Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Monteith, William

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MONTEITH, WILLIAM (1790–1864), lieutenant-general Indian army, diplomatist and historian, son of William Monteith and his wife Janet Goodwin, was born in the Abbey parish, Paisley, Renfrewshire, on 22 June 1790. On 18 March 1809 he was appointed a lieutenant in the Madras engineers, and became captain in that corps on 2 May 1817, lieutenant-colonel on 4 Nov. 1824, colonel on 13 May 1839 (brevet on 18 June 1831). Monteith accompanied Sir John Malcolm's embassy to Persia, and when at Tabriz, in February 1810, was sent to reconnoitre the Russian frontier-posts on the Arras, near Megeri, at the request of Abbas Mirza, the prince royal of Persia. When Malcolm's embassy quitted Persia, Monteith was one of the officers left behind. He went with Abbas Mirza to Erivan, and accompanied an expedition into Georgia, in which the Persians were unsuccessful. During the four succeeding campaigns against the Russians in 1810-13 Monteith was in command of a frontier force of cavalry with six guns, and of the garrison of Erivan. He was engaged in many skirmishes, and once was wounded. The war against Russia was supported by the British minister, Sir Harford Jones Brydges [q. v.]; but the Moscow retreat brought about a reversal of British policy. When Henry Ellis [see Ellis, Sir Henry, 1777-1855] and David Richard Morier [q. v.] concluded the treaty of Teheran between Great Britain and Persia, which was signed on 25 Nov. 1814, and remained in force until the war of 1857, Monteith acted as secretary to Morier. He was still in Persia in 1819, and acted as aide-de-camp to Sir William Grant Keir, afterwards Keir Grant [q. v.], commanding the Bombay force sent

against the Wahabee pirates of the Persian Gulf, which destroyed their stronghold of Ras-el-Khymeh. He was present with the Persians during the war with Turkey, which was ended by the visitation of Asiatic cholera in 1821. He was then employed to ascertain the boundary between Persia and Turkey.

In 1826 the threatened storm from the north broke, and in the unsuccessful operations of the Persians against the Russians Monteith was present at the Persian headquarters. Peace was signed between Russia and Persia on 21 Feb. 1828, and Monteith was appointed commissioner for the payment of the indemnity of 400,000l. exacted from Persia by Russia, part of which was conveyed by him personally into the Russian camp. He was thus brought into contact with the Russian commander, Prince Paskiewitch, which led to his presence at the Russian headquarters at Tiflis during the war between the Russians and Turks in 1828. He was ordered to remain in Persia until the settlement of the Russo-Persian boundary. He left Persia in October 1829, and on his way home was present with the French army at the capture of Algiers in July 1830. Monteith married on 23 March 1831. He returned to India in July 1832, and was appointed chief engineer at Madras, but in January 1834 was superseded by the arrival of Colonel Gurnard, who was ten years his senior. Monteith then became superintending engineer at the presidency, but on Gurnard's death, 2 Sept. 1836, he again became chief engineer, and, ex afficio, a member of the military board, a position he held to 18 July 1842. He became a major-general on 23 Nov. 1841, retired from the service in 1847, and attained the honorary rank of lieutenant-general in 1854. He died at his residence, Upper Wigmore Street, London, on 18 April 1864, aged 73.

Monteith wrote: 'Ears and Erzeroum, with the Campaign of Prince Paskiewitch,' London, 1856, 8vo; translated ' The Diplomatists of Europe 'from the French of Cape-figue, London, 1845, 8vo; and edited 'Narrative of the Conquest of Finland by the Russians in 1808-9,' London, 1854, 8vo. He was also author of the following geographical works: 1. 'Mémoire pour servir a la Descript. Geogr. de la Perse,' in 'Soc. Geogr. Bulletin,' 1826, vi. 35-41. 2. 'Account of the Ragery Hills, near Madras,' 'Geogr. Soc. Journal,' 1835, p. 404. 3. 'Account of the Operations for widening the Pamban Passage in the Gulf of Manaar,' 'Madras Journal,' 1836, vi. 111-36. 4. 'Journal of a Tour through Azerdbijan and the Shores of the Caspian,' 'Geogr. Soc. Journal,' 1838, iii. 1-58. 5. 'Notes on the Routes from Bushire to Shiraz,' 'Geogr. Soc. Journal,' 1857, xxvii. 108-19. Monteith was F.R.S. and F.R.G.S. London, a member of various foreign learned societies, and a knight of the Persian order of the Lion and Sun.

[Information supplied by the India Office; Vibart's Hist. of the Madras Sappers and Miners, London, 1884, ii. 113-31; Brit. Museum Catalogues, and Cat. of Scient. Papers; Gent. Mag. 1864, i. 378.]

H. M. C.