Somerset, Fitzroy James Henry (DNB00)
|←Somerset, Edward (1601-1667)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
Somerset, Fitzroy James Henry
SOMERSET, Lord FITZROY JAMES HENRY, first Baron Raglan (1788–1855), field-marshal, was youngest son of Henry, fifth duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen [q. v.] Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset [q. v.] was an elder brother. He was born at Badminton on 30 Sept. 1788, and was educated at Westminster. He was commissioned as cornet in the 4th light dragoons on 9 June 1804, and became lieutenant on 30 May 1805. In 1807 he accompanied the mission of Sir Arthur Paget to Constantinople. He obtained a company in the 6th garrison battalion on 5 May 1808, and on 18 Aug. was transferred to the 43rd foot. He went to Portugal with Wellesley as aide-de-camp, and was present at Roliça and Vimeiro. On 27 Aug. Wellesley wrote: ‘Lord Fitzroy has been very useful to me, and I have this day lent him to Sir H. Dalrymple to go to the French headquarters.’
He went home with Wellesley, but returned to the Peninsula with him in the spring of 1809, and served on his staff continuously till the close of the war. He was bearer of the despatches after Talavera, and was wounded at Busaco. He was appointed military secretary to Wellesley on 1 Jan. 1811, and in this position he established direct relations with the battalion commanders, by means of which he acquired ‘an exact knowledge of the moral state of each regiment, rendered his own office important and gracious with the army, and with such discretion and judgment that the military hierarchy was in no manner weakened’ (Napier). He was given a brevet majority on 9 June, after Fuentes d'Onoro.
As soon as the breaches had been stormed at Badajoz, he rode through the town to the drawbridge of San Christoval, and obtained its surrender before the French had time to organise further resistance. At Wellington's special request he was made brevet lieutenant-colonel on 27 April 1812. During the blockade of Pampeluna he succeeded in deciphering a message from the governor to Soult which came into Wellington's hands.
He received the cross with five clasps for the Peninsula, having been at all the battles at which Wellington himself was present, and was made K.C.B. on 2 Jan. 1815. On 25 July 1814 he was transferred to the 1st guards, as captain and lieutenant-colonel. On 6 Aug. he married Emily Harriet, second daughter of the third earl of Mornington, and Wellington's niece.
After Napoleon's first abdication, Wellington went to Paris as ambassador, and Somerset accompanied him as secretary to the embassy. He was left in charge of the embassy from 18 Jan. 1815, when Wellington went to Vienna, till Napoleon's return. On 14 March—the day on which Fouché made his remarkable prediction that the empire would be restored, but would last only three months—Somerset wrote to Wellington: ‘I see no reason why it should be at all expected that Napoleon should not succeed.’ On the 20th Napoleon reached Paris; and on the 26th Somerset left it, and joined Wellington in the Netherlands, being reappointed military secretary.
At Waterloo, towards the close of the day, as he was standing beside Wellington, his right elbow was struck by a bullet from the roof of La Haye Sainte, and the arm had to be amputated. He bore the operation without a word, but, when it was ended, called to the orderly, ‘Hallo! don't carry away that arm till I have taken off my ring’—a ring which his wife had given him. Wellington, in writing to his brother about his wound, said: ‘You are aware how useful he has always been to me, and how much I shall feel the want of his assistance, and what a regard and affection I feel for him.’ He recommended him warmly soon afterwards for the appointment of aide-de-camp to the prince regent. This was given to him with the rank of colonel in the army on 28 Aug.
Somerset returned to the British embassy at Paris, and remained there as secretary till the end of 1818, when the allied armies were withdrawn from France. Wellington was then made master-general of the ordnance, and Somerset became his secretary. He accompanied him to the congress of Verona in 1822. In January 1823 he was sent on a special mission to Spain to explain the duke's views upon the constitutional crisis to some of the leading politicians, in the hope of averting French intervention. He spent two months at Madrid ineffectually (cf. Wellington Despatches, 3rd ser. vol. ii.). He was promoted major-general on 27 May 1825. In 1826 he went with Wellington to St. Petersburg on the accession of Nicholas I, and had a share in the negotiations for common action against Turkey on behalf of Greece. During this period he twice sat in parliament as M.P. for Truro—in 1818–20 and in 1826–9.
When Wellington became commander-in-chief on the death of the Duke of York (22 Jan. 1827), Somerset was made military secretary at the Horse Guards, and he held this post for more than twenty-five years. He was noted for quickness and accuracy in the despatch of business, for impartiality, and for the tact and urbanity with which he discharged his duties, which became more responsible with the duke's increasing age. At the same time Wellington described him as ‘a man who wouldn't tell a lie to save his life.’ He was made colonel of the 53rd foot on 19 Nov. 1830, became lieutenant-general on 28 June 1838, and received the G.C.B. on 24 Sept. 1852. He was granted the degree of D.C.L. in 1834, when Wellington was installed as chancellor at Oxford. On Wellington's death (14 Sept. 1852) Hardinge succeeded him in the command of the forces, and Somerset succeeded Hardinge as master-general of the ordnance. He was made a privy councillor, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Raglan of Raglan, Monmouthshire, on 12 Oct.
In the spring of 1854, when England and France declared war against Russia, Raglan was selected to command the British troops sent to the east. Though sixty-five years of age, he had the strength and vigour of a much younger man. He had never led troops in the field, but no man had served so thorough an apprenticeship in the art of leading them. His diplomatic experience, as well as his personal character and charm of manner, marked him out for an expedition in which the difficulties inherent in joint naval and military operations were superadded to those which always attend the operations of allied forces. He left London on 10 April, spent some days in Paris, and reached Constantinople at the end of the month. By the end of June the bulk of the English and French armies were in camp at Varna; but the Russian army had recrossed the Danube, and the European provinces of Turkey were no longer threatened.
On 29 June instructions were sent to Raglan that he should take measures for the siege of Sebastopol, ‘unless with the information in your possession, but at present unknown in this country, you should be decidedly of opinion that it could not be undertaken with a reasonable prospect of success.’ Raglan and his French colleague, Saint-Arnaud, had grave misgivings of the enterprise, but they had no such information as the letter mentioned. They regarded the instructions, therefore, as ‘little short of an absolute order,’ and they acquiesced. The ravages of cholera, especially among the French, caused some delay; but on 14 Sept. nearly fifty thousand men were landed without opposition at Kalamita Bay, on the west coast of the Crimea, an ideal landing-place chosen by Raglan himself.
It took four days more to land the horses and guns, and to collect transport. The French, having brought no cavalry, were ready first, and on the 18th St. Arnaud wrote characteristically: ‘Il y a deux jours que j'aurais pu avoir battu les Russes qui m'attendent à Alma, et je ne peux partir que demain, grâce a MM. les Anglais qui ne se gênent guère, mais me gênent bien!’ (Causeries du Lundi, xiii. 450).
Two days later the battle of the Alma was fought. The right of the allies consisted of twenty-eight thousand French and seven thousand Turkish infantry, with sixty-eight guns; the left of twenty-three thousand British infantry, one thousand British cavalry, and sixty guns. The bulk of the Russian army—twenty-one thousand infantry, three thousand cavalry, and eighty-four guns—were in front of the British; while they had only twelve thousand infantry, four hundred cavalry, and thirty-six guns to oppose the advance of the French. That advance could be supported by the fire of the ships. It was agreed, therefore, that the French should begin the battle, and turn (or threaten to turn) the Russian left. But before this movement was sufficiently developed to make itself felt, Raglan, partly from impatience, but also at the urgent instance of the French commanders, ordered the British infantry to attack, and ‘took the bull by the horns.’ He then rode forward with his staff across the stream, through the French skirmishers, and up to a knoll well within the Russian position. He gained an admirable point of view, but at no small personal risk, and he lost touch of his own troops. ‘The French had but little share in the battle, and half the British infantry attacked with great gallantry the centre of the position, while the other half remained out of action. … Though each of the divisional generals acted as he thought best for the general result, there was no concerted action’ (Sir Evelyn Wood).
However, the battle was won, and raised high hopes of the prompt capture of Sebastopol, both in the armies and at home. The enemy's works on the south side of the fortress were known to be very incomplete, but when the armies were established in front of them, after the flank march to Balaclava, their commanders were soon convinced that a bombardment by siege guns must precede an assault. Already 172 guns were mounted on the works, and the garrison, after the withdrawal of the field army under Menschikoff, numbered thirty thousand, mostly seamen and marines. Trenches were opened and batteries built under Raglan's general supervision; the French, on the left, attacking the works of the town, and the British, on the right, those of the Karabelnaia suburb. On 17 Oct. the allies opened fire with 126 guns; but by this time, through the energy of Todleben, the enemy's works had been greatly strengthened, and 341 guns were mounted on them, of which 118 bore on the besiegers' batteries. The French batteries were soon overmatched; one of their magazines blew up; and at the end of four hours they were silenced. All thoughts of an assault had to be postponed, and the allies had to look to their own defence against the growing strength of the Russian field army.
On 25 Oct. came the Russian attempt on Balaclava, and the disaster to the light brigade [see Nolan, Lewis Edward]. All agreed that ‘some one had blundered.’ Raglan, in his despatch, blamed Lord Lucan: ‘From some misconception of the order to advance, the lieutenant-general considered that he was bound to attack at all hazards.’ But he himself did not escape blame. Sir Edward Hamley has found fault, not only with the wording of his order—‘Cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns’—but with his purpose in sending it. It was, at all events, in marked contrast with his own words a month before: ‘I will keep my cavalry in a band-box.’
On 5 Nov. the Russians dealt a heavier blow with fifty-five thousand men upon the right of the allies, and the battle of Inker- man was fought. The main attack, upon the second division under Sir John Lysaght Pennefather [q. v.], began about 6 a.m. Raglan was on the field by 7 a.m., but he did not interfere with Pennefather in his conduct of the fight. He confined himself to directing reinforcements, and ordering up two 18-pounder guns, which did much to reduce the Russian preponderance in artillery. He had sent off at once to ask for French assistance, showing better judgment than two of his divisional generals, who declined Bosquet's offer of aid. He watched the course of the battle from the ridge which formed the main position, where Strangways, the chief of the artillery, was killed while talking to him, and Canrobert (Saint-Arnaud's successor) was wounded. ‘I am not at all aware of having exposed myself either rashly or unnecessarily, either at Alma or Inkerman,’ he wrote afterwards in reply to the remonstrances of the secretary of war, Henry Fiennes Pelham Clinton, fifth duke of Newcastle [q. v.] But it was a saying among his staff that ‘my lord rather likes being under fire than otherwise;’ and he seems to have run needless risk on this as on other occasions. His perfect calmness had its value, however, in steadying younger soldiers.
Raglan had been given the colonelcy of the horse guards on 8 May 1854, and had been promoted general on 20 June. He was now made field marshal from 5 Nov. The notification was accompanied by a letter from the queen, in which she said: ‘The queen cannot sufficiently express her high sense of the great services he has rendered and is rendering to her and to the country by the very able manner in which he has led the bravest troops that ever fought’ (Martin, Life of the Prince Consort, iii. 154). It was a last ray of sunshine.
The allies had narrowly escaped destruction at Inkerman, and, looking back upon the danger, men forgot that it was inseparable from the attempt to carry on a siege with seventy-six thousand men in face of a hundred and twenty thousand. Want of men made it impossible to actively push on the siege of Sebastopol, and after Inkerman a winter in the Crimea was seen to be inevitable. On 14 Nov. a hurricane in the Black Sea wrecked twenty-one vessels which were full of stores urgently needed. Immediately afterwards the cold weather set in. The sufferings and losses of the troops increased, and murmurs at home grew louder. The ‘Times’ correspondent, W. H. Russell, had already attributed the absence of intrenchments covering the right of the allies to indolence and overweening confidence. He now asserted: ‘If central depôts had been established … while the fine weather lasted, much, if not of all, of the misery and suffering of the men and of the loss of horses would have been averted.’ Anonymous letters from officers and men added their quota of complaint, and before Christmas the ‘Times’ charged Raglan and his staff with neglect and incompetence.
The commander of the forces had no direct responsibility for supply and transport. Up to 22 Dec., when a change was made, the commissariat was a branch, not of the war department, but of the treasury; and so far as any one cause could be named for the terrible hardships which the troops encountered, it was the failure of the treasury to comply with the requisitions it received for forage. The horses were starved, and there was no means of transporting stores from Balaclava to the camps. But in face of the storm of indignation which was rising at home, the government made haste to shift responsibility to the staff in the Crimea. In an official despatch of 6 Jan. 1855, as well as in private letters of earlier date, the Duke of Newcastle censured the administration of the army, and pointed especially to the quartermaster-general, James Bucknall Estcourt [q. v.], and the adjutant-general, Richard Airey (afterwards Lord Airey) [q. v.] But Raglan refused to make those officers scapegoats.
On 29 Jan. the government was defeated upon Roebuck's motion for inquiry. It fell, and Palmerston formed a ministry, with Lord Panmure as secretary for war. On 12 Feb. the latter wrote to Raglan, informing him that commissioners were going out to report, and went on to say: ‘It would appear that your visits to the camp were few and far between, and your staff seems to have known as little as yourself of the condition of your gallant men.’ He added in a private letter that a radical change of the staff was the least that would satisfy the public. In a long and dignified reply on 3 March, Raglan said: ‘I have served under the greatest man of the age more than half my life, have enjoyed his confidence, and have, I am proud to say, been ever regarded by him as a man of truth and some judgment as to the qualifications of officers, and yet, having been placed in the most difficult position in which an officer was ever called upon to serve, and having successfully carried out difficult operations, with the entire approbation of the queen, which is now my only solace, I am charged with every species of neglect; and the opinion which it was my solemn duty to give of the merits of the officers, and the assertions which I made in support of it, are set at naught, and your lordship is satisfied that your irresponsible informants are more worthy of credit than I am.’
The charge brought against him of not visiting the camps had some foundation, but was exaggerated. The habits of a long official life predisposed him to work at his desk, and his extreme dislike of ostentation caused the visits he had made to pass almost unnoticed. As regards his staff, General (afterwards Sir James) Simpson [q. v.] (who was sent out to report upon it) found himself unable to recommend any changes. Some reflections were made upon certain officers by the two commissioners, Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch, who inquired into the commissariat; but the board of general officers which held an inquiry into these statements in 1856 did not sustain them.
The siege-works, never altogether suspended, were actively resumed at the end of February 1855. The French had been largely reinforced, and were now so much stronger than the British that they undertook a fresh attack, on the right of the British, against the Malakhoff. On 9 April the second bombardment began, and the assault was fixed for the 28th; but Canrobert drew back on the 25th. An expedition against Kertch was then arranged, to cut the main line of communication of the Russians, but it had no sooner started than Canrobert insisted on its recall. It was successfully carried out at the end of May, when Pélissier had replaced Canrobert, and returned in the middle of June. Meanwhile there had been a third bombardment of Sebastopol, the Mamelon (an advanced work in front of the Malakhoff) had been taken, and the 18th, the anniversary of Waterloo, was chosen for the general assault.
It was to be prefaced by a two hours' cannonade, to silence guns remounted in the night, but Pélissier decided at the last moment to attack at daybreak. Raglan reluctantly accepted the decision. The effective strength of the allied armies at this time was 188,000 men, of which more than one-half were French, one-third Turkish and Sardinians, and less than one-sixth British. Raglan's character and services gave him a weight out of proportion to the number of his men; but in this case, as often before, he was overborne by his French colleague, and gave way rather than imperil the alliance. The result was disastrous. The French columns for the assault of the Malakhoff, numbering in all twenty-five thousand men, were met by a storm of fire and driven back with heavy loss. Seeing how it fared with them, Raglan ordered the British forward against the Redan, though the chance of success there was much less. He knew that otherwise ‘the French would have attributed their non-success to our refusal to participate in the operation’ (to Panmure, 19 June). The two leading British columns, about five hundred men each, ‘had no sooner shown themselves beyond the trenches than they were assailed by a most murderous fire of grape and musketry. Those in advance were either killed or wounded, and the remainder found it impossible to proceed’ (official despatch). The number of men sent forward was quite inadequate, but under the circumstances more men would only have meant larger loss.
Raglan felt the failure deeply. On the 23rd one of the staff wrote: ‘He looks far from well, and has grown very much aged lately.’ He went that day to take leave of Estcourt, the adjutant-general, who was dying, and ‘for the first time his wonted composure left him, and he was quite overcome with grief.’ The impassive demeanour to which he had schooled himself, after the example of his great chief, covered—those who knew him say—a nature exceptionally tender and sympathetic. He was already suffering from dysentery, and his strength was undermined by all he had gone through. On the 26th he wrote his last despatch, and on the evening of the 28th he died, ‘the victim of England's unreadiness for war’ (Sir Evelyn Wood).
Among the many manifestations of grief for his loss, none were more marked than those of his colleague Pélissier, who in his general order next day referred to the history of his life, ‘so pure, so noble, so replete with service rendered to his country,’ ‘his fearless demeanour at the Alma and Inkerman,’ and ‘the calm and stoic greatness of his character throughout this rude and memorable campaign.’
In the words of the general order issued from the horse guards, ‘by his calmness in the hottest moments of battle, and by his quick perception in taking advantage of the ground or the movements of the enemy, he won the confidence of his army, and performed great and brilliant services. In the midst of a winter campaign—in a severe climate and surrounded by difficulties—he never despaired.’ This last characteristic well deserved emphasis. He had a vacillating and sometimes despondent colleague in Canrobert, and one of the best of his lieutenants—Sir George De Lacy Evans [q. v.] —strongly urged him after Inkerman to give up the siege and embark the army. His capacity as a general was questioned, and he had been the object of much undeserved but not unreasonable blame; but by this time the nobility of his character had made itself felt even by those who had been loudest in complaint (e.g. Times, 2 July). His successor, Sir James Simpson, wrote: ‘His loss to us here is inexpressible,’ and the prince consort, in a letter to Stockmar, said: ‘Spite of all that has been said and written against him, an irreparable loss for us!’
The body was embarked on the Caradoc with the fullest military honours, the seven miles of road from his headquarters to Kazatch Bay being lined with troops. It reached Bristol on 24 July, and was buried privately at Badminton on the 26th. A pension of 1,000l. was voted to his widow (who died 6 March 1881), and 2,000l. to his heir; 5,500l. was subscribed for a memorial to him, and the Fairfax farm—where Fairfax had had his headquarters during the siege of Raglan Castle—was bought and presented to his heir on 13 March 1856. He left one son, Richard Henry Fitzroy Somerset, second lord Raglan (1817–1884), and two daughters. His elder son, Major Arthur William Fitzroy Somerset, had died on 25 Dec. 1845, of wounds received four days before at the battle of Ferozeshah (Gent. Mag. 1846, i. 429).
A portrait of Raglan, by Sir Francis Grant, is in the United Service Club, and has been engraved. There are others by Lynch and Armitage, and a bust by Edwards. A portrait by Pickersgill belongs to the Duke of Wellington. He was a knight of several foreign orders: Maria Theresa of Austria, St. George of Russia, Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria, the Tower and Sword of Portugal, and the Medjidie.
Raglan's nephew and aide-de-camp, Colonel Poulett George Henry Somerset (1822–1875), was fourth son of Lord Charles Somerset, second son of the fifth Duke of Beaufort, by Mary, daughter of the fourth Earl Poulett. He was born on 19 June 1822, was commissioned as ensign in the 33rd foot on 20 March 1839, exchanged into the Coldstream guards on 1 May 1840, and became captain and lieutenant-colonel on 3 March 1854. He was aide-de-camp to Lord Raglan in the Crimean war, received the medal with four clasps, the Turkish medal and the Medjidie (4th class), and was made C.B. on 5 July 1855. He had a narrow escape at Inkerman, where a shell burst in the body of his horse. He exchanged into the 7th fusiliers on 2 Feb. 1858, became colonel five years later, went on half-pay on 21 June 1864, and died near Dublin on 7 Sept. 1875. He was J.P. and D.L. for Middlesex, and M.P. for that county from 1859 to 1870. He was twice married: first, on 15 April 1847, to Barbara, daughter of John Mytton of Halston, Shropshire, who died on 4 June 1870; secondly, on 10 Sept. 1870, to Emily, daughter of J. H. Moore of Cherryhill, Cheshire. He left two sons and one daughter by the second marriage (Times, 15 Sept. 1875; Army Lists, &c.; Waller, History of the Royal Fusiliers).[United Service Mag. 1855, ii. 515 (an article republished separately); G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage; Gent. Mag. 1855, ii. 194; Wellington Despatches; Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea; Hamley's War in the Crimea; Letters from Headquarters; Sir Evelyn Wood's Crimea in 1854 and 1894; Sayer's Despatches and Papers relative to the Campaign in Turkey; Report of the Chelsea Board of 1856.]