Montcalm and Wolfe

Author: Francis Parkman

Chapter 14


Montcalm and Vaudreuil

Spring came at last, and the Dutch burghers of Albany heard, faint from the far height, the clamor of the wild-fowl, streaming in long files northward to their summer home. As the aerial travellers winged their way, the seat of war lay spread beneath them like a map. First the blue Hudson, slumbering among its forests, with the forts along its banks, Half-Moon, Stillwater, Saratoga, and the geometric lines and earthen mounds of Fort Edward. Then a broad belt of dingy evergreen; and beyond, released from wintry fetters, the glistening breast of Lake George, with Fort William Henry at its side, amid charred ruins and a desolation of prostrate forests. Hence the lake stretched northward, like some broad river, trenched between mountain ranges still leafless and gray. Then they looked down on Ticonderoga, with the flag of the Bourbons, like a flickering white speck, waving on its ramparts; and next on Crown Point with its tower of stone. Lake Champlain now spread before them, widening as they flew: on the left, the mountain wilderness of the Adirondacks, like a stormy sea congealed; on the right, the long procession of the Green Mountains; and, far beyond, on the dim verge of the eastern sky, the White Mountains throned in savage solitude. They passed over the bastioned square of Fort St. John, Fort Chambly guarding the rapids of the Richelieu, and the broad belt of the St. Lawrence, with Montreal seated on its bank. Here we leave them, to build their nests and hatch their brood among the fens of the lonely North.

Montreal, the military heart of Canada, was in the past winter its social centre also, where were gathered conspicuous representatives both of Old France and of New; not men only, but women. It was a sparkling fragment of the reign of Louis XV. dropped into the American wilderness. Montcalm was here with his staff and his chief officers, now pondering schemes of war, and now turning in thought to his beloved Château of Candiac, his mother, children, and wife, to whom he sent letters with every opportunity. To his wife he writes: “Think of me affectionately; give love to my girls. I hope next year I may be with you all. I love you tenderly, dearest.” He says that he has sent her a packet of marten-skins for a muff, “and another time I shall send some to our daughter; but I should like better to bring them myself.” Of this eldest daughter he writes in reply to a letter of domestic news from Madame de Montcalm: “The new gown with blonde trimmings must be becoming, for she is pretty.” Again, “There is not an hour in the day when I do not think of you, my mother and my children.” He had the tastes of a country gentleman, and was eager to know all that was passing on his estate. Before leaving home he had set up a mill to grind olives for oil, and was well pleased to hear of its prosperity. “It seems to be a good thing, which pleases me very much. Bougainville and I talk a great deal about the oil-mill.” Some time after, when the King sent him the coveted decoration of the cordon rouge, he informed Madame de Montcalm of the honor done him, and added: “But I think I am better pleased with what you tell me of the success of my oil-mill.”

To his mother he writes of his absorbing occupations, and says: “You can tell my dearest that I have no time to occupy myself with the ladies, even if I wished to.” Nevertheless he now and then found leisure for some little solace in his banishment; for he writes to Bourlamaque, whom he had left at Quebec, after a visit which he had himself made there early in the winter: “I am glad you sometimes speak of me to the three ladies in the Rue du Parloir; and I am flattered by their remembrance, especially by that of one of them, in whom I find at certain moments too much wit and too many charms for my tranquillity.” These ladies of the Rue du Parloir are several times mentioned in his familiar correspondence with Bourlamaque.

His station obliged him to maintain a high standard of living, to his great financial detriment, for Canadian prices were inordinate. “I must live creditably, and so I do; sixteen persons at table every day. Once a fortnight I dine with the Governor-General and with the Chevalier de Lévis, who lives well too. He has given three grand balls. As for me, up to Lent I gave, besides dinners, great suppers, with ladies, three times a week. They lasted till two in the morning; and then there was dancing, to which company came uninvited, but sure of a welcome from those who had been at supper. It is very expensive, not very amusing, and often tedious. At Quebec, where we spent a month, I gave receptions or parties, often at the Intendant’s house. I like my gallant Chevalier de Lévis very much. Bourlamaque was a good choice; he is steady and cool, with good parts. Bougainville has talent, a warm head, and warm heart; he will ripen in time. Write to Madame Cornier that I like her husband; he is perfectly well, and as impatient for peace as I am. Love to my daughters, and all affection and respect to my mother. I live only in the hope of joining you all again. Nevertheless, Montreal is as good a place as Alais even in time of peace, and better now, because the Government is here; for the Marquis de Vaudreuil, like me, spent only a month at Quebec. As for Quebec, it is as good as the best cities of France, except ten or so. Clear sky, bright sun; neither spring nor autumn, only summer and winter. July, August, and September, hot as in Languedoc: winter insupportable; one must keep always indoors. The ladies spirituelles, galantes, dévotes. Gambling at Quebec, dancing and conversation at Montreal. My friends the Indians, who are often unbearable, and whom I treat with perfect tranquillity and patience, are fond of me. If I were not a sort of general, though very subordinate to the Governor, I could gossip about the plans of the campaign, which it is likely will begin on the tenth or fifteenth of May. I worked at the plan of the last affair [Rigaud’s expedition to Fort William Henry], which might have turned out better, though good as it was. I wanted only eight hundred men. If I had had my way, Monsieur de Lévis or Monsieur de Bougainville would have had charge of it. However, the thing was all right, and in good hands. The Governor, who is extremely civil to me, gave it to his brother; he thought him more used to winter marches. Adieu, my heart; I adore and love you!”

To meet his manifold social needs, he sends to his wife orders for prunes, olives, anchovies, muscat wine, capers, sausages, confectionery, cloth for liveries, and many other such items; also for scent-bags of two kinds, and perfumed pomatum for presents; closing in postscript with an injunction not to forget a dozen pint-bottles of English lavender. Some months after, he writes to Madame de Saint-Véran: “I have got everything that was sent me from Montpellier except the sausages. I have lost a third of what was sent from Bordeaux. The English captured it on board the ship called ‘La Superbe;’ and I have reason to fear that everything sent from Paris is lost on board ‘La Liberté.’ I am running into debt here. Pshaw! I must live. I do not worry myself. Best love to you, my mother.”

When Rigaud was about to march with his detachment against Fort William Henry, Montcalm went over to La Prairie to see them. “I reviewed them,” he writes to Bourlamaque, “and gave the officers a dinner, which, if anybody else had given it, I should have said was a grand affair. There were two tables, for thirty-six persons in all. On Wednesday there was an Assembly at Madame Varin’s; on Friday the Chevalier de Lévis gave a ball. He invited sixty-five ladies, and got only thirty, with a great crowd of men. Rooms well lighted, excellent order, excellent service, plenty of refreshments of every sort all through the night; and the company stayed till seven in the morning. As for me, I went to bed early. I had had that day eight ladies at a supper given to Madame Varin. To-morrow I shall have half-a-dozen at another supper, given to I don’t know whom, but incline to think it will be La Roche Beaucour. The gallant Chevalier is to give us still another ball.”

Lent put a check on these festivities. “To-morrow,” he tells Bourlamaque, “I shall throw myself into devotion with might and main (à corps perdu). It will be easier for me to detach myself from the world and turn heavenward here at Montreal than it would be at Quebec.” And, some time after, “Bougainville spent Monday delightfully at Isle Ste. Hélène, and Tuesday devoutly with the Sulpitian Fathers at the Mountain. I was there myself at four o’clock, and did them the civility to sup in their refectory at a quarter before six.”

In May there was a complete revival of social pleasures, and Montcalm wrote to Bourlamaque: “Madame de Beaubassin’s supper was very gay. There were toasts to the Rue du Parloir and to the General. To-day I must give a dinner to Madame de Saint-Ours, which will be a little more serious. Péan is gone to establish himself at La Chine, and will come back with La Barolon, who goes thither with a husband of hers, bound to the Ohio with Villejoin and Louvigny. The Chevalier de Lévis amuses himself very much here. He and his friends spend all their time with Madame de Lenisse.”

Under these gayeties and gallantries there were bitter heart-burnings. Montcalm hints at some of them in a letter to Bourlamaque, written at the time of the expedition to Fort William Henry, which, in the words of Montcalm, who would have preferred another commander, the Governor had ordered to march “under the banners of brother Rigaud.” “After he got my letter on Sunday evening,” says the disappointed General, “Monsieur de Vaudreuil sent me his secretary with the instructions he had given his brother,” which he had hitherto withheld. “This gave rise after dinner to a long conversation with him; and I hope for the good of the service that his future conduct will prove the truth of his words. I spoke to him with frankness and firmness of the necessity I was under of communicating to him my reflections; but I did not name any of the persons who, to gain his good graces, busy themselves with destroying his confidence in me. I told him that he would always find me disposed to aid in measures tending to our success, even should his views, which always ought to prevail, be different from mine; but that I dared flatter myself that he would henceforward communicate his plans to me sooner; for, though his knowledge of the country gave greater weight to his opinions, he might rest satisfied that I should second him in methods and details. This explanation passed off becomingly enough, and ended with a proposal to dine on a moose’s nose [an estimed morsel] the day after to-morrow. I burn your letters, Monsieur, and I beg you to do the same with mine, after making a note of anything you may want to keep.” But Bourlamaque kept all the letters, and bound them in a volume, which still exists.[472]

[Footnote 472: The preceding extracts are from Lettres de Montcalm à Madame de Saint-Véran, sa Mère, et à Madame de Montcalm, sa Femme, 1756, 1757 (Papiers de Famille); and Lettres de Montcalm à Bourlamaque, 1757. See Appendix E.]

Montcalm was not at this time fully aware of the feeling of Vaudreuil towards him. The touchy egotism of the Governor and his jealous attachment to the colony led him to claim for himself and the Canadians the merit of every achievement and to deny it to the French troops and their general. Before the capture of Oswego was known, he wrote to the naval minister that Montcalm would never have dared attack that place if he had not encouraged him and answered his timid objections.[473] “I am confident that I shall reduce it,” he adds; “my expedition is sure to succeed if Monsieur de Montcalm follows the directions I have given him.” When the good news came he immediately wrote again, declaring that the victory was due to his brother Rigaud and the Canadians, who, he says, had been ill-used by the General, and not allowed either to enter the fort or share the plunder, any more than the Indians, who were so angry at the treatment they had met that he had great difficulty in appeasing them. He hints that the success was generally ascribed to him. “There has been a great deal of talk here; but I will not do myself the honor of repeating it to you, especially as it relates to myself. I know how to do violence to my self-love. The measures I took assured our victory, in spite of opposition. If I had been less vigilant and firm, Oswego would still be in the hands of the English. I cannot sufficiently congratulate myself on the zeal which my brother and the Canadians and Indians showed on this occasion; for without them my orders would have been given in vain. The hopes of His Britannic Majesty have vanished, and will hardly revive again; for I shall take care to crush them in the bud.”[474]

[Footnote 473: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Marine, 13 Août, 1756.]

[Footnote 474: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Marine, 1 Sept. 1756.]

The pronouns “I” and “my” recur with monotonous frequency in his correspondence. “I have laid waste all the British provinces.” “By promptly uniting my forces at Carillon, I have kept General Loudon in check, though he had at his disposal an army of about twenty thousand men;”[475] and so without end, in all varieties of repetition. It is no less characteristic that he here assigns to his enemies double their actual force.

[Footnote 475: Ibid., 6 Nov. 1756.]

He has the faintest of praise for the troops from France. “They are generally good, but thus far they have not absolutely distinguished themselves. I do justice to the firmness they showed at Oswego; but it was only the colony troops, Canadians, and Indians who attacked the forts. Our artillery was directed by the Chevalier Le Mercier and M. Frémont [colony officers], and was served by our colony troops and our militia. The officers from France are more inclined to defence than attack. Far from spending the least thing here, they lay by their pay. They saved the money allowed them for refreshments, and had it in pocket at the end of the campaign. They get a profit, too, out of their provisions, by having certificates made under borrowed names, so that they can draw cash for them on their return. It is the same with the soldiers, who also sell their provisions to the King and get paid for them. In conjunction with M. Bigot, I labor to remedy all these abuses; and the rules we have established have saved the King a considerable expense. M. de Montcalm has complained very much of these rules.” The Intendant Bigot, who here appears as a reformer, was the centre of a monstrous system of public fraud and robbery; while the charges against the French officers are unsupported. Vaudreuil, who never loses an opportunity of disparaging them, proceeds thus:—

“The troops from France are not on very good terms with our Canadians. What can the soldiers think of them when they see their officers threaten them with sticks or swords? The Canadians are obliged to carry these gentry on their shoulders, through the cold water, over rocks that cut their feet; and if they make a false step they are abused. Can anything be harder? Finally, Monsieur de Montcalm is so quick-tempered that he goes to the length of striking the Canadians. How can he restrain his officers when he cannot restrain himself? Could any example be more contagious? This is the way our Canadians are treated. They deserve something better.” He then enlarges on their zeal, hardihood, and bravery, and adds that nothing but their blind submission to his commands prevents many of them from showing resentment at the usage they had to endure. The Indians, he goes on to say, are not so gentle and yielding; and but for his brother Rigaud and himself, might have gone off in a rage. “After the campaign of Oswego they did not hesitate to tell me that they would go wherever I sent them, provided I did not put them under the orders of M. de Montcalm. They told me positively that they could not bear his quick temper. I shall always maintain the most perfect union and understanding with M. le Marquis de Montcalm, but I shall be forced to take measures which will assure to our Canadians and Indians treatment such as their zeal and services merit.”[476]

[Footnote 476: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Marine, 23 Oct. 1756. The above extracts are somewhat condensed in the translation. See the letter in Dussieux, 279.]

To the subject of his complaints Vaudreuil used a different language; for Montcalm says, after mentioning that he had had occasion to punish some of the Canadians at Oswego: “I must do Monsieur de Vaudreuil the justice to say that he approved my proceedings.” He treated the General with the blandest politeness. “He is a good-natured man,” continues Montcalm, “mild, with no character of his own, surrounded by people who try to destroy all his confidence in the general of the troops from France. I am praised excessively, in order to make him jealous, excite his Canadian prejudices, and prevent him from dealing with me frankly, or adopting my views when he can help it.”[477] He elsewhere complains that Vaudreuil gave to both him and Lévis orders couched in such equivocal terms that he could throw the blame on them in case of reverse.[478] Montcalm liked the militia no better than the Governor liked the regulars. “I have used them with good effect, though not in places exposed to the enemy’s fire. They know neither discipline nor subordination, and think themselves in all respects the first nation on earth.” He is sure, however, that they like him: “I have gained the utmost confidence of the Canadians and Indians; and in the eyes of the former, when I travel or visit their camps, I have the air of a tribune of the people.”[479] “The affection of the Indians for me is so strong that there are moments when it astonishes the Governor.”[480] “The Indians are delighted with me,” he says in another letter; “the Canadians are pleased with me; their officers esteem and fear me, and would be glad if the French troops and their general could be dispensed with; and so should I.”[481] And he writes to his mother: “The part I have to play is unique: I am a general-in-chief subordinated; sometimes with everything to do, and sometimes nothing; I am esteemed, respected, beloved, envied, hated; I pass for proud, supple, stiff, yielding, polite, devout, gallant, etc.; and I long for peace.”[482]

[Footnote 477: Montcalm au Ministre de la Guerre, 11 Juillet, 1757.]

[Footnote 478: Montcalm au Ministre de la Guerre, 1 Nov. 1756.]

[Footnote 479: Ibid., 18 Sept. 1757.]

[Footnote 480: Ibid., 4 Nov. 1757.]

[Footnote 481: Ibid., 28 Août, 1756.]

[Footnote 482: Montcalm à Madame de Saint-Véran, 23 Sept. 1757.]

The letters of the Governor and those of the General, it will be seen, contradict each other flatly at several points. Montcalm is sustained by his friend Bougainville, who says that the Indians had a great liking for him, and that he “knew how to manage them as well as if he had been born in their wigwams.”[483] And while Vaudreuil complains that the Canadians are ill-used by Montcalm, Bougainville declares that the regulars are ill-used by Vaudreuil. “One must be blind not to see that we are treated as the Spartans treated the Helots.” Then he comments on the jealous reticence of the Governor. “The Marquis de Montcalm has not the honor of being consulted; and it is generally through public rumor that he first hears of Monsieur de Vaudreuil’s military plans.” He calls the Governor “a timid man, who can neither make a resolution nor keep one;” and he gives another trait of him, illustrating it, after his usual way, by a parallel from the classics: “When V. produces an idea he falls in love with it, as Pygmalion did with his statue. I can forgive Pygmalion, for what he produced was a masterpiece.”[484]

[Footnote 483: Bougainville à Saint-Laurens, 19 Août, 1757.]

[Footnote 484: Bougainville, Journal.]

The exceeding touchiness of the Governor was sorely tried by certain indiscretions on the part of the General, who in his rapid and vehement utterances sometimes forgot the rules of prudence. His anger, though not deep, was extremely impetuous; and it is said that his irritation against Vaudreuil sometimes found escape in the presence of servants and soldiers.[485] There was no lack of reporters, and the Governor was told everything. The breach widened apace, and Canada divided itself into two camps: that of Vaudreuil with the colony officers, civil and military, and that of Montcalm with the officers from France. The principal exception was the Chevalier de Lévis. This brave and able commander had an easy and adaptable nature, which made him a sort of connecting link between the two parties. “One should be on good terms with everybody,” was a maxim which he sometimes expressed, and on which he shaped his conduct with notable success. The Intendant Bigot also, an adroit and accomplished person, had the skill to avoid breaking with either side.

[Footnote 485: Événements de la Guerre en Canada, 1759, 1760.]

But now the season of action was near, and domestic strife must give place to efforts against the common foe. “God or devil!” Montcalm wrote to Bourlamaque, “we must do something and risk a fight. If we succeed, we can, all three of us [you, Lévis, and I], ask for promotion. Burn this letter.” The prospects, on the whole, were hopeful. The victory at Oswego had wrought marvels among the Indians, inspired the faithful, confirmed the wavering, and daunted the ill-disposed. The whole West was astir, ready to pour itself again in blood and fire against the English border; and even the Cherokees and Choctaws, old friends of the British colonies, seemed on the point of turning against them.[486] The Five Nations were half won for France. In November a large deputation of them came to renew the chain of friendship at Montreal. “I have laid Oswego in ashes,” said Vaudreuil; “the English quail before me. Why do you nourish serpents in your bosom? They mean only to enslave you.” The deputies trampled under foot the medals the English had given them, and promised the “Devourer of Villages,” for so they styled the Governor, that they would never more lift the hatchet against his children. The chief difficulty was to get rid of them; for, being clothed and fed at the expense of the King, they were in no haste to take leave; and learning that New Year’s Day was a time of visits, gifts, and health-drinking, they declared that they would stay to share its pleasures; which they did, to their own satisfaction and the annoyance of those who were forced to entertain them and their squaws.[487] An active siding with France was to be expected only from the western bands of the Confederacy. Neutrality alone could be hoped for from the others, who were too near the English safely to declare against them; while from one of the tribes, the Mohawks, even neutrality was doubtful.

[Footnote 486: Vaudreuil au Ministre de la Marine, 19 Avril, 1757.]

[Footnote 487: Montcalm au Ministre de la Guerre, 24 Avril, 1757; Relation de l’Ambassade des Cinq Nations à Montreal, jointe á la lettre précédente. Procès-verbal de différentes Entrevues entre M. de Vaudreuil et les Deputés des Nations sauvages du 13 au 30 Déc. 1756. Malartic, Journal. Montcalm á Madame de Saint-Véran, 1 Avril, 1757.]

Vaudreuil, while disliking the French regulars, felt that he could not dispense with them, and had asked for a reinforcement. His request was granted; and the Colonial Minister informed him that twenty-four hundred men had been ordered to Canada to strengthen the colony regulars and the battalions of Montcalm.[488] This, according to the estimate of the Minister, would raise the regular force in Canada to sixty-six hundred rank and file.[489] The announcement was followed by another, less agreeable. It was to the effect that a formidable squadron was fitting out in British ports. Was Quebec to be attacked, or Louisbourg? Louisbourg was beyond reach of succor from Canada; it must rely on its own strength and on help from France. But so long as Quebec was threatened, all the troops in the colony must be held ready to defend it, and the hope of attacking England in her own domains must be abandoned. Till these doubts were solved, nothing could be done; and hence great activity in catching prisoners for the sake of news. A few were brought in, but they knew no more of the matter than the French themselves; and Vaudreuil and Montcalm rested for a while in suspense.

[Footnote 488: Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres, Mars, 1757.]

[Footnote 489: Ministerial Minute on the Military Force in Canada, 1757, in N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 523.]

The truth, had they known it, would have gladdened their hearts. The English preparations were aimed at Louisbourg. In the autumn before, Loudon, prejudiced against all plans of his predecessor, Shirley, proposed to the Ministry a scheme of his own, involving a possible attack on Quebec, but with the reduction of Louisbourg as its immediate object,—an important object, no doubt, but one that had no direct bearing on the main question of controlling the interior of the continent. Pitt, then for a brief space at the head of the Government, accepted the suggestion, and set himself to executing it; but he was hampered by opposition, and early in April was forced to resign. Then, followed a contest of rival claimants to office; and the war against France was made subordinate to disputes of personal politics. Meanwhile one Florence Hensey, a spy at London, had informed the French Court that a great armament was fitting out for America, though he could not tell its precise destination. Without loss of time three French squadrons were sent across the Atlantic, with orders to rendezvous at Louisbourg, the conjectured point of attack.

The English were as tardy as their enemies were prompt. Everything depended on speed; yet their fleet, under Admiral Holbourne, consisting of fifteen ships of the line and three frigates, with about five thousand troops on board, did not get to sea till the fifth of May, when it made sail for Halifax, where Loudon was to meet it with additional forces.

Loudon had drawn off the best part of the troops from the northern frontier, and they were now at New York waiting for embarkation. That the design might be kept secret, he laid an embargo on colonial shipping,—a measure which exasperated the colonists without answering its purpose. Now ensued a long delay, during which the troops, the provincial levies, the transports destined to carry them, and the ships of war which were to serve as escort, all lay idle. In the interval Loudon showed great activity in writing despatches and other avocations more or less proper to a commander, being always busy, without, according to Franklin, accomplishing anything. One Innis, who had come with a message from the Governor of Pennsylvania, and had waited above a fortnight for the General’s reply, remarked of him that he was like St. George on a tavern sign, always on horseback, and never riding on.[490] Yet nobody longed more than he to reach the rendezvous at Halifax. He was waiting for news of Holbourne, and he waited in vain. He knew only that a French fleet had been seen off the coast strong enough to overpower his escort and sink all his transports.[491] But the season was growing late; he must act quickly if he was to act at all. He and Sir Charles Hardy agreed between them that the risk must be run; and on the twentieth of June the whole force put to sea. They met no enemy, and entered Halifax harbor on the thirtieth. Holbourne and his fleet had not yet appeared; but his ships soon came straggling in, and before the tenth of July all were at anchor before the town. Then there was more delay. The troops, nearly twelve thousand in all, were landed, and weeks were spent in drilling them and planting vegetables for their refreshment. Sir Charles Hay was put under arrest for saying that the nation’s money was spent in sham battles and raising cabbages. Some attempts were made to learn the state of Louisbourg; and Captain Gorham, of the rangers, who reconnoitred it from a fishing vessel, brought back an imperfect report, upon which, after some hesitation, it was resolved to proceed to the attack. The troops were embarked again, and all was ready, when, on the fourth of August, a sloop came from Newfoundland, bringing letters found on board a French vessel lately captured. From these it appeared that all three of the French squadrons were united in the harbor of Louisbourg, to the number of twenty-two ships of the line, besides several frigates, and that the garrison had been increased to a total force of seven thousand men, ensconced in the strongest fortress of the continent. So far as concerned the naval force, the account was true. La Motte, the French admiral, had with him a fleet carrying an aggregate of thirteen hundred and sixty cannon, anchored in a sheltered harbor under the guns of the town. Success was now hopeless, and the costly enterprise was at once abandoned. Loudon with his troops sailed back for New York, and Admiral Holbourne, who had been joined by four additional ships, steered for Louisbourg, in hopes that the French fleet would come out and fight him. He cruised off the port; but La Motte did not accept the challenge.

[Footnote 490: Works of Franklin, I. 219. Franklin intimates that while Loudon was constantly writing, he rarely sent off despatches. This is a mistake; there is abundance of them, often tediously long, in the Public Record Office.]

[Footnote 491: Loudon to Pitt, 30 May, 1757. He had not learned Pitt’s resignation.]

The elements declared for France. A September gale, of fury rare even on that tempestuous coast, burst upon the British fleet. “It blew a perfect hurricane,” says the unfortunate Admiral, “and drove us right on shore.” One ship was dashed on the rocks, two leagues from Louisbourg. A shifting of the wind in the nick of time saved the rest from total wreck. Nine were dismasted; others threw their cannon into the sea. Not one was left fit for immediate action; and had La Motte sailed out of Louisbourg, he would have had them all at his mercy.

Delay, the source of most of the disasters that befell England and her colonies at this dismal epoch, was the ruin of the Louisbourg expedition. The greater part of La Motte’s fleet reached its destination a full month before that of Holbourne. Had the reverse taken place, the fortress must have fallen. As it was, the ill-starred attempt, drawing off the British forces from the frontier, where they were needed most, did for France more than she could have done for herself, and gave Montcalm and Vaudreuil the opportunity to execute a scheme which they had nursed since the fall of Oswego.[492]

[Footnote 492: Despatches of Loudon, Feb. to Aug. 1757. Knox, Campaigns in North America, I. 6-28. Knox was in the expedition. Review of Mr. Pitt’s Administration (London, 1763). The Conduct of a Noble Commander in America impartially reviewed (London, 1758). Beatson, Naval and Military Memoirs, II. 49-59. Answer to the Letter to two Great Men (London, 1760). Entick, II. 168, 169. Holbourne to Loudon, 4 Aug. 1757. Holbourne to Pitt, 29 Sept. 1757. Ibid., 30 Sept. 1757. Holbourne to Pownall, 2 Nov. 1757. Mante, 86, 97. Relation du Désastre arrivé à la Flotte Anglaise commandée par l’Amiral Holbourne. Chevalier Johnstone, Campaign of Louisbourg. London Magazine, 1757, 514. Gentleman’s Magazine, 1757, 463, 476. Ibid., 1758, 168-173.

It has been said that Loudon was scared from his task by false reports of the strength of the French at Louisbourg. This was not the case. The Gazette de France, 621, says that La Motte had twenty-four ships of war. Bougainville says that as early as the ninth of June there were twenty-one ships of war, including five frigates, at Louisbourg. To this the list given by Knox closely answers.]


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Chicago: Francis Parkman, "Chapter 14," Montcalm and Wolfe Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2022,

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