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Gates, Horatio (1727/8-1806) General: Gates began his military career in the British Army, serving in Nova Scotia and along the frontier from Virginia to New York. Seven years after he retired from the British army in 1765, he moved to Virginia. Three years later, Congress commissioned him adjutant general of the Continental Army. Later, he served as commander of the Northern Department. He was highly capable in both positions, and defeated Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777. After this victory, Congress appointed Gates as the head of the Board of War. Gates suffered from two major blows to his reputation: a crushing defeat at the Battle of Camden and rumors of his desire and attempts to replace George Washington as Commander-in-Chief. After the war, Gates played only a minor role in politics, and died in New York in wealth but relative obscurity.
American Revolution: Major General Horatio Gates
Horatio Lloyd Gates was born about 1727, in Maldon, England, the son of Robert and Dorothea Gates, although, according to biographer Max Mintz, some mystery revolves around his birth and parentage and haunted him through his life. His mother had been the housekeeper for Peregrine Osborne, Duke of Leeds, and some enemies and detractors whispered that he was Leeds' son. Robert Gates was Dorothea's second husband, and he was a "waterman," younger than herself, who ran a ferry and bartered produce on the Thames River. He also practiced and was caught smuggling casks of wine and fined about 100 British pounds, three times the value of the contraband.
Leed died in 1729, and Dorothea was hired by Charles Powlett, the third Duke of Bolton, to help discreetly establish and manage the household of Bolton's mistress. As a result of the new position, Robert was able to pay his fines, and in July of 1729 he was appointed tides-man in the customs service. As a decidedly middle-class woman, Dorothea was thus uniquely positioned to see her son obtain an excellent education and further his military career when it was required. Horatio's godfather was 10-year-old Horace Walpole, who happened to be visiting the Duke of Leeds when Horatio was born, and later became a famed and respected British historian.
In 1745, Horatio Gates decided to seek a military career. With financial aid from his parents and political assistance from Bolton, he was able to obtain a lieutenant's commission in the 20th Regiment of Foot. Serving in Germany during the War of the Austrian Succession, Gates quickly proved to be a skilled staff officer and later served as regimental adjutant. In 1746, he served with the regiment at the Battle of Culloden which saw the Duke of Cumberland crush the Jacobite rebels in Scotland. With the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, Gates found himself unemployed when his regiment was disbanded. A year later, he secured an appointment as aide-de-camp to Colonel Edward Cornwallis and traveled to Nova Scotia.
Elizabeth Phillips Gates
Horatio Gates was born in England in 1727. He received a lieutenant’s commission in the British Army in 1745. Gates went to Halifax, Nova Scotia in June 1749 and served as aide-de-camp to Colonel Edward Cornwallis, uncle of Charles Cornwallis. In 1752, Colonel Cornwallis returned to England, but Gates served as aide-de-camp to two successors. During this time, he met Elizabeth Phillips, but in order to marry her, he had to improve his prospects, so in January 1754, he returned to London.
Image: General Horatio Gates
There, Gates found that his connections were no help in the present political climate. By June, he had given up and was about to return to Nova Scotia. Then a position came available in a company stationed in Maryland. A captain was ill and wanted to sell his commission. Edward Cornwallis recommended Horatio Gates and Gates was able to purchase the commission.
In October 1754, Gates returned to Halifax and married Elizabeth Phillips, and they had a son in 1758.
During the French and Indian War, Gates joined his new company in the American colony of Maryland in March 1755. The company was part of an army that General Edward Braddock would lead into the wilderness against the French and Indians. Also in this army were George Washington, Charles Lee, Thomas Gage and Daniel Morgan. Braddock was defeated and killed in July 1755, and Gates was badly wounded by a bullet in the chest and disabled for a long time afterward.
Following his recovery, Gates served in the British forts in the Mohawk Valley, while Elizabeth lived in New York City. By 1761, Gates was a major had become expert in military administration and an experienced leader of men in battle. After the war ended, Gates’ military career stalled – advancement in the British army required money or influence.
Gates retired from the army on half pay in 1765. On the advice of his old comrade George Washington Gates bought a 659-acre farm in Berkeley County, Virginia, in 1772 and began building his home, Travelers Rest. He remained there for some time cultivating the land and being a father and husband.
When word of the revolution reached him in late May 1775, Gates rushed to Mount Vernon and offered his services to George Washington. In June, the Continental Congress began organizing the Continental Army. On June 17, 1775, at Washington’s urging, Congress commissioned Gates as a Brigadier General and Adjutant General of the Continental Army.
Gates’ experience as adjutant was invaluable to the fledgling army he created the army’s system of records and orders, and helped with the standardization of the regiments from the various colonies. In the following winter, he served with Washington in the siege of Boston, where he proved to be a capable administrator and a loyal supporter of his commander-in-chief.
Impressed with his performance, Washington praised Gates to Congress, and in 1776, he was promoted to Major General. However, Gates longed for a field command. By June 1776, he was given command of the Canadian Department. Gates’ results in command were much less satisfactory than his term as adjutant. He never got to command the Canadian Department, since the American Invasion of Canada had been abandoned before his arrival. He wound up as an assistant to General Philip Schuyler in the Northern Department.
Though his troops were with Washington at the Battle of Trenton, Gates was not. Always an advocate of defensive action, Gates argued to Washington that they should retreat farther rather than attack. When Washington dismissed his advice, Gates feigned illness as an excuse not to join the nighttime attack.
Gates had always been of the opinion that he, not Washington, should command the Continental Army, an opinion supported by several rich and prominent New England delegates to the Continental Congress. By December, Gates was actively lobbying Congress for the appointment.
Washington’s stunning successes at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton left no doubt who should be commander-in-chief. Gates was sent back north with orders to assist General Schuyler in New York. But in 1777, Congress blamed Schuyler and St. Clair for the loss of Fort Ticonderoga, and finally gave Gates command of the Northern Department on August 4.
Gates assumed command of the Northern Department on August 19, 1777, just in time for the Battle of Saratoga. While Gates took credit for the victory and Burgoyne’s surrender on October 17, Gates never appeared on the battlefield. The military actions were directed by Benedict Arnold (who headed the attack and retreated only when he was shot in the leg), Enoch Poor, Benjamin Lincoln and Daniel Morgan. John Stark‘s defeat of a sizable British raiding force at the Battle of Bennington was also a substantial factor in the victory.
Gates attempted to maximize the political return on the victory, particularly since Washington was having no present successes with the main army. Gates insulted Washington by sending reports direct to Congress instead of to Washington. At the behest of his friends, Gates was named President of the Board of War, a post he took while keeping his field command – an unprecedented conflict of interest. It was during this time that he tried in earnest to displace Washington as Commander-in-Chief, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
In October 1778, Gates was appointed to the command of the Eastern Department in Boston. A year later he left the army for a period and retired to his plantation.
In May of 1780, news of the surrender of Charleston, South Carolina, and the capture of General Benjamin Lincoln‘s southern army reached Congress. They voted to place Horatio Gates in command of the Southern Department. He learned of his new command at his home, and headed south to assume command of the remaining Continental forces near the Deep River in North Carolina on July 25, 1780.
In August, Gates gathered his forces, about half of which was untrained militia, for a quick march southward toward the enemy under British General Charles Cornwallis. On the night of August 15, Gates encountered the British Army near Camden, South Carolina, and Cornwallis attacked the following morning. Gates overestimated the capabilities of the inexperienced militia, and they broke and ran in wild confusion.
Even while his soldiers were still in battle, Gates rode north, reaching Charlotte, North Carolina, by evening, 70 miles from the battlefield. He said he was searching for a base to put together a new army, but it was an unfortunate gallop that his political enemies never let him forget. His disappointment was compounded by the news of his son Robert’s death in combat in October at the age of 22.
Nathanael Greene replaced Gates as commander on December 3, 1780, and Gates returned home to Virginia. Because of the debacle at Camden, Congress passed a resolution requiring a board of inquiry (prelude to a court martial) to look into Gates’ conduct in that affair.
Always one to support a court martial of other officers (particularly those with whom he was in competition with), Gates vehemently opposed the court of inquiry into his conduct at the Battle of Camden. While he was never placed in field command again, Gates’ supporters in Congress again came to his aid in 1782, when Congress repealed its resolution requiring a board of inquiry into the Camden disaster. Gates then rejoined Washington’s staff at Newburgh, New York.
Elizabeth Phillips Gates died in the summer of 1783.
Gates retired in 1784 and again returned to Virginia. He worked to rebuild his life, and served as the president of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati, the organization of former Continental Army officers. He proposed marriage to Janet Montgomery, the widow of General Richard Montgomery, but she refused.
In 1786 Gates married Mary Valens, a wealthy widow. Gates sold his property in Virginia in 1790, and freed his slaves on the advice of his friend John Adams. Gates then moved to his new wife’s estate at Rose Hill Farm on Manhattan Island. Despite his old age, he remained active in New York City society and served one term in the New York State legislature in 1800.
Gates later supported Thomas Jefferson as a presidential candidate, which ended his friendship with John Adams. Gates spent most of his personal wealth caring for less fortunate Revolutionary soldiers. Sensing his approaching death, Gates expressed great satisfaction at having had a part in the founding of America.
Horatio Gates died at his farm on April 10, 1806, at the age of 79. He was buried in Trinity Churchyard on Wall Street.
Historian George Bilias describes Gates as one of “the Revolution’s most controversial military figures” due to his attempts to discredit and replace George Washington through a whispering campaign, the ongoing historical debate over who should receive credit for the victory at Saratoga, and Gates’ actions after the defeat at Camden.
Horatio Gates Spafford - The story behind the hymn "It is well with my soul"
Horatio Gates Spafford was born in New York, on 20th October 1828, but it was in Chicago that he became well-known for his clear Christian testimony. He, and his wife Anna were active in their church, and their home was always open to visitors. They counted the world-famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, among their friends. They were blest with five children, and considerable wealth. Horatio was a lawyer, and owned a great deal of property in his home city.
Not unlike Job in the Old Testament of the Bible, tragedy came in great measure to this happy home. When four years old, their son, Horatio Jnr, died suddenly of scarlet fever. Then only a year later, in October 1871, a massive fire swept through downtown Chicago, devastating the city, including many properties owned by Horatio. That day, almost 300 people lost their lives, and around 100,000 were made homeless. Despite their own substantial financial loss, the Spaffords sought to demonstrate the love of Christ, by assisting those who were grief-stricken and in great need.
Two years later, in 1873, Spafford decided his family should take a holiday in England, knowing that his friend, the evangelist D. L. Moody, would be preaching there in the autumn. Horatio was delayed because of business, so he sent his family ahead: his wife and their four remaining children, all daughters, 11 year old Anna, 9 year old Margaret Lee, 5 year old Elizabeth, and 2 year old Tanetta.
On 22nd November 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship, Ville du Havre, their vessel was struck by an iron sailing ship. Two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, as the Ville du Havre sank within only twelve minutes.
All four of Horatio Spafford’s daughters perished, but remarkably Anna Spafford survived the tragedy. Those rescued, including Anna, who was found unconscious, floating on a plank of wood, subsequently arrived in Cardiff, South Wales. Upon arrival there, Anna immediately sent a telegram to her husband, which included the words “Saved alone….”
Receiving Anna’s message, he set off at once to be reunited with his wife. One particular day, during the voyage, the captain summoned him to the bridge of the vessel. Pointing to his charts, he explained that they were then passing over the very spot where the Ville du Havre had sunk, and where his daughters had died. It is said that Spafford returned to his cabin and wrote the hymn “It is well with my soul” there and then, the first line of which is, “When peace like a river, attendeth my way..” There are other accounts which say that it was written at a later date, but obviously the voyage was one of deep pathos, and is the clear inspiration of the moving and well-loved hymn. Horatio’s faith in God never faltered. He later wrote to Anna’s half-sister, “On Thursday last, we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe….. dear lambs”.
After Anna was rescued, Pastor Nathaniel Weiss, one of the ministers travelling with the surviving group, remembered hearing Anna say, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”
Naturally Anna was utterly devastated, but she testified that in her grief and despair, she had been conscious of a soft voice speaking to her, “You were saved for a purpose!” She remembered something a friend had once said, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”
Following this deep tragedy, Anna gave birth to three more children, but she and Horatio were not spared even more sadness, as on February 11th, 1880, their only son, Horatio (named after the brother who had died, and also after his father), he also died at the age of four.
In August 1881 the Spaffords left America with a number of other like-minded Christians, and settled in Jerusalem. There they served the needy, helped the poor, and cared for the sick, and took in homeless children. Their desire was to show those living about them, the love of Jesus.
The original manuscript of the Spafford’s hymn has only four verses, but later another verse was added. The music, which was written by Philip Bliss, was named after the ship on which Horatio and Anna’s daughters had died – Ville du Havre.
Horatio Spafford died of malaria on 16th October 1888. Anna Spafford continued to work in the surrounding areas of Jerusalem until her own death in 1923. Both Horatio and Anna were laid to rest in Jerusalem. It can truly be said, in the words that Spafford penned that, “It is well with their souls.”
MG Horatio Gates Bronze Medal
To recognize the extraordinary achievements and service of individuals who promote the objectives and purposes of the Adjutant General’s Corps and Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association (AGCRA) as set forth in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Association.
Significant achievements and service contributions to the Adjutant General’s Corps and AGCRA must be met for approval.
Any military or civilian personnel who is a member in good standing of the Association and who is a member of the Adjutant General’s Corps or other Human Resources professional, or affiliated with the Adjutant General’s Corps, when the award recommendation is submitted. Personnel may not receive this award more than twice.
The Major General Horatio Gates Bronze Medal is awarded for distinguished achievements and distinguished service over an extended period of time to the Adjutant General’s Corps and Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association (AGCRA).
Supporting the AGCRA is defined as supporting the local Chapter, which includes: holding or serving as a Chapter Officer or Committee Member and/or direct support to local Chapter activities, membership drives, fundraisers, Association meetings, lectures, Chapter breakfasts, local AG Ball, or any other activities sponsored by the Chapter leadership. Exceptions apply only to current members who are in a deployed location without a local Chapter.
Note – AGCRA membership alone does not fulfill the significant service criteria for this award. The Major General Horatio Gates Bronze Medal is the second-highest award authorized by the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association.
Horatio Gates was the first Adjutant General of the Army. A Gold Medal presented to Major General Horatio Gates by Congressional resolution to commemorate his victories over the British in the Battles of Bennington, Fort Stanwix, and Saratoga. These three key battles prevented the British from occupying the strategic Hudson Valley and isolating New England from the other former colonies during the Revolutionary War.
AGCRA created a Bronze Medal to recognize significant achievement and service to the Adjutant General’s Corps, Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association, and the Human Resources Community. A replica of the original Gold Medal, cast in bronze, honors Gates’ service and leadership.
$35.00, borne by the Recommending Authority.
Price includes Medal Set and Shipping. Shipping includes First Class or Priority. You can purchase a Medal Set and Shipping at the following link: MG Horatio Gates Bronze Medal
- Before purchasing any AGCRA medal set, please “confirm” award approval with the AGCRA VP, Awards by e-mailing [email protected] .
- Expedited, Express, or Overnight shipping costs are extra – contact [email protected] for details.
- This award will not be shipped until approved by the AGCRA National Executive Council.
Any person having firsthand knowledge of an individual’s achievement and/or service which meets the above criteria can recommend that individual for this award. Recommendations, in memorandum format ( AGCRA Awards Submission Template ), will be forwarded by email (preferred method) to AGCRA Vice-President for Awards at [email protected] to verify membership status and process certificate and medal, must arrive as soon as possible but no later than 30 days prior to the requested presentation date.
The memorandum must contain contributions to the Army and AGCRA, as well as the desired presentation date. The recommendation must be endorsed by the local AGCRA Chapter President or senior Adjutant General Officer. If no Adjutant General Officer is available, a senior Human Resources professional will endorse the recommendation.
Once the award has been voted by the National Executive Council and approved, then payment may be made by the awards link (preferred method, given to the payor, by the AGCRA National Executive Council VP, Awards) credit card, or debit card. Exceptions for payment method are on a case by case basis. Credit card transactions can only be processed by the AGCRA VP for Awards ([email protected]).
The National Executive Council will review award recommendations and base their vote on the merits of the achievement(s) and service. For the approval of the recommendation, a simple majority of the members of the National Executive Council present and voting is required.
Certificates for approved recommendations will be provided to the President of the Association for authenticating signature. When signed, the certificate and medal will be mailed to the recommending authority. If mailing has to be expedited, recommending authority will cover the costs.
Award recipients will be published in “1775″ and on the official AGCRA website.
Presentation of medals and certificates will be made with an appropriate air of formality and at fitting ceremonies such as AG Balls, anniversary celebrations of the Adjutant General’s Corps, or AGCRA Chapter activations, activities, or retirement ceremonies.
All awards will be recorded by entering the recipient’s name, rank, and unit in a database maintained by the AGCRA VP for Awards. This database will be reviewed as part of the approval process.
In the unlikely event that information becomes known that a fraudulent award has been made, or dishonorable conduct is substantiated, the National Executive Council can revoke this award, annotate the database, and notify the individual of the action.
6) In 1772, Horatio Gates arrived in North America, following which he purchased a modest plantation in Berkeley County, Virginia.
The Revolutionary War broke out in 1775. After hearing about the war, Gates immediately went to George Washington and offered his services. Washington vouched for Gates’ appointment as adjutant to the American army. Gates was then appointed as Brigadier General and Adjutant General of the Patriots.
(C: Civil War Trust)
General Horatio Gates dies
On this day in history, April 10, 1806, General Horatio Gates dies. Gates was one of the most controversial military figures of the American Revolution due to his constant desire for promotion, his jealousy of George Washington and his tendency to be too cautious.
Gates joined the army and served in Germany and Nova Scotia. He was injured at the Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War, the same battle from which a young Colonel George Washington led the survivors of Braddock’s Expedition to safety. After this, Gates, who was a strongly gifted administrator, became the chief of staff at Fort Pitt.
After the end of the French and Indian War, the army was downsized and Gates’ career stalled. He left the army and purchased a small plantation in Virginia. He re-established his friendship with George Washington and, when the American Revolution broke out, quickly volunteered his services.
When Washington was made Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Gates was jealous, believing he should have received the position. Washington recommended Gates be made Adjutant General of the army, or chief administrative officer. Congress agreed and also made him a Brigadier General. Gates’ organizational skills were critical in the opening days of the conflict as he organized the army, set up a system of records and helped streamline the colonial forces.
Gates pressed Congress for a field position and soon found himself under Major General Philip Schuyler in New York, where he was credited with turning back a British invasion on Lake Champlain. He took forces to assist Washington in New Jersey and discouraged him from attacking the British at Trenton and Princeton. Instead of participating in these fights, Gates went to Baltimore to persuade Congress to give him Washington’s position, but this was denied after the victories at Trenton and Princeton.
In 1777, Gates replaced General Schuyler and subsequently led the army at the Battles of Saratoga when British General Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans. Gates received the credit, but most historians agree the victory was due to the actions of his subordinates. Shortly after this, Gates again pressed Congress to be made Commander-in-Chief. Some of his personal letters, in which he was critical of Washington, were exposed during an incident called the Conway Cabal, in which General Thomas Conway and others actively tried to replace Washington with Gates. Gates was embarrassed by the situation and forced to apologize.
After the loss of General Benjamin Lincoln’s 5,000 men at the Siege of Charleston, South Carolina, Gates was given command of the Southern Department. He foolishly led an ill-prepared and hungry army to a direct attack at the Battle of Camden in which nearly 2,000 men were killed or captured, effectively ending his military career. He was nearly court-martialed for the failure, but his supporters defeated it.
When the war was over, he returned to Virginia and married a wealthy widow. They moved to New York where he lived the rest of his life. He served one term in the New York legislature in 1800 and passed away in 1806 and was buried at Trinity Church on Wall Street.
National Society Sons of the American Revolution
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
Gen. Horatio Gates: Traitor or Patriot?
While I can't say how he is viewed in Britain I do not think of him as a traitor.
His major contribution was the organizing of the army prior to the Battle of Saratoga.
I wonder whom his father was? Was it really the Duke of Walpole?
Is that how he came to recieve a Leiutenentas commision in 1745. someone bought him one? Not an unusual story for those times.
But it might have given him a bit of a rebel streak against nobility?
He was closely associated with Benedict Arnold.
Gates retired from the British army on half pay in 1765 as a major and in 1772 moved with his family to Virginia, following the advice of his old comrade-in-arms George Washington. Gates accepted appointment as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, and when the Revolution broke out, he took the American side. In June 1775 he was made adjutant general of the army, with the rank of brigadier general. He was a capable and experienced administrator and a conscientious worker.
I have not found anything so I will take a guess and say that anyone who knew him from the "old" country probably thought it was not nice that he sided with the Americans.
Up until the defeat of the British during the Revolutionary War, there were no "Americans" and they were ALL "traitors", guilty of rebellion against the King of England.
It's all a matter of viewpoint. One side's "patriots" are the other side's "traitors".
2. The Conway Cabal
It is hard to believe that there was a time when George Washington was viewed as an incompetent leader who needed to be replaced. However, the future Father of his Country would be the target in a cabal that became known as the Conway Cabal.
The cabal was headed up by Thomas Conway who was critical of Washington&rsquos decision during the Philadelphia campaign. He began to communicate with General Horatio Gates, who then was the hero of Saratoga, and the two men began to conspire with some members in Congress.
However, the cabal was misguided as George Washington maintained a majority support within Congress and when the Thomas Conway was found out, Horatio Gates immediately apologized.
The cabal hurt Gates&rsquo already tenuous relationship with George Washington. His failure at Camden would seal his fate in the war.
"Gates is represented in the uniform of a brigadier general, decorated with the medal that Congress ordered struck to commemorate his triumph at Saratoga. In his hand is a copy of the Saratoga Convention."
Horatio Gates, Gilbert Stuart, ca. 1793–94.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 753
Major General Horatio Gates was commander of the Northern Army in the Battles of Saratoga, and it was to him that Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, 1777.
The details of Gates’s early life are somewhat obscure. He was born in England in 1727 to working class parents. Because his mother was a favored housekeeper for the Duke of Leeds, young Horatio was afforded a higher level of education than most born to his class. With financial assistance from his parents—and some key noble patronage—Gates purchased his first commission in the British Army as an ensign in the 20 th Regiment of Foot in 1745.
Over the next 25 years, Gates served in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) in Europe, the Micmac War (1749-1755) in Acadia, and the French and Indian War (1754-1763) in Pennsylvania and New York. He served in staff positions for British governors and military commanders, including Edward Cornwallis, John Stanwix, and Robert Monckton. Gates probably developed his talents as a military administrator during these times, a skill that would serve him during the American War for Independence.Although Gates returned to England after the French and Indian War as major of the 45 th Regiment of Foot, he recognized that further career advancement would prove difficult due to his lack of social status. He sold his commission and returned to North America in 1769. With the help of his French and Indian War comrade-in-arms, George Washington, Gates purchased land for a plantation, called Traveler’s Rest, in Virginia. He settled there with his wife, Elizabeth (a native of Nova Scotia who he married in 1754), and their son, Robert, in 1773. Within days of buying his Virginia lands, Gates purchased Nace, an enslaved African Gates continued to purchase enslaved people and benefit from their labor for as long as he owned the estate.
Gates was a strong supporter of the American cause, and Congress appointed him as the Army of the United Colonies’ adjutant-general, with the rank of brigadier general, on June 17, 1775—the same day Washington was appointed commander-in-chief. Gates put his administrative experience to use by creating the Continental Army’s system of records and orders. He was promoted to the rank of major general on May 16, 1776 and, no longer adjutant general, his hope for a field command was granted in mid-June when he was made commander of the Canadian Department. However, as the failed American effort to conquer Canada ended before his arrival, Gates was relegated to command at Forts Ticonderoga and Independence in the Northern Department under the auspices of Major General Philip Schuyler. After the British threat from Canada was quelled in the fall of 1776, Gates led most of his troops to New Jersey in order to bolster Washington’s army in advance of the December 26 attack on Trenton.
Gates held nominal commands during the first half of 1777, but on August 4, Congress dismissed Schuyler (perceived as ineffectual in dealing with the 1777 British invasion from Canada) and appointed Gates to replace him. As such, Gates assumed command of the Northern Department on August 19 and commanded the Northern Army in the Battles of Saratoga, his first army-level command. His sensible defensive strategy, combined with Major General Benedict Arnold's aggressive battle tactics, defeated Burgoyne. Gates’s choice to pursue Burgoyne to Saratoga and force his surrender—the first surrender of a British Army in world history—was the highlight of Gates’s career.
Appointed president of the newly-configured Board of War by Congress on November 27, Gates was tasked with overhauling Continental Army management and overseeing another Canadian invasion. Concurrently, Washington faced backbiting criticism over his military failures of 1777, with some suggesting that Gates should replace Washington as commander-in-chief. While no attempt to replace Washington was afoot, the Board’s ill-conceived, congressionally sanctioned authority (along with its own appropriation of powers), created an unworkable co-command within the Continental Army. Later known as the “Conway Cabal,” Washington and his allies successfully opposed the Board’s oversight, and its authority quickly diminished.
Gates’s subsequent assignments ran the gamut, including command of the Highlands Department (May - November 1778), the Eastern Department (November 1778 - November 1779), and the Southern Department (June - October 1780). It was in the August 16, 1780 Battle of Camden, South Carolina, that Gates’s battlefield prowess was tested—the result was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster. The defeated general was replaced by Major General Nathaniel Greene on December 3.
Stricken with sickness, the Gates’ only child, Robert, died on October 22, 1780.
Gates joined the main army at Newburgh, New York, in October 1782, and apart from Washington, stood as the Continental Army’s senior officer. It was there that Gates became immersed in the “Newburgh Conspiracy,” whereby Continental Army officers challenged Congressional legitimacy due to unkept promises of financial compensation. Gates supported the agitators, some of whom called for acting in opposition to congressional authority. It was only through Washington’s intervention that the conspiracy was quashed in March 1783.
Gates went on leave shortly afterward in order to spend time Elizabeth, who was incapacitated with a serious illness. Gates never again returned to the army. His wife died on June 1, 1783.
Gates married an English immigrant, Mary, in 1786. He sold his Virginia estate in 1790, a sale which included all his enslaved people. In the sale contract, he arranged for their eventual emancipation—five enslaved adults would be freed after five years, the remaining children and young adults would gain their freedom at the age of twenty-eight. The Gateses then moved to Rose Hill (in present-day Midtown Manhattan). A Jeffersonian Republican, Gates briefly served in the New York State legislature (1800), but this was the extent of his public service.
Horatio Gates died on April 10, 1806 and was buried in Lower Manhattan’s Trinity Church Cemetery.