Military Wiki
John Gorham
Born (1709-12-12)December 12, 1709
Died December, 1751 (aged 41–42)
Place of birth Yarmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Place of death London, England
Allegiance Massachusetts Bay Colony; England
Service/branch Ranger
Rank captain (of Independent Company in the British army); lieutenant-colonel (in Massachusetts provincial forces)
Commands held Gorham's Rangers 1744-1751, and 7th Massachusetts Provincial Infantry Regiment--second in command (1745), acting commander (1746)

King Georges War

Father Le Loutre's War

Other work representative

John Gorham (Goreham, Gorum) was a New England Ranger and was the first significant British military presence on the frontier of Nova Scotia and Acadia to remain in the region for a substantial period after the Conquest of Acadia (1710). He established the famous "Gorham's Rangers". Gorham was first commissioned captain of a provincial auxiliary company in June 1744, and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the 7th Massachusetts provincial Infantry Regiment in February 1745. Two years later, in 1747, he was commissioned captain of an independent company in the British Army when his unit was adopted into the regular army. He is sometimes confused with his father, Shubael Gorham, a provincial colonel during King George's War. He was the second of five prominent American rangers - John Winslow (in 1740-41), Gorham, his younger brother Joseph Gorham, Benoni Danks, and later Robert Rogers - to earn such commissions in the British Army. (Many others, such as George Washington, were unsuccessful in their attempts to achieve a British rank).[1] John Gorham was active during King Georges War and Father Le Loutre’s War.


The Gorham family had a long history of ranging which began under Benjamin Church. John Gorham I died while fighting alongside Church in the famous Great Swamp Fight. (Gorham, Maine and Gorham, New Hampshire are named for John Gorham I.)[2] John Gorham II also served with Church during the fourth Eastward Expedition into Acadia, which involved the Raid on Chignecto (1696) during King William's War. His son Shubael Gorham was a provincial officer of note during Queen Anne's and King George's War, during the latter he commanded the 7th Massachusetts Provincial Regiment at the Siege of Louisbourg (1745). Finally, John Gorham III, the subject of this article, and his brother Joseph served in Acadia as rangers,[3] as well as in their father's regiment about Louisburg.

Historical context[]

Despite the Conquest of 1710 and the subsequent signing of the Treat of Utrecht in 1713 with France, the British were not able to establish control in Nova Scotia/Acadia for decades. John Gorham and his Rangers arrived in Nova Scotia to move the military and political influence of the British beyond a defensive posture at Annapolis Royal and the fishing village of Canso. Gorham moved the British operation on to the offensive during King Georges War.[4]

King Georges War[]

Siege of Annapolis Royal (1744)[]

During King Georges War, Gorham and his company of Indian rangers from New England were involved in defending Fort Anne from attacks from the French, Acadians, and Mi’kmaq. During the Siege of Annapolis Royal (1744), on 4 October, Gorham and his rangers massacred Mi'kmaq men along with five women and three children that were in two nearby wigwams.[5] Governor Mascarene noted that the New England Rangers way of war was more effective than that practiced by conventional British troops.[6] On another occasion in October, Gorham returned with three scalps and a live native baby.[7]

Governor Shirley wrote in February 1746 that “the great Service which Lieut. Colonel Gorham’s Company of Rangers has been to the Garrison at Annapolis Royal, is a demonstration of the Usefulness of such a Corps.”[8]

The Maliseet and Mi'kmaq sought revenge for the ranger's killing of Mi'kmaq families during the siege. During the Siege of Annapolis Royal (1745), the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet took prisoner the captain of a provincial transport vessel, William Pote, as well as some of Gorham's Rangers, including four Wampanoags from Cape Cod: Jacob Chammock, Philip Will, Caleb Popmonet, and Isaac Peck, as well as Peter Dogamus, a Nauset Indian from Yarmouth, Massachusetts.[9] John Gorham himself was not at Annapolis because he was fighting alongside his father in the Siege of Louisbourg. Among other places, Pote and the Native rangers were taken to the Maliseet village Aukpaque on the Saint John River. While at the village, Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia arrived and, on July 6, 1745, tortured Pote and Chammock as retribution for the killing of family members by members of Gorham's company.[10] On July 10, Pote witnessed another act of revenge when the Mi'kmaq tortured an Indian ranger (possibly Popmonet or Dogamus) at Meductic.[11]

Siege of Louisbourg (1745)[]

Gorham fought alongside his father in the Siege of Louisbourg (1745). His father died just after the siege, apparently from natural causes.

Gorham received a commission to defend Nova Scotia. In 1748 he was in command of Gorham's Independent Company of Rangers. This company had in its ranks many of the Wampanoag people, and was stationed in Nova Scotia.[12] During 1748, Gorham's Rangers continued to be with the British regulars at Annapolis Royal. In the autumn of 1748, Gorham destroyed the Acadian resistance at Minas and then sailed (October 19) over to the Saint John River to end the Acadian and Maliseet resistance.

Father Le Loutre's War[]

Soon after the arrival of Governor Edward Cornwallis, on July 14, 1749, Gorham was appointed to the Nova Scotia Council.[13] In 1749, during Father Le Loutre's War, Gorham built Fort Sackville at present-day Bedford, Nova Scotia.[8] He also participated in the Battle at St. Croix and the Battle at Chignecto.

Frontier warfare was the standard practice of warfare between New England and the Wabanaki Confederacy in Acadia since the beginning of King William's War in 1689.[14] In Acadia and Nova Scotia, both the British and Mi'kmaq forces were engaged in frontier warfare or total war, that is, both sides of the conflict repeatedly killed families. While the British paid the New England Rangers for Mi'kmaq scalps, the French paid the Mi'kmaq for British scalps.[15]

Led by the efforts of Daniel N. Paul, there has been much public attention in the twenty-first century on Gorham's use of frontier warfare, with little regard for the historical context and the Mi'kmaq leaders use of this type of warfare against the British.[16]

Gorham held his position on the Council for two years and then in August 1751 Gorham left Nova Scotia for England. He died in London of smallpox in December 1751.[8]


  • John Gorham Lane, Bedford, Nova Scotia

See also[]


Secondary Sources

  • Brian D. Carroll, ""Savages" in the Service of Empire: Native American Soldiers in Gorham's Rangers, 1744-1762," New England Quarterly (September 2012), pp. 383-429.
  • Faragher, John Mack, A Great and Noble Scheme New York; W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. pp. 110–112 ISBN 0-393-05135-8
  • N.E.S. Griffiths. 2005. Migrant to Acadian, McGill-Queen’s University Press. pp. 206–208
  • John Grenier. (2008). The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia 1710-1760 University of Oklahoma Press
  • George T. Bates, "John Gorham, 1709-1751: An Outline of His Activities in Nova Scotia 1744-1751," Nova Scotia Historical Society Collections 30 (1954):27- 77
  • The first way of war: American war making on the frontier, 1607-1814 By John Grenier, p. 69
  • W.O. Raymond. The old Meductic Fort and the Indian chapel of Saint Jean Baptiste: paper read before the New Brunswick Historical Society (1897)



  1. Grenier, 2005, p. 76. Some historians, other than Grenier, contend this argument about who received these commissions first is not only flawed but irrelevant. Dozens of Americans received commissions from the British army in King George's War and the French and Indian War. For instance, several dozen were commissioned in the 50th and 51st regiments recruited in 1754-55. For instance John Bradstreet, Humphrey Hobbes, Thomas Speakman, and William Lampson were all commissioned in the 50th long before Rogers, and served as rangers, yet Rogers' commission is singled out as exceptional. While amateur ranger scholars are fascinated by this, just why it matters is unclear as Washington was never a ranger commander anyway.
  2. Josiah Pierce. A History of the town of Gorham, Maine. p. 169
  3. The first way of war: American War Making on the Frontier, 1607-1814 By John Grenier, p. 37
  4. Dunn, Brenda. A History of Port-Royal/Annapolis Royal. Nimbus Publishing Ltd, Halifax. 2004.
  5. Ruth Holmes Whitehead. The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Mimcac History. Nimbus. 1991. p. 102-103; Grenier, Far Reaches of Empire. p. 118; Faragher, pp. 219-220
  6. Ruth Whitehead, p. 102
  7. Brenda Dunn, p. 156
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Canadian Dictionary of Biography On Line - John Gorham
  9. Brian Carroll, "Savages in the Service of Empire: Native American Soldiers in Gorham's Rangers, 1744-1762," New England Quarterly 85.3 (Sept. 2012): 401-409.
  10. Raymond, p. 42-43
  11. Raymond, p. 45
  12. The William Pote Journal, p. 75
  13. Akins, Thomas B. History of Halifax. Brook House Press, Dartmouth, 2002.
  14. The first way of war: American war making on the frontier, 1607-1814 Cambridge University Press. 2005.
  15. The regiments of both the French and British militaries were not skilled at frontier warfare, while the Natives and Rangers were. British officers Cornwallis and Amherst both expressed dismay over the tactics of the rangers and the Mi'kmaq (See Grenier, 2008. p.152, Faragher, p. 405).
  16. For an example, see John Gorham Controversy

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