Lévis, Francois-Gaston, Chevalier de

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Lévis, Francois-Gaston, Chevalier de

French commander-in-chief in Canada (1759-60)

born August 23, 1720, Ajac Castle near Limoux, Languedoc, France

died November 26, 1787, Arras, France


François-Gaston Chevalier de Lévis came from one of the oldest family of the French nobility. He was the second son of Jean-Gaston, Baron d'Ajac.

In 1735, Lévis was promoted lieutenant in La Marine Infanterie. During the War of the Polish Succession, he took part in the campaign on the Rhine where he was promoted captain on June 1 1737.

From 1741, during the War of the Austrian Succession, Lévis took part in the campaign of Bohemia and in the capture of Prague in 1742. In 1743, he took part in the campaign in Germany where he fought at the Battle of Dettingen on June 27. In 1747, he was promoted aide-major in the Armée d'Italie.

In 1748, Lévis was promoted colonel and chevalier de Saint-Louis.

In 1756, Lévis was selected by the Comte d'Argenson to accompany the Marquis de Montcalm to Canada. He assumed the rank of brigadier. On April 6, Lévis left Brest aboard the frigate La Sauvage and arrived at Québec on May 31. During the first part of June, he organized the newly arrived battalions of La Sarre and Royal-Roussillon and brought them to Montréal. On June 27, Montcalm and Lévis quitted Montréal for Fort Carillon. On July 15, when Montcalm returned to Montréal, he left Lévis in command at Carillon. Throughout the summer, Lévis sent war parties to harass and fix the British forces assembled on Lake George.

In July and August 1757, Lévis took part in the French expedition against Fort William Henry led by Montcalm.

In 1758, Lévis was preparing a raid on the Mohawk and Hudson rivers when he was hastily recalled to reinforce Montcalm on Lake Champlain. Proceeding with due speed, Lévis finally made a junction with Montcalm's force on the eve of the Battle of Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga) fought on July 8. After this battle, Lévis was promoted major-general. At the end of October, he took his winter-quarters in Montréal.

In 1759, when the British sent a powerful expedition against Québec, Lévis assumed command of the French left wing defending the shore of Beauport. On July 31 at the Battle of Beauport, he defeated a British landing in this area. A few days later, on August 9, he was dispatched to Montréal to prepare the defense of the Upper Saint-Laurent River against another British force under Amherst. When he heard of Montcalm's defeat at the Battle of Québec on September 13, Lévis rushed to the rescue of the defeated French army which he joined at Jacques-Cartier on September 17. He immediately took command, rallied his troops and marched on Québec to learn that the town had capitulated on September 18. He then sent his army into winter-quarters, employing this period to prepare for a counter-attack on Québec as early as possible the next year.

On April 20 1760, Lévis set out from Montréal with 7,000 men, for an attempt to retake Québec. On April 28, he defeated Murray in the Battle of Sainte-Foy and laid siege to Québec. On May 9, a British frigate arrived at Québec, soon followed by further vessels and Lévis was forced to raise the siege and to retire towards Montréal. Then, the British three pronged attack against Montréal forced the French army to capitulate in front of an overwhelmingly superior force on September 8. On October 18, Lévis sailed from Québec and arrived at La Rochelle in France on November 27.

On February 18 1761, Lévis was promoted lieutenant-general.

On February 28 1762, Lévis married Gabrielle-Augustine Michel de Tharon. The same year, Lévis took part in the campaign in western Germany under the command of the Prince de Condé. On August 30, at the Combat of Nauheim, he led the French vanguard.

In 1765, after the Seven Years' War, Lévis became governor of the Province of Artois.

In 1771, Lévis became captain of the guards of the Comte de Provence (the future Louis XVIII).

In 1776, Lévis received the title of Chevalier des Ordres du Roi.

On June 13 1783, Lévis was promoted maréchal de France.

On April 24 1784, Lévis became hereditary duke.

On November 26 1787, Lévis died at Arras in France.


This article incorporates text from the following book now in the public domain:

  • Lévis, chevalier de, Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756 à 1760, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1889, pp. 19-25, 44-47

Other sources:

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online - Lévis, François-Gaston de

Mitchell, James J.; Who's Who in the Seven Years War - Levis, Francois-Gaston, Chevalier and Duc de (August 23, 1720 - November 26, 1787), Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XI No. 4

Wikipedia - Francis de Gaston, Chevalier de Levis