The Death of General Wolfe at Quebec

7:00 AM

Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe at Quebec, 1770

Get ready. This is going to be geeky. Not only am I going to get to talk about one of my favorite parts of history and culture, but I also get to discuss video games. What video game, you ask? My absolute favorite video game on this Earth: Assassins Creed III. I'm still not exactly sure how I convinced my teacher to let me do this, but don't worry it all ties together, albeit eventually.

General James Wolfe fought for the British army against the French and Indians in, you guessed it, the French and Indian War. He would later come to be known in history as the "Hero of Quebec" and the main reason the English won the war. Historically, he died from four musketball wounds at the height of the battle depicted above. Benjamin West paints the British hero's final moments Pieta style, where General Wolfe's death mirrors that of Christ when he is taken off the cross and held by Mary. Surrounding him are various British officers, a doctor attempting to stem the bleeding from his wounds, and, most interestingly, a Native American. Here is what I find so interesting about this painting. The Iroquois Confederacy was composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations that populated the northeastern coast of America, even extending up into Canada. Originally warring nations, they eventually united under an oral constitution known as the Great Law of Peace some time in between 1450 and 1600, maybe even earlier. During the French and Indian War, the Iroquois Confederacy sided with the French. This was because the Iroquois Confederacy had a growing concern about the English and their consumption of Indian lands. The English colonists and neighboring tribes had never had an amicable relationship, whereas the French and Indians did. In contrast to the English, the French were not interested in colonizing nor settling the New World. Their main priority was fur trade, which made interaction and good relationships with native tribes a necessity. So, it strikes me as odd that an Indian would be kneeling, seemingly in thought, across from the British General. As far as I know, no Native Americans sided with the British, and I see no reason why they would. Maybe Benjamin West just got his facts confused.

Last year, Assassins Creed, a video game series very near and dear to my heart, revealed that the setting for their third (technically fifth, but whatever) game would be in Revolutionary War America, and that the main character would be half Native American, Mohawk to be exact. Many of the events that occur in the game are historically accurate, but the game takes on an entirely different perspective of the war that everyone in America thinks they know. It showed the Native American point of view; how they saw the war and how they also struggled for independence. The protagonist, Ratonhnhakéton (pronounced ra-don-han-ge-don), but assumes the name Connor, comes into contact with the stars of the Revolution: Samuel Adams, General Putnam, Marquis de Lafayette, and even George Washington Fun Fact: the Mohawk people don't have generically used first names like European cultures do (i.e. John or Mary), nor do they have last names. Instead, each first name is individualistic and has meaning. Connor's name, Ratonhnhakéton, means "life that is scratched." He believes in the colonists cry for freedom, helping them to win battles and change the tide of the war. But while doing this, Connor finds that helping the colonists win may compromise the safety of his people and their lands. "My enemy is a notion, not a nation," Connor states. The view this game offers of the Revolutionary War is one that a textbook will never tell. Given, the game is manipulated to revolve around the history of Assassins and Templars, two warring secret societies, but the historical commentary is raw and unforgiving. By the end of the game, the only founding father I came away liking was Lafayette. Washington, while serving under General Braddock in the French and Indian War actually burned Indian villages (which is, spoiler alert, how Connor's mother dies). Surprising, right?

Coincidentally I stumbled upon this painting while recently replaying Assassin's Creed III. The house that Connor lives in, called the Davenport Homestead, collects 18th century paintings of various historical figures and events every time a certain mission is completed. While walking around the house, checking out the awesome items I had collected, I saw this painting and yelled, "Hey! I know that one!" I have always found Native American culture to be interesting. When I was in Kindergarten, I remember being distraught over the fact that I had been cast as a Pilgrim instead of an Indian for the Thanksgiving musical. So, to look at history through a Native Americans point of view rather than an English one was not only refreshing, but enlightening. To be blunt, the core ideologies of the Revolution, even the Revolution itself, were flawed. Men claimed that they fought for the everyone's rights, but it was only for white, land-owning men. What of the rights of enslaved Africans, women, and Native Americans? Those would have to wait. I would argue that the listed groups still don't posses all of the rights endowed to them, "inalienable Rights" as described by the Declaration of Independence. The saying history is written by the victors could not be more relevant. Perhaps everything would have been different for the Native Americans had the French won the war, but they didn't and there's not much use in contemplating hypotheticals. Of course, none of this, the American Revolution, the birth of a nation, and the mistreatment of the Native American peoples, could have been possible without General Wolfe, "Hero of Quebec."

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