Jeffrey Amherst was born in the county of Kent in southern England, the son of a wellto- do attorney. At age 14, Jeffrey enlisted in the army, and during the next 25 years, he saw action with the British forces fighting on the Continent—serving in both the War of the Austrian Succession and later the Seven Years’ War. By 1756, he had attained the rank of colonel and had a reputation as a very capable leader.
The Seven Years’ War was also fought in North America, where it was known as the French and Indian War. In 1758, Amherst was promoted to major-general and given command of a major British expedition sent to America and assigned to capture the French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
He arrived off Louisbourg in May 1758, and by July had forced the French to surrender. As a result, Amherst became an instant hero throughout the British colonies, his name given to towns and counties from New Hampshire to Virginia.
In 1759, Amherst led a large force north from Albany, New York and captured the French forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point. However, he was criticized for not pushing further north that year; as a result most of the laurels for the capture of French Canada went to General James Wolfe.
In 1760, Amherst masterminded the complicated three-pronged assault that culminated inthe surrender of Montreal. The following year Amherst was made a Knight of the Bath, one of England’s highest honors.
After the fall of Montreal, Amherst was appointed governor-general of British North America. In 1763, he took command of Pontiac’s War, an uprising led by the Indian chief Pontiac to resist the British takeover of the forts and territories across the northeast that had formerly been under French control. Amherst initially underestimated the Indian threat; however, eventually he sent reinforcements to relieve two strategically important
Amherst returned to England in 1764, having become disenchanted with life in the colonies. For the next several years, he served in various top government and military posts, including chief military advisor to King George III.
In 1775, he refused an offer from the king to take command of British troops in America to fight in the Revolutionary War, but he was a strong supporter of fighting the war against the colonists. As late as 1793—at 76 years old—Amherst was still serving the Crown as a military leader, as commander-inchief of all British forces in England.