Provosts

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Sir George Prevost was born on May 19, 1767 Geneva Switzerland of a English army officer with a rich banking grandfather. His father had served in the seven years war under General Wolfe during the attack on Quebec City in 1759. Prevost entered military service in 1779 in his fathers regiment with a commission as an ensign. He saw action quickly in the West Indies against the French. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the 60th foot in 1794 and Brigadier General in 1798. He was also appointed to the position of Lieutenant Governor of St Lucia that same year. He was transferred to the Governorship of Dominica in 1802 and fought the French there and in St Lucia in 1803. This was the period of the Napoleonic wars and war would be a constant factor in his life for the rest of his career. By 1805 he was promoted to Major-General and was transferred home to England.

It was during this time that the Chesapeake Incident occurred which almost led to war between Britain and the US. One of the outstanding issues between the two countries was Britain's insistence on board U.S. ships and searching for deserters. On the 22nd of June, 1807 the British frigate Leopard barded the U.S.S. Chesapeake and took four men from her claiming that they were British deserters. The sailors were taken to the British Naval base in Halifax where two of them died form the punishment inflicted. Tensions between the US and Britain rose to a fever pitch and Provost was sent to Nova Scotia to help prepare it for war with the US if hostilities did in fact break out. He arrived in Halifax on April 7th, 1808 with 3 regiments and quickly began to repair and improve the fortifications of the Citadel and other smaller forts around the harbour.

Provost was ordered to Martinique on December 6th 1808 to capture it and did so returning to Halifax by April 15th 1809. During his 3 years as Governor of Nova Scotia he worked hard to get the colony moving and encouraged the development of many industries including the creation of coal mining. A coal industry would compete with those of Britain but Provost's influence was successful at helping start the business in the colony. By 1811 relations with the US were becoming severely strained and war seemed just around the corner. The British decided to send Provost to Canada as Governor where his military abilities and skills could best be utilized if war did break out.

War did break out the next year and under Provost and some of his brilliant generals such as Sir Isaac Brock he managed to pre-empt American attacks and defend the frontier against all US attempts to invade and conquer the British Colonies in North America. He was successful on almost every front with the only real setback occurring at Plattsburgh Bay on Lake Champlain where the British Naval forces were defeated by the Americans. His enemies however managed to convince British authorities that he had been irresponsible during that engagement and he was recalled at the end of the War of 1812. The politics of this issue dominated the rest of his life and he passed away on January 12, 1816 before he had the opportunity to clear his name.

 


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Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html