British General Charles O'Hara
Early Life: 1740-1778
Charles O'Hara was the illegitimate son of James O'Hara, who was the second
Baron of Tryawley. He was born in 1940 in Lisbon, Portugal to the baron's mistress. Charles was sent to Westminster School which ironically was
where many South Carolina boys of wealthy families were sent. On December 23.
1752 at the age of twelve, he became a cornet in the 3rd Dragoons. He became
a lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment of the Coldstream Foot Guards on January 14,
1756. In 1762, he served under his father in Portugal in the same campaign with
Lee. He also saw duty in Germany. On July 25, 1766, Charles O'Hara was
appointed commandant at Goree, Senegal with the rank of Lt. Colonel-Commandant
of the Africa Corps. A unit made up of British soldiers pardoned in exchange
for accepting life service in Africa. He was also named Captain and Lt. Colonel
of the Coldstream in 1769.
Revolutionary War: 1778-1782
In July 1778, Lt. Colonel O'Hara arived in America and immediately commanded
forces at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Lt.
General Henry Clinton, commander of the British Army in America, gave
him that assignment as the French fleet under Admiral d'Estaing threatened New
York City. Clinton ended up regreting his choice. In October 1780, O'Hara was
promoted to Brigadier General and became commander of Brigade of Guards. He
General Charles Cornwallis' second-in-command and good friend. During
Cornwallis' pursuit of Maj.
General Nathanael Greene to the Dan River, O'Hara distinguished himself
at Cowan's Ford, North Carolina on February 1, 1781. He also led the British
counterattack at the Battle
of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, which led to General Greene
withdrawing from the field of battle.
General O'Hara represented the British at the surrender of Yorktown
on October 19, 1781, when General Cornwallis claimed illness. As the legend
of the surrender goes, he first attempted to French Comte de Rochambeau, who
declined his sword and deferred to General
George Washington. Washington then declined and deferred to Maj.
General Benjamin Lincoln. Lincoln was serving as Washington's second-in-command
and had surrendered to General Clinton at Charleston
in May 1780. O'Hara was exchanged on February 9, 1782 and returned to England
having been promoted to Major General.
After the War: 1782-1802
In 1784, Charles O'Hara fled from England to Italy due to gambling debts. In
1792, he was appointed Lt. Governor of Gibraltar. In 1793, he was promoted to
Lieutenant General. On November 23, 1793, he was captured at Fort Mulgrove in
Toulon, France during operations that gained Napoleon the attention of his superiors.
O'Hara spent two years in prison in Paris. In August 1795, he was exchanged
for Comte de Rochambeau. Later that year he became engaged to Mary Berry, but
the engagement was broken when he was named Governor of Gibralter on December
30, 1795 and she would not leave England. He was promoted to full General in
1798. He died of war wounds on February 25, 1802.
1. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia
of the American Revolution
2. Buchanan, John; The
Road to Guilford Courthouse
Topic Last Updated: 1/17/2002
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