General Gordon Drummond

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Sir Gordon Drummond

Birthdate: (82)
Birthplace: QC, Canada
Death: October 10, 1854 (82)
Immediate Family:

Son of Colin Drummond and Katherine Oliphant
Father of Eliza Drummond and Gordon Drummond
Brother of John Drummond 5th of Megginch; Jean Drummond; Elizabeth Bethia Hervey; Robert Drummond 6th of Megginch; Infant Adam and 2 others

Occupation: Soldier
Managed by: Ivor C-D
Last Updated:

About General Gordon Drummond

Sir Gordon Drummond, GCB (27 September 1772 – 10 October 1854) was the first Canadian-born officer to command the military and the civil government of Canada. As Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Drummond distinguished himself on the Niagara front in the War of 1812 and later became Governor-General and Administrator of Canada.

Drummond was born in Quebec in 1772, the son of Colin Drummond, Lower Canada Paymaster and a member of a prominent Scottish family. Educated in Britain as a youth and exposed to the military at an early age because of his father's career, he joined the army as an ensign at age seventeen.

In 1794, he served as a junior lieutenant-colonel in the Netherlands, commanded by the Duke of York. He also saw service in the Mediterranean and the West Indies. In 1805, 33 years old, Drummond had attained the rank of major-general.

War of 1812

He spent three years serving as a regimental chief of staff before being reassigned to Ulster. Late in 1813, Drummond was sent to Upper Canada as lieutenant governor, replacing Francis de Rottenburg, an unpopular officer who was considered over-cautious, nervous about any sort of engagement, and reluctant to send reinforcements to vital areas. Successive lieutenant governors—Rottenburg and his predecessor, Roger Hale Sheaffe—had failed to make an impact in the North American war since the death of the successful Sir Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights. Drummond soon proved himself in Brock's mould: aggressive and willing to take chances, in December Drummond launched a surprise attack which led to the capture of Fort Niagara.

But while Brock was capable of using several means to convince the population to follow and (eventually) idolize him, Drummond ruled to a large extent by intimidation. Traitors or those suspected of aiding the Americans in any way could expect no mercy from the Lieutenant-Governor. Executions were relatively commonplace, and performed publicly. While Brock is once reported to have shed tears while watching a traitor executed by firing squad, Drummond displayed no such feelings. Despite these occasional displays of brutal and sudden punishment, Drummond was typically respectful of the citizenry as a whole, recognizing that their help would be essential in driving the Americans out of Canada.

Drummond, like Brock and Henry Procter, was continually hungry for reinforcements from the governor general, Sir George Prevost, who held relatively large numbers of troops in reserve at Quebec, despite the fact that no enemy had even come close to endangering the capital. Despite a constant lack of manpower and war material, Drummond had all but driven the American forces from the Niagara by the close of the 1813-14 winter campaign. In July 1814, responding to a request from the beleaguered Major-General Phineas Riall, Drummond went with his troops from York to Fort George to take command from Riall and drive back Jacob Brown's invading soldiers. On 25 July, he ordered an immediate attack on the American forces, which were already engaging Riall's troops near Chippawa. In this way, a small skirmish exploded into the bloody and inconclusive Battle of Lundy's Lane, which cost each side over 850 casualties and left the British in possession of the road, although it is uncertain whether the British drove the Americans from the field, or the Americans drove off the British and were simply forced to withdraw by a lack of supplies. The latter is likely the case, based upon evidence compiled by Donald Graves, a Canadian historian employed at the Directorate of History, Department of National Defence Canada (Graves, 1997).

At Lundy's Lane, Drummond suffered a serious wound from a shot to the neck during the battle and Riall was captured by American forces. Nonetheless, Drummond insisted that Lundy's Lane was a total victory for the British, and tried to smash Brown's army into the ground by chasing them to Fort Erie. An attempt to storm the fort on 14 August was a total failure, partially due to the unfortunate explosion of the fort's magazine that wiped out an entire arm of the British attack force. The casualties from the one attack numbered over 900, greater than one-third of the besieging British army. Drummond's nephew, Lieutenant Colonel William Drummond, was killed during the attack.

Drummond told Prevost that the defeat was entirely due to the disgraceful conduct of his men. However, some of his senior officers (such as Lieutenant Colonel Drummond and Colonel Hercules Scott of the 103rd Regiment, also killed in the failed storming attempt) criticised him for poor generalship at Lundy's Lane, and believed that his plan of attack at Fort Erie was risky and too complicated.

Drummond was forced by the capture of Riall and injury or illness of several of his other senior officers to superintend every detail of the operations against Fort Erie in addition to his other duties as Lieutenant Governor. In September, when shortage of supplies and exposure to bad weather made it already inevitable that the siege would fail, Drummond was taken by surprise by an American sortie from the fortress, which destroyed two out of the three siege batteries and inflicted heavy casualties. As a result, Drummond was forced to abandon the siege of Fort Erie and declare the operation a total failure.

He regained some face from his defeat when in November that same year the Americans, suffering severe food shortages, withdrew from Fort Erie and allowed what remained of Drummond's army to secure the frontier. However, the summer of 1814 was Drummond's last major military campaign. The arrival of the Duke of Wellington's veterans after the first defeat of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte allowed the British to launch an ultimately unsuccessful offensive into the United States during the summer and autumn months of 1814, but it was Prevost, de Rottenburg, and some of Wellington's officers that led that attack as Wellington remained behind in England.

In early 1815, following the ending of all hostilities, Drummond remained as Lieutenant-Governor, and when Prevost was recalled to Britain, he took over as Governor-General and Administrator of Canada. Aside from helping establish the peace laid down by the Treaty of Ghent, his post-war career in Canada as a civil administrator was unremarkable. In 1816, Drummond returned to Britain, where he was honoured for his contribution to the war with a knighthood and a promotion to full general. Despite his knighthood and promotion, he never saw action in battle again.

Gordon Drummond died on 10 October 1854 at his home in England at age 82, as one of the forgotten heroes and leaders from the War of 1812 that had seen Brock and Laura Secord idolized by the Canadians, while the Drummonds, Proctors, and Sheaffes of the war were relegated to obscurity.

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General Gordon Drummond's Timeline

September 27, 1772
QC, Canada
October 10, 1854
Age 82