Amherst, Jeffrey - History

Amherst, Jeffrey - History

Amherst, Jefferey [1st Baron Amherst] (1717-1797) Commander-in-Chief of British Army: Amherst led British forces to victory in the Seven Years' War. He captured the French base at Louisburg on Cape Breton in 1758, earning him the position of Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. Later, he attempted a cautious and successful conquest of Canada. Amherst resigned his command in 1763, and took a passive role in the American Revolution. He repeatedly refused to command troops against the colonists, and became Commander-in-Chief in Britain and a Cabinet minister only after the French entered the war in 1778. Although he remained in office until 1782, Amherst did not influence policy significantly, and was unable to convince colleagues to use a naval blockade as the primary means of ending the American rebellion. He then concentrated his efforts on the military administration needed to maintain Britain defense.


Jeffrey Amherst

Jeffrey Amherst was a prime contributor to the British victory over the French in Canada in the French and Indian War, but later his reputation suffered a blow. Amherst was born at Riverhead, Kent, England, and was first commissioned as an ensign in the foot guards in 1731. He saw service in the War of the Austrian Succession and later in the European theater during the Seven Years’ War. During the latter conflict, Amherst was plucked from relative obscurity to lead the British assault on Louisbourg. He was chosen by William Pitt at the urging of John Ligonier, a leading military figure and confidant of the secretary of state. Amherst, newly promoted to major-general, captured the key French bastion on Cape Breton Island on July 27, 1758. This victory opened the St. Lawrence River to future British incursions, and Amherst was named commander-in-chief in North America. A three-pronged attack against French Canada was planned for 1759: a westward push up the St. Lawrence to Quebec, a northward invasion from Albany by way of lakes George and Champlain, and the quelling of French strength in the West at Fort Niagara. All major objectives were met during the “Year of Victories” with Amherst playing a direct role in occupying former French positions at Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. He completed his triumph with the capture of Montreal, in September 1760. As a reward for his success, Amherst was appointed governor-general of British North America, a position he held until 1763. All was not well at this time, however. Amherst was unable to suppress Pontiac’s Rebellion to his superiors` satisfaction, and he was recalled to London. In addition, allegations have persisted that Amherst was responsible for conducting an early form of germ warfare against warring Native Americans, a group he and others of his era held in extremely low regard. A letter still exists in which Amherst raises the possibility of conveying Smallpox-infected blankets into Indian hands. Historians’ views differ on whether or not the plan was actually executed, but the tribes in western Pennsylvania were struck by a devastating outbreak of the disease at this time. Because of his close ties with many Americans, Amherst refused to take a field command during the War of Independence. He did, however, serve in an advisory role for the British cause. Despite the setbacks in his career, Amherst was widely celebrated for his achievements. He was knighted in 1761, made a baron in 1776, and promoted to field marshal shortly before his death. Both the Massachusetts town and college were named in his honor.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Amherst, Jeffrey

AMHERST, JEFFREY, Baron Amherst (1717–1797), field-marshal, was the second son of Jeffrey Amherst, of Riverhead, Kent, and was born on 29 Jan. 1717. The Duke of Dorset, who was his father's neighbour at Knole in Kent, took him, when a boy, into his service as a page, and procured him an ensigncy in the Guards in 1731. When he went on service his patron recommended him as a young man of uncommon ability to General Ligonier, then commanding in Germany, who made him his aide-de-camp. He gave great satisfaction, and served on Ligonier's staff at Roucoux, Dettingen, and Fontenoy , and was then passed on to the Duke of Cumberland's staff, with which he was present at Lauffeld and Hastenbeck. These generals did not neglect their protégé, and he was rapidly promoted till he became lieutenant-colonel of the 15th regiment in 1756. But a greater and more deserving patron now perceived his merits, and in 1758 Pitt, who was on the look-out ​ for young men who would not mind responsibility, had him promoted major-general, and gave him command of the expedition fitting out at Portsmouth and destined for North America.

On this expedition was based Pitt's great hope for making North America wholly English. He had perceived with alarm Montcalm's plan for hemming in the progress of the English towards the west, and for uniting the French colonies of Canada and Louisiana. He chose his officers with great care most of them were young men burning for distinction, of whom Wolfe was the type, but over them he set Amherst, who, though very young, was chiefly distinguished for his absolute self-control. Wolfe, Pitt knew, was half-mad with enthusiasm, and might in a fit of enthusiasm run his army into a very perilous position.

The expedition which sailed from Portsmouth in May 1758 under the command of General Amherst was 14,000 strong, and was embarked on 151 ships under the command of Admiral Boscawen. Its first destination was Louisburg on the island of Cape Breton, which was immensely strong, and important from its closing the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and giving the French a base from which to annoy English communications with America and the Newfoundland fisheries. On reaching the island, the English troops effected their disembarkation after a gallant lead had been shown them by Wolfe, who plunged into the sea at the head of his grenadiers, and the fortress surrendered on 26 July. Wolfe was sent home with dispatches, and in September Amherst was, as a reward, appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in the place of James Abercromby, and proceeded to Albany to assume his command. He in November took Fort Du Quesne, and waited for further instructions.

In those further instructions Pitt's great plan for the conquest of French North America was displayed. He recognised that Montreal was the real centre of the French power, which could not be directly attacked. To isolate it three distinct series of operations must be undertaken. The first was the capture of Fort Niagara, and the rupture at that point of Montcalm's line of communication with Louisiana this task was assigned to General Prideaux. Sir William Johnson, the best manager of Indian auxiliaries, was attached to him as second in command. The most difficult task was, however, the occupation of Quebec this desperate enterprise was given to Wolfe. The third operation was the reduction of Ticonderoga, and the forts on Lake Champlain which threatened most dangerously the States of America. This operation had not the intrinsic difficulty of the other two, but the disastrous failure of James Abercromby the year before had dispirited both the English soldiery and the New England militia. To Amherst Pitt assigned the third operation, having learned his power of disregarding the influence of former failure from his success at Louisburg. Each operation succeeded. Though Prideaux was killed on the march, Johnson took Niagara in July 1759, Amherst took Ticonderoga in July and Crown Point in August, and in September Wolfe took Quebec. Critics since have said Amherst ought to have at once advanced on Montreal, but such rapid movements were not in accordance with his nature, which always inclined him to wait for certain success, or with Pitt's instructions. In 1760, however, three armies from Quebec, Niagara, and Crown Point advanced on the capital, and joined forces before Montreal, which surrendered without striking a blow in September 1760. Amherst was at once appointed governor-general of British North America, and in 1761 received the thanks of parliament, and was made a knight of the Bath. His campaigns with a civilised enemy were now at an end, but he was soon involved in difficulties with the Indians. The history of this episode of the rebellion of Pontiac has been ably described by an American historian, and is known as the conspiracy of Pontiac. Pontiac was an Indian chief of uncommon ability, who on the advice of French officers determined that the conquest of the French did not mean the conquest of their Indian allies, and that the English had no claims to the Indians' forests. He succeeded in cutting off detached English posts and taking small forts. Amherst proved unfit to deal with him he would not have recourse to the American militia, and both despised and hated his enemy. His contempt prevented his taking adequate steps to conquer Pontiac, and his indignation at the torture inflicted on his officers made him devise most disgraceful means of revenge. He seriously advised the dissemination of small-pox among the Indians, and the use of bloodhounds to track them down. His failure no doubt was a chief cause of his return to England in 1763. There Pontiac's conspiracy was unknown, and Sir Jeffrey Amherst was received as the conqueror of Canada, and made governor of Virginia and colonel of the 60th or American regiment. His fame was now very great. In 1768 he had a serious quarrel with the king, and on the suggestion that he should ​ resign his absentee government in favour of an impecunious nobleman, Lord Bottetourt, and take a pension instead, at once threw up all his offices and commands. Then his popularity became manifest, and Horace Walpole writes that ‘between the King of Denmark and Sir Jeffrey Amherst, poor Wilkes is completely forgotten.’ The king saw his mistake, and at once became reconciled to Amherst by giving him the colonelcy of the 3rd as well as of the 60th regiment. In 1770 he became governor of Guernsey, and in 1772 a privy councillor, lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, and, though only a lieutenant-general, officiating commander-in-chief of the forces. His steady support of the American war and the value of his popularity to the government endeared him to the king, who made him in 1776 Lord Amherst, in 1778 a general, and in 1780 colonel of the 2nd Horse Grenadiers, now the 2nd Life Guards. His chief services were as adviser to the government on the American war, and in suppressing the Gordon riots in 1780. In 1782 he had to leave office on the formation of the Rockingham cabinet, but in 1783 became again officiating commander-in-chief. In 1787 he was recreated Lord Amherst with remainder to his nephew, and in 1793, though too old to perform his duties efficiently, commander-in-chief. In 1795 he was induced to resign in favour of the Duke of York, and refused an earldom, but in 1796 the king insisted on making him for his long services a field-marshal. He did not long survive this last honour, and died at Montreal, his seat in Kent, on 3 Aug. 1797.

Lord Amherst's great military services were all performed in the years 1758, 1759, and 1760, when he proved himself worthy of high command by his quiet self-control and skilful combinations. His failure with the Indians was not strange, for he committed the great fault of despising his enemy. Of his later life in office little need be said. He was by no means a good commander-in-chief, and allowed innumerable abuses to grow up in the army. He kept his command till almost in his dotage with a tenacity which cannot be too much censured. Yet, though not a great man, he deserves a very honourable position amongst English soldiers and statesmen of the last century. His personal good qualities were undeniable, and he could not have been an ordinary man to have risen from page to the Duke of Dorset to be field-marshal commanding-in-chief. His greatest glory is to have conquered Canada and if much of that glory belongs to Pitt and Wolfe, neither Pitt's combinations nor Wolfe's valour would have been effectual without Amherst's steady purpose and unflinching determination.

[There is no published life of Lord Amherst, but fair notices in the biographical dictionaries and encyclopædias see also the Gentleman's Magazine for Sept. 1797 for his Campaigns in Canada consult Mahon's History of England, vol. iv., and Bancroft's History of the United States of America, vol. iii. for the capture of Louisburg see Prise de la Forteresse de Louisburg en Canada par les Anglais aux ordres du General-Major Amherst et de l'Amiral Boscawen le 26 Juillet 1758, published at Strasburg for the capture of Ticonderoga see the very interesting Orderly Book of Commissary Wilson during the Expedition of the British and Provincial Army under Major-General Jeffrey Amherst against Ticonderoga and Crown Point, 1759, published at Albany, N. Y., 1857 for allusions to his later life see Horace Walpole's Letters, passim. There is a fine portrait of Lord Amherst, by Gainsborough, in the National Portrait Gallery.]

The town of Amherst – what’s in a name?

In Amherst, the town itself isn’t the only thing named after a controversial commander.

Matt Berg, Assistant Politics Editor | January 28, 2019

Portrait of Lord Jeffrey Amherst.

AMHERST ─ Otherwise a quaint town in western Massachusetts, Amherst is home to 28,000 college students—many of whom are unfamiliar with the origins of their new surroundings.

Tucked away in the midst of farmlands, Amherst has gained worldwide recognition as a top-tier town for higher education. Nonetheless, people rarely ask the simple question: Where does the town’s name come from?

Jeffrey Amherst was born in England in 1717. For the majority of his life, Amherst served as a successful military commander for the British, leading troops in Canada and North America before serving as commander-in-chief of the British army on two separate expeditions. He held positions such as Governor of Quebec and Crown Governor of Virginia, and was eventually named a Lord.

But this decorated war hero image may mask a disturbing ideology when it comes to the French and Indian War.

In order to deal with hostile Native Americans, Amherst advocated for a sinister alternative to physical fighting he wanted to gift blankets contaminated with smallpox to local tribes. It is believed by many that this heinous crime wiped out dozens of Native Americans.

Although historians argue whether or not Amherst followed through with the plan, one thing is for certain: a British trader did gift a tribe smallpox-infected pieces, a practice approved by the British military. Although this fails to prove a direct connection between Amherst and infected blankets, it likely led to a rampant outbreak of smallpox among the Natives in the Ohio Valley.

There is no solid proof that Amherst followed through with this plan, but his disregard for natives at the time is noted.

“You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race,” Amherst wrote in a 1763 letter.

In 1759, before he had even become a Lord, a small town in western Mass. was named for him. In 1958, the Amherst Historical Society stated that when the town was named, Amherst was “the most glamorous military hero in the New World. … …the name was so obvious in 1759 as to be almost inevitable.”

Today, citizens in the United States frequently question the sensibility of honoring historical figures with a dark past. Many people believe that by altering statues, names or other long-standing monuments, history is being erased. Opponents of these monuments believe that honoring controversial figures, such as Confederate generals, is disrespectful.

The tension can develop into violence, as shown by the 2017 white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, VA. which resulted in the death of a young woman. The rally was protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in town.

Wikimedia Commons
Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In Amherst, the town itself isn’t the only thing named after the commander. Both the prestigious liberal arts college in town and the commonwealth’s flagship campus bear his name.

Just two years ago, Amherst College dropped its unofficial mascot “Lord Jeff,” drawing national attention. After protests and campus forums — and despite backlash from alumni — the students succeeded in their goal to eradicate Lord Jeff from campus, and the school adopted the Mammoth to replace it.

Amherst College is not the first school to change a controversial mascot. In 1972, after a group of Native Americans complained about the UMass’ Redmen mascot, the university switched to the Minutemen.

Courtesy of UMass Athletics
UMass mascot Sam the Minuteman.

Four high schools in the area still maintain Native American imagery in mascots, names, or logos. Efforts led by high school students to change offensive names often lead to disappointment. For instance, students at Amesbury High School have attempted to change their name, the Indians, and their mascot, a Native American, to no avail. Agawam High School students have also attempted to change their logo depicting a Native American, but were unsuccessful.

Unlike many high schools, higher education has embraced the change. Thanks to a push by Native American activist groups, the NCAA singled out 31 colleges with racially-charged mascots in 2005. The organization issued a self-evaluation of team imagery to ensure that offensive language and mascots would not be used any longer. Included on this list was nearby Merrimack College. To conform to the new standards, Merrimack kept their Warriors name but changed the former Native American chief logo to a Trojan warrior logo.

Many local colleges changed mascots prior to the NCAA’s policy. Springfield College’s sports teams, once the Chiefs, adopted the Pride as their mascot in 1997. UMass Lowell’s teams, also previously the Chiefs, have been the River Hawks since 1991. Dartmouth College, formerly the Indians, replaced their mascot with the Big Green in 1969.

There will always be two sides to the argument of changing names those that want to keep tradition, and those that want to create a comfortable and inclusive environment for all. In situations such as Amherst, the wrongdoings of the commander are blurry, but his intentions were clear enough to change the mascot. Changing the town name, however, would likely require more concrete evidence.

In regard to mascot names such as the Indians, Chiefs or Redskins, these situations are much easier to solve. With names rooted directly in oppression, racism and violence, the connotation that these names carry is harmful to Native Americans today. These names are more likely to be overturned than the Lord Jeffs, due to the concrete evidence of their derogatory origin. But Native American activist groups will tirelessly fight for respect until every derogatory mascot is expelled. There is no doubt that even in the 21st century, these arguments will continue to divide people for years to come.

Amherst, Jeffrey - History

AMHERST , JEFFERY, 1st Baron AMHERST , army officer b. 29 Jan. 1717 ( N.S .?) at Riverhead, Sevenoaks, England d. 3 Aug. 1797 at his house Montreal near Sevenoaks.

Jeffery Amherst was the son of another Jeffery Amherst, a prosperous barrister whose family had lived in Kent for centuries, and Elizabeth Kerrill. At the age of 12 young Jeffery became a page in the household of Lionel Cranfield Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset, at Knole, his great house adjacent to Sevenoaks. The circumstances of his early military career are somewhat obscure. It has been asserted that Amherst entered the 1st Foot Guards as an ensign in 1731 (when he was in fact only 14), and a list of officers in that regiment’s history shows him as becoming an ensign in November 1735. But the earliest printed Army list , that for 1740, makes no mention of him in connection with the Guards and shows him as a cornet, appointed 19 July 1735, in Major-General Ligonier’s Regiment of Horse, then in Ireland (Dorset was lord lieutenant of Ireland 1730–37 and 1750–55). It seems well established that in July 1740 Ligonier recommended Cornet Amherst to be a lieutenant in his regiment. There is little doubt that Amherst’s formative years as an officer were spent, not as a guardsman in London, as has been assumed, but in Ireland in a highly efficient cavalry regiment under the eye of one of the best British soldiers of the age. Dorset and Sir John (afterwards Lord) Ligonier were the patrons who set Amherst’s feet on the road to eminence. Ligonier called him his “dear pupil.”

Amherst saw his first active service as aide-de-camp to Ligonier in Germany during the War of the Austrian Succession. He was present at the battles of Dettingen (Federal Republic of Germany) in 1743 and Fontenoy (Belgium) in 1745. The 1st Foot Guards’ records show that in December 1745 he was appointed captain in that regiment, a commission carrying with it the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army at large. In 1747 the Duke of Cumberland was appointed commander-in-chief of the allied forces in Europe and made Amherst one of his aides-de-camp. In this capacity he served in the battle of Laffeldt (Belgium) that year. The period of peace following the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) he spent in England, presumably with his regiment.

Amherst’s first responsibility in the Seven Years’ War was acting as “commissary” in charge of the administration of 8,000 Hessian troops taken into British pay at the beginning of 1756. He went to Germany in February to undertake this task, in which his functions seem to have been largely financial, but returned to England in May with part of the Hessian force as insurance against a possible French invasion. Soon after his return he was appointed colonel of the 15th Foot. This commission did not involve taking active command of the regiment, and he went back to Germany with the Hessian detachment in March 1757. Still responsible for the Hessians, he was present at the battle of Hastenbeck on 26 July 1757 when the Duke of Cumberland was defeated by the French.

In October Ligonier succeeded Cumberland as commander-in-chief, an office which gave him, under the crown, command of the forces in Britain and a degree of direction over those in America, extending to the nomination of commanders. Lord Loudoun, in command in America, having failed to attack Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), in 1757, Ligonier was determined to have the fortress taken in 1758, and it is clear that he saw Colonel Amherst, his former aide-de-camp, as the man for the task. The appointment to command the Louisbourg expedition was remarkable, not merely because Amherst was very junior in the army, but because so far as one can see all his operational experience had been on the staff he had never commanded troops in action. Obtaining George II’s sanction for the grant to Amherst of the local rank of “Major General in America” was a delicate operation, in which William Pitt, secretary of state for the Northern Department, and the Duke of Newcastle, the prime minister, seem to have sought the aid of the king’s mistress, Lady Yarmouth. The king finally agreed at the end of 1757 the rank of “Brigadier in America” for James Wolfe*, one of Amherst’s designated subordinates, was authorized at the same time.

Amherst sailed for America on 16 March 1758. It was a slow voyage. Pitt and Ligonier having issued detailed orders, including instructions that the expedition against Louisbourg sail before the end of May, Amherst’s force was under way before he joined it. It left Halifax on 28 May, 157 sail of naval and transport vessels, and met Amherst just outside the harbour. The naval commander was Admiral Edward Boscawen*. The fleet anchored in Gabarus Bay, to the west of Louisbourg, on 2 June. The same day Amherst reconnoitred the shoreline with two of his brigadiers, Wolfe and Charles Lawrence*, the third, Edward Whitmore*, not having yet arrived. Before Amherst’s arrival the plan had been to land to the east of Louisbourg. He decided to attack instead to the west of it. His first intention to land at three different places was changed in favour of a single landing at Anse de la Cormorandière (Kennington Cove) with feints elsewhere. Since la Cormorandière was the place the French had entrenched most heavily, it was a questionable decision. Amherst seems to have been led to it by the observation that the surf was less severe there than elsewhere. Bad weather postponed the landing until the morning of 8 June. The dash and resolution of the advanced troops, and the leadership in particular of Wolfe and Major George Scott*, turned into success what might have been a disaster. Wolfe wrote afterwards, “Our landing was next to miraculous . . . I wouldn’t recommend the Bay of Gabarouse for a descent, especially as we manag’d it.”

His army established ashore, Amherst undertook systematic European-style siege operations against Louisbourg. These were hampered in the beginning by continuing bad weather which interfered with landing guns. He used Wolfe as commander of a detached mobile force which was the most active element in the siege. On 12 June, hearing that the French had destroyed the Royal battery on the north side of the harbour and were calling in their outposts generally, he ordered Wolfe to move round the harbour and occupy Pointe à la Croix (Lighthouse Point), from which the Island battery and the French naval squadron in the harbour could be bombarded. Fire was opened from Pointe à la Croix on the 20th. (It appears that the surf had permitted the landing of guns east of the harbour, though on the main beach to the west none were landed until 18 June.) On the 26th, the Island battery having been silenced at least for the moment, Amherst asked Boscawen to provide guns to replace those at Pointe à la Croix so that Wolfe’s force could come back around the harbour, bringing their artillery, and both continue operations against the ships and “advance towards the West gate.” From this time Wolfe directed the attack against the inner flank of the main fortifications of the town. Amherst prepared his batteries with deliberate care, laboriously building an approach road to carry his guns across boggy ground and an epaulement to cover it from French fire. Wolfe’s guns on the British left were firing early in July, but it appears that Amherst’s main bombardment did not begin until the 22nd. Much damage was immediately done to the fortifications and the town. Amherst records that he ordered his artillery commander, Lieutenant-Colonel George Williamson , to direct his fire as much as possible at the defences, “that we might not destroy the Houses.”

Relations between Amherst and Boscawen were excellent and the cooperation of army and navy left nothing to be desired. Wolfe wrote: “Mr. Boscawen has given all and even more than we cou’d ask of him . . .” (the contrast with his comments on the navy at Quebec the following year is marked). The French ships in the harbour were gradually worn down. The frigate Aréthuse, boldly handled by Jean Vauquelin , harassed Wolfe’s force with her fire and interfered with the building of Amherst’s epaulement, but on 9 July Wolfe’s guns damaged her severely. On the night of the 14th–15th she got out of the harbour and away to France. On the 21st three naval vessels were burned. Two remained, Prudent and Bienfaisant. On the night of the 25th they were (to quote Wolfe again) “boarded by the boats of the [British] fleet with incredible audace and conduct, and taken under the guns and within the reach of the musquetry of the ramparts.” The end was now at hand. The Dauphin demi-bastion on Wolfe’s flank had been breached and an assault was practicable. On 26 July the governor, Drucour [Boschenry*], asked for terms. Amherst and Boscawen replied that the garrison must become prisoners of war, and demanded an answer within an hour, failing which the town would be attacked by land and sea. After some painful discussion among the French officers, Drucour accepted, and the British occupied Louisbourg on 27 July. The French battalions, denied the honours of war, handed over their arms and colours. Drucour agreed that the French forces in Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) should be included in the capitulation.

Amherst’s conduct of the siege was marked by the thoroughness and deliberation that became his trademarks. Wolfe, who in general respected Amherst, wrote, “our measures have been cautious and slow from the beginning to the end, except in landing where there was an appearance of temerity.” Amherst wrote to Pitt on the day his troops entered Louisbourg, “If I can go to Quebeck I will,” but there had never been much likelihood of attacking both Louisbourg and Quebec in one summer. Boscawen decided it was too late in the season, and the news of the reverse suffered by James Abercromby , the commander-in-chief in America, before Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga, N.Y.) on 8 July led Amherst to resolve to move to his assistance with five battalions. At the same time he sent detachments under Wolfe to destroy French settlements in the Gulf of St Lawrence and under Lord Rollo* to take over Île Saint-Jean Colonel Robert Monckton was ordered to lay waste the communities in the Saint John valley (N.B.). Leaving a garrison at Louisbourg under Whitmore, Amherst sailed for Boston. There the grateful citizens attempted to make his whole force drunk, and in great part succeeded. Amherst extricated his five battalions, marched them across country to Albany, New York, and himself reported to Abercromby at Lake George (Lac Saint-Sacrement). It was agreed that there could be no further action in that sector that year. Amherst made his way back to his own area of command at Halifax. There on 9 November he heard that Abercromby’s defeat had led to that general’s recall, while his own success at Louisbourg had made him commander-in-chief in America. He now went to New York, where he spent the winter making plans and logistic arrangements for the campaign of 1759.

It was clear to Amherst that there should be a double attack on Canada. It was necessary, he wrote to Lord George Sackville in January, “to lay the axe to the root, and there are but two roads to get to it, one up the River St Lawrence to Quebec, and the other to Ticonderoga and Montreal, we must go both to be sure of prospering in one, and whichever of the two succeeds, the business is done.” In London Pitt and Ligonier had already reached the same conclusion, and Wolfe, who had returned to England, was appointed to command the expedition up the St Lawrence. Although formally subordinated to Amherst, his command would in practice be independent, for communication with Amherst would be virtually impossible. On 29 Dec. 1758 Pitt sent detailed orders to Amherst. Much attention was given to Wolfe’s enterprise and the measures to be taken in preparation for it. Amherst was also directed to invade Canada from the south with an army of regular and provincial troops: “by the Way of Crown Point [Fort Saint-Frédéric] or La Galette [at the head of the St Lawrence rapids], or both, according as you shall judge practicable, and proceed, if practicable, and attack Montreal or Quebec, or both of the said places successively,” by a unified operation or with separate forces as he might see fit. His attention was directed to the importance of re-establishing the port of Oswego (Chouaguen) on Lake Ontario, and capturing Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.). Before these orders reached him, Amherst was already “getting everything ready for a successful campaign.” “I can’t stay any longer for orders from England,” he wrote Sackville, “if I do I shan’t have time for preparing the necessary things, they will cost, but I hope I shall buy the country by it . . . .” He busied himself with obtaining from the various colonies the provincial troops that Pitt had asked them for, and with this purpose in mind made a quick visit in April 1759 to Philadelphia in an unsuccessful attempt to gain the cooperation of the Pennsylvania assembly. On 3 May he was at Albany preparing to open the campaign.

Amherst had succeeded in mobilizing a force of some 16,000 regular and provincial troops. Of these 5,000 were allotted to Brigadier-General John Prideaux for the Oswego and Fort Niagara tasks the rest, under Amherst himself, were to be employed in invading Canada by the Lake Champlain line. On 21 June he arrived at the head of Lake George with a large part of his army. Further advance would depend on water transport, and on sufficient naval power to overcome the French armed vessels on Lake Champlain. Large numbers of boats had been prepared, and these were dragged overland from the upper Hudson to Lake George, “batteaus on waggons and whaleboats on mens shoulders, 15 to a boat.” On 21 July the army moved down the lake in boats formed in columns, and the following day landed close to Fort Carillon. The French commander, François-Charles de Bourlamaque*, withdrew his main force from the fort, leaving a small garrison no attempt was made to defend the advanced lines which had defeated Abercromby. Amherst began a siege in form, but on 26 July the French retreated by water, blowing up the fort. The British boats were dragged around the falls above Carillon and launched on Lake Champlain. On 4 August the army moved up the narrow south arm of the lake to Fort Saint-Frédéric, where they found that Bourlamaque had blown up the post and withdrawn to Fort Île aux Noix in the Rivière Richelieu. Amherst, who seems to have been hypnotized by the Crown Point position, began to build an elaborate fortress here (its ditches, cut out of the solid rock, are still to be seen). “This is a great Post gained,” he wrote, “secures entirely all the country behind it [i.e. to the south], and the situation and country about it is better than anything I have seen.” Yet the fortress had little relevance in existing circumstances the French had lost the initiative in North America. Information that Bourlamaque had four armed vessels at the north end of Lake Champlain led Amherst in September to enlarge his plans for a flotilla of his own. His naval assistant, Captain Joshua Loring , was already building a brig now a large radeau or raft, capable of mounting heavy guns, was undertaken. An attempt to burn a new French vessel at Île aux Noix was unsuccessful, and it was decided to build a 16-gun sloop as soon as the brig was completed. Progress with this building program was slowed by repeated breakdowns of the one available sawmill. Finally, on 11 October, the imposing formation of craft carrying Amherst’s army started down the lake, with the radeau, Ligonier, leading. Loring with the brig, Duke of Cumberland, and the sloop, Boscawen, went in search of the enemy’s ships on the 13th the French commander, Joannis-Galand d’ Olabaratz , sank two of these to avoid capture and ran a third ashore. But on the 18th Amherst heard of the fall of Quebec a month before. He wrote in his journal, “This will of course bring Mons de Vaudreuil [ Rigaud] & the whole Army to Montreal so that I shall decline my intended operations & get back to Crown Point.” On this somewhat inglorious note his year’s campaign ended.

The vital importance of naval control of Lake Champlain is of course beyond doubt, and the long process of building vessels was clearly the reason for the failure to obtain better results. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to feel that during the long summer of 1759 Amherst did not keep sufficiently before him what should have been his main object, assisting Wolfe’s operations at Quebec. The capture of Fort Niagara – effected on 25 July, after Prideaux had been killed, by Sir William Johnson – immediately led Montcalm* to weaken his army at Quebec by sending troops west. Amherst’s own cautious and ponderous operations had no such effect. More energy and more effective improvisation on his part might well have ended the war in Canada in 1759. As it was, another year’s campaign was necessary.

Pitt’s orders for 1760 indicated the capture of Montreal as “the great and essential object,” and Amherst was instructed to invade Canada “according as you shall, from your knowledge of the Countries, thro’ which the War is to be carried, and from emergent circumstances not to be known here, judge the same to be most expedient.” He decided on a three-pronged attack: James Murray with the Quebec garrison moving up the St Lawrence, Brigadier-General William Haviland proceeding from Crown Point up Lake Champlain, and Amherst himself moving down the St Lawrence from Lake Ontario. The French would thus be obliged to divide their limited forces, and would be denied any possibility of retreat into the interior such as they had made after the battle of the Plains of Abraham. Again large forces were requisitioned from the colonies. Amherst’s own army, over 10,000 strong, was by far the largest. As in 1759, the winter and spring were devoted to logistic planning and preparation. Large numbers of bateaux and whale boats were built. The late arrival of the provincial troops, who provided the labour to move the boats and supplies, delayed the opening of the campaign, but from mid May great quantities of provisions were moving up the waterways and over the portages to Lake Champlain and Amherst’s advanced base at Oswego.

On 9 July Amherst himself arrived at Oswego, and on the 14th two armed snows built by Loring at Niagara during the winter were sent east in the hope of capturing two French vessels similarly constructed. On 10 August Amherst embarked his army in boats and began the movement against Montreal. After the French vessel the Outaouaise was captured on the 17th by “rowgalleys” manned by the Royal Artillery under Colonel Williamson, the one man-made obstacle impeding the advance was Fort Lévis (east of Prescott, Ont.), on an island at the head of the rapids. Amherst besieged it formally, landing his artillery to bombard it. Captain Pierre Pouchot*, the French commander, made a determined defence, but the fort was battered into surrender on 25 August. The advance on Montreal now continued. Amherst lost 84 men drowned in the rapids on 4 September, but effective human resistance was at an end. On the 6th his army landed at Lachine on the island of Montreal and encamped before the city. Haviland had occupied Île aux Noix on 28 August and was now on the south shore of the St Lawrence opposite Montreal Murray, having moved up the river without meeting serious opposition, was in position just below the city. Amherst wrote, “I believe never three Armys, setting out from different & very distant Parts from each other joyned in the Center, as was intended, better than we did.” Striking it was but it must be said that the precision of the junction owed something to luck.

The French defenders of Montreal were in an impossible situation. The Canadian militia had virtually all deserted, and the army at Vaudreuil’s and Lévis ’s disposal had shrunk to little more than 2,000 men. The British forces amounted to 17,000. Vaudreuil asked for a suspension of operations, pending news from Europe. Amherst “said I was come to take Canada and I did not intend to take anything less.” As at Louisbourg, he refused the French the honours of war, on the ground of the atrocities committed by their Indian allies. The French battalions burned their colours rather than give them up. Montreal, and with it Canada, was surrendered to Amherst on 8 Sept. 1760. The conquering general visited Quebec, with its already famous battlefields, before returning to his headquarters at New York.

Though the fighting with France in North America was virtually over, the war was not. Amherst as commander-in-chief was concerned with organizing expeditions against Dominica and Martinique in 1761 and in 1762 he sent a contingent to take part in the attack on Havana, Cuba. In August 1762 he dispatched his younger brother William with a hastily collected force to recover St John’s, Newfoundland, from the French under Charles-Henri-Louis d’ Arsac de Ternay. News of peace in Europe came early in 1763. Almost immediately, however, Amherst began to receive from the west reports of Indian attacks which were the opening shots of Pontiac*’s uprising.

Amherst’s dislike and contempt for the Indians are amply reflected in his journals and correspondence, though it may perhaps be doubted whether he was more bigoted than the average official of his time. As soon as active hostilities with France were over, he had begun to economize on presents to the tribes, though people closer to the problem (notably Sir William Johnson) believed that continued generosity would be better policy. Amherst wrote Johnson that he did not believe in “purchasing the good behavior, either of Indians, or any others” “When Men of What race soever, behave ill they must be punished but not bribed.” As commander-in-chief Amherst was responsible for Indian policy, and his attitude doubtless contributed to producing the outbreak of 1763. He was slow to believe that the trouble could be really serious he underestimated the Indians’ capacity for military action. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that these views in any way delayed measures to deal with the rising. The moment he heard reports of “bad designs” among the tribes he put the inadequate force of regulars available in the east on the road to the threatened areas when on 21 June he heard of Pontiac’s blockade of Detroit [see Henry Gladwin ] he wrote, “As I have made all preparations I am able to do, I had nothing remaining to be done on the receipt of this news.” He did however make to Colonel Henry Bouquet the “detestable suggestion” (Francis Parkman*’s phrase) that smallpox might be introduced among the dissident Indians. Bouquet cheerfully offered to try to infect them with blankets, and perhaps as a result of Bouquet’s orders an attempt was indeed made to do so with infected blankets and handkerchiefs. Early in August Bouquet’s column marching to relieve Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, Pa) inflicted a serious reverse on the Indians at Bushy Run. Amherst had thought of taking the field himself in 1764, but in fact he embarked for England, after over five years in North America, in November 1763. He wrote to a friend in the following February, “I may tell you for your own information only, that I have no thought of returning to America.” And indeed, though he was to have many opportunities, he never again visited the continent where his name was made.

His successes in America had won Amherst honours, though these honours were not extravagant by the standards of those days. In September 1759 he had been made governor of Virginia. He never functioned actively in this office, and it was well understood that the position was a mere sinecure, worth some £1,500 a year. The appointment of commander-in-chief in America brought him the office of colonel-in-chief of the Royal Americans (60th Foot), in addition to the colonelcy of the 15th Foot which he retained. He was made a substantive major-general in 1759 and a lieutenant-general in 1761. In the latter year he was made a knight of the Bath. After the death of his elder brother Sackville in 1763 he built a new country house, which he named Montreal, on the family estate near Sevenoaks. He does not seem to have been actively employed in the army at this period, but he declined successively the office of master general of the Ordnance in Ireland and the command of the forces there. In 1768 growing colonial discontent led King George III to the conclusion that there should be an active governor in Virginia, and Amherst was given the choice of going there or resigning the governorship and accepting an annuity instead. He took offence, rather unnecessarily it seems, and resigned his colonelcies. He was shortly reappointed to them, being given the 3rd Foot, a more lucrative appointment, instead of the 15th, but the rift with the king was fully closed only when he was made governor of Guernsey (1770) and lieutenant-general of the Ordnance (1772). In the absence of a commander-in-chief, this latter office seems to have made him in effect the king’s chief military adviser.

In 1769 it was suggested to Amherst that he try to obtain a grant of the Jesuits’ estates in Canada. The Jesuit order had been suppressed in France in 1762–64, and was in a state of suspended animation in Canada until 1775 when it was finally suppressed there too and its estates vested in the crown. Amherst had applied for a grant in 1769, and in 1770 an order in council directed the preparation of a legal instrument for it. No action was taken, however, supposedly for want of a precise description of the estates. Amherst raised the question again from time to time, and in 1787 the governor of Canada, Lord Dorchester [Guy Carleton*], was instructed to make a full inquiry into the status of the lands. Some agitation followed, both English and French speaking inhabitants of the colony arguing that the estates should be devoted to the support of education. The matter remained in abeyance. Since, however, it appeared that an undertaking had been given to Amherst, the British parliament in 1803, after his death, authorized an annuity of £3,000 to be paid to his heirs in lieu of the lands he had never received.

In January 1775 the king pressed Amherst to take the command in America, where war with the colonists was threatening. He declined, for reasons that remain uncertain. The following year he was raised to the peerage as Baron Amherst of Holmesdale. In 1778, on the urging of his ministers, the king again asked Amherst to take the American command, and again he refused. Later that year he was appointed in effect commander-in-chief, although it appears his actual title was general-on-the-staff the Army list shows his rank of general as dating from 19 March 1778. In June 1780 he had the task of restoring order when London was devastated by the Gordon riots. He was dismissed from his command when Lord North’s ministry went out of office in 1782. At the beginning of 1793, when war with France was approaching, Amherst, though now 76 years of age, was recalled and appointed commander-in-chief with a seat in the cabinet. He retired again two years later, being succeeded by the Duke of York. Promoted field marshal as of 30 July 1796, he died on 3 Aug. 1797, and was buried in the parish church of Sevenoaks.

In May 1753 Amherst had married his second cousin, Jane Dalison. The marriage was childless. Jane appears to have had neurotic tendencies and Amherst probably was not an ideal husband. The fact that he had an illegitimate son, apparently born shortly before his marriage, of a mother whose identity is uncertain, may have contributed to estrange them. This son, also called Jeffery Amherst, rose to the rank of major-general and seems to have died in 1815. In 1760 Amherst told Pitt that while passing through England en route to Louisbourg in 1758, he had “made a promise” that no inducement would keep him in America willingly once the war was over this promise was clearly made to his wife. When he returned in 1763, however, her depression had deepened into derangement, and she died in 1765. In 1767 Amherst married again, his second wife being Elizabeth, daughter of General George Cary. This marriage too was childless. Amherst’s heir was his nephew, William Pitt Amherst, the son of his brother William. In 1788, after William’s death, Amherst obtained from the crown the title of Baron Amherst of Montreal, Kent, with remainder to his nephew. William Pitt Amherst accordingly inherited the title. After a mission to China and a period as governor general of India he was created Earl Amherst of Arracan in 1826. In 1835 he was appointed governor of Canada, but as a result of the fall of the Peel ministry in England he never took up the appointment.

Jeffery Amherst sat for his portrait several times. Sir Joshua Reynolds’ picture of him with the St Lawrence rapids in the background, the more conventional Reynolds portrait now in the National Gallery of Canada, and the Thomas Gainsborough portrait in the National Portrait Gallery of Great Britain have often been reproduced. His appearance accords with Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall’s description of him: “His manners were grave, formal and cold.”

Amherst had an unbroken record of success as a commander, but he was a solid rather than a brilliant soldier. He never conducted a battle the successful siege of Louisbourg is the nearest thing to it. His style was slow and heavy, as the campaign of 1759 amply showed. But he was an organizer of victory, who left nothing to chance in the fields of supply and transport, and this thoroughness was what the war in America mainly required. Sir John Fortescue said of him, “He was the greatest military administrator produced by England since the death of Marlborough, and remained the greatest until the rise of Wellington.” That judgement may well be accepted.

Man calls for the town of Amherst to be renamed

(John Phelan / Wikipedia)

On Aug. 16, William Bowen of Belchertown emailed town and state officials asking them to no longer recognize Lord Jeffery Amherst and rename the town of Amherst. The issue of Lord Amherst and his violent crimes against Native Americans has been on Bowen’s mind since he first started driving through Amherst nearly 39 years ago.

Bowen sent his petition to his town officials, Amherst’s town officials and state officials, sharing his views and stance on the town of Amherst being named after a “glorified butcher of Native Americans,” according to Bowen.

“It’s like naming a town after Adolf Hitler,” Bowen said.

Lord Jeffery Amherst was a British general in America during the later battles in the French and Indian War in the mid 1700s. Lord Amherst was documented using biological warfare against Native Americans, when he instructed that smallpox infected blankets be passed out to “the heinous dogs,” as he described them.

When Bowen worked in Amherst, he had several Native American customers who were offended by the town name.

“I think it is a slap in the face to Native Americans, and I’m not a Native American,” Bowen said.

He is currently in contact with the Wampanoag and other tribes in Western Massachusetts. He hopes to add their names to the petition and flood the governor’s office with petitions.

Several people have tried to rename the town of Amherst in the past. However, the cost of conversion has been the main issue blocking the change of the town’s name.

State Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose said he had heard of people trying to rename the town of Amherst to “Norwottuck, after Emily Dickinson, or perhaps Lord Jeff’s sister or some relative with the same name who wasn’t so awful.” But none of these had become actual town meeting proposals, Goldstein-Rose noted.

Regarding the topic of a name change, Amherst Select Board Chair Douglas Slaughter said, “At the beginning of Select Board meetings, we have time set aside for public comment. Citizens may bring this or any other topic to a greater level of attention with us and the community as a whole at that time.”

“I just think it’s time for someone to speak up,” said Bowen, who encourages people to write to their congressmen, senators and governor if they feel the same way.

As of Aug. 24, Bowen had not received any responses from officials regarding his petition.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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Additional Sources of Information

1. Medical information

A mild form of smallpox virus, Variola minor (also called alastrim), is transmitted by inhalation and is communicable for 3-7 days. The more serious smallpox virus, Variola major, is transmitted both by inhalation and by contamination it is communicable by inhalation for 9-14 days and by contamination for several years in a dried state. For further medical information, see Donald A. Henderson, et al., "Smallpox as a Biological Weapon: Medical and Public Health Management," Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 281 No. 22 (June 9, 1999).

Ann F. Ramenofsky, Vectors of Death: The Archaeology of European Contact (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1987), also discusses the question of communicability:

Abraham B. Bergman, et al., "A Political History of the Indian Health Service" (undated draft manuscript at (visited 4 DEC 02)), comments on the birth of the Indian Health Service:

2. Social and Political Effects of Disease

E. Wagner Stearn & Allen E. Stearn, The Effect of Smallpox on the Destiny of the Amerindian (Boston: Bruce Humphries (1945)), point out the social-political effects of smallpox:

Harold Napoleon, Yuuyaraq: the Way of the Human Being, with commentary, edited by Eric Madsen (Fairbanks, Alaska: University of Alaska, College of Rural Alaska, Center for Cross-Cultural Studies (1991)), states that epidemics caused a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and social collapse:

Compared to the span of life of a culture, the Great Death was instantaneous. The Yup'ik world was turned upside down, literally overnight. Out of the suffering, confusion, desperation, heartbreak, and trauma was born a new generation of Yup'ik people. They were born into shock. They woke to a world in shambles, many of their people and their beliefs strewn around them, dead. In their minds they had been overcome by evil. Their medicines and their medicine men and women had proven useless. Everything they had believed in had failed. Their ancient world had collapsed.

From their innocence and from their inability to understand and dispel the disease, guilt was born into them. They had witnessed mass death&#8212evil&#8212in unimaginable and unacceptable terms. These were the men and women orphaned by the sudden and traumatic death of the culture that had given them birth. They would become the first generation of modern-day Yup'ik. [p. 11]

3. Other writers on Amherst and smallpox

A. Elizabeth A. Fenn, "Biological Warfare in Eighteenth-Century North America: Beyond Jeffrey Amherst," Journal of American History vol. 86, no. 4 (March, 2000), pp. 1552-1580:

B. Adrienne Mayor, "The Nessus Shirt in the New World: Smallpox Blankets in History and Legend," Journal of American Folklore 108(427):54-77 (1995):

C. Robert L. O'Connell, Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression (NY and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989):

D. R. G. Robertson, Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indian (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2001):

Other Related Links

    , by Jordan Dill , a teaching resource from Small Planet Communications , an exhibit at the National Library of Medicine information from MedHist, the UK's gateway to resources for the history of medicine an international non-profit organization working against the hostile use of biotechnology, an article by Dan Eden , information about various diseases and bioterror NOVA Online (Public Broadcasting System) , an independent, non-profit organization of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the School of Medicine books and other materials from Geometry Online Learning Center

Here's the known evidence for the legends of smallpox blankets among the Indians. It comes much later, and isn't nearly as widespread as is commonly reported.

Ed (a lineal descendant of the very late Henry Louis Bouquet- unless proven otherwise)

Blankets played a role. I guess. But the real culprit simply was European diseases that the Indians had no resistance to. Indians got it from contact with the Europeans. See the movie "Black Robe" sometime. Lothair Bluteau is the lead. He once had a great part in Miami Vice TV show

Thanks for posting this. I research this stuff, and recently put out a call for documentary evidence on this very subject on an "Early American History" listserve. The Amherst incident is the only piece of evidence that anyone on there could present for the "small-pox blanket" urban legend.

For what it's worth, by the time of the Amherst incident [1763], small pox had been ravaging the Indian populations for nearly 150 years. Perhaps the greatest devastation was wrought unwittingly by the French missionaries in Canada, who brought both small pox and tuberculosis, among other diseases to the Indians. As the Indians had never been exposed to these diseases before, the death toll was catastrophic. In the Jesuit Relations, the following excerpt gives some idea of the scope of the disaster on the Algonquin tribes near Quebec, which had been stuck successively by famine, plague, and war with the implacable Iroquois:

"All these events have so greatly thinned the numbers of our Savages that, where eight years ago one could see eighty or a hundred cabins, barely five or six can now be seen a Captain, who then had eight hundred warriors under his command, now has not more than thirty or forty instead of fleets of three or four hundred Canoes, we see now but twenty or thirty."

The French, to their credit, did everything in their power to minister to the Indians suffering under the these plagues, contrary to the common presentation of the European as oppressor/conqueror in academic and media today.

Doug from Upland interviews JAYNA DAVIS discussing the OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

The depiction of Indians as wild beasts was quite common among early American leaders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. David E. Stannard writes: 'As is so often the case, it was New England's religious elite who made the point more graphically than anyone. Referring to some Indians who had given offense to the colonists, the Reverend Cotton Mather wrote: "Once you have but got the Track of those Ravenous howling Wolves, then pursue them vigourously Turn not back till they are consumed&#8230 Beat them small as the Dust before the Wind."

This seems pretty awful out of context. Here's the context. Read it if you can:

Jesuit Relation of 1643-4, R. G. Thwaites, ed. Volume 26, page 29.

We would have been deprived of all knowledge of what has happened to Father Bressany since the time of his capture, had we not heard it from a trustworthy person who was an eyewitness of all that he suffered during his captivity. After the first encounter, related above, [161] the Iroquois crossed Lake saint Pierre, and took the captives, for their sleep, to a very damp but very retired place,—where the Father and his companions, all securely bound, passed the night without any shelter but the Sky, or other bed than the earth. This was their usual lot, every night throughout the journey. On the following day, they were made to embark and, after two days’ navigation, they met another band of Iroquois, who, overjoyed at this capture, gave the Father several blows with cudgels and threatened him with rougher treatment. When the last comers informed the others of the death of one of their most distinguished companions, which had happened at Montreal, the Father was no longer spared.

After two days’ navigation, he landed, and walked for six days barefooted through the woods, brush, and swamps,—fasting until about four o’clock in the afternoon, when a halt was made for the purpose of taking a rest. But hardly any was given to the Father, who, wet with rain, with the water of melting snows, of the torrents, and of the [162] rivers that had to be crossed, was compelled to assume all the tasks of the cooking. He was sent for the water and wood and when he did not do well, or did not understand what was said to him, blows from cudgels were not lacking,—nor were they, whenever the party encountered Hunters and Fishermen.

When the six days had expired, he had to embark on the Lake of the Iroquois, which they crossed in 8 days they then landed, and walked for three days more. On the fourth day, which was the fifteenth of May, about three o’clock in the afternoon, while he was still fasting, they reached a place where there were about 400 Savages, who had erected their cabins there for fishing. About two hundred paces beyond the cabins, the Father was stripped quite naked and when the Savages had ranged themselves in two lines, facing each other, and armed with cudgels, he was ordered to march the first of all through the ranks of the band. No sooner had he lifted his foot than one of the Iroquois seized him by the left hand, and with a knife inflicted a deep gash between the third and the little fingers and then the others discharged on him a [163] shower of blows with cudgels, and led him thus to the cabins. There they made him ascend a scaffold (raised about six feet from the ground),-quite naked, bathed in his own blood, that flowed from nearly every part of his body, and exposed to a cold wind that congealed his blood on his skin and they ordered him to sing during the feast that they gave to those who had brought in the prisoners.

When the feast was over, the warriors withdrew and left the Father and his companions in the hands of the young men, who made them descend from the scaffold, whereon they had stood for two hours, exposed to the jeers of these Barbarians. When they had come down, they were made to dance, after their fashion. But, as the Father did not do it well, they struck him, goaded him, and tore out his hair. Five or six days were spent in this pastime. Some one out of compassion threw him some shreds of a gown, wherewith to cover himself. He made use of it during the day but at night they took it from him, and, gathering round him, one goaded him with a very sharp stick another burned him with a [164] firebrand others seared him with calumets heated red-hot. The children threw on him hot embers and glowing coals. Then they made him walk around the fire where they had stuck short, pointed sticks into the ground, and had scattered hot embers and live coals others tore out his beard and his hair.

Every night, they would begin anew this diverting sport and, at the end, they would burn one of his nails or one of his fingers during seven or eight minutes. One night, they would burn a nail another night, the first joint of a finger on another, the second joint. Thus they applied fire to his fingers over eighteen times. They pierced his left foot with a stick, and, meantime, he was compelled to sing. This little amusement lasted until fully two hours after midnight and then they left him there, lying flat on the ground in a spot where rain fell abundantly,—his only covering being a small skin that did not cover one half of his body. A whole month passed in this manner.

From this place, he was taken to the first Village of the Iroquois, and suffered more on [165] this journey than on the previous one,—being wounded, feeble, poorly clad, with but little food, and at night exposed to the air and bound to a tree so that, instead of sleeping, he could only shiver with the cold. On arriving at the first Village, he was received with severe blows, administered with cudgels on the most sensitive parts of his body but the blows were so heavy that he fell to the ground, half dead. They still continued to strike him on the chest and on the head, and would have killed him, had not a Captain dragged him on the scaffold that had been erected, as on the first occasion. Here they cut off his left thumb, and two fingers of his right hand, after first, slitting his hand between the second and middle fingers. In the meanwhile, there came a heavy shower accompanied by thunder and lightning, which drove the Savages away, and so they left him there quite naked. As night approached, they took him into a cabin where they burned the remainder of his nails and some of his fingers, twisted his toes, and forced him to eat [166] filth and what the dogs had left, without giving him any rest.

After he had been so tortured in that Village, he was taken to another, at a distance of two or three leagues, where again he had to suffer the same torments. He was, moreover, hung up in chains, by the feet and, when he was taken down, his feet, his hands, and his neck were bound with the same chains. Seven days passed in this manner, and new tortures were added for he was made to suffer in places and in ways concerning which propriety will not allow us to write. Sagamite was poured on his stomach and the dogs were called to eat the sagamite, biting him as they ate. All these sufferings reduced him to such a state that he became so offensive and noisome to the smell, that all kept away from him as from carrion and approached only to torment him.

He was covered with pus and filth, and his sores were alive with maggots. With all this, he could hardly find any one who would give him a little Indian corn boiled in water. The blows that he [167] had received caused an abscess to form on his thigh, that allowed him no rest,—which was, moreover, difficult to obtain on account of the hardness of the ground, on which he stretched his body, that was only skin and bone. He did not know how he could succeed in opening his abscess, but God guided the hand of a Savage—who wished to stab him three times with a knife—so that the Savage struck him directly on the abscess, whence flowed an abundance of pus and blood, and thus he was cured. Who would ever have thought that any man could have suffered so much without dying—abandoned in terra aliena, in loco horroris et vastae soditudinis without language with which to make himself heard without friends to console him without Sacraments, and without any remedy wherewith to alleviate his suffering? He did not know why the Savages deferred his death so long,—unless, perhaps, to fatten him before eating him but they did not take the means to do so.

Finally, on the 19th of June, the Iroquois gahered together from all the Villages, to the number of 2,000, in the Village where the Father was, who thought that that day [168] would be the last of his life. After the meeting, he begged the Captain that the torture by fire might be changed for another as for death, he would welcome it. “Not only shalt thou not suffer by fire,” replied the Captain, “ but what is more, thou shalt not die. That has been resolved.” I know not how they came to take that resolution but I know well that they themselves were afterward astonished at it, without knowing why, as the Dutch and the good Cousture—who was taken two years ago with Father Jogues, and who saw Father Bressany only after his deliverance—have related.

That resolution taken, they gave him, with all the ceremonies usual in the country, to a good woman whose grandfather had formerly been killed by the Hurons in an encounter. This woman received him but her daughters could not bear him, because he inspired them with such horror. I know not whether it was this that led the mother to think of his deliverance, or whether it was through compassion that she took on him, or, rather, because she saw that he was unfit for work owing to the mutilation [169] of his fingers, and was convinced that he would be a burden upon her. In any case, she ordered her son to take him to the Dutch, and, on receiving some present from them, to deliver him into their hands. This the son faithfully carried out.

But, before leaving, the Father had the consolation of baptizing a Huron who was being taken to the torture, and who earnestly begged for Baptism before dying. This the Father granted him, knowing that he had received sufficient instruction from our Fathers. But it could not be done so secretly that the Iroquois did not perceive it, so they compelled him to go out and leave him. When he was dead, they brought his limbs into the cabin where the Father was, and, after cooking them, they ate them in his presence then, placing the head of the dead man at his feet, they asked: “Well! of what avail was Baptism to him?” If the Father could have explained himself in their language, it would have been a good opportunity for him to instruct them. It was, nevertheless, a profound consolation [170] to have been there so opportunely for the happiness of that poor Savage. He started shortly afterward, in the company of the young Savage, the son of the good widow, who took him to the Dutch. He was received by them with great kindness, and they satisfied the Savage beyond all his expectations they gave the Father clothes, and, after keeping him with them for some time, until his health was restored, they put him on board a ship. He reached la Rochelle, on the fifteenth of November of the year 1644, in better health than he has ever enjoyed since he has belonged to our Society.


The message in various forms doing rounds on internet since many years talks about a disturbing incident that the Britisher Lord Jeffrey Amherst gave Smallpox infected Blankets to American Indians in 1760s — to decimate their population and establish colonies. Yes, it is an unfortunate fact!

About Jeffery Amherst

Jeffery Amherst (29 January 1717 – 3 August 1797) served as an officer in the British Army and as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. Amherst is primarily remembered for the victory against the French in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) that resulted in the surrender of Montreal–after which Amherst named his estate–and Canada by the French to the British.

His Notoriety

After the triumph in war over French, Jeffery Amherst became notorious by mishandling Indian affairs. Amherst even ignored the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs Sir William Johnson’s advice to continue the gift exchange tradition with the British-allied Indians after the surrender of Canada. Amherst used to believe in punishment for poor behavior rather than rewards for good behavior. With such attitude, Jeffery Amherst became the first military strategist to knowingly engage in a biological warfare, using smallpox-infected blankets to spread the deadly disease among Native Americans.

Smallpox Infected Blankets

In the spring of 1763, western Indians began a series of frontier attacks known as Pontiac’s Rebellion. After some success of this native uprising, Amherst suggested Colonel Henry Bouquet that the British can expose the rebelling Indians to smallpox, as germ warfare against the American Indians. To achieve this goal of Amherst, Bouquet suggested infected blankets (and handkerchiefs) as an effective means. Following this inhumane act, few months later, a smallpox epidemic engulfed Ohio Valley natives that reportedly killed three-quarters of the population.

Lord Jeffrey Amherst Used Smallpox-infected Blankets for American Indians

Some people doubted these claims of using smallpox infected blankets and handkerchiefs, while others, believing the stories, nevertheless suggest that the infected blankets were not distributed intentionally to the Indians, or that Lord Jeffery Amherst is not to be blamed for the germ warfare tactic. However, there are some letters of Amherst’s correspondence during this time and many others that show the smallpox idea was not an anomaly. The letters are filled with comments and phrases that indicate a genocidal intent. One similar proof is the Journal of William Trent, who was the commander of local militia of the Pittsburgh townspeople, where in his entry for May 24, 1763 read:

[May] 24th [1763] The Turtles Heart a principal Warrior of the Delawares and Mamaltee a Chief came within a small distance of the Fort Mr. McKee went out to them and they made a Speech letting us know that all our [POSTS] as Ligonier was destroyed, that great numbers of Indians [were coming and] that out of regard to us, they had prevailed on 6 Nations [not to] attack us but give us time to go down the Country and they desired we would set of immediately. The Commanding Officer thanked them, let them know that we had everything we wanted, that we could defend it against all the Indians in the Woods, that we had three large Armys marching to Chastise those Indians that had struck us, told them to take care of their Women and Children, but not to tell any other Natives, they said they would go and speak to their Chiefs and come and tell us what they said, they returned and said they would hold fast of the Chain of friendship. Out of our regard to them we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect. They then told us that Ligonier had been attacked, but that the Enemy were beat of

Lord Jeffrey Amherst Used Smallpox-infected Blankets for American Indians

There is another, small proof of the genuine hatred Jeffery Amherst had for Indians. The town of Amherst, Massachusetts, was named for Lord Jeffery even before he became a Lord and Amherst College was later named after the town. As you can see in Image Gallery, the Amherst College china plates depicted mounted Englishman with sword chasing Indians on foot. They were in use until the 1970’s.

Amherst College China plate

To Conclude

Lord Jeffery Amherst was in fact a known advocate of the extermination of Native Americans, who also approved the distribution of smallpox infected blankets to native towns in New England. Notable here is yet another disturbing fact when the British also deployed this smallpox tactic against native tribes in New South Wales of Australia in 1789.

Primary Resources

T his section includes links to major collections of original documents held in archives, and published editions of Amherst’s correspondence. Although some of Lord Jeffery Amherst’s manuscripts are available online, the vast majority of his papers are only viewable on microfilm or in-person at The National Archives in England. Frost Library holds a copy of the microfilm set of Amherst’s papers held by the UK National Archives.

Published volumes of Amherst’s diaries and correspondence:

The Journal of Jeffery Amherst: Recording the Military Career of General Amherst in America from 1758 to 1763. Toronto : Chicago: The Ryerson Press : University of Chicago Press, 1931.

Amherst and the Conquest of Canada: Selected Papers from the Correspondence of Major-General Jeffery Amherst While Commander-in-Chief in North America from September 1758 to December 1760. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Pub. Ltd. for the Army Records Society, 2003.

Manuscripts at Amherst College:

The Jeffery Amherst Collection contains a wide range of documents by and about Lord Jeffery Amherst, including many documents in his own hand. We are in the process of adding images of all of our Lord Jeffery Amherst manuscripts to Amherst College Digitial Collections: LJA in ACDC

The Plimpton Collection of French and Indian War Items (1670-1934) includes several manuscripts by Lord Jeffery Amherst. The collection includes other manuscripts, maps, and printed items about the French and Indian War, the conflict during which Lord Amherst rose to prominence. This collection will be fully digitized in the years ahead. Gift of George Arthur Plimpton, Class of 1876.

Amherst Family Portraits, including the iconic Joshua Reynolds portrait of 1765, can be found in the Mead Art Museum’s Collections Database.

Manuscripts held elsewhere:

The UK National Archives at Kew hold the single largest collection of Lord Jeffery Amherst’s manuscripts, mostly within the group “Public Record Office. War Office 34.” Much of this material is included in the War Office microfilm set held in Frost Library. More information about the contents of this collection are available online.

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