Sir Henry Clinton

Clinton, Henry. 1730-1795.

Henry Clinton was no stranger to America at the outbreak of the American Revolution. He first came to America at the age of 13 when his father was made the Royal Governor of New York. Of aristocratic blood, Clinton early on decided to undertake a career in the military. In 1745 he became a lieutenant of fusiliers in America. He decided that he did not wish to remain in a provincial regiment so he left for England in 1751.

In England, he was able to secure a spot as a captain-lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards. During the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in America), Clinton served with the British forces in Germany. The war greatly increased Clinton's chances for promotion and he became a general before the war ended.

In April 1775, Clinton arrived in America and became second in command to General William Howe in September of that year. Clinton's first independent command in America was a failure for the British. He commanded the British expedition that was defeated outside Charleston, South Carolina, in 1776. He returned north and went on to fight in the battles around New York and in Rhode Island as well.

In February 1778, Howe resigned as commander-in-chief of British forces in America. Clinton was appointed to take his place. Clinton, in 1780, successful laid siege to Charleston, South Carolina, and captured practically the entire southern army of the Americans. Clinton returned to New York and left his second in command, General Cornwallis, in charge in the south.

During the Siege of Yorktown, Clinton delayed sending promised reinforcements to Cornwallis. The reinforcements left New York on October 19, the day of the surrender. Upon finding out about the surrender of Cornwallis, Clinton took the troops back to New York.

It was not Cornwallis who was given blame for the defeat at Yorktown, rather, it was Clinton. He was relieved from command by Sir Guy Carleton in May 1782. He would spend much time in his later life defending his actions during the Yorktown Campaign.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

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

Yorktown , VA 23690


(757) 898-2410

Contact Us