Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gage, Thomas (1721-1787)
GAGE, THOMAS (1721–1787), general, second son of Thomas Gage, first viscount Gage, in the peerage of Ireland, by his first wife Benedicta (or Beata Maria Theresa), only daughter and heiress of Benedict Hall of High Meadow, Gloucestershire, was born in 1721. On 30 Jan. 1741 he received his first commission as a lieutenant in Colonel Cholmondeley's newly raised regiment (afterwards 48th foot, and now the 1st Northampton). His name occurs in the Irish lists (Quarters of the Army in Ireland) in 1745 as a captain in Battereau's foot, the old 62nd, an Irish corps of two battalions, which fought at Culloden and was disbanded in 1748, and in 1748 as major in what then was the 55th foot. He appears to have been aide-de-camp to Lord Albemarle in Flanders in 1747–8 (Maclachlan, Orders of William, Duke of Cumberland). At the reductions of 1748, the 55th foot, of which Sir Peter Halket was colonel, was renumbered as the 44th foot (now the 1st Essex). Gage became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment 2 March 1751, and went with it to America under General Braddock [see Braddock, Edward] in 1754. He commanded the advanced column in the march from the Monagahela to Fort Duquesne on 9 July 1755, where he was distinguished by his gallantry and was wounded. Subsequently he was employed with the 44th at Oswego. In May 1758 he was appointed to raise a provincial regiment, which was brought into the line as the 80th or ‘light-armed’ foot. Later in the same year he commanded the light infantry in Abercromby's expedition against Ticonderoga. After the fall of Niagara in July 1759, Gage, as brigadier-general, was detached from Crown Point to supersede Sir William Johnson, a provincial officer by whom the command had been held after the death of Colonel Prideaux. He was directed to act against La Gallette, a French post on Lake Ontario, which he reported to be impracticable. He commanded the rear-guard of the force under Amherst [see Amherst, Jeffrey], which united with Murray's forces from Quebec, before Montreal on 6 Sept. 1760, and completed the conquest of Canada. Gage was appointed governor of Montreal, where his mild rule contrasted with the severity of Murray at Quebec. He became a major-general in 1761, and in 1763 was appointed to act as commander-in-chief in North America, with his head-quarters at New York, during the absence of Amherst, who returned home (Calendar Home Office Papers, 1760–5, par. 967). He was confirmed in the appointment the year after (ib.) and retained it until 1772, when he returned to England (ib. 1770–2, par. 1573). His conduct received the approval of the home government (ib. 1766–9, par. 619). After his regiment, the 80th foot, was disbanded, Gage held the colonelcy of the 60th royal Americans for two months, and when Amherst was reinstated therein was transferred to the colonelcy of the 22nd foot. He became a lieutenant-general in 1770, before leaving America.
In 1774 Gage was appointed governor-in-chief and captain-general of the province of Massachusetts Bay, in succession to Hutchinson, and in May that year, pursuant to orders from home, took up his quarters in Boston, where he was well received, despite the unpopularity of the enactment closing the port against trading vessels, which had been put in force before his arrival. He had been employed there in 1768. Gage, a brave, though not a brilliant soldier, had six regiments with him in Boston, but his efforts to bring the colonists into a more submissive attitude towards the ministry at home proved as unavailing as thankless. He proclaimed the solemn league and covenant as a traitorous assemblage, and bade the magistrates arrest all persons aiding and abetting it. He likewise issued a proclamation for ‘the encouragement of virtue and suppression of vice,’ in which, according to an American historian, he gave great offence to many by ranking hypocrisy among the immoralities. He chose the new council for the province, and forbade the holding of town-meetings without special license. He also seized the provincial magazines at Cambridge and elsewhere, which resulted in some rioting. A once loyal province had been alienated to the verge of rebellion through ministerial blundering at home, and an accident sufficed to kindle the smouldering flame. On 18 April 1775 Gage, hearing that the colonists were collecting stores at Concord Town, twenty miles from Boston, sent a detachment of eight hundred men under Colonel Smith, 10th foot, to destroy them. The service was effected, but a collision with the militia occurred on the return march at Lexington, with which the war of independence may be said to have commenced. Gage's report of the affair is printed in facsimile in the ‘Memorial History of Boston.’ By a resolution of the provincial congress, the colonists refused longer to obey Gage as governor. Gage remained in Boston, where at the end of March he was reinforced by additional regiments from home. On 12 June Gage proclaimed martial law, and offered a free pardon to all who would avail themselves of it, except Samuel Adams and John Harvey. On the 16th the Americans took up a position on what was properly Breed's Hill, on Charleston Heights, opposite Boston, where on the morrow (17 June 1775) was fought the battle known as that of Bunker's Hill. Howe, with part of Gage's command, was sent to dislodge the American forces. Twice the position was assailed without success. The third time the slope was carried, and the Americans driven from their entrenchments. They merely retired from Breed's Hill to Bunker's Hill, whither the British did not follow them. Gage shut himself up in Boston, where great scarcity prevailed, and where he was blockaded on the land side by Washington. Gage was blamed at home and abroad. In an undated letter to Lord Suffolk about this time, Germain, the secretary of state for the colonies, laments that ‘General Gage, with all his good qualitys, finds himself in a position of too great importance for his talents’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. iii. 83 a); and Burgoyne, in a letter from Boston dated 20 Aug. 1775, speaks of Gage as ‘an officer totally unfitted for this command,’ and enters into a detail of all he had left undone (ib. 81 b). Despite Germain's misgivings Gage was appointed commander-in-chief in North America in August 1775, but soon after resigned. He embarked at Boston for England on 10 Oct. 1775, leaving the command to Howe, was transferred from the colonelcy of the 22nd foot to that of the 17th dragoons, and afterwards of the 11th dragoons. He became a full general in April 1782. He died 2 April 1787 (Gent. Mag. lvii. (i.) 366).
Gage married 8 Dec. 1758, at Mount Kembal, North America, Margaret, daughter of Peter Kembal, president of the council of New Jersey, by whom he had six sons and five daughters. His eldest surviving son, Major-general Henry Gage, succeeded his uncle, William Hall Gage, second viscount, as third viscount, and died, leaving issue, in 1808. The youngest son, Admiral Sir William Hall Gage, is separately noticed.[For genealogical details see Archdall's Peerage of Ireland under ‘Gage;’ also Collins's Peerage (ed. 1812), viii. p. 267–8. The particulars of Gage's early military commissions in the War Office (Home Office) books are imperfect, owing to the regiments to which he belonged being on the Irish establishment. The services of the 44th foot during the period Gage belonged to it are given in T. Carter's Hist. Records 44th (East Essex) Regiment (London, 1865), in which Gage is wrongly described as a ‘brevet lieutenant-colonel’ in the affair of Fort Duquesne. The best account of the campaigns in America in which Gage was engaged, from the attempt on Fort Duquesne in 1755 to the fall of Montreal in 1760, will be found in F. Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe (London, ed. 1884, 2 vols.). Some notices of Gage in America from 1760 to 1772 appear in Calendars of Home Office Papers, 1760–6, 1766–9, 1770–2. His account of the affair at Fort Duquesne and particulars of his later services in America, in his own words, with queries by Geo. Chalmers and Gage's answers, are given in vol. xxxiv. of the Collections of the Hist. Soc. of Massachusetts. For his doings at Boston reference may be made to Letters to the Ministry (1769, 12mo); Letters to the Earl of Hillsborough, &c. (1769, 8vo); Letters of Generals Gage and Washington (New York, 1775); Detail and Conduct of the American War under General Gage (London, 1780); also to Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs, vol. iv., Stedman's Hist. American War, Bancroft's Hist. United States, vol. iv., and similar works, which should be compared with Gage's order-books and letters. Gage's Regimental and General Orders, complete from 1750 to 1777, are in the British Museum, where they form Addit. MSS. 21656–7, 21680, 21683. His orders while in command at Niagara, and his correspondence with Colonel Bouquet, General Haldimand, and other officers of note, at various periods of his services in America, will also be found in Addit. MSS. In addition to materials in the Home and Colonial series in the Public Record Office, whereof those for the period 1760–72, as before stated, are noted in the published Calendars of Home Office Papers, a large number of letters to and from Gage in America are preserved among the Marquis of Lansdowne's papers, and are catalogued in Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. Some notices of him will also be found in the 6th Rep. and 9th Rep. iii. See also Appleton's Enc. Amer. Biog. vol. iii., and Georgian Era, vol. ii.]