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BEACH, THOMAS BILLIS – Volume XII (1891-1900)

b. 26 Sept. 1841 in Colchester, England


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The French Forces in North America during the Seven Years’ Wars (cont.)

The officer corps of the colonial regular troops, with the exception of those too severely wounded to make the voyage, crossed to France where they were retired from the service on half pay. With the conclusion of peace in 1763, 21 officers returned to Canada to settle their affairs, and then went back again to France hoping to receive appointments on the active list. Others quietly gave up and returned to Canada to eke out a living on their seigneurial lands. Those who held the cross of the order of Saint-Louis were in a difficult position as the oath of the order prevented them becoming subjects of His Britannic Majesty without the consent of the king of France. Several of those who chose to remain in France eventually received active appointments in the service, in Gorée, the West Indies, or Guiana. Louis-Thomas Jacau* de Fiedmont, for example, the brave gunner captain who, at Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay*’s council of war that opted to surrender Quebec, declared that they should hold out until the ammunition was exhausted, eventually became governor of Guiana. Another, Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros* de Léry, returned to Canada and became a member of the Legislative Council of Quebec but sent his young sons to France. One of them, François-Joseph, gained entry into the reformed and prestigious corps of engineers. He ultimately rose to be commander-in-chief of the engineers in Napoleon’s Grande Armée. His name is engraved on the Arc de Triomphe along with those of Napoleon’s other great generals. For some of these Canadian officers the career was all important; for others, it was their homeland that mattered. Some, at least, who chose the latter did so because, owing to age or lack of means and influential connections, they saw no future for themselves in the service of their king. Their cause was truly lost.

As for the soldiers of the colonial regular troops who returned to France, when an attempt was made to have them enlist in French regiments not one of them would do so. Their almost unanimous response was that they knew the route to Halifax and they could easily find their way back to Canada from there. The Maréchal de Senneterre commented: “All those who have returned from Quebec and Montreal appear to have a great love for that country.”


Of printed source material on the 18th century wars in North America there is an abundance. Many of the leading participants wrote lengthy memoirs and journals during or after the events. Some of the material from the French side has been printed over the years in the APQ [AQ; ANQ] Rapport; it is listed under the headings guerre, journaux, mémoires, capitulations, and siège de Quebec in Table des matières des rapports des Archives du Québec, tomes 1 à 42 (1920–1964) (AQ pub., Québec, 1965). The PAC Report for the years 1904, 1905, and 1929 contains correspondence by leading figures in the conflict. A major collection is Collection des manuscrits du maréchal de Lévis (Casgrain). Also useful is Journal des campagnes au Canada de 1755 à 1760 par le comte de Maurès de Malartic …, Gabriel de Maurès de Malartic et Paul Gaffarel, édit. (Dijon, 1890). For the western theatre Papiers Contreœur (Grenier) is a particularly well edited selection. Anglo-French boundary disputes, 1749–63 (Pease) and Illinois on the eve of the Seven Years’ War (Pease and Jenison) are also valuable. Doughty and Parmelee, Siege of Quebec, contains useful documents.

For the European diplomatic background to the struggle R. P. Waddington, La guerre de Sept Ans: histoire diplomatique et militaire (5v., Paris, [1899–1907]) and Louis XV et le renversement des alliances: préliminaires de la guerre de Sept Ans, 1754–1756 (Paris, 1896), although dated, are still useful. A succinct and valuable study of the period is W. L. Dorn, Competition for empire, 1740–1763 (New York, 1940); unfortunately, the treatment of events in North America, of necessity based on the mediocre or worse secondary sources then extant, is poor. Parkman, Half-century of conflict and Montcalm and Wolfe are too dated and biased to have much merit. Equally partisan is Gipson, The British empire before the American revolution, IV–VIII. H. H. Peckham, The colonial wars, 1698–1762 (Chicago, London, 1964), is of no value; nor is G. M. Wrong, The fall of Canada: a chapter in the history of the Seven Years’ War (Oxford, 1914).

Two sound modern studies are Frégault, Canada: the war of the conquest, and Stanley, New France. The best study to date of the campaigns of 1759 and 1760 is Stacey, Quebec, 1759. The article by W. J. Eccles, “The social, economic, and political significance of the military establishment in New France,” CHR, LII (1971) treats of the dominance of the military in Canadian society. Lee Kennett, The French armies in the Seven Years’ War: a study in military organization and administration (Durham, N.C., 1967), is a succinct and exceptionally valuable study. André Corvisier, L’armée française de la fin du XVIIe siècle au ministère de Choiseul: le soldat (Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences humaines de Paris, Série Recherches, XIV–XV, 2v., Paris, 1964), is sound and exhaustive. André Dussauge, Études sur la guerre de Sept Ans: le ministère de Belle-Isle Krefeld et Lütterberg, 1758 (Paris, 1914), is still valuable. On the French navy the best studies are still Joannès Tramond, Manuel d’histoire maritime de la France, des origines à 1815 ... (Paris, 1947), and Lacour-Gayet, La marine militaire sous Louis XV (1910).


Professor of history, University of Toronto, Ontario.


W. J. Eccles, "The French Forces in North America during the Seven Years’ War," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3. University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1974, http://admin.biographi.ca/en/special.php?project_id=49&p=16.


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