HANGER, GEORGE. (1751–1824). George Hanger, third son of the first baron Coleraine, was born in Gloucestershire, England, on 13 October 1731. He was educated at Eton, where he earned a reputation for the affairs he had with local girls. He went on to the university at Göttingen, where he learned German. Extravagant, eccentric, dissipated, and violent (he fought three duels before he was twenty-one), he learned light cavalry tactics in the Prussian army before buying an ensigncy in the First Foot Guards on 31 January 1771. While a guards officer, he married a Gypsy girl who soon ran off with a tinker. On 20 February 1776 he bought a lieutenancy in the guards, only to resign on 25 February, allegedly because a more junior officer purchased a promotion over his head. Returning to Germany, he took up a captaincy in the Hessian jägers and sailed with Wilhelm Knyphausen to North America.
Hanger commanded a detachment on the Charleston expedition of 1780, and marched with James Paterson's diversionary column. Afterward he personally reconnoitred the Charleston defenses and advised Sir Henry Clinton on his plan of attack. He became Clinton's aide-de-camp, but was left behind in South Carolina to help Major Patrick Ferguson raise Loyalist militia there. Disliking this employment, he managed to be transferred, with the aid of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to the command of the British Legion's light dragoons. Hanger, now a provincial major, took temporary command of the Legion when Tarleton fell seriously ill. However, without Tarleton's inspired direction, he was a poor leader. At Wahab's Plantation on 21 September 1780, he carelessly allowed himself to be surprised by a partisan attack, and five days later he mishandled an attempt to dislodge a weaker American force at Charlotte, where he was wounded. Falling ill of yellow fever, he missed the catastrophes of Cowpens and Yorktown. He was made a major of the British establishment in 1782, and when the Legion was formally disbanded in 1783, Hanger was put on half pay.
In retirement, Hanger continued his old social habits, acting as bouncer for Tarleton's faro bank in a London tavern, helping him to recruit "bludgeon men" for the Whigs in the 1787 Westminster by-election and becoming a friend of the Prince of Wales. In 1796 he sold his major's commission to raise ready cash, went to debtor's prison from June 1798 to April 1799, and briefly hid from his creditors in Paris. In 1800 he even set himself up as a coal merchant in an effort to secure money, but in 1806 he obtained a military sinecure and in 1808 retired from it on full pay—a blatant fraud and a scandal. He wrote and published works on military and sporting subjects, as well as a two-volume autobiography. He became the third Baron Coleraine on his brother's death in December 1814, but preferred to be known as "Colonel" Hanger, promoting himself to "General" in 1816. Fittingly, the barony became extinct when he died on 31 March 1824.
Bass, R. D. The Green Dragoon: The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson. 2d edition. Columbia, S.C: Sandlapper, 1973.
revised by John Oliphant