Monday, July 30, 2007

A Bit of Backstory

Death of General Wolfe,
Benjamin West,
oil on canvas, 1770,
National Gallery of Canada.

History often describes James Wolfe as a hero because of his brilliant generalship at the battle for Quebec.

Of course he died there on the battlefield, which adds to the mystique.

And one could wonder if he was acclaimed a hero more by the circumstance of place and time.

Philosophical arguments ensue as to whether heroes - like writers - are born, not made.

Since novelists are in the "making" business, we sometimes present our readers with a hero fully formed from the forehead of Zeus: hunky, decisive, compassionate about children and other small vermin, and with a career that ipso facto denotes the necessary heroic qualities. It doesn't hurt though, to also include some incident from the past to illustrate and reinforce this persona. The theory being that past actions are the best predictors of future behaviour.

Wolfe was at Culloden in '46.

When the triumphant English forces swept over the field sabering the dying, a wounded Frazer of Inverallocky called out his defiance.

As the story goes, a general turned to the young officer and ordered, "Shoot me that scum."

To which he received the reply, "My commission is at your disposal, but I will not."

According to legend and tradition,when James Wolfe was struck down on the heights above the St. Lawrence river, "it was into the arms of Fraser of Lovat that he fell."

To my mind, Wolfe became a hero - at Drumossie Moor near Inverness.


Anonymous said...

I was not aware of Gen Wolfe, unitl your post and a search of the internet. An interesting man with a career in the army, that began when he was only 13.

writtenwyrdd said...

A wonderful anecdote. It resonates. I can see why you would say that is what makes him a hero. That's moral courage and it is far more difficult than risking life and limb,most of the time.

word veri: kleph. Sounds like it should mean something, doesn't it?

Bernita said...

The battle affected the history of many nations, Steve.

Especially, Written, since an army career was his dream and his desire.

Robyn said...

I had a friend once who visited Culloden. Though she had no Scottish ancestry and no real connection to the place, she said it felt like hallowed ground to her. She barely resisted the urge to remove her shoes while walking upon it.

Wolfe? Absolutely a hero.

December/Stacia said...


They just don't seem to make them that way anymore.

Gabriele C. said...

December, that's the reason I write historical fiction. *grin*

Well, Simon Fraser Master of Lovat, son of Simon the Fox 11th Lord Lovat, did raise a regiment - the 78th Frasers - and fought in that war. As staff officer, he would have been near Wolfe.

Which is the more interesting because Simon's father was executed after Culloden, and Simon himself spent several years in an English prison, and then fought for them, leading people from his defeated homeland.

I have been to Culloden. It's is a place with a strong feeling for the past. I've visited dozens of battlefields from the Romans to WW1, but none left as deep an impression as Culloden. One reason may be that the place changed so little. Many battlefields now are fields and pasture which makes them look deceivingly peaceful. But Drumossie Moor is still a moor.

raine said...

To be willing to sacrifice one's dream for the sake of integrity...

Yes. A hero in the truest sense.
Thank you, Bernita.

Jon M said...

I love the traditional ballad called General Wolf, very moving.

The Anti-Wife said...

Too many people today can't even spell integrity. Having it would be asking much.

Charles Gramlich said...

A great tale. One hopes that it's true. And if not, it should be. Definetely a hero.

Bernita said...

Your friend had the right instincts, Robyn.
1200 clansmen died there, along with Jacobitism and the highland clan system, the tradition of centuries - and they say the dead are barely under the turf.

I think they do, December.

Thank you, Gabriele, for the supplemental.The claim has been made in both countries.

An intense man, Raine.The story always gives me a shiver.

Don't think I know that one, Jon.

AW, there have always been too many people who don't possess it - whether they can spell it or not.

Yes, Charles. It has that true Celtic feel.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You know, I've never been a fan of the "unlikely" hero. I prefer my heroes with seeds of greatness.

Bernita said...

Time and place have a lot to do with a reputation for heroism, I suppose, SS.