« السابقةمتابعة »
[Addressed to Captain Rickson, Aide-de-Camp to Major-General Lord George Beauclerk, at Inverness, Scotland. A portion of Wolfe's Seal is still adhering to this letter.]
My dear Friend,
If I had not been well convinced by your letter that you needed not my council to guide you, and that the steps you were taking were prudent and sensible beyond what I could advise, you should have heard from me something sooner; for the public service and your honour and welldoing are matters of high concern to me. I am sorry that I cannot take to myself the merit of having served you upon this occasion. I would have done it if it had been in my power; but I knew nothing of your new employment till Calcraft mentioned it to me. You are, I believe, so well in the Duke's opinion that Mr Fox (father of the celebrated Charles James) had no difficulty to place you where you now are, and where, I am fully persuaded, you will acquit yourself handsomely. To study the character of your General, to conform to it, and by that means to gain his esteem and confidence, are such judicious measures that they cannot fail of good effects. If I am not mistaken, Lord George is a very eventempered man, and one that will hearken to a reasonable proposal. If the French resent the affront put upon them by Mr Boscawen, the war will come on hot and sudden; and they will certainly have an eye to the Highlands. Their friends and allies in that country were of great use to them in the last war. That famous diversion cost us great sums of money and many lives, and left pais bas to Saxe's mercy. I am much of your opinion, that, without a considerable aid of foreign troops the Highlanders will never stir. I believe their resentments are strong, and the spirit of revenge prevalent amongst them; but the risk is too great without help; however, we ought to be cautions and vigilant. We ought to have good store of meal in the forts to feed the troops in the winter, in case they be wanted; plenty of intrenching tools and hatchets, for making redoubts, and cutting palisades, etc., and we should be cautious not to expose the troops in small parties, dispersed through the Highlands when there is the least apprehension of a commotion; a few well-chosen posts in the middle of those clans that are likeliest to rebel, with a force sufficient to intrench and defend themselves and with positive orders never to surrender to the Highlanders (though ever so numerous) but either to resist in their posts till relieved, or force their way through to the forts, would, I think, have lively effects. A hundred soldiers, in my mind, are an overmatch for five hundred of your Highland milice; and when they are told so, in a proper way, they believe it themselves.
“It will be your business to know the exact strength of the rebel clans, and to inquire into the abilities of their leaders, especially of those that are abroad. There are people that inform you. There ought to be an engineer at the forts to inform the General of what will be wanted for their defence, and to give directions for the construction of small redoubts where the general pleases to order them.
“Nobody can say what is to become of us as yet. If troops are sent into Holland, we expect to be amongst the first, We are quartered at Winchester and Southampton; but turned out for the Assizes. The fleet at Spithead expects orders to sail every hour. They are commanded by Sir E. Hawke, who has the admirals Bing and West to assist him. There are about 30 great ships, and some frigates, the finest fleet, I believe, that this nation ever put to sea, and excellently well manned. The marines embarked yesterday, to the number, I suppose, of about 1,ooo men; others will be taken up at Plymouth if they are wanted. Bockland's are to disembark. I imagine they are aboard by this time.
“I am distresed about my poor old mother, who has been in a very dangerous way. She is the only woman that I have any great concern about at this time.
“I lodged with a Mrs Grant (this was while Wolfe was at Inverness) who, perhaps, you know. She was very careful of me, and very obliging. If you see her, it will be doing me a pleasure if you will say that I
remember it. “Do you know Mrs Forbes of Culloden ? I have a particular respect and esteem for that lady. She shewed me a good deal of civility while
I lay in the North. If you are acquainted, pray make my best compliments to her, and let me know how she is as to her health.
‘‘Aza rest, you must be so kind to write now and then and I will be punctual to answer, and give any intelligence of what is doing where I happen to be.
“A letter directed for me at General Wolfe's at Black Heath, Kent, will be forwarded to the remotest regions.
I am, my dear friend,
Your affectionate and faithful Servant,
[A gap of two years. By this time his friend was acting DeputyQuarter-Master-General of Scotland, at Edinburgh.]
“My dear Rickson,
Though I have matter enough and pleasure enough in writing a long letter, yet I must now be short. Your joy upon the occasion of my new employment I am sure is very sincere, as is that which I feel when any good thing falls to your share; but this new Office does neither please nor flatter me, as you may believe when I tell you that it was offered with the rank of Colonel, which the King, guided by the Duke (Cumberland) afterwards refused. His Royal Highness's reasons were plausible; he told the Duke of Bedford (who applied with warmth) that I was so young a Lieutenant-Colonel, that it could not be done immediately—but I should have known it in time that I might have excused myself from a very troublesome business which is quite out of my way. (What does this relate to ?) I am glad you succeeded so happily, and got so soon rid of unpleasant guests, and ill to serve; it is ever the case that an unruly collection of raw men are ten times more troublesome than twice as many who know obedience. We are about to undertake something or other at a distance, and I am one of the party. (This relates to the subsequent unlucky descent on Rochefort). I can't flatter you with a lively picture of my hopes as to the success of it; the reasons are so strong against us (the English) in whatever we take in hand, that I never expect any great matter; the chiefs, the engineers, and our wretched discipline, are the great and insurmountable obstructions. I doubt yet if there be any fixed plan; we wait for American intelligence, from whence the best is not expected, and shall probably be put into motion by that intelligence. I myself take the chance of a profession little understood and less liked in this country. I may come off as we have done before; but I never expect to see either the poor woman my mother, or the old General, again; she is at present dangerously ill; he is infirm with age. Whether my going may hurry their departure, you are as good a judge as I am. Besides their loss I have not a soul to take charge of my little affairs, and expect to find everything in the utmost
confusion, robbed and plundered by all that can catch hold of them. “I heartily wish you were fixed in the employment you now
exercise; but, if David Watson is not misrepresented to me, you have everything to fear from his artifices and double dealing. I wish I was strong enough to carry you through, I'd take you upon my back; but my people are away. Calcraft could serve you—no man better. He is the second or third potentate in this realm.
“I may have an opportunity of speaking to Napier, but there Watson governs almost alone; and we are not sharp enough to dive into the hearts of men. The nephew goes with us. I must have succumbed under the weight of some characters of this sort if I had not stood out in open defiance of their wicked powers. A man will not be ill-used that will not bear it. Farewell, my honest little friend. I am ever your
“Faithful and affectionate Servant,
(Marked, “Answered 2nd Aug., 1757.”)
(This 1etter was written immediately after Wolfe's return from the
unlucky descent on Rochefort, in which he was one of no less than seven naval and military officers, among whom the command was frittered away).
(Addressed “Captain Rickson, Deputy-Quarter-Master-General of Scotland, at Edinburgh '').
I thank you very heartily for your welcome back. I am not sorry that I went, notwitstanding what has happened; one may always pick up something useful from amongst the most fatal errors. I have found out that an Admiral should endeavour to run into an enemy's port immediately after he appears before it; that he should anchor the transport ships and frigates as close as can be to the land; that he should reconnoitre and observe it as quick as possible, and lose no time in getting the troops on shore; that previous directions should be given in respect to landing the troops, and a proper disposition made for the boats of all sorts, appointing leaders and fit persons for conducting the different divisions. On the other hand, experience shews me that, in an affair depending upon vigour and despatch, the generals should settle their plan of operations, so that no time may be lost in idle debate and consultations, when the sword should be drawn ; that pushing on smartly is the road to success, and more particularly so in an affair of this nature—(a surprise) that nothing it to be reckoned an obstacle to your undertaking, which is not found really so upon tryal, that in war something must be allowed to chance and fortune, seeing it is in its nature hazardous, and an option of difficulties; that the greatness of an object should come under consideration, opposed to the impediments that lie in the way; that the honour of one's country is to have some weight, and that, in particular circumstances and times the loss of 1,000 men is rather an advantage to a nation than otherwise, seeing that gallant attempts raise its reputation, and make it respectable; whereas the contrary appearances sink the credit of a country, ruin the troops, and create infinite uneasiness and discontent at home. I know not what to say, my dear R , or how to account for our proceedings, unless I own to you that there never was people collected together so unfit for the business they were sent upon—dilatory, ignorant, irresolute and some grains of a very unmanly quality and very unsoldier-like or unsailorlylike. I have already been too imprudent: I have said too much and