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Wolfe and Montcalm
Chapter I Montcalm's Early Years - His arrival at Quebec


ON March 14th, 1756, General the Marquis of Montcalm descended the grand staircase of the palace at Versailles, where he had just received his final orders from the king, Louis XV. He was leaving for Canada, where he went to replace the Baron de Dieskau, who had been taken prisoner the year before at the unfortunate affair of Lake St. Sacrament, better known as Lake George. The prince, to whom the Marquis of Montcalm had been recommended as one of the most brilliant officers of his army, had raised him to the dignity of major-general and appointed him commandant of the troops that he was sending to carry on the war in New France.

The general left Versailles the following day for Brest, accompanied by his leading aide-de-camp, M. de Bougainville, a young man then but little known, but who was destined to make himself famous, later on, by his travels around the world.

Montcalm was full of hope and joy when he left; for the king, as the finishing touch of his goodness, had named his son, who was barely seventeen years of age, colonel of a regiment of cavalry. The happy father hastened to convey the good news to his wife and his mother, informing them at the same time that he had gone with his son to thank the king and to present the young colonel to the members of the royal family.

The journey through Brittany was a pleasant one, thanks to the influence of the first fine days of spring which had opened the buds of the trees and clad the hillsides once more in green. At Brest Montcalm found awaiting him all the members of his establishment who had preceded him, and his second aide-de-camp, M. de la Rochebeaucour "a man of quality, a native of Poitou and a lieutenant in Montcalm's regiment of cavalry." He was joined shortly afterwards by his third aide-de-camp, M. Marcel, sergeant in the regiment of Flanders, promoted to the rank of an officer.

There lived at Brest at this time a man of the highest integrity in the person of M. Hocquart. He had held the office of intendant in Canada, and gave a warm welcome to Montcalm and to the superior officers who accompanied him. In the salon of Madame Hocquart was one with whom Montcalm formed the first link of a friendship that was never broken. This was the Chevalier de Levis, who had arrived at Brest the day before, and who had been appointed second in command under Montcalm with the rank of brigadier. From that time forth nobody possessed the confidence of Montcalm 2

to the same extent as Levis. He was his most intimate friend, his adviser, and the custodian of all his secrets. Montcalm's correspondence with him, recently discovered, reveals the fact that he recognized him as a master of military art. Though they differed in their fortunes they were the last defenders of a lost cause, and around them clustered the closing glories of the French arms in America.

Louis-Joseph, marquis de Montcalm, seigneur de Saint-Veran, was born on February 29th, 1712, at the chateau of Candiac, near Nimes. He came of an old family originally from Rouergue. His ancestors, for many generations, had gained lustre upon the field of battle. The people of the country were in the habit of saying that war was the tomb of the Montcalms.

The marquise de Saint-Vdran, nde Marie-Thdr&se de Lauris de Castellane, mother of Louis-Joseph, was a woman of eminent character and of a piety more eminent still. She had converted to Catholicism her husband, who was born of Huguenot parents, and she had exercised an extraordinary influence over her son. If the principles with which she inspired him did not preserve him from all errors in this century of impiety and debauchery they produced upon him an impression which was never effaced and which governed the whole course of his future life.

Montcalm's early childhood was spent at Roquemaure with his maternal grandmother, Madame de Vaux, who, like all grandmothers, spoilt him a little, in consequence of which and of his delicate health, he tells us that in 1718 he had not yet learned to read. He was then confided to the care of M. Louis Dumas, his uncle de la main gauche, an original genius, who had both the good qualities and the faults of a savant and a pedagogue. He was the inventor of a new system of teaching which, it is said, he applied for the first time to his pupil.

Louis-Joseph, in spite of frequent revolts against the system of his harsh master made rapid progress in the study of Latin, Greek and history, thanks to a good memory and a bright intelligence. When barely fourteen years of age he followed the traditions of his family and joined the army, but without abandoning his course of study. His career required him to be a man of action, and he had a special taste and aptitude for it. He was a soldier of the old school, devoting considerable time to study, even in camp. He wrote from the army to his father in 1734 :—" I am learning German . . . and I am reading more Greek, thanks to my present solitude, than I have read for three or four years.

Montcalm received his baptism of fire under the walls of Kehl (1733), and did not belie the bravery of his ancestors. The following year he took part in the taking of Philippsbourg, where he saw the old Marshal of Berwick, victorious like Turenne, struck down like him by a bullet. The death of his father brought the young officer back to the paternal chateau, to dear Candiac, now his own property.

Only the half of the chateau de Candiac now remains, but its stern magnitude is still imposing. Surrounded by fruit trees it dominates the undulating and solitary country that stretches away from it to the horizon. It was there, under the sunny sky of Provence, among the plantations of olives and of almond trees which he cultivated, that the future hero of Canada spent the few years of peace and happiness that were allotted him. It was there that he took his young wife, whose family, by a strange coincidence, had already had relations with Canada. Her grand uncle, the Intendant Talon, had founded the royal administration there. Angdlique-Louise Talon du Boulay, whom Montcalm had married in 1736, had brought him some means without making him rich. The marchioness was more the equal of her husband by the qualities of heart than by reason of intelligence, and she was as tender a wife as she was a devoted mother. They had ten children, of whom six survived ; two boys and four girls. Montcalm was eminently a family man, and was deeply attached to this corner of France, where he found all the pleasures that he loved in the companionship of his mother, his wife, and his little children. In fact he enjoyed the feudal existence and all its charms. And later, when exiled from them a distance of fifteen hundred leagues, in the depths of the American forests, we shall often hear him sighing, "When shall I see again the motherland ? When, again, shall I see my dear Candiac?"

Daring the long and frequent absences necessitated by his military services, his mind was much occupied with the future of his young family. Then, in the spirit of that faith that came to him from his mother, he asked God,—as he himself has written,—to preserve them all and to prosper them both in this world and in the other. "It is a good deal," he added, "for a modest fortune, and especially with four daughters, but does God ever leave his children in want?"

During the war of the Austrian succession Montcalm had accompanied his regiment into Bohemia, and had had his share in the sufferings of the French army. Later, in Canada, he will recall to his soldiers the famine that they had to endure in that terrible campaign, and he will write to Levis: (1757) "The times are going to be harder in some respects than at Prague . . . Accustomed to adapt myself to whatever happens, and having already given proof of this at Prague, I am not worrying now about what is going to happen."

Montcalm was colonel of the Auxerrois Regiment of infantry during the Italian campaign (1746) where he narrowly escaped terminating his career. Taken prisoner while bleeding upon the field of battle, after the defeat of the French before Plaisance, he wrote to his mother: "Yesterday we had a most vexatious experience. A number of officers, generals and colonels were killed or wounded. I am amongst the latter with five sabre cuts. Fortunately, none of them are dangerous, I am assured, and I am inclined to believe it because of the strength that I still retain, notwithstanding that I lost a good deal of blood, having had an artery severed. My regiment, which I had twice rallied, is annihilated."

Promoted to the grade of brigadier on his return to France, he was again severely cut up in a gorge of the Alps, where the brother of Mardchal de Belle Isle went madly to his death with four thousand French soldiers. The two new wounds that Montcalm received in this action gained him the congratulations of the king, the grade of commander, and the command of a new regiment of cavalry, to which his own name was given.

The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) brought him a few years of rest, the last that he was destined to pass at the cMteau of Candiac. We find him in February, 1756, reading to his mother and to his wife the following letter which had been addressed to him by the keeper of the seals :— "At Versailles, January 25th, Midnight.

"Perhaps you have given up waiting, sir, for news from me on the subject of the last conversation, which I had with you on the day that you came to say adieu to me in Paris. T have not, however, lost sight for a single instant, since, that time, of the overture that I then made to you, and it is with the greatest pleasure that I now tell you of its success. The choice of the king has fallen upon you for the command of his troops in North America, and he will honour you on the occasion of your departure with the rank of major-general.

The reading of this letter threw into despair the Marchioness of Montcalm, whose timid and retiring disposition restrained her from rising, without great difficulty, above considerations of the family circle. She would never be able to consent to her husband's departure upon so distant an expedition. The Marchioness of Saint-Véran, on the contrary, strong as a Roman matron, although crushed with sorrow, advised her son to accept the post of honour and of confidence that had been offered him by his sovereign. The Marchioness of Montcalm never forgave her mother-in-law for this counsel, and reproached her, later, with the death of her husband.

At Brest Montcalm had met in the person of the Chevalier de Levis, a companion-in-arms who had been with him upon more than one field of battle. Gaston-Francis de Lévis was, like Montcalm, originally from Languedoc. He was born on August , 23rd, 1720, at the chateau of Azac, one of the oldest houses of France. In the third crusade Philippe de Lévis accompanied the king, Philip-Augustus, to the Holy Land. Two members of this family, Henri de Lévis, due de Ventadour and Fran^is-Christophe de Lévis, due de Damville had been viceroys of New France (1625 and 1644). From the age of fourteen years the Chevalier de L£vis had borne arms, and gave evidence of the possession of talents as solid as they were brilliant. The regiment of the marine, of which he was a lieutenant, fought at the affair of Clausen. Young Lévis was brought into prominence by a bravery and a coolness surprising for his age, and obtained a promotion. It is said that it was during the Bohemian campaign that Montcalm and he met for the first time. Lévis, wounded in the thigh by a fragment of a shell at the siege of Prague was probably amongst the invalids left in that city in charge of the heroic Chevert.

He sustained a stubborn fight on the bank of the Mein at the head of a detachment of a hundred men, and assisted at the battle of Dettingen (June 27th, 1743). The losses that the regiment of the marine sustained in this battle prevented him from continuing in the campaign, and he returned to France. Shortly afterwards he joined the army of Haute-Alsace, under command of the marshal de Coigny. Here he distinguished himself no less than he had done in the preceding campaigns.

In 1745 he served under the Prince of Conti, and was at the passage of the Rhine. In the following year he accompanied his regiment which was despatched upon Nice to defend the frontiers of Provence. Named adjutant of the army in Italy in 1747 he distinguished himself at the sieges of Montalban, of Valencia, of Cazal, of Villefranche and of the chateau of Vintimille. At the disastrous battle of Plaisance he had a horse killed under him and was wounded in the head by a gunshot near Bieglis, where he had been detached to make a reconnaissance. During this campaign the Chevalier de Ldvis elicited admiration for his presence of mind and his rare military qualities. A brilliant feat of arms, which was much talked of, is related of him. His cousin, the Duke of Mirepoix, Gaston de Lévis, commander of the regiment of the marine, had selected him for aide-de-camp at the attack upon Montalban. They found themselves without any escort at the mouth of a gorge, in the presence of a battalion of Piedmontese. "Lay down your arms," they cried out to the enemy, "you are surrounded." The entire battalion was captured.

Such were the military services which had brought the Chevalier de Lévis into notice, and which had determined the Count d'Argenson to join him to Montcalm in the command of the Canadian troops.

These two men played so great a role at this period of our history that it is necessary, before going further to define well their characters. Rarely were two commanders united in such close friendship and in such agreement and mutual understanding of all their operations. And yet their characters presented striking contrasts. The one was as ardent as the other was temperate. Montcalm was a veritable Southerner. His temperament was as hot as the sky of Provence; he flew into a passion at the slightest provocation, but regained the mastery of his feelings with equal facility. It is in these good qualities and these defects that may be found the explanation of the success and 'the reverses of the general. The Chevalier de L^vis, although born in the South like Montcalm, had none of his impetuosity nor yet of his loquacity. He was calm, cool, and of few words. Both were equally ambitious, always dreaming of honours and of advancement in their military career, with eyes constantly turned towards the court of Versailles in quest of what were then called des graces (favours). But Montcalm easily created difficulties for himself, while Ldvis avoided them with the greatest tact, never losing sight of the aim that he pursued. Throughout the expedition may be detected this great motive power of their actions. In addition, both officers and men are animated by the same spirit. The future of the colony that they have come to defend interests them but little. It is a distant land, afflicted with a rigorous climate, peopled with a handful of Frenchmen, its importance but little understood; while Voltaire, the oracle of the century, called it "a few acres of snow," and later on Minister Choiseul congratulated himself upon being rid of it.

If it is not a foreign country for the soldiers of France it is about to become one. They feel it and foresee it. From now till then it is simply to them a battlefield whence they may gather laurels or gain high rank. It is necessary to keep this in view while studying the last years of the French regime in Canada. The interests of the colony will be often in conflict with those of the army, and many errors and faults will result therefrom.

In the roadstead of Brest a flotilla of six sails was ready to weigh anchor to transport the expeditionary corps placed under the orders of Montcalm. This body was composed of the second battalions of the regiments of La Sarre and of Hoyal-Roussillon, the first commanded by M. de Senezergues, the second by the Chevalier de Bernetz, and forming an effective force of eleven hundred and eighty-nine men. The three frigates were destined for the chiefs of the expedition. Montcalm boarded the Licorne, Lévis the Sauvage, and Colonel de Bourlamaque, third in command, the Sirene. The troops had been divided between the three vessels, the Herosy the Illustre, and the Leopard. The crossing of the Atlantic was accomplished without accident, in spite of the English cruisers which infested the route, of fogs, icebergs and storms, the last of which continued not less than ninety hours. Montcalm, impatient to arrive, landed at Cap Tourmente, May 13th, 1756, and drove the remainder of the journey.

In perceiving from the heights of Montmorency the steep promontory of Quebec, Montcalm could not but admire its strategic position. He examined with the same military coup dceil, the vast panorama that opened out before him, the lofty cliffs of Lévis, the immense harbour, the hills of Beauport, where he was destined, three years later, to win his last victory. In crossing, with a light heart, the walls of Quebec, he was far from suspecting that the summit of that rock was to serve him for a tomb.


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