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Abercromby, James (1706–23 April 1781), British general, was born in Glassaugh, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Abercromby, laird of Glassaugh, and Helen Meldrum. Abercromby belonged to a wealthy Scottish family; his father helped him get established in life, first by purchasing him a position in the British army, then by helping him gain the posts of commissioner of supply and justice of the peace in Banffshire. His family connections were also important in his securing election to parliament in 1734 and maintaining the seat over the years. Because of his political and military importance in his homeland, throughout his adult life he held the posts of King’s Painter in Scotland and the governorship of Stirling Castle. He married Mary Duff, a third cousin, and had two children....

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Amherst, Jeffery (29 January 1717–03 August 1797), British soldier and first baron Amherst, was born at Riverhead, Kent, England, the son of Jeffery Amherst, a barrister, and Elizabeth Kerrill. The family had close connections to the duke of Dorset, whom Jeffery served as a page at age twelve, and whose influence procured for him an ensign’s commission in the First Regiment of Foot Guards in 1731. His active service began in 1735 with the cavalry regiment of Sir John Ligonier, perhaps the ablest general in the British army. Serving as Ligonier’s aide-de-camp in the War of the Austrian Succession, Amherst saw action at the battles of Dettingen (1743) and Fontenoy (1745), became a lieutenant colonel in 1745, and was appointed aide-de-camp to the duke of Cumberland, commander in chief of allied forces in Europe....

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André, John (02 May 1750–02 October 1780), British officer and spy, was born in London, England, the son of Anthony André, a merchant, and Marie Louise Girardot. His early schooling was with a tutor, the Reverend Thomas Newcomb, and he may have attended St. Paul’s School. In his teens André studied mathematics and military drawing at the University of Geneva, giving vent to his romantic temperament by dreaming of a military career. He was rudely brought back to reality by his merchant father when he was called home to work in the countinghouse before he completed a degree. Despising the family business, he nevertheless labored at it manfully for a number of years. After his father died on 14 April 1769, he felt a particular obligation as the eldest son to continue the business, even though his father had left him financially independent, with a small fortune of £5,000. In the summer of 1769 he joined a Lichfield literary group presided over by Anna Seward, a poet. The group included a young lady named Honora Sneyd, for whom he developed a passion. They became engaged and courted for a year and a half before she suddenly rejected him for another man at a Christmas party in 1770. Shattered by this betrayal, André revived his earlier ambition to become a soldier and in early 1771 bought a second lieutenant’s commission in the 23d Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Later he purchased a first lieutenancy in the same regiment....

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John André. A rendering of his capture at Tarrytown, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2395).

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Braddock, Edward ( January 1695–13 July 1755), British officer, was born in London, England, the son of Edward Braddock, an officer in the Coldstream Guards, and Mary (maiden name unknown). He was baptized on 5 February 1695. His father purchased an ensigncy in the Coldstreams for him in 1710, and he advanced through the regiment, becoming a lieutenant in 1716; a captain lieutenant in 1734; a second major in 1743; and first major and then lieutenant colonel in 1745. Although the regiment served on the Continent during the War of the Austrian Succession (1742–1748), it is not known whether Braddock took part in any engagement, but he did perform administrative duties. He left the Coldstreams when appointed colonel of the Fourteenth Foot (Feb. 1753) and spent most of 1753–1754 with his regiment at Gibraltar, serving as governor. In April 1754 he was promoted to major general....

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Bradstreet, John (21 December 1714–25 September 1774), British army officer, was born in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the son of Edward Bradstreet, a lieutenant of the British Fortieth Regiment in Nova Scotia, and Agathe de St. Etienne de la Tour. On 12 March 1715 he was baptized Jean-Baptiste Bradstreat. After his father’s death in 1718, his mother, who was from an old and wealthy Nova Scotian family, married another English army officer, Hugh Campbell....

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Burgoyne, John (24 February 1723–04 August 1792), British soldier and dramatist, was born in London, England, the son of Captain John Burgoyne, a soldier, and Anna Maria Burneston. The popular belief that he was the natural son of Robert Benson, Lord Bingley, may have been true, but legally he was the son of Burgoyne. Educated at Westminster School, he entered the army at the age of fifteen, joining the Third Regiment of Horse Guards. Three years later he became a cornet in the Thirteenth Regiment of Light Dragoons and was promoted to lieutenant in 1741. In 1743 Burgoyne eloped with fifteen-year-old Lady Charlotte Stanley, daughter of Edward Stanley, earl of Derby; they had one child, who died at the age of ten. Lord Derby disapproved of the marriage; he gave his daughter only a small dowry and refused to see her or her husband. With Lady Charlotte’s money, Burgoyne purchased a captaincy in the Thirteenth Dragoons, and for three years the couple lived in London. After that time gambling debts forced Burgoyne to sell his commission. He and his wife retired to a quiet life in the French countryside near Chanteloup, where they lived for seven years on Lady Charlotte’s money and the proceeds from the sale of Burgoyne’s captaincy....

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John Burgoyne. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-GW-616).

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Coffin, John (1756–12 June 1838), Loyalist and British general, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Coffin, the last receiver general and cashier of His Majesty’s Customs at Boston, and Elizabeth Barnes. Coffin attended the Boston Latin School and went to sea at an early age. He rose to command of a ship by the age of eighteen, and in 1775 he was engaged to bring a regiment of British troops from England to Boston, which at that time had just broken out in armed rebellion against King George III. Coffin appears to have had no conflict in his loyalties; he brought the troops on his ship to Boston and soon engaged in the war on the side of the king....

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Cornwallis, Charles (31 December 1738–05 October 1805), commanding general of British forces in the southern campaign in the American Revolution, was born in London, England, the son of Charles, the first earl Cornwallis, and Elizabeth Townshend. Known as Lord Brome, Charles was educated at Eton and began his military career in 1756. Rising rapidly, he served on the Continent during the Seven Years’ War, participating in several major battles as regimental commander. On the death of his father in 1762, he became the second earl Cornwallis and took his seat in the House of Lords, where he allied with the duke of Newcastle and with the Rockingham Whigs. In 1768 he married Jemima Tullikens; they had two children. Initially sympathetic to the colonists’ struggle with Parliament, Cornwallis nevertheless offered his services to the Crown during the American rebellion, sailing with his regiments to the colonies in 1776....