Beckwith, George (DNB00)

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BECKWITH, Sir GEORGE (1753–1823), lieutenant-general, was the son of Major-general John Beckwith, who commanded the 20th regiment at the battle of Minden and the brigade of grenadiers and highlanders in the Seven Years' war. On 20 July 1771 he was appointed to an ensigncy in the 37th regiment, which embarked in that year for America, and, with the 10th, 38th, and 52nd regiments, formed the third brigade under Major-general Jones in the division commanded by Lieutenant-general Earl Percy (Records of the 37th Regiment). He obtained his lieutenancy on 7 July 1775, his company on 2 July 1777, and the rank of major on 30 Nov. 1781. From 1776 to 1782 he bore a prominent part in the contest between England and her American colonies, during which he commanded in several surprises of the enemy and in storms and captures of important places, including those of Elizabeth Town and Brunswick in New Jersey.

From 1787 to the end of 1791, during which time no British minister was accredited to the United States, he was entrusted with an important and confidential mission. On 18 Nov. 1790 he obtained the rank of lieutenant-colonel, that of colonel on 21 Aug. 1795, major-general on 18 June 1798, and of lieutenant-general on 30 Oct. 1805. In April 1797 he was appointed governor of Bermuda, and in the following July commandant of the troops in that island. In October 1804 he became governor of St. Vincent, and on 8 Oct. 1808 governor of Barbadoes, with the command of the forces in the Windward and Leeward Caribee islands. England being then at war with France, he organised an expedition for the conquest of the island of Martinique, and, having been reinforced by the 7th, 8th, and 23rd regiments under Lieutenant-general Sir George Prevost, he sailed from Carlisle Bay on 28 Jan. 1809, arrived off Martinique on the 29th, landed on the 30th, and completed the conquest of the island on 24 July. The French eagles then taken were sent home by him, and were the first ever seen in England. On 14 April 1809 the thanks of the House of Commons, and on the 17th those of the House of Lords, were voted to Lieutenant-general Beckwith for 'his able and gallant conduct in effecting with such signal rapidity the entire conquest of the island of Martinique.' On 1 May he was created a knight of the Bath.

On 22 Jan. 1810, having organised a second expedition, he sailed for Guadaloupe, the last possession of the French in that part of the world, landed on the 28th, and on 5 Feb. the conquest of the island was completed. Returning to Barbadoes on 29 July 1810, he remained there till June 1814, when, after nine years' service in the West Indies, he obtained permission to return to England. The last bill presented to him by the legislature of the island was a vote for a service of plate to him. 'This bill, gentlemen,' he said, 'is the only one from which I must withhold my consent.' He sailed from Barbadoes on 21 June. After his departure a vote of 2,500l. was passed for a service of plate to him. It bore the following inscription: 'This service of plate was presented to General Sir George Beckwith, K.B., late Governor of Barbadoes, by the legislature of the island, as a sincere mark of the high regard and esteem in which he has been and will always continue to be held by every inhabitant of Barbadoes. A.D. 1814.'

Sir George Beckwith's military services were further recognised by the king conferring on him armorial distinctions, 'Issuant from a mural crown, a dexter arm embowed, encircled with a wreath of laurel, the hand grasping an eagle, or French standard, the staff broken.' In October 1816 he was appointed to the command of the forces in Ireland, which he retained till March, 1820, and died in his house in Half Moon Street in London on 20 March 1823, in the seventieth year of his age.

[Gent. Mag. xciii. part i. 372; Schombergh's History of Barbadoes, p. 373; Annual Register, 1809, li. 488; Records of the 37th Regiment; Army List.]

A. S. B.