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Gordon Drummond: A Canadian-born General

For the week of Monday September 23, 2013

On September 27, 1772, Major-General Sir Gordon Drummond was born in Quebec City. He was the first Canadian-born officer to command the military and the civil government of British North America (present-day Canada). Drummond distinguished himself in the defence of Canada during the War of 1812.

An unfinished portrait of Sir Gordon Drummond
© Library and Archives Canada / Acc. No. 1997-180-1
Drummond received his education at Westminster School in England before he entered the British army in 1789. He served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Netherlands in 1794, and then in the Mediterranean and West Indies. In 1805 he achieved the rank of major-general at the age of 33. Drummond was sent to Upper Canada as administrator of the province in 1813, and there he replaced, Francis de Rottenburg, who was considered unpopular and over-cautious. Since the death of Sir Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812, previous administrators had failed to make an impact. Drummond would turn things around!

In December 1813, Drummond launched an offensive that forced the Americans out of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) and successfully captured Fort Niagara under the cover of darkness. In doing so he drove American forces out of the Niagara peninsula, carrying the conflict into American territory. On July 25, 1814, Drummond ordered an immediate attack on the American forces which had invaded the Niagara Peninsula near Chippawa. An initially small skirmish exploded into the Battle of Lundy’s Lane – the bloodiest battle fought on Canadian soil during the war. The action cost each side over 850 casualties and left the British in possession of the lane.

Drummond was knighted in 1815 and was named Administrator of Lower Canada, a post he held until 1816 when ill health forced him to return to England. Major-General Sir Gordon Drummond was named a person of historical significance in 1928 for his role as an instrumental figure of the War of 1812.

This year is the second of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories on the war, read Midnight Assault at Fort Niagara, The Battle of Lundy's Lane, A Decisive Victory at Stoney Creek!, Birth of Sir Isaac Brock and Shot through the heart in the This Week in History archives. Commemorative events will take place all over Canada! For more information on the War of 1812, visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website.

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