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John Burgoyne

Burgoyne, John (bərgoinˈ) [key], 1722–92, British general and playwright. In the Seven Years War, his victory over the Spanish in storming (1762) Valencia de Alcántara in Portugal made him the toast of London. He was elected to Parliament in 1761 and took his seat in 1763. In 1772 his attack on the East India Company helped bring about some reform of the company in the Regulating Act of that year. As the American Revolution was beginning, he was sent (1775) with reinforcements to support General Gage at Boston. Burgoyne witnessed the battle of Bunker Hill and returned home in disgust (Dec., 1775). He joined (1776) Sir Guy Carleton in Canada and served at Crown Point; but, critical of Sir Guy's inaction, Burgoyne returned to England to join Lord George Germain in laying the plans that resulted in the Saratoga campaign. In the summer of 1777, Burgoyne began the ill-fated expedition with an army poorly equipped, untrained for frontier fighting, and numbering far less than he had requested. After minor initial success, stiffened American resistance coupled with the failure of Barry St. Leger and Sir William Howe to reach Albany led to his surrender at Saratoga (Oct. 17, 1777). He returned to England, was given (1782) a command in Ireland, and managed the impeachment of Warren Hastings. Burgoyne wrote several plays, of which The Heiress (1786) is best known.

See biographies by S. Styles (1962) and N. B. Gerson (1973).

His illegitimate son Sir John Fox Burgoyne, 1782–1871, served with distinction in the Peninsular War. In the Crimean War his advice was followed in attacking Sevastopol from the south—an action that led to a long and hard siege. He was created field marshal in 1868.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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