Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst

Jeffrey Amherst by Joshua Reynolds
Jeffrey Amherst by Joshua Reynolds

Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst (sometimes spelled Geoffrey, he himself spelled his name as Jeffery) (January 29, 1717August 3, 1797) served as an officer in the British army.

Born in Sevenoaks, England, he became a soldier at the approximate age of 14. He gained fame during the Seven Years' War, particularly in the North American campaign known in the United States as the French and Indian War.

Amherst led the British attack in 1758 on Louisbourg (the Siege of Louisbourg), and as leader of the British army in North America, helped the British seize most French territory in Canada. In 1759 he led an advance up Lake Champlain assisting in Wolfe's capture of Quebec City and on September 8, 1760, he captured Montreal ending French rule in North America. He held the position of military governor of Canada from 1760 to 1763.

The hostility between the British and Native Americans ("Indians") after the French and Indian War led to the first documented attempt at biological warfare in North American history. In response to the 1763 uprising known as Pontiac's Rebellion, Amherst suggested using smallpox as a weapon for ending the rebellion. In a series of letters to his subordinate Colonel Henry Bouquet, the two men discussed the possibility of infecting the attacking Indians with smallpox through gifts of blankets that had been exposed to the disease. Apparently unbeknownst to both Amherst and Bouquet, the commander at Fort Pitt had already attempted this very tactic. Although Amherst's name is usually connected with this incident because he was the overall commander and because of his correspondence with Bouquet, from the evidence it appears that the attempt was made without Amherst's prior knowledge. (See Pontiac's Rebellion for more details.)

In 1763, Amherst was appointed governor of Virginia and in 1778 was made commander-in-chief of the army. In 1776, he was made Baron Amherst, of Holmesdale, but the title became extinct when he died without descendants. In 1788, the title Baron Amherst, of Montreal, was conferred with a special remainder allowing the title to pass to his nephew instead of to his descendants (of which he had none).

The town of Amherst, Massachusetts, location of Amherst College, and Amherst Island were named for him.

See also: List of Canadian Governors General

External links


  • Long, Lord. Jeffery Amherst: A Soldier of the King. New York: MacMillan, 1933.

Preceded by:
The Earl of Loudoun
Crown Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by:
John Blair
Preceded by:
New Office
Governor General of British North America
Succeeded by:
James Murray
Preceded by:
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by:
Sir Henry Seymour Conway
Preceded by:
Sir Henry Seymour Conway
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by:
The Duke of York

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