The Death of General Wolfe

Melody - Seq. by John Renfro Davis

from late 1759 or 1760

Come all ye young men all, let this delight you,
Cheer up ye, young men all, let nothing fright you,
Never let your courage fail when you're brought to trial,
Nor let your fancy move at the first denial.

2. So then this gallant youth did cross the ocean,
To free America from her invasion,
He landed at Quebec with all his party,
The city to attack, being brave and hearty.

3. The French drew up their men, for death prepared.
In one another's face the armies stared,
While Wolfe and Montcalm together walked,
Between their armies they like brothers talked.

4. Each man then took his past at their retire.
So then these numerous hosts began to fire,
The cannon on each side did roar like thunder,
And youths in all their pride were torn asunder.

5. The drums did loudly beat, colors were flying,
The purple gore did stream and men lay dying,
When shot off from his horse fell this brave hero,
And we lament his loss in weeds of sorrow.

6. The French began to break, their ranks were flying,
Wolfe seemed to revive while he lay dying,
He lifted up his head as his drums did rattle,
And to his army said, How goes the battle?

7. His aide-de-camp replied, 'Tis in our favor,
Quebec, with all her pride, nothing can save her,
She falls into our hands with all her treasure,
Oh then, brave Wolfe replied, I die with pleasure.

This song is from the French and Indian Wars. England wanted to control Quebec and a British force under James Wolfe met French forces at the Battle of Quebec, sometimes known as The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, on September 13, 1759. Both Wolfe and his French counterpart, General Montcalm were killed in the battle.

In America, the backwoods bards paid tribute to the sweetheart he left grieving for him in the haunting ballad where she is made to say, 'Strange news is come to town, strange news is carried, Some say my love is dead...' in an echo of the English lovesong about the faithless blacksmith. But, less sentimental, English ballad makers concentrated their attention on Wolfe as a military hero, on his warm human regard for the men who served under him and on his patriotic fervour.

Legends clustered about his death. It is said that, after he was wounded for the third time on that bloody day, he said to the two grenadiers whom at last he allowed to assist him to the rear. 'Don't grieve for me. I shall be happy in a few minutes.' When news of the victory reached him, he said 'Now I am contented,' and then he died, like a noble Roman.

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