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Vaughan, John

Vaughan, John

VAUGHAN, JOHN. (c. 1731–1795). British general. John Vaughan, the second son of the Third Viscount Lisburne, became a lieutenant of marines in 1746 and transferred to a cornetcy in the Tenth Dragoons in 1748. Propelled by a combination of ability and family influence, he quickly rose to lieutenant (1751) and captain (1754). After serving in Germany in the early years of the Seven Years War, he raised the Ninety-fourth Foot in 1759 and became its lieutenant colonel in 1760. He led the regiment in North America and the West Indies, distinguishing himself at the taking of Martinique in 1762. On 25 November, when the regiment disbanded, Vaughan took over the Sixteenth Regiment, serving with it in America until 1767 and in Ireland thereafter. In 1772 he was promoted to colonel and in 1774 he entered Parliament, representing Berwick-on-Tweed.

In 1775 Vaughan moved to the Forty-sixth Foot Regiment, and embarked with them for America in 1776. Arriving with General Charles Cornwallis's reinforcements from Ireland, he took part in the abortive Charleston expedition as a brigadier general before moving on to New York. He led attacks at Long Island (Brooklyn) on 27 August and at Kips Bay on 15 September, and was wounded in the thigh at White Plains on 28 October.

Vaughan, now known as a valiant commander, briefly visited Britain with Cornwallis before returning to America and being promoted major general on the regular establishment on 29 August 1777. He had a horse shot from under him at the storming of Fort Montgomery in the Hudson Highlands in October 1777, and led the 2,000 troops that were carried up river by Sir James Wallace in a vain attempt to reach General John Burgoyne. During this raid, Vaughan burnt the settlement of Aescopus (later Kingston) as well as farms and settlements to within forty-six miles of Albany, earning from the rebels the hostile epithet "General Aescopus." In 1779 he was back with General Henry Clinton's second Hudson expedition, capturing Verplanck's Point on 1 June 1779. In December he embarked for Britain, where he was given a dormant commission as British commander in the southern colonies, should Cornwallis refuse to return there.

When Cornwallis did return, Vaughan was made commander in chief of the Leeward Islands. Reaching Barbados in February 1780, he abandoned Grant's basically defensive approach and gathered troops for assaults on the French islands. However, he had reckoned without Admiral George Rodney's failure to win supremacy at sea and could do nothing until he and Rodney took St. Eustatius from the Dutch in February 1781. Vaughan later denied in parliament that he had profited from this operation; but he had substantial wealth from unknown sources even before the war, and his large disbursements afterward still require explanation.

On 20 November 1782 Vaughan was promoted to lieutenant general and retired from active service. In parliament he tried unsuccessfully to bargain his vote for a colonial governorship from the administrations of the Earl of Shelburne and William Pitt, but he did at last obtain a knighthood in 1792. Recalled to active duty in 1793, he was sent to succeed Sir Charles Grey in the Windward Islands in 1794. There he was beset by lack of troops, fever, and French-inspired slave and Carib risings. The government contributed to his difficulties by refusing to allow him to raise black troops, a prohibition that Vaughan at times defied. He died unmarried, probably of a bowel complaint, possibly of poison, at Martinique on 30 June 1795.

SEE ALSO Charleston Expedition of Clinton in 1776; Clinton, Henry; Cornwallis, Charles.


Mackesy, Piers. The War for America 1775–1783. London: Longman, 1964.

                              revised by John Oliphant

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