the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy thrashed-out in London appeared to be working: while he fixed the bulk of Canada’s defenders at Quebec, Amherst’s troops were making headway against their lightly-defended targets. Wolfe’s interpretation was echoed by officers in Amherst’s own army. Writing from Fort Edward on 6 August, a Captain in the Black Watch reported how Ticonderoga and Crown Point had fallen into their hands ‘without striking a stroke’. This was, he emphasized, ‘Thanks to Mr Wolfe for the diversion he makes, or else there would have been a tough piece of work of it’.8

However, as the summer progressed, elation at Amherst’s success was tempered by the realization that Wolfe was shouldering an undue share of the burden, prompting disquiet that the commander-in-chief was failing to do his utmost to help him. In fairness to Amherst, Lake Champlain was dominated by a small French flotilla, and he needed to build warships of his own to control it. Yet a growing body of opinion felt that the general could be doing more to help the hard-pressed Quebec army. Rather than actively pushing on to support Wolfe, it was increasingly clear that Amherst was adopting a passive stance, waiting upon developments at Quebec instead of seeking to influence them. As early as 4 August, the day Amherst took Crown Point, the army surgeon Richard Huck gave a worrying analysis of the situation:

‘It seems doubtful whether we shall go much farther, before we hear of Wolfe’s success. I tremble for him, but he has made easy work of it for us this far’.

The doctor added that the New York provincial troops with Amherst were already grumbling that if Wolfe failed, it would be the fault of their army.8 By mid-August, such concerns had heightened. Amherst’s own aide-de-camp, Captain James Abercrombie, feared that by rebuilding Ticonderoga, and constructing a huge new fort at Crown Point, the general was announcing that he had abandoned all thoughts of further conquests that year: once Bourlamaque realized this, he could release enough of his own troops ‘to turn the scale against Mr Wolff at Quebeck’. Unless they moved soon, Wolfe’s fate would be decided without them. For Brigadier Thomas Gage, upon whom Amherst’s hopes now largely rested, Abercrombie had a thorough contempt: ‘I don’t imagine G – g will try much for the wrenching [of] the laurels of Montreal from us’, he scoffed.9

Amherst had sent Gage north-west on 28 July, after hearing that the commander of the British siege of Niagara, Brigadier John Prideaux, had been killed. If he found Niagara and Oswego already in British hands, Gage was to build at fleet on Lake Ontario and forge ahead to take La Galette. On 1 August, when Amherst learned that the French had abandoned Crown Point, he sent fresh orders, urging Gage to take La Galette without delay, then push on against Montreal; a fortnight later he repeated the commands.10

Captain Abercrombie’s scathing assessment of Gage was all too accurate. Despite Amherst’s explicit orders, he did nothing, thereby throwing away a priceless opportunity to influence the outcome of the entire campaign. In a vindication of overall British strategy, Niagara’s loss had already caused consternation in Montcalm’s Quebec army. Fearing for the Montreal front, the Marquis had immediately detached 800 men to shore it up, under his capable subordinate, François-Gaston, the Chevalier de Lévis. This reaction suggests that a swift advance by Gage would have maintained the campaign’s strategic momentum, and exerted a major impact upon events.

French fears soon subsided after it became clear that Gage had no intention of moving against La Galette. When known at Crown Point, on 21 September, Gage’s woeful lack of initiative earned him a stinging reprimand from Amherst, while an angry William Pitt subsequently conveyed the King’s own displeasure.11 Amherst’s rage at Gage reflected the high hopes he had pinned upon him. But like Gage, Amherst himself had scarcely pursued an aggressive campaign. While his officers, and likewise the colonial press, felt that much more needed to be done to help Wolfe,12 the general’s correspondence suggests a more blasé attitude. In the absence of concrete intelligence from Quebec, Amherst took the view that no news was good news. As late as 11 September, in a letter to Gage from Crown Point, Amherst mentioned how a French flag of truce that came into camp the previous day had forwarded a letter from Colonel Louis-Antoine de Bougainville to Captain Abercrombie, dated 30 August, which made it clear that Quebec was still in French hands at that date. As the French officer who brought it would say nothing of events at Quebec save for a failed attack by Wolfe on 17 August (actually the Montmorency assault of 31 July) Amherst lamely concluded that ‘whatever has passed since the 17th to the 30th has been in favour of Mr Wolfe, and the enemy is therefore silent’.13 This was, by any standards, an extraordinary assumption to make. Instead of pushing to help Wolfe, in the spirit of his original instructions from Pitt, Amherst was regulating his own movements by the outcome of events at Quebec.

By late August, Amherst’s overwhelmingly defensive stance was obvious to Canada’s defenders, having been confirmed by an extraordinary breach of security. This stemmed from Amherst’s belated attempt to get dispatches to Wolfe, and to receive accurate intelligence of affairs at Quebec.

Establishing effective communication between the far-flung British-American armies was by no means easy. They were divided by several hundred miles of wilderness, much of it dominated by a skilful and ruthless enemy. A round-trip from Crown Point to Quebec, or visa versa, might be expected to take more than a month – if it succeeded in evading hostile patrols. The issue was complicated by the question of security. Interestingly, a ‘cipher’ had been worked out by Colonel George Williamson of the Royal Artillery and Amherst’s younger brother and adjutant-general, Colonel William Amherst, so that messages between the two could be sent in code. That summer, Williamson commanded the gunners with Wolfe’s army, while Colonel Amherst served under his brother on the Lake George front. Unfortunately, when William Amherst went home at the end of July with the victory dispatches announcing the conquest of Ticonderoga, he inadvertently took the all-important cipher with him. This oversight was to have unfortunate consequences.14

Ignorant of Wolfe’s fate, in early August Amherst resolved to establish contact with him by sending out two scouting parties, each to proceed by a different route, in hopes that at least one would get through. The first, dispatched from Crown Point on 7 August, and led by ranger ensign Benjamin Hutchins was to make for the St Lawrence via the Kennebec River. That was, as Amherst himself recognized, a ‘roundabout route’, which would necessarily take much time. The next day, 8 August, another party was sent on a more direct north-easterly tack, travelling via Lake Champlain and then heading for Quebec across country. Besides the dispatches for Wolfe, that party, commanded by Captain Quinton Kennedy of the 17th Foot, also carried a letter offering peace to the Abenaki – provided they opted out of the war. This was clearly a device to grease Kennedy’s path to the St Lawrence rather than a genuine diplomatic initiative: the document would only be produced if Kennedy was intercepted by the Indians themselves. Hutchins’ party finally reached Quebec on 3 September, although his dispatches told Wolfe nothing he did not already know: besides announcing his conquests, and asking Wolfe to make contact, Amherst repeated his familiar pledge of support: ‘You may depend upon my doing all I can for effectually reducing Canada; Now is the time’.14 However, the arrival of Hutchins and his scouts boosted the morale of the Quebec army, which now believed – mistakenly, of course – that Amherst was just a week’s march away.15

The second scout, under Kennedy, failed to reach Wolfe. Captured by hunters from the Abenaki mission village of St Francis, Kennedy and his men managed to destroy their official dispatches, but the spurious peace offer was found. More significantly, the Abenaki discovered a cache of letters from officers in Amherst’s army to their friends with Wolfe. Like the dispatches, they were not in code. These candid, personal communications let slip that Amherst had no intention of advancing until he was certain of Wolfe’s ‘success.’16 Regardless of how ‘success’ is interpreted here – whether as a clear-cut victory, or a more general assessment of affairs – the essential point, as Amherst emphasized to Gage on 14 August, was that his own ‘motions’ must be guided by Wolfe’s progress.17 This key intelligence was soon circulating among the French forces defending Isle-aux-Noix and Quebec; for the moment at least, Amherst’s Grand Army no longer posed a threat; there would be no need to drain further troops from the force opposing Wolfe at Quebec.

Personal pique at the ignominious fate of Kennedy’s party, and the failure of his own efforts to get word to Wolfe, clearly played a part in Amherst’s decision to unleash the famed ranger Major Robert Rogers upon the St Francis Abenaki. Yet there was another, strategic, justification for what became known as the St Francis Raid. As Amherst confided to Lieutenant-Governor James De Lancey of New York, Rogers would ‘hinder’ the enemy from reinforcing the vulnerable La Galette front.18 By striking at St Francis and other the French settlements along the southern shore of the St Lawrence, Rogers would deflect attention to that sector. His expedition was intended to ease Gage’s progress from Oswego to Montreal by sowing confusion within New France and distracting manpower from other fronts.

At the head of about 220 picked men, Major Rogers only left Crown Point on the evening of 13 September 1759. Unknown to Amherst and his subordinates, by then the victorious Wolfe was already dead, his opponent Montcalm defeated and dying of his wounds. Neither was Amherst aware that Gage had already decided against an advance upon La Galette.

Rogers’ remarkable raid became the stuff of legend – and nightmare. Moving initially via the hazardous waters of French-controlled Lake Champlain, his command landed at Missisquoi Bay and then headed overland through extensive swamps. Despite the punishing terrain, which caused him to send back dozens of men who were unable to keep up, Rogers obeyed his instructions to the letter.

In the early hours of 4 October, Rogers and his force – now reduced to some 140 men – finally closed in upon its objective. Many of the village’s warriors were absent, with the French field army under Lévis, or waiting to ambush Rogers where he was expected to strike, at Yamaska, or ‘Wigwam Martinique’, a settlement some ten miles to the south-west. According to credible sources, when Rogers approached the unsuspecting village, its remaining inhabitants were sleeping-off a lively wedding celebration.19 His surprise assault therefore met little resistance, and the village was soon torched in a bloody coup that spread consternation through what was left of Canada.

Rogers’ retreat to New England, with vengeful Indians and militia snapping at his heels, obliged him to cross hard country on short rations. When supplies ran out the famished rangers cannibalized the bodies of slain comrades, and killed and ate some of their captives. Thanks largely to Rogers’ courage and determination, the bulk of his haggard and exhausted command made it back to friendly territory. The Major and his men were hailed as heroes by the colonial press, but the St Francis raid came too late to influence the outcome of the 1759 campaign in North America. Its undoubted impact nonetheless suggested what might have been achieved had Amherst authorized such a diversionary strike soon after reaching Crown Point in early August, instead of waiting until mid-September.

Ironically, Amherst’s inactivity throughout August 1759 contributed to the Quebec campaign’s famously dramatic climax. Had the strategy envisaged by Sir John Ligonier and Pitt in December 1758 unfolded as planned, with coordinating advances on several fronts, Wolfe need never have adopted his legendary and controversial night-time amphibious assault upon the Foulon cove, just two miles from Quebec – a plan that yielded a spectacular victory, but which cost him his life. Determined pushes by Amherst and Gage, or either one of them, would – as the colonial press emphasized – in all likelihood have taken Montreal, so severing Quebec’s logistical lifeline as effectively as the ‘upriver’ strategy recommended by Wolfe’s three brigadiers, Robert Monckton, George Townshend and James Murray, and achieving a more decisive result than the young general’s own final stratagem that yielded a celebrated victory on the Plains of Abraham.

The brigadiers had put forward their ‘Plan of Operations’ at the end of August, after Wolfe was bedridden with a severe fever, and requested them to ‘consult’ upon the best way to break the deadlocked campaign. The trio proposed landing above Quebec, within a zone stretching for some twelve miles upriver from Cape Rouge Bay, itself about eight miles from Quebec. In doing so, they assumed that Amherst and his ‘armies’ were still advancing ‘into the heart of’ Canada.20

Wolfe decision to reject the brigadiers’ plan and instead attack the Foulon has provoked much criticism from historians. Yet under the circumstances, with Amherst stalled at Crown Point, Wolfe’s decision was doubly fortuitous: if the brigadiers’ plan had been implemented, a British army would have been trapped far upriver between two hostile forces – the combined Quebec army of Montcalm and Bougainville to the south, and whatever troops could be withdrawn from the stabilized Richelieu River – Montreal front, under the leadership of Lévis or Bourlamaque, to the north. The brigadiers’ plan, allegedly so much ‘safer’ than Wolfe’s strike at the Foulon, was in fact anything but, and a blueprint for disaster: at best, it would have meant a hazardous Dunkirk-style evacuation aboard the available shipping; at worst, a protracted bush-fight by an isolated command, leading to a bloody defeat, or a humiliating capitulation to match that of General John Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga in October 1777.

As Wolfe himself declared: ‘In war something must be allowed to chance and fortune, since it is in its nature hazardous’.21 The spectacularly successful execution of his plan certainly benefitted from some extraordinary luck, but that was only part of the story. Its outcome also rested upon the meticulous planning of the entire operation, and the consummate professionalism of the soldiers – and sailors – who implemented it. Without such expertise, the fruit of hard-earned experience of warfare in the Americas since 1755, such a risky plan could never even have been contemplated. Indeed, whatever else was subject to chance, the one asset upon which Wolfe placed unquestioned reliance was the veteran army that he had done much to create. In his final orders to his men, issued on 12 September, he reminded them of what they, ‘a determined body of soldiers, inured to war’ could do against Montcalm’s motley army of regulars, militia and Indians. In a bitter irony, the same orders sought to further encourage the troops by emphasizing that Amherst was ‘advancing into the colony’;22 whether or not Wolfe now believed this himself is impossible to establish from the surviving evidence.

Brigadier Townshend had been an outspoken critic of Wolfe’s generalship during the Quebec campaign. But when given the opportunity to exercise command himself, Townshend bungled the job. Wolfe’s overriding objective throughout the St Lawrence campaign had been the destruction of the army defending Quebec: it was not enough to simply capture the city if Montcalm’s army escaped. According to Wolfe’s officers, his own plan for the attack on 13 September envisaged nothing less:23 after his death on the Plains of Abraham that morning, command eventually devolved upon Townshend. Instead of mounting the vigorous pursuit across the St Charles River intended by Wolfe, Townshend concentrated upon consolidating his position. This desire to hang on to what had been won is understandable, but Townshend’s defensive mentality allowed Montcalm’s defeated army to slip away that same night, and to fight another day. On a tactical level, it left Wolfe’s victory incomplete: combined with Amherst’s similar, strategic, failure to push on more vigorously against Montreal that summer, it bequeathed a potentially-disastrous situation.

When Amherst finally launched his own offensive down Lake Champlain, on 11 October, it was already far too late to influence the campaign’s outcome. On 17 October, after receiving news of the capture of Quebec, he promptly returned to Crown Point. Justifying this decision to his mentor Ligonier, Amherst explained that Canada’s forces would now be able to concentrate against any push from the south.24 Of course, this situation need never have arisen if Amherst had struck while Wolfe was preoccupying the majority of those same troops at Quebec.

The true significance of Amherst’s reluctance to fully implement the original strategy for the 1759 campaign, and Townshend’s inability to deliver a coup de grace to Montcalm’s beaten army at Quebec, was largely masked by the extraordinary outburst of celebrations, on both sides of the Atlantic, prompted by the captures of Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Niagara, but above all, by Wolfe’s unexpected victory.25 Had Wolfe’s mission misfired, Amherst’s conduct might have been questioned, while Thomas Gage would surely have faced more than a mere reprimand; another officer who failed to execute his orders that summer, the commander of the British troops serving in Germany, Lord George Sackville, was court-martialed and dismissed in disgrace.26

Despite the celebrated victories of 1759, the war in Canada was not yet won. The survival of a core of French-held territory in the St Lawrence Valley, and of a viable and steadily reinvigorating field army under the command of the aggressive Chevalier de Lévis, provided an opportunity for a counter-strike that came close to undoing all Wolfe’s work.

That winter, the isolated British garrison of Quebec lay vulnerable to such an attack. As the bulk of Amherst’s troops were in winter quarters, by extraordinary efforts Lévis was able to concentrate virtually the entire force of Canada, including ten battalions of regular troops, to mount an attack upon Quebec in April 1760. Despite appalling weather, Levis’ 7,000-strong army reached the neighbourhood of Quebec on 27 April. After withdrawing his outposts, the city’s governor, Brigadier-General Murray, decided to march out next day and fortify the Heights of Abraham, which dominated the city’s poorly-designed defences. Although his own army was less than 4,000 strong, and composed of men weakened by a winter of frostbite and scurvy, when the feisty Murray saw Levis army strung-out on the march, and apparently off-balance, he decided to abandon his defensive stance and attack. This was a disastrous decision: in the stubborn and bloody combat that ensued, Lévis’ superior numbers wore down the sickly redcoats, turned their flanks and obliged them to retreat within the walls of Quebec. Thanks largely to Murray’s forceful leadership, the garrison fended-off a French siege until British warships arrived in the St Lawrence and forced Lévis to abandon his bold attempt.

Indeed, the fate of Quebec, and of New France, was settled by British naval victories across the Atlantic in 1759 – at Lagos in August, and at Quiberon Bay in November – that together destroyed French maritime power, so quashing any lingering hope of aid for beleaguered Canada.

Amherst, who had been dumbfounded to learn of Murray’s defeat, could breathe again. When he orchestrated his final assault upon Montreal in the summer of 1760, he took no chances. Three armies converged upon the city: Amherst’s own, from Oswego in the west; Murray’s up the St Lawrence from Quebec; and the third, commanded by Brigadier-General William Haviland, down the Champlain Valley from Crown Point. This time momentum was maintained on all fronts, and the coordinated strategy ran like clockwork, with the three armies reaching their objective within days of each other. Faced with this triple-pronged assault, and abandoned by their Indian allies, the French colony’s defenders had little option but to surrender on Amherst’s terms.

The conquest of Canada was complete, and Britons on both sides of the Atlantic rejoiced in the humiliation of their old enemy. Yet this triumphant outcome had been far from inevitable: the mixed results of the 1759 campaign in North America, in which the determination of James Wolfe to follow his orders at all costs provided such a contrast to the defensive posture adopted by Jeffery Amherst, and an even greater one to the timidity of Thomas Gage, had bequeathed a potentially disastrous situation for the Anglo-Americans. Only the omnipotence of the Royal Navy by the close of the ‘annus mirabilis’ – itself the result of risky and aggressive tactics akin to Wolfe’s – ensured that the hard-bought gains of his Quebec campaign would not be squandered through lack-luster leadership on other battle fronts.

As for the dead Wolfe’s cautious colleagues, Amherst’s sojourn as commander-in-chief in North America came to an inglorious end in 1763 when he returned home in the midst of a dangerous Indian war that his ill-judged polices had helped to spark. His successor was none other than Thomas Gage. Despite his dismal showing in 1759, General Gage held the key American command until 1772, and then again during the crisis of 1775. Gage’s misreading of the colonists’ temper and determination to oppose London’s policies contributed to the onset of the Revolutionary War, an event which irrevocably sundered the British-American Empire that Wolfe had died to secure.


Stephen Brumwell PhD is a freelance writer and independent historian living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is the author of the widely-acclaimed books Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 (Cambridge University Press, 2002); White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery and Vengeance in Colonial America (Da Capo, 2005); and Paths of Glory: the Life and Death of General James Wolfe (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007).



Pitt to Amherst, Whitehall, 29 December 1758, in The Correspondence of William Pitt … ed. G. S. Kimball (2 vols, London, 1906; repr. New York, 1969), I, pp. 432-42.

2 Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Amherst Family Papers, U1350/035/8.

3 National Archives, Kew, WO/34/46B, fols. 286-88.

4 WO/34/46B, fol. 310.

5 See Beckles Willson, The Life and Letters of James Wolfe (New York, 1909), pp. 427-29.

6 ‘General Orders in Wolfe’s Army During the Expedition Up the River St Lawrence, 1759’, in Literary and Historical Society of Quebec; Manuscripts Relating to the Early History of Canada (1875), item 2, pp. 17-18.

7 WO/34/46B, fols. 305-306.

8 The Edinburgh Chronicle for 1759, 20-22 September.

9 Loudoun Papers, Huntington Library, San Marino, LO 6134.

10 Abercrombie to Loudoun, Crown Point, 13 August 1759 (LO 6137).

11 Amherst to Gage, 1 August and 14 August 1759, WO/34/46A, fols. 171; 175-76.

12 Amherst to Gage, Crown Point, 21 September 1759 (National Archives, Kew, CO/5/56, fol. 223); Pitt to Amherst, Whitehall, 11 December 1759, in Correspondence of Pitt, II, 216-17.

13 See especially the editorial in Boston Gazette, 17 September 1759, reprinted in New-York Gazette, 24 September 1759.

14 WO/34/46A, fols. 180-81.

15 On the ‘Cypher’, see Amherst to Wolfe, New York, 27 April 1759 (WO/34/46B, fol. 309), and from Crown Point, 7 August 1759 (CO/5/56, fol. 201).

16 Amherst to Wolfe, Crown Point, 7 August 1759 (CO/5/56, fols. 201-202).

17 See ‘Extract of a Letter from Point-Levee’, 4 September 1759, in Boston Gazette, 8 October 1759.

18 See ‘Extract of a Journal Kept at the Army Commanded by the Late Lieutenant-General de Montcalm’, in Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, ed. E. B. O’Callaghan and B. Fernow (15 vols, Albany, 1853-87), X, pp. 1033-34.

19 CO /5/56, fol. 213.

20 Amherst to De Lancey, Crown Point, 25 September 1759 (WO/34/30. fol. 82).

21 The wedding is mentioned by two distinct sources. See the comments of Captain Amos Ogden, reported to De Lancey by Amherst on 13 November (WO/34/30, fol. 93); also the recollection of the captive Jonathan Dore, included in Franlin McDuffee, History of the Town of Rochester, New Hampshire 1722-1890 (1892; repr. 1988), pp. 25-27.

22 Dated Point Levis, 29 August 1759 (National Archives, Kew, PRO 30/8/50, fols. 162-63).

23 Wolfe to Major Rickson, Blackheath, 5 November 1757, in Willson, Life and Letters of Wolfe, p. 339.

24 Given in An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America for the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760, by Captain John Knox, ed. A. G. Doughty (3 vols. Toronto, 1914), II, pp. 91-93.

25 See New-Hampshire Gazette, 29 December 1759 (under heading ‘Philadelphia 13 December’).

26 Amherst to Ligonier, Crown Point, 22 October 1759 (U1350/0/35/13).

27 Although Amherst escaped censure in 1759, subsequent historians have proved more critical of his performance. See, J. W. Fortescue, A History of the British Army, Volume II (London, 1910), pp. 377-78, 392; John Shy, Toward Lexington: The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution, (Princeton, 1965), pp. 94-95; Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War (Lincoln, Nebraska, 2005), p. 148.

28 For a detailed account if this notorious episode, see P. Mackesy, The Coward of Minden: The Affair of Lord George Sackville (London, 1978).

29 See Amherst and the Conquest of Canada, ed. Richard Middleton (Army Records Society, 2003), Introduction, xliii-xlv.