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John Burgoyne

John Burgoyne

British general and statesman John Burgoyne (1723-1792) is mainly remembered for his disastrous campaign in the American Revolution, which ended in his surrender to the American forces in 1777.

The son of a British army captain, John Burgoyne received his education at Westminster and then went into the military. While still an impecunious junior officer, he eloped with the daughter of Lord Derby. After a brief period of ill will, there emerged a firm friendship between Burgoyne and his influential, noble father-in-law. During Derby's hostility, however, Burgoyne had been so poor that he had sold his commission, fled from his creditors to France, and there studied French literature and Continental military practices. After their reconciliation, Derby's influence enabled Burgoyne to return to military life.

In the Seven Years War (1756-1763), Burgoyne promoted the raising of light cavalry similar to some Continental forces. He drafted elaborate instructions advising his officers to deal with their men as "thinking beings." After action in France, he acquired favorable notice for his leadership of the Anglo-Portuguese forces in 1762. He was then promoted to a regular colonelcy—a mark as much of Derby's power as of Burgoyne's ability.

Burgoyne was long active in politics. He held a seat in the House of Commons from 1761 until his death. Although he occasionally joined the opposition, he generally enjoyed royal favor until 1777. In Commons he spoke frequently and showed considerable interest in the troubles of the East India Company. He received profitable military appointments. While differing on some issues with Lord North, he supported a repressive American policy.

After brief service in America, Burgoyne—visiting home—drew up plans for invading New York from Canada. In March 1777 he was named commander of an invasion force that was about half as strong as he had desired. There was little or no coordination of the efforts to be made between this army and the troops under Sir Henry Clinton and William Howe. Nonetheless, Burgoyne with great confidence—expressed in bombastic fashion—started his campaign with the capture of Ft. Ticonderoga in early July. He soon encountered unexpectedly heavy American resistance. Yet he persisted in moving his troops in a rather leisurely fashion, rather than marching rapidly toward Albany. Inadequate strength, overconfidence, general bumbling, the appearance of large numbers of Americans—all contributed to disaster for the British. Burgoyne belatedly realized that he was surrounded and outnumbered, unable either to advance or retreat. He surrendered at Saratoga on Oct. 17, 1777.

Burgoyne's defeat was followed by his apostasy from Lord North's ministry. Greeted with criticism at home, he replied by blaming others. He lost favor at court and went so far as to resign from military offices which had netted him £3,500 a year. Finding new friends among the supporters of Charles James Fox, he became a kind of opposition martyr, and his fate rose or fell along with the fortunes of Fox. He gained some position in 1782 but remained on the fringes of real power. Though a frequent speaker on military matters in Parliament, he made little impact on political life of the 1780s.

Instead, Burgoyne turned increasingly to literary and social pursuits. He mingled with theater friends and took as his mistress a popular singer. A series of stage successes culminated in The Heiress, a popular triumph after its first performance in 1786. More successful as an author than he had been as a soldier, Burgoyne died in London on June 4, 1792.

Further Reading

The standard, older biography of Burgoyne is E. B. de Fonblanque, Political and Military Episodes Derived from the Life and Correspondence of John Burgoyne (1876). A less substantial biography is Francis J. Hudleston, Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne (1927). Howard H. Peckham, The War for Independence: A Military History (1958), provides a general military perspective.

Additional Sources

Glover, Michael, General Burgoyne in Canada and America: scapegoat for a system, London: Gordon & Cremonesi; New York: distributed by Atheneum Publishers, 1976.

Hargrove, Richard J., General John Burgoyne, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983.

Howson, Gerald, Burgoyne of Saratoga: a biography, New York: Times Books, 1979.

Lunt, James D., John Burgoyne of Saratoga, London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1976.

Mintz, Max M., The generals of Saratoga: John Burgoyne & Horatio Gates, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Paine, Lauran, Gentleman Johnny: the life of General John Burgoyne, London: Hale, 1973. □

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Burgoyne, John

John Burgoyne (bərgoin´), 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.

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Burgoyne, John

Burgoyne, John (1723–1792), British Revolutionary War general.Burgoyne was rumored to be the natural son of Lord Bingley. His Seven Years' War exploits in France and Portugal (and his marriage to the Earl of Derby's daughter) propelled him to major general by 1772. Assigned to help Gen. Thomas Gage put down the New England rebellion in 1775, he directed artillery fire from Boston at the Battle of Bunker Hill; he then intrigued against Gage and politicked for command of an army to invade from Canada, isolating New England from the Middle Colonies.

In spring 1777, Burgoyne took command of an expeditionary force of about 8,000, planning to meet a force that was to march north from New York City at Albany. He captured Fort Ticonderoga, but failed to seize supplies at Bennington and lost contact with his Canadian base of supply when he crossed the Hudson (13 September) dismantling the bridge of boats behind him. Burgoyne marched on, hoping to join the forces of Maj. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton. Instead, he confronted Horatio Gates's army at the two Battles of Saratoga, and surrendered on 17 October 1777. Burgoyne was allowed to return to England, where he resumed his seat in Parliament and blamed Secretary of State for the colonies Lord George Germain for his defeat. A commander of unusual humanity, Burgoyne pioneered the employment of light cavalry; as a strategist, he (like many British officers) unwisely underrated American determination.
[See also Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Gerald Howson , Burgoyne of Saratoga, 1979.
Richard J. Hargrove, Jr. , General John Burgoyne, 1983.

Max M. Mintz

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"Burgoyne, John." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/burgoyne-john-0

Burgoyne, John

Burgoyne, John (1723–92). Soldier and playwright. Of an impecunious Bedfordshire gentry family, Burgoyne was reputed to be the natural son of Lord Bingley. His career began with a runaway marriage to Lady Charlotte Stanley, daughter of the earl of Derby. The following year Burgoyne joined the army, retired in the 1750s, but rejoined at the start of the Seven Years War, serving with distinction in Portugal. In 1761 he was brought into Parliament for Midhurst, transferring in 1768 to Preston, a noisy open borough where the Stanleys had influence. He was fined £1,000 for violent conduct and was lucky to keep his seat. He spoke often in the House, shone in society, wrote verse and plays, and acquired the nickname ‘Gentleman Johnny’. His big chance came with the war against America. The ambitious expedition from Canada down the Hudson valley was his own plan and he was appointed to the command. After a bright start, he was forced to surrender at Saratoga in October 1777. He returned to England to clear his name, declared that he was a scapegoat, and became a vocal member of the opposition. When the Rockinghams took office in 1782 he was made commander-in-chief Ireland, resigning in 1784. He remained an active member of the Commons and in 1786 scored a stage success with The Heiress. Horace Walpole called him ‘General Swagger’ and wrote that ‘he had a half-understanding, which was worse than none’.

J. A. Cannon

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