Sackville, Lord George

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Sackville, George, Lord

Major-General (1755-58). Lieutenant-General (1758) and Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Germany (1758-59)

born January 26, 1716, London, England

died August 26, 1785, Stoneland Lodge, Sussex, England


Painting of Lord George Sackville in 1766 - Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lord George Sackville was the third son of Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant-General Walter Philip Colyear. His Godfather George I attended his baptism.

George Sackville was initially educated at Westminster School in London.

Between 1730 and 1737 his father held the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. While in Dublin, George Sackville made friends with the celebrated writer Jonathan Swift. He also encountered Lord Ligonier who would later assist his career in the military.

In 1733, George Sackville graduated from Trinity College in Dublin. He then served as first secretary to his father and as a Member of Parliament in the Irish House of Commons for Portarlington.

In 1737, George Sackville entered the army as captain in the 7th Horse.

In 1740, George Sackville transferred to the 28th Foot as a lieutenant-colonel.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment served in Germany. In 1743. Sackville was promoted colonel. On May 11, 1745, at the Battle of Fontenoy, Sackville led the assault of his infantry regiment. He advanced so deep into the French positions that, when he was wounded and captured, he was taken to the tent of Louis XV. When he was released and returned home, it was to serve in Scotland at the head of the 20th Foot to quell the Jacobite Rebellion. In 1747, Sackville returned to Flanders where he served once more under the Duke of Cumberland. During this period, he became colonel of the 3rd Horse (former 7th Horse).

In 1751, George Sackville was elected Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, serving in this post for the next two years. His rampant ambition, his arrogance and exaggerated self-esteem caused some disagreements even then. Nevertheless, his dexterity, witty civility, and relationship with Pitt gave him a powerful influence.

On September 3, 1754, George Sackville married Diana Sambrooke, daughter of John Sambrooke and Elizabeth Forester.

In 1755, George Sackville was promoted to major-general and returned to active service. He was considered for the post of commander-in-chief in North America which eventually went to Edward Braddock who led his force to disaster during the expedition against Fort Duquesne.

On July 8 1756, Sackville's wife gave birth to a daughter: Diana.

In January 1758, George Sackville was sworn of the Privy Council. The same year, he was given a fourth regiment and joined the Duke of Marlborough as a lieutenant-general. In June, Sackville was second in command of the British first expedition against the French Coasts led by Marlborough which attempted an amphibious raid on Saint-Malo. While it failed to take the town as instructed, the raid was still considered to have been largely successful as a diversion. Follow-up raids were considered against Le Havre, Caen and other targets in Normandy but no further landings were attempted and the force returned home. In July, Sackville accompanied the British contingent sent to Germany to reinforce the Allied Army of Ferdinand of Brunswick. On July 19, this contingent embarked at Gravesend. Between August 1 and 3, it completed disembarkation near Emden. It then marched by Loro, Leer, Meppen, Lingen to Coesfeld where it made its junction with Imhoff's Corps on August 17. When Marlborough died, on October 20, Sackville became commander of the British contingent of the Allied Army, although still under the overall command of Ferdinand of Brunswick. However, King George II was in no way sympathetic to him and had initially expressed concerns about his appointment.

The initially good relations between Sackville and the Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick soon gave way to serious disagreements when on August 1, 1759, at the Battle of Minden, Sackville led the cavalry right wing composed of British and Hanoverian units. Throughout this battle, he behaved shamefully. When Ferdinand called for a British cavalry charge to complete the victory, Sackville withheld permission for their advance. Ferdinand sent his order several times, but Sackville continued to withhold permission. For this action, or rather his inaction, Sackville was cashiered and sent home. Major-General Granby replaced him as commander of the British contingent for the remainder of the war.

Sackville refused to accept responsibility for refusing to obey orders. Back in Great Britain, he demanded a court martial, and made it a large enough issue that he obtained his demand in 1760. On April 3 of the same year, the court found him guilty, and imposed one of the strangest and strongest verdicts ever rendered against a general officer. The verdict of the court not only upheld his discharge, but ruled that he was "...unfit to serve his Majesty in any military capacity whatsoever", then ordered that their verdict be read to and entered in the orderly book of every regiment in the British Army. King George II had his name struck from the Privy Council rolls.

When George III took the throne in October 1760, Sackville began his political rehabilitation. There did not seem to be negative repercussions to the European stalemate of the Seven Years' War. The victories over the French within the colonial empire provided a chance for events of the war to be forgotten. The difficulty of repaying the debts incurred to fight the war caused a period of unstable ministries and shifting political alliances.

In 1765, King George quietly returned George Sackville to the rolls of the Privy Council. Initially he was a follower of George Grenville's faction but he increasingly lined up as a supporter of Lord North.

On August 27 1767, Sackville's wife gave birth to a son: Charles.

In 1769, George Sackville made his alliance with George Grenville's faction formal. The same year, Lady Elizabeth Germain died without natural heirs and left her estates to George Sackville. This not only improved his finances, it also gave him the chance to take that name formally. After 1770, he was known as Lord George Germain.

On November 10 1775, Lord George Germain was appointed Secretary of State for the American Department replacing Lord Dartmouth in the post. At that time, North's cabinet had three secretaries of state; one each for Europe (the Northern Department), America, and the rest of the world (the Southern Department). Besides international relations, these secretaries were responsible for a great deal of colonial administration and for military operations within their area. This made Germain the primary minister responsible for suppressing the rebellion that had broken out in 1775 in the colonies. He promoted or relieved generals, took care of provisions and supplies, and became involved with the strategic planning of the war.

In 1776, Lord George Germain worked with General Burgoyne to plan, support and issue orders for the Saratoga campaign. However, his unclear orders to General Howe contributed to the campaign's failure. Following the entry of France, Spain and the Dutch Republic into the conflict, British emphasis shifted to focus increasingly on a global war. British troops were withdrawn from Philadelphia and reinforcements were sent to the valuable sugar-producing West Indies.

In 1779, one of Germain's associates, Richard Cumberland was sent to Madrid for talks designed to reach a separate peace settlement with Spain, but this attempt failed.

In 1781, the confusion between orders for Cornwallis and Clinton contributed to the loss at Yorktown. The news of Yorktown reached London on November 25 and the messenger went first to Germain's residence at Pall Mall. Germain then went to tell other ministers. It was agreed that Germain, rather than North, should take the news to the king who was at Kew. The news of the surrender galvanised the opposition and government majorities began to shrink over the following months with calls for resignations of senior ministers. Germain drew up a plan to continue the war using the existing British bases in Charleston, New York, Savannah and Canada to harass the American coastline and frontiers. He also advocated re-occupying Newport in Rhode Island to give a foothold in New England. However, Germain became a target for the opposition and was eventually persuaded to step down in exchange for a peerage.

In February 1782, Germain was made Baron Bolebrooke, in the County of Sussex, and Viscount Sackville, of Drayton in the County of Northampton. He was replaced by Welbore Ellis. In spite of Germain's departure, the North government fell shortly afterwards in February and was followed by a period of political instability. Shortly after the fall of the North government, news arrived of the decisive British naval victory at the Battle of the Saintes, fought in April in the Caribbean.

The Shelburne government agreed the Peace of Paris, bringing an end to the war in 1783 and recognising the independence of the United States.

In spite of his bad handling of the war in America, Germain was admitted to the Lords but his declining health soon made the issue irrelevant. He retired to his country home at Stoneland Lodge in Sussex, and died there in 1785.


This article borrows most of its texts for the period before 1758 and after 1762 from:

  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 9 Bergen, Berlin, 1911, app. 7
  • Wikipedia - George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville, retrieved on January 1 2014

The section on the period between 1758 and 1762 is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.

Other sources

Encyclopædia Britannica