Lieutenant John McCulloch, Plains of Abraham, 1759

[Badge: British Army] Badge: British Army; Click to enlarge [jpeg:50K]

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Some early and contemporary accounts of General James Wolfe victory at Quebec, 1759, chronicling his army's secret ascent at the Foulon Cove to gain the heights of Abraham, claim that the red-haired hero's forces were led up a moonlit track by a Scottish officer by the name of McCulloch. Although there was a junior officer by the name of Kenneth McCulloch serving in the 78th Highlanders, the McCulloch referred to is now thought to have been Lieutenant John McCulloch of the Royal Artillery.

Certainly as early as 1864, Wolfe's first official biographer, Robert Wright wrote that Wolfe had had prior intelligence of the defensive layout of Quebec City before he left England and launched on his campaign. He notes: "On the surrender of Oswego in 1756, Lieutenant John M'Culloch...a native of the north of Ireland...had been taken prisoner by the French and carried to Quebec, where he had an opportunity of observing the situation and defences of the place. Being exchanged, he returned to England, and, as a proper person to assist in the expedition of 1759, was introduced to Wolfe, who, it is said, took memoranda of his information. On the strength of this, it has been foolishly asserted that M'Culloch devised the scheme whereby Quebec was eventually captured. It is evident, however, that Wolfe's accurate preconception of the nature of the country, the number of the enemy, etc., could only have been arrived at through the communication of someone who had been in Canada. It is not improbable, therefore, that Lieutenant M'Culloch was the man from whom Wolfe learned the details of [Quebec's defences]."

Ironically, while Wolfe died a glorious death in front of his troops on the Plains of Abraham, the lowly Lieutenant John M'Culloch died ignominiously in parish poorhouse in 1793.

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