Those who know anything of the Seven Years War know it was fought all over the globe in the 18th century as the two principal powers of Europe at the time grappled to determine which of them would be the dominant power and create a world empire of influence, holdings, trade, culture and language. Both sought to establish colonies and where that was most evident was in the New World where each had strong support and foundations. This theatre of the conflict, known as the ‘French and Indian War’ was fought in the uncompromising terrain of the North American eastern seaboard, in its mountains, deep forests and upon its broad lakes. The combatants included the regular troops of each nation, militia raised among the local population, the tough and resourceful frontiersmen that both nations could boast and their respective indigenous Indian Allies principally from the Huron and Iroquois nations. It was a particularly bitter confrontation made the more so by the environment, weather and natural savagery of its native participants. Dotted throughout country were forts of varying size, the names of which have gone down in history as a consequence of their destruction and massacre, heroic defence or on account of the monumental battles which were fought to gain control of them. Perhaps foremost among these was Ticonderoga—or Carillon as it was known to the French. In July 1758 General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm in command of a French army of 4000 men decisively beat a British army in open battle under General James Abercrombie. The British general fatefully assaulted well prepared French entrenchments without the support of field artillery and with inevitable results. The battle was the most costly in human lives of the entire war and, predictably, the majority of the dead were British. The Black Watch suffered large losses of both officers and men as the price for their tenacity and characteristic highlander courage. It was a significant French victory and Abercrombie never fought another major battle. Those who only called him ‘incompetent’ were kindly. Ultimately France lost the New World and Montcalm, one of her most able military men, lost his life at Quebec to Wolfe’s forces.
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The total effective force of Montcalm’s little army amounted only to 3,500 combatants.
Under the protection of the advanced guards, the battalions worked to complete the entrenchments. Montcalm even contemplated establishing a battery of six pieces 150 or 200 fathoms in the rear of the Duprat and de Bernard volunteers, but his adversary gave him no time to finish this work.<br>
About 10 o’clock in the morning, a detachment of the enemy, composed of light troops and savages, appeared on the right bank of the Fall River crowning the summit of a mountain whence they could view our entrenchments from the rear. The chief engineer of the English army, Mister Clerck, accompanied this reconnoissance. The enemy began a futile exchange of shots with our volunteer companies posted on the opposite bank, but, as most of the bullets fell into the river, our troops ceased firing and continued their work.<br>
The savages belonged to the Iroquois Five Nations. They had arrived the day before, numbering 500, led by Colonel Johnson, the same officer who had captured M. de Dieskau in 1755. After having taken part in this skirmish, they were obliged to be content to remain as spectators of the events of the day behind the English army.<br>
Abercrombie was aware, from the reports of the prisoners of the detachment of M. de Trépezec, that Montcalm, from hour to hour, was expecting reinforcements of marines, Canadians and savages. Eager to forestall the arrival of these reinforcements and not to give time to his adversary to complete his works, the English General had ordered Clerck to find out if an attack on the French entrenchments appeared feasible. Upon receiving a favourable reply from the Engineer and without awaiting his artillery, Abercrombie ordered his army forward. He left but one regiment of militia in the camp of the Fall and moved forward with more than 13,000 men.<br>
A curtain of sharpshooters, made up of selected marksmen, of Light Infantry and Wood Rangers, preceded the army which debouched from the forest, about twelve thirty, opposite our entrenchments. It was formed in four columns, pickets and grenadiers leading. <br>
At the approach of the enemy, our advanced guards withdrew in good order. At a cannon shot from the fort, serving as a signal, the workers threw down their tools to retake their place in the battalions which manned the parapet of the entrenchment, three ranks deep, after leaving their pickets and their grenadiers in reserve to the rear.<br>
Montcalm, coatless on account of the heat, was stationed at the centre, having beside him M. de Montreuil, Major General, M. de Bougainville, since three days appointed to the duties of adjutant general, MM. de la Rochebeaucourt and Marcel, his aides-de-camp, also M. Desandrouins, who, his duty as engineer finished, had begged the honour of being attached to the person of his general during the battle.<br>
Abercrombie had ordered his troops to “advance rapidly, to throw themselves forward in the midst of the enemy’s fire, but to reserve their own, until the works themselves were actually entered.” While the right column of the English attempted to turn the left of our entrenchments and came under the fire of the La Sarre regiment, another column attacked the salients of the line between the Languedoc and Berry. A third column was directed against the centre, opposite the Royal-Roussillon and Guyenne. And the left column assaulted the front manned by the Béarn and Queen.<br>
Before reaching the abatis, the English columns were received with a murderous fire. The sections leading, halted and opened fire themselves, and, under the cover of this discharge and that of the selected sharpshooters who “hidden behind stumps and trunks of trees crowded the intervals and wings of the columns,” the troops which followed them made repeated assaults on the abatis, but “our musketry fire was so well aimed the enemy was destroyed as soon as they appeared.” The vigorous attacks of the assailants were repulsed on every side by the sustained and well aimed fire of the defenders. According to the instructions of Montcalm, our soldiers were allowed to fire at will, a manner of firing at which the French excelled. The officers confined themselves to supervising the direction of this fire and the expenditure of ammunition. During all the battle, their task was facilitated “by the courage of the troops, who devoted their whole attention to firing properly and getting a good aim at whoever showed himself.”