John Burgoyne
English general and dramatist
1722 - 1792

English general and dramatist, is chiefly remembered for his controversial part in the American Revolution. He bought his first commission in 1740 and made a runaway marriage in 1743 with a daughter of the 11th earl of Derby, whose protégée he subsequently became. During the Seven Years' War he took part in two raids on the French coast (1758 and 1759). He then raised a light cavalry regiment, in command of which he went to Portugal, distinguishing himself at the action of Villa Velha in 1762. After the war he was elected to parliament and became a leader of fashion in London; and in 1774 he wrote his first play, The Maid of the Oaks.

On the outbreak of the American Revolution, Burgoyne was posted first to Boston (1775), and then to Canada (1776) as second-in-command to Lord Carleton, whose feeble attempts to invade the New England colonies he strongly criticized. He then drew up and secured the adoption of a plan for an offensive with 12,000 men by the Crown Point-Ticonderoga route to unite with a force under General William Howe sent northward from New York, and another under Colonel Barry St. Leger from the west to cut off the New England colonies from the middle and southern colonies. But he was given only 6,000 men for the expedition and though it secured Crown Point and Ticonderoga (1777) after a slow and toilsome march, much harassed by hostile irregulars and Indians, it was brought to a halt by 16,000 troops in position. There was no news of the co-operating forces from the south and west, and after exhausting his stocks of food and ammunition, Burgoyne was compelled to capitulate at Saratoga, in October 1777. His conduct of the campaign was much criticized, but the main causes of its failure were the insufficiency of his means and the lack of coordination of the concentric offensive, of which his force formed only one part.

Burgoyne was for a short time (1782-1783) commander-in-chief in Ireland, but he thereafter retired increasingly to private life. His wife had died in 1776 and between 1782 and 1788 he had four children (of whom the eldest became Field Marshall Sir John Fox Burgoyne) by his mistress, the singer Susan Caulfield. He wrote a series of plays, culminating in The Heiress, the most successful of them, which appeared in 1786. Burgoyne died in London on June 4, 1792.

Related documents:
Battles of Saratoga
Saratoga Battlefield
Burgoyne letter to his nieces
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