Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Montcalm Gozon de Saint Véran, Louis Joseph, Marquis de
MONTCALM GOZON DE SAINT VÉRAN, Louis Joseph, Marquis de, b. in the chateau of Candiac, near Nimes, France, 29 Feb., 1712; d. in Quebec, Canada, 14 Sept., 1759. He was educated by one Dumas, a natural son of his grandfather, who taught him Greek, Latin, and mathematics, till at fifteen he entered the army as ensign in the regiment of Hainaut. In 1743 he was made colonel of the regiment of Auxerrois. Three years later, while rallying his soldiers in the battle under the walls of Piacenza, he received five sabre-cuts, and was made prisoner. He was soon afterward exchanged, promoted to the rank of brigadier, and again severely ed. The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle gave him an interval of rest, till, in 1755, war began in America, and at the beginning of the next year he was appointed to succeed Baron Dieskau, who had been defeated and captured by the New England militia at the battle of Lake George. In the spring of 1756 he sailed from Brest to take command of the French regular forces in Canada, and after a rough voyage landed at Quebec. He soon had an interview with the governor-general, Vaudreuil, who regarded him with a jealousy that time only deepened and strengthened. Vaudreuil, the official commander-in-chief, was incensed at finding himself practically supplanted, and he never could forgive his rival. Montcalm's first movement was to Ticonderoga, which was then threatened by the English, but the danger at that point proving less imminent than was supposed, the governor and the general resolved to attack the English post of Oswego. By a rapid and well-conducted movement, Montcalm invested and captured it, thus uncovering the western frontier of New York and spreading consternation through all the British colonies. The next summer he struck a yet more noteworthy blow, crossed Lake George with about 8,000 French and Indians, and took Fort William Henry, which guarded the head of the lake. The capture was followed by a deplorable event. The Indian allies broke the capitulation, fell upon the defenceless garrison, murdered a considerable number of men, women, and children, and carried off many more as prisoners. Montcalm vainly risked his life to protect his conquered enemies. The catastrophe has been regarded as a blot upon his name, but the only blame that, can be imputed to him is his failure to foresee the extent of the danger and take effectual measures to avert it.
in the next year, 1758, he achieved the crowning exploit of his life. Gen. Abercrombie advanced on Ticonderoga with about 15,000 men, and Montcalm awaited his attack with fewer than a fourth of that number, but formed almost entirely of regular troops, who were posted at the neck of the peninsula on high ground behind a breastwork of trunks of trees and protected in front by a vast and tangled abatis. Abercrombie had a powerful artillery train, but, hearing that his enemy would soon be re-enforced, he would not wait to bring it into action, and ordered an attack with musketry alone. The battle raged from one o'clock till evening. The English troops displayed a desperate courage, but could not force the breastwork and the abatis, which, in themselves almost impregnable to a direct attack, were defended with the utmost gallantry. At night the assailants withdrew in disorder, with the loss of nearly 2,000 men. This French success was balanced by great reverses. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst laid siege to Louisburg, and that important fortress fell into British hands. Gen. John Forbes advanced upon Fort. Duquesne, and the small French garrison abandoned it at his approach. The English were putting forth an activity and vigor that they had miserably lacked in the earlier years of the war, for Pitt was now in power, and the nation was roused from apathy to enthusiasm. On the other hand, France, engrossed by European wars, left her American colonies almost without succor, and Montcalm, with scanty resources, disordered finances, and a discouraged people, was left to the well-nigh hopeless task of defending Canada. Pitt resolved on a strong effort to master it, and in 1759 Gen. Wolfe ascended the St. Lawrence with between 8,000 and 9,000 troops and a considerable naval force under Admiral Saunders. The object of the expedition was the reduction of Quebec, the citadel of Canada. Here the whole available force of the colony was mustered to oppose the invaders, and Quebec, with the adjacent shores of Beauport, was occupied by regulars, militia, and Indians, to the number in all of more than 16,000, of whom only a small part were disciplined troops. Montcalm shared the command with Vaudreuil, who, with all his jealousy, was always ready in time of danger to throw responsibility on his rival. Having no confidence in the Canadian militia, Montcalm persisted in an attitude of defence. Every plan of Wolfe was met and thwarted, and when, at the end of July, the English commander made a desperate attempt to scale the heights of Montmorency, he met with a disastrous repulse. The uncommon strength of the country, joined with the sagacious tactics of Montcalm, held Wolfe everywhere at bay. At the beginning of September the success of the defence seemed assured. The British admiral was anxious to be gone, and the French fully believed that their deliverance was at hand. But before dawn on the morning of the 13th Wolfe surprised a French outpost, scaled, with about 5,000 men, the lofty heights that here bordered the St. Lawrence, gained the plateau of Quebec, and formed in line of battle on the plains of Abraham. Montcalm left his camp on the Beauport shore, hastily crossed the little river St. Charles, and at about ten o'clock advanced to the attack. His force was by this time much reduced by desertion and other causes, and a large part had been detached to watch the river above. Thus the opposing forces were about equal in number. Montcalm led the charge in person. The French came on shouting and firing. The British waited in silence till they were within forty yards, then gave them a general volley and charged with bayonet and broadsword. The French broke in disorder. Wolfe, leading the pursuit, was mortally wounded, and died on the field. Montcalm, who was on horseback, tried in vain to rally his troops, and was borne back with the tide of fugitives toward the St. Louis gate. Here a bullet passed through his body, and two soldiers led him into the town. A group of terrified women stood near the entrance of St. Louis street, and one of them shrieked out, “Oh, mon Dieu! mon Dieu! the marquis is killed.” “It's nothing, it's nothing,” he returned; “don't be troubled for me, my good friends.” He died the next morning.
Montcalm was small of stature, with a vivacious countenance and rapid, impetuous speech. He had a high sense of honor, strong family attachments, and an ardent patriotism, together with the tastes of a scholar and a great love of rural pursuits. As a commander he stands high, though not in the foremost rank. His last years were embittered by his misunderstanding with Vaudreuil, who, during the life of his rival and still more after his death, lost no opportunity of traducing him. With him perished the last hope of the colony of New France. The engraving represents the monument erected to Montcalm and Wolfe in 1827. Montcalm's journal of his Canadian campaign was discovered among other valuable papers in the Château de Troisiel, France, in 1888, by Abbé Henry R. Casgrain, of Canada. See Francis Parkman's “Montcalm and Wolfe” (2 vols., Boston, 1885). — His son, Paul François Joseph, French naval officer, b. in Rouergue in 1756; d. in Turin in October, 1812, served during the whole of the war of 1778-'83 in the West Indies. He took part in five naval battles, and was at the capture of Granada and Tabago, being severely wounded during the latter engagement. He served also under De Grasse in Chesapeake bay, was again wounded at Yorktown in October, 1781, and after the conclusion of peace married in Quebec a daughter of the Marquis de Jonquieres, a former governor of Canada. In 1789 he was elected to the states general by the nobility of Rouergue, and, when the annuities to noblemen were suppressed in 1790, his was continued, the exception being made out of respect for the memory of his father. He emigrated to Italy a few months later, and died in Turin from the effects of a fall from his horse. Two of his sons met their death in the West Indies while fighting against the English.