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Sir George Prevost

As governor-in-chief and commander of the British forces in North America during the War of 1812, Sir George Prevost maintained the integrity of Lower and Upper Canada, despite the limited resources at his disposal and the fact that they were scattered over a wide area. He developed a flexible and comprehensive strategy (combining human and materiel resources, legislative and popular support, logistical support, naval forces and diplomacy); in accordance with instructions from his superiors, he successfully carried out his defensive strategy, the main goal of which was to prevent an American conquest, based on an accurate assessment of the issues inherent in the defence of the British North American colonies. During his terms as lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia and governor-in-chief of British North America, he succeeded in obtaining the support essential to raising colonial troops and funding the war effort, owing to his ability to deal with sensitive colonial politicians.

George James Marc Prevost, the son of Augustin Prevost and Nanette Grand, was born on May 19, 1767, in Paramus, New Jersey, where his father was a lieutenant-colonel in the 60th Foot. A French-speaking Swiss Protestant, he studied in England and on the Continent. On May 19, 1789, he married Catherine Anne Phipps, the daughter of James Phipps, then a major in the Royal Corps of Engineers. They had five children. Prevost died in London on January 5, 1816.

When he landed at Quebec on September 14, 1811, Prevost had a 30-year history of service in the British army. On May 3, 1779, at the age of 12, he had been commissioned an ensign in the 60th Foot. Transferred in 1782 to the 47th Foot, he gained the rank of lieutenant and was promoted to captain in July 1783. In October 1784, he transferred to the 25th Foot, which he joined in Gibraltar shortly afterward. He rejoined the 60th on November 18, 1790, with the rank of major. Sent to the West Indies as commander on St Vincent in 1794-95, when Britain was at war with revolutionary France, Prevost was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on August 6, 1794. He was wounded twice on January 20, 1796, and returned to England where he was appointed an inspecting field officer. Raised to the rank of colonel on January 1, 1798, and to brigadier-general on March 8, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of St. Lucia in May of the same year. Forced to return to Britain in 1802 owing to health problems, he was chosen governor of Dominica on September 27, following the resumption of hostilities with France. In 1803, he fought the French to retain possession of Dominica and recapture St. Lucia. He was promoted to major-general on January 1, 1805 and sailed for England in July, where he was placed in command of the Portsmouth district. Created a baronet the following year, he also became a colonel commandant (or honorary colonel) of his regiment.

On January 15, 1808, Prevost was appointed lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia and given the local rank of lieutenant-general on July 4, 1811; he landed at Quebec as administrator on September 14 of the same year and on October 21 was confirmed as governor-in-chief of British North America and commander of the British forces in North America.

From September 1811 to March 1815, lieutenant-general Sir George Prevost was captain general and governor-in-chief of British North America. During this 43-month period, he prepared the colony for war with the United States and successfully defended Lower and Upper Canada from June 1812 to February 1815. Responsible for ensuring the defence of a vast area, the equivalent of the distance between Paris and Moscow, he commanded one of the largest British overseas forces during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.

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Title of the Image:  Sir George Prevost in 1813
Source of the Image: Collections Canada, Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 2908377

Image Titled:  Sir George Prevost in 1813.
Copyright:  Collections Canada, Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 2908377

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