Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cookson, George

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COOKSON, GEORGE (1760–1835), general, sixth son of Captain Thomas Cookson, R.N., and grandson of William Cookson of Wellington, Shropshire, was born at Farnborough, Hampshire, on 29 April 1760. He entered the royal navy in 1773, but after his father's death in 1775 Lord North gave him a cadetship to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He entered the royal artillery as second lieutenant in 1778, and was promoted lieutenant in 1780. His early service was principally in the West Indies, and on one occasion, namely, in 1785, he commanded all the artillery on the Black River until its evacuation. In 1792 he was promoted captain-lieutenant, and in the following year accompanied the Duke of York's army to the Netherlands. He opened the first English battery against the city of Valenciennes, and commanded the English gunners in the trenches and at the storm of that city. On the conclusion of the campaign he was promoted captain and appointed to the command of No. 7 company, 5th battalion, and in 1800 was made major by brevet. In that year he commanded the royal artillery with General Maitland's expedition against Belleisle, which afterwards joined the force sent against Ferrol under Sir James Pulteney, and was eventually incorporated with the artillery under Sir Ralph Abercromby's command in the Mediterranean. Cookson was appointed to manage the landing of the field-pieces in Abercromby's disembarkation on the coast of Egypt, and he was so rapid that the guns were in action almost as soon as the infantry, and did great service in covering the landing of the rest of the army. During the whole Egyptian campaign Cookson greatly distinguished himself, especially at the siege of Alexandria, when for a time he commanded all the fifty-two guns employed at the siege, and in the attack on the castle of Marabout on 22 Aug., when he was publicly thanked by Sir Eyre Coote (1762–1824) [q. v.] On 29 Oct. 1801 he was made commandant of the ancient Pharos, and appointed to command all the artillery in Egypt, and he was afterwards presented with a gold medal by the grand vizier, an honour conferred on no other artillery officer (Duncan, History of the Royal Artillery, ii. 132). After his return to England he was promoted lieutenant-colonel, and in September 1804 was appointed to command the artillery in the Dublin district. He had made the acquaintance of Lord Cathcart in the Netherlands, and at that general's special request he was appointed to command all the artillery accompanying the expedition to Hanover in 1805. The expedition, however, did nothing, and after its failure Cookson returned to Dublin. He was again, upon Lord Cathcart's request, ordered to accompany that general's more important expedition to Denmark in 1807, and commanded the batteries on the right during the bombardment of Copenhagen; but he received no recognition of his services on this occasion, though the officer commanding the artillery, Colonel Blomefield, was made a baronet. In October 1808 he embarked in command of the forty-eight guns and twelve hundred artillerymen ordered to form part of Sir David Baird's army intended for the Peninsula, and when Baird joined Sir John Moore, Cookson took command of all the horse artillery with the combined army. He commanded it with great ability throughout Moore's retreat, and especially distinguished himself at the action off Benevente on 29 Dec. 1808, when General Lefevre-Desnouettes was taken prisoner. At the close of the retreat, when but three miles from Corunna, he successfully blew up two great magazines of powder, containing twelve thousand barrels, to save them from the enemy, but he missed the battle of Corunna, as he had embarked with the horse artillery the night before. In April 1809 he received the command of the artillery in the Sussex district, which he held until 1 Aug. 1814, except in July 1809, when he commanded the artillery in South Beveland during the Walcheren expedition up to the fall of Flushing. Few artillery officers saw more varied service than Cookson, but as he did not happen to serve in the Peninsula or at Waterloo he never even received the C.B. for his services. He was promoted in regular course colonel on 17 March 1812, major-general on 4 June 1814, and lieutenant-general on 22 July 1830. He died at Esher on 12 Aug. 1835. He was married three times, and his eldest son, an officer in the 3rd guards, was killed at the battle of Fuentes de Onoro on 5 May 1811.

[Royal Military Calendar; Duncan's History of the Royal Artillery; Gent. Mag. for October 1835.]

H. M. S.