No visitor to Quebec will fail to drive out to the Plains of Abraham, behind the Upper Town, and almost on a level with the citadel. Little did a previous owner of this tract of land, Abraham Martin, imagine that his patriarchal name would be preserved in history through association with one of the most eventful battles of the New World. Yet it was on his fields that the destiny of the North American continent was decided, when on the morning of the 13th of September, 1759, the martial representatives of France and England met in their last great struggle for supremacy. Nothing upon the smooth plateau reminds us now of the momentous conflict save a modest shaft surrounded by an iron railing. This marks the spot where the victorious English leader died. It was a fate of which he seems to have had a strong presentiment, partly perhaps from the precarious condition of his health, partly because to win this longed-for victory he had staked all, and knew the risk was great. Lovers of literature will not forget that with Wolfe's closing hours are associated the solemn stanzas of "Gray's Elegy," which he repeated to the officers about him on the night before the combat, as his boat floated clown the river to the point whence he and his brave soldiers were, with bated breath, to climb on hands and knees a cliff supposed to be insurmountable, and on the tableland thus gained to fling themselves upon the garrison. Among the verses which at that hour he must have quoted with peculiar feeling was the following:
Where Wolfe Died Victorious.
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike th' inevitable hour; The paths of glory lead but to the grave".
"Gentlemen," said the general in a low tone, when he had concluded, " I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec." A few hours later, while leading the charge, he fell, bleeding from three wounds. He begged the m e n w h o caught him in their arms to lay him on the ground, and sank into a swoon, from which, however, he was soon aroused by hearing one of them cry: "They run! See how they run!" - "Who run?" inquired the dying man, endeavoring to rise. "The enemy, sir," was the reply; "they give way everywhere." - "God be praised," murmured the hero, as he sank again to earth; "now I will die in peace." The column on the Plains of Abraham was not deemed adequate to signalize so glorious a death. Hence, in the city, near the terrace, stands an obelisk of stone, sixty-five feet in height; reared not alone, however, to the victor, but to the vanquished, the gallant Marquis of Montcalm, who likewise lost his life in the same battle, fighting as bravely to retain, as his opponent did to win, the splendid prize. Upon this monument, in the laconic Latin, to which no English version can do justice, is the inscription :
The St. Louis Gate, Quebec.
Mortem Virtus Communem
Although Montcalm and Wolfe met death with equal bravery, the sentiments with which they viewed their fate were of necessity different. One passed away in triumph; the other in defeat. One knew that he had gained, the other felt that he had lost, the key to Canada. Hence, when Montcalm was told that his wound was mortal, he said sadly: "I am glad of it. I am happy that I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec." In fact, as the result of this great victory, all the immense possessions held by France in Canada were within four years ceded to Great Britain. Both of the men who perished here died in the prime of life.
Wolfe was but thirty-two, Montcalm but forty-seven, years of age. The latter sleeps beneath the convent of the Ursulines, near which he breathed his last, and in a grave already partially hollowed by a bursting shell. The body of his rival was taken home to England, and now reposes in the solemn sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. It is not strange that his admiring country buried him in its Walhalla. "With a handful of men," said Pitt, "he has added an empire to English rule".
Monument To Wolfe And Montcalm.