Humberston, Thomas Frederick Mackenzie (DNB00)

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HUMBERSTON, THOMAS FREDERICK MACKENZIE (1753?–1783), lieutenant-colonel commandant 78th highland foot, a lineal descendant of the old Scottish earls of Seaforth, whose estates were forfeited in 1715, was eldest son of Major William Mackenzie, who died 12 March 1770, and his wife Mary, who was daughter of Matthew Humberston of Lincolnshire, and died at Hartley, Hertfordshire, 19 Feb. 1813. He was born before 1754. In June 1771 he was gazetted cornet, in the name of Mackenzie, in the 1st king's dragoon guards, in which he became lieutenant in 1775 and captain in 1777. He appears to have assumed his mother's maiden name of Humberston on coming of age. He helped his chief and kinsman, Kenneth Mackenzie, who held the recovered Seaforth estates, and had been created Lord Ardlive, Viscount Fortress, and Earl of Seaforth in the peerage of Ireland, to raise a corps of highlanders, which was brought into the line as the 78th foot, being the second of three highland regiments which successively have borne that number. In after years the regiment was renumbered the 72nd, and is now the 1st Seaforth highlanders. It was officered chiefly from the Caber Feidh or clan Mackenzie, the men being rude clansmen from the western highlands and isles, among whom a wild sept of Macraes was prominent. Humberston was transferred to the regiment as captain in January 1778, and became major in it the year after. He was present with five companies at the repulse of an attempted French landing in St. Ouen's Bay, Jersey, 1 May 1779. In the same year Lord Seaforth, being greatly embarrassed, made over the Seaforth estates to Humberston for a sum of 100,000l. On 5 Aug. 1780 Humberston was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant of the new 100th foot (the second of six regiments which have borne that number in succession), and on 13 March 1781 embarked with it as part of an expedition under General Medows and Commodore Johnstone, destined for the Cape. While watering in Porto Praya Bay, Cape Verdes, the expedition was attacked by a French naval squadron, which was beaten off after a sharp fight. Humberston, who was on shore, swam off under fire to regain his ship. On reaching the Cape of Good Hope, the garrison was found to have been reinforced, but some Dutch East Indiamen were captured in Saldanha Bay, with which the commodore returned home, leaving the troops to proceed to India under convoy. They touched at the Comoro islands for the sake of their many sick, and thence were carried by the shifting of the monsoon to the coast of Arabia. Thence General Medows, Colonel Fullarton, and the main body of the troops sailed in the direction of Madras. Humberston, with part of two regiments, reached Bombay on 22 Jan. 1782, and six days afterwards likewise sailed for Madras. On the voyage tidings of Hyder Ali's successes caused him to summon a council of war, which decided in favour of making a diversion on the Malabar side of Hyder's dominions. Humberston landed at Calicut with a thousand men, 13 Feb. 1782, and, joining Major Abingdon's sepoys, assumed command as senior officer, and captured several of Hyder's forts. On the approach of the monsoon he returned to Calicut, and concluded a treaty with the rajah of Travancore, who reinforced him with twelve hundred men. In September 1782 he again took the field and moved towards Palacatchery, but the heavy guns did not come up, and he was compelled to retire, closely pursued by Tippoo, who had been despatched against him with twenty thousand men. Humberston's force executed a most distressful retreat. At length, by wading the Paniané river chin deep, the troops reached Paniané, where their unfinished entrenchments were assaulted by Tippoo on 28 Nov. 1782. The attack was repulsed, and before it was repeated Tippoo was summoned to Seringapatam by the news of his father's death. Lord Seaforth died at sea in August 1781. Humberston was transferred to the 78th regiment as lieutenant-colonel commandant in his place, 15 Feb. 1782. This regiment reached Madras and joined the army under Eyre Coote at Chingleput in April 1782. On Tippoo's withdrawal Humberston with part of his troops joined the army under General Mathews in Malabar. He accompanied Colonel Macleod and Major Shaw to Bombay to make representations to the council relative to the conduct of General Mathews, which resulted in that officer's suspension. After their mission was accomplished the delegates embarked at Bombay in the Ranger sloop, to rejoin the army, 5 April 1783. Three days later they were captured by the Mahratta fleet, when every officer on board was killed or wounded. Humberston, who received a four-pound ball through the body, died of his wound at the Mahratta port of Ghériah, 30 April 1783. Contemporary accounts describe him as a young man of many accomplishments, and of brilliant promise in his profession. He was unmarried. He left a natural son, Thomas B. Mackenzie Humberston, who fell, a captain in the 78th Ross-shire Buffs, at Ahmednuggur, in 1803. He was succeeded in his estates by his brother Francis Mackenzie Humberston [q.v.], afterwards Lord Seaforth and Mackenzie.

[Taylor's Great Scottish Historic Families, i. 194-5; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 428-9; Stewart's Scottish Highlanders, vol. ii., under `72nd Highlanders;' Cannon's Hist. Rec. 72nd (Duke of Albany's) Highlanders;Mill's Hist.of India, iv. 242 et seq. Two letters from Humberston to Sir Eyre Coote the elder are in Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 28153, p. 442, 28156, p. 49.]

H. M. C.