July 27, 2007

Gratuitous Historickal Posting (TM)


Today is the anniversary of the surrender in 1758 of the French Fortress of Louisburg, Cape Breton Island, to British forces after a seige lasting about six weeks or so. The fall of the Fortress allowed the British to put a hammer-lock on the St. Lawrence River, thereby cutting off the critical flow of supplies (including Indian trade goods) to the French forces in the interior.

The seige had everything you could wish in 18th Century warfare - a remarkable amount of cooperation between the land forces commanded by Lord Jeffrey Amherst and the Royal Navy fleet under Admiral Boscawen, including a successful amphibious landing under fire; a highly scientific seige cannonade that slowly but steadily reduced the defences to rubble; lucky shots that destroyed critical buildings and shipping; a daring cutting-out expedition into the fortress' harbor to destroy the last remaining French warships; and, finally, the refusal of the Brits to allow the French to surrender with the honours of war, given the trouble they had been forced to take.

As noted, the British Army was commanded by Jeffrey Amherst. Among his subordinates was the dashing and courageous (although almost maniacally hypocondriac) Brig. General James Wolfe, who was to take Quebec in such spectacular fashion, dying upon the Plains of Abraham in the moment of his triumph. I've visited his birthplace, Westerham (pronounced "Westrum"), Kent. A very pretty little town, or at least it was 25 years ago.

As for Amherst, he went on to lead the final British drive up Lake Champlain in 1759 in a pokey, hesitant manner and captured Montreal the next year. He later became military governor of Canada, managing both to bungle the outbreak of the Indian rising known as Pontiac's Rebellion and to poison London's view of the Colonial political situation to the point of near caricature.

It surprises me somewhat that a certain trash school in Massachusetts named after the man (I got wait-listed back in the day. Bitter? Moi?) should still carry the "Lord Jeffs" as its mascot. One would have thought that they long ago would have replaced this dead white male genocidal oppressor with something more pee-cee like the "Daisies" or the "Fluffy Clouds" or perhaps the "Baa-Lambs". But there you are.

Posted by Robert at July 27, 2007 09:03 AM | TrackBack