CHAPTER VI. QUEBEC 1759
In October 1758 Wolfe sailed from Halifax for England with Boscawen and very nearly saw a naval battle off Land's End with the French fleet returning to France from Quebec. The enemy, however, slipped away in the dark. On November 1 he landed at Portsmouth. He had been made full colonel of a new regiment, the 67th Foot (Hampshires), and before going home to London he set off to see it at Salisbury. [Footnote: Ten years later a Russian general saw this regiment at Minorca and was loud in his praise of its all-round excellence, when Wolfe's successor in the colonelcy, Sir James Campbell, at once said: 'The only merit due to me is the strictness with which I have followed the system introduced by the hero of Quebec.'] Wolfe's old regiment, the 20th (Lancashire Fusiliers), was now in Germany, fighting under the command of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, and was soon to win more laurels at Minden, the first of the three great British victories of 1759 - Minden, Quebec, and Quiberon.
Though far from well, Wolfe was as keen as ever about anything that could possibly make him fit for command. He picked out the best officers with a sure eye: generals and colonels, like Carleton; captains; like Delaune, a man made for the campaigns in Canada, who, as we shall see later, led the 'Forlorn Hope' up the Heights of Abraham. Wolfe had also noted in a third member of the great Howe family a born leader of light infantry for Quebec. Wolfe was very strong on light infantry, and trained them to make sudden dashes with a very short but sharp surprise attack followed by a quick retreat under cover. One day at Louisbourg an officer said this reminded him of what Xenophon wrote about the Carduchians who harassed the rear of the world-famous 'Ten Thousand.' 'I had it from Xenophon' was Wolfe's reply. Like all great commanders, Wolfe knew what other great commanders had done and thought, no matter to what age or nation they belonged: Greek, Roman, German, French, British, or any other. Years before this he had recommended a young officer to study the Prussian Army Regulations and Vauban's book on Sieges. Nor did he forget to read the lives of men like Scanderbeg and Ziska, who could teach him many unusual lessons. He kept his eyes open everywhere, all his life long, on men and things and books. He recommended his friend. Captain Rickson, who was then in Halifax, to read Montesquieu's not yet famous book The Spirit of Laws, because it would be useful for a government official in a new country. Writing home to his mother from Louisbourg about this new country, that is, before Canada had become British, before there was much more than a single million of English-speaking people in the whole New World, and before most people on either side of the Atlantic understood what a great oversea empire meant at all, he said: 'This will sometime hence, be a vast empire, the seat of power and learning. Nature has refused them nothing, and there will grow a people out of our little spot, England, that will fill this vast space, and divide this great portion of the globe with the Spaniards, who are possessed of the other half of it.'
On arriving in England Wolfe had reported his presence to the commander-in-chief, Lord Ligonier, requesting leave of absence in order that he might visit his relatives. This was granted, and the Wolfe family met together once more and for the last time.
Though he said little about it, Wolfe must have snatched some time for Katherine Lowther, his second love, to whom he was now engaged. What had happened between him and his first love, Miss Lawson, will probably never be known. We know that his parents were opposed to his marrying her. Perhaps, too, she may not have been as much in love as he was. But, for whatever reason, they parted. Then he fell in love with beautiful Katherine Lowther, a sister to the Earl of Lonsdale and afterwards Duchess of Bolton.
Meanwhile Pitt was planning for his Empire Year of 1759, the year of Ferdinand at Minden, Wolfe at Quebec, and Hawke in Quiberon Bay. Before Pitt had taken the war in hand nearly everything had gone against the British. Though Clive had become the British hero of India in 1757, and Wolfe of Louisbourg in 1758, there had hitherto been more defeats than victories. Minorca had been lost in 1756; in America Braddock's army had been destroyed in 1755; and Montcalm had won victories at Oswego in 1756, at Fort William Henry in 1757, and at Ticonderoga in 1758. More than this, in 1759 the French were preparing fleets and armies to invade England, Ireland, and Scotland; and the British people were thinking rather of their own defence at home than of attacking the French abroad.
Pitt, however, rightly thought that vigorous attacks from the sea were the best means of defence at home. From London he looked out over the whole world: at France and her allies in the centre, at French India on his far left, and at French Canada on his far right; with the sea dividing his enemies and uniting his friends, if only he could hold its highways with the British Navy.