Horatio Lloyd Gates (26 July 1727 – 10 April 1806) was a retired British soldier who served as an American general during the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga – Benedict Arnold, who led the attack, was finally forced from the field when he was shot in the leg – and was blamed for the defeat at the Battle of Camden. Historian George Bilias describes Gates as one of "the Revolution's most controversial military figures" due to his role in the Conway Cabal which attempted to discredit and replace George Washington through a whispering campaign, the ongoing historical debate over who should receive credit for the victory at Saratoga, and Gates' actions after the defeat at Camden.
Horatio Gates was born, probably in Maldon, Essex, England, to Robert and Dorothea Gates, on July 26, 1727. His father was a minor government official and his mother was a housekeeper in the house of the Duke of Leeds in Leads, England. His mother's association with Leeds brought the family connections to the upper classes; Horace Walpole was his godfather and namesake. An only child, his parents purchased for him a lieutenant's commission in the British Army in 1745. He served with the 20th Foot in Germany during the War of the Austrian Succession, and later was promoted to captain in the 45th Foot in 1750. He sold his commission in 1754 and purchased a captaincy in the New York provincial troops. One of his mentors in his early years was Edward Cornwallis, the uncle of Charles Cornwallis, against whom the Americans would later fight. Gates served under Cornwallis when the latter was governor of Nova Scotia, and also developed a relationship with the lieutenant governor, Robert Monckton.
During the French and Indian War, Gates served General Edward Braddock in America. In 1755 he accompanied the ill-fated Braddock Expedition in its attempt to control access to the Ohio Valley. This force included other future Revolutionary War leaders such as Thomas Gage, Charles Lee, Daniel Morgan, and George Washington. Gates did not see significant combat, since he was severely injured early in the action. His experience in the early years of the war was limited to commanding small companies, but he apparently became quite good at military administration. In 1759 he was made brigade major to Brigadier General John Stanwix, a position he continued when General Monckton took over Stanwix's command in 1760. Gates served under Monckton in the capture of Martinique in 1762, although he saw little combat. Monckton bestowed on him the honour of bringing news of the success to England, which brought him a promotion to major. The end of the war also brought an end to Gates' prospects for advancement, as the army was demobilised and he did not have the financial wherewithal to purchase commissions for higher ranks.