Nasmyth, Charles (DNB00)

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NASMYTH, CHARLES (1826–1861), major, ‘defender of Silistria,’ eldest son of Robert Nasmyth, fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, was born in Edinburgh in 1826. He entered the East India Company's military seminary at Addiscombe in 1843, and subsequently was appointed direct to the Bombay artillery, in which he became a second lieutenant 12 Dec. 1845 and first lieutenant 4 Feb. 1850. Having lost his health in Guzerat, he went on sick leave to Europe in 1853, and was recommended to try the Mediterranean. From Malta he visited Constantinople, and was sent to Omar Pasha's camp at Shumla as ‘Times’ correspondent. He visited the Dobruscha after it had been vacated by the Turks, and furnished some valuable information respecting the state of the country to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe [see Canning, Stratford]. His letters in the ‘Times’ attracted a good deal of notice, and he was sent on by that paper to Silistria, which he reached before it was invested by the Russians, on 28 March 1854. Nasmyth and another plucky, lighthearted young English officer, Captain James Armar Butler [q. v.], attained a wonderful ascendency over the Turkish garrison, and were the life and soul of the famous defence, which ended with the Russians being compelled to raise the siege, on 22 June 1854. The defence gave the first check to the Russians, and probably saved the allies from a campaign amidst the marshes of the Danube. Nasmyth received the thanks of the British and Turkish governments and Turkish gold medals for the Danube campaign and the defence of Silistria, and was voted the freedom of his native city. He returned to Constantinople in broken health and having lost all his belongings. He was transferred from the East India Company's to the royal army, receiving an unattached company 15 Sept. 1854, and a brevet majority the same day ‘for his distinguished services at the defence of Silistria.’ He was present with the headquarters staff at the Alma and the siege of Sevastapol (medal and clasp), and in 1855 was appointed assistant adjutant-general of the Kilkenny district, and was afterwards brigade-major at the Curragh camp, and brigade-major and deputy-assistant adjutant-general in Dublin. His infirm health suggested a change to a southern climate, and he was transferred to New South Wales, as brigade-major at Sydney. He was invalided to Europe at the end of 1859, and, after long suffering, died at Pau, Basses-Pyrénées, France, 2 June 1861, aged 35.

Kinglake, who knew him in the Crimea, wrote of him as ‘a man of quiet and gentle manners and so free from vanity—so free from all idea of self-gratulation—that it seemed as though he were unconscious of having stood as he did in the path of the Czar and had really omitted to think of the share which he had had in changing the face of events. He had gone to Silistria for the “Times,” and naturally the lustre of his achievement was in some degree shed on the keen and watchful company, which had the foresight to send him at the right moment into the midst of events on which the fate of Russia was hanging’ (Kinglake, revised edit. ii. 245).

[For the defence of Silistria see Nasmyth's letters in the Times, April to June 1854; Annual Reg. 1854, [267] and 103; Fraser's Magazine, December 1854; Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea, rev. edit. vol. ii. passim; see also East India Registers, 1846–53; Hart's Army List, 1860; Gent. Mag. 1861, ii. 92.]

H. M. C.