The Irish-born Loftus Cliffe entered the British Army in 1762, and in 1771, was serving as a lieutenant in William Howe's 46th Regiment of Foot, of which John Vaughan (1738-1795) was lieutenant colonel. In response to the Revolutionary crisis in 1776, the 46th Regiment was ordered to leave Ireland for America, arriving at New York just in time to take part in the Battle of Long Island at which Howe's masterfully executed tactics nearly annihilated the American army. The regiment continued on the offensive throughout the fall and winter, of 1776-77, driving into New Jersey, meeting with mixed success. Late in December, the 46th Regiment was given the task of guarding Charles Lee after his capture at Basking Ridge, and thereafter settled into winter quarters.
In the early summer of 1777, the regiment embarked on a long campaign designed to lure Washington into battle and to capture Philadelphia. Cliffe's regiment was engaged at Brandywine, at the "massacre" at Paoli, at Germantown, and were involved in the capture of Philadelphia and the reduction of the forts guarding the Delaware River. By this point, Cliffe considered himself to be a hard bitten, hard drinking veteran. A career soldier, Cliffe reveled in all of the most dramatic aspects of the military life, and looked forward to the possibility of personal advancement. During the occupation of Philadelphia in February, 1778, however, Cliffe had a serious falling out with Lt. Col. Vaughan and Maj. Joseph Ferguson of his regiment. Cliffe and other subalterns, unaware that Ferguson had ordered that tent poles not be transported on wagons, followed the usual procedure in ordering their men to break camp. When confronted by Ferguson, sure of himself and indignant at the challenge, Cliffe refused to back down, and as a result, he and six of his fellow officers were arrested for disobedience. Although he was fully acquitted, and the offense was considered minor, later in the year, Cliffe purchased a captaincy in the 52nd Regiment of Foot, then stationed in New York. He left America with the regiment at the end of 1779 and spent the remainder of the Revolutionary War at stations in Britain and Minorca, sailing for India in 1783. Cliffe's name last appears in the Army List in 1785, suggesting that he may have died in India.