Lieut-Colonel John Burgoyne

Burgoyne was a famous and colourful figure who became infamous when he was forced to surrender to the American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga in 1777. He was later exonerated and re-instated when the blame shifted to a staff officer who had failed to co-ordinate the attack on New York leaving Burgoyne outnumbered and unsupported. Generals Howe and Barry St Leger were supposed to advance simultaneously from the south and west while Burgoyne moved in from the north.

Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne was not just a soldier, he was a playwright, actor, fashion trend-setter and a leading light in London society. He caused a scandal when he eloped with Lady Charlotte Stanley and had to live in exile for 7 years. But his time was well spent studying the continental light cavalry in Prussia and Russia. Eventually his father-in-law, Lord Derby, forgave him and helped to re-instate him as a military commander. Burgoyne put forward proposals for the raising of a light cavalry regiment. His ideas were accepted and it was decided to raise two regiments, Elliot's 15th Light Dragoons and Burgoyne's 16th Light Dragoons.

He achieved fame in Portugal as a cavalry commander, and where he formed a friendship with Count Frederick la Lippe Buckeburg. He was placed in charge of outposts but in July 1762 he stormed Valencia d'Alcantara, taking three standards and capturing a Spanish general. The campaign ended after he attacked an entrenched camp at Villa Velha on October 5th. The Commander, Count Frederick was delighted with Burgoyne's efforts and rewarded him by commissioning Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint Burgoyne's portrait (above) in the uniform of his regiment, the 16th Light Dragoons.

1722 24th Feb. Born at the ancestral family home in Sutton, Bedfordshire.
1740 entered army as cornet in 13th light Dragoons
1741 Lieutenant in 13th
1743 Captain. Eloped with Lady Charlotte Stanley and lived in exile for 7 years
1756 Re-instated through influence of Lord Derby and entered 11th Dragoons
1758 Captain and Lieut-Colonel in Coldstream Guards
1758-9 Expeditions on the French coast, St Malo and Cherbourg.
1759 Lieut-Col commanding officer of 16th Light dragoons
1761-68 MP for Midhurst
1762 Campaigning in Portugal with rank of Brigadier-General
1763 Lieut-General. 18th March appointed Colonel of 16th Light Dragoons
1766 Portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds
1768 Governor of Fort William
1768-92 MP for Preston
1772 Major-General
1774 Sent to America to reinforce General Gage
1775 Returns to England in disgust
1775 His play 'The Maid of the Oaks' is put on by David Garrick
1776 Placed in command of reinforcements to relieve Quebec
1777 Replaces General Charleton in Canada and devises plan to capture New York
1777 May. Advances from Three Rivers, through the forests of Albany with a force half the size that he asked for. He was under the impression that Howe and St Leger were also heading for New York.
1777 29th Aug. Promoted Lieut-General
1777 17th Oct. Surrendered at Saratoga
1779 19th Oct. Deprived of colonelship of 16th Light Dragoons
1782 7th June. After re-instatement he is appointed Colonel of 4th King's Own, and Commander-in-Chief of Ireland
1786 Wrote his best known play 'The Heiress'
1792 4th Aug. Died and buried in Westminster Abbey on 13th Aug

Soldiers | Regimental details


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames |

by Stephen Luscombe