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Wolfe, James 1727-

Military officer; born in Westerham, Kent, England, Jan. 2, 1727; distinguished himself in the army when he was only twenty years of age; and was quartermaster-general in the expedition against Rochefort in 1757. At the secondcapture of Louisburg by the English, in 1758, he acquired such fame that Pitt placed him at the head of the expedition against Quebec in 1759, with the rank of major-general, though only thirty-three years of age. On the evening of Sept. 12, Wolfe, who had just recovered from a serious attack of fever, embarked with his main army on the St. Lawrence, above Point Levi, and floated up the river with the flood-tide. He was preparing for an attack upon the French the next day. The evening was warm and starlit. Wolfe was in better spirits than usual, and at the evening mess, with a glass of wine in his hand, and by the light of a lantern, he sang the little campaign song beginning:

Why, soldiers, why
Should we be melancholy, boys?
Why, soldiers, why,
Whose business 'tis to die?

[431] But the cloud of a gloomy presentiment soon overcast his spirits, and at past midnight, when the heavens were hung with black clouds, and the boats were floating silently back with the tide to the intended landing-place at the chosen ascent to the

General James Wolfe. (from a portrait by Schaak, in the National portrait Gallery, London.)

Plains of Abraham, he repeated in a low tone, to the officers around him, this touching stanza of Gray's Elegy in a country Church-yard:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour—
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

“Now, gentlemen,” said Wolfe, “I would rather be the author of that poem than the possessor of the glory of beating the French to-morrow.” He was killed the next day, and expired just as the shouts of victory of the English fell upon his almost unconscious ears.

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