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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor

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Horatio Gates - A Klos Family Project


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Horatio Gates

GATES, Horatio, soldier, born in Malden, Essex County, England, in 1728; died in New York City, 10 April, 1806. The story that he was a natural son of Sir Robert Walpole is without foundation. His parents were the butler and the housekeeper of the Duke of Leeds. Horace Walpole, himself a mere lad, who chanced at the time to be visiting that nobleman, good-naturedly acted as his god-father. He entered the army while a youth, and served in this country in command of the king's New York independent company. 

Early in 1755 he was stationed at Halifax, where, under the protection of the non. Edward Cornwallis, at that time governor of Nova Scotia, uncle of Lieutenant-General Lord Cornwallis, he rose rapidly to the rank of major. Accompanying Braddock on his unfortunate expedition, he was shot through the body at the slaughter of the Monongahela, and for a long time was disabled. In July, 1760, he was brigade-major under Monekton at Fort Pitt, and in 1762 was with that general, as an aide, at the capture of Martinique, rendering effective service and establishing a reputation for military ability. At the close of the war he bought an estate in Berkeley County, Virginia, where he remained, quietly cultivating his land, until the beginning of the Revolution caused him to offer his sword to congress; and in July, 1775, he received from that body the appointment of adjutant general, with the rank of brigadier. 

In the following year he was appointed to the command of that portion of the northern army which had been successively commanded in Canada by Montgomery, Arnold, Wooster, Thomas, and Sullivan. This step put Gates over Sullivan, his senior in rank, much to the disgust of that officer; and it marked the beginning of a series of intrigues by which, with the aid chiefly of the New England delegates in congress, Gates was pushed into higher places, at first superseding Schuyler and afterward attempting to supersede Washington. Gates's present command was over "the northern army in Canada," with headquarters at Ticonderoga. When he reached that fortress he found there was no longer any northern army in Canada, because it had retreated into New York. He then set up a claim to the command of this portion of the northern army independently of Schuyler, who was commander-in-chief of the northern department, with headquarters at Albany. The matter being referred to congress, a discussion ensued, as the result of which Gates was instructed to consider himself subordinate to Schuyler. The scheme for superseding the latter general only slumbered, however, and in the summer of 1777 it was carried out in the midst of the panic produced by the rapid advance of Burgoyne. 

On 2 August, Gates was appointed to command the northern department. He has been suspected of a lack of personal courage, a suspicion that is strengthened by his conduct during the battle of 7 October, 1777; for while Burgoyne was in the thickest of the fight, receiving three bullets through his clothes, Gates, two miles away, was looking forward to a possible retreat. Scarcely had the action begun when, by his command, the baggage-trains were loaded, and teamsters placed at the horses' heads, in readiness to move at a moment's notice, Gates ordering them to move on or halt alternately, as the news from the battle-field was favorable or adverse. Indeed, the same incapacity that afterward was so apparent in Gates, during his unfortunate southern campaign, was manifested from the time of his assuming the command of the northern army until the surrender. The laurels won by him should really have been worn by Schuyler and Arnold. Not only had the army of Burgoyne been essentially disabled by the defeat at Bennington before the arrival of Gates, but the overthrow of St. Leger at Fort Stanwix had deranged the plans of the British general, while safety had been restored to the western frontier, and the panic thus caused had subsided. After the surrender, the bearing of Gates toward the commander-in-chief was far from respectful. He did not even write to the latter on that occasion; nor was it until the second day of November that he deigned to communicate to Washington a word upon the subject, and then only incidentally, as though it were a matter of secondary importance. 

Congress, in the first flush of gratitude, passed a vote of thanks to Gates and his army, and presented him with a gold medal having on one side a bust of the general, with the words "Horatio Gates duel strenuo", and on the reverse a representation of Burgoyne delivering up his sword. In November, 1777, he was made president of the new board of war and ordnance, and during the following winter sought, with the aid of the disreputable clique known as the "Conway cabal," to supplant Washington in the chief command of the army. His falsehoods in a series of intriguing letters having been exposed by Washington, he fell into some discredit, and in the spring of 1778 it became evident that his ambitious schemes had miscarried. In the course of this affair he became involved in a quarrel with Wilkinson, his former adjutant, which led to a duel, the details of which may be found in the "Boston Evening Post and General Advertiser "for 17 October, 1778. 

He retired from active service, and lived for some time on his estate in Virginia, until he was appointed, 13 June, 1780, to the command of the army in North Carolina designed to check the progress of Lord Cornwallis. In the battle near Camden, South Carolina, 16 August, he was defeated, and his army nearly annihilated. He was soon afterward superseded by General Greene, and suspended from duty. A court of inquiry was appointed to investigate his military conduct, and he was not acquitted or reinstated until 1782; so that the battle of Camden virtually ended his military career. At the close of the war he retired to his estate in Virginia, where he lived until 1790, when he removed to New York City. In 1800 he was elected to the state legislature, but for political reasons resigned soon after taking his seat. His death occurred, after a long illness, at his house, now the corner of 22d Street and 2d avenue, then the Bloomingdale pike. 

Gates was a man of great plausibility and address, of a handsome person and fair education, and a great lion in society. Though having many faults, the chief of which was an overweening confidence in his own ability combined with arrogance and untruthfulness, he had also some noble traits. Before removing to New York from Virginia, he emancipated his slaves, providing for such of them as could not take care of themselves. In his domestic relations he was an affectionate husband and father, and, during the last years of his life, a sincere Christian. He married Mary, only child of James Valence, of Liverpool, who, at her father's death, before the Revolutionary war, emigrated to this country, bringing with her $450,000. In the struggle for independence Mrs. Gates freely expended nearly all of her fortune in a lavish hospitality upon her husband's companions in arms, especially those that were in indigent circumstances; and many of the Revolutionary heroes were participants in her bounty, particularly Thaddeus Kosciusko, who, when wounded, lay six months at her house, tenderly nursed by herself and her husband. 

Mrs. Gates, who survived her husband, left the residue of her fortune ($90,000) to several relatives, whose descendants are still living in New York and Philadelphia. The Saratoga monument, shown in the accompanying illustration, was erected to commemorate the surrender of General Burgoyne to General Gates, and is in the village of Schuylerville, New York It is 155 feet in height, and stands within the lines of Burgoyne's entrenchments, on a bluff 350 feet above Hudson River and overlooking the surrender grounds. A staircase of bronze leads from the base to the top, whence can be seen the entire region between Lake George, the Green mountains, and the Catskills. On each of three sides of the monument is a niche containing heroic statues of Generals Gates, Schuyler, and Morgan, while the fourth is left vacant, with the name of Arnold inscribed underneath. Within the monument, and lining its two stories, are alto rilievo decorations in bronze, representing historical and allegorical scenes connected with the campaign of Burgoyne. The cornerstone of this structure was laid on 17 October, 1877, when poems and addresses were delivered by Horatio Seymour, George William Curtis, James Grant Wilson, Alfred B. Street, and William L. Stone. See Stone's "Campaign of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne" (Albany, 1877), and Bancroft's "History of the United States " (6 vols., New York, 1884).

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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