By Terence Wise, Angus McBride
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Washington did not – as legend credits – create the strategic concept of the Yorktown campaign, but once he had committed himself no single individual was more responsible for its success. Executing the plan required the overland movement of two armies and over 7,000 men from Connecticut and New York to Virginia. It also required masking this movement from the British. Once Washington moved his army south, the Continental forces guarding New York would be scarecrow garrisons – too small for any purpose except convincing the British within New York City that Washington and his French allies were awaiting the right moment to pounce.
He saw service in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession. By the start of the Seven Years War he commanded a regiment, which saw service at the Siege of Louisbourg. Howe led the amphibious landing at Louisbourg, and commanded the light infantry at Québec in 1759, leading the assault that took the Plains of Abraham. He also participated in the Siege of Havana in 1752. By that war’s end he was a major-general. In 1758 he entered Parliament after being elected to a seat in the House of Commons.
Unsympathetic to the Tory government’s positions on the American colonies, Howe opposed passage of the Intolerable Acts. In 1774 he declared that he would refuse any command in North America, stating that even the entire British Army could not conquer America. It took a personal appeal by King George III, a distant cousin, for Howe to reverse his position. Initially under Gage, Howe led the British attack at Bunker Hill in June 1775, a direct assault with heavy British casualties. Had the Americans not exhausted their ammunition, the British would likely have been repulsed.