‘These are the facts and notes taken by a soldier on campaign, written daily, sometimes in a tent, sometimes in a canoe, today in the presence of the enemy, tomorrow in conference with a tribe of savages.’ This succinct description is taken from the original French edition of the journal of Comte Maurès de Malartic. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a French soldier. Malartic, major of the Régiment de Béarn, sailed to the North American colony of New France in 1755 as France responded to British forces sent out to Virginia in the same year. As war escalated, he remained in the colony for the next six years and was present at all the major engagements in what came to be known as the French and Indian War, or Seven Years War. For an account of the French in North America many historians have relied until now on the English translations of Bougainville, another French soldier who later found fame as an explorer of the Pacific Ocean. Although written in a much plainer style than Bougainville’s, Malartic’s writings provide clarity, balance and contrast to this tumultuous time. Unlike his contemporary, Malartic’s journals continue right through the war and conclude with his transportation back to France as a prisoner in a British vessel. Although serving as one of General Montcalm’s aides, Malartic was not part of his clique and presents us with a more independent minded view of events and the man, than the impressionable Bougainville. Available now for the first time in English, Malartic’s recollections illuminate the reader to the great pains and efforts undertaken by the French army in America to preserve New France under immense pressure. Energy-sapping journeys and logistical efforts are recorded as Malartic kept his journal almost every day during the campaign season. Not only does he describe his military duties but continues his observations into the cold winters spent in Montreal and Quebec, organising lodgings for his regiment and watching the helpless population become reduced to starvation while the elite gambled away huge fortunes. His recollections record many other aspects of daily life, of a more mundane nature and of the sort so often omitted by other memorialists, that will prove invaluable to the student of the 18th Century, New France and the Seven Years’ War.
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