Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Bard of Wolfe's Army: James Thompson, Gentleman Volunteer, 1733-1830

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Bard of Wolfe's Army: James Thompson, Gentleman Volunteer, 1733-1830

Article excerpt

Earl John Chapman and Ian Macpherson McCulloch (eds), A Bard of Wolfe's Army: James Thompson, Gentleman Volunteer, 1733-1830 (Montreal: Robin Brass Studio, 2010), 384 pp. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 978-1-896941-62-2.

This important volume marks the first full publication of the personal recollections of James Thompson, a Highland veteran who saw action in both the Seven Years War and the War of American Independence. As well as offering an invaluable insight into life in one of the early Highland regiments, Thompson's account covers the early years of British rule in Quebec from the perspective of his role as the Overseer of Works for the city's fortifications. The account consists of forty-two anecdotes written down by Thompson's son just prior to his father's death in 1830. While suffering from problems which are common to war memoirs, the anecdotes offer a unique perspective on the experiences of a rank-and-file soldier in the Georgian army. Indeed, the volume consists of the only genuine account of the war by a Highland-born rank-and-file soldier, supplementing Through So Many Dangers: The Memoirs of Robert Kirk, an Irish-born veteran whose journal was similarly edited by McCulloch in 2004.

It is to the advantage of future historians that Chapman and McCulloch have taken on the task of publishing these reminiscences, which deal with themes as varied as encounters with native peoples, frontline experiences, freemasonry and Thompson's relations with the Canadien habitants of Quebec. In so doing, they have not only published Thompson's manuscript anecdotes (originally held at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec) but have included a more complete volume of the later anecdotes which was discovered in the Stewart Museum in Montreal in 2009.

The only reservation concerning this fine volume is the lack of editorial critique of the context in which Thompson set his account. …

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