The 7 Years war: Whay Was Gen. Montcalm Outfoxed?

In reading Francis Parkman’s classic history of the French and Indian wars, Montcalm puzzles me.
He was clearly a competent commander, and enjoyed his men’s trust and respect. He (Montcalm) had bested the British in several battles (Fort Duquesne, Fort William Henry) and had the support of the Algonquian Indian allies. Yet, the Britsh Gen. Wolfe handed him a stunning defeat, on the Plains of Abraham (Quebec).
This was done while the French forces enjoyed total command of the area.
Whay was Montcalm so complacent?
And why did he deploy his men (on the plains) in such a fashion? Had he ordered them to lie dowmn (and shoot from a prone position), he could have devastated the British attack.
Dis he lose his nerve at the last moment?
Parkman reported that Montcalm only had 3 day’s supplies in Quebec City-why was that?
Anyway-had Francde prevailed in the war, would the USA have emerged as an independent nation? I suspect that the colonial forces had been ill-treated by Gen. Wolfe-would they have gone home in disgust, had Wolfe lost?

I can say this much: firing a musket from a prone position sounds easy - it is not. Think about the reloading procedure for a musket and try it with an 18th century uniform and gear.

I’d say Montcalm was competent but I get the impression he was easily flustered and some of his underlings had some morale issues.

Montcalm was cut off at Quebec (he certainly didn’t have “total command of the area”) and didn’t have infinite resources to cover every possible route of attack. He basically guessed wrong. Wolfe decided to land his troops at a relatively minor pass at Anse au Foulon, which Montcalm had discounted as a likely possibility. Wolfe also got a lucky break because the French troops who were at Anse au Foulon had been told to expect a covert French supply convoy so they mistook the British landing for a French one and didn’t raise an alarm.

Montcalm was unable to attack Wolfe before he was able to land his troops and get them in battle formation. At that point it became a face-to-face battle and the French broke first (with both Montcalm and Wolfe being mortally wounded).

Ha, a French and Indians war thread. Hope it gets some traction, I find the topic fascinating.

I’m sure he would have done really well if he’d called for tank support, too, or used flame throwers.

Muzzle-loading firearms were the backbone of all western militaries for over 300 years. If shooting prone had been a viable option, it would have occured to someone.

I’d guess the only practical way to have a prone firing line with muskets is if the prone soldier passes the weapon back to someone who will load it for him and gets a fresh one in return. I can see this happening is the defense line was a sharp ridge with only room for a single file and the “loaders” can be sheltered behind it. If a shooter is wounded, the loaders will have to pull him back and a loader can jump forward to take his place.

Which kinda makes me wonder if anyone ever tried it.

What you have to realize is what a last-ditch, desperate effort Wolfe’s attack was. Montcalm had indeed “foxed” Wolfe all summer, a summer in which Wolfe made futile attacks on Quebec; Wolfe would have had to leave (in disgrace) very soon, before the weather closed operations … so he decided on a difficult gamble: to ascend the cliffs at the Anse au Foulon.

There were of course many things that could have gone wrong with this plan - for one, had Montcalm troops enough in the vicinity, he could have attacked when Wolfe’s men were only partway up the cliffs - and history would have recorded a footnote about how Wolfe made a hair-brained attack on Quebec, easily seen off. Another possibility is a coordinated attack by French forces stationed in Quebec and those under Brouganville; together, they outnumbered Wolfe’s forces.

I think the problem was that Montcalm wanted to do the one (throw the English back before they got established) but took too long about it - the sensible thing to do would have been to wait for B.'s troops, but that would have required retreating back into Quebec … I suppose M. thought this would have been bad for morale.

Parkman also notes that Quebec was a colony run with much corruption-the Indendant of Canada was known for embezzlement of government funds. Plus, Canada was regarded as a “land of snow and ice”-not worth a fraction of France’s West Indian sugar islands.
Yet, at the last moment, King Louis decided to spend a lot of money on defending Canada-why the change of heart?
I think the French and Indian Wars were a big spurto american independence-the colonists spent a lot of lives and money on it, with no real return.

As far as US independance goes - the other side to that is that the British victory meant that the colonies had no external threat to fear, or real need for British protection.

Actually, it was the British who spent a lot of money (and lives) on it, and it was the way they asked for some of that money back that sparked the Revolution.

Intendant François Bigot was indeed known as an embezzler, but other than him I’m not aware of any systemic corruption in the government of Canada at the time.

You’re paraphrasing Voltaire’s famous line (in which he may actually have been referring to Acadia), but Canada did have the fur trade and fisheries as industries. It certainly wasn’t worthless, and it made sense to try to defend it, but when France was given the choice between Canada and the sugar-producing islands, the islands were more valuable.


Actually, Alessan, we would have revolted sooner or later anyway. With the French kicked out of Canada, there was no real reason to stay in the British Empire, especially given our leaders’ resentment of British mercantile policy. During the peace negotiations after the war, one French officer told the British that they would be next.

Just a quick note, the bog standard(unrifled) musket was very inaccurate and was used en mass against large groups of soldiers.

Another reason that the lying prone and firing option wasn’t used (even asuming that they could have fired from the prone position.

You can *fire *a musket while prone, but it is hardly an ideal position. Reloading it, on the other hand, requires you at least partially stand up.

Opinions vary. To the best of my knowledge, up until right before the Revolution, most Americans would have been happy to stay British subjects; most of them thought of themselves as English first. It was their insistance on receiving the same rights as any other Englishmen that sparked the war.

Yes, but that’s just it: the British Parliament (though it was really just English and a little Welsh then) would not budge on that notion. I don’t see it changing. If anything, it would have been easier, because the colonists would have had more French support.

That said, your hsitory is a little off in one respect: the colonists did support the war a great deal, which is generally forgotten. This includes financial and nonfinancial measures. IIRC, This in and of itself was one major sore spot, because they weren’t repaid for legitimate expensives - Parliament stacking taxes supposedly for the same war was insult to injury. And it didn’t help that the taxes weren’t neccessarily going to debt relief anyway.

I barely remember this battle from college history classes. What I do remember is that my professor thought that Wolfe pulled off at Quebec one of the great military victories of all time and that he was an amazing commander of historic proportions and we might not have American independence had he lived and fought for the British in the revolutionary war.

Even Hannibal ran into Scipio.

I dunno about that. Certainly he displayed considerable tenacity and, in scaling the cliffs, innovation, daring and surprise - all solid military virtues; but if you study the season of war leading up to that, the impression you get is that he was well and truly foiled time and again by Montcalm - the assault on the Anse au Foulon was very much a last-ditch gamble that happened to pay off.

I dont understand your reasoning here. Could you develop?
BTW, I dont see how it would have been possible for the American Revolutionaries to have more French support. Earlier I can understand, but more ?