Benjamin West: The Death of General Wolfe (1770)

(National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada)

A famous painting by the Anglo-American artist Benjamin West (1738-1820). The painting shows the death of the British Major General James Wolfe (1727-1759) during the battle of the Plains of Abraham (13 September 1759) at Quebec. The battle was a part of the Seven Years' War (1754-1763), a global war between Kingdom of Great Britain and her allies on 1 side and the Kingdom of France and her allies on the other side. In North America the war between France and Great Britain was called the 'French and Indian War' and was fought between the British colonies and the terretories of France (called New France). The war in North America was in the end decided by the succesfull British siege of Quebec. After a siege of Quebec of about 3 months, the British Major General James Wolfe led a force of about 4400 men and landed at a small cove called L'Anse-au-Foulon, one and one-half miles above Quebec City. The British managed to deploy their troops on the Plains of Abraham outside of Quebec and suprise their French opponents. The following battle of the plains lasted only 15 min and ended with a French defeat - resulting in the capture of Quebec. When peace was singed in 1763, France gave possession of parts of New France to Great Britain, including Canada and the eastern half of French Louisiana — lying between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains. At the battle of the Plains of Abraham both commanders of each side was killed: the French commander Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran was killed at the end of the battle during the retreat, the British commander James Wolfe was killed when the French troops broke during the battle. Wolfe was hit by three bullets and died almost instantly. One of the British officers managed to give the word to the dying wolfe that the French army was retreating. Wolfe's last words where "Now, God be praised, I die contented" and died on the spot. Benjamin West shows the death scene of Wolfe with the British officer giving word that the battle is won. Painting from 1770.