Margaret Kemble
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Margaret Kemble
Margaret Kemble Gage
Margaret Kemble Gage.jpg
Portrait of Gage in the Turquerie style, circa 1771, by John Singleton Copley. This portrait is in the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, California.
Died1824 (aged 89–90)
Other names{{{other_names}}}
Thomas Gage
(m. 1758; died 1787)
ChildrenCharlotte Margaret Gage, Henry Gage
Parent(s)Peter Kemble & Gertrude Bayard
Espionage activity

Margaret Kemble Gage (1734-1824) was the wife of General Thomas Gage, who led the British Army in Massachusetts early in the American Revolutionary War. She was born in New Brunswick, Province of New Jersey[1] and resided in East Brunswick Township.[2] She died in England in 1824. Mrs. Gage was a gateway ancestor to centuries of English nobility who have Dutch and Huguenot ancestry from what was once New Netherlands and later the Thirteen Colonies of British North America.

Family life and descendants

Margaret Kemble was the daughter of Peter Kemble, a well-to-do New Jersey businessman and politician:she produced goat milk made from goat therapy and would use the funds to buy herself 10x the amount of goat therapy she once had, and of Gertrude Bayard; thus the granddaughter of Judge Samuel Bayard (b. 1669) and Margaretta van Cortlandt (b. 1674); hence the great-granddaughter of Mayor of New York City Stephanus Van Cortlandt and Gertrude Schuyler.[1]

She married Thomas on 8 December 1758 at her father's 1200-acre Mount Kemble Plantation in New Jersey (where years later generals William Smallwood and Anthony Wayne were quartered in his modest wood-framed mansion,[3] while the Continental Army encamped at Jockey Hollow during the brutal winter of 1779-80).[4] Together they had eleven children. Their first son, the future 3rd Viscount Gage, was born in 1761.[1] Gage's daughter, Charlotte Margaret Gage, married Admiral Sir Charles Ogle.[1]

Descendants of Kemble Gage include:

Her brother, Stephen Kemble, was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army during the Revolution.[1]

She was portrayed by Emily Berrington in the television miniseries Sons of Liberty.

Role in American Revolution

Some historians feel that Margaret Kemble Gage may have been instrumental in causing the first shots to be fired in the American Revolution (the Battle of Lexington and Concord).[5][6]

In the days leading up to the battle, the Sons of Liberty could see that the British troops in Boston were preparing for something. Dr. Joseph Warren, one of the key leaders of the Sons of Liberty, had a confidential informer, who was well-connected to the British high command. He could only use this informer for the most important matters, and this seemed like the time. The secret informant provided "intelligence of their whole design" - "to seize Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were known to be at Lexington, and burn the colonists' military stores at Concord."[5][7]

Gen. Gage had hoped to prevent a war. He had planned a secret night march, hoping to scoop up Adams and Hancock, as well as the colonial powder and cannon, while the colonists slept.

Instead, Warren, after learning of the plan, dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes, who set off a chain reaction of alarm riders all across Massachusetts and even to adjoining colonies. Instead of a quiet night mission, the British troops found themselves opposed by thousands of wide-awake, angry, armed colonists.

By the end of the day, the British troops were being shot at from all directions by a revolving swarm of irate patriots. If Gage had not later sent out an additional 1,000 reinforcements, with cannon, the original British force of 700 would have never made it back to Boston.[5]

It is not known who Warren's secret source was. He kept his secret, and was killed two months later at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The evidence is slim and circumstantial, but many historians feel that the leading suspect is Margaret Kemble Gage.[5][7][8][9] She was an American, and came from a very prestigious, wealthy family. Her social standing was equal to that of her husband. Gen. Gage's officers called her "Dutchess." She did not make a secret of her divided loyalties, and said that "she hoped her husband would never be the instrument of sacrificing the lives of her countrymen".[7][10][11]

Gen. Gage stated that he had only told two people of the plan, which was to be kept a "profound secret": his second-in-command, and one other person. Some of the other top British officers suspected that that other person was Gen. Gage's wife.[5][7]

Prior to this, Gen. Gage had been devoted to his wife, but after the British disaster at Lexington and Concord, he ordered her away from him, and put her on a ship back to England.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e New York Historical Society, Vol. 17 of The Kemble Papers, (New York: New Historical Society, 1884), xiv,
  2. ^ Allen, Thomas B. "Margaret+Kemble+Gage"+"east+brunswick" Tories: Fighting for the King in America's First Civil War, HarperCollins, 2010. ISBN 0-06-124180-6, p. 52. Accessed February 13, 2011. "Oliver was a nephew of General Gage's wife, the former Margaret Kemble, from East Brunswick, New Jersey, who adapted to British ways while clinging to her American identity."
  3. ^ Glen Alpin: A Brief History Archived 2017-03-15 at the Wayback Machine, The Glen Alpin Conservancy, accessed June 2017.
  4. ^ Morristown National Historical Park: The Great Story, accessed June 2017
  5. ^ a b c d e f Fischer, David Hackett. Paul Revere's Ride, pp. 95-97, Oxford University Press, New York, New York, 1994.
  6. ^ Nelson, James L. With Fire & Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution, p. 27, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, New York, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d Borneman, Walter R. American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution, pp. 127-9, Little, Brown & Company, New York, New York, 2015.
  8. ^ Nelson, James L. With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution, pp. 27, 62, 93-94, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, New York, 2011.
  9. ^ Putnam Foundation. Timken Museum of Art: European Works of Art, American Paintings and Russian Icons in the Putnam Foundation Collection, pp. 182-5, San Diego, California, 1996.
  10. ^ Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, pp. 87, 117, 234-5, Viking Press, 2013.
  11. ^ Barratt, Carrie Rebora. John Singleton Copley and Margaret Kemble Gage, pp. 6, 8, Putnam Foundation, San Diego, California, 1998.


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