GOREHAM (Gorham), JOSEPH, army officer and officer-holder; b. 29 May 1725 in Barnstable, Massachusetts, sixth son of Shobal (Shubael) Gorham and Mary Thacter and brother of John Gorham*; m. 29 Dec. 1764 Anne Spry at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and they had six children; m. secondly in 1787 Elizabeth Hunter; d. 20 July 1790 at Calais, France.
Unlike his brother, Joseph Goreham entered military service at an early age. In 1744, just after he left school, he was appointed lieutenant in his brother’s company of rangers, which was sent to reinforce the garrison of Annapolis Royal (ICS.) against French attacks. When his brother left for Boston later that year, Joseph assumed temporary command of the company. By 1752 he had been promoted captain and commanded his own company, the only one on the Nova Scotia establishment.
The rangers were used to protect the nascent British settlements such as Lunenburg against Indian raids until the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, when they became increasingly involved in major military operations because of their skill in irregular warfare. In July 1757, for example, Goreham and some of his men were dispatched to reconnoitre Louisbourg for Lord Loudoun’s expedition, and a year later, they served under Amherst at the successful siege of the fortress. In 1759 the company formed part of the expedition against Quebec commanded by Wolfe*, and like the other rangers they were used by the general in his campaign of terror against the Canadian settlements. On 9 August Goreham and his men levelled the village of Baie-Saint-Paul in retaliation for attacks on British shipping by the inhabitants, and followed up by burning the hamlets of La Malbaie and Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière). In September the company was included in Major George Scott*’s force which destroyed the settlements from Kamouraska to Quebec.
In August 1760 Goreham was promoted major in the British army, and the next September he succeeded in having his company taken on the regular establishment, probably because of his good relations with former commanders such as Amherst and George Townshend*. No other ranger unit was so honoured. In 1762, after garrison duty at several places, Goreham’s Rangers sailed to Havana, Cuba, and participated in the siege of that city. Like the rest of the British force, the unit was decimated by sickness; Goreham records that he himself was twice “given over” by the surgeons. The following year some rangers accompanied Captain James Dalyell’s relief column to Detroit [see Henry Gladwin].
With the disbanding of his unit after the peace in 1763 Goreham returned to Nova Scotia, probably that year. During the next few years he was granted a considerable amount of land in the province, including over 20,000 acres on the Petitcodiac River (N.B.). During his regular trips to England he actively used his connections to seek official positions, and in 1764 he was recommended to Governor Montagu Wilmot* for appointment as lieutenant governor. When he eventually arrived back in Halifax, however, he found to his chagrin that Wilmot had already chosen Michael Francklin. Goreham then again went to England and petitioned for “appointments . . . adequate to the Salary of the Lieutenant Governor” as compensation for his disappointment. He was rewarded with an appointment to the Council, the position of deputy agent for Indian affairs in the province, and the award of the fuel contract for the troops in Nova Scotia, but he did not return to Halifax until late in 1766. Goreham attended Council meetings infrequently but was genuinely interested in the welfare of the Indians; his overspending, however, was criticized by Guy Johnson and other officials of the Indian department.
Despite these appointments, Goreham’s financial position grew steadily worse. His numerous journeys in search of preferment had caused him to amass large debts, and even after selling most of his property except his land grants, which he mortgaged, he remained considerably in arrears. In September 1768 he suffered “a very considerable loss of revenue” from the fuel contract when the Halifax garrison was withdrawn to Boston, and the following year a change in Indian department organization caused his dismissal as deputy agent. He regained the post on the personal appeal of Lord Hillsborough, secretary of state for the American Colonies, to Sir William Johnson, and in the course of another English visit in 1770 was given the position of lieutenant governor of Placentia, Newfoundland, as well. The salary of the latter appointment proved to be less than he had expected, however, and although he was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1772 he was not given rank in a regiment as he had hoped. Moreover, that year he was finally dismissed as deputy agent, and he incurred more debts by continuing to draw the salary after his dismissal. Worse followed. By 1774 the time limit for the settlement conditions on his grants had nearly expired with only a few settlers located; in order to stave off the ruin the escheat of these lands would have caused, he appealed to Lord Dartmouth, secretary of state for the American Colonies, and secured a ten-year extension on the settlement grants. The drinking problem which was attributed to him at this time may have contributed to his financial woes.
Under such circumstances, Goreham was probably thankful to be able to enter active military service again. In 1774, with rebellion impending in the southern colonies, he submitted a plan for raising a corps of “His Majesty’s Loyal North American subjects”; it was quickly approved. By June 1775 officers were recruiting in Boston, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland for the Royal Fencible Americans, as the unit was named. Although Goreham hoped to recruit mainly from New England, he gathered only a few rebel deserters, and in Nova Scotia his officers competed with those of Lieutenant-Colonel Allan Maclean and Governor Francis Legge, who were also raising provincial regiments. Forced to turn to Newfoundland, he still had only 190 men at Halifax in December.
The following May most of the regiment was ordered to garrison Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.) on the Chignecto Isthmus. In early November a motley rebel force under Jonathan Eddy* appeared in the region and, after capturing an outpost, laid siege to the fort itself. Fortunately for Goreham, Eddy’s attacks were poorly handled, and the garrison easily repulsed them with minimal casualties to both sides. Goreham was cautious in defence, preferring to await reinforcements rather than have his half-trained and ill-equipped men attack an enemy believed to be much superior in numbers. British troops arrived from Windsor on the 27th and cooperated with the garrison to rout the rebels two days later, thus ending the only concrete military threat to Nova Scotia of the American revolution. In the aftermath, Goreham tried to ease tension by pardoning the local inhabitants who he felt had been forced to join Eddy. Several of his own officers and the loyal settlers sharply disagreed with his decision, and Major Thomas Batt even attempted, unsuccessfully, to have Goreham dismissed for neglect of duty, but Goreham’s policy was probably correct.
In 1780 the Fort Cumberland garrison was transferred to Halifax, remaining there until the regiment was disbanded in October 1783. Goreham was promoted colonel in 1782 and was absent much of 1783 in England, presumably soliciting appointments to ease his financial difficulties. He appears to have lived a good deal in France thereafter, possibly to evade his creditors. Three months before his death Goreham was promoted major-general, one of the few native Americans and the only ranger officer to attain that rank. Goreham’s career bears some resemblance to that of Robert Rogers, another ranger officer. Like Rogers, Goreham had a successful military career in the Seven Years’ War, and like Rogers, he was “a veteran of many years in eighteenth-century patronage technique.” But despite the financial problems both he and Rogers were prey to, Goreham ended his career on a more favourable note, and if he never really surmounted his financial difficulties, at least the outward trappings of success must have provided some consolation.
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Cite This Article
David A. Charters and Stuart R. J. Sutherland, “GOREHAM, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/goreham_joseph_4E.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:||David A. Charters and Stuart R. J. Sutherland|
|Title of Article:||GOREHAM, JOSEPH|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1979|
|Year of revision:||1979|
|Access Date:||June 4, 2023|