Sir John Burgoyne Bt


Sir John Burgoyne, born in 1739, was an English general, seventh baronet, of Sutton, Bedfordshire, not to be confused with his cousin, Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne who famously surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga.

Burgoyne was the son of Sir Roger Burgoyne, 6th Baronet of Sutton Bedfordshire. He entered the army at an early age. After serving in the 7th Fusiliers and other units, he was a major in the 52nd, and obtained the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 58th Foot in Ireland in 1764. On 15 July 1773 he was transferred to that of the 14th Dragoons, then on the Irish establishment. Whilst in command of the 14th the regiment was converted from dragoons to light dragoons, in 1776. It is thought that he established the first standing orders that the regiment ever possessed.

In 1780 he succeeded his father to the baronetcy, and in 1781 Colonel Burgoyne was commissioned to raise a regiment of light dragoons for service in India, the first European cavalry sent out to that country. This corps, originally known as the 23rd Light Dragoons, was formed out of drafts from other regiments, and mustered at Bedford. Standards, now in possession of the 19th hussars, were presented to it by George III, and early in 1782 it embarked, with other reinforcements, on board the East India fleet under convoy of Admiral Sir R. Bickerton, and landed at Madras towards the end of the year. Under its changed name of the 19th Light Dragoons it subsequently won great renown on Indian battle-fields. Burgoyne was promoted to the rank of major-general on the Madras staff in 1783. He married Charlotte, daughter of General Johnstone of Overston, Northamptonshire, and by this lady he left several children. He died at Madras in 1785.

The portrait, by George Romney shows him in green uniform, thought to be that of the 23rd Light Dragoons, but W Y Carman describes that regiment's uniform as being red with dark green facings. The portrait was published in Blackburne Hamilton's history of the 14th Hussars (1901) with the information that the painting belonged to Burgoyne's great-grandson, Colonel Sir John Montagu Burgoyne Bt, of Sutton Park, Beds. It was apparently painted by Romney in 1781 the year that Burgoyne went out to India with the 23rd LD. The green uniform has metal shoulder chains which was the distinction of Indian cavalry regiments at that time. The silver tip to his sword belt is inscribed with XXIII LD, indicating that Mr Carman was mistaken and that indeed this is the first uniform of the newly raised 23rd Light Dragoons.


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by Stephen Luscombe