The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

British General William Howe
William Howe Born: August 10, 1729; England
Died: July 12, 1814; Plymouth, England

Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America: 1775-1778

Battles: Bunker Hill

Early Life: 1729-1774
William Howe was born in England on August 10, 1729. His grandmother had been the mistress of King George I, which made him and his two brothers George III's illegitimate uncles. He was educated at Eton. On September 18, 1746, he became a cornet in Cumberland's Light Dragoons. He was promoted to Lieutenant the following year. On January 2, 1750, he joined the 20th Foot and was promoted to Captain on June 1st. It was during this time that he became friends with James Wolfe, who was then Major of the regiment.

On January 4, 1756, Howe became Major of the newly raised 60th Regiment, which was redesignated the 58th Foot the following year. He commanded the unit as part of Maj. General Jeffery Amherst's operation against Louisburg in July 1758. He commanded the light infantry under Maj. General James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham at the Battle of Quebec, Canada on September 13, 1759. On December 17, 1759, he was commissioned Lt. Colonel. He then spent the winter in defense of Quebec. He again commanded a unit at Amherst's capture of Montreal in 1760. He commanded a brigade at the siege of Belle Isle in 1761. In 1762, he was the adjutant general of the army that capture Havana, Cuba.

Following his oldest brother George's death in 1758, he had served in Parliament and would hold that office until 1780. In 1764, he became Colonel of the 46th Foot in Ireland. He became Governor of the Isle of Wight in 1768. In 1772, he was promoted to Major General. In 1774, he took over training of Light Infantry companies, where he took notice of Captain Patrick Ferguson. As tensions rose concerning the American colonies, he and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, were sympathetic to the colonists.

American Revolution: 1775-April 1776
On February 21, 1775, Howe received orders for assignment to America. He arrived in Boston on May 25, 1775 onboard the Cerberus along with fellow Major Generals John Burgoyne and Henry Clinton. It was his proposal of a frontal assault that Lt. General Thomas Gage adopted. Howe was given field command of the operation. After waiting for high tide to make a suitable landing, Howe led his troops up Breed's Hill against the American fortifications on June 17, 1775.

The Americans drove them back not once but twice. However, Howe would not be denied. He ordered his men to drop their packs and led a third charge up the hill. The Americans were now running low on ammunition and the British finally overran the position. The victory had come at a high cost with a nearly forty percent casualty rate, including several of Howe's officers, but the general had acquitted himself well, personally leading the advances.

On October 10, 1775, Howe replaced General Gage as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America during what was to be a "temporary" absence by Gage. Howe was also given the local rank of full General. After the Continental Army Commander-in-Chief General George Washington secured Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbon and then mounted artillery, Howe ordered an evacuation of forces to Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 17, 1776. In April 1776, Howe was formally appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in the 13 Colonies, while Maj. General Guy Carleton was named Commander-in-Chief in Canada.

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