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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XIII.—Campaigns of 1756 and 1757


The Seven Years' War begun—Respective condition of the French and English in America—Montcalm captures Fort Oswego-1756. Loudon's futile attempt against Louisburg — Montcalm reduces Fort William Henry—Indian Massacre of Twelve Hundred British Prisoners—1757. Exhaustion of Canada—Famine—Extortion and. Profligacy of Bigot and his Associates—1758.

Notwithstanding these hostile demonstrations, war was not formally declared till the following spring (1756). France, Austria, and Russia were combined against England and Prussia for the prolonged and bitter struggle of the Seven Years' War. It seemed at first as though the combination must be fatal to Britain and her ally. But the political sagacity of William Pitt, and the military genius of Frederick the Great, with the lavish expenditure of treasure and blood, humbled their enemies and raised their respective countries to the summit of glory. The "Great Commoner" made good his proud boast that "England should moult no feather of her crest." Clive's stupendous victory on the plains of Plassey gave her her Indian Empire, and Wolfe's heroic death on the heights of Quebec was the price of the conquest of this great continent.

Nevertheless, the campaign of 1756 resulted disastrously to the British. The French military officers were far superior in dash and daring to their opponents. Montcalm, the Commander-in-Chief, had acquired experience and skill in Italy and Germany, and was audacious in battle even to the verge of rashness. De Levi and St. Yeran, his military colleagues, were also able officers. The number of French

regulars was increased to about four thousand, and the total available colonial forces amounted to only twice that number. The whole French population was scarcely eighty thousand, and it was ground down by feudal exactions, knavish commercial monoplies, and fraudulent public servants.

The British colonies, on the other hand, numbered three millions of inhabitants. Fostered by freedom and intelligence, these had become rich and prosperous. Though not deficient in valour, they possessed less of the military instinct, and were more addicted to peaceful industry than their northern neighbours. The Earl of Loudon, a man utterly without military genius^ was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British forces. The plan of operations comprehended expeditions against Forts Frederic, Niagara, Du Quesne, and Quebec; but delay and indecision frustrated these purposes, while promptness and vigour characterized the operations of the French.

While General Abercrombie was awaiting reinforcements at Albany, Montcalm, with three thousand men, moved rapidly on Oswego, where a strong fort gave the British command of Lake Ontario. After a vigorous bombardment, the fort capitulated, with a garrison of sixteen hundred men, and an immense quantity of military stores. After razing the fort, Montcalm returned to Lake Champlain, and erected strong fortifications at Ticonderoga, thus guarding the gate of Canada against the British. During the winter, an attacking force of fifteen hundred French and Indians advanced on snow-shoes from Montreal, nearly two hundred miles, to attempt the capture of Fort William Henry, •at the southern end of the lake. Unable to surprise the fort, they burned all the outworks, together with the adjacent mills, dwellings, shipping, and batteaux, and carried consternation even within Abercrombie's entrenchments at Albany. Marauding parties of French and Indians ravaged the English frontier with fire and sword, swooping down on lonely settlements, in midnight attacks, and murdering and scalping the inhabitants, without distinction of age or sex.

The following year, 1757, Lord Loudon resolved to make Louisburg the chief point of attack. In July he had assembled at Halifax a fleet of sixteen ships of the line and ninety transports, with ten thousand soldiers, chiefly veteran troops. Here he wasted a month in mock battles and sieges. Learning that Louisburg was well garrisoned, and guarded by a fleet as strong as his own, he abandoned his design, and returned ingloriously to New York.

Meanwhile, Montcalm struck a fatal blow at Fort William Henry, on Lake George. Early in August, the fort, now garrisoned by twenty-seven hundred men, under Colonel Munroe, was invested by the French. For five days, a fierce bombardment woke the wild echoes of the mountains, while hundreds of yelling savages scoured the woods, cutting off and scalping all stragglers. The gallant Munroe held out till half his guns were burst and his ammunition was nearly exhausted, and over three hundred and fifty men were killed and wounded, before he capitulated.

On the surrender, a tragedy ensued which stained with the blood of its victims the laurels of the victors. As the garrison, with its camp following of women and children, was defiling through the woods, the blood-thirsty savages, balked of their anticipated harvest of scalps and plunder, and maddened by liquor, which the British had neglected to destroy, fell in ruthless massacre upon the panic-stricken throng. Montcalm, De Levi, and other officers, interposed, with daring and devotion, to stop the massacre and to rescue the prisoners from their murderous assailants. But twelve hundred, there is reason to fear, were massacred or enslaved by the Indians.

Montcalm razed Fort William Henry to the ground, and, deterred from a further advance by short allowance of food, the French returned to reap the scanty harvest of their Canadian fields. Naught remained to mark human habitation on the shores of the lonely lake save the charred ruins of the fort and the graves of the dead on the hill side.

Notwithstanding this victory, the condition of Canada was one of extreme exhaustion. During the weary months 1758 w*n^er> a severe famine prevailed. The cultivation of the fields had been abandoned to women and children, every able-bodied man being enrolled in the army. The meagre crops that had been sown were almost a total failure. The soldiers were put upon short allowance of horse-flesh and bread. The daily rations were continuously reduced till, in April, the allowance of bread was only two ounces. Men fell down from faintness in the streets of Quebec. Three hundred Acadian refugees perished of hunger.

During this period of general distress, Bigot, the Intendant, and his partners in crime and extortion—Cadet, Varin, De Pean, and others—battened like vampires upon the life-blood of their, unhappy country. Bigot, the chief criminal, was mean in stature, repulsive in countenance, odious in life. His rapacity was almost incredible. He actually, in this time of famine, exported large quantities of breadstuff's to the West Indies, and made enormous profits from the enhanced cost of food at home. He destroyed the financial credit of the colony by the lavish issue of paper money, which soon became utterly worthless. While the country languished, this gang of thieves amassed princely fortunes. "It would seem," wrote Montcalm, "that all are in haste to be rich before the colony is altogether lost to France."

The mother country was herself exhausted by the exactions of a world-wide war, and her civil and military administration was corrupted and enfeebled by the profligacy of the court. She could send few reinforcements of men or money, military stores or food, to the colony; and most of the victualling ships sent out in the spring of 1758 were captured by the British.


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