Brown, George (1790-1865) (DNB00)

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BROWN Sir GEORGE (1790–1865), general, third son of George Brown, provost of Elgin, was born at Linkwood near Elgin on 3 July 1790. He was educated at the Elgin academy, and showed an inclination to enter the army. His uncle, Colonel John Brown, procured him a commission, and he was gazetted an ensign in the 43rd regiment on 23. Jan 1806. He joined his regiment in Sicily, and was promoted lieutenant on 18 Sept 1806, and served in the expedition to Copenhagen in 1807, at the battle of Vimeiro, and in the retreat upon Corunna under Sir John Moore. In 1809 the 43rd was brigaded with the 52nd and 95th, and formed part of the famous light brigade. Brown was present in all its actions until in June 1811 he was promoted captain into the 3rd garrison battalion, and obtained leave to join the staff college at Great Marlow. Brown exchanged into the 85th regiment in July 1812, which in August 1813 was sent to the Peninsula, and formed one of the regiments in the unattached brigade under the command of Major-general Lord Aylmer. The brigade was engaged in the battles of the Nivelle and the Nive, in which Brown so greatly distinguished himself that he was promoted major on 26 May 1814. The 85th was then sent to join the expedition under General Ross in America, and at the battle of Bladensburg Brown was wounded so severely that his life was despaired of, and for his gallant conduct there he was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 26 Sept 1814.

So far Brown had had a brilliant military career. He was now selected for various staff appointments at home and abroad, and while serving as assistant quartermaster-general at Malta in 1826 he married a Miss Macdonell, third daughter of Hugh Macdonell. In 1828 Lord Hill, the commander-in-chief appointed him deputy assistant adjutant-general at headquarters. At the Horse Guards he remained in various staff appointments for more than twenty-five years, and in such capacities he rose to the highest ranks in the army without seeing any further service. In 1831 he was promoted colonel and made a K.H. and some years afterwards was appointed deputy adjutant-general at the Horse Guards. In 1841 he was promoted major-general, and in 1850 he was appointed adjutant-general at the Horse Guards by the Duke of Wellington; he was promoted lieutenant-general in 1851; and, in recognition of his long official services, he was made a K.C.B. in April 1852. Soon after Lord Hardinge had succeeded Wellington as commander-in-chief Brown resigned his post at the Horse Guards in December 1863 His resignation was almost certainly caused by the reforms introduced into the administration of the army by Lord Hardinge, but it has been hinted that it was partly due to the interference of the prince consort with the details of military business.

In 1854 Brown was selected for a command in the army intended for the East and soon showed that his long official life had made him something of a martinet. He was the first of the general officers to reach Turkey and his policy of 'pipe-claying, close-shaving, and tight-stocking' was strongly condemned by the 'Times' correspondent. Though he kept his men under close discipline, he was endeared to them by his kindness when the cholera broke out at Varna. He took command of the light division and on landing in the Crimea in advance of his soldiers was nearly taken prisoner by a Russian outpost. At the battle of the Alma his division was in the heat of the battle and his horse was shot down under him while he was cheering on the 23rd Welsh fusiliers to the attack on the Russian centre. After the allied army took up its position before Sebastopol the light division was posted on the Victoria Ridge and so did not bear the brunt of the Russian attack on 5 Nov. Brown was soon on the field and seems to have led the opportune attack of the French Zouaves who recaptured the three guns of Boothby's demi-battery which the Russians had just taken, and in doing so he was shot through the left arm and wounded in the chest (Kinglake Invasion of the Crimea, v. 325. He refused to go home on account of his wounds and assisted Lord Raglan, to whom he was by seniority second in command, through the winter, and in May 1855 he commanded the English contingent to the Sea of Azoff which took Kertch and Yenikale. On 28 June 1855, however, the day on which Lord Raglan died, he was invalided home by a medical board, and the imputation that he was jealous of Sir James Simpson is therefore unfounded (see Surgeon Watkins's letter to the 'Times' on 6 Sept 1865). He was made a G.C.B. in July 1855 and promoted general in September 1855, and was appointed colonel of the 1st battalion of the rifle brigade. On the conclusion of the war he was also made a knight grand cross of the Legion of Honour and a knight of the Medjidie. In 1860 he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland and sworn of the privy council there, and in 1863 he became colonel of the 32nd regiment and colonel-in-chief of the rifle brigade In April 1865 he resigned his command, and on 27 Aug. he died at his brother's house of Linkwood, near Elgin, the house in which he was born.

[Obituary notice in Times 29 Aug. 1865; biography in Nolan's Crimea 1855 and in Our Heroes in the Crimea; but, for the part he played there and a real account of his actions, see Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea and Dr. Russell's letters to the Times.]

H. M. S.