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

American Revolution: 1777-1778
While General George Washington continued to send out raids and conduct small operations to harass the British during the Winter of 1777, Maj. General William Howe was content to remain in New York City. Rather than military activities, Howe filled his time with social activities. Finally in June 1777, he began maneuvers in northern New Jersey hoping to draw Washington into exposing himself to attack. When he had no success, he withdrew back to Staten Island, completely evacuating New Jersey by June 30, 1777.

On July 23, General Howe sailed from Staten Island with 15,000 troops. Howe sailed to Chesapeake Bay and landed at Head of Elk, Maryland and began marching northward on August 28, 1777. On September 11, he defeated General Washington at the Battle of Brandywine. On September 16, he began moving north again. Rain prevented another engagement between the two generals at Warren Tavern, Pennsylvania. Howe now outmaneuvered Washington along the Schuylkill River and occupied Philadelphia on September 26, 1777 without a fight. Howe repulsed Washington's attack at the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. Although some minor operations continued in the vicinity, Howe began preparing for quartering at Philadelphia for the winter.

On October 22, 1777, Howe requested that he be relieved. On April 14, 1778, he received word that his resignation had been accepted. On May 18, his officers staged an extravagant festival in Howe's honor. On May 20, Lt. General Henry Clinton assumed the duties of Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America and five days later, Howe sailed for England. Politics now now became the battleground. Maj. General John Burgoyne had arrived in England in May, 1778 on parole following his defeat at Saratoga. William Howe arrived in July and his older brother Admiral Richard Howe arrived in October. These three had been some of the moderate military leaders who had opposed war with the colonies, but accepted command in America.

After the War: 1778-1814
General Burgoyne blamed Howe for his defeat since Burgoyne's plan had counted on the support of another force from New York City. Instead of moving north in support of Burgoyne, Howe had undertaken his own campaign to the south. Finally, after criticism continued to build, Parliament opened an investigation in May 1779. The investigation concluded inconclusively on June 29. Howe refused to join the opposition against the current government.

In 1782, Howe was made Lt. General of the Ordinance. On October 23, 1793, he was promoted to full General. In 1795, he was named Governor of Berwick. In 1799, following the death of his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, he succeeded to the Irish Viscount. In 1803, he resigned his post as General of the Ordinance due to poor health. He died after a long illness on July 12, 1814. At the time of his death he was a privy councilor and governor of Plymouth. He had no children.

2. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution

Topic Last Updated: 11/7/2002

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