Fitzgerald, John Forster (DNB00)

From Wikisource
 
Jump to: navigation, search

FITZGERALD, Sir JOHN FORSTER (1784?–1877), field marshal, colonel 18th royal Irish foot, was a younger son of Edward Fitzgerald of Carrigoran, co. Clare, who sat for that county in the Irish parliament, was a colonel of Irish volunteers in 1782, and died in 1815, by his second wife, the daughter and coheiress of Major Thomas Burton, 5th dragoon guards, and granddaughter of Right Hon. John Forster, lord chief justice of Ireland [q. v.], and consequently was younger brother of the first two baronets of Carrigoran. The date of his birth is variously given as 1784 and 1786. On 29 Oct. 1793 he was appointed ensign in Captain Shee's independent company of foot in Ireland, and became lieutenant in January 1794. In May 1794 he was given a half-pay company in the old 79th (royal Liverpool volunteers) regiment of foot, which had been disbanded before he was born. After seven years as a titular captain on the Irish half-pay list, on 31 Oct. 1800 he was brought into the 46th foot, and joined that corps, then consisting of two strong battalions of short-service soldiers, in Ireland. The regiment was much reduced by the discharge of the latter at the peace of Amiens, and young Fitzgerald was again placed on half-pay, but the year after was brought on full pay again in the newly raised New Brunswick fencibles, in which he was senior captain and brevet major. In 1809 he was promoted major in the 60th royal Americans, afterwards known as the 60th rifles, and in 1810 became brevet lieutenant-colonel. He joined the 5th or Jäger battalion, 60th, in the Peninsula, and was present at the storming of Badajoz, where he was among the regimental commanding officers specially commended by Sir Thomas Picton (Gurwood, Well. Desp. v. 379), at Salamanca, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, and many minor affairs. Part of the time he was in command of a provisional battalion of light companies, and in the Pyrenees commanded a brigade and was taken prisoner by the French, but exchanged (ib. vii. 237). At the end of the war he was made C.B. and received the gold cross given to commanding officers of regiments and others of higher rank who had been present in four or more general actions entitling them to a gold medal for each, which medals were replaced by the cross. He accompanied the 5th battalion, 60th, from the south of France to Ireland in 1814, and thence in 1816 to the Mediterranean. In 1818 it was brought home from Gibraltar and disbanded, Fitzgerald, then senior major, with most of the other officers and men, being transferred to the 2nd battalion, 60th, at Quebec, which then became the 1st battalion and was made rifles. Fitzgerald, who became brevet colonel in 1819, remained some years in Canada, most of the time as commandant of Quebec, and afterwards of Montreal. On 5 Feb. 1824 he exchanged with Lieutenant-colonel Bunbury to the command of the 20th foot in Bombay, which he held until promoted to major-general in 1830. He was made K.C.B. the year after. In 1838 he was appointed to a divisional command at Madras, but was afterwards transferred to Bombay, and commanded a division of the Bombay army until his promotion to lieutenant-general in November 1841. He was appointed colonel of the 62nd foot in 1843, transferred to the colonelcy 18th royal Irish 1850, became a general 1854, G.C.B. 1862, and received his field marshal's baton 29 May 1875. He represented Clare county in parliament, in the liberal interest, in 1852-7.

Fitzgerald married first, in New Brunswick, in 1805, Charlotte, daughter of the Hon. Robert Hazen of St. John's, New Brunswick, by whom he had a son, John Forster Fitzgerald — killed as a captain 14th light dragoons in the second Sikh war — and two daughters. He married secondly, in 1839, Jean, daughter of Hon. Donald Ogilvy of Clova, formerly of the Madras army, and afterwards colonel Forfarshire militia (see Debrett, Peerage, under 'Earl of Airlie'), and by her had a family.

Fitzgerald, who some short time before had been received into the Roman catholic communion, died at Tours on 24 March 1877, being at the time the oldest officer in the British army. By order of the French minister of war, the garrison of Tours paid him the funeral honours prescribed for a marshal of France.

[Foster's Baronetage, under 'Fitzgerald of Carrigoran ;' Debrett's Peerage, under 'Cunningham' and 'Airlie;' Wallace's Chronicle King's Royal Rifles (London, 1879); Times, 4 April 1877. The records of the old 5th or Jäger battalion, 60th, with which Fitzgerald served in the Peninsula, were arranged by the late Major-general Gibbes Rigaud, and have been published in the 'Maltese Cross,' the regimental newspaper of the 1st battalion king's royal rifles, in 1886-7.]

H. M. C.