How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Bunker Hill Dilemma

The Emergence of William Howe

The ministerial response to the crisis caused by the armed insurrection around Lexington and Concord was an immediate dispatch of reinforcements to the British garrison at Boston. This force was spearheaded by the HMS Cerebrus which carried three generals who would play significant roles in the upcoming conflict. The arrival of Henry Clinton, John Burgoyne and William Howe represented a vote of no confidence in the ability of General Thomas Gage to deal with the expanding confrontation and served as a demonstration of British determination to crush the rebellion. Lord North insisted that "I don't know what the Americans will think of them, but I know that they make me tremble!"

Each of these major generals possessed a level of confidence and self assurance nurtured by a lifetime of association with the ruling class of Britain, yet each man also voiced some aversion to an assignment to make war on fellow British subjects. General Henry Clinton, the youngest of this group at 45, was the grandson of the sixth Earl of Lincoln, a cousin of the second Duke of Newcastle and the son of the former governor of New York. Clinton had grown up in New York City, attended school on Long Island and joined a New York militia regiment. After returning to England, Clinton purchased a commission in the Coldstream Guards and was soon promoted to the post of aide-de-camp to Sir John Ligonier, the 77 year old commander‐ in-chief of the British army. Ligonier and Clinton represented opposite ends of the spectrum of tolerated behavior for a British officer. Ligonier had flaunted his relationship with a 13-year-old mistress and now kept a country residence that included four mistresses with a combined age of less than 60. While Sir John expected junior officers to join him in his country frolics, Clinton was somehow able to condemn his commander's antics while still maintaining his position. The young aide subsequently became a loyal and devoted husband when he married the daughter of a minor nobleman, but

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