POTOT DE MONTBEILLARD, FIACRE-FRANÇOIS, artillery officer; b. 23 Dec. 1723 at Semur-en-Auxois, France, son of François-Augustin Potot de Montbeillard and Claude d’Orbigny; m. 1763 Marie-Claude Carlet de La Rozière; d. 31 Dec. 1778 at Semur-en-Auxois.
Fiacre-François Potot de Montbeillard entered the French army in 1741 and in 1756 attained the rank of second captain in the Corps Royal d’Artillerie et de Génie. In 1757 the court of Versailles approved a recommendation of the governor of New France, Rigaud de Vaudreuil, that the artillery element in the colonial regular troops be increased from one company to two. To assist in this expansion a draft of six officers and 20 men of the regular artillery was sent to Canada on detachment. Montbeillard was the senior officer of this group, which reached Canada in the summer of 1757. He became commander of the second company of artillery. The overall commander of the artillery was Captain François-Marc-Antoine LE Mercier, an officer of limited professional qualifications who had been in the country for many years and whom Montcalm*, commanding the regular forces in Canada, regarded as one of the colony’s leading corruptionists.
Montbeillard at once became involved in the rivalries and tensions which in contemporary Canada divided Frenchman from Canadian, professional soldier from irregular, and Montcalm from Vaudreuil. He had been highly recommended to Montcalm, who moreover clearly saw in him an officer of high professional attainments and competence. Montcalm used him as an assistant and adviser in planning the defence of Quebec. Vaudreuil doubtless disliked this association. As a regular officer attached to the colonial regular troops, which were under Vaudreuil’s control, Montbeillard’s position was equivocal. In 1758 the governor attempted to subordinate Montbeillard to the other battery commander, Louis-Thomas Jacau de Fiedmont, who, Montbeillard claimed, was junior to him. Montcalm strongly supported Montbeillard and the difficulty seems to have been resolved without damage to Montbeillard’s position. Early in 1759 he was decorated with the cross of the order of Saint-Louis. That year greatly improved his status. In August, while James Wolfe* was beleaguering Quebec, news came of the British capture of Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), and Lévis was sent west with a large detachment from Montcalm’s force at Quebec to provide against attack from that direction. With him went Le Mercier, evidently in the capacity of a staff officer, to the great satisfaction of Montcalm. From this moment until the capitulation in the following year, Montbeillard is spoken of, and functions as, the artillery commander both in the Quebec area and in the colony at large.
Montbeillard commanded the French artillery (five or six guns) in the battle of the Plains of Abraham. At this time he was closely associated with Montcalm and was keeping the general’s journal. To him we owe the only first-hand record of the battlefield appreciation that led Montcalm to make his fatally premature attack upon Wolfe’s army: “If we give him [the enemy] time to establish himself, we shall never be able to attack him with the sort of troops we have.” When the attack was delivered Montbeillard was with his artillery detachment on the French left. He moved it forward cautiously, and his prudent handling is reflected in the fact that, in spite of the total rout of the French infantry, only two of his guns were lost. In the spring of 1760 he directed the bombardment during the French siege of Quebec, and later in the season he was involved in the unsuccessful attempt to check or at least delay James Murray’s advance up the St Lawrence against Montreal. He was a member of the council of war which on 6 Sept. 1760 advised Vaudreuil to negotiate for a capitulation. That autumn he returned to France in the same ship as Lévis.
Going back to duty with the Corps Royal d’Artillerie, Montbeillard was awarded in 1761 a pension of 400 livres for his command of the artillery in Canada. In 1766 he was promoted chef de brigade by brevet (confirmed 1767), and in 1769 he attained his final rank of lieutenant-colonel. He had evidently been appointed in 1761 (presumably as an inspector) to the manufacture royale at Charleville (Charleville-Mézières). How long he remained there is uncertain, but it was apparently a lady of Charleville whom he married in 1763. In 1779, shortly after his death, pensions payable from the royal treasury were awarded to her and to their two children, Jean and Louise.
AMA, SHA, A1, 3498–99; Yd (dossier Montbeillard). AN, Col., B, 105, ff.50–52; 109, ff.30–33, 125; F3, 16, ff.229–34; Marine, C7, 216 (dossier Montbeillard)PAC, MG 18, K10, 2. Coll. des manuscrits de Lévis (Casgrain), I, 192, 274; II, 386; III, 110; IV, 43, 212; VI, 44–45, 66–67, 107, 188, 227; VII, 243, 307; VIII, 115; X, 107, 172, 175; XI, 192, 240, 250. Æ. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis, 171. Thomas Chapais, Le marquis de Montcalm (1712–1759) (Québec, 1911), 572–75. Kennett, French armies in Seven Years’ War. Stacey, Quebec, 1759.