The Conquest

General Montcalm Takes Oswego

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis de Montcalm (1712-1759)

Caption: Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis de Montcalm (1712-1759)

In Quebec, the great event of the year was the arrival in May of the second battalion of the La Sarre and Royal-Roussillon regiments, as well as the battalion of General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm replacing that of Baron de Dieskau. The Marquis de Montcalm, a Provençal nobleman, was a veteran of many campaigns since 1733. Vigorous and energetic, he was nevertheless quick-tempered and irascible, a characteristic that would compromise relations among senior officers and cause tensions among the staff.

Montcalm's first action was to prepare an attack against Oswego in accordance with the wishes of Governor General Vaudreuil. The area, sheltering a garrison of 1,800 men from the 50th and 51St regiments and the New Jersey regiment, one of the best corps thus far raised by an American colony, was well defended by three forts that were generously provided for in terms of artillery. Montcalm, who arrived in Oswego on August 10 leading 3,000 men equipped with siege artillery, had Fort Ontario bombarded. It was evacuated quickly and the garrison took refuge at forts George and Oswego. These in turn were intensively bombarded by the French artillery. On the morning of August 14, the British commander, Colonel James Mercer, was decapitated by a cannonball, and one hour later the garrison surrendered. The French took 93 cannons and mortars and five regimental flags. This fine victory demonstrated that a European-style siege, with considerable logistics support, could take fortified locations well into the interior of the country.