Jeffrey Amherst was born in Sevenoaks, England on January 29, 1717. By the time he was 14 years old, his military career had already begun. He is most famous for his actions in the French and Indian War, as he led the British to crucial victories at Louisbourg, Quebec City, and Montreal, in his campaign on the St. Lawrence River in New France. The latter two victories essentially sealed the fate of the French in North America, and brought an end the war. After the Siege of Montreal, Amherst was knighted and named military governor of Canada, a positioned he held until 1763.
After the French and Indian War, hostilities among various Indian tribes of the Great Lakes regions intensified toward the British. Unlike the French, whom the Indians had forged a peaceful relationship with, the British were unwilling to trade and give gifts to local chiefs. Amherst, who was in charge of relations between the British and Indians, issued orders against trading gunpowder, ammunition, and weapons to the Indians. Soon, distrust turned into rebellion and many forts in Britain’s new western territories were attacked by Indians in what came to be known as Pontiac’s Rebellion. As a result of the rebellion, Amherst reportedly considered distributing blankets distributed with smallpox to the Indians to quell their offensive. To this day, it remains unclear if Amherst actually followed through with this endeavor. Nevertheless, Parliament held Amherst responsible for the Indian uprising and replaced him in 1763 with William Johnson, whose more diplomatic approach toward the Indians eventually brought a tenuous peace.
Amherst returned to Great Britain in 1763. He served as an adviser during the American Revolution, but refused to command an army in the war because he had close ties with many Americans. He died in 1797.
Today, numerous towns and counties in the United States are named for him. Amherst College, one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States, was named in his honor.
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