Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Prescott, Robert

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PRESCOTT, ROBERT (1725–1816), general, was born in 1725 in Lancashire, where his family lost their estates owing to their opposition to the revolution of 1688. He was gazetted captain 15th foot, 22 Jan. 1755; major, 95th foot, 22 March 1761; lieutenant-colonel, late 72nd foot, 10 Nov. 1762; brevet-colonel, 29 Aug. 1777, and colonel, 13 Oct. 1780; colonel of the 28th regiment, 6 July 1789; major-general, 19 Oct. 1781; lieutenant-general, 12 Oct. 1793; and general 1 Jan. 1798. He served in the expeditions against Rochefort in 1757, and Louisburg in 1758. He acted as aide-de-camp to General Amherst in 1759, and afterwards joined the army under General James Wolfe. In 1761 he joined the 95th foot, which formed part of the force that was sent under General Robert Monckton [q. v.] to reduce Martinique. During the course of the American war of independence he was present with the 28th regiment at the battle of Long Island, the several engagements in Westchester county, and the storming of Fort Washington in November 1775. He was attached to the expedition against Philadelphia in 1777, and was present at the battle of the Brandywine. In 1778 he was appointed first brigadier-general in the expedition under General James Grant against the French West Indies. On 6 July 1789 he was appointed colonel of the 28th regiment. In October 1793 he was ordered to Barbados to take the command there, and in February 1794 he sailed with the troops to Martinique, where he landed without opposition. He effected the complete reduction of the island and forts, which capitulated on 22 March, and was afterwards appointed civil governor of the island. His judicious management of affairs prevented an uprising of the natives. The military and naval commanders at the time in the West Indies—General Sir Charles (afterwards first Earl) Grey [q. v.] and Admiral Sir John Jervis [q. v.]—were most severe in their treatment of the natives, and Prescott wrote to George III, through Lord Amherst, to expostulate against the harshness of his representatives. The French estimated Prescott's character so highly that, when the storming of Fort Mathilde at Guadaloupe, where Prescott's house was situated, was contemplated, express orders were given that his life was to be spared. After further service in the West Indies his health failed, and he obtained leave to return to England, arriving at Spithead on 10 Feb. 1795.

Prescott was sent out on 10 April 1796 to undertake the office of governor of Canada, in succession to Lord Dorchester, who did not know that he was to be recalled till Prescott arrived to supersede him. During the spring of 1796 Prescott made considerable additions to the fortifications of Quebec. The next year he was appointed, in addition, governor of Nova Scotia, and he remained at the head of the government of that colony, as well as of Canada and New Brunswick, till 1799, when he was recalled, and succeeded by Sir Robert Shore Milnes. The principal event of his administration, during which he was promoted to the rank of full general, was David McLean's attempted insurrection. Prescott, on his return to England in 1799, settled at Rosegreen, near Battle, Sussex, where he died on 21 Dec. 1816. He was buried in the old church at Winchelsea.

[Army Lists; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography; Morgan's Celebrated Canadians.]

B. H. S.