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Marquis de Montcalm-Gozon

Marquis de Louis-Joseph Montcalm-Gozon

A French general, born 28 Feb., 1712, at Candiac, of Louis-Daniel and Marie-Thérèse de Lauris; died at Quebec 14 Sept., 1759. He was descended from Gozon, Grand Master of Rhodes of legendary fame, The warlike spirit of his ancestors had given rise to the saying: "War is the tomb of the Montcalms." Though less clever than a younger brother, a prodigy of learning at seven, Louis-Joseph was a classical scholar. A soldier at fifteen, he spent his leisures in camp reading Greek and German. He served successively at the sieges of Kehl and Philipsbourg, and became a knight of St. Louis (1741) after a campaign in Bohemia, and was appointed colonel of the Auxerrois regiment (1743). He received five wounds at the battle of Piacenza. In 1736 he had married Angélique-Louise Talon de Boulay, grand-niece of the famous intendant of that name. Of this union were born ten children. In 1755 he succeeded the ill-fated Dieskau, in the command of the French army in Canada, under governor Vaudreuil. The dissonance of character between the two chiefs was to cause much friction during this trying period. Unlike his superior, Montcalm was quick in conception, fearless, generous and impulsive, self-reliant and decisive in action. Intendant Bigot's unscrupulous dishonesty, the apathy of the French court for the "few arpents of snow", an impoverished colony, an ill-fed, ill-clad and badly provided army, all this enhances Montcalm's heroic courage and faithfulness to duty. He was ably seconded by the skilful, prudent and brave chevalier de Lévis. The disproportion in numbers and resources between the belligerent forces rendered more arduous the problem to be solved. Yet it was only after a record of three brilliant victories that he was to end his glorious career on the Plains of Abraham. First in order of time comes the capture of Chouaguen (Oswego), an undertaking wherein all the odds were against the besiegers. Overcoming all diffidence, Montcalm succeeded (14 Aug., 1756), thereby winning the region of Ontario to the domination of France, and with a few badly armed troops taking 1600 prisoners, 5 flags, 100 guns, at the cost of only 30 killed and wounded. Attributing his success to God, he raised a cross with the inscription: "In hoc signo vincunt." In connexion with a later triumph, the capture of Fort William Henry (9 Aug., 1757), Montcalm has been accused of tolerating the massacre by the Indians of the English prisoners. Yet, even Bancroft admits that he exposed himself to death to stop the savages infuriated by the rum given them by the English contrary to his orders. The last and greatest of Montcalm's victories, shared by Lévis and Bourlamaque, was at Carillon (Ticonderoga), a battle which was to result either in the salvation or destruction of New France. Although a first encounter (5 July, 1758) had proved disastrous to the French, the death of the valiant young Lord Howe, the real head of the English troops, deprived Abercromby of his chief support. On the 8th the onslaught of the entire Anglo-American army was rendered impossible by the earthworks and complicated barricade of felled trees protecting Fort Carillon; while a deadly fire decimated the assailants. When the fray was over 2000 English soldiers lay killed or wounded, while the French losses were only 104 killed and 248 wounded; 3800 men had repulsed 15,000. In thanksgiving to the God of Hosts, Montcaìm raised a cross with an inscription.

After arresting the invasion by land, Montcalm had to face the attack of the naval forces. During the siege of Quebec by Wolfe, Montcalm with Lévis won a first victory at Montmorency Falls, with a loss of 450 to the English (31 July, 1759). But the final act was drawing nigh, which was to seal the fate of New France. On 13 Sept. the enemy stealthily scaled the Heights of Abraham, and at early morn was ranged in battle. Montcalm, thunderstruck by the unexpected tidings, hurried from Beauport and arrayed his troops. Though about equal in numbers, they were doomed to defeat for several reasons, including surprise, hardship, privation, fatigue, and a disadvantageous position. Both generals fell, Wolfe dying on the battle-field, and Montcalm the next morning. This battle, considered in its results, was one of the greatest events of the eighteenth century. It saved Canada from the French Revolution and heralded the dawn of American Independence. Montcalm was a brave and generous commander, a high-minded and disinterested patriot; a faithful Christian giving to God the glory of his victories. His memory is cherished in the Old and the New World. In Canada he shares the honours awarded to his victor, as the following inscription on their joint monument testifies: —

Mortem virtus
Communem famam historia
Monumentum posteritas dedit.

—a tribute duly anticipated by the French Academy in the last words of the hero's epitaph in the chapel of the Ursuline monastery:—

Galli lugentes deposuerunt et generosæ hostium fidei commendarunt.

(The French mourned and buried him and commended him to the enemies' generosity).

CASGRAIN, Montcalm et Lévis (Tours, 1898); DOUGHTY. The Siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (Quebec, 1901); CHAPAIS, La prise de Chouaguen in La Nouvelle-France (1909); CANDIDE, Au pays de Montcalm in La Nouvelle-France (1909).


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