Michell, Edward Thomas (DNB00)

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MICHELL, EDWARD THOMAS (1787–1841), brigadier-general, born in 1787, entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, as a cadet on 27 Jan. 1802, and passed out as second lieutenant royal artillery on 8 Sept. 1803. He became first lieutenant 13 Sept. 1803, second captain 11 Aug. 1811, brevet major 17 March 1814, first captain 20 Aug. 1825, brevet lieutenant-colonel 11 June, and regimental lieutenant-colonel 30 June 1838. He was detached from his company at Gibraltar to Spain in 1810, and commanded a guerilla division in the Sierra de Ronda, and was present at the capture of Honda, the combats of El Brosque and Bornos, and the night attack and capture of Arcos. He commanded the artillery of the British force occupying Tarifa in 1810-12; was shot through the shoulder at the battle of Barossa, and was much praised for his skilful conduct of the artillery at the final defence of Tarifa in December 1811 (Napier, rev. ed. iv. 60). In 1812 he was engaged at the attack on the forts of Salamanca, the battle of Salamanca, and minor affairs. From December 1813 to May 1814 he served in Holland at Merxem, the bombardment of Antwerp, and the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom. On one occasion in the course of these operations he extinguished a lighted shell that had fallen into a wagonload of ammunition. He volunteered to lead one of the assaulting columns at Bergen-op-Zoom, where he was very severely wounded. He was British commissioner with the Spanish armies during the latter part of the Carlist war, from August 1839 to December 1840, and received the Spanish decorations of St. Fernando, Charles III, and Isabella the Catholic. He was then despatched to Syria, with the rank of brigadier-general, to command the detachments of royal artillery and sappers and miners sent with Admiral Stafford's fleet to assist the Turks in driving the Egyptian army out of Syria. With the other English officers he accompanied the Turks, under General Jochmus, in their advance from Jaffa towards Gaza, and was present at the affair at Medjdel, on 15 Jan. 1841, which compelled the Egyptians to retreat. The English counselled the immediate seizure of Gaza, six miles distant. Jochmus pleaded the bad state of the roads, and two days later news arrived of the convention concluded by Commodore Napier at Alexandria, ending the war.

Michell died, 24 Jan. 1841, of fever caused by sleeping in his wet clothes on the night after the battle of Medjdel. He was buried by the British sappers in a grave in the left flank of the 'Sir Sidney Smith' bastion of the fortress of Jaffa. By permission of the Turkish authorities a large white marble tablet, subscribed for by the British officers who served with him in Syria, was afterwards placed in the interior slope of the parapet facing the grave (see Naval and Military Gazette, 7 Sept, 1844).

Michell, who was made C.B. on 19 July 1838, and was in receipt of 300l. a year for wounds, was popular with his brother officers and his men. He is described as an open-hearted, frank old soldier, small in stature, with a stoop from the effects of a wound in former days, and a keen, clear eye (Browne, p. 211).

[Kane's Lists Royal Artillery, rev. ed. Woolwich, 1869; Browne's England's Artillerymen, pp. 210-11; Napier's Hist. Peninsular War, vol. iv. rev. ed.; W. P. Hunter's Hist. of the War in Syria; Nav. and Mil. Gaz. 20 Feb. 1841, 7 Sept. 1844].

H. M. C.