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Commanded British Army during the American Revolution

William Howe - A Klos Family Project



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William Howe
British General

William Howe, soldier, born in England, 10 August, 1729; died in Plymouth, England, 12 July, 1814, commanded the light infantry under Wolfe at the heights of Abraham, near Quebec, in 1759, and in 1775 succeeded General Thomas Gage as commander-in-chief of the British forces in America. He commanded at the battle of Bunker Hill, after the evacuation of Boston retired to Halifax, and in August, 1776, defeated the colonial forces on Long Island. He took possession of New York on 15 September, defeated Washington at White Plains, and captured Fort Washington with its garrison of 2,000 men. 

In July, 1777, he sailed to Chesapeake bay, defeated Washington at Brandywine, 11 September, and on the 26th of this month entered Philadelphia. He repulsed the attack of Washington at Germantown on 4 October, but, instead of breaking up the American camp at Valley Forge, spent the winter of 1777-'8 in Philadelphia with his army, in indolence and pleasure. In May, 1778, he was recalled and superseded by Sir Henry Clinton. His officers, with whom he was personally popular, were indignant at what they termed the injustice of his removal, and gave him on his departure a grand entertainment called the "mischianza." 

On the investigation of his military conduct by parliament in 1779, he was acquitted of blame by Lord Grey, Lord Cornwallis. and other military men. who affirmed that he had done what he could considering the insufficiency of his force. General Howe became lieutenant of ordnance in 1782, colonel of the 19th dragoons, and full general in 1786, was governor of Berwick in 1795, and in 1799, on the death of his brother Richard, succeeded to the Irish viscounty. At the time of his death he was a privy councilor, and governor of Plymouth. Although brave and an adept in military science, Howe was incapable of conducting the operations of a great army, and owed his advancement to his name, and his relationship, by illegitimate descent, to George III. He is described by General Henry Lee as being "the most indolent of mortals, who never took pains to examine the merits or demerits of a cause in which he was engaged." General Howe published a narrative relative to his command in North America (London, 1780).

 

Richard Howe, British naval officer, born in England in 1725; died there, 5 August. 1799, entered the navy at fourteen years of age, and served with distinction against the French from 1745 till 1759. On the death of his brother George in 1758, he succeeded to the family title and estates. At the conclusion of peace between France and England, he served on the admiralty board, was appointed treasurer of the navy in 1765, entered parliament for Dartmouth, and in 1770 was made rear-admiral of the blue, and commanded a fleet in the Mediterranean. In 1776, with the rank of rear-admiral, he sailed for North America as joint commissioner with his brother William for restoring peace with the colonies.

Howe was sincere in his attempts to reconcile the countries, and, as unsuspicious as he was brave, thought that by riding a, bout the country and conversing with the principal inhabitants, he could, by moderation and concession, restore the king's authority. When, after negotiations with Franklin, he discovered the true attitude of the colonists, he declared that he had been deceived in accepting a commission that left him no power but to assist in the subjugation of the colonies by arms. In a second attempt to bring about a reconciliation, after the retreat from Long Island, he used John Sullivan as a go-between to congress, but was forced by the American commissioners that had been appointed to treat with him to acknowledge that his commission, in respect to acts of parliament, was confined to powers of consultation with private individuals.

Howe was then variously employed against the American forces for two years, and in August, 1778, had an indecisive encounter with a superior French fleet under Count d' Estaing, off the coast of Rhode Island, in which both fleets were severely shattered by a storm, Howe then resigned his command to Admiral Byron and returned to England.

In 1782 he was made a peer of Great Britain under the title of Viscount Howe. In the latter part of this year he succeeded in bringing into the harbor at Gibraltar the fleet sent to the relief of General Elliot; and for these and previous services was created Earl and Baron Howe of Langar. In 1793 he was put in command of the channel fleet, in the next year he gained a victory over the French on the western coast of France off Ushant, and received the thanks of the English parliament.

In 1795 he was made admiral of the fleet, and in 1797 a knight of the garter. His last important service was the suppression of a mutiny in the fleet at Spithead in 1797. Lord Howe's swarthy complexion gave him, among the sailors, the sobriquet of "Black Dick." Horace Walpole describes him in parliament, as "silent as a rock except when naval matters were discussed, when he spoke briefly but to the point." A severe criticism of his conduct during the American war was written probably by Lord George Germaine (London, 1779), and he replied to it in a "Narrative of the Transactions of the Fleet" (1780). His "Life," with letters and notes from his journal, was published and edited by Sir John Barrow (London, 1838)

 

 

 


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