Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/45

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

modern practice, in which his experience renders him a safe guide. The first volume contains accounts of the Roman villa, crops, manures, and ploughs; the second treats of the different ancient crops and the times of sowing. He translates freely from the ‘Scriptores Rei Rusticæ,’ and subjoins the original passages; but if his practical knowledge enabled him to clear up difficulties which had been passed by in former commentators, his scholarship, according to Professor Ramsay (Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities, ‘Agricultura’), was so imperfect that in many instances he failed to interpret correctly the originals. The book was translated into French by M. Pâris (Paris, 1802).

[An account of the author, probably the one written by his daughter, is prefixed to the Husbandry of the Ancients, which forms the substance of the notices of him in Didot, Nouvelle Biographie Générale and the Biographie Universelle; Dickson's own works; Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ; Presbytery Register and Aberlady Session Register; Whittinghame Minutes of Session.]

M. G. W.

DICKSON, Sir ALEXANDER (1777–1840), major-general, royal artillery, was third son of Admiral William Dickson of Sydenham House, Roxburghshire, by his first wife, the daughter of William Collingwood of Unthank, Northumberland, and brother of Admiral Sir Collingwood Dickson, second baronet (see Foster, Baronetage). He was born 3 June 1777, and entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, as a cadet 5 April 1793, passing out as second lieutenant royal artillery 6 Nov. 1794. His subsequent commissions in the British artillery were dated as follows: first lieutenant 6 March 1795, captain-lieutenant 14 Oct. 1801, captain 10 April 1805, major 26 June 1823, lieutenant-colonel 2 April 1825, colonel 1 July 1836. As a subaltern he served at the capture of Minorca in 1798, and at the blockade of Malta and siege of Valetta in 1800, where he was employed as acting engineer. As captain he commanded the artillery of the reinforcements sent out to South America under Sir Samuel Auchmuty [q. v.], which arrived in the Rio Plate 5 April 1807, and captured Monte Video, and was afterwards present at, but not engaged in, the disastrous attempt on Buenos Ayres. For a time he commanded the artillery of the army, in which he was succeeded by Augustus Frazer (Duncan, Hist. Roy. Art. ii. 170, 176, 178). When Colonel Howorth arrived in Portugal to assume command of the artillery of Sir Arthur Wellesley's army in April 1809, Dickson, who was in hopes of obtaining employment in a higher grade in the Portuguese artillery under Marshal Beresford [q. v.], accompanied him, and served as his brigade-major in the operations before Oporto and the subsequent expulsion of Soult's army from Portugal. Soon after he was appointed to a company in the Portuguese artillery in the room of Captain (afterwards Sir John) May, returning home. He subsequently became major and lieutenant-colonel in the Portuguese service, which gave him precedence over brother officers who were his seniors in the British artillery. In command of the Portuguese artillery he took part in the battle of Busaco in 1810, the affair of Campo Mayor, the siege and capture of Olivenza, and the battle of Albuera in 1811. His abilities were recognised by Lord Wellington, and the artillery details at the various sieges were chiefly entrusted to him (Gurwood, Well. Desp. v. 91). He superintended the artillery operations in the first and second sieges of Badajoz under the immediate orders of Lord Wellington in 1811; also at the siege and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo, the siege and capture of Badajoz, the attack and capture of the forts of Almaraz, the siege and capture of the forts of Salamanca, and the siege of Burgos, all in 1812. He commanded the reserve artillery at the battle of Salamanca and capture of Madrid in the same year. Dickson, a lieutenant-colonel in the Portuguese artillery, and brevet-major and first captain of a company of British artillery (No. 5 of the old 10th battalion R.A., which under its second captain, Cairns, did good service in the Peninsula, and was afterwards disbanded), became brevet lieutenant-colonel in the British service on 27 April 1812. Writing of him at the period of the advance into Spain in the spring of 1813, the historian of the royal artillery observes: ‘Whilst at Villa Ponte awaiting further advance his correspondence reveals more of the personal element than his letters, as a rule, allow to become visible. The alternate hoping and despairing as to orders to advance—the ennui produced by forced idleness—the impetuous way in which he would fling himself into professional discussions with General Macleod (deputy adjutant-general of artillery), merely to occupy his leisure—the spasmodic fits of zeal in improving the arrangements of his immense train, all unite to present to the reader a very vivid picture of him whose hand, so long still, penned these folded letters. His recurring attacks of fever, followed by apologies like the following: “The fact is when I am well I forget all, take violent exercise, and knock myself up; but I am determined to be more careful in future,” followed by the inevitable relapse—proof of the failure of his good intentions—combine