Lord Sackville — Who Was He?

At first glance the city of Bathurst and the town of Sackville would seem to have little in common. However, history reveals that both were named for British politicians; the Earl of Bathurst and Lord Sackville. By coincidence each occupied the same cabinet post — secretary of state for the colonies. In pre-confederation days the assignment of new place names was in the hands of colonial governors, easily explaining why so many New Brunswick communities bear names of governors and other officials drawn from the colonial and foreign offices. The old boy network was clearly at work!

Lord George Sackville, also known as Lord George Germain, was born in 1716 and spent the early part of his life serving in the British army. The Seven Years War, which broke out in 1756, was fought in both North America and Europe. In this conflict, Sackville achieved a fame of sorts at the Battle of Minden, August 1, 1759. Minden is located on the Weiser River in present day Germany. During the battle, despite repeated orders, Sackville refused to send his cavalry regiments into the field. This lack of participation led directly to anindecisive result. A subsequent court-martial pronounced Sackville guilty of disobedience and declared that he was unfit to serve … in any military capacity whatsoever.

Drummed out of the army, he now turned his full attention to politics and was elected to parliament. As events unfolded, it took a duel to help improve his image. When details of the Battle of Minden were published, Lord Sackville’s courage aroused a public debate. Matters came to a head when a fellow MP, George Johnstone, expressed surprise that Sackville should be so concerned about his country’s honour when he had so little regard for his own.

Never one to take adverse comments lightly, Sackville challenged Johnstone to a duel. Soon after, the two men met in London’s Hyde Park. Both first shots went astray; but on the next, Johnstone’s bullet struck the barrel of Sackville’s pistol. According to the rules of engagement the duel was over and Sackville’s courage was considered intact. While the duel may have had some public impact, there can be little doubt that Sackville’s strongest suit was his friends in high places. By the 1770s his political rehabilitation was complete and he entered the cabinet of Prime Minister Lord Frederick North. He died in 1785 secure in the knowledge that a fort in Nova Scotia and a township in what was to become New Brunswick had been named in his honour.

The surname Sackville is actually of Norman French origin and may be traced to Sacqueneville, near Rouen in northern France. However, the first European settlement on the Tantramar predated assignment of the name Sackville in 1772. By the early 1740s Acadians had established three settlements here: Pré des Bourcqs, or Bourgs; Pré des Richards; and Tintamarre; the latter being the French version of Tantramar. Following expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 New Englanders, Yorkshire settlers and Loyalists took their place.