GOHIN, PIERRE-ANDRÉ, Comte de MONTREUIL, officer in the French regular troops; b. 16 Nov. 1722 at Angers, France, son of Nicolas Gohin de Montreuil and Monique-Françoise Petit; d. after 1793.
Pierre-André Gohin joined the Régiment de Piémont at the age of 20 as a second lieutenant. Promoted captain in 1746, he served during the War of the Austrian Succession and in 1755 was made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis. That same year he was raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and appointed assistant chief of staff of the French regular troops in Canada, then under the command of Jean-Armand Dieskau*. Montreuil arrived at Quebec on 26 June and by August was preparing to join his commander at Fort Saint-Frédéric (near Crown Point, N.Y.). On 8 September he served as second in command to Dieskau in the encounter with British forces under William Johnson near the site of the future Fort William Henry (also called Fort George, now Lake George, N.Y.). After the battle Montreuil conducted the French retreat towards Fort Saint-Frédétic. He had attempted to rescue Dieskau, wounded during the engagement, but the commander had ordered him to concentrate his energies on the fighting.
Montreuil’s failure to remove Dieskau from the field and prevent his capture by the British drew considerable criticism. Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud], on 25 September, declared to Machault, the minister of Marine, that he could not forgive Montreuil for abandoning Dieskau, pointing out that the British would cite his capture “as a proof of their triumph . . . though in truth, [they] have lost three times more men than we.” The anonymous diarist of the “Mémoire du Canada” stated that Montreuil had retreated against Dieskau’s orders and had deserted his commander in a cowardly manner. Dieskau, however, in letters written from England in 1758, completely exculpated his second in command of any wrongdoing, and the Duc de Belle-Isle, the minister of War, assured him the same year that he considered him blameless. Indeed, the criticism of his action does not seem to have affected his career, for in March 1756 Montreuil was appointed assistant chief of staff under Montcalm*.
Because of the competition for place and honour, relations between French and colonial regular officers in Canada were at best strained. Montreuil shared the low opinion of the Canadians held by Montcalm and his general staff. He attributed Dieskau’s failure on 8 Sept. 1755 not only to his having advanced too near the British positions but to his unwarranted faith in the Canadians and the Indians. “The Canadian,” he wrote in a report dated 12 June 1756, “is independent, wicked, lying, braggart, well adapted for skirmishing, very brave behind a tree and very timid when not covered.” Montreuil also accused Vaudreuil and the colonial officers of prejudice against the French and criticized what he considered to be wasteful and extravagant expenditures on the part of the colonial government.
Montreuil served at the siege of Fort William Henry in 1757 and in the battle at Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga, N.Y.) in 1758, where both Montcalm and Lévis reported that he had distinguished himself. Active during the Quebec campaign of 1759, he claimed that he had counselled Montcalm against combat on the Plains of Abraham because he thought the French had not enough men to ensure success. He served as second in command at Sainte-Foy in 1760, returning to France after the fall of Montreal that year. Promoted brigadier in 1761, the next year he was made major-general and served as second in command at Saint-Domingue (Haiti). When the governor, Vicomte Armand de Belzunce, died on 4 Aug. 1763, he assumed full command as governor general of Saint-Domingue until the arrival of the new appointee on 23 April 1764. He probably left the island shortly after and returned to France, where he was promoted lieutenant-general in 1781. On 1 Nivôse, Year II (21 Dec. 1793) of the French Republic the provisional executive committee offered him the nation’s thanks and awarded him an annual pension of 837 livres 10 sols for life in recognition of his service, during which he had participated in ten military campaigns.
Montreuil’s character and abilities are difficult to assess. In 1755 André Doreil*, the commissary of wars, described him as an honest man, but weak and astonishingly naive. Although Montreuil claimed that he was “never happier than when I have a great deal to do,” it was Doreil and the Chevalier de La Pause [Plantavit*] who performed much of the assistant chief of staff’s work while Montcalm was in command. Montcalm seems to have best summed up Montreuil’s abilities when he described him, as he did several times, as a brave, honest, and honourable man, who had little talent for the position he held.
AD, Maine-et-Loire (Angers), E, 26; 263. AMA, SHA, A1, 3498, no.4; 3499, no.90; 3540, no.98; Y2d (copies at PAC). Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., III, 547. Coll. des manuscrits de Lévis (Casgrain), I-XII. Doreil, “Lettres” (A. Roy), ANQ Rapport, 1944–45, 62. “Mémoire du Canada,” ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 114, 132, 171, 189. [M.-L.-É.] Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle de Saint-Domingue, Blanche Maurel et Étienne Taillemite, édit. (3v., Paris, 1958). NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X, 324, 419, 862. P.-G. Roy, “Le chevalier de Montreuil,” BRH, XI (1905), 121–24.