Robinson, Frederick Philipse (DNB00)

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ROBINSON, Sir FREDERICK PHILIPSE (1763–1852), general, fourth son of Colonel Beverley Robinson, by Susannah, daughter of Frederick Philipse of New York, was born near New York in September 1763. His grandfather, John Robinson, nephew of Bishop John Robinson (1650–1723) [q. v.], went to America as secretary to the government of Virginia, and became president of the council in that colony.

When the war of independence broke out, Frederick's father raised the loyal American regiment on behalf of the crown, and Frederick was appointed ensign in it in February 1777. In September 1778 he was transferred to the 17th foot. He commanded a company at the battle of Horseneck in March 1779, took part in the capture of Stony-point in the following June, and, being left in garrison there, was himself wounded and taken prisoner when the Americans recovered it on 15 July. He was promoted lieutenant in the 60th foot on 1 Sept., and transferred to the 38th foot on 4 Nov. 1780. He was released from his imprisonment and joined the latter regiment at Brooklyn at the end of that month, and took part in the capture of New London in September 1781. When the war came to an end the Robinsons were among the loyalists who suffered confiscation, but they received 17,000l. in compensation from the British government. The 38th returned to England in 1784. On 24 Nov. 1793 it embarked for the West Indies, as part of Sir Charles Grey's expedition. Robinson was present at the capture of Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe, but was then invalided home. On 3 July 1794 he became captain, and on 1 Sept. he obtained a majority in the 127th foot, a regiment which was reduced not long afterwards. In September 1795 he passed to the 32nd foot. In May 1796 he was sent to Bedford as inspecting field officer for recruiting, and in February 1802 he was transferred to London in the same capacity. The recruiting problem was an urgent and difficult one at that time. Several of his proposals to increase the supply of recruits and to lessen desertion are given in the ‘Royal Military Calendar’ (iii. 212). He took an active part in organising the volunteers, and received a valuable piece of plate from the Bank of England corps in acknowledgment of his services.

He was made brevet lieutenant-colonel on 1 Jan. 1800, and colonel on 25 July 1810. In September 1812, after being more than five years on half-pay, he was allowed to go to Spain as one of the officers selected to command brigades, much to Wellington's discontent (see his Letter of 22 Jan. 1813 to Colonel Torrens). He was given a brigade of the fifth division, which formed part of Graham's corps in the campaign of 1813. Napier speaks of him as ‘an inexperienced man but of a daring spirit,’ and the manner in which he carried the village of Gamara Mayor in the battle of Vittoria, and held it against repeated attacks, obtained high praise both from Graham and from Wellington. Under a very heavy fire of artillery and musketry, the brigade advanced upon the village in columns of battalions without firing a shot.

He took part in the siege of San Sebastian, and was present at the first assault on 21 July. At the final assault on 31 Aug. the storming party consisted of his brigade, supplemented by volunteers, sent by Wellington as ‘men who could show other troops how to mount a breach.’ Robinson was severely wounded in the face; but he was nevertheless actively engaged at the passage of the Bidassoa on 7 Oct. He served under Sir John Hope in the action of 9 Nov. on the lower Nivelle, and in the battle of the Nive (10 Dec.), where he was again severely wounded. In the latter the prompt arrival of his brigade to support the troops on whom the French attack first fell saved the British left from defeat. He took part in the blockade of Bayonne and in the repulse of the sortie of 14 April 1814, being in command of the fifth division after the death of General Hay in that engagement. He was promoted major-general on 4 June 1814, and he received the medal with two clasps for Vittoria, San Sebastian, and Nive.

At the close of the French war, he was selected to command one of the brigades which were sent from Wellington's army to America to serve in the war with the United States. His brigade (consisting of four infantry regiments, with a strength of 3,782 men) embarked in June and arrived in Canada in August 1814. It formed part of the force with which Sir George Prevost [q. v.] in the following month made his unsuccessful attempt on Plattsburg. Robinson's part in this engagement was to force the passage of the Saranac and escalade the enemy's works upon the heights, and two brigades were placed under him. He had already done the first part of his task when his advance was stopped by Prevost, who, seeing that the naval attack had failed, thought it necessary to abandon the enterprise altogether, to the dissatisfaction of soldiers and sailors alike.

In March 1816 Robinson left Canada for the West Indies, where he commanded the troops in the Windward and Leeward Islands till 24 July 1821, and was for a time governor of Tobago. He became lieutenant-general on 27 May 1825, and colonel of the 59th regiment on 1 Dec. 1827. He had been made K.C.B. in January 1815, and in 1838 he received the G.C.B. He was transferred from the 59th to the 39th regiment on 15 June 1840, and became general on 23 Nov. 1841. He died at Brighton on 1 Jan. 1852, being at that time the soldier of longest service in the British army. He was twice married: first, to Grace (1770–1806), daughter of Thomas Boles of Charleville; secondly, in 1811, to Ann Fernyhough of Stafford.

[Gent. Mag. 1852, i. 188; Royal Military Calendar; Wellington Despatches; Annual Register, 1814; Appleton's American Biography; Ryerson's American Loyalists, ii. 199.]

E. M. L.