(1727-1759), was the British general whose success in the Battle of Quebec in 1759 won
Canada for the British Empire. His victory against the French came after several
discouraging failures, due in part to his poor judgment. His greatness as a general has
sometimes been exaggerated because of his dramatic death at the moment of victory.
Before the attack on Quebec, Wolfe moved his troops up the Saint Lawrence River to a
landing well above the city. The troops moved down the river during the night of Sept.
12-13, 1759, to a point much nearer Quebec. They landed there, and then climbed a steep
bluff on the north side of the river to the plains outside the city walls. When General
Montcalm, the French commander, discovered the British in the morning, he decided to fight
on the site Wolfe had chosen.
The Battle of Quebec lasted less than 15 minutes. Wolfe was wounded twice, but he
continued in command until a third bullet struck his lungs. He died just as the French
troops were breaking. General Montcalm was also mortally wounded, and he lived only a few
hours after the battle.
Wolfe was born in the County of Kent, England. He joined the army when he was 14, and
served in Flanders and Scotland. He became a brigadier during the Seven Years' War (also
called the French and Indian War). In the war, in 1758, Wolfe served under Major General
Jeffery Amherst in the Battle of Louisbourg.
Wolfe returned to England after that battle. William Pitt, who was then directing
England's foreign affairs, chose Wolfe to command the expedition against Quebec. Wolfe's
success there, at the cost of his life, permitted the British to seize Montreal in 1760
and to complete the conquest of Canada.
Contributor: Phillip Buckner, Ph.D., Prof. of History, Univ. of New Brunswick.