Montcalm, Louis-Joseph de, Marquis de Montcalm

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis de Montcalm, military officer (b at Candiac, France 28 Feb 1712; d at Québec City 14 Sept 1759). Montcalm entered the army at age 9 and served with distinction. In 1756 he was promoted maréchal de camp and replaced Baron Dieskau as commander of French troops in North America. He arrived in Québec 13 May 1756 under orders that he was subordinate to Vaudreuil, the governor general of New France.

Vain and contemptuous of colonial authorities and their preference for guerrilla tactics, he developed open hostility to Vaudreuil and labelled the whole administration corrupt. He captured Fort William Henry (August 1757), and in July 1758 he conducted a successful defence against a British attack on Fort Carillon. His dispatches to France showed his own efforts to best effect and were critical of Vaudreuil. He was appointed 20 October 1758 lieutenant-general - the second-highest rank in the French army.

In May 1759 Gen James Wolfe and Vice-Adm Charles Saunders appeared before Québec. In September a series of errors by the French allowed Wolfe to scale the riverbank and land some 4500 men on the Plains of Abraham, less than 2 km from the city. Wolfe's position was threatening but precarious and Montcalm chose the one course of action that could have brought defeat: on the morning of September 13 he hastily rushed his troops into battle. The French were routed and Montcalm received a mortal wound from which he died the next morning.

Historians have long been at odds with the assessment on the plaque on the Plains of Abraham of the "gallant, good and great" man. He won some notable victories but suffered the greatest defeat in Canadian military history. See also Seven Years' War.