Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

John Graves Simcoe
Chapter XII - After Upper Canada

NO sooner had Simcoe arrived in London in November, 1796, than he was ordered to Santo Domingo. With but a few weeks rest, and suffering always from ill-health, he sailed for the scene of his new duties, where he arrived in March, 1797. The island was in a state of insurrection and the task that confronted him was the pacification of a horde of blacks who had all the advantage of fighting on their own ground and in a climate that was in itself death to the foreigner. The circumstances were most desperate. With his accustomed thoroughness, Simcoe endeavoured to discover the true reasons for the state of affairs, and he began to carry out reforms that had a beneficial effect if they did not form the basis for final success. To quote from Ramsford's "History of Hayti": "He compelled a surrender of all private leases obtained of the vacated property of French absentees to the public use, and he reformed the Colonial Corps." His military operations were also frequently successful, but no person in his state of health could long withstand the strain of such a war and the adverse conditions of the climate. He was compelled to ask for leave on account of sickness, and he left the island on September 27th, 1797. The rumour gained currency in London that he had abandoned the government without proper authority. A clerical error in substituting the name of Sir Ralph Abercromby in the order granting the leave had given rise to this unpleasantness. But the matter was satisfactorily settled, and on October 3rd, 1798, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and called to the colonelcy of the 22nd Foot.

For the next year or two he remained at Wolford Lodge endeavouring to regain his health after the years of arduous life since 1791, in the widely differing climates of Upper Canada and Santo Domingo. In 1800 and 1801 he commanded at Plymouth, an important post in those years when the invasion from France was expected. But that danger passed, and tired of the inactive life and garrison duty, Simcoe resigned and applied to be sent on foreign service. Pie was thereupon appointed commander-in-chief in India as successor to Lord Lake, but before his departure for the East he was assigned an important diplomatic mission with Lord St. Vincent and the Earl of Roslyn.

The reasons for the expedition are thus given by Lord Brougham, who was secretary to the commission: "Early in August, 1806. the English government had received intelligence of the intention of France to invade Portugal with an army of 30.000 men then assembled at Bayonne. From perfectly reliable information it was believed that it was the object and intention of Bonaparte to dethrone the royal family and to partition Portugal, alloting one part to Spain and the other to the Prince of Peace or to the Queen of Etruria. The ministers thereupon resolved to send an army to the Tagus, to be there met by a competent naval force, the whole to be intrusted to the command of Lord St. Vincent and Lieutenant-General Simcoe, with full powers, conjointly with Lord Roslyn, to negotiate with the court of Lisbon."

During the voyage Simcoe was able to discuss daily with his colleagues the subject of their mission, but shortly after the arrival at Lisbon he was compelled to leave for England by his continued illness that alarmed both himself and his physicians. In one of the swiftest ships of the squadron he sailed for home, unable longer to sustain his part in the negotiations. Mrs. Simcoe had gone to London to make preparations for their departure for India, and in the midst of them, when her mind was engaged with plans for the future, looking forward to the larger life which the new command would bring, she received the news of her husband's death. He had reached Torbay on October 20th, 1806, in the Illustrious, man-of-war. Suffering acutely, and hardly able to undergo the last miles of his journey, he was taken up the River Exe to Tops-ham <n a sloop prepared for his need, and thence by carriage to Exeter. There, on Sunday, October 26th, in the house of Archdeacon Moore, under the shadow of Exeter Cathedral, he passed away. On November 4tli, he was buried at Wolford Lodge in the domestic chapel. The county of Devon erected in the cathedral at Exeter a monument by Flaxman, which commemorates his deeds and his worth in the following inscription:

"Sacred to the memory of Johx Giiaves Simcoe, Lieutenant-General in the Army and Colonel of the 22nd Regiment of Foot, who died on the twenty-sixth day of October, 1806, aged 54. In whose life and character the virtues of the hero, patriot, and Christian were so eminently conspicuous, that it may justly be said he served his king and his country with a zeal exceeded only by his piety towards his God. During the erection of this monument, his eldest son, Francis Gwillim Simcoe, Lieutenant in 27th Foot, born at Wolford Lodge in this county, June 6th, 1791, fell in the breach at the siege of Badajoz, April 6th, 1812, in the 21st year of his age,''

Return to our Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.