How did Montcalm come to be the French commander in Canada? What had prepared him for this position?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran (1712-1759), was the commander of French forces during the French and Indian War (aka Seven Years' War). Montcalm was a French nobleman who had fought in Poland and Austria, where he was made a brigadier general. Promoting Montcalm to major general, King Louis XV ordered him to Canada in 1756 to lead the French forces during their war against the British. He won victories at Fort Oswego in 1756 and Fort William Henry in 1757, but he was disgraced following the latter battle when his Algonquin Indian allies massacred the surrendered British troops as they marched from the fort--an act that repulsed him and which he did not order. (This was the basis for a major section of James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans.)

Montcalm won his greatest victory when, outnumbered four-to-one, he defeated a British army at the Battle of Carillon in 1758. However, continuing disagreements with the local governor mixed with a lack of military and financial support from France--and vastly increased support by the British government--eventually led to his downfall. Montcalm was eventually defeated and mortally wounded after a long siege at Quebec in 1759.

Although Montcalm tended to support old-style European battle tactics, rather than the hit-and-run style that proved successful in the Canadian forests (and, later, in the American Revolutionary War), his background and resulting successes made him a more-than-qualified candidate for his position. Had the French government provided him with the troops, equipment and supplies necessary to properly sustain the war against the British, the results at Quebec may have been different.

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