On today’s date in 1756, French commander Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis de Montcalm, set up a battery on high ground about 70 metres from the British-defended Fort Oswego, which he fired upon with cannons.
When Montcalm arrived in Montreal, he was immediately informed of an impending invasion along the nearby U.S. border. He was concerned with the number of British troops assembled in the area but left to visit Fort Carillon to inspect the defenses. Meanwhile, governor general Pierre de Rigaud began preparing troops at Fort Frontenac for a potential assault on Oswego, the British-held fort across Lake Ontario. Montcalm’s troops at Fort Carillon distracted the attention of the British, and Montcalm was then advised to make an approach and attempt to overtake the fort.
BESIEGE THE FORT
Returning to Fort Frontenac, Montcalm found 3,500 men assembled—French regular troops, Canadian militia and Native Americans, all fighting alongside each other. On Aug. 9, they crossed the lake and rapidly besieged the English fort.
By the morning of Aug. 13, the French had nine cannons firing towards Fort Oswego while reinforcements surrounded the opposite side. During the offensive, the English commander was killed and the fort was surrendered.
The French looted money, military correspondence, food provisions, guns and boats before burning the fort and taking more than 1,700 prisoners, including 80 officers.
MONTCALM’S FIRST VICTORY
It was Montcalm’s first victory in North America and demonstrated to the world that there was a new commander in town; however, during the 1750s—and corresponding with a rapid increase in the amount of paper money being circulated—rapid inflation occurred with New France’s paper card money. It was likely due to the burgeoning costs associated with the war against the British (known as the French and Indian War of 1754-63, during which Montcalm overtook Fort Oswego) as well as declining tax revenues and rampant government corruption.
It was enough for Montcalm to note in a letter, dated April 12, 1759, that basic necessities cost up to eight times more than when his troops first arrived in 1755.
“The colonist is astounded to see the orders of the Intendant, in addition to the cards, circulating in the market to the extent of thirty millions. People, fear, I think without foundation, that the government will make a sort of assignment or authorize a depreciation. This opinion induces them to sell and speculate at an extravagant scale and price.”