Howe, William Howe, 5th Viscount,
1729–1814, English general in the American Revolution; younger brother of Admiral Richard Howe. He took up a military career, and in the last of the French and Indian Wars
served with distinction at the capture of Louisburg and in the fight for Quebec (1759). He took part in the Havana expedition of 1762. In 1775 he arrived at Boston with British reinforcements for Gen. Thomas Gage, and he was a commander in the battle of Bunker Hill. He was knighted and succeeded (Oct., 1775) Gage as commander in chief in the colonies (the command in Canada being given to Gen. Guy Carleton). In 1776 he withdrew his men from besieged Boston to Halifax, then (May, 1776) went with his brother Richard to Staten Island. After negotiations for a peaceful settlement failed, Howe led his troops in the successful battle of Long Island, captured New York City, and defeated the Continental Army at White Plains. Although he gained control over SE New York and much of New Jersey, Howe missed several opportunities to capture George Washington's army. In 1777 he did not take the part planned for him in the British strategy in the Saratoga campaign
. Instead he launched a successful drive for Philadelphia, defeating Washington in the battle of Brandywine
. He later repelled an attack on Germantown
and held his position in Philadelphia, but again, as at New York, he did not wipe out the Continental forces. Charging that he was not properly supported by the home government, he resigned and in 1778 returned to England. His command in America was taken over by Sir Henry Clinton
. On his brother's death in 1799, Howe succeeded to the Irish title, becoming 5th Viscount Howe.
See biography by B. Partridge (1932); T. S. Anderson, The Command of the Howe Brothers during the American Revolution (1936, repr. 1971); I. D. Gruber, The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution (1972).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies