Unit History

Enseigne Jean-Baptiste Levrault de Langis Montegron:

Langis was born in Quebec in 1723 to a military-family. Like his father and three brothers, he served in the Troupes de la Marine--colonial troops organized by the French Minister of Marine. Also called the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, the military units served the Minister who was responsible for overseeing the French navy and its colonies. By the early 1750s, when Langis began his service with the Marines, the Troupes de la Marine had already established themselves in Nouvelle France (Canada) for around 70 years. Because France's colonization in North America relied almost exclusively on the fur and fish industries, very few cities were established, unlike their British counterparts. Nouvelle France extended across a greater expanse of land than British North America largely due to the abundance of frontier outposts and villages where most of the transactions occurred. Habitants traded European goods for beaver pelts, trapped and processed by allied-Native Americans. To protect the frontier outposts, the Minister of Marine authorized around 80 companies by 1756, to be spread across France's territories in North America. The rank-and-file of each company tended to be composed of men from France, however, by the middle of the eighteenth century, more and more of the officers were recruited from Nouvelle France. Langis, his father, and three brothers are examples of typical Canadian-born men who could afford a commission and desired to go into the military service.

By 1755, Langis had secured a commission as an ensign, or cadet, in the Troupes de la Marine, stationed at an outpost less than a mile from Fort Beauséjour in Acadia. Fort Beauséjour was significant in that it was the halfway-point of the land-based supply route between Quebec (the capital of Nouvelle France), and the Fortress Louisbourg (the "gateway" to the interior of Canada). During the winter months, especially when the St. Lawrence River froze, Louisbourg depended on goods sent overland via Acadia, and thus through Fort Beauséjour. Canada's survival ultimately depended on Louisbourg's protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. If the fortress fell, the British navy could sail unopposed to Quebec City to bombard it and land troops outside of its walls.

After hostilities broke out in the Ohio River Valley in 1754, Great Britain planned three invasions for 1755: the Ohio Valley (against Fort Duquesne) led by General Edward Braddock, upstate New York around Lake George (Lac St Sacrement) led by Sir William Johnson, and Acadia (against Fort Beauséjour) led by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Monckton. General Braddock attempted to dislodge the French from the Ohio Valley--the original area of contention--and suffered a massacre at the hands of the French and their Native-allies, even losing his own life. Johnson succeeded in temporarily ending French raids around Albany, significantly, severely wounding and capturing the commander of Nouvelle France's regular army, Baron Dieskau at the Battle of Lake George. In Acadia, the British hoped to conquer the territory to further expand their northern possessions while also cutting off the land route between Quebec and the Fortress Louisbourg. When Monckton captured Fort Beauséjour that year, Louisbourg lost its land supply-route and Langis was sent home to Quebec.

Not too long after, Langis reenlisted with his older brother, Alexis, working mostly as a scout for the Chevalier de Lévis. Retaining his rank as ensign in the Troupes de la Marines, Langis was never promoted, but was noted during the next four years as an oddity, commanding large units and even superior officers. This was a testament to Langis' skill as a practitioner of petite guerre, or guerrilla warfare. Often handpicking his own men taken from the milice (militia), he would combine his European fighters with his Native-allies, making for an integrated fighting force. This style of fighting, known by the English since King Philip's War as the "skulking way of war," involved taking cover behind trees and rocks and setting ambushes for unsuspecting British patrols. Guided by local Native American tribes, usually from the Wabanaki Confederacy (Western Abenaki, Eastern Abenaki (Penobscot), Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Mi'kmaq) and among the Nipissings, Langis' ad hoc companies proved one of the greatest military assets to the French.

Langis is most well known for his defeat of Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers at the Battle on Snowshoes on March 13, 1758. Robert Rogers, the "Father of Modern American Rangers," had intended to scout around Fort Carillon to determine the fort's strength. However, word of Rogers' scouting mission reached Captain Louis-Philippe Le Dossu d’Hébécourt at Fort Carillon. D'Hébécourt gave Langis command of a party of Nipissings and Canadian miliciens to intercept Rogers' Rangers. Early on, Langis' scouts discovered tracks and Rogers' campsite from that night and so assumed that Rogers was well on his way along Bernetz Brook, aiming for Fort Carillon. Acting quickly, Langis left his position at the northern end of Lake George and traveled west toward Bernetz Brook to head Rogers off. The French force did not expect to meet with Rogers' Rangers for some time, so when the first shots broke out, Langis' advance guard, commanded by Enseigne Durantaye, was taken by surprise. Assuming that the French knew of his whereabouts, Rogers had been on the alert since beginning scouting around Lake George. His scouts alerted him of Durantaye's approach which initially gave him the upper hand. After firing the first shot himself, Rogers lost control of his rangers who ran after the retreating French advance guard. Having been thus alerted, Langis hastily prepared his main body for an ambush. He organized his men in a "fire sack," or a "U-shaped" formation with each man taking cover. As Durantaye's party ran into the center of the "U" and through their hidden comrades, Rogers' Rangers stumbled in, hot on their heels. The resulting firefight was a devastating blow, both to Rogers' company, but also to his reputation. In his Journal, he defended his actions on account of the incredible odds he faced: "we gave them the first fire, which killed above forty Indians... [but they] were only their advanced guard, their main body coming up, consisting of 600 or more Canadians and Indians." If Rogers' account was accurate, the entire French force would have been about 700-800 men and that he and his rangers "killed 150 of them, and wounded as many more." In reality, the French force totaled around 300 and Rogers had just shy of 200. The casualties were 144 British dead and seven taken prisoner, while the French suffered only two Marine cadets, a single Canadian, and 21 Natives killed (24 in total) and a handful more injured. Robert Rogers himself barely escaped, finding it necessary to even shed his coat to lessen the weight and bodily restrictions. When the French scoured the fallen, they assumed Rogers had been killed, having discovered his coat with his orders from General Abercrombie stuffed in a pocket. The Battle on Snowshoes proved to be one of Rogers' worst defeats and would provide ammunition for his critics to blast him with. However, Brigadier General Howe would later turn Rogers' defeat into pro-British propaganda--a testament to Britain's soldiers' spirit and bravery--and Rogers would gain even more authority in his nation's ranks. Langis on the other hand earned a reputation as France's greatest partisan-fighter during the war.

Langis continued his career, contributing to Britain's greatest loss of soldiers during the French and Indian War at the Battle of Carillon. On the morning on July 6, 1758, two days before the famous battle when General Abercrombie ordered his approximately 18,000 men to assault Fort Carillon (against the Marquis de Montcalm's 3,600 men), Langis led a scouting party a couple miles west of Fort Carillon. Following the La Chute River, Langis' scouts were surprised by a large party of British rangers, led by Robert Rogers and Brigadier General Howe (near the Saw Mill). Being taken by surprise, Langis' men were overwhelmed and forced to retreat back to the fort's redoubt, but not before killing General Howe. Langis was later wounded in the Battle of Carillon on July 8, but he recovered from his wounds a couple months later, when he is listed as leading scouts around Fort La Présentation in Oswego, NY.

Two years later in the early spring of 1760, while crossing the St. Lawrence River near Île Saint-Paul, Langis' canoe was struck by ice. He fell into the river and drowned, unable to return to the surface because of the thick ice. The French military engineer Pierre Pouchot later wrote that Langis was "the best partisan of the colonial troops," and on July 7, 1760, the New Hampshire Gazette reported that "his loss is greatly lamented by all Canada, as his equal is not to be found in that country."
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Sources:

"Boston, July 7." New Hampshire Gazette. July 7, 1760.

Grenier, John. The First Way of War: American War Making on the Frontier, 1607-1814. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Hough, Franklin B., ed. Journals of Major Robert Rogers. Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons,1883.

Nester, William R. The Epic Battles for Ticonderoga: 1758. New York: State University of New York Press, 2008.

Parkman, Francis. Montcalm and Wolfe: The French and Indian War. Da Capo Press, 2001.

Pouchot, Pierre. Mémoires sur la dernière guerre de l'Amérique Septentrionale, in the Internet Archive, 
     https://archive.org/details/mmoiressurlade02inpouc.

Russ, C.J. Dictionnaire Biogaphique du Canada. "Levrault de Langis (Langy) Montegron, Jean-Baptiste." Vol. 3. Québec: Université Laval, 1974.