At the time of the American Revolution, the British government had access to a powerful and diverse fighting force.

The officers leading the Crown Forces in the colonies were some of the most experienced leaders their countries had to offer.  Below highlights some of the most effective officers and foes of George Washington who fought for Great Britain and her allies.

General Sir Henry Clinton

A career soldier, Clinton served as Great Britain’s commander in chief in America.

The only son of a British Admiral, Clinton joined the army and rose steadily through the ranks.  He arrived in Boston in 1775.  Three years later he became the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.  An able tactician, he had many critics in the British administration.  His failure to provide timely aid during the doomed Yorktown campaign led to his resignation in 1781.

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General Charles Cornwallis

This British General is best known in the United States for his surrender at Yorktown.

Serving as second in command to General Henry Clinton, Cornwallis helped lead the British to victory at Brooklyn, Brandywine, Monmouth, and Charleston.  He demonstrated his tactical abilities during the southern campaign of 1780-81, when he drove the British army deep into the southern colonies and destroyed organized American resistance.  But losses late in his campaign-especially at Yorktown-signaled the end of the war.

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Admiral Lord Richard Howe

Lord Howe often lent naval support to military operations run by his younger brother, William.

A veteran of the Seven Years War, Lord Howe took command of the Britain North American fleet in February 1776.  Together with his brother William, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, Howe nearly destroyed Washington and the Continental Army at New York at the outset of the war.  After several successful campaigns, he resigned in 1778 and returned to Great Britain

Major General William Howe

Howe directed British troops during the early years of the war.

A Whig who sympathized with the Americans, Howe took over as the commander in chief of the British Army in 1776.  A young but able soldier, he was inexplicably slow; and at times his hesitation allowed Washington’s army to escape certain destruction.  After three years of leading the war effort in the colonies, he resigned, frustrated by a perceived lack of support from London.

General Wilhelm Knyphausen

This German general once commanded New York during British General Clinton’s absence.

After a distinguished career in Frederick the Great’s army, Knyphausen landed in America with a division of British-allied German mercenaries in 1776.  As Commander-in-Chief of German troops for over six years, he fought at White Plains, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth.  Injuries and the loss of an eye forced his retirement in 1782.

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Cornplanter

This Iroquois chief reluctantly aided the British cause during the Revolutionary War.

The son of a Seneca woman and a Dutch trader, Cornplanter tried to remain neutral during the Revolutionary War; but the Iroquois Confederacy pressured him to ally with the British.  His successful raids on American settlers in 1778 and 1780 forced the Continental Army to divert troops and supplies from the war effort in order to retaliate. 

General Thomas Gage

Commander-in-Chief of American forces in Boston.

Although Washington and Gage never met on the field of battle, their actions in 1775 at the battle of Bunker Hill elevated Washington's status as commander of the Continental Army while destroying Gage's reputation and military career.

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General John Burgoyne

Veteran of the Seven Years' War and commander of the efforts to split the Americans by an British invasion from Canada.

John Burgoyne served as a general in the British Army during the American Revolution. Burgoyne commanded a force of 8,500 men during the 1777 campaign season in an attack on the Lake Champlain-Hudson River Vally from Canada. Burgoyne’s defeat at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 led to the formal alliance between France and the United States in February 1778. 

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Joseph Brant

Mohawk warrior, tribal leader, and diplomat most notable for his alliance with the British during the American Revolution.

Joseph Brant (or Thayendanegea) understood the strategic importance of the West, General George Washington expressed concern over the ability of his Continental forces to defend the New York frontier against joint Native and Loyalist raids led by Brant.

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The Revolutionary War

Learn more about how General George Washington led the American army to victory in the Revolutionary War.

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