Horatio Gates was low born in England. Somehow he earned the patronage of nobles which gave him a commission in the British Army in 1745. He served in Germany before moving to Canada where he married in 1754. He was part of the doomed expedition of Braddock where he served with Thomas Gage, Charles Lee, and George Washington. He then served in various posts during the French and Indian War. Following the war, he struggled to find a suitable commission until he finally resigned and settled in Virginia in 1772. He soon became involved in the Rebel cause with old friend Charles Lee.
As soon as the war started, Gates volunteered for service. He first served as Adjutant General, but longed for the glories of field command. Soon, he wanted independent command and played politics to replace Maj. General Philip Schuyler as Commander of the Northern Department in August 1777. He immediately began maneuvering against Maj. General John Burgoyne, eventually accepting his surrender on October 17, 1777, shortly after defeating him at the Battle of Saratoga, New York. Using his newfound popularity, his supporters in the Continental Congress created a War Board and installed him as its President in an indirect effort to undermine General George Washington's authority.
Gates arrived in North Carolina on July 25, 1780, and immediately attempted to duplicate his successes in the Saratoga Campaign. Over the recommendations of his officers who were more familiar with the local country, Gates set out on a direct march to Camden, which resulted in a sickened and weak army. He also hadn't anticipated an engagement with Lt. General Charles Cornwallis' main army, but on August 16, he was routed at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, His force's poor performance and his own personal speedy retreat of 180 miles to Hillsborough, North Carolina by August 19, 1780, raised many questions about his conduct.
Gates was replaced by General Washington's choice, Maj. General Nathanael Greene in December 1780. He returned to his home at Traveler's Rest, Virginia to await a formal inquiry. Once there, he learned that his son had died some months earlier. Although he was acquitted of questionable conduct, he never held command again. He was reinstated in 1782 and served out the remainder of the war at Washington's headquarters, where his aides were involved in the Newburgh Conspiracy concerning pay. There was no evidence that Gates himself was involved. Shortly after the war ended, Gates' first wife died. He remarried in 1784 and retired to New York. He and his wife enjoyed high society in New York City on her inheritance until his death in 1806.
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