I Am Canada: Storm the Fortress
William Jenkins, New France, 1759
Fourteen-year-old William Jenkins is working at a printing house when he comes to the attention of navigator and naval officer James Cook. William signs up to serve with Cook on the warship HMS Pembroke, part of Britain's fleet setting out to take the French stronghold of Quebec.
William soon learns that the world of a British sailor is a harsh one, especially when the ship lays siege to the fortress and is attacked by French fire ships — burning wrecks sent downstream to set the British warships on fire. On one raid, William is captured by the French allies, the Abenaki, and taken into Quebec itself, which is under constant bombardment from British cannons.
With the siege strangling Quebec's lifelines, William finds a way outside the fortress walls just in time to join the British soldiers landing their boats and preparing to face the French on the Plains of Abraham.
A dramatic story of the Seven Years' War, culminating in the siege and battle that claimed Canada for Britain.
I raced around the deck with the other boys, pretending that we were sailors. We squinted into the sky, licking our fingers to test the direction of the wind. At six, I was as free as the fish that swam in the depths beneath the Alderney. It was the spring of 1750 and my family and I were sailing from our village of Brierly-by-the-Sea in England to the new settlement of Halifax in Nova Scotia. A good life awaited us. Things would be different than they had been in England. Father, who was paying for part of our passage by working as a seaman, would own land. He would be a farmer rather than a sailor, and Mother would have her own house. As for me, who could say what great deeds I would do?
My mother would laugh at all of this. How my father smiled at her happiness and our good luck.
Luck has a way of disappearing, though.
From the Author
Some years ago, I wrote a Dear Canada novel that dealt with the siege of Quebec from the viewpoint of a young girl inside the city. So, it seemed logical to let readers see the siege from the opposite point of view: that of a young man on a British ship of war.
The eighteenth century has always been close to my heart. For years I was part of Le Détachement, a re-enacting group that portrayed Canadian militia. We volunteered at many historic sites, from Fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia, to Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania, USA. Sometimes at Fort Niagara in New York state, it was almost like travelling back in time.
The research for Storm the Fortress revealed new details of The Conquest to me. I had no idea how closely involved the sailors were in the pivotal Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Their bravery, like so many that day, was remarkable. Without them and the naval blockade of Quebec City, the whole course of Canadian history might have been very different.
Writing historical fiction is a unique project. You want to tell an interesting and exciting story, but it must be a true one. There is the challenge. Although you write the book in the quiet of your office or studio, the process is not a solitary one in the end. There are editors, fact checkers and historians to help make certain all is correct, so the reader will get a clear look into the past. I hope Storm the Fortress does that for you.
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