Major Generals, Part 2

Of course, the biggest question is always - where do we go next?  After listing the major generals in the Revolutionary War in Part 1, I thought I would try to pick the generals who met each other in battle.  So, that led me to General John Burgoyne on the British side and General Horatio Gates on the side of the Patriots.

Horatio Gates (1727/28-1806)

Horatio Gates was born in Maldon, Essex, England.  His parents were reported to be the butler and housekeeper for the Duke of Leeds.  Of course some reports claim this not to be true, but no other evidence is given as to his parentage.  At the age of 22, he joined the British Army.  Her served in Nova Scotia in an attempt to assist Cornwallis.  It was during this campaign that he became a major in 1750.

While he fought with General Braddock, he became badly injured.  Not to be put aside, Gates was an ambitious man and he fought in the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years War).  In 1760, he became a brigade-major while fighting under Monckton at Fort Pitt.

Once the Seven Years War was over, he purchased an estate in Virginia and retired to a quiet life as a planter, husband, and father.

In 1775, the Continental Congress made him a Brigadier General,

Battle of Saratoga:  He was stationed in Boston, but after helping to evacuate the city, Gates got into a disagreement with General Schuyler over the command of the Northern Department.  Unfortunately, Congress sided with Schuyler.  At Ticonderoga, Gates took command of Schuyler's battered troops and ended up winning a victory.  He forced Burgoyne to surrender at the Second Battle of Saratoga.  While there, he argued with Benedict Arnold about the tact they should take next.  Arnold left camp with his men, charged against Burgoyne, and ended up winning the battle for Gates.

On July 17, 1777 he was made First Adjunct General of the Continental Army.  When Gates was made president of the Board of War, he started competing with George Washington for commander-in-chief.  He felt that since he won at Saratoga and Washington had lost at New York and Philadelphia, he should replace him as Commander-in-Chief. His appeal to Congress failed and he was not given the command.

In November of 1778, he resigned from the Board of War, deciding he wanted to remain as a field general  instead. He was appointed Commander of the Eastern Department.  He returned to his estate in Virginia.

In early 1780, he was given command of the Southern Department.  On August 16th, he took a troop of untrained militia men, who were clearly not ready for battle, and marched against General Cornwallis.  He was defeated at Camden, South Carolina (one of the worst defeats for the patriots during the war).  His own son was killed at this battle.  When he learned of his son's death, he also learned he was  being replaced as the commander of the Southern Department by Greene.  Disgraced, he returned to his home.

In 1784, he finally retired from all active service.  He lived remarried and moved to an estate in New York.  He was very active in New York society for the remainder of his life.  Before he died, he freed all of his slaves (urged by John Adams).  On April 10, 1806, he died suddenly.

John Burgoyne (1722-1792):

Now, let's take a look at his adversary at Saratoga - General John Burgoyne (also know as Gentleman Johnny). He was born in Sutton, Bedfordshire, England.  At the age of 10, he attended Westminster School where he met several men he would work with later in life as officers.

In 1737, he purchased a commission in the Horse Guards - the British cavalry.  Of course, his first commission led him to London, where his duties were light.  While in London, he cut a striking figure, wearing dashing uniforms and gambling heavily.  This is where he garnered his nickname - Gentleman Johnny.  Unfortunately, in 1741 because of his heavy gambling debts, he was forced to sell his commission to pay off these debts.

During the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War), he bought another commission in the 11th Dragoons.  In 1758, he became a captain and then a lieutenant colonel.  He helped pioneer the division in the British army known as the light cavalry.

He saw duty during the Portugal invasion.  He distinguished himself greatly and became a brigadier general.

What of the American Revolution?  What was his part?  He was promoted to Major General when he first arrived in Boston in 1775.  He departed American soil, not long after the shots at Lexington and Concord.  When he returned to the Americas in 1776, he went to Quebec with reinforcements where he helped repulse the Continental Army.  Once more he returned to London.

When he returned to the Americas again in 1777, he was supposed to assist General Howe.  Of course, he felt he had a better plan.  He was overconfident and began his trek toward New York.  He was warned  his plan would not succeed, but he did not heed their warnings.  He was sure General Howe and Clinton would meet him, bringing him support.  Unfortunately for Burgoyne, Howe never got word to join him and Clinton was late in getting started.

Burgoyne was also told incorrectly that the American Indians and the American Loyalists would assist him along the way.  None of this proved to be true.  He managed to capture Fort Ticonderoga, but as he pushed on, he was surrounded by General Horatio Gates.

On October 17, 1777, he was forced to surrender all 5,800 troops to Gates.  He did not want an unconditional surrender, but had no choice as the Congress refused to allow Gates to just walk away with his troops.  All were captured and held prisoner except Burgoyne who was forced to return to London in disgrace.

As the years passed, he was given back his command in Ireland and he served in the House of Commons where he was an advocate against the war.  He died in 1792.

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