1776

General William Howe Character Analysis

Beginning in 1775, General William Howe is the general commander of the British forces in America. Howe comes from a powerful British aristocratic family, and his brother, Admiral Lord Richard Howe, is also an important figure on the British side of the Revolutionary War. Howe is an experienced politican and military commander, but he’s rumored to be a soft and ineffective leader whose aristocratic background has made him indulgent to a fault. Howe’s defining quality, as McCullough depicts him, is his caution. On multiple occasions, McCullough notes that, had Howe pressed his advantage over George Washington’s troops, he could have defeated the American rebels and ended the Revolutionary War with a British victory. Instead, Howe tends to proceed slowly, giving Washington (his scrappier, more agile opponent) ample time to retreat, regroup, and ultimately outmaneuver him.

General William Howe Quotes in 1776

The 1776 quotes below are all either spoken by General William Howe or refer to General William Howe. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Military Strategy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of 1776 published in 2006.
Chapter 3 Quotes

But for all his raw courage in the heat and tumult of war, Billy Howe could be, in the intervals between actions, slow-moving, procrastinating, negligent in preparing for action, interested more in his own creature comforts and pleasures.

Related Characters: General William Howe
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
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"My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months."

Related Characters: General William Howe (speaker)
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

There was no ringing call for valor in the cause of country or the blessings of liberty, as Washington had exhorted his troops at Brooklyn, only a final reminder of the effectiveness of bayonets.

Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rather, in eighteenth-century military fashion, he hoped to maneuver Washington onto the open field, and then, with his superior, professional force, destroy the Yankee "rabel" in one grand, decisive victory.

Related Characters: General William Howe (speaker), George Washington
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Called on to explain later, Cornwallis would say his troops were exhausted, footsore, hungry, and in need of rest. More important, it had not seemed at the time that excessive haste was wise or necessary. There were dangers in too rapid a pursuit. He worried about General Lee, who was variously reported just ahead or coming up from behind. But had it looked like he could catch Washington, Cornwallis said, he would have kept going, whatever the risks, no matter the orders.
Some would see the pause as a horrendous blunder and blame William Howe.

Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:
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General William Howe Character Timeline in 1776

The timeline below shows where the character General William Howe appears in 1776. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Sovereign Duty
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...the American cause. King George has sent military reinforcements to America, led by three generals: William Howe , John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton. (full context)
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...newspapers characterize his military action in the war as being “unnecessary” and “unjust.” George sends William Howe to command the British troops in America. Around the same time, Lord North, a prominent... (full context)
Chapter 3: Dorchester Heights
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...leave Boston and relocate to New York, a better tactical location. But by the time General William Howe receives orders from England to leave Boston, it’s too cold, and the troops are forced... (full context)
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...the more high-ranking British soldiers manage to enjoy their time. They attend plays commissioned by General Howe , many of them satirizing the American soldiers. (full context)
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British commander General William Howe is well known for being an indulgent, fun-loving man. He’s rumored to be in an... (full context)
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...fortifications. They work hard, and by the dawn the fortifications are finished—a “phenomenal achievement.” When General William Howe sees what the Americans have done, he says, “These fellows have done more work in... (full context)
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The British forces are intimidated by the Americans’ move into Dorchester. General Howe orders 2,000 of his men to march to Dorchester, and they leave by noon on... (full context)
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...unclear how much longer the British will be able to last in Boston. Rather abruptly, General Howe commands Britain’s troops to leave Boston at once, rather than wait for the Americans to... (full context)
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On March 10, General Howe announces that he has arranged for Loyalist townspeople to be sailed away from Boston. For... (full context)
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Also March 10, General Howe orders all Bostonians to surrender any supplies that might be useful to the American troops.... (full context)
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Aboard the British ships, many of the soldiers wonder what William Howe is planning. Loyalist civilians in particular are terrified that they’ll never return to Boston. By... (full context)
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...assault on Dorchester has been a resounding success for the American army. Washington has defeated William Howe , a far more experienced general. Furthermore, he’s waged a military campaign while also negotiating... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Lines are Drawn
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On July 14, General William Howe sends a British soldier, waving a truce flag, to deliver a letter to George Washington.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Field of Battle
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...British army hasn’t distinguished himself in the war with America, having failed in the missions General William Howe has given him, and he’s eager to prove himself. Clinton forms a plan of attack... (full context)
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...the order for the British troops to march out to Brooklyn. While neither Clinton nor General William Howe realizes it, Clinton’s plan is extremely risky. He’s leading a huge force into unknown territory... (full context)
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...in the end, there is a unanimous vote to flee. Washington is about to surprise General Howe once again. (full context)
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...where they were outnumbered thanks to Washington’s decision to divide the army. Historians still debate General Howe ’s decision not to continue attacking the Americans in the afternoon. Had he done so,... (full context)
Chapter 6: Fortune Frowns
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On the British side, General Clinton argues with General William Howe about the best way to proceed with the invasion. Howe supports an invasion through Kips... (full context)
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...a rumor is circulated among American soliders that a woman named Mrs. Robert Murray invited General Howe to tea in her home, where she delayed him from sending orders for two hours,... (full context)
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...army now occupies most of Manhattan. While his troops enjoy the beauty of the island, General William Howe plans a new assault on the American troops. (full context)
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...number 750, kill many British soldiers before retreating. The British losses at Pell’s Point inspire General Howe to proceed cautiously in case of another American assault. Howe is planning to maneuver the... (full context)
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...sidestepping Washington’s forces altogether and preparing to move into Philadelphia. Washington, however, is confident that General Howe will attack again. He’s not sure if he should pull troops out of Fort Washington... (full context)
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...decision to divide his forces into four groups, and suggest his frustration with his men. General William Howe begins to formulate a new plan: he decides to attack Fort Washington while Washington is... (full context)
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Soon after capturing Fort Washington, General William Howe sends troops to Fort Constitution, now named Fort Lee. Washington gets word of the impending... (full context)
Chapter 7: Darkest Hour
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General Clinton and General William Howe have been quarrelling for months. At White Plains, Clinton says he can’t stand Howe. Howe... (full context)
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Admiral Lord Richard Howe and his brother William Howe send a peace treaty to the people of New Jersey. The treaty requires them to... (full context)
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...when the Continental Congress relocates to Baltimore for fear that Philadelphia will be invaded. However, General William Howe suspends all further military operations for the winter, and orders his troops to retire in... (full context)
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Washington doesn’t realize that General William Howe is suspending military operations. He sends spies to infiltrate the British army, and offers money... (full context)
...men, and soon the newspapers are full of glorious accounts of Washington’s daring maneuvers. Meanwhile, General William Howe hears the news and decides to march to New Jersey with an army of 8,000... (full context)