Richard Howe was born March 19, 1726, in London, England, the son of Emanuel Scrope Howe, second viscount Howe (1699-1735), and his German-born wife, Mary Sophia Charlotte von Kielmansegg (1703-1782). In 1739, Howe began his naval service on the 40-gun ship Pearl . He served on several ships during the War of the Austrian Succession and was confirmed as a lieutenant in 1744 and as a post-captain in 1746. He afterwards distinguished himself while performing numerous raids on the French coast during the Seven Years War. He became the fourth viscount Howe in 1758, after his eldest surviving brother, George Augustus Howe, was killed at a skirmish near Fort Ticonderoga. In 1763 and 1765, he was a member of the Admiralty Board, and he served as Treasurer of the Navy from 1765 to 1770.
Howe is best known for his role in the American Revolution. He was made vice admiral in December 1775 and then named commander-in-chief of the North American colonies in February 1776. He arrived in New York in July 1776 and took part in the failed peace conference at Staten Island, New York, which occurred in September of that year. He provided naval support during the New York campaign and was ordered to blockade the American coastline, but complained that he lacked enough ships to prevent French vessels from reaching the northern colonies. In 1777, he assisted in the British occupation of Philadelphia, particularly focusing on the capture of forts in the Delaware River. Deeply offended at the deployment of the Carlisle Peace Commission in 1778, Howe attempted to resign his station, but his resignation was refused until November of that year; in the meantime, he successfully defended Newport, Rhode Island, from Comte d'Estaing's large fleet. Postwar, he served as the first lord of the admiralty (1783-1788) and in 1790, he took command of the Channel Fleet during a dispute with Spain. He also commanded the Channel Fleet with great success during the French Revolution at the age of nearly 70. In 1797, he was made a Knight of the Garter. He died on August 5, 1799.
In 1758, Howe married Mary Hartopp, with whom he had three daughters: Sophia Charlotte (b. 1762; m. Penn Assheton Curzon, 1787), Mary Juliana (b. 1765; m. Edward Furse, 1800), and Louisa Catherine (b. 1767; m. John Denis Browne, 1787).
William Howe was the younger brother of Richard Howe, born in London on August 10, 1729. He joined the British army in 1746 and served in the War of the Austrian Succession and in the Seven Years War. In the latter war, he distinguished himself during the capture of Quebec and participated in the campaigns of Louisbourg, Belle Isle, and Havana. During the Revolutionary War, he served as second-in-command under Gen. Thomas Gage (May-October 1775) and then as commander-in-chief of British forces in North America (October 1775-April 1778). His service was marked by several missed opportunities (particularly at the Battle of Long Island) and painful defeats in Trenton and Saratoga. After receiving news of John Burgoyne's surrender at the latter engagement, Howe attempted to resign and return to England to defend himself. His resignation was eventually accepted the next year, and he sailed for home in May of 1778. After the war, he lost his seat in Parliament, but was appointed to the privy council (1782) and named lieutenant general of the ordnance (1782-1804). In 1793, he was promoted to full general and served in defense of Great Britain in the French Revolution. After the death of Richard in 1799, he became the 5th viscount Howe. Toward the end of his life, Howe served as governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed (1795-1808) and Plymouth (1808-1814), where he died on July 12, 1814.
In 1765, Howe married an Anglo-Irish woman, Frances Connelly (1742-1817). They did not have children.
The Richard and William Howe collection contains 48 miscellaneous single letters and documents, spanning 1758 to 1812. The correspondents were various members of the Howe family, including William Howe, Richard Howe, Mary Hartopp Howe, Mary Juliana Howe, and Louisa Catherine Howe. Brought together over several decades, the group of materials includes miscellaneous items related to military operations, as well as a number of family letters. A handful of items concern the Seven Years War and American Revolution, and over half of the collection postdates 1783. See "Detailed Box and Folder Listing" for a full inventory of the items, including abstracts of each letter.
 March 26. [George Augustus Howe, 3rd viscount] Howe ALS to [Mrs. Gregory Page]; Albany, [New York].
Notes that he has deferred writing to her husband and refers to a coversation with "Penseross": "What Penseross said if not flummery, is however a partiality, which I fear when put to the test would do little credit to the abettors."
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1758 April 10. [George Augustus Howe, 3rd viscount] Howe ALS to unknown; Albany, [New York].
The message he wishes to express is "too long to write in cypher, & too imprudent to write without." He notes, however, that "whoever commands your expedition is greatly to be envied, the reputation will be immense, the chance of failing none."
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1758 November 23. W[illia]m Howe, [5th viscount Howe] ALS to [Lord Richard Howe]; Halifax, [Nova Scotia].
Letter respecting the death of George Augustus Howe. "Live & be a comfort to us all. Remember how much our dependance is on you. If we lose the only support left to us we shall fall never to rise again."
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1762 July 14. Manuscript; "Camp before Havana," [Cuba].
Account of the siege of Havana. The description begins with the British approach to Fort Morro in early June and ends with the early July naval attack on the fort.
1765 July 17. [Richard Howe, 1st Earl] Howe ALS to "Hammond" [Sir Andrew Snape Hamond]; Admiralty.
Letter in which Howe offers an appointment as commander of a sloop of war. If Hamond accepts, he will send the commission straightaway.
1767 June 22. [Richard Howe, 1st Earl] Howe ALS to "Hammond" [Sir Andrew Snape Hamond]; Bolton-Row.
Requests Hamond to undertake the naval education of a son of Bellingham Boyle.
1768 May 29. [Richard Howe, 1st Earl] Howe ALS to "Hammond" [Sir Andrew Snape Hamond]; Bath.
Ill will toward Howe from Lt. Duncan, for preferring Hamond for a Borough recommendation in 1765. Delamott has requested that Howe advocate for him at the Admiralty for the position vacated by master attendant Poulglass. Howe is pleased to hear that Hamond has "gotten so well over the fatigues & hazards of a leaky vessel" and he appreciates the kindness Hamond gave to "young Boyle."
1771 January 29. [Richard Howe, 1st Earl] Howe ALS to "Hammond" [Sir Andrew Snape Hamond]; Bolton-Row.
Lord Sandwich informed Howe that Hamond has applied to him for employment; Sandwich appears to be in favor of the idea. Comments on the Barfleur. Howe hopes to question Dartmouth about the appearance of "young people employed … for the impress service" on ships' books.
[ca. 1774 April - May]. [Ambrose Serle] 2 ADfS; s.l.
Manuscript entitled "A Plan of Accommodation &c" which outlines a constitution of the American colonies in the form of thirty stipulations. The thirty points regard governmental structure, trade and taxation, rights and privileges, land and property, and the placement of a Bishop for North America and the West Indies. The discussion on legislation includes remarks on the East India Company and the Boston Port Act. The manuscript is accompanied by a second, supplementary draft entitled "Notes, & c. on a Plan of Accommodation."
1775 June 26. B[arbara] Powis ALS to "Mrs. Howe"; [London, England].
Requests to borrow Mrs. Howe's footman, to accompany her home from Lord Hertford's place. The postscript notes that Powis promises to pay her 853 pounds, 13 shillings.
1776 January. W[illia]m Howe, [5th viscount Howe] ADS; Boston, [Massachusetts].
Recommendations for promotions of men in the 4th, 10th, 14th, 22nd, 23rd, 35th, 40th, 44th, 45th, 63rd, 64th, and 65th Regiments of Foot.
1776 June 8. Great Britain. Army Document; Halifax, [Nova Scotia].
"List of Promotions made by General Howe in the Army in North America." For men in the 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons and the 4th, 5th, 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 35th, 38th, 40th, 44th, 45th, 46th, 49th, 52nd, 55th, 63rd, 64th, and 65th Regiments of Foot.
1776 July 13. [Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe] ALS (copy) to George Washington; HMS Eagle , off Staten Island.
Copy of a letter in Howe's hand, requesting an opportunity to converse with Washington on the subject of peace between Great Britain and America. Note: this letter was refused because it was addressed to "George Washington, Esqr.," rather than Washington's preferred military designation.
1776 August 12-13. T[homas] L[ewis] O'Beirne ALS to Dr. Percy; s.l.
The tents of Generals Howe and Lord Percy are frequented often by members of the army and fleet. He describes icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, the arrival of Hessian soldiers, and the state of forces under Washington and Putnam.
1776 December 12. [William Howe, 5th viscount Howe] Document; Headquarters.
This pass from General Howe gives "express orders that no person presume on any account to molest or injure John Hall in his person or property." Verso reads: "John Hall sworn Feby 23d 1777."
 December 31. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ALS to Mrs. Clarke; [New York].
Expresses gratitude for her gift of a purse. "Tomorrow night [Howe] will be happy to display its influence, when he has not a doubt everyone will pay due tribute to its preeminence & matchless beauty."
1777 January 4. Hen[r]y Strachey Partially printed document to John Schanck; New York [City, New York].
Discharge of John Schanck, "late Lieut. in Sands's Corps of Queen's County." Signed by William Howe.
1777 February 2. W[illiam] Howe, [5th viscount Howe] DS; New York [City, New York].
Certification to the Commissioners of the Treasury that John Blackburne supplied British land forces with 8,209 gallons of good rum from Antigua. Howe further certifies that Blackburne has not yet been paid.
1777 July 17. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe Document to John Burgoyne; s.l.
Located in the Gold Star collection.
Secret dispatch on two strips of paper.
1777 September 28. [William Howe, 5th viscount Howe] Document; Near German Town, [Pennsylvania].
Manuscript copy of a proclamation regarding protection granted to the inhabitants of "Pennsylvania & c & c & c excepting only those who have assumed legislative or Judicial Authority provided they did forthwith return, and remain peaceably at their several places of abode."
[before 1779 April 22]. [Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe] Manuscript; s.l.
Entitled "Reflections on a Pamphlet intittl'd 'a Letter to the Right Honbl. Lord Vict. H--e'," written in Lord Howe's hand (31 pages). The manuscript is accompanied by an earlier draft in the hand of Henry Strachey, with many corrections made by Strachey and Lord Howe (55 pages).
1779 June 21-1783 March 10. Manuscript.
Regarding the siege of Gibraltar, consisting of extracts from a narrative written by an Italian officer who served on board the combined fleet, and translated for the Secretary of State's Office. The item bears the title: "The Siege of Gibraltar from the commencement of the blockade to the cessation of arms continued 3 years 7 months, & 12 days."
1780 November 2. W[illiam] Howe, [5th viscount Howe] ALS to Captain Ross of the 45th Regiment; Cholderton, [England].
Respecting Ross' assistance in the transmittal of letters. Howe remarks on Ross' assistance to Charles Cornwallis and commends him on a promotion related to the victory at Camden. "I have not heard you have got rank upon this occasion, which I flattered myself you would have had upon your arrival with such a signal victory in your pocket."
1781 May 23. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe ALS; Grafton Street, [London], [England].
Concerning Howe's intention to purchase an estate called "Newberrys" from a "Miss Durell." He makes a request for "the Furniture (Family Portraits excepted) to remain."
1782 October 15. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe LS to General [George Augustus] Eliott; HMS Victory .
Letter respecting the final relief of Gibraltar, describing the scattering of the "Combined Fleets" under Cordova and the delivery of supplies by British transport ships.
1782 October 18. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe LS to General [George Augustus] Eliott; HMS Victory.
Concerning the final relief of Gibraltar; Howe intended to furnish Eliott with stores but because of easterly winds, cannot postpone sailing from Gibraltar.
1784 March 31. Great Britain. Sovereigns George III ALS to Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe; Queen's House.
King George III approves of Howe's idea to convey French passengers of the Duc de Chartres back to France by frigate and desires information concerning the port of Cherbourg.
1784 May 4. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe AL to Matthew Lewis; Seymour Place.
Regarding a question by Lewis concerning the selling of commissions "vacant by death in action." Howe has never encountered an instance of such a sale. Also enclosed is a signed engraved portrait of Howe by "J. Rogers" from a 1777 English print.
1784 September 29. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe ALS to Thomas Townshend, 1st viscount Sydney; Admiralty.
Concerning Howe's "little estimation" of an unnamed man. Howe finds that "it is not advisable to enter into any Engagements for the discovery of his secret."
1784 November 8. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe ALS to Captain John Thomas Duckworth; Admiralty.
Howe asks whether Duckworth has a "desire to be nominated to the Ship of a Commander in Chief serving abroad." He notes that admirals may choose their own captains, and for this reason he cannot make any promises about promotions on the "Newfoundland Station."
1789 June 18. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe ALS to James Forrest; Porters Lodge.
Concerning the 1777 loss of the American schooner Resolution and Howe's recollection that the Delaware River was impassable because of ice during the winter of 1777-1778.
1790 August 14. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe DS to Duke of Clarence (later William IV, King of Great Britain); HMS Queen Charlotte in Torbay.
Document showing the appointment of frigates to various squadrons.
1790 November 21. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ALS to Sir George Yonge; Cholderton near Amesbury.
Howe notes the promotion of Lt. Cochrane from the 19th Regiment of Light Dragoons to the captaincy 60th Regiment of Foot and discusses other personal matters related to the 19th.
 June 5. Mary Hartopp Howe, Countess Howe ALS to John Denis Browne, earl of Altamont and 1st marquess of Sligo; s.l.
Expressing deep gratitude to Browne, who is her son-in-law, for allowing her daughter and grandson to visit. She hopes he has landed safely in Ireland.
1797 February 12. Mary Hartopp Howe, Countess Howe AL to Hon. Mrs. Howe; s.l.
Concerning the good health of Lord Richard Howe and giving updates on family members. Of her daughter Charlotte, she complains, "there is a coldness in her letters as if we had treated...her with the greatest inhumanity."
[1792 April 10]. Mary Juliana Howe ALS to Louisa Catherine Howe Browne, countess of Altamont and marchioness of Sligo; Grafton Street, [London, England].
Concerning the health of the family and several social visits.
1797 September 7. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ALS to Alexander Ross; Wivenhoe.
Regarding payments to be made by the ordnance department in accordance with its rules.
1797 October 20. Mary Juliana Howe AL to Louisa Catherine Howe Browne, countess of Altamont and marchioness of Sligo; s.l.
Concerning the health of various family members and general family news.
[1798?]. Mary Juliana Howe AL to Louisa Catherine Howe Browne, countess of Altamont and marchioness of Sligo; Grafton Street, [London], [England].
Gives family news and describes recreational activities.
1798 May 7. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe LS to [Alexander] Ross; Headquarters near Colchester.
Regarding the most advantageous military positions in case of attack by the French: "I have allways preferred that of Brentwood to the Other at Chelmsford, thinking the great Extent of the latter in all its parts , would render it very difficult to Occupy in sufficient Force..."
1798 July 12. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ALS to [Alexander] Ross; Wivenhoe.
Concerning letters Howe has written on the topics of an unspecified meeting and the Portuguese demand for saltpetre.
1798 August 11. George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 3rd earl Temple, 1st marquess of Buckingham ALS to Louisa Catherine Howe Browne, countess of Altamont and marchioness of Sligo; Dublin Barracks.
Responding to her question concerning a group of child straw-weavers that she saw making wreaths at Gosfield in Essex. Discusses the ages of the children, the price and style of their work, and the customers who purchase it.
[1798?] August 26. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ANS; Wivenhoe.
Commands recipient to meet him at Seymour Place the next day to answer his questions.
[1799 March 24]. Mary Juliana Howe ALS to Louisa Catherine Howe Browne, countess of Altamont and marchioness of Sligo; s.l.
Regarding attendance of Easter church services and conveying news of family members and friends.
1799 May 15. E. Humphreys ALS to Mary Hartopp Howe, Countess Howe; Barnet, England.
Concerning a transaction involving candlesticks; Humphrey requests that Countess Howe return them to her.
1799 August 27. Henry Duncan ALS to Louisa Catherine Howe Browne, countess of Altamont and marchioness of Sligo; Sheerness.
Recommends that she visit "Porters lodge"; "I think it is a visit that should be got over as soon as possible … scenes of that kind will recall pleasant & melancholly reflections, which are better to have past over, than kept brooding on the mind."
1800 June 30. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ALS to Thomas Townshend, 1st viscount Sydney; Seymour Place.
Concerning an unnamed general who "must now be on his way home, where I hope he will shortly arrive for the satisfaction & Services of the two Ladies."
1812 May 13. William Howe, 5th viscount Howe ALS to Rev. Dr. William Vincent; Twickenham.
Howe reports that he cannot attend an upcoming meeting of the Order of the Bath because of "a long and severe illness."