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St. Paul's, and Westminster Abbey.
SIR RALPH ABERCROMBIE, K. B.
THE national monument erected to the fame of this brave general, stands under the western window of the south transept in St. Paul's Cathedral, and is the work of Westmacott, the Royal Academician. It is not only the best performance by the same artist in the cathedral, but is also entitled to additional praise, because the design is appropriate, and the action of it natural. The subject of the group is a representation of the death of the general. His horse appears careering over the prostrate foe, while the rider, fainting from the loss of blood, is caught in the arms of a Highland soldier. Expressive of the victory he obtained, the dying figure of the enemy is seen vainly grasping at the standard which has been wrested from his corps; while, emblematical of the scene, a sphinx, which is the crest of Egypt, appears in relief on either side of the tomb. Upon the pedestal is the following inscription of facts:
“ Erected at the public expense to the memory of
Lieut. Gen. Sir RALPH ABERCROMBIE, K. B. Commander-in-chief of an expedition directed against the French
in Egypt: Who having surmounted with consummate ability and valour
The obstacles opposed to his landing By local difficulties and a powerful and well prepared enemy,
And having successfully established and maintained the successive
positions Necessary for conducting his further operations; Resisted with signal advantage a desperate attack of chosen and
On the 21st of March 1801When he received in the engagement a mortal wound ; but re
mained in the field, Guiding by his direction, and animating by his presence, the
brave troops under his command, Until they had achieved the brilliant and important victory obs
tained on that memorable day. The former actions of a life spent in the service of his country,
And thus gloriously terminated, Were distinguished by the same military skill, and by equal zeal
for the public service ;Particularly during the campaigns in the Netherlands in 1793
and 94; In the West Indies in 1796 and 97; and in Holland in 1799:
In the last of which the distinguished gallantry and ability With which he effected his landing on the Dutch coast, and
established his position
In the face of a powerful enemy, And secured the command of the principal fort and arsenal of the
Dutch Republic, Were acknowledged and honoured by the thanks of both Houses
of Parliament. Sir Ralph Abercrombie expired on board the Foudroyant, the
28th of March, 1801,
in his 66th year.
During the desperate wars which followed the French Revolution, two British soldiers, by a career brief but brilliant almost without example, advanced themselves to the highest pitch of heroism and fame. Of these the one was Sir John Moore, and the other the gallant subject of this sketch. Scotland justly boasts the birth of both; and to both the field of victorious battle was likewise the scene of honourable death. Nor was the eminence to which they so deservedly rose, simply obtained by official merits ; nor the admiration with which they were viewed in life, and remembered after death, occasioned by a bare aptitude for the successful manoeuvres of war, by personal bravery alone, and a determined thirst for military renown: their talents in every civil service, and personal virtues made them as estimable in private as they were valuable in public life. Their despatches alone are sufficient to prove that they possessed minds of no ordinary capacity, and powers of no common variety; the rectitude of their principles, was always manly and uncompromising; they shrink under no imputation of political duplicity, or that selfish art by which a man unblushing defends in the measures of a party, and for the success of governing, what he would scorn to aid in domestic life;-such reputations are as universal as unsullied. When to these unusual qualities it is superadded, that they were both ever as ready to throw themselves into the ranks, and rush foremost on the dangers of victory, as they were prompt to design the plans, and happy in counteracting the obstacles to conquest ; the character of either may be safely emulated as the mirror of a sol. dier's honour, and a general's fame. Ralph was one of the five sons of George Abercrombie, Esq. of Tillibodie in Clackmannanshire, and was born in the year 1738. His education was in part private, and in part derived from a neighbouring school; after which he entered the army with a cornet's commission in the third regiment of Dragoon Guards, in 1756. His military school was more conspicuous than his civil one; for he served in the seven years' war in Flanders, and during our still more eventful contest with America, where his conduct was always marked by intrepi. dity and skill. His promotion was consequently rapid, and his reputation great. His first colonelcy was obtained in 1781, when he was appointed to the 103rd regiment, or King's Irish Infantry, from which, in 1783, he was removed to the 7th Dragoons : in 1787 he received the rank of Major-general.
A busier theatre of hostilities was next opened to his ambition, and as the character with which he was invested rose in consequence, so did the spirit with which he supported it increase in energies. The French Revolution, effected in bloodshed and anarchy, roused the attention of every nation in Europe to the prospect of war, and ere longethe horrors of domestic contention were followed by the shock of foreign strife. The republican chiefs, ill-contented with internal power, aspired to external domination ; and not satisfied with a declaration of readiness to fight for every people who were willing to espouse the cause of their principles, became bold and reckless enough to try and force themselves upon their neighbours at the point of the sword. To Britain, by reason of her superior resources, every nation thus attacked looked for succour; and against her, on account of this very supremacy, was the most insidious injury aimed. Hence what was evidently unavoidable, was soon fearlessly declared, and an extensive system of operations commenced, in each of which Abercrombie was equally distinguished.
Among the first steps taken by the English government to oppose the usurpations of France, one was the assistance lent to the states of Holland, upon the emergency of their invasion in 1792. Of the army embarked for the Continent at that time, the command was nominally confided to Frederick, Duke of York, but in reality, was chiefly vested in Lieutenant-general Abercrombie, who, during the two campaigns that followed, obtained singular reputation. In the action at the heights of Cateau, he led the advanced guard, and displayed both there and at the subsequent conflict at Nimeguen, where he was wounded, a dexterity and courage which were the most consoling characteristics of an expedition soon destined to receive the final conviction of defeat. Of such particulars no description can give interest, and it may therefore suffice to observe, that the adversity of the army only called forth into action greater talents in the general. Retreat once imperative, the Duke of York resigned his command into the hands of Abercrombie, who had now no alternative but to march the army back from Deventer to Oldensaal. This was a mortifying duty, and one circumvented with difficulties; but as the abilities of a commander are no less apparent in the skill with · which he shuns without loss what he cannot meet with success; so a retreat well conducted, becomes arduous and praiseworthy as a battle well gained. This march was interrupted by frequent obstacles, and encumbered by great hardships ; numbers were cut off by a conquering enemy, and numbers fell still more piteously for want of food ; but the talents of Abercrombie rose superior to both evils, and he was no less caressed upon his return for the happiness with which he softened the asperity of the one, as for the humanity with which he strove to relieve the distress of the other. It was now the depth of winter; and as the weather was marked by unusual inclemency, and the roads, were almost impassable, the fatigue of the troops was excessive; yet the march was conducted with a fortune and a rapidity which baffled the slaughter of pursuit, and saved the flower of the British forces from unavailing destruction. Abercrombie reached the point of his destination in January 1793, and was immediately elevated to the Knighthood of the Bath, as a well merited token of the signal benefit he had rendered to the army and his country.
Fresh efforts immediately became necessary to counteract the consequences of this disaster, and check the tide of other conquests. Already it was known that the French meditated a descent upon the West Indies, and an expedition in that quarter was resolved upon, as well for the purposes of defence as of reprisal. The military command upon this occasion was conferred upon Abercrombie, who took shipping at Southampton, in the month of August, in the same year. Some unaccountable delay took place before the squadron sailed, and the result was, that before the fleet could reach the latitude of action, (a measure which was at last faithfully accomplished with the loss of only a few transports) the French had already commenced operations. This partial advantage, however, was soon counteracted; and in succession the Islands of Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Trinidad, with the settlements of Demerara and Essequibo, were reduced and possessed by our troops. One attack only was repulsed, and that was upon Porto Rico; so that Abercrombie returned to England with the satisfaction of having eminently deserved the popular acclamation with which he was received.
Domestic appointments of trust and honour, as they were brightly earned, so were they promptly conferred upon the victorious general; and the most active scene of command was confided to his talents. This was the military command of Ireland, which was then distracted with more than usual feuds between the long contending interests of Catholic equality and Protestant ascendancy; and moreover troubled by the excitements of French emissaries to constitute a third party at the head of an open rebellion. That Sir Ralph Abercrombie did not retain his command in Ireland long, is one of those passages of his life, in which