Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of Sir Henry Clinton (1730-1795; army general)

Sir Henry was the son of Admiral George Clinton (c.1685-1761) and grandson of Sir Francis Fiennes Clinton, 6th Earl of Lincoln. His father was Governor General of Newfoundland, 1732-1741, and of New York, 1741-1751. Rather than follow his father into the navy, Sir Henry embarked on a military career. He advanced steadily through the ranks, partly assisted by the patronage of his relative, the 1st Duke of Newcastle under Lyne. By the 1770s he had reached the rank of Colonel of the 12th Foot, and was also a serving M.P., holding firstly the Newcastle seat of Boroughbridge (1772-1774) and then the Newcastle seat of Newark (1774-1784). In 1775, grief-stricken by the early death of his wife, he accepted the post of third in command of the British forces in North America.

By the winter of 1777-1778, Sir Henry had become Commander-in-Chief of the British army in North America. This promotion occurred during the American War of Independence - a war which effectively marked the end of his military career. When Cornwallis surrendered in 1781, the war was essentially ended and Sir Henry returned to England in June of the following year, suffering from a battered and bruised reputation, which he spent much of the final years of his life trying to redeem.

After returning to England, Sir Henry saw occasional military service, served in parliament as M.P. for Launceston (1790-1794) and accepted the governorship of Gibraltar. Sadly, he was never to reach Gibraltar, dying in December 1795 before he could take up his post.

An engraved portrait of Sir Henry, by Francesco Bartolozzi, after John Smart, is available on the National Portrait Gallery website.


He married Harriet Carter (d 1772), daughter and co-heir of Thomas Carter and had two sons and two daughters

  • General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769-1846)
  • General Sir Henry Clinton (1771-1829)
  • Augusta, m Henry Dawkins M.P in 1788
  • Harriet, m Major General Harry Chester in 1799

Following the death of his wife, Clinton set up home in Paddington, London, with his mistress, Mary Baddeley, wife of Captain Thomas Baddeley (d 1782) and their five children. He also had an illegitimate daughter from a liaison with a Mrs Preussen.

Archive Collections

  • A small group of General Sir Henry Clinton's papers relating to his father's service held in the Newcastle (Clumber) Collections, Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham
  • Letters from General Sir Henry Clinton during the American War of Independence can be found in the political papers of his cousin, Henry Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle under Lyne , also in the Newcastle (Clumber) Collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham.
  • Details of other collections can be found in the National Register of Archives

Published Works of Sir Henry Clinton

  • Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton relative to his conduct during part of his command of the king's troops in North America, particularly to that which respects the unfortunate issue of the campaign in 1781 (London, 1783)
  • Observations on some parts of the answer of Earl Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton's narrative (London, 1783)
  • Observations on Mr Stedman's History of the American War (London, 1794

Published Sources

  • Some of General Clinton's letters have been published on the Manuscripts and Special Collections website as part of the Conflict - Sir Henry Clinton and the War for America Learning Resource
  • Adams, Randolph G., British headquarters maps and sketches used by Sir Henry Clinton while in command of the British forces operating in North America, during the War for Independence, 1775-1782 (Michigan, 1928)
  • Willcox, William B., Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence (New York, 1964)
  • Willcox, William B. (ed.), The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton's Narrative of his Campaigns, 1775-1782, with an appendix of original documents (London, 1954)

Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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