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

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

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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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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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Lord Cornwallis. Engraving of the scene of his surrender to George Washington. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96379).

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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....

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Cunningham, William (fl. 1774–1800), British provost marshal during the American Revolution, was born in Ireland. No reliable information exists concerning Cunningham’s parentage or youth. He arrived in New York City during 1774. Originally, his intended destination was Albany, but he appears to have been waylaid in New York City by the problems caused in America by the Intolerable Acts. At first he seemed friendly to the views of the New York Sons of Liberty. However, he changed his position and urged that the Continental Association be violated, a pro-British stance. Supporters of the Sons of Liberty charged that he was currying favor with friends of the British government and military men in order to gain preferment....

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Fletcher, Benjamin (14 May 1640–28 May 1703), imperial commander in Ireland, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, was born in London, England, the son of William Fletcher, a royal army officer, and Abigail Vincent. William Fletcher was killed at the siege of Gloucester in 1643. Twenty years later, Benjamin Fletcher emerged in Ireland as a cavalry officer in the royal army of occupation, cornet to John, Lord Berkeley, brother of ...

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Forbes, John (05 September 1707–11 March 1759), British army officer, was born in Fifeshire, England, the son of Colonel John Forbes of Pittencrieff estate. Neither his mother’s name nor the details of his early life and formal education are known. He became surgeon of the Royal Regiment of North British Dragoons (Scots Grays) in 1729. Purchasing a cornetcy on 5 July 1735, he began an ascent to higher rank in both the regiment and the army, incurring heavy debts with each purchase. In the War of the Austrian Succession he served in the battles of Fontenoy (11 May 1745) and Laffeldt (2 July 1747). Forbes’s reliability and ability to organize led Lieutenant-general John Ligonier to assign him to intelligence duties and eventually to a quartermaster general position. Perhaps he served at the battle of Culloden (16 Apr. 1746) against the Stuart uprising, although the Scots Grays were not there. The claim that he participated in the battle is based on the story that a farthing coin, preserved at the British Museum, deflected a bullet that struck him....

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Howe, George Augustus (1724–06 July 1758), British general, was born in Langar, Nottingham, England, the son of Emanuel Scrope Howe, second Viscount Howe of the Irish peerage and a royal governor of Barbados, and Maria Sophia Charlotte, daughter of Baron von Kielmansegge. In 1735 he succeeded to the title of third Viscount Howe and twelve years later was elected to his father’s seat in Parliament as representative of Nottingham borough. Choosing the army as a career, Howe entered the Grenadier Guards in 1745 as an ensign. He rose rapidly through the ranks because he was supported by patrons but also because he was an unusually able soldier with a particularly appealing personality. In 1746 he was promoted captain, and during the War of the Austrian Succession served for two years as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Cumberland. He also fought in the battle of Laufeldt. In 1749, a year after the war concluded, he achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his military service on the continent, Howe acquired a reputation as one of the ablest young soldiers in the British army, destined for great things because of his ability and natural charm....

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Howe, William (10 August 1729–12 July 1814), commander in chief of the British army in the war for American independence from 1775 to 1778, was the son of Emanuel Scrope Howe, second viscount Howe, and Mary Sophia Charlotte Kielmansegge of Langar, Nottinghamshire, England. His place of birth is unknown. Howe’s career in the British army began auspiciously. His family used its wealth and connections to see that he had a good basic education (tutors and four years at Eton) and that he entered the army in 1746 in the prestigious Duke of Cumberland’s Light Dragoons. During the next ten years, Howe established himself as a brave, knowledgeable officer who trained and led his men with unusual care. Early in the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), he became lieutenant colonel commanding the Fifty-eighth Regiment of Foot in the conquest of Canada. He distinguished himself in the successful siege of Louisbourg (1758), the capture of Quebec (1759), and the advance on Montreal (summer of 1760). He subsequently won praise as a brigade commander at the siege of Belle Isle on the coast of France in the spring of 1761 and as adjutant general of the British army that captured Havana in 1762. By the end of the war, Howe was considered one of the best young officers in the British army....

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Hunter, Robert ( October 1666–31 March 1734), British army officer and royal governor of Virginia, New York and New Jersey, and Jamaica, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of James Hunter, an attorney, and Margaret Spalding. Lacking land or inherited wealth, Robert Hunter chose a military career. In the November 1688 Glorious Revolution, Hunter formed part of the dragoon bodyguard that escorted Princess Anne from London as she fled her father, James II. An ardent Whig, Hunter continued to serve William III in Cardross’s Dragoon Regiment, Colonel John Hill’s Regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoons, and Colonel Charles Ross’s Irish Dragoons. In the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713) Hunter was aide-de-camp to commander in chief John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, a close relationship that brought Hunter into contact with the most influential men in Great Britain. Under Marlborough, Hunter rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, saw active duty at the battles of Blenheim and Ramillies in 1704 and 1706, and was instrumental in securing the 1706 surrender of the city of Antwerp....

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Loudoun, Earl of (05 May 1705–27 April 1782), commander in chief of British forces in North America, was born John Campbell at Loudoun Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of Hugh Campbell, third earl of Loudoun and statesman, and Lady Margaret Dalrymple. Details of his early life and education are unavailable. Although Loudoun did not enter the British army until he was twenty-two, he had the talent, wealth, and political standing to advance steadily to high command. He began his military service in 1727 as a cornet in the prestigious Scots Greys. After succeeding his father as fourth earl of Loudoun in 1731 and being chosen a representative peer for Scotland three years later, he rose from captain in the Seventh Dragoons (1734) to captain and lieutenant colonel in the elite Third Foot Guards (1739) to governor of Stirling Castle (1741). His service in the ensuing War of the Austrian Succession and in the Scottish Rebellion of 1745–1746 against the Jacobites ensured the favor of King George II. He became colonel of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Foot in 1745, colonel of the Thirtieth Regiment of Foot in 1749, and a major general in 1755....

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Monckton, Robert (24 June 1726–21 May 1782), army officer and colonial administrator, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of John Monckton, who was later the first Viscount Galway, a landowner, and member of Parliament, and Lady Elizabeth Manners, daughter of the second duke of Rutland. At age fifteen Monckton was commissioned in the Third Foot Guards. He fought against the French in the major battles of Dettingen (1743) and Fontenoy (1745), gaining promotion to captain in 1744, major in 1747, and lieutenant colonel in 1751. Becoming a member of Parliament for the family-controlled seat of Pontefract from 1751 to 1754, he showed his preference for the military life by joining his regiment in Nova Scotia in 1752....

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Robertson, James (29 June 1717–04 March 1788), British general and royal governor of New York, was born at “Newbigging,” the family estate near Burntisland, Scotland, the son of George Robertson, a laird, and Christian Dundas. Little is known of his childhood. Robertson enlisted in the British army as a common soldier, very unusual for a future general. In 1739 he became an officer. During 1747 he married Ann White; they had one child. Slowly rising in rank, he gained the ...