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.

 

Since the heady moment when he married Martha Custis in 1759, combining their estates into one of the preeminent holdings in northern Virginia, everything Washington touched had turned to brass. He had failed repeatedly to grow profitable tobacco crops. In London his leaf had acquired an unshakable reputation for mediocrity. Meanwhile the expenses of maintaining a great planter’s lifestyle, while keeping up a slave labor force and several plantations, had proved unrelenting. His own debtors — former comrades-in-arms who unhesitatingly touched him for loans, neighbors with whom he ran accounts, tenants who owed him rent — were slow to pay, and sometimes never did; yet he was too tightly bound by the expectations of gentlemanly behavior to refuse a loan when asked, or to press a debtor insistently when payment fell due. By 1763 Washington found himself deep in debt, doubting that he would ever extricate himself by growing tobacco, and casting about to find some way out of his predicament.

Fred Anderson
Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2000)