General Thomas Gage was a British general who fought against the colonists during the Siege of Boston.
As the military governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, in April of 1775, Gage and his troops inadvertently started the Revolutionary War when they attempted to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock and seize the colonist’s ammunition supplies in the countryside surrounding Boston.
These actions led to the famous battles of Lexington and Concord, which ushered Britain into the eight-year long war with colonists that eventually ended with Britain’s defeat in 1783.
According to the book Paul Revere’s Ride, which discusses many key players in the American Revolution, failure was familiar to Gage since he descended from a long line of men who supported Britain’s many lost causes over the years:
“As early as 1215, several Sussex Gages were said to have backed King John against Magna Carta. When the Reformation came to England they sided with the Catholic party, and one of them became the jailor of the Protestant Princess Elizabeth, England’s future Queen. During the English Civil War, the Gages rallied to the Royalist cause of Charles I and suffered a heavy defeat. In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, they stood with James II and were defeated yet again. When the house of Hanover inherited the throne the Gages became Jacobites, stubbornly faithful to the hopeless cause of a Catholic King over the water.”
Unlike his predecessors, Gage did at least experience triumph momentarily when his troops won a minor victory in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Yet, although the British technically won that battle, they suffered heavy losses at the hands of the colonists, which only encouraged the rebellion and boosted the colonist’s morale, as British General Clinton noted in his diary that day, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.”
Fortunately, Gage did not have to watch Britain lose the war first hand since the British government had lost confidence in his military abilities and replaced him with General William Howe immediately after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Gage left Boston on October 10 on a ship bound for England.
Gage returned to England amid heavy criticism from his colleagues, and died a little over a decade later.
Library of Congress: Battle of Bunker Hill: www.loc.gov/teachers/lyrical/poems/bunker_hill.html
How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War; Victor Brooks, Robert Hohwald; 1999
Paul Revere’s Ride; David Hackett Fischer; 1995