Bruce, Peter Henry (DNB00)

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BRUCE, PETER HENRY (1692–1757), military adventurer, was born at Detring Castle in Westphalia, his mother's home, in 1692. He was descended from the Bruces of Airth, Stirlingshire. His grandfather, John Bruce, took refuge from the Cromwellian troubles in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg, and his father was born in Prussia, and obtained a commission in a Scotch regiment in the same service. The father accompanied his regiment on its return to Scotland in 1698, and took his wife and child with him. The boy was now sent to school at Cupar in Fife for three years, after which he remained three years more with his father at Fort William. In 1704 his father took him to Germany, and left him with his mother's family, by whom he was sent to a military academy to learn fortification. Soon after his uncle Rebeur, who was colonel of a regiment serving in Flanders, took charge of him, and entered him in the Prussian service (1706). He got his commission in his sixteenth year (1708), in consequence of distinguished conduct at the siege of Lille, and he appears to have been present at a considerable number of the battles and sieges in which Prince Eugene's troops took part. In 1711 he quitted the Prussian service, and entered that of Peter the Great of Russia, on the invitation of a distant cousin of his own name, who held high rank in the Russian army at that time. He was sent with despatches to Constantinople in 1711, and his ‘Memoirs’ give an interesting account of that city as he saw it. His ‘Memoirs’ also contain many interesting anecdotes of Peter the Great and his court during the years 1711–24, for the greater part of which period Bruce appears to have lived at St. Petersburg when not following the czar on his expeditions. In 1722 he accompanied the Persian expedition led by the czar. They sailed down the Volga from Nischnei-Novgorod to Astrachan, and then coasted along the western shore of the Caspian as far as Derbent, passing through the countries of several Tartar tribes, of whose manners and habits he gives a very good account.

After this expedition he at last succeeded in obtaining leave of absence for a year, and quitted Russia in 1724, determined never to see it again. He now returned to Cupar after an absence of twenty years, and settling down on a small estate left him by his granduncle, he married, and turned farmer for sixteen years, during which time he had several children. In 1740, desiring to increase his income, he again took military service, and was sent by the British government to the Bahamas to carry out some fortifications there. Five years later he again returned to England, and was immediately employed in the north, fortifying Berwick and other towns against the Pretender. Here his ‘Memoirs' abruptly break off; but we learn from the ‘advertisement’ prefixed to the edition of 1782, that he retired the same year (1745) to his house in the country, where he died in 1757. His ‘Memoirs,' his only literary work, were originally written, as he tells us, in German, his native language, and were translated by him into English in 1755. They were printed at London in 1782 for his widow, and are favourably noticed in the ‘Monthly Review’ for that year. They are pleasantly written, and show very close and intelligent observation.

[Bruce's Memoirs; Monthly Review, 1782.]

G. V. B.