Seats Of The Mighty by Gilbert Parker
The following is an excerpt from 'The Scot in New France' (1880) by J.M. Lemoine. It is an account of Robert Stobo, the man whose life this text is loosely based upon.
Five years previous to the battle of the Plains of Abraham, one comes across three genuine Scots in the streets of Quebec--all however prisoners of war, taken in the border raids--as such under close surveillance. One, a youthful and handsome officer of Virginia riflemen, aged 27 years, a friend of Governor Dinwiddie, had been allowed the range of the fortress, on parole. His good looks, education, smartness (we use the word advisedly) and misfortunes seem to have created much sympathy for the captive, but canny Scot. He has a warm welcome in many houses--the French ladies even plead his cause; le beau capitaine is asked out; no entertainment at last is considered complete, without Captain--later on Major Robert Stobo. The other two are: Lieutenant Stevenson of Rogers' Rangers, another Virginia corps, and a Leith carpenter of the name of Clarke. Stobo, after more attempts than one, eluded the French sentries, and still more dangerous foes to the peace of mind of a handsome bachelor--the ladies of Quebec. He will re-appear on the scene, the advisor of General Wolfe, as to the best landing place round Quebec. Doubtless you wish to hear more about the adventurous Scot.
A plan of escape between him, Stevenson and Clarke, was carried out on 1st May, 1759. Major Stobo met the fugitives under a wind-mill, probably the old wind-mill on the grounds of the General Hospital Convent. Having stolen a birch canoe, the party paddled it all night, and, after incredible fatigue and danger, they passed Isle-aux-Coudres, Kamouraska, and landed below this spot, shooting two Indians in self-defence, whom Clarke buried after having scalped them, saying to the Major: "Good sir, by your permission, these same two scalps, when I come to New York, will sell for twenty-four good pounds: with this I'll be right merry, and my wife right beau." They then murdered the Indians' faithful dog, because he howled, and buried him with his masters. It was shortly after this that they met the laird of the Kamouraska Isles, le Chevalier de la Durantaye, who said that the best Canadian blood ran in his veins, and that he was of kin with the mighty Duc de Mirapoix. Had the mighty Duke, however, at that moment seen his Canadian cousin steering the four-oared boat, loaded with wheat, he might have felt but a very qualified admiration for the majesty of his stately demeanor and his nautical savoir faire. Stobo took possession of the Chevalier's pinnace, and made the haughty laird, nolens volens, row him with the rest of the crew, telling him to row away, and that, had the Great Louis himself been in the boat at that moment, it would be his fate to row a British subject thus. "At these last mighty words," says the Memoirs, "a stern resolution sat upon his countenance, which the Canadian beheld and with reluctance temporized." After a series of adventures, and dangers of every kind, the fugitives succeeded in capturing a French boat. Next, they surprised a French sloop, and, after a most hazardous voyage, they finally, in their prize, landed at Louisbourg, to the general amazement. Stobo missed the English fleet; but took passage two days after in a vessel leaving for Quebec, where he safely arrived to tender his services to the immortal Wolfe, who gladly availed himself of them. According to the Memoirs, Stobo used daily to set out to reconnoitre with Wolfe on the deck of a frigate, opposite the Falls of Montmorency, some French shots were nigh carrying away his "decorated" and gartered legs.
We next find the Major, on the 21st July, 1759, piloting the expedition sent to Deschambault to seize, as prisoners, the Quebec ladies who had taken refuge there during the bombardment--"Mesdames Duchesnay and Decharnay; Mlle. Couillard; the Joly, Malhiot and Magnan families." "Next day, in the afternoon, les belles captives, who had been treated with every species of respect, were put on shore and released at Diamond Harbour. The English admiral, full of gallantry, ordered the bombardment of the city to be suspended, in order to afford the Quebec ladies time to seek places of safety." The incident is thus referred to in a letter communicated to the Literary and Historical Society by Capt. Colin McKenzie.
Stobo next points out the spot, at Sillery, where Wolfe landed, and soon after was sent with despatches, via the St. Lawrence, to General Amherst; but, during the trip, the vessel was overhauled and taken by a French privateer, the despatches having been previously consigned to the deep. Stobo might have swung at the yard-arm in this new predicament, had his French valet divulged his identity with the spy of Fort du Quesne; but fortune again stepped in to preserve the adventurous Scot. There were already too many prisoners on board of the French privateer. A day's provision is allowed the English vessel, which soon landed Stobo at Halifax, from whence he joined General Amherst, "many a league across the country." He served under Amherst on his Lake Champlain expedition, and there he finished the campaign; which ended, he begs to go to Williamsburg, the then capital of Virginia.
It seems singular that no command of any importance appears to have been given to the brave Scot; but, possibly, the part played by the Major when under parole at Fort du Quesne, was weighed by the Imperial authorities. There certainly seems to be a dash of the Benedict Arnold in this transaction. However, Stobo was publicly thanked by a committee of the Assembly of Virginia, and was allowed his arrears of pay for the time of his captivity. On the 30th April, 1756, he had also been presented by the Assembly of Virginia with 300 pounds, in consideration of his services to the country and his sufferings in his confinement as a hostage in Quebec. On the 19th November, 1759, he was presented with 1,000 pounds as "a reward for his zeal to his country and the recompense for the great hardships he has suffered during his confinement in the enemy's country." On the 18th February, 1760, Major Stobo embarked from New York for England, on board the packet with Colonel West and several other gentlemen. One would imagine that he had exhausted the vicissitudes of fortune. But no. A French privateer boards them in the midst of the English channel. The Major again consigns to the deep all his letters, all except one which he forgot, in the pocket of his coat, under the arm pit. This escaped the general catastrophe; and will again restore him to notoriety; it is from General A. Monckton to Mr. Pitt. The passengers of the packet were assessed 2,500 pounds to be allowed their liberty, and Stobo had to pay 125 pounds towards the relief fund. The despatch forgotten in his coat on delivery to the great Pitt brought back a letter from Pitt to Amherst. With this testimonial, Stobo sailed for New York, 24th April, 1760, to rejoin the army engaged in the invasion of Canada; here end the Memoirs.
Though Stobo's conduct at Fort du Quesne and at Quebec can never be defended or palliated, all will agree that he exhibited, during his eventful career, most indomitable fortitude, a boundless ingenuity, and great devotion to his country--the whole crowned with final success.