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William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe,
KB
KB
, PC (10 August 172912 July 1814) was a
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' us ...
officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British land forces in the Colonies during the
American War of Independence The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initiated by delegates from thirteen American colonies of British America British America comprised the colon ...
. Howe was one of three brothers who had distinguished military careers. In
historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians hav ...

historiography
of the American war he is usually referred to as Sir William Howe to distinguish him from his brother Richard, who was 4th Viscount Howe at that time. Having joined the army in 1746, Howe saw extensive service in the
War of the Austrian Succession The War of the Austrian Succession () was the last Great Power conflict with the House of Bourbon, Bourbon-Habsburg Monarchy, Habsburg dynastic conflict at its heart. It occurred from 1740 to 1748 and marked the rise of Kingdom of Prussia, Prus ...
and
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Kingdom of Great Britain, Great Britain and Kingdom of France, France. In Europe, the conflict ar ...
. He became known for his role in the capture of Quebec in 1759 when he led a British force to capture the cliffs at
Anse-au-Foulon Anse au Foulon is a small cove A cove is a small type of bay or coastal inlet. Coves usually have narrow, restricted entrances, are often circular or oval, and are often situated within a larger bay. Small, narrow, sheltered bays, inlets, creek ( ...
, allowing
James Wolfe James Wolfe (2 January 1727 – 13 September 1759) was a British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the U ...
to land his army and engage the French in the
Battle of the Plains of Abraham The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, also known as the Battle of Quebec (french: Bataille des Plaines d'Abraham, Première bataille de Québec), was a pivotal battle in the Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely cons ...
. Howe also participated in the campaigns to take
Louisbourg Louisbourg is an unincorporated community and former town in Cape Breton Regional Municipality Cape Breton Regional Municipality (often referred to as simply "CBRM") is the Canada, Canadian province of Nova Scotia's second largest municipality ...
, Belle Île and
Havana Havana (; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguati ...
. He was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Wight, a post he held until 1795. Howe was sent to North America in March 1775, arriving in May after the American War of Independence broke out. After leading British troops to a costly victory in the
Battle of Bunker Hill The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston The siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the . militiamen prevented the movement by land of the , which was ed in ...
, Howe took command of all British forces in America from
Thomas Gage General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral ...

Thomas Gage
in September of that year. Howe's record in North America was marked by the successful capture of both
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...
and
Philadelphia Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is ...
. However, poor campaign planning for 1777 contributed to the failure of
John Burgoyne General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral ...

John Burgoyne
's
Saratoga campaign The Saratoga campaign in 1777 was an attempt by the British high command for North America to gain military control of the strategically important Hudson River The Hudson River is a river that flows from north to south primarily through ea ...
, which played a major role in the entry of France into the war. Howe's role in developing those plans and the degree to which he was responsible for British failures that year (despite his personal success at Philadelphia) have both been subjects of contemporary and historic debate. He was
knighted A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In so ...

knighted
after his successes in 1776. He resigned his post as Commander-in-Chief, British land forces in America, in 1777, and the next year returned to England, where he was at times active in the defence of the British Isles. He sat in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
from 1758 to 1780 for
Nottingham Nottingham ( or locally ) is a city status in the United Kingdom, city and Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority area in Nottinghamshire, England. Part of the East Midlands region, it is north of London, south of Sheffield, north ...
. He inherited the Viscountcy of Howe upon the death of his brother
Richard The first or given name Richard originates, via Old French Old French (, , ; French language, Modern French: ) was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. Rather than a unified Dialect#Dialect or lan ...
in 1799. He married, but had no children, and the viscountcy became extinct with his death in 1814.


Early life and career

William Howe was born in England, the third son of
Emanuel Howe, 2nd Viscount Howe Emanuel Scrope Howe, 2nd Viscount Howe (c. 1700 – 29 March 1735) of Langar Hall, Nottinghamshire was a politics of the United Kingdom, British politician and colonial administrator. Life His father was Scrope Howe, a Whig (British political pa ...
and
Charlotte Charlotte ( ) is the most populous city The United Nations uses three definitions for what constitutes a city, as not all cities in all jurisdictions are classified using the same criteria. Cities may be defined as the city proper, cities p ...
, the daughter of Sophia von Kielmansegg, Countess of Leinster and Darlington, an acknowledged illegitimate half-sister of King George I.Alden (1989), p. 222 His mother was a regular in the courts of
George IIGeorge II or 2 may refer to: People * George II of Antioch (seventh century AD) * George II of Armenia (late ninth century) * George II of Abkhazia (916–960) * Patriarch George II of Alexandria (1021–1051) * George II of Georgia (1072–1089) * ...
and
George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on th ...
.Fischer, p. 67 This connection with the crown may have improved the careers of all four sons, but all were also very capable officers. His father was a politician, who served as
Governor of Barbados A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (p ...
where he died in 1735. William's eldest brother, General George Howe, was killed just before the 1758
Battle of Carillon The Battle of Carillon, also known as the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga,#Chartrand, Chartrand (2000), p. 57 was fought on July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War (which was part of the global Seven Years' War). It was fought near Fort Carillon ...
at
Fort Ticonderoga Fort Ticonderoga (), formerly Fort Carillon Fort Carillon, the precursor of Fort Ticonderoga Fort Ticonderoga (), formerly Fort Carillon, is a large 18th-century star fort built by the French at a narrows near the south end of Lake Cha ...

Fort Ticonderoga
. Another brother, Admiral
Richard Howe Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy), Admiral of the Fleet Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe, (8 March 1726 – 5 August 1799) was a Kingdom of Great Britain, British naval officer. After serving throughout the War of the Austrian Succession, he gai ...
, rose to become one of Britain's leading naval commanders. A third brother, Thomas, commanded ships for the
East India Company The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), the English East India Company or (after 1707) the British East India Company, and informally known as John Company, Com ...
, Winchelsea in 1762–64 and Nottingham in 1766, and made observations on
Madeira Madeira ( , , ), officially the Autonomous Region of Madeira ( pt, Região Autónoma da Madeira), is one of the two autonomous Regions of Portugal, autonomous regions of Portugal, the other being the Azores. It is an archipelago situated in t ...

Madeira
and on the
Comoro Islands The Comoro Islands or Comoros The Comoros,; ar, جزر القمر, ' officially the Union of the Comoros,Comorian languages, Comorian: ''Udzima wa Komori,'' french: Union des Comores, ar, الاتحاد القمري ' is an island count ...
. William entered the army when he was 17 by buying a
cornet The cornet (, ) is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished from it by its conical Bore (wind instruments), bore, more compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B, thoug ...
's commission in the Duke of Cumberland's Dragoons in 1746, becoming a lieutenant the following year. He then served for two years in
Flanders Flanders (, ; Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * ...

Flanders
during the
War of the Austrian Succession The War of the Austrian Succession () was the last Great Power conflict with the House of Bourbon, Bourbon-Habsburg Monarchy, Habsburg dynastic conflict at its heart. It occurred from 1740 to 1748 and marked the rise of Kingdom of Prussia, Prus ...
. After the war he was transferred to the , where he became a friend of
James Wolfe James Wolfe (2 January 1727 – 13 September 1759) was a British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the U ...
.Billias, p. 43


Seven Years' War

During the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Kingdom of Great Britain, Great Britain and Kingdom of France, France. In Europe, the conflict ar ...
Howe's service first brought him to America, and did much to raise his reputation. Promoted to the rank of major in 1756, he joined the newly formed
58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot The 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot was a British Army line infantry regiment, raised in 1755. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot to form the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1881. Histor ...
in February 1757, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December of that year.Chichester He commanded the regiment at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758, leading an amphibious landing under heavy enemy fire. This action won the attackers a flanking position and earned Howe a commendation from Wolfe. Howe commanded a
light infantry Light infantry is a designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers (infantry) throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or Weapon, armament or a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infa ...
battalion under General Wolfe during the 1759 Siege of Quebec. He was in the
Battle of Beauport The Battle of Beauport, also known as the Battle of Montmorency, fought on 31 July 1759, was an important confrontation between the British and French Armed Forces The French Armed Forces (french: Forces armées françaises) encompass the Arm ...
, and was chosen by Wolfe to lead the ascent from the
Saint Lawrence River The St. Lawrence River is a large river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its c ...
up to the
Plains of Abraham The Plains of Abraham (french: Plaines d'Abraham) is a historic area within the Battlefields Park in Quebec City Quebec City ( or ; french: Ville de Québec), officially Québec (), is the capital city of the Canadian province The pr ...

Plains of Abraham
that led to the British victory in the
Battle of the Plains of Abraham The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, also known as the Battle of Quebec (french: Bataille des Plaines d'Abraham, Première bataille de Québec), was a pivotal battle in the Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely cons ...
on 13 September 1759. After spending the winter in the defence of Quebec City, his regiment fought in the April 1760
Battle of Sainte-Foy The Battle of Sainte-Foy, sometimes called the Battle of Quebec, was fought on April 28, 1760 near the British-held town of Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=Jul ...

Battle of Sainte-Foy
and subsequent siege of Quebec. He then led a brigade in the decisive
Montreal Campaign The Montreal Campaign, also known as the Fall of Montreal, was a Kingdom of Great Britain, British three-pronged offensive against Montreal which took place from July 2 to 8 September 1760 during the French and Indian War as part of the global Se ...
under
Jeffery Amherst Field marshal (United Kingdom), Field Marshal Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, (29 January 1717 – 3 August 1797) was an officer and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the British Army. Amherst is best known as the architect of Britain's ...
before returning to England. Howe led a brigade in the 1761
Capture of Belle Île The Capture of Belle Île was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overs ...
, off the French coast, and turned down the opportunity to become military governor after its capture so that he might continue in active service.Gruber, p. 56 He served as of the force that captured Havana in 1762, playing a part in a skirmish at Guanabacoa. In 1758, Howe was elected a member of parliament for
Nottingham Nottingham ( or locally ) is a city status in the United Kingdom, city and Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority area in Nottinghamshire, England. Part of the East Midlands region, it is north of London, south of Sheffield, north ...

Nottingham
, succeeding to the seat vacated by his brother George's death. His election was assisted by the influence of his mother, who campaigned on behalf of her son while he was away at war, and may very well have been undertaken because service in Parliament was seen as a common way to improve one's prospects for advancement in the military. In 1764 he was promoted to colonel of the
46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot The 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment A regiment is a military unit. Its role and size varies markedly, depending on the country, military service, service and/or a administrative corps, specialisation. In M ...
, and in 1768 he was appointed lieutenant governor of the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
. As tensions rose between Britain and the colonies in the 1770s, Howe continued to rise through the ranks, and came to be widely regarded as one of the best officers in the army. He was promoted to
major general Major general (abbreviated MG, maj. gen. and similar) is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of a lie ...

major general
in 1772, and in 1774 introduced new training drills for light infantry companies. In Parliament he was generally sympathetic to the American colonies. He publicly opposed the collection of legislation intended to punish the
Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, th ...
known as
Intolerable Acts The Intolerable Acts (passed/Royal assent March 31–June 22, 1774) were punitive laws passed by the British Parliament The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may re ...
, and in 1774 assured his constituents that he would resist active duty against the Americans and asserted that the entire British army could not conquer America. He also let government ministers know privately that he was prepared to serve in America as second in command to
Thomas Gage General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral ...

Thomas Gage
, whom he knew was unpopular in government circles. In early 1775, when called on him to serve, he accepted, claiming publicly that if he did not, he would suffer "the odious name of backwardness to serve my country in distress." He sailed for America in March 1775, accompanied by Major Generals Henry Clinton and
John Burgoyne General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral ...

John Burgoyne
.Ketchum (1999), p. 2 In May 1775 his colonelcy was transferred to the 23rd Fusiliers.


American War of Independence

Howe was first sent to
Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in Massachusetts, most populous city of the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States and 21st List of Unit ...

Boston
. Privately, he did not agree with the policy of the government towards the colonists, and regretted in particular that he was sent to Boston, where the memory of his brother George was still cherished by the inhabitants, and General Gage, in whom he had no confidence, was commander-in-chief. Along with fellow
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' us ...
Generals Clinton and Burgoyne, Howe arrived there aboard on 25 May 1775, having learned en route that war had broken out with the skirmishes at the marches to
Lexington and Concord The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initi ...
in April. The ''Cerberus'' provided naval reinforcement at the
Battle of Bunker Hill The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston The siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the . militiamen prevented the movement by land of the , which was ed in ...
. He led a force of 4,000 troops sent to reinforce the 5,000 troops under General
Thomas Gage General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral ...

Thomas Gage
who were besieged in the city after those battles. Gage, Howe, and Generals Clinton and Burgoyne discussed plans to break the siege. They formulated a plan to seize high ground around Boston and attack the besieging colonial militia forces, setting its execution for 18 June. However, the colonists learned of the plan and fortified the heights of Breed's Hill and nearby
Bunker HillBunker Hill may refer to: Massachusetts, U.S. *Bunker Hill, after which the Battle of Bunker Hill was named, a hill in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, Boston, Charlestown ** Battle of Bunker Hill, a 1775 American Revolutionary War battle fo ...
on the Charlestown peninsula across the
Charles River The Charles River (sometimes called the River Charles or simply the Charles) is an river in eastern Massachusetts. It flows northeast from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Hopkinton to Boston, Massachusetts, Boston along a highly meandering route, t ...
from Boston on the night of 16–17 June, forcing the British leadership to rethink their strategy.


Bunker Hill and Boston

In a war council held early on 17 June, the generals developed a plan calling for a direct assault on the colonial fortification, and Gage gave Howe command of the operation. Despite a sense of urgency (the colonists were still working on the fortifications at the time of the council), the attack, now known as the
Battle of Bunker Hill The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston The siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the . militiamen prevented the movement by land of the , which was ed in ...
, did not begin until that afternoon. With Howe personally leading the right wing of the attack, the first two assaults were firmly repulsed by the colonial defenders. Howe's third assault gained the objective, but the cost of the day's battle was appallingly heavy. The British casualties, more than 1,000 killed or wounded, were the highest of any engagement in the war. Howe described it as a "success ... too dearly bought."Billias, p. 47 Although Howe exhibited courage on the battlefield, his tactics and overwhelming confidence were criticised. One subordinate wrote that Howe's "absurd and destructive confidence" played a role in the number of casualties incurred. Although Howe was not injured in the battle, it had a pronounced effect on his spirit. According to British historian
George Otto Trevelyan Sir George Otto Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet, (20 July 1838 – 17 August 1928) was a British statesman and author. In a ministerial career stretching almost 30 years, he was most notably twice Secretary for Scotland under William Ewart Gladstone and ...
, the battle "exercised a permanent and most potent influence" especially on Howe's behaviour, and that Howe's military skills thereafter "were apt to fail him at the very moment when they were especially wanted." Despite an outward appearance of confidence and popularity with his troops, the "genial six-footer with a face some people described as 'coarse'", privately often exhibited a lack of self-confidence, and in later campaigns became somewhat dependent on his older brother Richard (the admiral in the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
, also on station in the Colonies) for advice and approval. On 11 October 1775, General Gage sailed for England, and Howe took over as Commander-in-Chief of British land forces in America. British military planners in London had, with the outbreak of hostilities, begun planning a massive reinforcement of the troops in North America. Their plans, made with recommendations from Howe, called for the abandonment of Boston and the establishment of bases in New York and
Newport, Rhode Island Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island Rhode Island, also known as Aquidneck Island, is an island in Narragansett Bay in the state of Rhode Island, which is named after the island. The total land area is , which makes it the largest is ...
in an attempt to isolate the rebellion to New England. When orders arrived in November to execute these plans, Howe opted to remain in Boston for the winter and begin the campaign in 1776. As a result, the remainder of the
Siege of Boston The siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was ...
was largely a stalemate. Howe never attempted a major engagement with the
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and was established by a resolution of ...
, which had come under the command of Major General
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American soldier, statesman, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. Natio ...

George Washington
.Billias, p. 48 He did, however, spend a fair amount of time at the gambling tables, and allegedly established a relationship with Elizabeth Lloyd Loring, the wife of Loyalist Joshua Loring, Jr. Loring apparently acquiesced to this arrangement, and was rewarded by Howe with the position of commissary of prisoners. Contemporaries and historians have criticised Howe for both his gambling and the amount of time he supposedly spent with Mrs. Loring, with some going so far as to level accusations that this behaviour interfered with his military activities; historian John Alden does not give these ideas credence. The alleged relationship is also mentioned in '' The Battle of the Kegs'', an American propaganda ballad written by
Francis Hopkinson Francis Hopkinson (September 21,Hopkinson was born on September 21, 1737, according to the then-used Julian calendar (old style). In 1752, however, Great Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar (new style) which moved Hopkinso ...

Francis Hopkinson
. In January 1776 Howe's role as commander in chief was cemented with a promotion to full general in North America.Hadden, p. 375 The siege was broken in March 1776 when Continental Army Colonel
Henry Knox Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806) was an American military officer who was a senior general of the Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was ...

Henry Knox
brought heavy artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston during the winter, and General Washington used them to fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston and its harbour. Howe at first planned an assault on this position, but a snowstorm interfered, and he eventually decided to withdraw from Boston. On 17 March, British troops and Loyalists evacuated the city, and sailed for
Halifax, Nova Scotia Halifax (Miꞌkmaq The Miꞌkmaq (also ''Mi'gmaq'', ''Lnu'', ''Miꞌkmaw'' or ''Miꞌgmaw''; ; ) are a First Nations people of the Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands, Northeastern Woodlands, indigenous to the areas now known as C ...
.


New York campaign

Howe and his troops began to arrive outside and made an uncontested landing on
Staten Island Staten Island () is a borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use o ...

Staten Island
to the west in early July. Howe, whose orders from , the Secretary of State responsible for directing the war from Westminster, were fairly clear that he should avoid conflict before the arrival of reinforcements, then waited until those reinforcements arrived in mid-August, along with the naval commander, his brother Richard.Billias, p. 51 This delay proved to be somewhat costly, since the Americans used this time to improve fortifications on northwestern
Long Island Long Island is a densely populated island in the southeast part of the U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a , each state holds al jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic ...
(at
Brooklyn Heights Brooklyn Heights is a residential neighborhood within the New York City borough (New York City), borough of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is bounded by Old Fulton Street near the Brooklyn Bridge on the north, Cadman Plaza, Cadman Plaza West on the e ...

Brooklyn Heights
along the
East River The East River is a salt water tidal estuary An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the sea or ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary be ...
shoreline) and increased the size of their
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and was established by a resolution of ...
with additional militia. After moving most of his army by amphibious barges across the to southwestern Long Island without opposition, he attacked the American positions on 27 August in what became known as the
Battle of Long Island The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn and the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, was an action of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and ...

Battle of Long Island
. In a well-executed manoeuvre, a large column led by Howe and Clinton passed around the American left flank and through the lightly guarded
Jamaica Pass East New York is a residential neighborhood A neighbourhood (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in Hi ...
far to the east (a ridge of hills running east to west bisected the island, with a series of lower entrances that were all guarded by Continentals except inexplicably to the farthest east at Jamaica), catching the Patriots off-guard and routing the Americans from their forward positions back into the entrenchments on Brooklyn Heights. Despite the urging of Clinton and others, Howe decided against an immediate assault on these fortifications, claiming "the Troops had for that day done handsomely enough." He instead began siege operations, methodically advancing on the entrenched Americans. This decision allowed General Washington to successfully orchestrate a nighttime strategic withdrawal across the
East River The East River is a salt water tidal estuary An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the sea or ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary be ...
on the night of 29–30 August, aided by a thick morning fog. Historian George Bilias notes that had Howe attacked Brooklyn Heights, the capture of even half of Washington's army, and possibly Washington himself, might have had a significant effect on the rebellion.Billias, p. 53 Some officers, notably General Clinton, were critical of Howe's decision not to storm the American works. Howe was
knighted A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In so ...

knighted
as a reward for his victory on Long Island. Howe and his brother Richard had, as part of their instructions, been assigned roles as peace commissioners, with limited authority to treat with the rebels. After Long Island, they pursued an attempt at reconciliation, sending the captured General John Sullivan to Philadelphia with a proposal for a peace conference. The meeting that resulted, conducted by Admiral Howe, was unsuccessful. The Howes had been given limited powers, as had the Congressional representatives, and the latter were insistent that the British recognise the recently declared . This was not within the Howes' powers, so the conference failed, and Howe then continued the campaign. He first on 15 September and occupied New York City (which then covered only Lower Manhattan), although his advance northward on Upper Manhattan was checked the next day . He paused, spending nearly one month consolidating control of New York City and awaiting reinforcements. During this time he ordered the execution of
Nathan Hale Nathan Hale (June 6, 1755 – September 22, 1776) was an American Patriot, soldier and spy for the Continental Army The Continental Army was the army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" emi ...

Nathan Hale
for espionage and had to deal with the effects of a major fire in the city. He then attempted a landing on the mainland at
Throgs Neck Throggs Neck (also known as Throgs Neck) is a neighborhood and peninsula in the south-eastern portion of the borough A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, ...
, intending to flank Washington's position at Harlem Heights. However, the narrow causeway between the beach and the mainland was well-defended, and he ended up withdrawing the troops. He made a successful in
Westchester County Westchester County is located in the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily lo ...
, but Washington managed to avoid being flanked, retreating to White Plains. Howe successfully forced Washington out of the New York area in the 28 October
Battle of White Plains The Battle of White Plains was a battle in the New York and New Jersey campaign The New York and New Jersey campaign was a series of battles in 1776 and the winter months of 1777 for control of the Port of New York and New Jersey, Port of New ...

Battle of White Plains
, and then turned his attention to consolidate British hold on Manhattan. In November he attacked the remaining Continental Army stronghold in the
Battle of Fort Washington The Battle of Fort Washington was fought in New York on November 16, 1776 during the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was ...
, taking several thousand prisoners. file:George Washington, 1776.jpg, upright=0.8,
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American soldier, statesman, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. Natio ...

George Washington
, driven from New York beginning at the Battle of Brooklyn
portrait by Charles Wilson Peale ''1776'' Washington then retreated across New Jersey, followed by Howe's advance forces under Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis. At this point, Howe prepared troops under the command of General Clinton for embarkation to occupy Newport, the other major goal of his plan. Clinton proposed that these troops instead be landed in New Jersey, either opposite Staten Island or on the
Delaware River The Delaware River is a major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its co ...

Delaware River
, trapping Washington or even capturing the seat of the Continental Congress,
Philadelphia Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is ...

Philadelphia
. Howe rejected these proposals, despatching Clinton and General Hugh, Earl Percy, two vocal critics of his leadership, to take Newport. In early December, Howe came to
Trenton, New Jersey Trenton is the capital city, capital city (New Jersey), city of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County, New Jersey, Mercer County.
Trenton, New Jersey
to arrange the disposition of his troops for the winter. Washington had retreated all the way across the Delaware, and Howe returned to New York, believing the campaign to be ended for the season. When Washington on 26 December 1776, Howe sent Cornwallis to reform the army in New Jersey and chase after Washington. Cornwallis was frustrated in this, with Washington gaining a second victory at Trenton and a third at Princeton. Howe recalled the army to positions much closer to New York for the winter. Howe has been criticised by contemporaries and historians for failing to decisively defeat the Continental Army during the New York campaign. Contemporaries complained that his landing in Westchester failed to trap Washington, but failed to understand that his goal in the campaign was to secure Manhattan, and not necessarily to defeat Washington. However, historian George Billias observes that Howe's overly rigid adherence to his plans meant that he was unable to capitalise on the opportunities that arose during the campaign for a decisive action.


Philadelphia campaign

On 30 November 1776, as Washington was retreating across New Jersey, Howe had written to Germain with plans for the 1777 campaign season. He proposed to send a 10,000-man force up the
Hudson River The Hudson River is a river that flows from north to south primarily through eastern New York (state), New York in the United States. It originates in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York and flows southward through the Hudson Valley ...

Hudson River
to capture
Albany, New York Albany ( ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller low ...
, in conjunction with an expedition sent south from
Province of Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...
. He again wrote to Germain on 20 December 1776 with more elaborate proposals for 1777. These again included operations to gain control of the Hudson River, and included expanded operations from the base at Newport, and an expedition to take Philadelphia. The latter Howe saw as attractive, since Washington was then just north of the city: Howe wrote that he was "persuaded the Principal Army should act offensively gainst Philadelphia where the enemy's chief strength lies." Germain acknowledged that this plan was particularly "well digested", but it called for more men that Germain was prepared to provide. After the setbacks in New Jersey, Howe in mid-January 1777 proposed operations against Philadelphia that included an overland expedition and a sea-based attack, thinking this might lead to a decisive victory over the Continental Army. This plan was developed to the extent that in April, Howe's army was seen constructing pontoon bridges; Washington, lodged in his winter quarters at
Morristown, New Jersey Morristown () is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origin and ...
, thought they were for eventual use on the Delaware River. However, by mid-May Howe had apparently abandoned the idea of an overland expedition: "I propose to invade Pennsylvania by sea ... we must probably abandon the Jersies." When the campaign season opened in May 1777, General Washington moved most of his army from its winter quarters in
Morristown, New Jersey Morristown () is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origin and ...
to a strongly fortified position in the
Watchung Mountains The Watchung Mountains (once called the Blue Hills) are a group of three long low ridges of volcano, volcanic origin, between high, lying parallel to each other in northern New Jersey in the United States. The name is derived from the American Na ...
. In June 1777, Howe began a series of odd moves in New Jersey, apparently in an attempt to draw Washington and his army out of that position onto terrain more favourable for a general engagement. His motives for this are uncertain; historian John Buchanan argues that Howe was determined to attempt to draw Washington into a major engagement while both were in northern New Jersey, writing that "Washington's shift in position had whetted Howe's appetite for a major action when, if everything went right, he would finally accomplish what he and his brother's policies had denied him the previous year: the destruction of the Continental Army", but that Howe's underlying campaign goal for the season was Philadelphia. One British major wrote that "[t]he report circulated by those in power is that it was thought necessary to march to Hilsborough to ''offer Washington battle.''"McGuire, p. 39 Americans like
Henry Knox Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806) was an American military officer who was a senior general of the Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was ...

Henry Knox
were perplexed but also concluded that was its purpose: "It was unaccountable that [the British] should stop short when they had gone only nine miles ... In the course of a day or two [we] discovered that they ... had come out with an intention of drawing us into the plain." Washington had intelligence that Howe had moved without taking the heavy river-crossing equipment, and was apparently not fooled at all. When Washington refused to take the bait, Howe withdrew the army to Perth Amboy, under harassment by Colonel Daniel Morgan's skirmisher unit, Morgan's Riflemen, who used their superior weapons to snipe at and harry his forces as they moved. Washington moved down to a more exposed position, assuming Howe was going to embark his army on ships. Howe then launched a lightning strike designed to cut Washington's retreat off. This attempt was foiled by the Battle of Short Hills, which gave Washington time to retreat to a more secure position. Howe then did in fact embark his army and sailed south with his brother's fleet. Howe maintained an effective secrecy surrounding the fleet's destination: not only did Washington not know where it was going, neither did many British rank and file. Howe's campaign for Philadelphia began with an amphibious landing at Head of Elk, Maryland, southwest of the city in late August. Although Howe would have preferred to make a landing on the Delaware River below Philadelphia, reports of well-prepared defences dissuaded him, and the fleet spent almost an entire extra month at sea to reach Head of Elk. Howe's army left Head of Elk early on 3 September 1777 and pushed back an advance guard of American light infantry at Battle of Cooch's Bridge, Cooch's Bridge. On 11 September 1777, Howe's army met Washington's near Chadds Ford along the Brandywine Creek (Christina River), Brandywine Creek in the Battle of Brandywine. Howe established his headquarters at the Gilpin Homestead, where it stayed until the morning of 16 September. ''Note:'' This includes In a reprise of earlier battles, Howe once again flanked the Continental Army position and forced Washington to retreat after inflicting heavy casualties. After two weeks of manoeuvre and engagements (including Battle of the Clouds, The Battle of the Clouds, Battle of Paoli, The Battle of Paoli, and an engagement at Valley Forge where Alexander Hamilton was nearly killed in action), Howe triumphantly entered the city on 26 September. The reception Howe received was not quite what he had expected, however. He had been led to believe that "Friends thicker than Woods" would greet him upon his arrival; he instead was greeted by women, children, and many deserted houses. Despite Howe's best attempts to minimise any misconduct by his troops (he authorised the execution of violators of his orders against it), marauding soldiers greatly impacted the public opinion of his army. One week after Howe entered Philadelphia, on 4 October, Washington made a Battle of Germantown, dawn attack on the British garrison at Germantown. He came close to winning the battle before being repulsed by belated reinforcements sent from the city. This forced Howe to withdraw his troops a little closer to the city, where they were also needed to help clear the American Delaware River defences, which were preventing the navy from resupplying the army. It was late November before this task was accomplished, which included a poorly executed Battle of Red Bank, attack on Fort Mercer by a division of Hessians commanded by Colonel Carl von Donop, von Donop and an advance fleet commanded by Admiral Francis Reynolds-Moreton (Royal Navy officer), Francis Reynolds.


Impact on Burgoyne's campaign

Concomitant with Howe's campaign, General Burgoyne led Saratoga campaign, his expedition south from Montreal to capture Albany. Burgoyne's advance was stopped in the Battles of Saratoga in September and October, and he surrendered his army on 17 October. Burgoyne's surrender, coupled with Howe's near defeat at Germantown, dramatically altered the strategic balance of the conflict. Support for the Continental Congress, suffering from Howe's successful occupation of Philadelphia, was strengthened, and the victory encouraged France to Franco-American alliance, enter the war against Britain. Burgoyne's loss also further weakened the North Ministry, British government of Frederick North, Lord North, Lord North. Burgoyne made his advance under the assumption that he would be met in Albany by Howe or troops sent by Howe. Burgoyne was apparently not aware that Howe's plans had evolved as they had. Although Germain knew what Howe's plans were, whether he communicated them to Burgoyne is unclear. Some sources claim he did while others state that Burgoyne was not notified of the changes until the campaign was well underway.Griffith, p. 369 Whether Germain, Howe and Burgoyne had the same expectations about the degree to which Howe was supposed to support the invasion from Quebec is also unclear. Some historians argue that Howe failed to follow instructions and essentially abandoned Burgoyne's army, while others suggest that Burgoyne failed on his own and then tried to shift the blame to Howe and Clinton. Howe's decision to focus his own activity on an expedition to Philadelphia may have been motivated by competition with General Burgoyne, who was given command of the northern force despite lobbying by Howe for its command to be given to Clinton. John Alden notes the jealousies among the British leaders, saying, "It is likely that [Howe] was as jealous of Burgoyne as Burgoyne was of him and that he was not eager to do anything which might assist his junior up the ladder of military renown." Along the same lines historian Don Higginbotham concludes that in Howe's view, "It [the northern campaign] was Burgoyne's whole show, and consequently he [Howe] wanted little to do with it. With regard to Burgoyne's army, he would do only what was required of him (virtually nothing)." Howe himself wrote to Burgoyne on 17 July that he intended to stay close to Washington: "My intention is for Pennsylvania, where I expect to meet Washington, but if he goes to the northward contrary to my expectations, and you can keep him at bay, be assured I shall soon be after him to relieve you." This suggested that Howe would follow Washington if he went north to assist in the defence of the Hudson. Howe, however, sailed from New York on 23 July. On 30 August, shortly after his arrival at Head of Elk, Howe wrote to Germain that he would be unable to assist Burgoyne, citing a lack of Loyalist support in the Philadelphia area. A small force sent north from New York by General Clinton in early October was also unable to assist Burgoyne.


Resignation

In October 1777 Howe sent his letter of resignation to London, complaining that he had been inadequately supported in that year's campaigns. He was finally notified in April 1778 that his resignation was accepted. A grand party, known as the "Mischianza", was thrown for the departing general on 18 May. Organized by his aides John André and Oliver De Lancey Jr., the party featured a grand parade, fireworks, and dancing until dawn. Washington, aware that the British were planning to evacuate Philadelphia, sent the Marquis de Lafayette out with a small force on the night of the party to determine British movements. This movement was noticed by alert British troops, and Howe ordered a column out to entrap the marquis. In the Battle of Barren Hill, Lafayette escaped the trap with minimal casualties. On 24 May, the day Howe sailed for England, General Clinton took over as Commander-in-Chief, North America, commander-in-chief of British armies in America, and made preparations for an overland march to New York. Howe arrived back in England on 1 July, where he and his brother faced censure for their actions in North America. It is likely that the resignation of both William and his brother Richard was due to their desire to hurry home to vindicate their conduct during the campaign. In 1779 Howe and his brother demanded a parliamentary inquiry into their actions. The inquiry that followed was unable to confirm any charges of impropriety or mismanagement levelled against either of them. Because of the inconclusive nature of the inquiry, attacks continued to be made against Howe in pamphlets and the press, and in 1780 he published a response to accusations levelled by Loyalist Joseph Galloway, who issued a reply that harshly criticized the general's conduct and accused him of deliberately undermining the war effort for the benefit of the anti-war Whig faction in Parliament.


Later life

In 1780, Howe lost in his bid to be re-elected to the House of Commons.Billias, p. 63 In 1782, he was named lieutenant general of the ordnance and appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, Privy Council. His colonelcy was transferred from the 23rd Fusiliers to the 19th Light Dragoons in 1786. He resumed limited active duty in 1789, when Nootka Crisis, a crisis with Spain over territorial claims in northwestern North America threatened to boil over into war. He was placed in command of the forces organized for action against Spain, but the crisis was resolved and Howe did not see further action until 1793, when the French Revolutionary Wars involved Britain. He was promoted to full general in 1793, and commanded Northern Command (United Kingdom), Northern District from 1793 and Eastern Command (United Kingdom), Eastern District from 1795. In 1795, he was appointed governor of Berwick-on-Tweed. When his brother Richard died in 1799 without surviving male issue, Howe inherited the Irish titles and became the 5th Viscount Howe and Baron Clenawly. In 1803, he resigned as lieutenant general of the ordnance, citing poor health. In 1805, he was appointed governor of Plymouth. He died at Twickenham in 1814 after a long illness. Howe had married Frances Connolly, often referred to as Fanny, in 1765. Their marriage was childless. Therefore, his titles died with him. His wife survived him by three years. Both are buried in Twickenham.


Popular culture

Howe appears as an antagonist in the supernatural TV series ''Sleepy Hollow (TV series), Sleepy Hollow'', depicted in flashbacks by Nicholas Guest and described as being notorious for his brilliant tactics and ruthless cruelty. In his historical role as the main British general during the War for Independence, Howe was acquainted with Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) before Crane defected to America; his first major flashback appearance sees him offer Crane a chance to return to Britain if he identifies Washington's spies in the British forces, with Crane feeling guilty that he was briefly tempted by the offer. Howe also plays a key role in the crossover episodes between ''Sleepy Hollow'' and crime drama ''Bones (TV series), Bones''; his body is discovered in a small American church in the present (characters noting that he is recorded as being buried in Twickenham), with his skull being identified as the 'murder weapon' in ''Bones'' episode "The Resurrection in the Remains", and he is resurrected as a zombie-like warrior in the following ''Sleepy Hollow'' episode "Dead Men Tell No Tales", requiring Crane to destroy him with Greek fire. Howe is also featured in "Howe's Masquerade" and "Old Esther Dudley", two of the stories that make up Nathaniel Hawthorne's ''Legends of the Province House'', a quartet of tales that first appeared in 1838–39.


Citations


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * (Paperback: ) * * * 2003 Da Capo reprint, . * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* Gruber, Ira D. ''The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution'' (1974) * O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. ''The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire'' (2014). * Smith, David. ''William Howe and the American War of Independence'' (London: Bloomsbury, 2015) 201 pp. * Smith, David. ''New York 1776: The Continentals' first battle'' (Bloomsbury, 2012). * Smith, David. ''Whispers Across the Atlantick: General William Howe and the American Revolution'' (Bloomsbury, 2017). *


Primary sources

* Howe's 1780 pamphlet defending his conduct in North America * Joseph Galloway's response to Howe's pamphlet


External links

*
General Howe's Orderly book June 30, 1776 – Oct 1776
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