See his Travels in the New World (ed. by E. J. Thompson, 1985); study by N. Newton (1969).
See biography by J. Alden (1948); study by A. French (1932, repr. 1968).
Gage received promotion to captain in 1743 and served as aide-de-camp to the Earl of Albemarle in the Battle of Fontenoy and in the campaign of Culloden. From 1747 to 1748, Gage saw action in the Low Countries, purchasing the rank of Major in 1748. He transferred to the 55th Foot Regiment (later re-numbered the 44th) and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1751.
In 1755 Gage, was sent to America as part of General Braddock's expeditionary force. Future military foe George Washington served with Gage in the same expedition. In July 1755, the 44th Regiment's commander, Colonel Sir Peter Halkett, was shot and killed during the Battle of the Monongahela. Gage took command of the regiment and was slightly wounded during the fighting. The regiment was decimated, and Captain Robert Orme (General Braddock's aide-de-camp at the time) levelled charges that poor field tactics on the part of Gage had led to the defeat. Orme resigned his army commission the next year, but his accusations led to Gage being denied permanent command of the 44th Regiment.
Gage spent 1756 as second-in-command of a failed expedition of the Mohawk River. The following year, he was assigned to Captain-General John Campbell Loudoun in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Gage commanded the 80th Regiment and finally received promotion to full colonel. Gage was wounded again during a failed attempt to capture Fort Ticonderoga. Despite this loss, Gage was promoted to brigadier general (largely through the political maneuvering of his brother, Lord Gage). While recruiting locals for his new regiment, Gage met and later married Margaret Kemble of Brunswick, New Jersey--the daughter of a friend from Westminster School who now served on the New Jersey council. The two were wed in December 1758. Their first son, the future 3rd Viscount Gage, was born in 1761. Margaret Kemble was the granddaughter of New York Mayor Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
The new general was placed in command of the Albany post, serving under Major General Jeffrey Amherst. In 1759, Amherst ordered Gage to march against the French and seize Fort la Présentation (sometimes known as Fort La Galette) and then capture Montreal. Gage disagreed with Amherst, suggesting instead that his own forces be used to reinforce Niagara and Oswego while Amherst led forces against Montreal. Gage wound up earning the displeasure of his commanding officer and being placed in charge of Fort Albany until Amherst himself was ready to attack Montreal in 1760 (at which time Gage led Amherst's rear guard).
Hoping to end the conflict diplomatically, Gage ordered Colonel John Bradstreet and Colonel Henry Bouquet out on military expeditions and then ordered Sir William Johnson to establish peace negotiations. Colonel Bouquet negotiated a cease-fire of sorts in October 1764. Even then, Gage was left with just two remaining forts from the original nine the tribes had taken. In 1765, Gage finally got the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment through to retake Fort Cavendish.
Gage established a new three-district command across the western, southern, and northern areas of the frontier. That same summer, Gage ordered Johnson's office to send a representative through to Pontiac. The conflict would not be fully resolved until Pontiac himself travelled to Fort Ontario and signed a formal treaty with Johnson in July 1766.
Gage's administration now saw a time of rising political tension throughout the American colonies.
Gage began withdrawing troops from the frontier to fortify urban centres like New York City and Boston. As the number of soldiers stationed in cities grew, the need to provide adequate food and housing for these troops became urgent. Parliament passed the Quartering Act of 1765, permitting British troops to be quartered in private residences. Gage personally traveled to Boston and spent six weeks there making quartering arrangements for the new soldiers in 1768. The military occupation of Boston eventually led to the Boston Massacre of 1770. That same year, Gage was promoted to lieutenant general. Late that year he wrote "America is a mere bully, from one end to the other, and the Bostonians by far the greatest bullies."
Gage returned to England in June 1773 with his family and missed the Boston Tea Party in December of that year. The resulting controversy saw British forces shut down Boston Harbor until the colonists had made reparations in full for every leaf of tea lost.
Massachusetts governor Thoma Hutchinson was 62 years old at the time and the lieutenant governor (Andrew Oliver), a hated Tory, was 67. Still in his early 50's and with plenty of military experience in America, Gage was deemed the best man to handle the brewing crisis.
In early 1774, he was appointed martial law Royal governor, or commander-in-chief, of Massachusetts, replacing the civilian governor Thomas Hutchinson. He arrived from England in early May, first stopping at Castle William on Castle Island in Boston's Harbor. He then arrived in Boston on May 13, 1774, having been carried there by the HMS Lively (1754). His arrival was met with little pomp and circumstance, but was generally well received at first as Bostonians were happy to see Hutchinson go. In that capacity, he was entrusted with carrying into effect the Boston Port Act. General Gage strictly enforced the confiscation of war-making materials.
In September 1774, he carried out a mission to seize the gunpowder of Somerville, Massachusetts. Gage successfully accomplished this mission but was not successful in other raids. This was in large part due to Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty kept careful watch over Gage's activities after this point and successfully warned future insurgents before Gage could mobilise his British regulars against them.
Gage found himself criticized by his own men for allowing groups like the Sons of Liberty to exist. One of his officers, Hugh Percy remarked, "The general's great lenity and moderation serve only to make them (the Americans) more daring and insolent." Gage himself wrote, "If force is to be used at length, it must be a considerable one, and foreign troops must be hired, for to begin with small numbers will encourage resistance, and not terrify; and will in the end cost more blood and treasure." Edmund Burke described Gage's conflicted relationship by saying in Parliament, "An Englishman is the unfittest person on Earth to argue another Englishman into slavery."
The Battle of Lexington and Concord resulted in 273 total casualties for the British and 95 for the American rebels. The British drove most of the Minutemen from their towns, but were ambushed by a gathering force of irregulars during their return march to Boston. Both Adams and Hancock escaped, and, following the battle, Gage issued a proclamation granting a general pardon to all who would demonstrate loyalty to the crown--with the notable exceptions of Hancock and Adams.
Gage began to suspect his wife, Margaret, a native colonist, may have had sympathies with the rebels. Believing she had betrayed his trust to Patriot leader Joseph Warren, Gage ordered Margaret shipped back to Britain.
Following Lexington, the American rebels followed the British back to Boston, and occupied the neck of land extending to the peninsula the city stood on. This began the Siege of Boston. Initially, the 6,000 to 8,000 rebels (led mainly by General Artemas Ward) faced some 4,000 of General Gage’s British regulars, bottled up in the city. British Admiral Samuel Graves commanded the fleet that continued to control the harbour. On May 25, Gage received about 4,500 reinforcements and three new Generals - Major General William Howe and Brigadiers John Burgoyne and Henry Clinton.
Gage started work with his new generals on a plan to break the grip of the besieging forces. They would use an amphibious assault to remove the Americans from the Dorchester Heights or take their headquarters at Cambridge. To thwart these plans, General Ward gave orders to General Israel Putnam to fortify Bunker Hill. On June 17 1775, British forces under General Howe seized the Charlestown peninsula at the Battle of Bunker Hill. They did take their objective, but didn't break out because the Americans held the ground at the base of the peninsula. Gage called it, "A dear bought victory, another such would have ruined us." British losses were so heavy that from this point, the siege essentially became a stalemate.
On October 10, 1775, Gage was recalled to England; Major General Howe replaced him as acting Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in the American colonies. Gage's report to the cabinet repeated his earlier warnings that "a large army must at length be employed to reduce these people" and would require "the hiring of foreign troops." In April 1776, George Sackville Germain, British Secretary of State for America, formally transferred command from Gage to Howe.
Gage was reactivated to duty, in April 1781, when Amherst appointed him to mobilise troops for a possible French invasion. The next year, Gage assumed command (as a colonel) of the 17th Light Dragoons. He was finally promoted to full general on November 20 1782, and later transferred to command the 11th Dragoons. Though he was recognized as a general months in advance. Gage died on the Isle of Portland on April 2 1787, his wife surviving him by almost 37 years. He was also survived by Henry Gage, 3rd Viscount Gage and another Thomas Gage, a young relative who would go on to achieve modest fame in the field of botany.