Henry Clinton

Portrait attributed to Andrea Soldi, 1762 - 65

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BORN:
16 April 1730 in Newfoundland
  DIED:
23 December 1795 in London, England

           

Henry Clinton, born in 1738, was the son of Admiral George Clinton — Governor of Newfoundland and subsequently of New York — and grandson of the 6th Earl of Lincoln. He is best remembered as a British general during the American Revolution.

After serving in the New York militia, he came to England and joined the Coldstream Guards. In 1758 he became captain and lieutenant colonel in the Grenadier Guards, and in 1760 – 62 distinguished himself as an aide-de-camp to Ferdinand of Brunswick in the Seven Years’ War. He was promoted colonel in 1762, and after the peace received the colonelcy of a regiment of foot, becoming major general in 1772. From 1772 to 1784, thanks to the influence of his cousin, the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, he had a seat in Parliament, first for Boroughbridge and subsequently for Newark, though for the greater part of this time he was on active service in the American colonies.

He took part in the Battles of Bunker Hill and Long Island, subsequently taking possession of New York. For his share in the Battle of Long Island he was made a lieutenant general and knighted. After Saratoga he succeeded General Sir William Howe as commander-in-chief in North America. He at once concentrated the British forces at New York, pursuing a policy of foraying expeditions in place of regular campaigns.

In 1779 he invaded South Carolina, and in 1780 in conjunction with Admiral M. Arbuthnot won an important success in the capture of Charleston. Friction, however, was constant between him and Lord Cornwallis, his second in command, and in 1782, after the capitulation of Cornwallis at Yorktown, he was superseded by Sir Guy Carleton.

Returning to England, he published in 1783 his Narrative of the Campaign of 1781 in North America, which provoked an acrimonious reply from Lord Cornwallis. He was elected a Member of Parliament for Launceston in 1790, and in 1794 was made Governor of Gibraltar, where he died in 1795.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

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There is a symmetry between the folly of Burgoyne’s march south to Saratoga and that of Cornwallis’s march north to Yorktown. Military historians debate why Burgoyne risked marching south from Fort Edward in the same way that they question why Cornwallis advanced north beyond North Carolina into Virginia. Although Cornwallis had none of the outward vanity of Burgoyne, the two men were similar in that they were both junior generals and neither of them was commander in chief of the British army in America. Both blamed their subsequent failures on rigid orders and insufficient latitude. They both expected to march through predominantly friendly territory. They both ignored the chain of command and went over the heads of their superiors to communicate independently with Lord George Germain. They both allowed their supply lines to become overextended and their forces suffered harassment by enemy militia. They presided over the two most decisive defeats of the American Revolutionary War.

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy
The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (2013)