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John Burgoyne -British Revolutionary War General-  A Klos Family Project - Revolutionary War



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John Burgoyne
British Revolutionary War General


BURGOYNE, John, British soldier, born 24 February, 1723; died in London, 4 August, 1792. He was the eldest son of John Burgoyne and Anna Maria, daughter of Charles Burneston, of Hackney, in Middlesex. The popular belief that he was a natural son of Lord Bingley is pure fiction, and had its rise in the malicious gossip of Horace Walpole.

Burgoyne was educated at Westminster, and entered the army at an early age. While at Preston with his regiment, he eloped with Lady Charlotte Stanley, daughter of the eleventh earl of Derby; and the earl, becoming reconciled to the marriage, obtained for him a captaincy in the 11th dragoons, 14 June, 1756. He was in the attack on Cherbourg in 1758, and also in the abortive attempt on St. Malo the same year; was appointed, 10 May, 1758, captain-lieutenant in the Coldstream guards, and next year was promoted to the command of the 16th dragoons, called subsequently "Burgoyne's light-horse."

He was elected to parliament in 1762, held his seat in that body continuously until his death, and took an active part in matters relating to India, hence incurring the displeasure of Junius, by whom he was severely criticized. He was made major general, 25 May, 1772, appointed to a command in America, arrived in Boston, 25 May, 1775, and witnessed the battle of Bunker Hill, of which he gave a graphic description in a letter to his brother-in-law, Lord Stanley. He was commissioned, 1 January, 1776, lieutenant-general in America only, and took part in the operations of that year for expelling the Americans from Canada; but in November, dissatisfied with his subordinate position under Carleton, he returned to England.

In December he concerted with the British ministry a plan for the campaign of 1777. A large force under his command was to go to Albany by way of Lakes Chainplain and George, while another body, under Sir Henry Clinton, advanced up the Hudson. Simultaneously, Col. Barry St. Leger was to make a diversion, by way of Oswego, on the Mohawk river. In pursuance of this plan, Burgoyne, in June, began his advance with one of the best-equipped armies that had ever left the shores of England. Proceeding up Lake Champlain, he easily forced the evacuation of Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Fort Anne. But, instead of availing himself of the water-carriage of Lake George, at the head of which there was a direct road to Fort Edward, he advanced upon that work by land, consuming three weeks in cutting a road through the woods and building bridges over swamps. This gave time for Schuyler to gather the yeomanry together, and for Washington to re-enforce that general with troops, under Morgan, from the southern department. Burgoyne also lost valuable time and received a fatal check by his disastrous attack on Bennington. At length, finding his progress stopped by the entrenchments of Gates at Bemus's heights, nine miles south of Saratoga (Schuylerville), he endeavored to extricate himself from his perilous position by fighting. Two battles were fought, on nearly the same ground, on 19 September and 7 October. The first was indecisive; the second resulted in so complete a rout for the British that, leaving his sick and wounded to the compassion of Gates, Burgoyne retreated to Saratoga. Here, finding that his provisions were giving out, Stark in his rear, and that there was no chance of escape, he capitulated with his entire army, 17 October, 1777. This event was the turning-point in the American revolution. It secured the French alliance, and lifted the clouds of moral and financial gloom that had settled upon the hearts of the leaders, even the hopeful Washington.

Burgoyne, until his unfortunate campaign, stood very high in his profession. He had made a brilliant record on the banks of the Tagus for dash under that master in the art of war, the famous Count Schaumberg-Lippe. He also added to a prepossessing exterior the polished manners and keen sagacity of a courtier. He was likewise witty and brave. But he was hasty and self-willed. Desirous to do everything himself, he rarely consulted with others; yet he never knew how to keep a plan secret. While in a subordinate position, he was continually carping at his military superiors, yet, when given a separate command, he was guilty of the same faults that he had reprehended in others. His boastful ways drew upon him the nicknames of "Sir Jack Brag" and "Chrononnotonthologos," a character in a burlesque play by Henry Carey. Being a Sybarite, he often neglected the duties of a general, and while he was enjoying his wines and choice food, his army suffered the keenest want.

Early in 1778 he returned to England, and justly threw the failure of the expedition upon the ministry, since, in arranging the campaign, he had insisted that success depended upon Howe's co-operation. Had he been properly supported he would, despite mistakes, have reached Albany, as Gates would not have been at Bemus's heights to oppose him. On his arrival in England the court and people, the king refusing to see him received him very coldly. Having in vain demanded a court-martial, he succeeded in obtaining a hearing on the floor of parliament; and in 1780 published a narrative of the campaign and a vindication of himself in a work entitled "A State of the Expedition." Joining the opposition, he resigned, in 1779, all his offices. Upon a change in the ministry he regained somewhat of his popularity, and in 1782 was restored to his rank in the army and appointed prize-councilor and commander-in-chief in Ireland.

In 1784 he retired from public life, and, possessing considerable literary ability, amused himself in writing numerous comedies and poems, which were published (2 vols., 1808). He was one of the managers of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, but did not live to see the result of that trial. By his wife he had but one daughter, who died in childhood; but by Miss Susan Caulfield, after his wife's death, he had four children, of whom the late Sir John Burgoyne, of Crimean fame, was the eldest. His descendants have filled many honorable positions in the British army and navy, and several of them are still (1886) living. For an exhaustive sketch of Burgoyne and an analysis of his campaigns, see "Hadden's Journal," edited by General Horatio Rogers.

--His son, Sir John Fox Burgoyne, British soldier, born in London, 24 July, 1782; died 7 October, 1871. He was educated at Eton and Woolwich, and entered the royal engineers as second lieutenant in 1798. He acted as commanding engineer under General Frazer at the siege of Rosetta and the assault on Alexandria, Egypt, in 1807 ; under Sir John Moore in his Portuguese campaign in 1808, and in the peninsular war. He served during the war between the United States and Great Britain in 1812-'5, and, as commanding engineer under General Pakenham, was present at the battle of New Orleans, 8 January, 1815, and also at the capture of Fort Bowers (Mobile Point) on 11 February. In 1845 he was appointed inspector-general of fortifications. In the Crimean war he rendered distinguished services at the battles of the Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sebastopol. On his recall from the Crimea he received a baronetcy and was made a general and resumed his position at the war-office as inspector-general of fortifications, retiring in 1868 with the rank of field-marshal." The "Military Opinions of Sir John Fox Burgoyne," edited by G. Wrottesley, was published in London in 1859. He was also the author of a "Treatise on the Blasting and Quarrying of Stone " (London, 1852).




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