Marquis de Montcalm meets Gen. James Wolfe
on the Plains of Abraham, both die
September 13, 1759
Marquis de Louis Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, (1712-1759), French general chiefly noted for his service in Canada during the Seven Years War. He was born at Candiac near Nimes, Februrary 28, 1712. His family dated back to the 12th century and many of his ancestors served in the king's armies with distinction. Commissioned an ensign in the Hainaut regiment at the age of 12, he became an active soldier at 15. His first experience was in 1733 against the Austrians in the War of the Polish Succession.
In 1735 he succeeded to his father's titles and property and the following year married Angélique Louise Talon Boulay. They had 10 children. He was wounded in 1742 at the defense of Prague during the War of the Austrian Succession and became colonel of the regiment of Auxerrois the following year. In 1746 he distinguished himself at the battle of Piacenza where his regiment was decimated and he was taken prisoner after receiving five sabre wounds. He was later exchanged, promoted to brigadier and at the end of the war was in command of a cavalry regiment. The following few years he spent with his family at Candiac; then, in January 1756, he was appointed to command the French regular troops in North America with the rank of major general. On May 13 he arrived at Quebec.
For the next three years Montcalm was successful against the British. In the summer of 1756 Oswego was captured, restoring control of Lake Ontario to the French. The next year he captured Fort William Henry, at the head of Lake George, with its 2,000-man garrison. This victory was marred by the slaughter of many of the prisoners by the Indian allies of the French. Although Montcalm deplored this event and risked his life to curb it, he had failed to take the precautions that would have prevented it.
Montcalm's greatest victory occurred in July 1758, when, with about 3,800 men, he held Ticonderoga against 15,000 British troops under General James Abercrombie, inflicting nearly 2,000 casualties on the British and suffering only 372 in his own ranks. This success was due more to Abercrombies stupidity than to Montcalm's tactical skill and Marquis de Vaudreuil, governor-general of French Canada, was very critical of Montcalm for not exploiting the victory. In consequence of his victory, however, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and Vaudreuil was ordered by the king to defer to Montcalm in all military matters.
In 1759 the British sent an army, numbering only about 8,500 men but of excellent quality, under the command of Major General James Wolfe and convoyed by a large fleet under Vice Admiral Charles Saunders, against Quebec. Montcalm had about 15,000 men, of varying quality, with which to defend the citadel. Taking full advantage of his entrenched position, he wisely refused to be drawn into open battle. For more than two months Wolfe was baffled, but finally effected a landing close above Quebec and by dint of taking grave risks got his army onto the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm was forced to give battle. He did so hastily, was mortally wounded and his army defeated. He died the next day, September 14, and was buried in the Ursuline chapel.
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