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Publication date: 1st December 2004 by Stephen Brumwell

The first trans-Atlantic hero? General James Wolfe and British North America

Early on the morning of 8 June 1758, British frigates unleashed their broadsides upon French shore defences at Gabarus Bay, on the foggy and surf-lashed island of Cape Breton. Under cover of the warships' guns, a motley flotilla of craft headed towards the land. Propelled by straining Royal Navy oarsmen, and seesawing crazily on the heavy swell, the boats were crammed with crack troops: red-coated British grenadiers in tall, embroidered mitre caps; Scottish Highlanders wearing sombre bonnets and plaids; and, to provide covering fire, a mixed corps of irregulars – light infantry formed from the army's best marksmen, and tough, Indian-fighting New England 'rangers'. This elite force formed the spearhead of an army sent to subdue Cape Breton's fortified port of Louisbourg – the 'Dunkirk of America'. Command of the opening amphibious assault was entrusted to thirty-one-year-old Brigadier General James Wolfe. It was a hazardous operation: