The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

British General Charles O'Hara
William Moultrie Born: 1940; Lisbon, Portugal
Died: February 25, 1802; Gibraltar

Battles: Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Battle of Yorktown

Early Life: 1740-1778
Charles O'Hara was the illegitimate son of James O'Hara, who was the second Baron of Tryawley. He was born in 1940 in Lisbon, Portugal to the baron's mistress. Charles was sent to Westminster School which ironically was where many South Carolina boys of wealthy families were sent. On December 23. 1752 at the age of twelve, he became a cornet in the 3rd Dragoons. He became a lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment of the Coldstream Foot Guards on January 14, 1756. In 1762, he served under his father in Portugal in the same campaign with Charles Lee. He also saw duty in Germany. On July 25, 1766, Charles O'Hara was appointed commandant at Goree, Senegal with the rank of Lt. Colonel-Commandant of the Africa Corps. A unit made up of British soldiers pardoned in exchange for accepting life service in Africa. He was also named Captain and Lt. Colonel of the Coldstream in 1769.

Revolutionary War: 1778-1782
In July 1778, Lt. Colonel O'Hara arived in America and immediately commanded forces at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Lt. General Henry Clinton, commander of the British Army in America, gave him that assignment as the French fleet under Admiral d'Estaing threatened New York City. Clinton ended up regreting his choice. In October 1780, O'Hara was promoted to Brigadier General and became commander of Brigade of Guards. He became Lt. General Charles Cornwallis' second-in-command and good friend. During Cornwallis' pursuit of Maj. General Nathanael Greene to the Dan River, O'Hara distinguished himself at Cowan's Ford, North Carolina on February 1, 1781. He also led the British counterattack at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, which led to General Greene withdrawing from the field of battle.

General O'Hara represented the British at the surrender of Yorktown on October 19, 1781, when General Cornwallis claimed illness. As the legend of the surrender goes, he first attempted to French Comte de Rochambeau, who declined his sword and deferred to General George Washington. Washington then declined and deferred to Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln. Lincoln was serving as Washington's second-in-command and had surrendered to General Clinton at Charleston in May 1780. O'Hara was exchanged on February 9, 1782 and returned to England having been promoted to Major General.

After the War: 1782-1802
In 1784, Charles O'Hara fled from England to Italy due to gambling debts. In 1792, he was appointed Lt. Governor of Gibraltar. In 1793, he was promoted to Lieutenant General. On November 23, 1793, he was captured at Fort Mulgrove in Toulon, France during operations that gained Napoleon the attention of his superiors. O'Hara spent two years in prison in Paris. In August 1795, he was exchanged for Comte de Rochambeau. Later that year he became engaged to Mary Berry, but the engagement was broken when he was named Governor of Gibralter on December 30, 1795 and she would not leave England. He was promoted to full General in 1798. He died of war wounds on February 25, 1802.

1. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution
2. Buchanan, John; The Road to Guilford Courthouse

Topic Last Updated: 1/17/2002

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