William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe bigraphy, stories - British General in the American War of Independence

William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe : biography

10 August 1729 - 12 July 1814

William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC (10 August 1729 – 12 July 1814) was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence. Howe was one of three brothers who enjoyed distinguished military careers.

Having joined the army in 1746 Howe saw extensive service in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years' War. He became known for his role in the capture of Quebec in 1759 when he led a British force to capture the cliffs at Anse-au-Foulon, allowing James Wolfe to land his army and engage the French. Howe also participated in the campaigns to take Louisbourg, Belle Île and Havana.

Howe was sent to North America in March 1775, arriving in May after the Revolutionary War broke out. After leading British troops to a costly victory in the Battle of Bunker Hill, Howe took command of all British forces in America from Thomas Gage in September of that year. Howe's record in North America was marked by the successful capture of both New York City and Philadelphia. However, poor British campaign planning for 1777 contributed to the failure of John Burgoyne's Saratoga campaign, which played a major role in the entry of France into the war. Howe's role in developing those plans, and the degree to which he was responsible for British failures that year (despite his personal success at Philadelphia) have been a subject of contemporary and historic debate.

He resigned his post as Commander in Chief, North America, in 1778, and returned to England, where he was at times active in the defence of the British Isles. He served for many years in Parliament, and was knighted after his successes in 1776. He inherited the Viscountcy of Howe upon the death of his brother Richard in 1799. He married, but had no children, and the viscountcy was extinguished with his death in 1814.

Seven Years' War

During the Seven Years' War Howe's service first brought him to America, and did much to raise his reputation. He joined the newly formed 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot in February 1757, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December of that year. He commanded the regiment at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758, leading an amphibious landing under heavy enemy fire. This action won the attackers a flanking position and earned Howe a commendation from Wolfe.Leckie, p. 145

Howe commanded a light infantry battalion under General Wolfe during the 1759 Siege of Quebec. He was in the Battle of Beaufort, and was chosen by Wolfe to lead the ascent from the Saint Lawrence River up to the Plains of Abraham that led to the British victory in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 1759. After spending the winter in the defence of Quebec City, his regiment fought in the April 1760 Battle of Sainte-Foy, and led a brigade in the capture of Montreal under Jeffery Amherst before returning to England. Howe led a brigade in the 1761 Capture of Belle Île, off the French coast, and turned down the opportunity to become military governor after its capture so that he might continue in active service.Gruber, p. 56 He served as adjutant general of the force that captured Havana in 1762, playing a part in a skirmish at Guanabacoa.Pocock, p. 208

Engraving from contemporary sketch depicting the British ascent to the Plains of Abraham in 1759 In 1758, Howe was elected a Member of Parliament for Nottingham, succeeding to the seat vacated by his brother George's death. His election was assisted by the influence of his mother, who campaigned on behalf of her son while he was away at war, and may very well have been undertaken because service in Parliament was seen as a common way to improve one's prospects for advancement in the military.Billias, p. 44 In 1764 he was promoted to colonel of the 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot, and in 1768 he was appointed lieutenant governor of the Isle of Wight. As tensions rose between Britain and the colonies in the 1770s, Howe continued to rise through the ranks, and came to be widely regarded as one of the best officers in the army. He was promoted to major general in 1772, and in 1774 introduced new training drills for light infantry companies.

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