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Sir William Howe

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

Sir William Howe, when in America, says a correspondent in London, was the worst general that ever a British army was cursed with. The flower of our troops, which should have blossomed in the full bloom of victory, and have extended conquest through all the continent of America, was permitted to wither among the weeds of dissipation, and all its former glory to fade in the eyes of the surrounding enemy. Hundreds of young men were ruined at the gaming tables in Philadelphia and New York—places of certain destruction, protected and countenanced by the commander-in-chief. Our officers were practising at the dice-box, or studying the chances of picquet, when they should have been storming towns, and crushing the spirit of rebellion; and the harlot’s eye glistened with wanton pleasure at the general’s table when the brightness of his sword should have reflected terror on the face of the rebels. Cleopatra’s banquet was in continual representation, and the American Antony at the head of each feast.

An army so commanded, or rather so indulged, might, indeed, to the general, gain the applause of giddy subalterns, and the thanks of gambling veterans; no wonder, then, that a triumphant arch was raised to the hero’s fame: but to a soldier it intimated disgrace, for it was not adorned with one laurel of victory.1

Every step that General Howe took through the course of his most lucrative appointment, is now known to the people of England. The general of middle fortune, and yet humble abilities; has returned enriched by his command, and dignified by his sovereign. But when we investigate the source from whence this honor and these riches arose, we find that the latter was owing to an inaction which delayed conquest and prolonged the war, whilst the former is but a type of the crimson stream which wantonly flowed at Bunker’s Hill 2


1 Alluding to the Mischianza; see May 19, 1778 (Volume II, Chapter II)
2 “Ventidius,” Upcott, v. 371.