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Horatio Gates

Gates, Horatio, c.1727–1806, American Revolutionary general, b. Maldon, Essex, England. Entering the British army at an early age, he fought in America in the French and Indian War and served in the expedition against Martinique. Later he resigned from the army, and returned to America (1772) to settle in what is now West Virginia. At the start of the American Revolution, he joined the colonial cause as a general and played a part in training American troops outside Boston. In 1776, Gates was given a command in the north under the supreme command of Philip J. Schuyler, whom he replaced as commander in the Saratoga campaign (1777). His army overwhelmingly defeated the British under General Burgoyne, and the Continental Congress appointed Gates president of the board of war. His great victory was aided by the superb leadership of his generals Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan. At the time Gates was considered a serious rival of General Washington, and the aim of the so-called Conway Cabal was to make Gates commander in chief. Gates's part in this unsuccessful plan has never been fully determined. In June, 1780, he was ordered south to command in the Carolinas. In the Carolina campaign poorly organized supply, badly trained troops, and hasty planning paved the way for a disgraceful defeat at Camden (1780). He was plunged into deep disgrace and was superseded by Nathanael Greene. An official investigation of the affair was ordered but never took place, and Gates rejoined (1782) the army. He returned home the following year. Gates later freed his slaves and moved to New York, where he spent the rest of his life.

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

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