General Sir Henry Clinton, KB (16 April 1730 – 23 December 1795) was a British army officer and politician, best known for his service as a general during the American War of Independence. First arriving in Boston in May 1775, from 1778 to 1782 he was the British Commander-in-Chief in North America. In addition to his military service, due to the influence of the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, he was a Member of Parliament for many years. Late in life he was named Governor of Gibraltar, but died before assuming the post.
He came from a noble family that could trace its lineage to 1066 and had a long history of service to the Crown. The son of George Clinton, an admiral of the fleet, Henry had two sons who continued the family tradition of high command: General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769–1846), and Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton (1771–1829).
Henry Clinton was born, probably in 1730, to Admiral George Clinton and Anne Carle, the daughter of a general. Early histories claimed his birth year as 1738, a date widely propagated even in modern biographic summaries; according to biographer William Willcox, Clinton claimed in a notebook found in 1958 to be born in 1730, and that evidence from English peerage records places the date of birth as 16 April. Willcox also notes that none of these records give indication of the place of Clinton's birth. Historian John Fredriksen claims that Clinton was born in Newfoundland; his father was posted there from 1732 to 1738.
Little is known of the earliest years of Clinton's life, or of his mother and the two sisters that survived to adulthood. Given his father's naval career, where the family was domiciled is uncertain. They were not obviously well-connected to the seat of the Earls of Lincoln, from whom his father was descended, or the estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, to whom they were related by marriage. In 1739 his father, then stationed at Gibraltar, applied for the governorship of the Province of New York; he won the post in 1741 with the assistance of the Duke of Newcastle (who was his brother's brother-in-law). However, he did not actually go to New York until 1743; he took young Henry with him, having failed to acquire a lieutenant's commission for the 12 year old. Henry's career would also benefit from the family connection to the Newcastles.
Records of the family's life in New York are sparse. He is reported to have studied under Samuel Seabury on Long Island, suggesting the family may have lived in the country outside New York City. Clinton's first military commission was to an independent company in New York in 1745. The next year his father procured for him a captain's commission, and he was assigned to garrison duty at the recently-captured Fortress Louisbourg. In 1749, Clinton went to Britain to pursue his military career. It was two years before he received a commission as a captain in the Coldstream Guards. His father, after he returned to London when his term as New York governor was over, procured for Clinton a position as aide to Sir John Ligonier in 1756.