Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Hamley, Edward Bruce

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HAMLEY, Sir EDWARD BRUCE (1824–1893), general, born at Bodmin on 27 April 1824, was youngest son of Vice-Admiral William Hamley, byBarbara, daughter of Charles Ogilvy of Lerwick, Shetland. His father's family had been settled in Cornwall from the conquest; but their lands, which filled a page of Domesday book, had passed from them. Hamley owed his literary faculty to his mother. He was educated at Bodmin grammar school, obtained a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, on 19 Nov. 1840, and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the royal artillery on 11 Jan. 1843. It was significant of his future that Christopher North and Marshal Saxe were favourite authors with him at that time. He became lieutenant on 15 Sept.

After serving for a year in Ireland, he was sent to Canada, where he remained nearly four years, devoting himself to reading and field sports. His fondness for the latter went along with a remarkable love of animals, especially cats. On his return to England he was stationed at Tynemouth and Carlisle. He had to live on his pay, and having incurred debts, he turned to literary work as a means of clearing them off. His earliest papers, 'Snow Pictures' and 'The Peace Campaigns of Ensign Faunce,' found ready acceptance, and appeared in 'Fraser's Magazine,' 1849–50. He was promoted second captain on 12 May 1850, and joined his new battery at Gibraltar. A lady who knew him well there says: 'He came to the Rock with the reputation of being very clever, satirical, and given to drawing caricatures. … Most people stood in awe of him, owing to his silent ways and stiff manner, and from his taking but little part in things around him, and never taking the trouble to talk except to a few. … He had a most tender heart behind his stiff manner, and many were the kind acts he did to the wives and children of his company' (Shand, i. 63). His connection with 'Blackwood,' to which his eldest brother, William (an officer of royal engineers), was already a contributor, began in 1851. His excellent novel, 'Lady Lee's Widowhood,' appeared in 1853, and was soon republished with drawings by himself, which show that his artistic talent fell little short of his literary gifts.

In March 1854 Colonel (afterwards Sir) Richard Dacres [q. v.], who commanded the artillery at Gibraltar, was given the command of the batteries of the first division in the army sent to Turkey. Hamley went with him as adjutant, and served throughout the war in the Crimea. At the Alma his horse was struck by a cannon-shot. At Inkerman his horse was killed, and he narrowly escaped being made prisoner. He had brought up three guns, and had planted them on the fore-ridge with a boldness and skill which seem to have attracted Todleben's notice (Kinglake, v. 195-7). On the death of General Strangways, at Inkerman, the chief command of the artillery passed to Dacres; Hamley became his aide-de-camp, and held that post till April 1856. He was four times mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 12 Nov. and 2 Dec. 1854, 26 Jan. and 2 Nov. 1855), was made brevet-major on 12 Dec. 1854, and brevet-lieutenant-colonel on 2 Nov. 1855, and received the Crimean medal with four clasps, the Sardinian and Turkish medals, the legion of honour (5th class), and the Medjidie (5th class). He sent 'Blackwood' a series of letters from the camp, which were afterwards republished as 'The Campaign of Sebastopol,' and present a vivid picture of the course of the siege. A review of the 'poetry of the war,' and a paper on 'North and the Noctes,' were also written by him in the Crimea.

On his return home Hamley was quartered at Leith. and made the personal acquaintance of John Blackwood, with whom he was henceforward on terms of affectionate intimacy. Through Blackwood he formed many literary friendships: with Aytoun, Warren, Bulwer Lytton, Thackeray, and others. 'He hated fools, he had no tolerance for presumption, and he could never endure self-complacent bores' (Shand, i. 122), but with men he liked he was a most genial companion and a brilliant talker. He edited the first series of 'Tales from Blackwood' (1858, &c.), which included two Gibraltar tales of his own.

Early in 1859 he was appointed professor of military history at the newly formed staff college at Sandhurst. He remained there six years, and his lectures were the foundation of his great work, 'The Operations of War,' published in 1866. By this book he 'has done more than any other Englishman to make known to English officers the value of a methodical treatment of the study of campaigns' (Maurice, War, p. 9). The book was not intended for military men only, and its literary finish and the absence of pedantry made it attractive to non-professional readers. But he is himself open to the charge which he brought against other writers on strategy: that they 'treat their subject in too abstract a form.' He ignored national distinctions: he 'deliberately omitted all reference to the spirit of war, to moral influences, to the effect of rapidity, of surprise, and secrecy ' (Colonel Henderson, Journal of United Service Institution, xlii. 775). General Sherman, while expressing his high estimate of the work, remarked that in the criticisms of the Atlanta campaign due allowance had not been made for the local conditions.

The earlier volumes of Kinglake's 'War in the Crimea' were reviewed by Hamley in the 'Edinburgh' (April 1863 and October 1868), as he had more fault to find with them than would have suited Blackwood, their publisher. He became colonel in the army on 2 Nov. 1863, and regimental lieutenant-colonel on 19 March 1864. The latter promotion removed him from Sandhurst to Dover; but on 1 April 1866 he was made a member of the council of military education, and for the next four years he lived in London, at the Albany and the Athenæum Club. In 1869 he was made a member of the Literary Society. His love of animals found expression in an article on 'Our Poor Relations' (Blackwood, May 1870), which was afterwards republished with illustrations by Ernest Griset.

The council of military education was dissolved on 31 March 1870. On 1 July Hamley was appointed commandant of the staff college, and held that post till 31 Dec. 1877. He did much to make the staff college course more thorough and practical, laid stress on riding, and carried out extended reconnaissances. He was more prone to blame than praise, but did not stint praise when it was really well earned. In a fourth edition of his 'Operations of War' (in 1878) he took account of the wars of 1866 and 1870, and developed a new system of outposts.

He became regimental colonel on 29 March 1873, and major-general on 1 Oct. 1877 (antedated to 17 May 1869). A distinguished service pension was granted him on 20 Dec. 1879. In March 1879 he was appointed British commissioner for the delimitation of Bulgaria, on the death of Colonel Robert Home. Hamley met with some hostility from the Eastern Roumelians, who wished to be included in Bulgaria, and much obstruction from his Russian colleague; but the tact and judgment with which he carried out his task were praised by Lord Salisbury. He returned to England in October, and was made K.C.M.G. on 12 Jan. 1880. He was similarly employed on the Armenian frontier in the summer of 1880, and on the new Greek frontier in the summer of 1881, and received the thanks of the foreign office in both cases. The sultan promoted him to the second class of the Medjidie in 1880, but he was obliged to decline the order of the Saviour, offered him by the king of Greece in 1881.

On 10 May 1882 he became lieutenant-general, and in July Sir Garnet (afterwards Viscount) Wolseley offered him the command of a division in the expedition to Egypt. He gladly accepted it, for he was eager to show that he was no mere theorist. He embarked on 4 Aug., and landed at Alexandria on the 15th. But his desire of personal distinction caused him many mortifications. 'If I call myself a strategist, I ought to behave as such,' he had remarked some years before; and in that spirit, as soon as Wolseley arrived at Alexandria, Hamley submitted a plan of operations based on a landing in Aboukir Bay. In spite of objections made to it at the time, he was led to believe that it was going to be acted upon when Wolseley put to sea with the first division on the 19th. Hamley was left behind with the second division, and was deeply vexed to find next morning that the true plan, an advance from Ismailia, had been concealed from him as from nearly every one else. It was a further grievance to him that when he followed the rest of the force to Ismailia, he had to leave one of his two brigades at Alexandria; and it was only in consequence of his strong remonstrance that two battalions were assigned to him for the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, as a provisional second brigade.

That battle (13 Sept.) afforded little scope for a general of division. Hamley accompanied the highland brigade, to which fell the heaviest fighting, and he was convinced that he and his troops had won the battle. When he found that this was not recognised, that no special praise was given to him, and that the only battalion singled out for notice belonged to the other division, his indignation was unbounded. He wrote a report on the field, and supplemented it by another at Cairo. Neither of these was published, and, to counteract what he regarded as an unwarrantable suppression, he gave his version of 'The Second Division at Tel-el-Kebir' in the 'Nineteenth Century' of December 1882 (for a parallel instance see Wellington Despatches, xi. 526). Orders were received on 7 Oct. that the two divisions should be broken up, and Hamley returned to England, aggrieved afresh at his recall. He was made K.C.B. on 18 Nov., having received the C.B on 13 March 1867 on account of his Crimean service. He was included in the thanks of parliament, and received the medal with clasp, the bronze star, and the Osmanieh (2nd class). He had been twice mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 6 Oct. and 2 Nov.)

He had no further official employment; but he was widely regarded as an ill-used man, and Tennyson took occasion to link his name with the 'Charge of the Heavy Brigade' in 1883. He was elected M.P. for Birkenhead in 1885 and 1886, and sat till 1892. While supporting the conservative government he was a candid critic of official shortcomings, and took an active and weighty part in discussions on the defence of India and home defence. On the former question he had lectured at the United Service Institution in 1878 and 1884 (Journal, xxii. 98, and xxviii. 124). He had also lectured there on the 'Volunteers in Time of Need' (ib. xxix. 130), strongly advocating an increased capitation grant to provide for their field equipment. He became a colonel-commandant of the royal artillery on 7 Dec. 1886, and accepted the honorary colonelcy of the 2nd Middlesex artillery volunteers on 5 Nov. 1887. At this time he would have been placed on the retired list in consequence of non-employment; but in deference to public opinion (see Punch, 24 Sept. 1887) he was specially retained on the active list as a supernumerary till 30 July 1890, when he became general. In 1890 he wrote a lucid and masterly narrative of the 'War in the Crimea' in one small volume.

After suffering much for several years from bronchial disorder, he died at 40 Porchester Terrace, London, on 12 Aug. 1893, and was buried in Brompton cemetery. He was unmarried, but after the death of his brother Charles in 1863, he virtually adopted that brother's only daughter. 'A singularly able man, and highly accomplished, with wide knowledge, wide sympathies, and strong opinions of his own, he would probably have attained higher fame if he had been less versatile.… He was an excellent draughtsman; although essentially self-centred, an admirable actor; he was a skilful sportsman, and a man who could defy fatigue, and who seemed to like hardships' (Athenæum, 19 Aug. 1893).

His writings, published otherwise than in magazines, were:

  1. 'Lady Lee's Widowhood,' 1854, 2 vols. 8vo.
  2. 'The Story of the Campaign of Sebastopol,' 1855, 8vo.
  3. 'A Legend of Gibraltar, and Lazaroo's Legacy' (in 'Tales from "Blackwood" '), 1858, 8vo.
  4. 'Wellington's Career' (from 'Blackwood'), 1860, 8vo.
  5. 'The Operations of War explained and illustrated,' 1866, 8vo; fresh editions in 1869, 1872, and 1878.
  6. 'Our Poor Relations: a Philozoic Essay' (from 'Blackwood'), 1872, 8vo.
  7. 'A Chapter on Outposts,' 1875, 8vo.
  8. 'Staff College Exercises,' 1875, 8vo.
  9. 'Voltaire' ('Foreign Classics'), 1877, 8vo.
  10. 'The Strategical Conditions of our Indian N.W. Frontier' (a lecture), 1879, 8vo.
  11. 'Thomas Carlyle' (from 'Blackwood'), 1881, 8vo.
  12. 'Shakespeare's Funeral and other Papers' (from 'Blackwood'), 1889, 8vo.
  13. 'National Defence' (articles and speeches), 1889, 8vo.
  14. 'The War in the Crimea,' 1891, 8vo.

[Alexander Innes Shand's Life of Hamley, 1895, 2 vols. (with portraits); Times, 15 Aug. 1893; Oliphant's Annals of a Publishing House (Blackwood's), vols. ii. and iii.; Kinglake's War in the Crimea; Maurice's Campaign of 1882. For the controversy about Tel-el-Kebir, revived by Mr. Shand's Life, see Colonel Maurice in United Service Mag. July and August 1895; also Sir W. Butler in Contemporary Rev. August, and Colonel Gleig in Gent. Mag. November 1895.]

E. M. L.