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Thomas Gage

1721 - 1787

British General

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Thomas Gage
British General

 

GAGE, Thomas, British soldier, born in Firle, Sussex, in 1721 ; died in England, 2 April, 1787. He was the second son of Thomas Gage, Viscount Gage of Castle Island, and Baron Gage of Castlebar. He was appointed major of the 44th regiment in February, 1747, and at the time of Braddock's expedition had risen to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His command was the first to receive the onslaught of the French and Indians at Monongahela, 9 September, 1755. Although himself injured, he rallied the troops to aid in taking Braddock, who was mortally wounded, to a place of safety. His account of the battle, made in a statement to Chalmers for his "Annals," is printed in the "Massachusetts Historical Society Collections," vol. 34.

He accompanied General Abererombie on his Ticonderoga expedition in 1758, as colonel of the 80th regiment of light-infantry. General Amherst, in August, 1759, gave him command of the Ontario department, and as a brigadier-general he participated in the campaign for the conquest of Canada in 1759. On the capitulation of Montreal in September, 1760, he was appointed military governor of the City, and his mild administration of this department contrasted favorably with the severity of Murray's government of the Quebec district. The 22d regiment was assigned to him in June, 1762, and in December, 1763, he succeeded Amherst as commander-in-chief in America, with headquarters at New York. In 1765 he surrendered the stamped paper to the municipality. He directed the affairs of the army until February, 1773, when he sailed for England, leaving General Haldimand in command, that officer coming from the southern, or Florida, department, where he had been in control since 1766. Gate's correspondence with Haldimand during this period is contained in the "Haldimand Collection" in the British museum, copies of which have been made for the Canadian archives, and calendered in the annual report of the archive department.

In a letter to Haldimand from London, 4 April, 1774, Gage writes that he has been ordered to Boston with four regiments, to bring the people to submission and enforce the coercive measures of the government. He arrived in Boston on 13 May, 1774, and on the 17th, having spent four days with Hutchinson at Castle William, was received with ceremony by the council and civil officers, and the proclamation of his commission was signalized by volleys of musketry and cheers of the populace. In a public dinner in Faneuil Hall he proposed "the prosperity of the town of Boston." But the hopes entertained of his acting as an adjuster of the differences between the colonies and the mother country were short-lived.

He came to Boston as the civil, but in reality military, governor of the province. He had some acquaintance with the Bostonians on a visit in 1768, when he came at the request of the king to quell the disturbances in regard to quartering of the British troops. The results of his observations are given in two publications, entitled " Letters to the Ministry from Governor Barnard, General Gage, and Commodore Hood," and "Letters to the Earl of Hillsborough from Governor Barnard, General Gage, and the Council of the Province of Massachusetts Bay" (Boston, 1769). The aspersions on the people of Boston in those letters drew out an "Appeal to the World" by Samuel Adams.

 Immediately upon receiving official notice of their passage, Gage proceeded to put into effect the Boston port bill, and the offensive measures of the regulation act. On 30 June, 1774, he issued a proclamation denouncing the solemn league and covenant as unwarrantable, hostile, and traitorous, and threatening its promoters with arrest. The text of this document is printed in the "Massachusetts Historical Society's Collections," vol. 12. During the summer months of 1774, Gage had his headquarters at Salem, that being, under the port bill, the capital, and the mandamus council being held there. Early in 1775 he sent expeditions to Marshfield Jamaica Plains, and Salem, to seize military stores and disperse the militia. On the night of 18 April a large force departed from Boston, on what Gage intended to be a secret expedition to Concord and Lexington, to get possession of cannon and ammunition belonging to the Provincials, and on the following day took place the memorable conflict between the minutemen and Gage's soldiers, which resulted in the discomfiture of the British. Gage's account of the battle of 19 April is printed in facsimile in the "Memorial History of Boston."

On 12 June he gave vent to his displeasure at the state of affairs in another proclamation, characterizing those in arms as rebels and traitors, but promising pardon to all on submission, excepting Samuel Adams and John Hancock. The Americans fortified Breed's (Bunker) Hill on the night of 16 June, and on the following day Gage sent General Howe with a large force to dislodge them. In spite of contrary advice, Gage determined that the works should be attacked in front. A Tory historian relates that he told his advisers he was going "to take the bull by the horns," and adds: "It is remarkable that the general, during the continuance of his command in America, never once ventured an attack upon American intrenchments; he had fatally experienced the consequences of taking the bull by the horns."

Immediately upon receiving Gage's account of the battle of Bunker Hill, the government ordered his recall, and he sailed for England, 10 October, 1775. A brief review of his services in America, in his own words, is given in "Queries of George Chahners, with the Answers of General Gage, in Relation to Braddock's Expedition, Stamp Act, and Gage's Administration of the Government of Massachusetts Bay," published in the "Massachusetts Historical Society's Collections," vol. 34. His subsequent career was uneventful. In April, 1782, he was appointed colonel of the 17th light dragoons, promoted to the rank of general in November, 1783, and in 1785 was transferred to the 11th dragoons. He married, 8 December 1758, Margaret, daughter of Peter Kemble, president of the council of New Jersey. One of his sons became third Viscount Gage. The following works represent contemporaneous publications relative to his conduct of affairs at the opening of the Revolution: "General Gage's Instructions of 22 February, 1775, to Captain Brown, whom he ordered to take a Sketch of the Roads, etc., from Boston to Worcester" (Boston, 1775; reprinted in the Collections of the Massachusetts historical society, vol. 14); "Narrative of the Excursions and Ravages of the King's Forces, under Command of General Gage, 19 April, 1775" (Worcester, 1775) ; "Lord Chum's Prophecy, an Ode to Lieutenant-General Gage" (London, 1776); "Letters of the Two Commanders-in-Chief, Generals Gage and Washington" (New York, 1775) ; "Detail and Conduct of the American War, under General Gage" (London, 1780).

 

 

 


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