A monumental, separately-issued map of the Canadian Maritimes, by the most accomplished military engineer in Great Britain’s North American service. The years between the end of the French and Indian War and the start of the Revolution were extremely fertile for the mapping of North America, as the British administration sought to understand millions of […]
John Montresor (1736-1779) was born into a British Army family of Swiss-French Huguenot descent, and had a most distinguished career in North America. He was first posted there early in the French and Indian War, while his father James Gabriel Montresor was serving as chief engineer to British Commander-in-Chief General Braddock. John was wounded at the Battle of Fort Duquesne in 1755, before training as an engineer. He was present at the sieges of Louisbourg in 1758 and Quebec in 1759, and was later active in the outer fringes of the English colonies, particularly northern New York. At the start of the Revolutionary War he was appointed Chief Engineer in North America.
Throughout Montresor’s career he was active as a mapmaker, and a large number of his manuscript maps survive. He is probably a principal source for John Rocque’s map of North America 1765. In the mid-1760s he was in New York, drawing a series of plans of the city, culminating in his great plan of New York published by Mary-Anne Rocque in 1768 and reprinted during the Revolutionary War. In 1768, he published a wall-map of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton and a wall-map of New York Province in 1775. That year, with Thomas Hyde Page, he drew plans of Boston and of the Battle of Bunker Hill, which were soon published by William Faden.
Brilliantly talented but an arrogant and difficult man, seemingly lax with his accounting, and with a colorful private life, his career seems to have stalled and he retired from the army in 1778, spending much of his later life fighting with army authorities over his expenses. His journals are eminently worth reading, for both his extraordinary adventures and his acidic opinions of many of his contemporaries.