Year
1775
Month Day
October 10

William Howe named commander in chief of British army

General William Howe is named the interim commander in chief of the British army in America on October 1 1775, replacing Lieutenant General Thomas Gage. He was permanently appointed to the post in April 1776.

General Howe’s first major battles against his American counterpart, General George Washington, including the Battle of Bunker Hill, came during the Patriot siege of Boston. They proved to be disappointing failures that resulted in a British retreat from Boston in March 1776. Howe and the British army redeemed themselves, however, with a victory over Washington and the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island in August. Just one month later, Howe led a British invasion of New York City. While successful during the fall of 1776, many believe General Howe missed an opportunity to crush General Washington and the Continental Army by not pursuing the Patriots as they retreated from New York.

Howe again defeated Washington and the Continental Army at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, but decided to then launch an attack against Philadelphia instead of coming to the aid of British General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga as planned. Without the support of Howe and his men, the British army at Saratoga was overwhelmed and forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777. The American victory at the Battle of Saratoga was one of the turning points of the Revolutionary War and General Howe’s decision not to support it proved a major failure in judgment.

Burgoyne placed the blame for the British loss at the Battle of Saratoga squarely on Howe’s shoulders. Within a month, Howe requested that he be relieved of his duty as commander in chief of the British army, and, in the spring of 1778, he was replaced by General Henry Clinton. Upon his return to England, Howe received so much criticism that, in 1779, Parliament was forced to open an investigation into his military conduct in America.

Howe was cleared of any wrongdoing by the investigation and went on to become the governor of Berwick. Upon his brother’s death in 1799, Howe inherited his Irish title and was named a viscount. He also became governor of Plymouth and a privy councilor (advisor to the king) prior to his death on July 12, 1814, at the age of 84.

READ MORE: Revolutionary War 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Eight hundred children are gassed to death at Auschwitz

On October 10, 1944, 800 Romani children, including more than a hundred boys between 9 and 14 years old, are systematically murdered. Auschwitz was really a group of camps, designated I, II, and III. There were also 40 smaller “satellite” camps. It was at Auschwitz II, at ...read more

President Dwight D. Eisenhower apologizes to African diplomat

In the conclusion to an extremely embarrassing situation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower offers his apologies to Ghanian Finance Minister, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, who had been refused service at a restaurant in Dover, Delaware. It was one of the first of many such incidents in ...read more

Vice President Agnew resigns

Less than a year before Richard M. Nixon’s resignation as president of the United States, Spiro Agnew becomes the first U.S. vice president to resign in disgrace. The same day, he pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion in exchange for the dropping of charges ...read more

Battle of Tours

At the Battle of Tours near Poitiers, France, Frankish leader Charles Martel, a Christian, defeats a large army of Spanish Moors, halting the Muslim advance into Western Europe. Abd-ar-Rahman, the Muslim governor of Cordoba, was killed in the fighting, and the Moors retreated ...read more

A former postal worker commits mass murder

Former U.S. postal worker Joseph Harris shoots two former co-workers to death at the post office in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The night before, Harris had killed his former supervisor, Carol Ott, with a three-foot samurai sword, and shot her fiance, Cornelius Kasten, in their home. ...read more

Superman Christopher Reeve dies at age 52

On October 10, 2004, the actor Christopher Reeve, who became famous for his starring role in four Superman films, dies from heart failure at the age of 52 at a hospital near his home in Westchester County, New York. Reeve, who was paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident, was a ...read more

Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” tops the charts

On October 10, 1987, the song “Here I Go Again” by English hard-rock group Whitesnake tops the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States. Today, what most people remember about the song is its saucy video: The actress Tawny Kitaen spends a great deal of it in a white ...read more

“Porgy and Bess,” the first great American opera, premieres on Broadway

On October 10, 1935, George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess premieres on Broadway. Porgy and Bess began its journey to the Broadway stage in 1926, when George Gershwin wrote a letter late one night to the author of a book he was reading proposing that the two of them collaborate ...read more

Colonel George Custer’s funeral is held at West Point

On October 10, 1877, the U.S. Army holds a West Point funeral with full military honors for Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Killed the previous year in Montana by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Custer’s body had been returned to the ...read more

US Naval Academy opens

The United States Naval Academy opens in Annapolis, Maryland, with 50 midshipmen students and seven professors. Known as the Naval School until 1850, the curriculum included mathematics and navigation, gunnery and steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy, and French. The ...read more

US Navy fighter jets intercept Italian cruise ship hijackers

The hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro reaches a dramatic climax when U.S. Navy F-14 fighters intercept an Egyptian airliner attempting to fly the Palestinian hijackers to freedom and force the jet to land at a NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily. American and Italian ...read more