Horatio Gates

Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1793—94

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
26 July 1727 in Maldon, Essex, England
  DIED:
10 April 1806 in New York
Buried in the churchyard at Trinity Church, New York. The location of his grave is unknown, but a plaque dedicates his burial there.

Horatio Gates, American general, was born at Maldon in Essex, England, in 1728. He entered the English army at an early age, and was rapidly promoted. He accompanied General Braddock in his disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne in 1755, and was severely wounded in the battle of 9 July — and he saw other active service in the Seven Years’ War.

After the peace of 1763 he purchased an estate in Virginia,where he lived till the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1775, when he was named by Congress adjutant-general. In 1776 he was appointed to command the troops which had lately retreated from Canada, and in August 1777, as a result of a successful intrigue, was appointed to supersede General Philip Schuyler in command of the Northern Department.

In the two battles of Saratoga his army defeated General Burgoyne, who, on 17 October, was forced to surrender his whole army. This success was, however, largely due to the previous maneuvers of General William Schuyler and to Gates’s subordinate officers.

The intrigues of the so-called Conway Cabal to replace George Washington with Gates completely failed. Gates was president for a time of the Board of War, and in 1780 was placed in chief command in the South. He was totally defeated at Camden, South Carolina, by Cornwallis on 17 August 1780, and in December was replaced by General Nathanael Greene, though an investigation into his conduct terminated in acquittal (1782).

He then retired to his Virginian estate, then moved to New York in 1790, after emancipating his slaves and providing for those who needed assistance. He died in New York in 1806.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

[Of those opposed to slavery,] George Washington belonged, with Mason and Jefferson, in the hardest category — disapproving owners. Theirs was the most difficult position to maintain, psychologically and rhetorically. It would not be maintained over the next sixty years, as southern antislavery rhetoric withered. Practically and politically, disapproving owners were in the hardest position from which to achieve their goals. How do you weaken an institution in which you and all your neighbors are enmeshed? Washington did enough, finally, to free his own slaves, which was more than many owners in his position did. Jefferson never freed all his, nor did any of the other slave-owning presidents.

Richard Brookhiser
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)