Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gage, Joseph

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GAGE, JOSEPH or JOSEPH EDWARD, Count Gage or De Gages (1678?–1753?), grandee of Spain, general in the Spanish army, was second son of Joseph Gage of Sherborne Castle, Dorsetshire, and grandson of Sir Thomas Gage, fourth baronet, of Firle, Sussex. Joseph Gage the elder (an English jesuit) entered the English College at Rome as a ‘converter’ 14 Oct. 1670. He married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of George Penruddock of Southampton, who brought great estates to the Gage family, and by her, who died 5 Dec. 1693, had, besides daughters, two sons, whereof Thomas, the elder, conformed to the church of England, and became the first Viscount Gage and father of General Thomas Gage [q. v.], and Joseph or Joseph Edward, the younger, ultimately became Count Gage. The latter, who apparently married young, was in Paris in 1719, when he is said to have acquired Mississippi stock representing the value of 13,000,000l. Intoxicated with his success, Gage, whom French writers call Mons. Guiache, sent a gentleman to Augustus, king of Poland, to offer 3,000,000l. for the crown, which was declined. He next sent an agent to the king of Sardinia, to offer a vast sum for that island, which proposal was likewise rejected. Friends advised him to invest a quarter of a million in an English estate, to fall back upon in event of the failure of the Mississippi scheme. This was not done, and when the crash came he was ruined, and with his wife removed to Spain, where they were well received at Madrid. Gage at first tried gold-mining in Asturias, it is said without much result. A patent for fishing wrecks on the coasts of Spain and the Indies probably was more successful. At any rate, in 1741 Gage was presented by the king of Spain with a silver mine of great value, and was made a grandee of the third class. In August 1742 Gage was appointed to command the Spanish army in Italy, superseding the Duke de Montemar. The queen of Spain at this time, having put her son Don Carlos on the throne of Naples, was striving to place his brother Don Philip on the throne of Lombardy. In the remarkable campaigns which ensued in 1743–6 Gage proved himself an able, although an unsuccessful commander. Gage began by attempting to penetrate into Tuscany, but, foiled by the Austrians under Traun, retired to winter quarters in Bologna and the Romagna, the opposing imperialists wintering in the duchies of Parma and Modena. While in the Bolognese Gage received a peremptory order from the queen of Spain to fight within three days, under pain of dismissal like his predecessor. He displayed much address in obeying the mandate. Knowing that the Austrians were weakened in numbers and not expecting an attack, he resolved to surprise their position at Campo Santo, a short march distant. To divert the attention of the people of Bologna he gave a grand ball, whereat the Spanish officers were present, but withdrew during the night to join their men. The Austrians were, however, forewarned. A bloody engagement followed, begun by moonlight before dawn and continued till after dark, 4 Feb. 1743, with no decisive result. Eventually the Spaniards retired on the Neapolitan frontier. A ‘Te Deum’ was celebrated at Madrid for the victory, and Gage was made a grandee of the first class. The same year Gage was surprised by the Austrians under Count Brown at Villetri, but subdued the resulting panic, and by his masterly arrangements compelled Brown to retire. In his report of the affair to the king of Naples Gage generously admitted: ‘I have been surprised in my camp, which has been forced. The enemy even reached the headquarters, but have been repulsed with loss. Your majesty's arms are victorious, and the kingdom of Naples is safe. Nevertheless, this has been entirely the action of your majesty's troops, and I cannot but admit that their valour has repaired my fault, which would be unpardonable if I sought to diminish it.’ The operations of 1744 were of no special importance, but those of 1745 stand almost without parallel for boldness of conception and rapidity of execution. By astonishing marches the army under Don Philip, and a French force under De Maillebois, effected a junction with Gage near Genoa, 14 June 1745. By October all the territories of the house of Austria in Italy had been conquered. On 20 Dec. 1745 Don Philip was proclaimed king of Lombardy. The Austrians still held the citadel of Milan and Mantua. In the spring of 1746 Don Philip and Gage retired before the Austrians from the neighbourhood of Milan to Piacenza, Gage's policy being to compel the imperialists, strengthened by their recent peace with Prussia, to exhaust themselves by useless marches. The scheme was foiled by the meddlesomeness of the queen of Spain, who commanded Gage to fight at once at all risks. An attack followed on the Austrian camp at San Lazaro, twenty-two miles from Piacenza. The Austrians, again forewarned, continued the conflict during the night, and at daybreak, 4 June 1746, came out of their entrenchments and charged with such fury that the French and Spaniards were broken, and retired with a loss of six thousand killed and nine thousand wounded. Gage effected his retreat to Piacenza in good order. After this disaster Gage was superseded by the Marquis de las Minas. His name does not appear again as a military commander. He received the order of St. Januarius, and a pension of four thousand ducats from the king of Naples, in recognition of his services.

Concerning Gage personally much confusion of statement and some uncertainty prevail. Documents among the Caryll and Mackenzie Papers in British Museum Add. MSS. appear to show that he was married twice, first to Catherine, daughter of the fourth John Caryll of West Harting, secondly to the Lady Mary Herbert, daughter of the second Marquis (titular duke) Powis, who died in October 1745, granddaughter of the first Marquis Powis, who was created a duke by James II when in exile, and sister of the third marquis (titular duke), who died in March 1747. They also (British Museum Add. MS. 28238) throw doubt on the date of Gage's death, which is generally stated (as in Gent. Mag. xxiii. 144) to have occurred at Pampeluna, 31 Jan. 1753, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.

[W. Berry's Sussex Genealogies, in which the Gage pedigree ends with the fourth baronet; Collins's Peerage (1812 ed.), in which, as in other peerages, there are inaccuracies in respect of both the Gage and Powis family histories; Gillow's Bibliography of English Catholics, ii. 363–364, and references there given. Gillow, like most biographers, makes the erroneous statement that Gage married Lady Lucy Herbert, sister of the Lady Mary Herbert, wrongly describing her also as daughter of the first instead of the second Marquis Powis; J. P. Wood's Life of John Law (1824), p. 141; Allgemeine Deutsche Biog. iii. 369–73, under ‘Brown, Ulysses Maximilian;’ Gent. Mag. xiii. 162, xiv. 110, 230, 399, 455, xv. 54, 110, 223, 278, 335, 390, 446, 559, 671, xxiii. 144; Add. MSS., indexed under ‘Caryll, Cath., daughter of fourth John Caryll,’ and ‘Herbert, Mary, second wife of Count Joseph Gage.’]

H. M. C.