Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soldier of Monarchy: Marquis de Montcalm

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran was a faithful soldier of His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XV of France who presided over some of the most stunning victories of France in North America during the French and Indian War. He was born on February 28, 1712 at the Chateau de Candiac near NĂ®mes in the south of France to Marie-Therese de Pierre and Louis-Daniel de Montcalm. In 1727 he joined the French Royal Army as an ensign in the Regiment d’Hainault. When his father died in 1735 he became the Marquis de Saint-Veran, inheriting his title, great prestige and immense debts. He married Angelique Louise Talon du Boulay in 1736 who brought with her a considerable dowry. This played a part in her selection as his bride but, happily, their marriage was a success and they were a devoted and loving couple with a happy home life and ten children, five of whom survived to adulthood. In 1729 his father had purchased him a commission as captain and in that role he fought in the War of Polish Succession, seeing action at the siege of Kehl in 1733 and the siege of Philippsburg in 1734.

This came naturally to the young Marquis de Montcalm whose family had a long history of military service. Yet, he was also a curious and intellectual type and while others were engaged in less productive activities in camp the young Montcalm could be found reading Greek and German literature. During the War of Austrian Succession he proved his courage further, first serving as aide-de-camp to the Marquis de La Fare. Alongside the Chevalier de Levis, who would be one of his top subordinates at the height of his career, Montcalm fought at the siege of Prague and in 1743 was promoted to colonel and given command of the Regiment d’Auxerrois. He served with Marshal de Maillebois in Italy and was honored with the Order of Saint Louis in 1744. In 1746 he was wounded five times before being captured at the battle of Piacenza and for his heroism was promoted to brigadier general after his release and returned to duty in Italy. He was wounded again at the battle of Assietta and aided in lifting the siege of Ventimiglia. After the war was over, in 1749, he raised a cavalry force of his own, the Regiment de Montcalm.

With the outbreak of the French and Indian War the struggle was on that would determine whether North America would be dominated by England or France and although the French lands were far more extensive than the British colonies on the coast, the French were at a great disadvantage due to their greatly inferior numbers in America. While France dispatched trappers, traders, missionaries and diplomats to do business with, convert and make friends with the Indians it was the British who sent over colonists and established large and rapidly expanding population centers which gave them a significant advantage. In 1756 His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XV dispatched the Marquis de Montcalm to New France (French Canada) with the rank of major general to take command of all French forces in North America after the capture of Baron Dieskau. For Montcalm it would be his last war but also the height of his career and the scene of his greatest victories.

Upon his arrival, Montcalm was less than impressed with the situation in New France. There was not much that was up to his high standards and although he was polite and diplomatic with his Indian allies he also abhorred their methods of making war. He squabbled with the local governor and received precious little support from the homeland. Yet, the Marquis brought a new sense of professionalism to the French war effort in America and against all odds he won a string of stunning victories over the British. Despite being heavily outnumbered the Marquis de Montcalm took the offensive and began methodically reducing the British presence in upper New York. In 1756 he won a great victory that secured French control of Ontario with the capture of Fort Oswego. The devout Marquis credited God with the victory and erected a memorial cross in thanks. The following year his skillful siege tactics resulted in the capture of Fort William Henry, a name perhaps most famous for the Indian massacre of British soldiers and civilians who had evacuated the fort. Much blame has been heaped on Montcalm for this but, in fact, he never ordered such an atrocity, was horrified when he learned of it and acted quickly to stop the killings even to the extent of offering his own life in exchange for the parolees.
It was, however, the battle of Fort Carillon in 1758 that was to be the masterpiece of Montcalm’s military career. With only 3,800 men he successfully repelled a British army of over 16,000. The British lost 2,000 men killed or wounded while the Marquis lost only 352. Again, Montcalm attributed the victory to God and erected another memorial cross in thanks for their deliverance. It was the height of French war effort in North America and the height of the career of the Marquis. Despite being at every disadvantage, the French had not only defeated the British campaigns against them but struck back to the point that the very presence of the British in America was imperiled. However, stirred to action, things soon changed as the British sent over massive reinforcements from the home islands with the intention of wiping out the French presence in Canada once and for all.

The climactic battle for Quebec came at the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Initially, the Marquis de Montcalm did quite well, repelling several British attacks and foiling their efforts to land troops in areas better suited to the attack. Finally, the British army of General James Wolfe managed the seemingly impossible and reached the Plains of Abraham, launching their attack. The Marquis de Montcalm came out to meet him and the resulting battle is often credited with deciding the fate of modern Canada. Wolfe was killed but the French were defeated and as they were falling back the Marquis himself was also mortally wounded. When told that he would not long survive, Montcalm said he was grateful as it would spare him the sight of seeing New France surrendered to the British. He spent his last moments with his confessor and the Bishop of Quebec, passing away at midnight, September 14, 1759 after which, as per his wishes, he was buried in a shell hole. He was later reburied alongside French and British troops who died in the battle of Quebec.


  1. It always pains me whenever I think of how the meeting between the Americas and the West was hijacked by Godless, irreverent, 'progressive' men.

    The priests made such good advocates for these peoples (e.g., those sent by Isabella of Castile to ensure fair treatment), and the French shine as foreigners who actually saw the land as belonging to them that first lived there. Had the monarchs been the potent forces they were a century before, we might have seen the explosion of Western pioneering yield very different fruits. Instead of the American Indians being crippled with Leftist 'charity' in the North or Marxist regimes in the South, we might now have nations standing on an equal, 1st world footing with the West. If only the French could have won this struggle.

  2. Wow! I never saw the French vs. English in this light. In U.S., I was always taught that the French were 'the bad guys' and the English were 'the good guys'. Talk about propaganda.


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