Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/110

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Howe
Howe
104

position, so Howe, leaving Clinton at New York, embarked the rest of his army, with a view to entering Delaware Bay, and thereby turning the American position. Contrary winds delayed the enterprise, and the troops did not reach the Chesapeake until late in August. A landing was effected; on 11 Sept. 1776 Howe defeated the enemy at Brandywine, and after a succession of skirmishes took up a position at Germantown on 26 Sept. Lord Cornwallis, with the grenadiers of the army, occupied Philadelphia next day. On 4 Oct. the Americans attacked Germantown, but were repulsed. On 17 Oct. Burgoyne's force, approaching from Canada, surrendered at Saratoga. Howe, who complained that he was not properly supported at home, sent in his resignation the same month. A number of movements followed, but Howe failed to bring Washington to a general action, and on 8 Dec. 1777 he went into winter quarters at Philadelphia, ' being unwilling to expose the troops longer to the weather in this inclement season, without tents or baggage for officers or men.' Bancroft accuses Howe of spending the winter (1777-8) in Philadelphia in the eager pursuit of pleasure, so that, to the surprise of all, no attack was made on Washington's starving troops in their winter quarters at Valley Forge, although their numbers were at one time reduced to less than five thousand men (ib. vi. 46-7). It should be said that in the opinion of Sir Charles (afterwards first Earl) Grey [q.v.], one of the ablest and most energetic of the English generals present, the means available were never sufficient to justify an attempt on Valley Forge (Howe, Narrative, p.42). Howe received notice that his resignation was accepted in May 1778. Before leaving America his officers, with whom he was a favourite, gave him a grand entertainment, which they called a 'mischianza.' It opened with a mock tournament, in which seven knights of the 'Blended Rose' contended with a like number of the 'Burning Mountain' for fourteen damsels in Turkish garb, and it ended at dawn with a display of fireworks, in which a figure of Fame proclaimed in letters of fire, 'Thy laurels shall never fade.' The whole affair excited much animadversion and endless ridicule. Before leaving Philadelphia, Howe sent General Grant [see Grant, James, 1720-1806] to intercept Lafayette, who had crossed the Schuykill, following himself in support. Lafayette cleverly eluded Grant, and Howe returned to Philadelphia. He embarked for England on 24 May 1778, being succeeded in the command by Clinton [see Clinton, Sir Henry, 1738-1795]. Horace Walpole speaks of Howe's visits, after his return home, to the great camps which had been formed in expectation of invasion (Letters, iii. 134). He appears to have been a frequent speaker in the House of Commons on American affairs (Parl. Hist. vols. xix-xxi.) Early in 1779 Howe and his brother the admiral, thinking their conduct had been unjustly impugned by the ministry, obtained a committee of the whole house to inquire into the conduct of the war in America. Various witnesses were examined, but the inquiry was without result. The ministers could not substantiate any charge against Howe, and he on his part failed to prove that he had not received due support. The committee adjourned sine die on 29 June 1779, and did not meet again. Howe published a 'Narrative of Sir William Howe before a Committee of the House of Commons' (London, 1780, 4to), in which he solemnly declared that, although preferring conciliation, his brother and himself stretched their limited powers to the utmost verge of their instructions, and never suffered their efforts in the direction of conciliation to interfere with the military operations. There appears to have been some idea of reappointing Howe to the American command. In 1782 he was appointed lieutenant-general of the ordnance, and ex officio colonel en second of the royal artillery and engineers, and in 1785 was transferred from the colonelcy of the 23rd fusiliers to that of the 19th (originally 23rd) light dragoons. At the time of the Nootka Sound dispute Howe was nominated for the command of the so-called 'Spanish armament'—the force under orders for embarkation in the event of war being declared (Cornwallis, Correspondence, ii. 110). He became a full general on 23 Oct. 1793. After the commencement of the French war he had command of the northern district, with headquarters at Newcastle, and in 1795 commanded a force of nine thousand men encamped at Whitley, near Newcastle, the largest camp formed in the north of England during the war. Later, when the French armies had overrun Holland, he held the important command of the eastern district of England, with headquarters at Colchester.

On the death of Earl Howe, in 1799, Howe succeeded to the Irish title only as fifth viscount. He resigned his post under the ordnance, on account of failing health, in 1803. He had been appointed governor of Berwick-on-Tweed in 1795, and was transferred to that of Plymouth in 1805. He died at Plymouth, after a long and painful illness, on 12 July 1814, when the Irish, as distinct from the English, title became extinct.

On 4 June 1765 he married Frances, fourth