HARVEY, EDWARD. (c. 1726–1778). Acting commander in chief of the British army. Harvey, at the time colonel of the Third Regiment of Light-Horse, came to the attention of his superiors in 1764 for the publication of a new drill book, A New Manual and Platoon Exercise, that quickly superceded Humphrey Bland's outdated Military Discipline. Harvey was promoted to major general in 1768 and made adjutant general of the British army. When John Manners, Marquess of Granby resigned his offices in 1770, the office of commander in chief was not filled. As the highest ranking officer remaining on active duty, Adjutant General Edward Harvey was, in effect, the acting commander in chief. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1772. Having little influence with the Cabinet, he is remembered only for his pungent professional comments on their mismanagement, particularly of the American colonies and the War for Independence. The flavor of his commentary can be seen in excerpts from his correspondence: "To attempt to conquer it [America] internally by our land force is as wild an idea as ever controverted common sense," he wrote to General Irwin on 30 June 1775, before receiving news of Bunker Hill. The same day he wrote to General William Howe, "Unless a settled plan of operations be agreed upon for next spring our army will be destroyed by damned driblets." Eight days later he wrote to a Lieutenant Colonel Smith (possibly Francis Smith, who led British forces against the Patriots): "America is an ugly job … a damned affair indeed." Harvey's primary concern through most of the war was recruitment, as the British Army found the Revolution dampening what little enthusiasm there was to serve. As the personal military advisor to George III, Harvey attempted to persuade the king that Britain could not win a land war and that the best course of action was to blockade the colonies and negotiate. But the king rejected Harvey's advice. Harvey died suddenly early in 1778.
Fortescue, Sir John W., ed. A History of the British Army. 13 vols. London: Macmillan and Company, 1899–1930.
revised by Michael Bellesiles