To what extent did Major-General James Wolfe affect the outcome of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham?
A – Historical Significance : Outline the focus of your inquiry and provide background knowledge. Why is this an important and significant question to ask about the past?
My inquiry question focuses on Major-General James Wolfe and his actions in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. First of all, who is Major-General James Wolfe? Even before that, what is the Battle of the Plains of Abraham? In order to understand my question, I must first explain the components of my question.
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham is the battle that marked the rule of the British Empire over the land we now call Canada. Taking place in the Seven Years War, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place on September 13th, 1759, over the city of Quebec. The city of Quebec, being surrounded by 53m high cliffs on two sides and protected by a wall that stretched on for miles, was essentially a fortress. Conquering Quebec would be no easy task.
Major General James Wolfe was born into a military family in a town in England named Westerham. The eldest son of Lieutenant General Edward Wolfe, James Wolfe volunteered to serve his father’s regiment at the age of 13 and was commissioned 2 years later. Almost immediately after James Wolfe was commissioned, he was transferred to the 12th Foot, a regiment of the British army. By the time James Wolfe was 32, he had claimed the rank of a Major General and was preparing to storm the city of Quebec.
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was a key point in history, that has affected our country in many ways. Without Major General James Wolfe, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham may have turned out very differently, causing our present to be different as well. However, did Major General James Wolfe push the British to win? Or would the British have won without James Wolfe anyway? We don’t know, but we can come to a conclusion from what we know from the past.
2 – Cause and Consequence : Why did your researched event happen the way they did and what were the consequences?
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was between the French and the British. Both countries wanted more land and the advantages that came with it. More resources and a better economy are only some of the things that made both countries want more land. As Quebec was under the control of the French, Major General James Wolfe of the British was ordered to take over the city of Quebec. Undoubtedly, taking over a city designed to be a fortress would be a difficult task for even the most experienced. However, Major General James Wolfe was someone who could be considered an expert. As I’ve mentioned before, James Wolfe had been in the military from the tender age of 13. By the time of the Battle of Plains of Abraham, James Wolfe was 32, giving him about 20 years of experience on the battlefield.
Major General James Wolfe sailed away from Britain and prepared to conquer the city of Quebec. After much struggles throughout the campaign, James Wolfe found a zigzag trail up a cliff that would lead to the downfall of Quebec city. Guarded by a single guard, the trail was simple for James Wolfe to bypass. Getting a young soldier to speak to the sentry in French, they managed to trick the sentry and made it past the defences of Quebec.
On September 13th, 1759, Major General James Wolfe had managed to get 4500 troops inside the walls. Montcalm, the defender of the French city was caught off guard when he heard that the British were inside his walls, yet managed to collect 4500 troops. Even though both troops were roughly the same size, Montcalm’s army was composed mostly of militia and the Aboriginal people that the French had allied with, whereas James Wolfe’s troops were formed of trained military men.
Soon, the iconic battle began. Montcalm started to fire while his army was 1500m away. James Wolfe did not shoot and told his troops to stay still until the French were 40m away. Once the French were in range, James Wolfe ordered his troops to attack with volley fire. The volley fire was not an uncommon British tactic, but it was brutally effective. The French retreated, with Montcalm fatally injured.
However, Major General James Wolfe had also been fatally injured during the battle. As he was dying, he was told that the French was retreating, and knew that he had been successful in taking the French city. 5 days later, the French surrendered Quebec to the British, marking a milestone in the history of Canada.
3 – Historical Perspective : How was/were your researched event viewed by historical actors of the time? What specific values and standards did they hold? How do you know?
At the time, the Battle of the Fields of Abraham was a huge victory for the British. Quebec was the heart of New France and the triumph of the battle poured over to the soldiers of the British army, and Montreal fell to the British soon after. In Britain, Major General James Wolfe was honoured as a martyr. However, for the French, the loss of Quebec was a huge blow to their morale. Losing the highly defended heart of New France to the enemy would have been hard to hear for any French citizen.
Major General James Wolfe held his duty as a priority. With his dying breaths, he managed to utter a few last words, saying that “Now, God be praised, I die contented.” From this statement, you can tell that James Wolfe’s aim, his motivation for existence was his duty. Successfully carrying out his last order made him satisfied and he went on to the next life with no regrets. This mindset could have come from his childhood or from his extensive involvement in the military. Either way, it is clear that James Wolfe was someone who valued and was devoted to his country.
B – What conclusions can you reach about your question, based on the research you conducted?
The conclusion I have reached based on my research is that Major General undoubtedly played a major role in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The British may have or may not have been able to take the city of Quebec without James Wolfe. However, as James Wolfe had extensive experience on the battlefield, managed to find the trail up the cliff and managed to keep his cool as the enemy neared centimetre by centimetre, James Wolfe has done things that anyone else may not have done.
With almost 20 years of experience on the battlefield, James Wolfe managed to stay calm and waited for the French to come close before shooting at them. True, this method was a common strategy at the time, yet, without the level of experience James Wolfe had, someone else may have succumbed to fear or anxiousness, leading to the failure of the British. James Wolfe also spent extensive time looking for a way to conquer the barricaded city of Quebec. Without the patience Major General James Wolfe had, the British may have never found the trail on the cliff, and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham might not have ever occurred. Therefore, Major General James Wolfe had an incredible amount of influence over the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Grade 10’s Investigative Inquiry :