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The Scot in New France (1535-1880)


These two valedictory letters of General Murray addressed to his brother Admiral Murray, appeared, with other corespondence, in the History of the Earls of Cromarty, compiled by Mr William Fraser, F. S. A. Scot, and issued privately last year by the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. Admiral Murray afterwards succeeded his elder brother Patrick, and became sixth Lord Elibank. He married Lady Isabella Mackenzie, daughter of George third and last Earl of Cromarty; their daughter, the Hon. Maria Murray, married Mr. Hay, of Newhall, (brother of the seventh Marquis of Tweedale), and succeeding to the Cromarty-Mackenzie estates on the death of her cousin, Kenneth Mackenzie, took the name of Hay-Mackenzie, and was the grandmother of the present Duchess of Sutherland, who, in 1861, was created Countess of Cromarty in her own right. This, therefore, explains how General Murray’s letters found their way into the Cromarty charter chest.

The letters are, I think, of considerable interest. In the first, written only a month after the battle of the Plains of Abraham, General Murray announces to his brother that he has been appointed Governor of Quebec, he also states that he is at the head of 6,000 trained troops, and that he contemplates a winter expedition against the Chevalier de Levis, and especially has an eye to his magazines. The Chevalier, who was cantoned at Fort Jacques-Cartier, had formed the design of attacking the City as soon as the river should be ice-bound, and when Murray could expect no assistance from the English fleet. The French General was obliged to retreat on Montreal. In the meantime, Murray vigorously pushed forward the repairs of the fortifications of Quebec, but the insufficiency and badness of provisions and the rigour of the climate introduced scurvy and other complaints among the troops, and had reduced his garrison to about one-half, when, on the 26th April, 1760, he heard that the Chevalier de Levis, having collected about 10,000 men, had landed at Pointe-aux-Trembles.

We may now turn to the second letter. It was written a year after the first, and six months after the events I am about to summarize. The General commences by stating that it is only the approbation of his Sovereign the Ministers and his brother soldiers that he is desirous of obtaining, and after referring to his share in the battle of the Plains of Abraham, he proceeds to defend the action he took on the day of the 28th of April.

As soon as he heard that De Levis had landed, Murray advanced to Sillery, and there determined to give him battle. He says in his letter: "My "journal in the hands of the Minister points out all at large." Reviewing Murray’s conduct, General Sir E. Cust, in his "Wars of the eighteenth century," says: "Murray now resolved on a plan which has been much criticised "and justly condemned. He thus explained his view of the case, in his dispatch to the Secretary of State—that the enemy was greatly his superior in numbers, but considering that the British forces were habituated to victory, and were provided with a fine train of artillery, he thought that an action in the field was less risk in the single chance of successfully defending a

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