Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mansfield, William Rose

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MANSFIELD, Sir WILLIAM ROSE, first Lord Sandhurst (1819–1876), general, born 21 June 1819, was fifth of the seven sons of John Mansfield of Diggeswell House, Hampshire, and his wife, the daughter of General Samuel Smith of Baltimore, U.S.A. He was grandson of Sir James Mansfield [q. v.], and among his brothers were Sir Samuel Mansfield, at one time senior member of council, Bombay, Colonel Sir Charles Mansfield of the diplomatic service, and John Mansfield, a London police-magistrate. He was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and passed out in November 1835 at the head of the five most distinguished cadets of his half-year. He was appointed ensign 53rd foot 27 Nov. 1886, became lieutenant in the regiment in 1838, and captain in 1843. After serving with the 53rd in the Mediterranean and at home, he accompanied the regiment to India, and was present with it in the first Sikh war at Buddiwal, Aliwal, and Sobraon, on which latter occasion he acted as aide-de-camp to Lord Gough (medal and clasps). He became major 8 Dec. 1847, and was employed in command of a small detached force suppressing disturbances in Behar early in 1848 (Rogerson, p. 143). He afterwards commanded the regiment in the Punjab war of 1849, and at the battle of Goojerat (medal and clasp). On 9 May 1 851 he became junior lieutenant-colonel at the age of thirty-two, passing over the head of Henry Havelock [q. v.], and having purchased all his steps save the first. In 1851–2 he was constantly employed on the Peshawur frontier, either in command of the 53rd (see ib. pp. 143–6) or attached to the staff of Sir Colin Campbell, lord Clyde [q. v.], who was in command on the frontier, and who appears to have formed a very high opinion of him (frontier medal and clasp).

At this period Mansfield is said to have had a taste for journalism, and desired to become a bank director. To the end of his life he believed himself better fitted to conduct grand financial operations than anything else. On 28 Nov. 1864 he became colonel by brevet. At the outbreak of the Russian war he addressed a letter to Lord Panmure, then secretary of war, which was afterwards published as a pamphlet, advocating greater facilities for enabling militiamen with their company officers of all ranks to volunteer into the line. In April 1855 he exchanged to the unattached list, and was appointed deputy adjutant-general in Dublin, and in June the same year was sent to Constantinople, with the local rank of brigadier-general in Turkey, to act as responsible military adviser to the British ambassador, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe [see {sc|Canning, Sir Stratford, Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe}}, 1786-1880].

He arrived in Constantinople when the plan for relieving Kars with the Turkish contingent was under consideration. Mansfield was in constant communication with the Turkish authorities on the subject (see Poole, Life of Stratford de Redcliffe, ii. 352). He afterwards accompanied the ambassador to the Crimea, and is said to have rendered valuable services, which from their very nature have remained unknown to the public. At the close of the war in 1856 he received the quasi-military appointment of consul-general at Warsaw, with the rank of brigadier-general in Poland. With the summer of 1857 came the tidings of the outbreak of the mutiny, and the appointment of Sir Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde) to the chief command in India. In an entry in his diary on II July 1857, Colin Campbell wrote : 'Before going to the Duke of Cambridge I had settled in my mind that my dear friend Mansfield should have the offer made to him of chief of the staff. His lordship (Panmure) proposed the situation of military secretary, but that I told his lordship was not worth his acceptance, and I pressed for the appointment of chief of the staff being offered to him, with the rank of major-general and the pay and allowances of that office in India' (Shadwell, Life of Clyde, i. 405). Mansfield was appointed chief of the staff in India, with the local rank of major-general, 7 Aug. 1857. Clyde's biographer states that when passing through London to take up his appointment Mansfield was consulted by the government, and submitted a plan of operations based on the same principles as that communicated in confidence by Clyde to the Madras government on his way to Calcutta (ib. ii. 411). Mansfield was Clyde's right hand, his strategetical mentor, it was said, throughout the eventful period that followed. He was in the advance on Lucknow and the second relief in October 1857 (for which he was made K.C.B.), and at the rout of the Gwalior contingent at Cawnpore on 6 Nov. following. On the afternoon of the battle he was sent by Clyde to occupy the Soubahdar's Tank, a position on the line of retreat of the enemy's right wing. Mansfield halted rather than push through about a mile of ruined buildings, in which the mutineers were still posted, after dark, by which the enemy were enabled to get off with all their guns. His conduct on this occasion has been sharply criticised (Malleson, iv. 192; cf. Shadwell, ii. 41). With Clyde, Mansfield was in the advance on Futtehgur and the affair at Kalee Nuddee, at the siege of Lucknow (promoted to major-general for distinguished service in the field), m the hot-weather campaign in Rohilcund, the battle of Bareilly and the affairs at Shahjehanpore, the campaign in Oude in 1858-9, and the operations in the Trans-Gogra (medal and clasp). When the peril was past, on Mansfield fell the chief burden of reorganising the shattered fragments of the Bengal native army, dealing with the European troops of the defunct company, and conducting the overwhelming mass of official correspondence connected therewith. Some of his minutes at this period are models of lucidity. In December 1859 he was offered the command of the North China expedition, which he refused, and Sir James Hope Grant [q. v.] was appointed. He remained chief of the staff in India until 23 April 1860. He held the command of the Bombay presidency, with the local rank of lieutenant-general, from 18 May 1860 to 14 March 1865. During this period he was appointed colonel 38th foot in 1862, and became lieutenant-general in 1864. He also published a pamphlet 'On the Introduction of a Gold Currency in India,' London, 1864, 8vo. On 14 March 1865 he was appointed commander-in-chief in India and military member of council, a position he held up to 8 April 1870. In the supreme council he was a warm supporter of John, lord Lawrence [q. v.] (cf Mansfield's Calcutta speech reported in the Times, 9 Feb. 1869).

Mansfield's independent military commands in India cannot be said to have been successful. He was unpopular, and sometimes wanting in temper and judgment. He had painful and discreditable quarrels, the most damaging of which was the court-martial on a member of his personal staff, against whom he brought a string of charges of peculation and falsifying accounts, not one of which, after most patient investigation, could be substantiated or justified, although the officer was removed from the service on disciplinary grounds (see reports of the Jervis court-martial in the Times, July-September 1866, and the scathing leader in the same paper of 3 Oct. 1866). Mansfield, who became a full general in 1872, commanded the forces in Ireland from 1 Aug. 1870 to 31 July 1875. In Ireland, too, he was unpopular, and in some instances showed lamentable failure of judgment.

Mansfield was raised to the peerage on 28 March 1871, during Mr. Gladstone's first administration, under the title of Baron Sandhurst of Sandhurst, Berkshire, in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He took an active part in the House of Lords in the debates on army reorganisation, and predicted that abolition of the purchase system would result in 'stagnation, tempered by jobbery.' He was a good speaker, but is said never to have carried his audience with him in the house or out of it. He was a G.C.S.I. 1866, G.C.B. 1870, P.C. Ireland 1870, and was created D.C.L. of Oxford in 1870. He died at his London residence, 18 Grosvenor Gardens, 23 June 1876, aged 57, and was buried at Digswell Church, near Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

His character has been impartially drawn by Malleson: 'Tall and soldierly in appearance, it was impossible for any one to look at him without feeling certain that the man before whom he stood possessed more than ordinary ability. Conversation with him always confirmed this impression. He could write well; he could speak well; he was quick in mastering details; he possessed the advocate's ability of making a bad cause appear a good one. He had that within him to procure success in any profession but one. He was not and could not become a great soldier. Possessing undoubted personal courage, he was not a general at all except in name. The fault was not altogether his own. Nature, kind to him in many respects, had denied him the penetrating glance which enabled a man on the instant to take in the exact lay of affairs in the field. His vision, indeed, was so defective that he had to depend for information regarding the most trivial matters upon the reports of others. This was in itself a great misfortune. It was a misfortune made irreparable by a haughty and innate reserve, which shrank from reliance on any one but himself. He disliked advice, and, although swayed perhaps too easily by those he loved and trusted, he was impatient of even the semblance of control from men brought into contact with him only officially and in a subordinate position. Hence it was that in an independent command, unable to take a clear view himself, he failed to carry out the idea which to so clever a man would undoubtedly have suggested itself had he had leisure to study it over a map in the leisure of his closet' (Malleson, iv. 192-3).

He married, 2 Nov. 1854, Margaret, daughter of Robert Fellowes of Shottesley Park, Norfolk, by whom he left four sons and a daughter. His eldest son, William, second and present lord Sandhurst, succeeded him in the peerage. From 1886 till her death in 1892, his widow took a prominent part as a member of the Women's Liberal Federation in the agitation in favour of Home Rule and other measures advocated by Mr. Gladstone.

[Foster's Peerage under 'Sandhurst;' Army Lists; Rogerson's Hist. Rec. 53rd Foot, now 1st Shropshire) L.I., London, 1890; Malleson's Hist Sepoy Mutiny, cab. ed.; Parl. Debates, 1871-6. Among the obituary notices may be mentioned that in the Times, 24 June 1876, and the leader in the Army and Navy Gazette, 1 July 1876. For will (personalty 60,000l.) see Times, 29 July 1876.]

H. M. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.194
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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ii 26 Mansfield, Sir William R., 1st Lord Sandhurst: for Hampshire read Hertfordshire