Beckwith, George

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Beckwith, George

BECKWITH, GEORGE. (1753–1823). British army officer and colonial governor. George Beckwith was the second of four sons of John Beckwith, an officer in the Twentieth Foot Regiment, all of whom followed him into the army. George became an ensign in the Thirty-seventh Foot on 20 July 1771. He rose to lieutenant on 7 July 1775 and in October embarked for the war in America. He fought with distinction in the New York and New Jersey campaigns in 1776, leading the British advance into Elizabethtown and Brunswick. Promoted to the rank of captain on 4 December 1778, he became aide de camp to Wilhelm Knyphausen. During John André's absence with Sir Henry Clinton's 1780 Charleston expedition, Beckwith took over André's intelligence work, including his exploratory contacts with Benedict Arnold. When André returned, and after his capture and death in October 1780, Beckwith continued to assist with intelligence matters. Early in 1781 Beckwith helped the younger Oliver de Lancey to reorganize the military service. He took part in Arnold's New London raid and was breveted major for his part in the storm of Fort Griswold on 6 September 1781. However, he continued to work in military intelligence until the end of the war, in this way attracting the attention of Sir Guy Carleton.

After the war Beckwith's regiment was stationed in Nova Scotia, and he became Carleton's aide-de-camp at a time when Britian had no ambassador in the United States. In 1787 Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, appointed Beckwith as his agent charged with supplementing the reports of the consuls, a post he held until 1791. Through Alexander Hamilton, Beckwith learned that many Americans favored conciliation with Britain, and for his services he was breveted lieutenant colonel on 10 November 1790. The Thirty-seventh Regiment had gone home in 1789, but Beckwith stayed on with Dorchester, being breveted colonel in 1795. In 1797 he became governor of Bermuda, moving to St. Vincent in 1804 and to Barbados in 1808. He was promoted to major general in 1798 and lieutenant general in 1805. In 1809 he took Martinique (for which he was knighted) and in 1810 captured Guadeloupe. He returned home in 1814, where he was made a full general and was commander in chief in Ireland from 1816 to 1820. He died in London on 20 March 1823.

SEE ALSO André, John; Carleton, Guy; New London Raid, Connecticut.


Van Doren, Carl. Secret History of the American Revolution: An Account of the Conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and Numerous Others. New York: Viking, 1941.

                             revised by John Oliphant