Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Murray, John (1768-1827)

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MURRAY, Sir JOHN (1768?–1827), eighth baronet of Clermont, Fifeshire, general, born about 1768, was eldest son by his second wife, Susan, daughter of John Renton of Lamerton, of Sir Robert Murray, sixth baronet, and was half-brother of Sir James Murray, afterwards Pulteney [q. v.] He was appointed ensign 3rd footguards (Scots guards) 24 Oct. 1788, and became lieutenant and captain in that regiment 25 April 1793. He served in Flanders in 1793-1794, as aide-de-camp first to the Hanoverian field-marshal Freytag, and afterwards to the Duke of York {see Frederick Augustus], and was present at St. Amand, Famars, the sieges of Valenciennes and Dunkirk, Tournay, &c., and in the winter retreat through Holland to Bremen. On 15 Nov. 1794 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel 2nd battalion 84th foot (now 2nd York and Lancaster regiment). He commanded the 84th at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope in 1796, and took it on to India. In 1798 he was sent into the Red Sea with a small force, which, on the urgent solicitations of the Ottoman government to the sultan of Sana, then sovereign of the peninsula of Aden, was allowed to remain awhile in that stronghold. In 1799 Murray was appointed British commissioner in the Red Sea, and was sent with three hundred men to occupy Perim in the straits of Bab el Mandeb, so as to intercept all communication with India by way of the Red Sea. The troops landed 3 May 1799, and remained until 1 Sept. Finding, after every practicable exertion, that the island yielded not a, drop of fresh water, and that the shore batteries could not command the straits, Murray withdrew his detachment to Aden, where they were most hospitably entertained, and remained till March 1800 (the Rev. G. P. Badger in the Times, 31 May 1858). Early in the following year Murray was appointed quartermaster-general of the Indian army proceeding to Egypt under Major-general David Baird [q. v.], which, after many delays in the Red Sea, arrived at Kosseir in June 1801, crossed the desert to Cairo, and descended the Nile. Returning to India with Baird's troops, Murray commanded the Bombay division, which joined Major-general Arthur Wellesley's force at Poona in May 1803, and commanded in Guzerat during the subsequent operations against the Mahrattas. From Guzerat he moved into Malwa, and on 24 Aug. 1804 seized and occupied Holkar's capital (see Gurwood, Well. Desp. vols. i. and ii. passim). Wellesley disapproved of many of Murray's proceedings, and in September 1804 recommended that he should be relieved from the command in Malwa (ib. i. 462). Murray advanced to Kota, where his force was in a dangerous position, in January 1805 (ib.) On notification of his promotion to major-general from 1 Jan. 1805 he returned home. He commanded a brigade in the eastern counties in 1806-7, and the troops of the king's German legion with Sir John Moore in the expedition to Sweden in 1808, and afterwards in Portugal. He joined Sir Arthur Wellesley's army in Portugal in 1809, and distinguished himself at the passage of the Douro in May that year (ib. in. 227). When Beresford was made a local lieutenant-general, Murray, who was his senior, was indisposed to serve under him, and returned home.

In 1811 Murray succeeded his elder half-brother, Sir James Murray Pulteney, in the baronetcy and a fortune of over half a million, and also as member for the boroughs of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, which he represented until the dissolution of 1818. Murray appears to have applied for employment in the Peninsular army. But in a letter in February 1811 Lord Wellington recommended that his application should be passed over : 'He is a very able officer, but when he was here before he was disposed not to avoid questions of precedence, but to bring them unnecessarily to discussion and decision' (ib. iv. 588). Murray became a lieutenant-general 1 Jan. 1812, and later was appointed to the army in Sicily under command of Lord William Bentinck [q. v.] On 26 Feb. 1813 he arrived at Alicante, and took command of a motley force of Anglo-Sicilians there, of which Major-general John Mac- kenzie had been in command since the retirement of General Frederick Maitland [q. v.] in the previous November. Wellington suggested the recapture of Tarragona,' which with the means at your command should not be a difficult operation (ib. vi. 389, letter dated 29 March 1813). The French under Suchet attacked Murray in a strong position at Castalla, vhither he had advanced, and were defeated by him on 13 April 1813. On 31 May 1813 Murray sailed from Alicante, and on 3 June disembarked before Tarragona. He had then at his disposal, including Spaniards, a force of twelve thousand men, of whom only 4,500 were British and Germans. On the approach of Suchet to raise the siege, Murray, whose movements had been marked by great indecision, hastily re-embarked his troops on 12 June, leaving his guns and stores behind him (see Napier, Hist. Peninsular War, rev. edit. vol. v. bk. xxi. chap. i.; cf. Gurwood, vi. 565-9). Instead of obeying his instructions to proceed to Valencia (ib. vi. 426-9), to support the Spaniards there in case of withdrawal from Tarragona, Murray landed a part of his troops at the Col de Balaguer, where Lord William Bent inck arrived and assumed command four days later. Wellington condemned Murray's disregard of his instructions and his ready sacrifice of his guns and stores, which Murray defended on principle as having been resorted to successfully by French strategists. 'I have a very high opinion of ... talents,' Wellington wrote in a passage which is anonymous in his published despatches, but evidently applies to Murray, 'but he always appeared to me to want what is better than abilities, viz. sound sense' (ib. vi. 665-7). Wellington recommended that Murray should be tried by court-martial, and as it would not be fair to take the officers from the Peninsular army, officers to form the court should be sent from England and Gibraltar to some Mediterranean port, where the witnesses could readily be assembled. After long delay Murray was arraigned at Winchester on 16 Jan. 1815, before a general court-martial, of which Sir Alured Clarke [q. v.] was president, and General George, afterwards first lord Harris [q. v.], Sir Samuel Auchmuty [q. v.], Sir George Beckwith [q. v.], Sir Edward Paget, and other distinguished officers were members. The three charges were very verbose; the first alleged unmilitary conduct, the second neglect of duty and disobedience of the Marquis of Wellington's written instructions, and the third, neglect of proper preparations and arrangements for re-embarking his troops, 'to the prejudice of the service and the detriment of the British military character.' After sitting for fifteen days the court acquitted Murray, except so much of the first part of the third charge as amounted to an error in judgment, for which they sentenced him to be admonished. The prince regent dispensed with the admonition, and Murray was afterwards made a G.C.H., and in 1818 was transferred from the colonelcy 3rd West India regiment to that of 56th foot. He became a full general in 1825. He had the decorations of the Red Eagle of Prussia, and St. Januarius of Naples.

He died at Frankfort-on-Maine 15 Oct. 1827. Murray married, 25 Aug. 1807, the Hon. Anne Elizabeth Cholmley Phipps, only daughter of Constantine John, lord Mulgrave. She died 10 April 1848; she had no issue.

Murray was a liberal patron of art, and collected some good pictures. His portrait appears in the first of a set of four pictures of patrons and lovers of art, painted by Pieter Christoph Wonder. The pictures were commissioned by Murray about 1826, and are now in the National Portrait Gallery (see Catalogue, 1881, p. 516).

[Foster's Baronetage, under ‘Murray of Clermont;’ Philippart's Roy. Military Calendar, 1820, ii. 227–8; Letter of the Rev. G. P. Badger in Times, 31 May 1858, on Perim; Mill's Hist. of India, vol. vi.; Napier's Hist. Peninsular War, rev. edit.; Gurwood's Wellington Desp. vols. i. ii. iii. vi.; Shorthand Notes of Trial of Sir John Murray; Gent. Mag. 1827, ii. 560.

H. M. C.