Colonel John Graves Simcoe

Simcoe, John Graves. 1752-1806.

Following a first class education at Exeter, Eton, and Oxford, John Graves Simcoe entered British military service in 1771 as an ensign in the 35th Regiment. As a result of distiguished service at the Battle of Brandywine, Simcoe was selected as the new commander of the Provincial Queen's Rangers, a Loyalist unit. This unit soon became one of the most proficient units in the British army, able to march and deploy quickly, and expert with bayonet and rifle. During their years of campaigning, the Rangers displayed great skill and competence on the battlefield, as well as self-restraint off the field. This was due to Simcoe's dedication to training, use of innovative tactics, and his prohibition against plundering and marauding.

After proving his ability, Simcoe and the Rangers were sent to Virginia to join Benedict Arnold in his attempt to conquer that state. Simcoe joined Cornwallis' army when that general arrived and assumed command of British forces in Virginia. At Yorktown, the Rangers were stationed at Gloucester Point, guarding Cornwallis' escape route across the York River.

When Cornwallis surrendered, Simcoe was fearful of the treatment that his Loyalist troops would receive at the hands of patriot forces. Simcoe and most of the Rangers were spirited out of Yorktown aboard the sloop "Bonetta", which Cornwallis had been allowed to keep according to the surrender terms.

After Yorktown, Simcoe retired to his estates in England. He was elected to Parliament in 1791, and was soon appointed Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada that same year. Commissioned a major general in 1794, he commanded the garrison at Santo Domingo at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. When the French threatened to invade England in 1801, Simcoe was appointed commander at Plymouth. Simcoe was later appointed commander in chief of British forces in India but died before actually taking command.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Colonial National Historical Park - Yorktown Battlefield
P.O. Box 210

Yorktown, VA 23690


757 898-2410

Contact Us