Jeffrey Amherst by Joshua Reynolds
Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst (sometimes spelled Geoffrey, he himself spelled his name as Jeffery) (January 29, 1717 - August 3, 1797) served as an officer in the British army
Born in Sevenoaks, England, he became a soldier aged about 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 aboriginal peoples during the Pontiac Uprising of 1763 led to the first documented use of biological warfare in North American history. In response to the uprising led by the Ottawa Chief Pontiac, later known as Pontiac's Rebellion, Amherst infamously considered spreading smallpox to the surrounding forces. In a series of letters to his subordinate Henry Bouquet during the summer of 1764, Amherst discussed the idea of spreading smallpox to attacking forces via gifts of blankets that had been exposed to smallpox. This idea had already been tried a year previous: on June 24, 1763, infected blankets were given to the Delawares by the commander of Fort Pitt, perhaps on his own initiative.
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
- Historical Biographies: Jeffrey Amherst (http://www.blupete.com/Hist/BiosNS/1700-63/Amherst.htm)
- Amherst and Smallpox (http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/amherst/lord_jeff.html)
- Long, Lord Jeffery Amherst: A Soldier of the King (New York: MacMillan, 1933erst]]