Re: Montcalm and the massacre

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Posted by Tom Kilbane on November 03, 1997 at 22:44:26:

In Reply to: Re: Montcalm and the massacre posted by Elaine on November 03, 1997 at 21:39:27:

I agree with the comments made above. LOTM, like all movies, is a work of fiction. Everyone should approach the historical accuracy of films with caution. Movies are not made to be history lessons and they should not expected to be so. If you fail to go by this logic you might end up sounding like a fool when trying talk about a subject you know nothing about except from a movie. I overheard a laughable example last year at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield Park. When I was in the gift shop I overheard a conversation between two middle-aged men about the life of General Custer. One of the men was informing the other about Custer. He mentioned how Custer was promoted to general in the Civil War because of a clerical error on some orders and that Custer quit the army after the war and therefore when he rejoined he could only do so at the reduced rank of Lieut. Colonel. I only heard a little of this conversation but I heard enough to realize where that man got his info, which he was passing on with complete confidence as for its accuracy, the 1941 classic Hollywood film, "They Died with Their Boots On" starring Errol Flynn as General Custer. The movie contained both of the inexplicable plot devices that man mentioned about Custer. I love that movie because it is great entertainment and no one captured the image of the dashing Custer better than Flynn. But it is a complete blooper as for its regard to the historical record; almost laughably so, yet here was a middle-aged man accepting what he saw on the screen as fact. You have to accept films for what they are: popular entertainment. Films can improve peoples understanding of history; in my own personal life much of what I am interested in history was sparked by something I saw in a movie when I was younger and I went out and learned more about it. Yet movies should never be taken as stand alone history lessons.

As for Montcalm and the massacre. I have read in most sources that Montcalm was the embodiment of the gentleman European officer. A flag a truce and a surrender of a gallant foe were articles of his code of chivalry and not to be broken under ANY circumstance. Yet I have read in some revisionist histories that Montcalm's attempts to stop the massacre were a "charade." And that Bougainville was Montcalm's great propegandist in portraying the Indians as bloodthirsty, uncontrollable savages and Montcalm as the wronged man. Personally I disagree with the revisionist view of the massacre. One reason is that there are too many examples of Indians attacking unarmed POWs in the colonial times for this to be dismissed as a European propeganda ploy. Also you can see the Indian side of things. Many of these warriors had come from hundreds of miles away to support the French. They were lured with the promise of scalps, booty, and captives. Yet here they are denied these by a European style surrender. The conqueored foe actually walks away into freedom with much his wealth?!?! This was unheard of in their culture's way of warfare. They also felt betrayed by the French and thus they took matters into their own hands.

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