Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/372

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Amherst
Amherst
358

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