Posts Tagged ‘Major-General Robert Craufurd’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Major General Sir William Erskine 2nd Baronet
30 March 1770 – 1813

Major General Sir William Erskine 2nd Baronet was commissioned into the 23rd foot 1785, and transferred to the 5th Dragoons as a lieutenant in 1787, and in 1791 became captain of the 15th King’s Light Dragoons (the unit his father had served in with distinction) on 23 February 1791. His first active service was in Flanders 1793–95, during the French Revolutionary Wars, when he acted as aide-de-camp to his father. In 1794 he was made lieutenant-colonel. and fought at the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, where a handful of English and Austrian cavalry routed a much larger force of French infantry and cavalry.

On his father’s death in 1795, Erskine became baronet. He represented Fife in Parliament in 1796 and 1802–1805. Despite being “blind as a beetle”, according to a fellow officer, in 1808, Erskine received promotion to major general. When he heard Erskine was being shipped to Portugal, Wellington complained that he “generally understood him to be a madman.” The administrators of the army at Horse Guards responded that, “No doubt he is sometimes a little mad, but in his lucid intervals he is an uncommonly clever fellow; and I trust he will have no fit during the campaign, though he looked a little wild as he embarked.”

During the 1811 campaign in Portugal, Erskine took over the command of the famous Light Division in the absence of Robert Craufurd. He soon developed a reputation for rashness. Wellington wrote, “It is impossible to trust to his judgment in any critical case.”

While pursuing Marshal Andre Massena’s retreating French army, several sharp actions were fought at Pombal, Redinha, Casal Novo and Foz do Arouce between the Light Division and Marshal Michel Ney’s rearguard. At Casal Novo on 14 March 1811, Erskine advanced his men along the main road in fog without proper scouts. When the fog suddenly cleared, his leading elements found themselves facing elements of Jean Marchand’s division deployed in line with artillery support. This carelessness cost the Light Division 155 killed and wounded, while Marchand lost only 55 men.

At the Battle of Sabugal, the fog and Erskine’s bungling saved General Jean Reynier’s isolated French corps from destruction. Wellington assigned Erskine with the Light Division and some cavalry to cut in behind Reynier’s open left flank while four divisions attacked in front. The hapless Erskine, who was very nearsighted, issued a set of foolish orders then promptly got lost in the fog with the cavalry. The leaderless Light Division covered itself with glory in the subsequent action, but the French escaped from Wellington’s trap.

During the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, Erskine’s 5th and Alexander Campbell’s 6th Divisions covered the Siege of Almeida. After the French relief army was turned back, the French garrison slipped out of the fortress in the night and marched straight through the blockading force to freedom. On this occasion, an exasperated Wellington said, “I have never been so distressed by any military event as by the escape of even a man of them.” This time Erskine was only one of several officers who blundered. Aware that he could not dismiss Erskine because of the man’s political influence, Wellington tried to place Erskine in positions where he could do little damage.

From 19 June 1811, Erskine led four mounted regiments in the newly organized 2nd Cavalry Division in Rowland Hill’s corps. He soon relinquished command, but reassumed his post on 8 April 1812. Soon after, he was declared insane and cashiered. He took his own life in Lisbon in 1813 by jumping out of a window, reportedly with the last words, “Now why did I do that?”.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Gregan Craufurd


Charles Gregan Craufurd

Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Gregan Craufurd was the second son of Sir Alexander Crauford, 1st Baronet (see Crauford baronets), and the elder brother of Robert Craufurd. Born in Golden Square, London he was educated at Eton.

Charles Craufurd entered the 1st Dragoon Guards as a Cornet on 15 December 1778. Promoted a Lieutenant in 1781, he was raised to the rank of Captain in the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) in 1785. He became the equerry and intimate friend of the Duke of York. He studied in Germany for some time, and, with his brother Robert’s assistance, translated Tielke’s book on the Seven Years’ War (The Remarkable Events of the War between Prussia, Austria and Russia from 1756 to 1763). As aide-de-camp he accompanied the duke of York to the French War on the Netherlands in May 1793 attached to the Austrian HQ’s Commander-in-Chief. He was at once sent as commissioner to the Austrian headquarters, with which he was present at Neerwinden, Caesar’s Camp, Famars, Landrecies, etc.

Promoted to major in May 1793, and lieutenant-colonel in February 1794, he returned to the British Army in the latter year to become Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General. On one occasion distinguished himself at the head of a charge of two squadrons, capturing three guns and taking 1,000 prisoners.(See the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies) When the British army left the continent Craufurd was again attached to the Austrian Army, and was present at the actions on the Lahn, the combat of Neumarket, and the Amberg. At the last battle a severe wound rendered him incapable of further service, and cut short a promising career. He was invalided out to England. There he did all he could to advance his brother, Robert’s career. Promoted Colonel on 26 January 1797, he was already in charge of a brigade-major. On 23 September 1803 he was promoted to Major-General.

On 7 February 1800 he was married Anna Mary, widow of Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle. The 4th Duke was a minor. His brother Robert got married on the same day. Charles Craufurd was already an MP when appointed Colonel of 2nd Dragoon Guards. He was made a Lieutenant-General in 1810. He succeeded his brother Robert as Member of Parliament (MP) for East Retford (1806–1812). He died in 1821, and made GCB on 27 May 1820. Charles Craufurd was a Tory in politics, friend of Lord Londonderry.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

General Sir William Francis Patrick Napier
7 December 1785– 12 February 1860


William Francis Patrick Napier

General Sir William Francis Patrick Napier became an ensign in the Royal Irish Artillery in 1800, but at once exchanged into the 62nd, and was put on half-pay in 1802. He was afterwards made a cornet in the Royal Horse Guards by the influence of his uncle the duke of Richmond, and for the first time did actual military duty in this regiment, but he soon fell in with Sir John Moore’ssuggestion that he should exchange into the 52nd, which was about to be trained at Shorncliffe Army Camp. Through Sir John Moore he soon obtained a company in the 43rd, joined that regiment at Shorncliffe and became a great favourite with Moore.

He served in Denmark, and was present at the engagement of Koege (Køge), and, his regiment being shortly afterwards sent to Spain, he bore himself nobly through the retreat to Corunna, the hardships of which permanently impaired his health. In 1809 he became aide-de-camp to his cousin the Duke of Richmond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, but joined the 43rd when that regiment was ordered again to Spain. With the light brigade (the 43rd, 52nd, and 95th), under the command of General Craufurd, he marched to Talavera in the famous forced march which he has described in his History, and had a violent attack of pleurisy on the way.

He, however, refused to leave Spain, was wounded on the Coa, and shot near the spine at Cazal Nova. His conduct was so conspicuous during the pursuit of Masséna after he left the lines of Torres Vedras that he as well as his brother George was recommended for a brevet majority. He became Brigade Major, was present at Fuentes d’Onoro, but had so bad an attack of ague that he was obliged to return to England.

In England he married his cousin Caroline Amelia Fox, daughter of General, the Honourable Henry Fox and niece of the statesman Charles James Fox. They had a number of children, one of whom, Pamela Adelaide Napier, married Philip William Skynner Miles and had a son, Philip Napier Miles. Another daughter, Louisa Augusta Napier, married General Sir Patrick Leonard MacDougall who, after her death, married Marianne Adelaide Miles, a sister of Philip William Skynner Miles.

Three weeks after his marriage he again started for Spain, and was present at the storming of Badajoz, where his great friend Colonel McLeod was killed. In the absence of the new Lieutenant-Colonel he took command of the 43rd regiment (he was now a substantive Major) and commanded it at the battle of Salamanca. After a short stay at home he again joined his regiment at the Pyrenees, and did his greatest military service at the Battle of Nivelle, where, with instinctive military insight, he secured the most strongly fortified part of Soult’s position, practically without orders. He served with his regiment at the battles of the Nive, where he received two wounds, Orthes, and Toulouse. For his services he was made brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, and one of the first C.B.s. Like his brother Charles he then entered the military college at Farnham. He commanded his regiment in the invasion of France after Waterloo, and remained in France with the army of occupation until 1819, when he retired on half-pay. As it was impossible for him to live on a Major’s half-pay with a wife and family, he determined to become an artist, and took a house in Sloane Street, where he studied with George Jones, the academician.

The years he had spent in France he had occupied in improving his general education, for, incredible as it seems, the author of the History of the War in the Peninsula could not spell or write respectable English till that time. But his career was to be great in literature, not in art. The tendency appeared in an able review of Jomini’s works (Edinburgh Review) in 1821, and in 1823 Henry Bickersteth suggested that he write a history of the Peninsular War.

For some time he did not take kindly to the suggestion, but at last determined to become an author in order to defend the memory of Sir John Moore, and to prevent the glory of his old chief being overshadowed by that of Wellington. The Duke of Wellington himself gave him much assistance, and handed over to him the whole of Joseph Bonaparte’s correspondence which had been taken at the battle of Vittoria; this was all in cipher, but Mrs Napier, with great patience, discovered the keys. Marshal Soult also took an active interest in the work and arranged for the French translation of Mathieu Dumas.

In 1828 the first volume of the History appeared. The publisher, John Murray, indeed, was disappointed in the sale of the first volume and Napier published the remainder himself. But it was at once seen that the great deeds of the Peninsular War were about to be fitly commemorated. The excitement which followed the appearance of each volume is proved by the innumerable pamphlets issued by those who believed themselves to be attacked, and by personal altercations with many distinguished officers. But the success of the book was proved still more by the absence of competition than by these bitter controversies. The histories of Southey and Lord Londonderry fell still-born, and Sir George Murray, Wellington’s quartermaster-general, who had determined to produce the history, gave up the attempt in despair. This success was due to a combination of qualities which have justly secured for Napier the title of being the greatest military historian England has produced. When in 1840 the last volume of the History was published, his fame not only in England but in France and Germany was safely established.

His life during these years had been chiefly absorbed in his History, but he had warmly sympathized with the movement for political reform which was agitating England. ‘The Radicals’ of Bath, (forerunners of Chartism), and many other cities and towns pressed him to enter parliament, and Napier was actually invited to become tile military chief of a national guard to obtain reforms by force of arms. He refused the dangerous honor on the ground that he was in bad health and had a family of eight children. In 1830 he had been promoted Colonel, and in 1841 he was made a Major-General and was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey. Here he found plenty of occupation in controlling the relations between the soldiers and the inhabitants, and also in working out proposals for a complete scheme of reform in the government of the island.

While he was at Guernsey his brother Charles had conquered Sindh, and the attacks made on the policy of that conquest brought William Napier again into the field of literature. In 1845 he published his History of the Conquest of Scinde, and in 1851 the corresponding History of the Administration of Scinde books which in style and vigour rivalled the great History, but which, being written for controversial purposes, were not likely to maintain enduring popularity. In 1847 he resigned his governorship, and in 1848 was made a K.C.B., and settled at Scinde House, Clapham Park. In 1851 he was promoted Lieutenant-General. His time was fully occupied in defending his brother, in revising the numerous editions of his History which were being called for, and in writing letters to The Times on every conceivable subject, whether military or literary. His energy is the more astonishing when it is remembered that he never recovered from the effects of the wound he had received at Cazal Nova, and that he often had to lie on his back for months together.

His domestic life was shadowed by the incurable affliction of his only son, and when his brother Charles died in 1853 the world seemed to be darkening round him. He devoted himself to writing the life of that brother, which appeared in 1857, and which is in many respects his most characteristic book. In the end of 1853 his younger brother, Captain Henry Napier, RN., died, and in 1855 his brother Sir George. Inspired by his work, he lived on till the year 1860, when, broken by trouble, fatigue and ill-health, he died at Clapham, and was buried at West Norwood. Four months earlier he had been promoted to the full rank of general.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Major-General Robert Craufurd
5 May 1764 – 23 January 1812


Robert Craufurd

Craufurd entered the 25th Foot in 1779. As captain in the 75th regiment, he first saw active service against Tippoo Sahib in 1790-92. The next year he was employed on attachment, under his brother Charles, with the Austrian armies operating against the French. Returning to England in 1797, he soon saw further service, as a lieutenant-colonel, on Lake’s staff in the Irish rebellion. A year later, he was British commissioner on Suvarov’s staff when the Russians invaded Switzerland, and at the end of 1799, was in the Holder expedition. This first hand experience of Continental warfare would prove useful later in his career.

From 1801 to 1805, Lieutenant-Colonel Craufurd sat in parliament for East Retford, but in 1807, he resumed active service with Whitelock in the Buenos Aires expedition, where he was forced to surrender a British brigade. He was almost the only one of the senior officers who added to his reputation in this disastrous affair, and in 1808 he received a brigade command under Sir John Moore. His regiments were heavily engaged in the earlier part of the famous retreat, but were not present at Corunna, having been detached to Vigo, whence they returned to England.

Later, in 1809, once more in the Peninsula, Brigadier-General Craufurd was three marches or more in rear of Wellesley’s army when a report came in that a great battle was in progress. The march which followed is one almost unparalleled in military annals. The three battalions of the Light Division (43rd, 52nd and 95th) started in full marching order, and arrived at the front on the day after the Battle of Talavera, having covered 62 m. in twenty-six hours. Beginning their career with this famous march these regiments and their chief, under whom served such men as Charles and William Napier, Shaw and Colborne, soon became celebrated as one of the best corps of troops in Europe, and almost every engagement following added to their laurels.

Craufurd’s operations on the Coa and Agueda in 1810 were daring to the point of rashness; the drawing on of the French forces into what became the Battle of Coa in particular was a rare lapse in judgement that almost saw his removal from command. Although Wellington censured him for his conduct, he at the same time increased his force from brigade-strength to division-strength by the addition of two picked regiments of Portuguese Caçadores. The conduct of the renowned Light Division at Busaco is described by Napier in one of his most vivid passages.

The winter of 1810-1811, Craufurd spent in England, and his division was commanded in the interim by another officer. He reappeared on the field of the battle of Fuentes d’Onoro amidst the cheers of his men, and nothing could show his genius for war better than his conduct on this day, in covering the strange readjustment of his line which Wellington was compelled to make in the face of the enemy.

A little later, he obtained major-general’s rank; and on 19 January 1812, as he stood on the glacis of Ciudad Rodrigo, directing the stormers of the Light Division, he fell mortally wounded. His body was carried out of action by his staff officer, Lieutenant Shaw of the 43rd, and, after lingering four days, he died.

He was buried in the breach of the fortress where he had met his death, and a monument in St Paul’s cathedral commemorates Craufurd and Mackinnon, the two generals killed at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo. The exploits of Craufurd and the Light Division are amongst the most cherished traditions of the British and Portuguese armies. One of the quickest and most brilliant, if not the very first, of Wellington’s generals, he had a fiery temper, which rendered him a difficult man to deal with, but to the day of his death he possessed the confidence and affection of his men in an extraordinary degree.

Major-General Crauford was nicknamed ‘Black Bob’. The nickname is supposed to refer to his habit of heavily cursing when losing his temper, his nature as a strict disciplinarian and even to his noticeably dark and heavy facial stubble.

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