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Ticonderoga, 1758

Montcalm's second winter in Canada was worse than his first. Vaudreuil, Bigot, and all the men in the upper circles of what would nowadays be the business, the political, and the official world, lived on the fat of the land; but the rest only on what fragments were left. In our meaning of the word 'business' there was in reality no business at all. There were then no real merchants in Canada, no real tradesmen, no bankers, no shippers, no honest men of affairs at all. Everything was done by or under the government, and the government was controlled by or under the Bigot gang. This gang stole a great deal of what was found in Canada, and most of what came out from France as well. In consequence, supplies became scarcer and scarcer and dearer and dearer; and the worst of it was that the gang wished things to be scarce and dear, so that more stores and money might be sent out from France and stolen on arrival. For France, in spite of all her faults in governing, helped Canada, and helped her generously. It seems too terrible for belief, but it is true that the parasites in Canada did their best on this account to keep the people half starved. Montcalm saw through the scheme, but complaint was almost useless, for many of his letters were stopped before they reached the head men in France. To cap all, the wretched army was no longer paid in gold, which always has its own fixed value, but in paper bills which had no real money to back them, as bank-notes have to-day. The result was that this money was accepted at much less than its face value, and that every officer who had to support himself, as he must when not campaigning, fell into debt, Montcalm, of course, more than the others. 'What a country,' to repeat his words, 'where knaves grow rich and honest men are ruined!'

As the winter wore away food grew scarcer--except for those who belonged to the gang. Soldiers were allowed about a pound of meat a day. This would have been luxury if the meat had been good, and if they had had anything else to eat with it. But a pound of bad beef, or of scraggy horse-flesh, or some times even of flabby salt cod-fish, with a quarter of a pound of bread, and nothing else but a little Indian corn, is not a good ration for an army. The Canadians were worse off still. In the spring the bread ration was halved again, and became only a couple of ounces. Two thousand Acadians had escaped from the British efforts to deport them, and had reached the St Lawrence region. Their needs increased the misery, for they could not yet grow as much as they ate, even if they had had a fair chance.

At last the poor, patient, down-trodden Canadians began to grumble. One day a crowd of angry women threw their horse-flesh at Vaudreuil's door. Another day even the grenadiers refused to eat their rations. Then Montcalm's second-in-command, Levis, who ate horse-flesh himself, for the sake of example, told them that Canada was now like a besieged fortress and that the garrison would have to put up with hardships. At once the pride of the soldier came out. Next day they brought him some roast horse, better cooked and served than his own. He gave each grenadier a gold coin to drink the king's health; and the trouble ended.

The Canadians and Indians made two successful raids. One was against a place near Schenectady, where they destroyed many stores and provisions. The other ended in a fight with the British guerilla leader Rogers and his rangers, who were badly cut up near Ticonderoga. The Canadians were at their best in making raids. Yet now raids hardly counted any longer, for the war had outgrown them. Larger and larger armies were taking the field, and these armies had artillery, engineers, and transport on a greater scale. The mere raider, or odd-job soldier, though always good in his own place and in his own kind of country, was becoming less and less important compared with the regular. The larger an army the more the difference of value widens between regulars and militia. In great wars men must be trained to act together at any time, in any place, and in any numbers; and this is only possible with those all-the-year-round soldiers who are either regulars already or who, though militia to start with, become by practice the same as regulars.

When Montcalm looked forward to the campaign of 1758, he saw in what a desperate plight he was. The wild, unstable Indians were the weakest element. Gladly would he have done without them altogether. But some were always needed as scouts and guides; and, in any case, it was a good thing to employ them so as to keep them from joining the enemy. The trouble was that they were already beginning to fail him. Some of the ships with goods for the Indians were captured by the British fleet. Those that arrived were in as real a sense captured, for they were stolen by the Bigot gang, and did not fulfill the purpose of holding the Indian allies. 'If,' said Montcalm, in one of his despairing letters to the minister, 'if all the presents that the king sends out to the Indians were really given to them, we should have every tribe in America on our own side.'

The Canadians were robbed even more; and they and the Canadian regulars were set against Montcalm and the French by every lie that Vaudreuil could speak in Canada or write to France. The wonder is, not that the French Canadians of those dreadful days did badly now and then, but that they did so well on the whole; that they were so brave, so loyal, so patient, so hopeful, so true to many of the best traditions of their race. One other feature of their system must be noted--the influence of their priests. Protestants would think them too much under the thumb of the priests. But, however this may have been, it can be said with truth that the church and the native soldiers, with all their faults, were the glory of Canada, while the government was nothing but its shame. The priests stood by their people like men, suffered hardship with them, and helped them to face every trial of fortune against false friends and open foes alike.

The mainstay of the defense of Canada was, however, the disciplined strength of the French regulars. There were eight battalions, belonging to seven regiments whose names deserve to be held in honor wherever the fight for Canada is known: La Reine, Guienne, Bearn, Languedoc, La Sarre, Royal Roussillon, and Berry. Each battalion had about 500 fighting men, making about 4,000 in all. About 2,000 more men were sent out to Quebec to fill up gaps at different times; so that, one way and another, at least 6,000 French soldiers reached Canada between 1755 and 1759. Yet, when Levis laid down the arms of France in Canada for ever in 1760, only 2,000 of all these remained. About 1,000 had been taken prisoner on sea or land. A few had deserted. But almost 3,000 had been lost by sickness or in battle. How many armies have a record of sacrifices greater than these, and against foes behind as well as in front?

From the very first these gallant men showed their mettle. They were not forced to go to Canada. They went willingly. When the first four battalions went, the general who had to arrange their departure was afraid he might have trouble in filling the gaps by getting men to volunteer from the other battalions of the same regiments. But no. He could have filled every gap ten times over. It was the same with the officers. Every one was eager to fight for the honor of France in Canada. One officer actually offered his whole fortune to another, in hopes of getting this other's place for service in Canada. But in vain. France had parasites at court, plenty of them. But the French troops who went out were patriots almost to a man. The only exception was in the case we have noticed before, when 400 riff-raff were sent out to take the places of the 400 good men whom Boscawen had captured in the Gulf during the summer of 1755.

The year 1758 saw the tide turn against France. Pitt was now at the head of the war in Britain; throughout the British Empire the patriots had gained the upper hand over the parasites. Canada could no longer attack; indeed, she was hard pressed for defense. Pitt's plan was to send one army against the west, a fleet and an army against the east at Louisbourg, and a third army straight at the centre, along the line of Lake Champlain. This third, or central, army was the one which Montcalm had to meet. It was the largest yet seen in the New World. There were 6,000 British regulars and 9,000 American militia, with plenty of guns and all the other arms and stores required. Its general, Abercromby, was its chief weakness. He was a muddle-headed man, whom Pitt had not yet been able to replace by a better. But Lord Howe, whom Wolfe and Pitt both thought 'a perfect model of military virtue,' was second-in-command and the real head. He was young, as full of calm wisdom as of fiery courage, and the idol of Americans and of British regulars alike.

This year the campaign took place not in August but in July. By the middle of June it was known that Abercromby was coming. Even then Montcalm and his regulars were ready, but nothing else was. Every one knew that Ticonderoga was the key to the south of Canada; yet the fort was not ready, though the Canadian engineers had been tinkering at it for two whole summers. These engineers were, in fact, friends of Bigot, and had found that they could make money by spinning the work out as long as possible, charging for good material and putting in bad, and letting the gang plunder the stores on the way to the fort. Montcalm had arranged everything in 1756, and there was no good reason why Ticonderoga should not have been in perfect order in 1758, when the fate of Canada was hanging on its strength. But it was not. It had not even been rightly planned. The engineers were fools as well as knaves. When the proper French army engineers arrived, having been sent out at the last moment, they were horrified at the mess that had been made of the work. But it was too late then. Montcalm and Abercromby were both advancing; and Montcalm would have to make up with the lives of his men for all that the knaves and fools had done against him.

Bad as this was, there was a still worse trouble. Vaudreuil now thought he saw a chance for another raid which would please the Canadians and hurt Montcalm. So he actually took away 1,600 men in June and sent them off to the Mohawk valley, farther west, under Levis, who ought to have known better than to have allowed himself to be flattered into taking command. This came near to wrecking the whole defense. But the owls did not see, and the foxes did not care.

Meanwhile, Montcalm was hurrying his little handful of regulars to the front. He was to leave on June 24. On the night of the 23rd Vaudreuil sent a long string of foolish orders, worded in such a way by some of his foxy parasites that the credit for any victory would come to himself, while the blame for any failure would rest on Montcalm. This was more than flesh and blood could endure. Once before Montcalm had tried to open Vaudreuil's eyes to the mischief that was going on. Now he spoke out again, and proved his case so plainly that, for very shame, Vaudreuil had to change the orders. Montcalm arrived at Ticonderoga with his new engineers on the 30th. Here he found 3,000 men and one bad fort. And the British were closing in with 15,000 men and good artillery.

The two armies lay only the length of Lake George apart, a little over thirty miles; in positions the same as last year, except that Montcalm was now on the defensive with less than half as many men, and the British were on the offensive with more than twice as many. Montcalm's great object was to gain time. Every minute was precious. He sent messenger after messenger, begging Vaudreuil to hurry forward the Canadians and to call back the Mohawk valley raiding party of 1,600 men. His 3,000 harassed regulars were working almost night and day. The fort was patched up until nothing more could be done without pulling it down and building a new fort; and an entrenched camp was dug in front of it. Meanwhile Montcalm's little army, though engaged in all this work, was actually making such a show of force about the valley between the lakes that it checked the British, who now gave up their plan of seizing a forward position in the valley as a cover for the advance of the main body later on. Montcalm, with 3,000 toil-worn soldiers, had out-generalled Abercromby and Howe with 15,000 fresh ones. He had also gained four priceless days.

But on July 5 the British advanced in force. It had been a great sight the year before, when Montcalm had gone south along Lake George with 5,000 men; but how much more magnificent now, when Abercromby came north with 15,00 men, all eager for this Armageddon of the West. Perhaps there never has been any other occasion on which the pride and pomp of glorious war have been set in a scene of such wonderful peace and beauty. The midsummer day was perfectly calm. Not a cloud was in the sky. The lovely lake shone like a burnished mirror. The forest-clad mountains never looked greener or cooler; nor did their few bare crags or pinnacles ever stand out more clearly against the endless blue sky than when those thousand boats rowed on to what 15,000 men thought certain victory. The procession of boats was wide enough to stretch from shore to shore; yet it was much longer than its width. On each side went the Americans, 9,000 men in blue and buff. In the centre came 6,000 British regulars in scarlet and gold, among them a thousand kilted Highlanders of the splendid 'Black Watch,' led by their major, Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, whose weird had told him a year before that he should fight and fall at a place with what was then to him an unknown name--Ticonderoga. The larger boats were in the rear, lashed together, two by two, with platforms laid across them for artillery.

And so the brave array advanced. The colors fluttered gallantly with the motion of the boats. The thousands of brilliant scarlet uniforms showed gaily between the masses of more sober blue. The drums were beating, the bugles blowing, the bagpipes screaming defiance to the foe; and every echo in the surrounding hills was roused to send its own defiance back.

The British halted for the night a few miles short of the north end of the lake. Next morning; the 6th, they set out again in time to land about noon within four miles of Ticonderoga in a straight line. There were two routes by which an army could march from Lake George to Lake Champlain. The first, the short way, was to go eastward across the four-mile valley. The second was twice as far, north and then east, all the way round through the woods. Since the valley road led to a bridge which Montcalm had blown up, Lord Howe went round through the woods with a party of rangers to see if that way would do. While he was pushing ahead the French reconnoitering party, which, from under cover, had been following the British movements the day before, was trying to find its own way back to Montcalm through the same woods. Its Indian guides had run away in the night, scared out of their wits by the size of the British army. It was soon lost and, circling round, came between Howe and Abercromby. Suddenly the rangers and the French met in the dense forest. 'Who goes there?' shouted a Frenchman. 'Friends!' answered a British soldier in perfect French. But the uniforms told another tale and both sides fired. The French were soon overpowered by numbers, and the fifty or so survivors were glad to scurry off into the bush. But they had dealt one mortal blow. Lord Howe had fallen, and, with him, the head and heart of the whole British force.

Abercromby, a helpless leader, pottered about all the next day, not knowing what to do. Meanwhile Montcalm kept his men hard at work, and by night he was ready and hopeful. He had just written to his friend Doreil, the commissary of war at Quebec: 'We have only eight days' provisions. I have no Canadians and no Indians. The British have a very strong army. But I do not despair. My soldiers are good. From the movements of the British I can see they are in doubt. If they are slow enough to let me entrench the heights of Ticonderoga, I shall beat them.' He had ended his dispatch to Vaudreuil with similar words: 'If they only let me entrench the heights I shall beat them.' And now, on the night of the 7th, he actually was holding the heights with his 3,000 French regulars against the total British force of 15,000. Could he win on the 8th?

Late in the evening 300 regulars arrived under an excellent officer, Pouchot. At five the next morning, the fateful July 8, Levis came in with 100 more. These were all, except 400 Canadians who arrived in driblets, some while the battle was actually going on. Vaudreuil had changed his mind again, and had decided to recall the Mohawk valley raiders. But too late. Levis, Pouchot, and the Canadians had managed to get through only after a terrible forced march, spurred on by the hope of reaching their beloved Montcalm in time. The other men from the raid, and five times as many more from Canada, came in afterwards. But again too late.

The odds in numbers were four to one against Montcalm. Even in the matter of position he was anything but safe. The British could have forced him out of it by taking 10,000 men through the woods towards Crown Point, to cut off his retreat to the north, while leaving 5,000 in front of him to protect their march and harass his own embarkation. And even if they had chosen to attack him where he was they could have used their cannon with great effect from Rattlesnake Hill, overlooking his left flank, only a mile away, or from the bush straight in front of him, at much less than half that distance, or from both places together. Always on the alert he was ready for anything, retreat included, though he preferred fighting where he was, especially if the British were foolish enough to attack without their guns--the very thing they seemed about to do. After Howe's death they made mistakes that worked both ways against them. They waited long enough to let Montcalm get ready to meet their infantry; but not long enough to get their guns ready to meet him.

Now, too, blundering Abercromby believed a stupid engineer who said the trenches could be rushed with the bayonet --precisely what could not be done. The peninsula of Ticonderoga was strong towards Lake Champlain, the narrows of which it entirely commanded. But, against infantry, it was even stronger towards the land, where trenches had been dug. The peninsula was almost a square. It jutted out into the lake about three-quarters of a mile, and its neck was of nearly the same width. Facing landward, the direction from which the British came, the left half of the peninsula was high, the right low. Montcalm entrenched the left half and put his French regulars there. He made a small trench in the middle of the right half for the Canadian regulars and militia, and cut down the trees everywhere, all round. The position of the Canadians was not strong in itself; but if the British rushed it they would be taken in flank by the French and in front by the fort, which was half a mile in rear of the trenches and could fire in any direction; while if they turned to rush the French right, they would have to charge uphill with the fire of the fort on their left.

Montcalm's men were already at work at five o'clock in the morning of the 8th when Levis marched in; and they went on working like ants till the battle began, though all day the heat was terrific. Some of the trees cut down were piled up like the wall of a log-cabin, only not straight but zigzag, like a 'snake' fence, so that the enemy should be caught between two fires at every angle. This zigzag wooden wall was, of course, well loopholed. In front of it was its zigzag ditch; and in front of the ditch were fallen trees, with their branches carefully trimmed and sharpened, and pointing outwards against the enemy. To make sure that his men should know their places in battle Montcalm held a short rehearsal. Then all fell to work again with shovel, pick, and axe.

Presently five hundred British Indians under Sir William Johnson appeared on Rattlesnake Hill and began to amuse themselves by firing off their muskets, which, of course, were perfectly useless at a distance of a mile. In the meantime Abercromby had drawn back his men from the woods and had made up his mind to take the short cut through the valley and rebuild the bridge which Montcalm had destroyed. This took up the whole morning; and it was not till noon that the British advance guard began to drive in the French outposts.

A few shots were heard. The outposts came back to the trenches. French officers on the look-out spied the blue rangers coming towards the far side of the clearings and spreading out cautiously to right and left. Then, in the centre, a mass of moving red and the fitful glitter of steel told Montcalm that his supreme moment had come at last. He raised his hand above his head. An officer, posted in the rear, made a signal to the fort half a mile farther back. A single cannon fired one shot; and every soldier laid down his tools and took up his musket. In five minutes a line three-deep had been formed behind the zigzag stockade, which looked almost like the front half of a square. The face towards the enemy was about five hundred yards long. The left face was about two hundred yards, and the right, overlooking the low ground, ran back quite three hundred. Levis had charge of the right, Bourlamaque of the left. Montcalm himself took the centre, straight in the enemy's way. As he looked round, for the last time, and saw how steadily that long, white, three-deep, zigzag line was standing at its post of danger, with the blue Royal Roussillon in the middle, and the grenadiers drawn up in handy bodies just behind, ready to rush to the first weak spot, he thrilled with the pride of the soldier born who has an army fit to follow him.

All round the far side of the clearing the blue rangers were running, stooping, slinking forward, and increasing in numbers every second. In a few minutes not a stump near the edge of the bush but had a muzzle pointing out from beside it. Soon not one but four great, solid masses of redcoats were showing through the trees, less than a quarter of a mile away. Presently they all formed up correctly, and stood quite still for an anxious minute or two. Then, as if each red column was a single being, with heart and nerves of its own, the whole four stirred with that short, tense quiver which runs through every mass of men when they prepare to meet death face to face. Behind the loopholed wall there was a murmur from three thousand lips--'Here they come!'--and the answering quiver ran through the zigzag, white ranks of the French, Montcalm's officers immediately repeated his last caution: 'Steady, boys. Don't fire till the red-coats reach the stakes and you get the word!'

At the edge of the trees the British officers were also reminding their men about the orders. 'Remember: no firing at all; nothing but the bayonet; and follow the officers in!' QUICK-MARCH! and the four dense columns came out of the wood, drew clear of it altogether, and advanced with steady tramp, their muskets at the shoulder and their bayonets gleaming with a deadly sheen under the fierce, hot, noonday sun. On they came, four magnificent processions, full of the pride of arms and the firm hope of glorious victory. Three of them were uniform masses of ordinary redcoats. But the fourth, making straight for Montcalm himself, was half grenadiers, huge men with high-pointed hats, and half Highlanders, with swinging kilts and dancing plumes. The march was a short one; but it seemed long, for at every step the suspense became greater and greater. At last the leading officers suddenly waved their swords, the bugles rang out the CHARGE! and then, as if the four eager columns had been slipped from one single leash together, they dashed at the trees with an exultant roar that echoed round the hills like thunder.

Montcalm gripped his sword, and every French finger tightened on the trigger. His colonels watched him eagerly. Up went his sword and up went theirs. READY!--PRESENT! --FIRE!! and a terrific, double-shotted, point-blank volley crashed out of that zigzag wall and simply swept away the heads of the charging columns. But the men in front were no sooner mown down than the next behind them swarmed forward. Again the French fired, again the leading British fell, and again more British rushed forward. The British sharp-shooters now spread out in swarms on the flanks of the columns and fired back, as did the first ranks of the columns themselves. But they had much the worse of this kind of fighting. Again the columns surged forward, broke up as they reached the trees, and were shot down as they struggled madly among the sharpened branches.

Montcalm had given orders that each man was to fire for himself, whenever he could get a good shot at an enemy; and that the officers were only to look after the powder and shot, see that none was wasted, and keep their men steady in line. His own work was to watch the whole fight and send parties of grenadiers from his reserve to any point where the enemy seemed likely to break in. But the defense weakened only in a single place, where the regiment of Berry, which had a good many recruits, wavered and began to sway back from its loopholes. Its officers, however, were among their men in a moment, and had put them into their places again before the grenadiers whom Montcalm sent running down could reach them.

Again and again the British sharpshooters repeated their fire; again and again the heads of the columns were renewed by the men behind, as those in front were mown down by the French. At last, but slowly, sullenly, and turning to have shot after shot at that stubborn defense of Montcalm's, the redcoats gave way and retreated, leaving hundreds of killed and wounded behind them. Montcalm was sure now that all was going well. He had kept several officers moving about the line, and their reports were all of the same kind--'men steady, firing well, no waste of ammunition, not many killed and wounded, all able to hold their own.' Here and there a cartridge or grenade had set the wooden walls alight. But men were ready with water; and even when the flames caught on the side towards the enemy there was no lack of volunteers to jump down and put them out. The fort, half a mile in rear and overlooking the whole scene, did good work with its guns. Once it stopped an attack on the extreme left by a flotilla of barges which came out of the mouth of the river running through the four-mile valley between the lakes. Two barges were sent to the bottom. Several others were well peppered by the French reserves, who ran down to the bank of the river; and the rest turned round and rowed back as hard as they could.

In all this heat of action Vaudreuil was not forgotten; but he would not have felt flattered by what the soldiers said. All knew how slow he had been about sending the Canadians, 3,000 of whom were already long overdue. 'Bah!' they said during the first lull in the battle; 'the governor has sold the colony; but we won't let him deliver the goods! God save the King and Montcalm!'

This first lull was not for long. On came the four red columns again, just as stubborn as before. Again they charged. Again they split up in front as they reached the fatal trees. Again they were shot down. Again rank after rank replaced the one that fell before it. Again the sharpshooters stood up to that death-dealing loopholed wall. And again the British retired slowly and sullenly, leaving behind them four larger heaps of killed and wounded.

A strange mistake occurred on both sides. Whenever the French soldiers shouted 'God save the King and Montcalm,' the ensigns carrying the colors of the regiment of Guienne waved them high in the air. The flags were almost white, and some of the British mistook them for a sign of surrender. Calling out 'Quarter, Quarter!' the redcoats held their muskets above their heads and ran in towards the wall. The French then thought it was the British who wished to surrender, and called out 'Ground Arms!' But Pouchot, the officer who had marched night and day from the Mohawk valley to join Montcalm, seeing what he thought a serious danger that the British would break through, called out 'Fire!' and his men, most of them leaning over the top of the wall, poured in a volley that cut down more than a hundred of the British.

The Canadians in the separate trench on the low ground, at the extreme right, were not closely engaged at all. They and the American rangers took pot-shots at each other without doing much harm on either side. In the middle of the battle the Canadians were joined by 250 of their friends, just come in from Lake Champlain. But even with this reinforcement they made only a very feeble attack on the exposed left flank of the British column nearest to them on the higher ground, in spite of the fact that this column was engaged in a keen fight with the French in its front, and was getting much the worse of it. When Levis sent two French officers down to lead an attack on the British column the Canadian officers joined it at once. But the mass of the men hung back. They were raiders and bush-fighters. They had no bayonets. Above all, they did not intend to come to close quarters if they could help it. Ticonderoga was no attack by men from the British colonies and no French-Canadian defense and victory. It was a stand-up fight between the French and the British regulars, who settled it between themselves alone.

About five o'clock the two left columns of the British joined forces to make a supreme effort. They were led by the Highlanders, who charged with the utmost fury, while the two right columns made an equally brave attack elsewhere. The front ranks were shot down as before. But the men in rear rushed forward so fast--every fallen man seeming to make ten more spring over his body--that Montcalm was alarmed, and himself pressed down at the head of his grenadiers to the point where the fight was hottest. At the same time Levis, finding his own front clear of the old fourth column, brought over the regiment of La Reine and posted it in rear of the men who most needed its support. These two reinforcements turned the scale of victory, and the charge failed.

Abercromby, unlike Montcalm, never exposed himself on the field at all. But, for the second time, he sent word that the trenches must be taken with the bayonet. The response was another attack. But the men were tired out by the sweltering heat and a whole afternoon of desperate fighting. They advanced, fired, had their front ranks shot down again; and once more retired in sullen silence. The last British attack had failed. Their sharp-shooters and the American rangers covered the retreat. Montcalm had won the day, the most glorious that French arms had seen in the whole of their long American career.

The British had lost 2,000 men, nearly all regulars. But they still had 4,000 regulars left, more than Montcalm's entire command could muster now. He went into action with 3,500 French regulars, 150 Canadian regulars, 250 Canadian militia, and 15 Indians: a total of 3,915. At four o'clock 250 more Canadians arrived. But as his loss was 400 killed and wounded, nearly all French regulars, he had not 4,000 fit for action, of all kinds together, at any one time; and he ended the day with only 3,765. On the other hand, Abercromby still had nearly all his 9,000 militia, besides 500 Indians; who, though worthless in the battle, were dangerous in the bush. Under these conditions it would have been sheer madness for Montcalm to have followed the British into their own country, especially as he lacked food almost more than he lacked men.

The losses of the different kinds of troops on both sides show us by whom most of the fighting was done. The Indians had no losses, either from among the 15 French or the 500 British. The Canadians and the American militia each lost about one man in every twenty-seven. The French regulars, fighting behind entrenchments and under a really great general; lost in proportion about three times as many as these others did, or one man in every nine. The British regulars, fighting in the open against entrenchments and under a blundering commander, lost nearly one man in every three.

Abercromby, having been pig-headed in his advance, now became chicken-hearted in his retreat. He was in no danger. Yet he ran like a hare. Had it not been for his steady regulars and some old hands among the rangers his return would have become a perfect rout. Pitt soon got rid of him; and he retired into private life with the well-earned nickname of 'Mrs. Nabby-Cromby.'

Montcalm was a devout man. He felt that the issue of the day had been the result of an appeal to the God of Battles; and he set up a cross on the ground he had won, with a Latin inscription that shows both his modesty and his scholarship:

'Quid dux? Quid miles? Quid strata ingentia ligna? En signum! En victor! Deus hic, Deus ipse, triumphat!'

'General, soldier, and ramparts are as naught! Behold the conquering Cross! 'Tis God the triumph wrought!'

But the glorious joy of victory did not last long. Vaudreuil claimed most of the credit for himself and the Canadians. He wrote lying dispatches to France and senseless orders to Montcalm. Now that reinforcements were worse than useless, because they ate up the food and could not attack the enemy, he kept on sending them every day. Montcalm was stung to the quick by the letters he received. After getting three foolish orders to march into the British colonies he wrote back sharply: 'I think it very strange that you find yourself, at a distance of a hundred and fifty miles, so well able to make war in a country you have never seen!' Nor was this all. Vaudreuil had also sent Indians, of course after the need for them had passed. They were idle and a perfect nuisance to the French. They began stealing the hospital stores and all the strong drink they could lay hands on. Montcalm checked them sharply. Then they complained to Vaudreuil, and Vaudreuil reproached Montcalm.

It was the same wretched story over and over again: the owls and foxes in the rear thwarting, spiting and robbing the lions at the front. Montcalm was more sick at heart than ever. He saw that anything he could say or do was of little use; and he again asked to be recalled. But he soon heard news which made him change his mind, no matter what the cost to his feelings. The east and the west had both fallen into British hands. Louisbourg and the Ohio were taken. Only Canada itself remained; and, even now, Pitt was planning to send against it overpowering forces both by sea and land. Montcalm would not, could not, leave the ruined colony he had fought for so long against such fearful odds. In the desperate hope of saving it from impending doom, he decided to stay to the end.


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Chronicles of Canada, The Passing of New France, A Chronicle of Montcalm, 1915

 

Chronicles of Canada


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