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Henry Hamilton (c.1734–1796) was a British Army general who was Lieutenant-Governor of Canada during the American Revolutionary War. His treatment after being captured by American forces became an issue between the combatants, and caused a two-year suspension in the exchange of high-ranking prisoners.
Henry was born in Dublin, Ireland, a younger son of Henry Hamilton (1692-1743) an Irish Member of Parliament. He was raised in County Cork, then started his military career when his father bought him a commission in the 15th Foot. He saw his first American service with that regiment during the French and Indian War, in the attack on Fortress Louisbourg and the Battle of Quebec.
The Revolutionary War
In 1775 Hamilton was a military Lieutenant-Governor of Canada, in charge of frontier operations. He made his headquarters at Detroit. He strategy for the early stages of the war was to encourage Indian allies to raid frontier settlements of Virginia and Pennsylvania. A similar strategy in the east was implemented by Sir Wiliam Johnson, and then his son John, both as the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Hamilton's reputation earned him the nick-name of The Hair-buyer General.
Virginia forces under Colonel George Rogers Clark made substantial inroads in the Ohio and Illinois country in 1778, including the capture of Fort Sackville on the Wabash River, at modern Vincennes, Indiana. Hamilton set out from Detroit in late August to retake the post. By the coming of winter he had succeeded. But, in February Clark attacked Vincennes again, and by February 23, 1779 had captured the outpost and taken General Hamilton prisoner.
Hamilton as prisoner
Hamilton was returned to Virginia, and placed in chains in the Williamsburg jail. Although never tried, Governor Patrick Henry was determined to treat him as a criminal. This treatment caused the British Commander, Sir William Howe to suspend prisoner exchanges. When Thomas Jefferson became governor, he lightened some of the restrictions on Hamilton, but since governor Hamilton refused to give his parole, he was not released.
The terms of Hamilton's imprisonment and his relationship with Jefferson continually improved. Eventually, by 1780, he gave his parole and became a virtual house-guest to Jefferson, but he was not released until his exchange in March of 1781. By June that year he was home in London.
Hamilton returned to Canada in 1782, becoming Lieutenant-Governor, and later Deputy-Governor at Quebec. He went on to be Governor of Bermuda (1786-1793) and of Dominica (195-1796). He married late in life to Elizabeth Lee, and their only child was a daughter who died in 1871 without children. He died on the island of Antigua in 1796, while still Governor of Dominica. Sackville Hamilton , his older brother, was a Privy Councillor and Chief Secretary for Ireland.
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