th Foot in 1742 and gained promotion to lieutenant in 1745. According to some accounts he befriended the young officer James Wolfe (who would die a glorious death in Quebec) at fought alongside him against the Jacobites at the battle of Culloden but this is not certain. We do know that in 1747 Carleton and his regiment were sent to Flanders during King George’s War where he fought against the French until a peace was negotiated.
st Foot Guards where he was promoted to captain the following year. When the Duke of Richmond was in need of a guide to take him on a tour of the battlegrounds of the last war, Wolfe suggested his friend Carleton and the Duke chose him. Because of this, Carleton gained a powerful and well placed friend and patron who would be of great help to him in the advancement of his career. Carleton was a reasonable and practical man but not without his prejudices. During the French and Indian War his old friend General Wolfe recommended Carleton to serve as his Quarter-Master General but King George II at first refused to allow it as Carleton had previously made some rather unflattering statements about the quality of German soldiers, which the still quite German George II took great offense over. However, others prevailed upon the King to change his mind and Carleton went to America.
During the war Carleton, by then a lieutenant colonel, served with Wolfe in Quebec, keeping the British forces supplied and overseeing the placement of artillery and defensive works in his role as an engineer. He was not directly involved in the famous attack that cost Wolfe his life but won Canada for the British Crown. After returning to Britain, Colonel Carleton was dispatched with a force to capture the French island Belle Î
le off the coast of Brittany. Carleton was wounded in the initial attack and unable to play any subsequent role in the battle, which was nonetheless a British victory. Once he was sufficiently recovered he was promoted to full colonel in 1762 and sent back to the American neighborhood to participate in the British invasion of Cuba. The battles for Havana again secured a decisive British victory but, again, Carleton was wounded while leading an attack on a Spanish outpost. By this time Carleton had made a solid military career for himself, nothing too spectacular but he had shown himself to be a brave and reliable officer. Considering that his accomplishments up to that point had been entirely military with no forays into politics it came as a surprise to some when he was appointed acting Lieutenant Governor and Administrator of Quebec in 1766. The appointment was likely due to the friendships Carleton had formed throughout his career, particularly that with the Duke of Richmond.
Not long after arriving in Canada, Carleton soon clashed with Governor James Murray over government reform issues. Carleton gained the support of the growing merchant class as a man they could work with and who would make common sense decisions. The biggest issue of contention was over officials charging fees for their services which Carleton opposed, preferring a regular salary instead. Nonetheless, when Murray resigned in 1768 Carleton succeeded him as Governor of Quebec and Captain-General of the British forces there. Carleton realized that to succeed in his position, and for British sovereignty over Canada to be secure and lasting, he would have to have the support of the local French elites and clergy. In the past, the British had been rather heavy-handed in their treatment of the French Canadians and the result was a great deal of lingering animosity and many leaving Canada (some of whom settled in south Louisiana). Carleton recommended a new approach, treating the French as partners rather than conquered enemies.
Not long after the war broke out the colonial rebels launched a two-pronged invasion of Canada, one led by Richard Montgomery who had fought alongside Carleton in the British attack on Cuba. Canada had not been well defended to begin with and Carleton had been forced to dispatch two regiments to Boston when that port city was besieged. He was thus in an extremely vulnerable position when the Americans launched their offensive. He tried to make up for the loss by recruiting a French Canadian militia but was less than impressed with the results. They would not join the revolution but Britain was still not so loved that the public would rush to defend the empire. Nonetheless, Carleton made do with what he had. At first things went badly. Montreal fell to the Americans and Carleton himself only barely escaped being captured. However, despite outnumbering their enemies, by the time the Americans arrived at Quebec they were exhausted, hungry and freezing. During a howling snow storm on December 31, 1775 the Americans attacked but Carleton with his motley assortment of British troops and Canadian militia utterly smashed them. Montgomery was killed, Benedict Arnold was badly wounded and hundreds were taken prisoner. It was the first really disastrous defeat for the Americans in the war and ensured that throughout the rest of the conflict Canada would remain firmly in British hands.
The following year General Carleton launched a modest counter-offensive against the Americans, winning the battle of Trois-Rivieres in 1776 and the naval engagement at Valcour Island on Lake Champlain. Some still complained that he displayed a lack of aggression but he was honored with the Order of the Bath for his victories. He was extremely upset when he was passed over for command of the major offensive southward in favor of General John Burgoyne and requested that he be recalled but this was refused. As it happened, General Burgoyne rolled the dice and lost and was forced to surrender after the battle of Saratoga, the victory which encouraged the King of France to recognize the United States and join the war on their side. After General Howe was replaced by Sir Henry Clinton as supreme commander of Crown forces in America the focus of the war shifted to the southern colonies, leaving Carleton with relatively little to do. In 1781, after the disastrous defeat at Yorktown, General Clinton was recalled and Sir Guy Carleton became the last commander-in-chief of the British forces during the war.