Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Graham, Thomas (1748-1843)
GRAHAM, THOMAS, Lord Lynedoch (1748–1843), of Balgowan, Perthshire, general, was third son and only surviving child of Thomas Græme, laird of Balgowan, who died in 1766, by his wife, the Lady Christian Hope, sixth daughter of Charles, first earl of Hopetoun. He was born on 19 Oct. 1748, where is uncertain, but there is a tradition that it was not at Balgowan. Like other young Scotchmen of station, he was brought up at home under private tutors, one of whom was James Macpherson, the translator of Ossian, and in November 1766 entered Christ Church College, Oxford, as a gentleman-commoner, but left at midsummer 1768 without taking a degree (Delavoye, Life of Lynedoch). After travelling for some time on the continent, he offered himself, in 1772, as a parliamentary candidate for Perthshire, but was defeated by a brother of the Duke of Atholl. On 26 Dec. 1774 Graham married Catherine, second daughter of Charles, ninth lord Cathcart [q. v.], the lady's elder sister being married at the same time and place to John Murray, fourth duke of Atholl [q. v.] Soon after, Graham took Brooksby, in the Leicestershire hunting country, where some of his married life was passed, varied by continental tours. In 1780, Mrs. Graham's health requiring a southern climate, they went to Spain and resided some years there and in Portugal, afterwards returning to Scotland. In 1785 Graham's name appears in the first cricket match played in Scotland. It was between two teams of gentlemen players, for 1,000l. a side, and came off on 3 Sept. 1785, in Shaw Park. Graham's score of twenty in both innings was the second highest made. In 1787 he purchased the small estate of Lednoch or Lynedoch, in Methven parish, eight miles from Perth, and spent much money in developing it. Graham took an active interest all his life in agricultural improvements, and is described at this period as a crack rider and shot and a very keen sportsman. He introduced Cleveland horses and Devon cattle, and did much to improve local husbandry (Robertson, Agric. of Perthshire, 1790, pp. 304–9). In 1790 Mrs. Graham's health again required removal to a warmer climate, and after a lingering illness she died on shipboard off Hyères, on 26 July 1791, without issue.
Deeply stricken by the loss of his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, Graham sought distraction in foreign travel, and was at Gibraltar when Lord Hood's fleet called there, on its way to the Mediterranean, in July 1793. Graham obtained permission to accompany it as a volunteer, and acted as aide-de-camp to Lord Mulgrave in the operations on shore at Toulon. Returning home he raised a battalion called the ‘Perthshire Volunteers,’ which was numbered as the 90th Foot (now the 2nd Scotch Rifles). Through the good offices of Lord Moira, the new battalion was equipped and drilled as light infantry, being in fact the senior light infantry corps existing in the British army, although it did not receive the title until 1815. Graham's commission (temporary) as lieutenant-colonel commandant was dated 10 Feb. 1794; Rowland Hill, afterwards Lord Hill, was lieutenant-colonel, and Kenneth Mackenzie, afterwards Sir Kenneth Douglas [q. v.], was one of the majors of the corps. In April the same year Graham was returned to parliament, in the whig interest, for the county of Perth. He served with his regiment in various camps in the south of England, in the operations at Quiberon and Isle Dieu under General Sir John Doyle [q. v.], and afterwards accompanied it to Gibraltar. On 22 July 1795 he became brevet-colonel. In 1796 he was appointed British military commissioner with the Austrian army in Italy, and was shut up in Mantua with General Wurmser during the investment of that place by the French. As the siege continued the garrison ran short of provisions, and it was resolved at a council of war to acquaint the imperialist commander-in-chief, Alvinza, with their dire straits. Graham offered himself as a volunteer for the purpose, and leaving the fortress, disguised as a peasant, in the midst of a heavy snowstorm, on the night of 29 Dec. 1796, lying hid by day, and travelling through swamps and marshes by night, he succeeded in eluding the French patrols, and reached the Austrian headquarters on 4 Jan. 1797. After visiting home, he rejoined his regiment at Gibraltar. He distinguished himself at the capture of Minorca in 1798, and in May 1799 was despatched with two British regiments to organise the defences of Messina, the strategic importance of which had been strongly insisted on by Admiral Nelson, then in the bay of Naples. He remained in command of a mixed force of British and Neapolitans at Messina until November 1799, when he was sent as brigadier-general in command of the troops despatched to Malta, then blockaded by sea by Captain Alexander Ball [q. v.], of the royal navy. Graham resolved on starving out the place as the most humane method of reducing it, and, with the regiments he brought with him and some corps organised on the island, established a close land-blockade of the French garrison of Valetta. This was maintained for two years, until September 1800, when the place capitulated. Graham had been superseded in the command by Major-general Pigot just before. After the surrender, Graham sailed to join his regiment, which had greatly distinguished itself in Egypt. On his arrival there the military operations were over, and Graham, in company with Mr. Hely Hutchinson, brother of Abercromby's successor, travelled home through Turkey, staying some time at Constantinople. He was in Paris after the peace of Amiens, and with his regiment in Ireland in 1804–5, until its departure for the West Indies, after which he was in London, attending to his parliamentary duties. He had been again returned for Perthshire in 1795, 1802, and 1806, but was defeated, after a contest, by James Drummond in 1807 and 1812. Graham's first recorded speech in ‘Parl. Debates’ was delivered on 3 April 1806 in favour of limited service as a preventive of desertion. Graham applied to have his temporary military rank made permanent, urging among other claims that his regiment represented a loss of 10,000l.; but much unwillingness was shown by the Horse Guards authorities to meet his views, on the plea of the king's just dislike to prefer officers who had not passed through the lower grades, a dislike perhaps not lessened in Graham's case by his whig politics. The change is said to have been made at last in deference to the wishes of Sir John Moore. Graham accompanied Moore as aide-de-camp to Sweden in 1808, and afterwards to Spain. He was in the Corunna retreat, and was one of the few actually present at Moore's death and burial.
In 1809 Graham received permanent rank as major-general, and commanded a brigade in the Walcheren expedition and at the siege of Flushing, but was invalided home. In 1810 he was appointed from home to succeed General Sherbrooke in Portugal (Gurwood, iii. 793), and was sent to Cadiz, with the rank of lieutenant-general, to assume command of the British troops aiding in the defence of that place against the French (ib. iii. 805). In February 1811 he embarked from the Isla with an expeditionary force to attack the rear of the French blockading army, and on 5 March 1811 obtained a memorable victory over the French at Barossa, the results of which were neutralised by the gross misconduct of the Spaniards (ib. iv. 696–7). The historian Napier writes: ‘All the passages in this extraordinary battle were so broadly marked that observations on it would be useless. The contemptible feebleness of Lapena furnished a striking contrast to the heroic vigour of Graham, whose attack was an inspiration rather than a resolution, so wise, so sudden was the decision, so swift, so conclusive was the execution. … In Cadiz violent disputes arose. Lapena, in an address to the Cortes, claimed the victory for himself. He affirmed that all the previous arrangements were made with the knowledge of the English general, and the latter's retreat into the Isla he indicated as the real cause of failure. Lasoy and General Cruz-Murgeon also published inaccurate accounts of the action, and even had plans engraved to uphold their statements. Graham, stung by these unworthy proceedings, exposed the conduct of Lapena in a letter to the British envoy (H. Wellesley), and when Lasoy let fall some expressions personally offensive, he enforced an apology with his sword; but having thus shown himself superior to his opponents at all points, the gallant old man soon afterwards relinquished his command to General Cooke, and joined Lord Wellington's army’ (Hist. Peninsular War, bk. xii. chap. ii.) Graham, who refused a Spanish dukedom (Well. Suppl. Desp. vii. 82), was ordered to join Wellington in June 1811 (Gurwood, v. 42, 111). His seniority as a lieutenant-general of 25 July 1810 placed him next to Wellington, who appears to have been glad to get him. He was given command of the 1st division, and assisted at the siege and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812. His investiture as K.B. took place at Elvas, near Badajos, 12 March 1812. He commanded an army corps composed of the 1st, 6th, and 7th divisions, with two brigades of cavalry, during the final operations against Badajos and during Wellington's advance against the forts of Salamanca. A painful affection of the eyes, aggravated by constant use of the telescope under a vertical sun, obliged him to return to England at the beginning of July 1812. Rejoining Wellington early in 1813, he was placed at the head of the left wing of the army, consisting of forty thousand men, which he commanded at the great battle of Vittoria on 21 June 1813. He subsequently captured Tolosa, where he was wounded (ib. vi. 553–6), and was despatched by Wellington to invest the fortress of St. Sebastian, twenty miles south-west of Bayonne. The place was defended by Emmanuel Rey. Graham besieged and bombarded the place from the beginning of July 1813, and on 24 July attempted to carry it by assault, but was repulsed with heavy loss, and three days later compelled to raise the siege. He resumed it after Wellington's defeat of Soult at the foot of the Pyrenees, became master of the most important outworks on 31 Aug., and on 9 Sept. the citadel surrendered (ib. vi. 576–770). With the left of the army Graham was ordered to cross the Bidassoa, the natural boundary of Biscayan Spain and France, an operation which he successfully accomplished, establishing the British army on French soil on 7 Oct. 1813. Graham's health then obliged him to return home, after handing over his command to Sir John Hope. Some libellous attacks on him appeared in the ‘Duende’ (Elf) and other Spanish journals relative to the conduct of his troops at St. Sebastian (ib. vii. 146–7). Feeling his health improved, Graham, in November 1813, accepted the offer of the command of the troops to be sent to Holland, to co-operate with Bulow's Prussians against Antwerp. He defeated the enemy at Merxem, but failed in a desperate attempt to carry the fortress of Bergen-op-Zoom by assault, on the night of 3 Feb. 1813. ‘Night attacks on good troops are seldom successful,’ was the Duke of Wellington's comment on hearing of the failure (ib. viii. 408).
Graham returned home at the peace, and on 3 May 1814 received the thanks of parliament, and was created Baron Lynedoch of Balgowan in the peerage of the United Kingdom, but refused the pension of 2,000l. a year offered with the title. He became a full general in 1821, was transferred to the colonelcy of the 58th foot in 1823, to the 14th foot in 1826, and to the 1st royals (now Royal Scots) in 1834. He succeeded Lord Harris as governor of Dumbarton Castle in 1829.
In 1815 Lynedoch started the project of a general military club, on the principle of ‘Arthur's’ and other civil clubs then existing, to afford officers a respectable place of meeting in London, without resort to taverns. The scheme was afterwards extended, to include officers of both services. It was opposed by Earl St. Vincent on the ground that, ‘viewed in conjunction with other signs of the times,’ an assemblage of officers of the kind contemplated would be unconstitutional, although, he added, if all were like Lord Lynedoch, the objection would have no foundation (Delavoye, Life of Lynedoch, p. 752). The project was approved by many officers of distinction, including the Duke of Wellington (Gurwood, viii. p. 135), and a branch committee was established at Lord Hill's headquarters with the army of occupation in France. A site was secured in Pall Mall, and in 1817, as recorded on the building, the foundation-stone of the present Senior United Service Club was laid. A portrait of Lynedoch, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, is in possession of the club. Having carried out his project, Lynedoch visited St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Vienna, where he was received with much distinction. He took Cotsgrove Lodge in Leicestershire, where he resided a good deal, and it is recorded that at the age of seventy-four he rode twenty-four miles to a meet of the Pytchley hunt and followed the hounds through a fairly long run. In 1822 he acted as second to the Duke of Bedford in his duel with the Duke of Buckingham. A whig in politics, his vote, either personal or by proxy, was seldom wanting in support of ‘liberal’ measures, although in later years much of his time was passed in Italy, owing to enfeebled health. He was more than once couched for cataract, and was a confirmed believer in homœopathy. On the visit of the queen to Scotland soon after her marriage, Lynedoch, then in his ninety-second year, hurried home from Switzerland to do homage to his sovereign in the metropolis of his native land. Every year he passed a part of the autumn at Lynedoch, retaining his love of farming and stock-breeding to the last. His name repeatedly appears as a breeder of prize stock in the catalogues of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. At the Epsom Meeting of 1839 he won a 50l. plate with Jeffy, a two-year-old colt of his own breeding, to his intense gratification, his success being honoured by a congratulatory notice from Queen Victoria. With the same horse he won a plate at the Newmarket Craven Meeting of 1842.
Lynedoch was a G.C.B. and G.C.M.G., and possessed the decorations of the Tower and Sword of Portugal, San Fernando of Spain, and Wilhelm the Lion of the Netherlands. He died at his town house, Stratton Street, London, 18 Dec. 1843, at the age of ninety-five. His estates devolved to his cousin, Robert Graham of Redgorton, a Scottish advocate, and for a time a lord of the treasury under the Melbourne administration. Robert Graham died in 1859, and was succeeded by another cousin, John Murray Graham [q. v.]
[A short account of the descent of the Balgowan Grahams appears in Anderson's Scottish Nation, ii. 351, prefatory to a biographical notice of Lord Lynedoch. Two biographies of Lynedoch have been published. One (2nd ed., with portraits, Edinburgh, 1877), compiled from private sources by John Murray Graham [q. v.]; the other compiled by Captain (now Colonel) A. M. Delavoye of the Staff College (London, 1880), from materials furnished by Mr. Maxtone Graham of Cultoquhey, who now represents the Balgowan family, and by Lord Cathcart, the latter not detailed in the report on the Cathcart Papers in Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. Colonel Delavoye has also published the History of the 90th (Perthshire Volunteers), London, 1880. A biography of Lynedoch appears in Philippart's Royal Military Calendar, 1820, ii. 147, and an obituary notice in Gent. Mag. new ser. xxi. 197. In addition to the particulars given by Murray Graham and Delavoye, papers relating to Lynedoch's services in the Mediterranean will be found enrolled under dates in the Foreign Office Papers, in the Public Record Office; also notices in H. Nicolas's Nelson Desp. vols. ii. iii. iv. v. vii. and Add.; of his Peninsular services in Napier's Hist of the Peninsular War, Gurwood's Wellington Desp. and the Wellington Suppl. Desp., vols. vi. vii. viii. xiii. xiv., the index being in Suppl. Desp. vol. xv. Details of the operations in Holland in 1813–14 are given in British Minor Expeditions (London, War Office, 1884).]