Classic History Books

William Wood - The Winning of Canada: A Chronicle of Wolfe

service, took off my cloak and brought a fresh horse; and would have continued close by me had I not
ordered him to retire. I believe he was slightly wounded just at that time. Many a time has he pitched my

tent and made the bed ready to receive me, half-dead with fatigue.' Nor did Wolfe forget his dumb

friends: 'I have sold my poor little gray mare. I lamed her by accident, and thought it better to dismiss her

the service immediately. I grieved at parting with so faithful a servant, and have the comfort to know she

is in good hands, will be very well fed, and taken care of in her latter days.'

After recovering from a slight wound received at Laffeldt Wolfe was allowed to return to England, where
he remained for the winter. On the morrow of New Year's Day, 1748, he celebrated his coming of age at

his father's town house in Old Burlington Street, London. In the spring, however, he was ordered to

rejoin the army, and was stationed with the troops who were guarding the Dutch frontier. The war came

to an end in the same year, and Wolfe went home. Though then only twenty-one, he was already an

experienced soldier, a rising officer, and a marked man.



Wolfe was made welcome in England wherever he went. In spite of his youth his name was well known
to the chief men in the Army, and he was already a hero among the friends of his family. By nature he

was fond of the society of ladies, and of course he fell in love. He had had a few flirtations before, like

most other soldiers; but this time the case was serious. The difference was the same as between a sham

fight and a battle. His choice fell on Elizabeth Lawson, a maid of honour to the Princess of Wales. The

oftener he saw her the more he fell in love with her. But the course of true love did not, as we shall

presently see, run any more smoothly for him than it has for many another famous man.

In 1749, when Wolfe was only twenty-two, he was promoted major of the 20th Regiment of Foot. He
joined it in Scotland, where he was to serve for the next few years. At first he was not very happy in

Glasgow. He did not like the people, as they were very different from the friends with whom he had

grown up. Yet his loneliness only added to his zeal for study. He had left school when still very young,

and he now found himself ignorant of much that he wished to know. As a man of the world he had found

plenty of gaps in his general knowledge. Writing to his friend Captain Rickson, he says: 'When a man

leaves his studies at fifteen, he will never be justly called a man of letters. I am endeavouring to repair

the damages of my education, and have a person to teach me Latin and mathematics.' From his

experience in his own profession, also, he had learned a good deal. In a letter to his father he points out

what excellent chances soldiers have to see the vivid side of many things: 'That variety incident to a

military life gives our profession some advantages over those of a more even nature. We have all our

passions and affections aroused and exercised, many of which must have wanted their proper

employment had not suitable occasions obliged us to exert them. Few men know their own courage till

danger proves them, or how far the love of honour or dread of shame are superior to the love of life. This

is a knowledge to be best acquired in an army; our actions are there in presence of the world, to be fully

censured or approved.'

Great commanders are always keen to learn everything really worth while. It is only the little men who
find it a bore. Of course, there are plenty of little men in a regiment, as there are everywhere else in the

world; and some of the officers were afraid Wolfe would insist on their doing as he did. But he never

preached. He only set the example, and those who had the sense could follow it. One of his captains

wrote home: 'Our acting colonel here is a paragon. He neither drinks, curses, nor gambles. So we make

him our pattern.' After a year with him the officers found him a 'jolly good fellow' as well as a pattern;

and when he became their lieutenant-colonel at twenty-three they gave him a dinner that showed he was


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