Pocket Bios’ S2 E1: Jeffery Amherst
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Pocket Bios’ S2 E1: Jeffery Amherst


Please become a Patreon supporter to keep
Pocket Bios’ commercial free. Jeffery Amherst was born in Sevenoaks, England,
on 29 January 1717. At an early age, he became a page to the Duke
of Dorset. Amherst went on to became an Ensign in the
Grenadier Guards in 1735. Amherst served in the War of the Austrian
Succession becoming an aide to General John Ligonier and participating in the Battle of
Dettingen in June 1743 and the Battle of Fontenoy in May 1745. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 25 December
1745, he also saw action at the Battle of Rocoux in October 1746. He then became an aide to the Duke of Cumberland,
the commander of the British forces, and saw further action at the Battle of Lauffeld in
July 1747. In February 1756, Amherst was appointed Commissar
to the Hessian forces that had been assembled to defend the Kingdom of Hanover as part of
the Army of Observation: as it appeared likely a French invasion attempt against Britain
itself was imminent, Amherst was ordered in April to arrange the transportation of thousands
of the Germans to southern England to bolster Britain’s defences. He was made Colonel of the 15th Regiment of
Foot on 12 June 1756. By 1757 as the immediate danger to Britain
had passed the troops were moved back to Hanover to join a growing army under the Duke of Cumberland
and Amherst fought with the Hessians under Cumberland’s command at the Battle of Hastenbeck
in July 1757. After the Allied defeat had forced the army
into a steady retreat, Amherst was left dispirited by the retreat and by the Convention of Klosterzeven
by which Hanover agreed to withdraw from the war: he began to prepare to disband the Hessian
troops under his command, only to receive word that the Convention had been repudiated
and the Allied force was being reformed. Amherst gained fame during the Seven Years’
War, particularly in the campaign known in the United States as the French and Indian
War when he led the British attack on Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, New France in June
1758. In the wake of this action, he was appointed
commander-in-chief of the British army in North America. Amherst then led an army against French troops
on Lake Champlain, where he captured Fort Ticonderoga in July 1759. From July 1760, Amherst led an army down the
Saint Lawrence River from Fort Oswego, joined with Brigadier Murray from Quebec and Brigadier
Haviland from Ile-aux-Noix in a three-way pincer, and captured Montreal, ending French
rule in Northern Americas on 8 September. The British settlers were relieved and proclaimed
a day of thanksgiving. In recognition of this victory, Amherst was
appointed Governor-General of British North America in September 1760 and promoted to
Major General on 29 November 1760. He was appointed Knight of the Order of the
Bath on 11 April 1761. From 1753, when the French first invaded the
territory, to February 1763, when peace was formally declared between the English and
French, the Six Nations and tenant tribes always maintained that both the French and
the British must remain east of the Allegheny Mountains. After the British failed to keep their word
to withdraw a loose confederation of Aboriginal tribes including the Delawares, the Shawnees,
the Senecas, the Mingoes, the Mohicans, the Miamis, the Ottawas and the Wyandots, who
were enraged with British post-war occupation of the region, banded together in an effort
to drive the British out of their territory. One of the most infamous and well documented
issues during what became known as Pontiac’s War was the use of biological warfare against
the Aborigonals. The suggestion was posed by Amherst himself
in letters to Colonel Henry Bouquet. Amherst, having learned that smallpox had
broken out among the garrison at Fort Pitt, and after learning of the loss of his forts
at Venango, Le Boeuf and Presqu’Isle, wrote to Colonel Bouquet: “Could it not be contrived
to send the small pox among the disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem
in our power to reduce them.” Bouquet agreed with this suggestion in a postscript
when he responded to Amherst just days later on 13 July 1763: “P.S. I will try to inocculate the Indians by means
of Blankets that may fall in their hands, taking care however not to get the disease
myself. As it is pity to oppose good men against them,
I wish we could make use of the Spaniard’s Method, and hunt them with English Dogs. Supported by Rangers, and some Light Horse,
who would I think effectively extirpate or remove that Vermine.” In response, also in a postscript, Amherst
replied: “P.S. You will Do well to try to Innoculate the
Indians by means of Blankets, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate
this Execrable Race. I should be very glad your Scheme for Hunting
them Down by Dogs could take Effect, but England is at too great a Distance to think of that
at present.” Amherst was summoned home, ostensibly so that
he could be consulted on future military plans in North America, and was replaced as Commander-in-Chief
of North America by Thomas Gage. Amherst expected to be praised for his conquest
of Canada, however, once in London, England, he was instead asked to account for the recent
Aboriginal rebellion. He was forced to defend his conduct. He was also severely criticised by military
subordinates on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, Amherst was promoted to Lieutenant
General on 26 March 1765, and became Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Foot in November 1768. Amherst was raised to the peerage on 14 May
1776, as Baron Amherst, of Holmesdale in the County of Kent, England. On 24 March 1778 he was promoted to full General. In 1778, when the British commander in North
America, William Howe, requested to be relieved, Baron Amherst was considered as a replacement
by the government: however, his insistence that it would require 75,000 troops to fully
defeat the rebellion was not acceptable to the government, and Henry Clinton was instead
chosen to take over from William Howe in British America. Following the British setback at Saratoga,
Amherst successfully argued for a limited war, keeping footholds along the coast, defending
Canada, East and West Florida, and the West Indies while putting more effort into the
war at sea. A long-standing plan of the French had been
the concept of an invasion of Great Britain which they hoped would lead to a swift end
to the war if it was successful: in 1779 Spain entered the war on the side of France, who
inturned supported the Colonial American rebels. The increasingly depleted state of British
home forces made an invasion more appealing and Amherst organised Britain’s land defences
in anticipation of the invasion which never materialised. On 8 July 1788, he became Colonel of the 2nd
Regiment of Life Guards and on 30 August 1788 he was created Baron Amherst of Montreal in
the County of Kent, with a special provision that would allow this title to pass to his
nephew, as Amherst was married but childless. With the advent of the French Revolutionary
Wars, Amherst was recalled as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in January 1793: however is
generally criticised for allowing the armed forces to slide into decline. He retired from that post in February 1795. He retired to his home at Montreal Park and
died on 3 August 1797. He was buried in the Parish Church at Sevenoaks. Several places are named for him: Amherstburg,
Ontario, Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst, New Hampshire, Amherst, Nova Scotia, Amherst,
New York and Amherst County, Virginia. However, Amherst’s desire to exterminate the
indigenous people is now viewed as a dark stain on his legacy and various agencies,
municipalities and institutions have reconsidered the use of the name “Amherst”. As a side note, “Azrael” is a great substitute
for “Amherst” if any one needs a simple replacement name.

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