James Wolfe, British army officer, commander of the British expedition that took Québec in 1759 (b at Westerham, Eng 2 Jan 1727/28; d at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham 13 Sept 1759). One of the legendary figures of Canadian history, Wolfe has become known as the man whose defeat of Montcalm in 1759 marked the beginning of British rule in Canada. He saw fighting in both Flanders and Scotland, and gained a notable reputation before going to N America in 1758 as a senior officer in Jeffrey Amherst 's expedition against Louisbourg. During the siege, Wolfe, a charismatic figure, played a distinguished and active role, which influenced his selection as commander of the expedition against Québec planned for 1759. Yet for most of the 1759 campaign he made little headway, partially because of his vacillation and limited ideas.

Wolfe's assault on the strong Montmorency position of July 31 was a bloody failure, and neither the bombardment of Québec nor the destruction of neighbouring settlements had any real effect. He was ravaged by illness, and his relations with 3 senior officers, Robert Monckton, George Townshend and James Murray, and with the navy were marked by sharp disagreements. But when in August his subordinates proposed landing above Québec he began to plan an amphibious landing that would cut the enemy's supply lines and force a battle.

A midnight passage of the St Lawrence and a series of fortunate strokes saw his force established on the Plains of Abraham on Sept 13. Montcalm's forces attacked, but the better-trained British force routed the French in a short action. Wolfe himself was mortally wounded but lived long enough to hear of his victory. His reputation in both Britain and Canada survived until this century, when several works questioned the consistently favourable picture hitherto drawn of him.

See also Seven Years' War.