Help for Heroes

Lord George Germain and the American Colonies

Accused of cowardice at the Battle of Minden, and often-cast for the role of villain when he was Colonial Secretary, Lord George Germain, writes Eric Robson, nevertheless had many of the qualities of a successful statesman.

Those who know the name of Lord George Germain, called Lord George Sackville until 1770, when he inherited the estate of Drayton from Lady Betty Germain, and created Viscount Sackville in 1782, are as a rule content to think of him as the man who ran away at the, battle of Minden in 1759, and who helped to lose the American colonies. His life was clouded by the findings of a court-martial, summoned on his own insistence, to inquire into his behaviour at Minden, where he was Lieutenant-General in command of the British Section of the Allied Army defending Hanover from the French. At the height of the engagement, the Allied commander, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, ordered Sackville to bring the British cavalry, which was in reserve, into action—a dangerously ambiguous order, and not executed in time. The verdict of the Court was that Sackville, who had already been dismissed the Army, was “guilty, of having disobeyed the orders of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, whom he was by his commission bound to obey as commander-in-chief, according to the rules of war,” and that “he is, and he is hereby adjudged to be, unfit to serve His Majesty in any military capacity whatever.” Seven of the fifteen members of the Court voted for the death penalty, three fewer than the two-thirds majority at that time required. The verdict, together with an account of Sackville’s disgrace, was ordered to be published in every regimental order-book, as well as in Army Orders, and in the Gazette, His name was also struck off the roll of the Privy Council: he was in fact punished beyond his sentence.

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