Loudoun, John Campbell, Fourth Earl of

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Loudoun, John Campbell, Fourth Earl of

LOUDOUN, JOHN CAMPBELL, FOURTH EARL OF. (1705–1782). British general. He entered the army as a cornet in 1727 and succeeded to his title in 1731. He was at Dettingen (1743) and fought against the Jacobites in 1745–1746. In 1755 he reached the rank of major general and in 1756 became titular governor of Virginia, colonel in chief of the new Sixtieth Foot (the Royal Americans) and commander in chief of the British forces in North America. He reached New York on 23 July with a commission urging the wholehearted cooperation of the colonial authorities but found himself confronted with disunity and lack of enthusiasm for the war. Finding provincial soldiers demoralized by defeat and unwilling to accept his authority, he resolved the problem with a mixture of personal tact and a monopoly on munitions. He was less successful with the reluctant colonial governments: his heated insistence on their submission to his commission was entirely understandable but only caused colonial assemblies to fear the imposition of military rule. Militarily, Loudoun was unable to restore the battered reputation of the regular army. His expedition against Louisburg had to be abandoned when the navy was unable to secure local maritime superiority. While he was away Montcalm descended on Fort William Henry and destroyed it. However, Loudoun laid the administrative and logistical foundations for future victory, establishing an efficient commissariat, stockpiles of supplies, and a proper system of supply wagons and boats. Just as significantly, he began the process of creating light infantry units operating with Indian allies. Yet, despite these unobtrusive but critical advances, the spectacular military failures—due partly to meddling by William Pitt—were laid wholly at Loudoun's door. He was recalled in December 1757.

SEE ALSO Austrian Succession, War of the; Chatham, William Pitt, First Earl of; Fort William Henry (Fort George), New York; Louisburg, Canada.


Anderson, Fred. The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.

Brumwell, Stephen. Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755–1763. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

                              revised by John Oliphant