Abbott, Frederick (DNB01)

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ABBOTT, Sir FREDERICK (1805–1892), major-general royal (late Bengal) engineers, second son of Henry Alexius Abbott, and brother of Augustus and Sir James Abbott, who are separately noticed [Suppl.], was born on 13 June 1805 at Littlecourt, near Buntingford, Hertfordshire. Educated at Warfield, Berkshire, under Dr. Faithfull, and at the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, he received his first commission in the Bengal engineers in 1823. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant 1 May 1824, captain 10 July 1832, brevet major 23 Dec. 1842, major 8 Nov. 1843, brevet lieutenant-colonel 19 June 1846, lieutenant-colonel 11 Nov. 1846, colonel 20 June 1854, and major-general 10 Sept. 1858.

After the usual course of professional instruction at Chatham, Abbott arrived in India on 29 Dec. 1823. He was posted to the sappers and miners on 28 Feb. 1824, and appointed assistant field-engineer under Captain (afterwards Sir) John Cheape [q. v.] in the force under Sir Archibald Campbell in the first Burmese war. He was made adjutant to the sappers and miners on 12 Nov. 1825, and held the appointment until 17 April 1826, He went through the whole campaign, and particularly distinguished himself in the attack and capture of the heights of Napadi, near Prome, on 2 Dec. 1825, when he led storming parties in the assaults on three stockades in succession, and was mentioned by Campbell in despatches (London Gazette, 25 April 1826).

When the Burmese war was over, Abbott was employed in the public works department at Bardwan, Cawnpore, Karnal, and elsewhere. He married in 1835, and went home on furlough in 1838. On his way back to India in 1840 he was shipwrecked at the Mauritius. He arrived at Calcutta on 25 Dec. 1840, and in June 1841 became garrison engineer and barrack master at Fort William, and civil architect at the presidency.

On 23 Feb. 1842 he was appointed chief engineer of the ‘Army of Retribution’ under Major-general (afterwards Field-marshal Sir) George Pollock [q.v.], sent to relieve the garrison of Jalalabad, where Abbott’s brother Augustus [q. v.] commanded the artillery, and to restore the prestige of British arms in Afghanistan. Abbott took part in forcing the Khaibar pass on 5 April, but by the time Pollock arrived at Jalalabad the garrison had relieved itself by its victorious action of 7 April with Akbar Khan. Abbott was engaged in the attack and capture of the fortified villages of Mamu Khel and Kuchli Khel on 24 Aug., in forcing the Jagdalak pass on 8 Sept., in the actions of Tezin and the Haft Kotal on 12 and 13 Sept., and in the occupation of Kabul on 15 Sept. For his services on these occasions he was favourably mentioned in despatches (ib. 8 and 24 Nov. 1842). Much against his will he superintended the destruction of the celebrated covered bazaar and the beautiful mosque at Kabul, where the body of Sir William Hay Macnaghten [q. v.] had been exposed to Afghan indignities. Abbott made interesting reports on these demolitions and on the cantonments of Kabul. For his services in the campaign he received the medal and a brevet majority.

Abbott resumed his post of superintending engineer of the north-west provinces on 30 Dec. 1842, On the outbreak of the first Sikh war he was called away again on active service on 1 Jan. 1846 to serve in the army of the Satlaj. He was placed in charge of the military bridging establishment, and acted also as aide-de-camp to Sir Henry Hardinge, the governor-general, from whom he carried confidential despatches to the commander-in-chief. Sir Hugh Gough, on 7 Feb. He took part in the battle of Sobraon on the 10th. He obtained great credit for the rapidity with which he bridged the Satlaj after the battle, and enabled the army with its siege-train and enormous baggage-train to enter the Punjab and advance on Lahore. He was mentioned most favourably in despatches, received the medal and a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy, and was made a companion of the order of the Bath, military division, on 27 June 1846. On his retirement from the active list on 1 Dec. 1847 his reports on public works continued to be textbooks by which subsequent operations were regulated.

In 1851 Abbott succeeded Major-general Sir Ephraim Gerish Stannus [q. v.] as lieutenant-governor of the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe. He was knighted in 1854. On the amalgamation of the East India and royal services in 1861 Addiscombe College was closed, and Abbott’s appointment ceased. He was a member of the royal commission of 1859, presided over by Sir Harry David Jones [q. v.], on the defences of the United Kingdom, and in 1866 he was a member of a committee to inquire into the organisation of the royal engineer establishment at Chatham. He was also a member of the council of military education, but resigned this appointment in 1868. He devoted his spare time to microscopical investigations and the study of polarisation of light. He died at Bournemouth on 4 Nov. 1892.

Abbott married, on 14 Feb, 1835, in India, Frances, daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Cox, royal artillery, and widow of Lieutenant-colonel H. de Burgh of the Bengal cavalry; his wife and daughter predeceased him.

[India Office Records; Despatches; Royal Engineers’ Records; Royal Engineers Journal, 1893 (obituary notice by Major Broadfoot, R.E.); London Times, 7 Nov. 1892; Porter’s History of the Corps of Royal Engineers; Vibart’s Addiscombe (portrait); Low’s Life of Sir George Pollock; Kaye’s History of the War in Afghanistan; Gleig’s Sale’s Brigade in Afghanistan; Stocqueler’s Memorials of Afghanistan; Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, 1879; private sources.]

R. H. V.