- William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
name = William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
office = Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay
October 11, 1775
March 17, 1776
John Hancock(as Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
August 10, 1729
July 12, 1814
profession = Soldier
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC (
10 August 1729– 12 July 1814) was a British General who was Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American Revolutionary War, one of the three Howe brothers. He was knighted after his successes in 1775 and was henceforth Sir William, inheriting the viscountcy only upon his brother Richard's death in 1799.
Howe's record in the war was marked by the costly assault on Breed's Hill known as the
Battle of Bunker Hilland the successful capture of New York City and Philadelphia - the latter of which would have significant strategic implications.
Early life and career
William was born in England, the third son of
Emanuel Howe, 2nd Viscount Howeand Charlotte, the daughter of Sophia von Kielmansegg, Countess of Leinster and Darlington- a half-sister of King George I. This connection with the crown may have improved the careers of all three sons, but all were also very capable officers. William's eldest brother was General George Howe, who was killed at Ticonderoga in 1758. His next brother was Admiral Richard Howe, who joined him in America during the revolution.
He entered the army when he was seventeen by buying a Cornet's commission in the Duke of Cumberland's Dragoons in 1746. By the next year, he was fighting as a Lieutenant in
Flandersas a part of the War of the Austrian Succession. After this war, he joined the 20th Regiment of Footwhere he became a friend of James Wolfe.
Seven Years' War, Howe's service first brought him to America. His service in this conflict did much to raise his reputation. William commanded a regiment at the siege of Louisbourg and led a successful amphibious landing. This action, carried out under fire, won the attackers a flanking position and earned Howe his commander's praise.
Howe commanded the light infantry under Major General James Wolfe at the Battle of Quebec, Canada on
September 13, 1759. He led a fighting ascent to gain position on the Plains of Abraham, clearing the way for Wolfe's army to assemble before that battle. His actions here earned him the rank of Brigadier General. He earned further fame in the capture of Montrealunder Jeffrey Amherstbefore returning to England. Howe also served in the capture of Belle Isle, off the French coast, in 1761. He was adjutant-general of the force that captured Havanain 1762.
In 1772, Howe was elected a
Member of Parliamentfor Nottingham. This was not unusual, as the election of 1761 sent more than 60 army officers to the British House of Commons. He was generally sympathetic to the American colonies. He opposed the Coercive Acts, and, in 1774, assured his constituents that he would resist active duty against the Americans. But when the time came and King George called in 1775, he sailed for America.
The American Revolutionary War
Major General Howe arrived at
Boston, on May 15, at the head of the 4,000 additional troops sent to General Thomas Gage. Gage's orders were to clear the American Army and break their Siege of Boston. Howe's plan was to take Cambridge, but the Americans fortified the high ground above the town.
Howe planned to crush the American's position by massive assault. He was thus in command at the
Battle of Bunker Hillon June 17, 1775. Personally leading the left wing of the attack, Howe's assault gained the objective, but the cost was appallingly heavy. General Henry Clinton called it "A dear bought victory, another such would have ruined us."
While Howe was not injured in the battle, it had a pronounced effect on his spirit. The daring, aggressive commander, who had served with Wolfe, became the slow moving General who was reluctant to seek direct confrontation. His concept that those in open rebellion were a small minority of Americans who would fold with a display of force was shattered. Howe's report to Lord Germain called for 19,000 additional troops and included the prophecy that "...with a less force....this war may be spun out until England will be heartily sick of it." This "genial six-footer with a face some people described as 'coarse'" [Fleming, Thomas, "Washington's Secret War",(Collins Books, 2005)p.44] in private revealed a marked lack of self-confidence combined, not surprisingly, with a noted dependence on his brother Admiral Lord Howe and the elder Howe's opinions.
=The New York Campaign=
October 10, 1775, he replaced Lieutenant General Thomas Gage as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America when Gage returned to England. He became Sir William when he was knighted in 1775. In April of 1776, the appointment was made permanent, although forces in Canadawere placed under Guy Carleton. He defeated General George Washingtonat the Battle of Long Islandin the summer of 1776. But Howe's refusal to allow his army to follow up their victory with an assault on Washington's lines on Brooklyn Heights allowed the Continental Armyto successfully accomplish a nighttime strategic withdrawal across the East River, aided by thick fog the next morning. Had Howe attacked Brooklyn Heights, as his subordinate General Henry Clinton and others urged him, with his full force of 33,000 men, he may well have captured Washington's entire army and possibly even ended the Revolutionary Warthere and then. His failure to do so is generally considered to be the greatest missed opportunity of the War. In September 1776, he ordered the execution of Nathan Halefor espionage.
=The Philadelphia Campaign=
30 November 1776, Howe wrote George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville, Secretary of State for America, that he would send a 10,000 man force up the Hudson Riverto capture Albany, New York. Howe later changed his mind and informed Germain that the Albany Expedition would be postponed until after Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniawas secured. Germain received this letter on 23 February 1777. [Jeremy Black, "War for America", p. 127.]
Howe's campaign began at
Head of the Elk Maryland, southwest of Philadelphia. On September 11, 1777, Washington attempted to stop the British movement near Chadds Fordalong the Brandywine Creek in the Battle of Brandywine. Howe defeated Washington, and after several weeks of maneuver, Howe entered the city.
Consequences of the Philadelphia Campaign
Concommittant with the Philadelphia Campaign, General
John Burgoyneled an expedition - the Saratoga Campaignsouth from Montrealto capture Albany and join the cancelled New York-Albany expedition. Burgoyne's campaign had been approved 28 February, 1777, after Germaine had been notified that Howe was not moving up the Hudson to Albany. Whether Germain told Burgoyne about Howe's revised plans is unclear; presumably he did. [Ketchum, p. 84.] Whether Germain, Howe, and Burgoyne had the same expectations about the degree to which Howe was supposed to support the invasion from Canada is also unclear. Some have argued that Howe failed to follow instructions and essentially abandoned Burgoyne's Army; others suggest that Burgoyne failed on his own and then tried to shift the blame to Howe and Clinton. [Mark M. Boatner, "Encyclopedia of the American Revolution", pp. 134–35.]
Regardless of which claim is true, the defeat and surrender of Burgoyne's expedition at
Saratoga, New Yorkdramatically altered the strategic balance of the conflict. Support for the Continental Congress, suffering from Howe's successful occupation of Philadelphia, was strengthened and the victory encouraged Franceto enter the war against Britain. Spainand the Netherlandssoon did the same. The loss also further weakened the current British government under Lord North.
After the "revolution
Howe resigned in 1778, and, on
May 20, Sir Henry Clinton took over as commander-in-chief of British armies in America. (See also Commander-in-Chief, North America)
Howe returned to England. In 1782, he was sworn a Privy Counsellor. When his brother, Richard, died in 1799 without surviving male issue, he inherited the Irish title and became the 5th Viscount Howe. In 1814, he was governor of
Plymouthwhere he died. He is buried at Holly Road, Garden of Rest in Twickenham, England. Since he died without surviving male issue, and having no further living brothers, the Viscountcy died with him.
* George Athan Billias. "George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership" (1994), chapter on Howe
* Bowler, Arthur R. "Logistics and the Failure of the British Army in America: 1775-1783." Princeton U. Press, 1975. 290 pp.
* Gruber, Ira. "Howe Brothers and the American Revolution" (1975), the standard biography
* W. H. Moomaw. "The Denouement of General Howe's Campaign of 1777," "English Historical Review," Vol. 79, No. 312 (Jul., 1964), pp. 498-512 [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-8266%28196407%2979%3A312%3C498%3ATDOGHC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2 Article online in JSTOR]
* [http://content.ancestry.com/iexec/?htx=view&dbid=6892&iid=6892-10-6-0-0121&rc=673,195,819,241;1413,191,1558,235;997,765,1092,794;1159,842,1288,871;1122,879,1220,908;1328,916,1431,954;1449,917,1541,947;1122,953,1216,982;1122,1065,1216,1094;1194,1103,1286,1131;1204,1139,1297,1168;433,1398,563,1429;1290,1548,1384,1578;1652,1774,1746,1804;1127,2141,1222,2170;435,2215,531,2244;1528,2292,1622,2323;547,2361,641,2390&fn=&ln=Record+Scrope+Howe&st=d&ssrc=&pid=13082 "William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe"] in the
Dictionary of National Biographyin particular page 104 stating that when he died the Viscountcy in Ireland became extinct, and page 105 stating that he had no issue.
*Debrett's Peerage, London, 1820, pp 526-528 : "General Sir William Howe, 5th Viscount... died 1814, without issue, when the titles of Viscount Howe and Baron Clenawly, co Fermanagh, became extinct" (p 528)
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