Military Wiki
Field Marshal The Right Honourable
The Lord Amherst
Amherst by Joshua Reynolds
Crown Governor of Virginia

In office
Monarch George II
George III
Preceded by Earl of Loudoun
Succeeded by Lord Botetourt
Governor of the Province of Quebec

In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by Post created
Succeeded by James Murray
Personal details
Born (1717-01-29)January 29, 1717
Sevenoaks, Kent, England, Great Britain
Died 3 August 1797(1797-08-03) (aged 80)
Sevenoaks, Kent, England, Great Britain
Military service
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1735–1795
Rank Field Marshal
Commands 15th Regiment of Foot
North America
62nd (Royal American) Regiment
3rd Regiment of Foot
Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
2nd Troop Horse Grenadier Guards
The Queen's Troop of Horse Guards
2nd Regiment of Life Guards
Battles/wars War of the Austrian Succession
Seven Years' War
Pontiac's Rebellion
American Revolutionary War
French Revolutionary Wars
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Field Marshal Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst KCB (sometimes spelled Geoffrey, or Jeffrey, he himself spelled his name as Jeffery) (29 January 1717 – 3 August 1797) served as an officer in the British Army and as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.

Amherst is best known as the architect of Britain's successful campaign to conquer the territory of New France during the French and Indian War. Under his command British forces captured the cities of Louisbourg, Quebec City and Montreal, as well as several major fortresses. He was also the first British Governor General in the territories that eventually became Canada. Numerous places and streets are named for him, both in Canada and the United States.

Early life

Born the son of Jeffrey Amherst (d. 1750), a Kentish lawyer,[1] and Elizabeth Amherst (née Kerrill),[2] Jeffery Amherst was born in Sevenoaks, England, on 29 January 1717.[3] His brothers included Admiral John Amherst and Lieutenant General William Amherst.[4] At an early age he became a page to the Duke of Dorset.[3] Amherst became an ensign in the Grenadier Guards in 1735.[5]

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.[6] Promoted to lieutenant colonel on 25 December 1745, he also action at the Battle of Rocoux in October 1746.[7] 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.[7]

Seven Years' War


In February 1756 Amherst was appointed commissar to the Hessian forces that had been assembled to defend 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.[8] He was made colonel of the 15th Regiment of Foot on 12 June 1756.[9] 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:[7] the Allied defeat there forced the army into a steady retreat northwards to Stade on the North Sea coast.[10]

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.[11]


Amherst gained fame during the Seven Years' War, particularly in the North American campaign known in the United States as the French and Indian War when he led the British attack on Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in June 1758.[7]

In the wake of this he was appointed commander-in-chief of the British army in North America and colonel-in-chief of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment in September 1758.[7] Amherst then led an army against French troops on Lake Champlain, where he captured Fort Ticonderoga in July 1759, while another army under Sir William Johnson took Niagara also in July 1759 and James Wolfe besieged and eventually captured Quebec with a third army in September 1759.[7] Amherst served as the nominal Crown Governor of Virginia from 12 September 1759.[12]


On 8 September 1760, Amherst led an army down the Saint Lawrence River from Lake Ontario, and captured Montreal, ending French rule in North America.[7] He infuriated the French commanders by refusing them the "honours of war" (the ceremonial right of a defeated garrison to retain their flags); the Knight of Lévis burned the colours rather than surrendering them.[13] In recognition of this victory, Amherst was appointed Governor-General of British North America in September 1760[7] and promoted to major-general on 29 November 1760.[14] He was appointed Knight of the Order of the Bath on 11 April 1761.[15]

From his base at New York, Amherst oversaw the dispatch of troops to take part in British expeditions in the West Indies that led to the British capturing Dominica in 1761 and Martinique and Cuba in 1762.[2]

Pontiac's Rebellion

The hostility between the British and Native Americans after the French and Indian War suggests there may have been an attempt at biological warfare.[16] Smallpox had broken out at Fort Pitt in 1763, and the Commander of Fort Pitt proposed giving blankets infected with smallpox to American Indians.[17] Amherst approved the plan in theory[2][7][17] and expressed his willingness to adopt any "other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race."[18]

Amherst was summoned home, ostensibly so he could be consulted on future military plans in North America, and expected to be praised for his conquest of Canada but instead, once in London, was asked to account for the recent rebellion.[19] He was forced to defend his conduct, and faced complaints made by Sir William Johnson and George Croghan who successfully lobbied the Board of Trade leading to Amherst's removal.[20] Nevertheless, he was promoted to lieutenant-general on 26 March 1765[21] and became colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Foot in November 1768.[22]

On 26 March 1767 Jeffrey Amherst married Elizabeth, daughter of General George Cary (Joshua Reynolds, 1767)

Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst

1760 Canada Surrender by Thomas Foxcroft Boston

On 22 October 1772 Amherst was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance[23] and soon gained the confidence of George III who had initially hoped the position would go to a member of the Royal Family.[24] On 6 November 1772 he became a member of the Privy Council.[25]

American War of Independence

Amherst was raised to the peerage on 14 May 1776, as Baron Amherst of Holmesdale.[26] On 24 March 1778 he was promoted to full general[27] and, in April 1778, he became Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, which gave him a seat in the .[22] In 1778 when the British commander in North America, William Howe, requested to be relieved, 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 Howe in America.[28] Following the British setback at Saratoga, Amherst successfully argued for a limited war in North America, keeping footholds along the coast, defending Canada, East and West Florida, and the West Indies while putting more effort into the war at sea.[29] On 7 November 1778 the King and Queen visited Amherst at his home, Montreal Park, in Kent[30] and on 24 April 1779 he became colonel of the 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards.[31]

Invasion scare

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, and 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.[2]

Gordon Riots

In June 1780 Amherst oversaw the British army as they suppressed the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots in London: after the outbreak of rioting Amherst deployed the small London garrison of Horse and Foot Guards as best as he could but was hindered by the reluctance of the civil magistrates to authorise decisive action against the rioters.[32] Line troops and militia were brought in from surrounding counties, swelling the forces at Amherst's disposal to over 15,000 many of whom were quartered in tents in Hyde Park and a form of Martial Law was declared, giving the troops the authority to fire on crowds if the Riot Act had first been read; although order was eventually restored, Amherst was personally alarmed by the failure of the authorities to suppress the riots.[33] In the wake of the Gordon Riots, Amherst was forced to resign as Commander-in-Chief in February 1782 and was replaced by Henry Conway.[22] On 23 March 1782 he became captain and colonel of the 2nd Troop of Horse Guards.[34]

French Revolutionary Wars

On 8 July 1788 he became colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards[35] and on 30 August 1788 he was created Baron Amherst of Montreal with a special provision that would allow this title to pass to his nephew (as Amherst was childless, the Holmesdale title became extinct upon his death).[36] 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 acute decline, a direct cause of the failure of the early campaigns in the Low Countries: William Pitt said of him "his age, and perhaps his natural temper, are little suited to the activity and the energy which the present moment calls for".[37] Horace Walpole called him "that log of wood whose stupidity and incapacity are past belief".[38] "He allowed innumerable abuses to grow up in the army… He kept his command, though almost in his dotage, with a tenacity that cannot be too much censured".[39] He retired from that post in February 1795, to be replaced by the Duke of York, and was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal on 2 August 1796.[40] He retired to his home at Montreal Park[41] and died on 3 August 1797.[22]


In 1753 he married Jane Dalison; following the death of his first wife he married Elizabeth Cary in 1767.[2] There were no children by either marriage.[2]


Several places are named for him: Amherstburg, Ontario (location of General Amherst High School),[42] Amherst, Massachusetts (location of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Amherst College),[43] Amherst, New Hampshire,[44] Amherst, Nova Scotia,[45] Amherst, New York,[46] and Amherst County, Virginia.[47]

"The Un-Canadians", an 2007 article in Beaver Magazine, includes Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, Ezekiel Stone Wiggins, and Robert Monckton in a list of people in the history of Canada who were considered contemptible: "British North America Governor General Jeffrey Amherst supported plans of distributing smallpox-infested blankets to First Nations people."[48]

See also

  • List of Governors General of Canada


  1. Chartrand p.24
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Heathcote p.23
  4. "Jeffrey Amherst". Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  5. Mayo p.8
  6. Mayo p.11-15
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Heathcote p.24
  8. Mayo p.34-37
  9. "No. 9590". 8 June 1756. 
  10. Mayo p.37-38
  11. Mayo p.40-42
  12. "No. 9930". 11 September 1759. 
  13. Hayes, p.77
  14. "No. 10056". 25 November 1760. 
  15. "No. 10094". 7 April 1761. 
  16. Appel, J. M. (2009). "Is all fair in biological warfare? The controversy over genetically engineered biological weapons". pp. 429–432. Digital object identifier:10.1136/jme.2008.028944. PMID 19567692. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Zinn, Howard. "A People's History of the United States Chapter 5". Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  18. d'Errico, Peter. "Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets". Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  19. Anderson p.552-553
  20. O'Toole p.249
  21. "No. 10507". 23 March 1765. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Heathcote p.25
  23. "No. 11294". 20 October 1772. 
  24. Patterson p.93
  25. "No. 11298". 3 November 1772. 
  26. "No. 11665". 11 May 1776. 
  27. "No. 11859". 21 March 1788. 
  28. Hibbert. Redcoats and Rebels p.211
  29. Hibbert. Redcoats and Rebels. p209
  30. "No. 11924". 3 November 1778. 
  31. "No. 11972". 20 April 1779. 
  32. Mansel, page 126
  33. Hibbert King Mob. p.102
  34. "No. 12280". 19 March 1782. 
  35. "No. 13005". 5 July 1788. 
  36. "No. 13020". 26 August 1788. 
  37. Burne p.209
  38. Burne p.227
  39. Burne p.228
  40. "No. 13918". 2 August 1796. 
  41. Nunnerley, David. "A History of Montreal Park". Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  42. Jacobson p.17
  43. Tucker p.14
  44. Farmer p.70
  45. Heim p.343
  46. "A Brief History of the Town of Amherst". Amherst Museum. 1997. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  47. Smith p.182
  48. "The Un-Canadians". Beaver, Vol. 87 Issue 4, p. 30. August / September 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 


  • Anderson, Fred (2001). Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-20565-3. 
  • Burne, Alfred (1949). The Noble Duke of York: The Military Life of Frederick Duke of York and Albany. Staples Press. 
  • Cappel, Constance (2007). The Smallpox Genocide of the Odawa Tribe at L'Arbre Croche, 1763: The History of a Native American People. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0-7734-5220-6. 
  • Chartrand, René (2000). Louisbourg 1758: Wolfe's first siege. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84176-217-3. 
  • Farmer, John (1823). A gazetteer of the state of New Hampshire. Library of Congress. 
  • Hayes, Derek (2004). Canada: An Illustrated History. Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-1-55365-046-1. 
  • Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736-1997. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-696-5. 
  • Heim, Michael. Exploring America's Highways: Wisconsin Trip Trivia. T.O.N.E. Publishing. 
  • Hibbert, Christopher (1958). King Mob: The story of Lord George Gordon and the Riots of 1780. London: Longmans, Green & Co. ISBN 978-0-88029-399-0. 
  • Hibbert, Christopher (1990). Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution through British eyes. New York: Avon Books. ISBN 978-0-380-71544-2. 
  • Jacobson, Judy (2009). Detroit River Connections. Genealogical Publishing Co Inc.. ISBN 978-0-8063-4510-9. 
  • Long, J. C. (1933). Lord Jeffery Amherst: A Soldier of the King. New York: MacMillan. 
  • Mansel, Philip (1984). Pillars of Monarchy. Quartet. ISBN 978-0-7043-2424-4. 
  • Mayo, Lawrence Shaw (1916). Jeffrey Amherst: A Biography. 
  • Middleton, Richard, ed (2003). Amherst and the conquest of Canada : selected papers from the correspondence of Major-General Jeffrey Amherst while Commander-in-Chief in North America from September 1758 to December 1760. Stroud: Sutton Publishing for the Army Records Society. ISBN 0-7509-3142-6. 
  • O'Toole, Fintan (2006). White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-21841-7. 
  • Patterson, Alfred Temple (1960). The Other Armada: The Franco-Spanish Attempt to Invade Britain in 1779. Manchester: University of Manchester Press. 
  • Smith, Margaret (2010). Virginia, 1492-1892. The British Library. 
  • Tucker, Spencer (2011). The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607–1890: A Political Social and Military History. ABC-CLIO Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85109-697-8. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
John Jordan
Colonel of the 15th Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Charles Hotham
Preceded by
James Abercrombie
Commander-in-Chief, North America
Succeeded by
Hon. Thomas Gage
Colonel-in-Chief of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot
Preceded by
Ralph Burton
Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
William Style
Preceded by
Hon. Thomas Gage
Colonel-in-Chief of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
The Duke of York and Albany
Preceded by
Sir Richard Lyttelton
Governor of Guernsey
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Grey
Preceded by
Hon. Henry Seymour Conway
Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance
Succeeded by
Sir William Howe
Title last held by
Marquess of Granby
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by
Hon. Henry Seymour Conway
Preceded by
The Earl of Harrington
Captain and Colonel of the
2nd Troop Horse Grenadier Guards

Succeeded by
Prince Frederick
Preceded by
Lord Robert Bertie
Captain and Colonel of
The Queen's Troop of Horse Guards

Became the 2nd Life Guards
New title Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards
Succeeded by
The Earl Cathcart
Preceded by
Hon. Henry Seymour Conway
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by
The Duke of York and Albany
Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Loudoun
Crown Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
John Blair
Preceded by
New Office
Commander-in-Chief, North America
Governor of New France,
Pierre de Rigaud
Governor of the Province of Quebec
Succeeded by
Hon. James Murray
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Amherst of Holmesdale
Baron Amherst of Montreal
Succeeded by
William Pitt Amherst

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