ENGLAND, RICHARD G., army officer and office holder; b. c. 1750 in Lifford, County Clare (Republic of Ireland); m. Anne O’Brien, daughter of James O’Brien of Ennistymon, County Clare, and they had at least one son and one daughter; d. 7 Nov. 1812 in London, England.
Richard G. England first entered the British army on 20 Nov. 1765, when he was commissioned ensign in the 47th Foot; in 1770 he became a captain. The regiment was sent in 1773 to North America, where England served with distinction during the American revolution. He was wounded at Bunker Hill, Mass., in 1775, took part in the relief of Quebec in 1776 [see Richard Montgomery*], and accompanied John Burgoyne*’s expedition in 1777, being taken prisoner in October with the rest of Burgoyne’s force at Saratoga (Schuylerville, N.Y.). Following his release he was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the 24th Foot on 20 Feb. 1783.
The 24th was sent to Canada in 1789, and after three years at Montreal and Quebec it was ordered to garrison Detroit and the western posts, which the British had continued to occupy since the treaty of 1783. England arrived at Detroit in June 1792 and became commandant there. By virtue of his position he assumed the presidency of the land board of the District of Hesse (renamed the Western District in October), chairing all meetings from 29 June 1792 to 12 Dec. 1794, when the board was dissolved. Although the main work of the board, whose members included John Askin and Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Testard Louvigny de Montigny, was simply to adjudicate claims and grant certificates for land, England himself did much to encourage immigration into the area. He had difficult relations with “that infamous fellow,” deputy surveyor Patrick McNiff, whom he believed unsuited for his job and whom on one occasion he criticized for plotting only half the lots the commandant thought should be made available to settlers. England did not neglect his own interest in land; in 1795 he successfully petitioned for 2,000 acres on the Thames River (Ont.).
As commandant of Detroit in the 1790s, England was naturally much involved with the dispute then occurring between the Indians and the Americans over the Ohio valley. He cooperated with Indian Department officials such as Alexander McKee* and Matthew Elliott in their efforts to support the Indians, and took the initiative himself in reassuring the native peoples of British aid. On orders from Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, he built and garrisoned Fort Miamis (Maumee, Ohio) in the spring of 1794 as a further reminder of British presence in the region. Despite the worsening situation, England retained his reputation as a humane and gallant officer. At his own expense he procured the release of more than 50 Americans held prisoner by the Indians, clothed them, and sent them home, earning one grateful captive’s praise as a “gentleman and a man of great humanity.” In the changed situation following the American victory over the Indians at Fallen Timbers (near Waterville, Ohio) in August 1794, England had to deal with disaffection among the inhabitants of the Detroit region. That same year he detained Jean-Antoine Ledru* on suspicion of republican agitation, and both he and Edmund Burke (1753–1820) later accused leading citizens of Detroit of clandestine correspondence with the Americans. When he received word that Detroit was to be relinquished to the Americans, England determined to maintain a British presence in the region. At a site on the Canadian side of the Detroit River he constructed several buildings which later formed the basis for the town of Amherstburg. He sternly suppressed the attempt by some spiteful and resentful soldiers to destroy public and private property before the evacuation of Detroit, which took place without incident on 11 July 1796.
England then proceeded with his family (whom he had brought to Detroit with him) to Quebec where that year they took ship for home. Britain was now at war with France, and a French privateer captured the Englands and took them to France. His wife and family were released but it was some time before he was permitted to join them in London. He saw no more active service, but was appointed colonel of the 5th Foot on 21 Aug. 1801 and lieutenant governor of Plymouth on 9 Aug. 1803, and received promotion to lieutenant-general on 25 Sept. 1803.
Six feet six inches tall and of “large dimensions,” England was described as “a cheerful, open countenanced, masculine soldier.” He was noted for his fondness for good living and his wry sense of humour, and was the subject of jocular anecdotes while at Detroit and elsewhere. Among his other characteristics was his strong attachment to his family. His brother Poole served with him in the 47th, and after being placed on half pay in 1783 settled in Kingston, where in 1797 he was clerk of the peace. England’s son Richard, born at Detroit in 1793, established a reputation in the Crimean War and died a lieutenant-general.
Gentleman’s Magazine, July–December 1812: 500. John Askin papers (Quaife). The later correspondence of George III, ed. Arthur Aspinall (5v., Cambridge, Eng., 1962–70), 3: 199–200. J. A. McClung, Sketches of western adventure . . . (Maysville, Ky., 1832; repr. New York, 1969), 300. Windsor border region (Lajeunesse). G. B. Catlin, The story of Detroit (Detroit, 1923). H. M. Chichester and George Burges-Short, The records and badges of every regiment and corps in the British army (London, 1895). DNB (biog. of Sir Richard England). J. B. M. Frederick, Lineage book of the British army, mounted corps and infantry, 1660–1968 (Cornwallville, N.Y., 1969). Silas Farmer, History of Detroit and Wayne County and early Michigan: a chronological cyclopedia of the past and present (3rd ed., 2v., Detroit, 1890).
© 1983–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
Franklin B. Wickwire, “ENGLAND, RICHARD G,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/england_richard_g_5E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Franklin B. Wickwire|
|Title of Article:||ENGLAND, RICHARD G|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1983|
|Year of revision:||1983|
|Access Date:||May 28, 2023|