Smyth, James Carmichael (1779-1838) (DNB00)

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SMYTH, Sir JAMES CARMICHAEL, baronet (1779–1838), military engineer, and governor of British Guiana, eldest son of James Carmichael Smyth [q. v.], was born in London on 22 Feb. 1779. He was educated at the Charterhouse school, and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich on 1 March 1793. He received a commission as second lieutenant in the royal artillery on 20 Nov. 1794, and was transferred to the royal engineers on 13 March 1795.

In May 1795 Smyth was sent to Portsmouth, and in April of the following year to the Cape of Good Hope, where he arrived in June. He served under Generals Craig and Doyle in the operations that year against the Dutch. He was promoted to be lieutenant on 3 March 1797. He took part under Generals Dundas and Vandeleur in the operations 1798 to 1800. After a visit to England, 1800–1, he was promoted to be second captain on 1 July 1802. On the restoration of Cape Colony to the Dutch in 1803, Smyth returned to England. In October 1805 he joined Sir David Baird's expedition to the Cape of Good Hope as commanding royal engineer. He arrived on 4 Jan. 1806. At Smyth's suggestion a landing was effected on the beach near Blaauwberg on the 7th. Smyth was detached on board the sloop Espoir to Saldanha Bay, and was, to Baird's regret, absent from the battle of Blaauwberg (8 Jan.). On the surrender of Capetown, Baird appointed Smyth acting colonial secretary in addition to his military duties. He was promoted to be first captain on 1 July 1806, and was employed in strengthening and repairing the defences of Table Bay and Simon's Bay. He relinquished the appointment of colonial secretary on the arrival in May 1807 of the Earl of Caledon as governor with a complete staff, and returned to England in September 1808. In the following winter he was with Sir John Moore at Coruña, returning with the remnant of the army to England in February. In April he constructed Leith Fort, and on 20 Oct. 1813 was promoted lieutenant-colonel.

In December of the same year he joined the expedition to Holland under his relative, General Sir Thomas Graham (afterwards Lord Lynedoch) [q. v.], as commanding royal engineer. He landed the same month with Graham at Zeyrick Zee, and head-quarters were established at Tolen. He was engaged in the action of Merxem on 13 Jan. 1814, and the subsequent bombardment of Antwerp early in February. Having carefully reconnoitred the fortress of Bergen-op-Zoom, Smyth advised its assault, which took place on 8 March 1814, when he accompanied the central column. Although the assault was successful, owing to inconceivable blunders the British retreated at daybreak. Hostilities having terminated and the French troops having withdrawn, Smyth on 5 May took over the fortress of Antwerp and all the defences of the Scheldt, and was afterwards busily engaged in the reconstruction and strengthening of all the important fortresses evacuated by the French. He accompanied the Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange on several tours of inspection of the works, upon which he had about ten thousand labourers employed under a large staff of engineer officers. Early in 1815 Smyth accompanied the Prince of Orange to London, but on 6 March, Napoleon having escaped from Elba, Smyth again joined the headquarters of the English army at Brussels as commanding royal engineer. During April and May, under the immediate instructions of the Duke of Wellington, he placed the defences of the Netherlands in as efficient a state as possible against the expected invasion of the French, which occurred on 15 June. At the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo Smyth served on Wellington's staff, and on 7 July entered Paris with him. Smyth was promoted on 29 June 1815 to be colonel in the army and aide-de-camp to the prince regent. He was also made a companion of the Bath, and received the orders of knighthood of Maria Theresa and fourth class of St. Vladimir from the emperors of Austria and Russia respectively. He remained in command of the royal engineers at Cambrai until December 1815, and was then placed on half-pay.

On 25 Aug. 1821, on Wellington's recommendation, Smyth was created a baronet. In 1823, in company with Lord Lynedoch, he made a military tour of inspection of the fortresses of the Low Countries, and in October he was sent to the West Indies to report on the military defences and engineering establishments and military requirements of the British possessions there. He arrived with his colleagues at Barbados on 27 Nov., and visited Berbice and Georgetown in Demerara, Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, and St. Kitts. Their report was dated 20 Jan. 1824.

In the spring of 1825 Wellington selected Smyth to proceed to Canada on a similar service. He embarked on 16 April and returned on 7 Oct. 1825. Smyth wrote a very able report upon the defence of the Canadian frontier, dated 31 March 1826. In the meantime, on 27 May 1825, he was promoted to be major-general, and on 29 July following he became a regimental colonel. In July 1828 he was sent to Ireland on special service to report upon the state of the Irish survey, returning in September. With this report his career as a military engineer closed.

On 8 May 1829 Smyth was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of the Bahama Islands, and before his departure George IV conferred on him the order of knight commander of Hanover, in recognition of the Hanoverian engineers having been placed under his command in the last campaign in the Netherlands. After four years' successful administration of the government of the Bahamas, where he abolished the flogging of female slaves, Smyth was removed to the more important government of British Guiana in June 1833. He arrived at Georgetown, Demerara, the seat of government, a short time before the emancipation of slaves, when much depended upon the character and ability of the governor. Unmoved by the reckless hostility of a section of the planters, Smyth by a firm, impartial, and vigorous government secured the confidence of the negroes. He brought his personal supervision to bear so closely on every department in his government that, as he himself observed, he could sleep satisfied that no person in the colony could be punished without his knowledge and sanction. Smyth died suddenly at Camp House, Georgetown, Demerara, of brain fever, after four days' illness, on 4 March 1838, esteemed and regretted by all classes of the community. Lord Glenelg, the minister for the colonies, wrote a warm eulogy of him in a despatch to the officer administering the government.

Smyth married, on 28 May 1816, Harriet, the only child of General Robert Morse [q. v.] of the royal engineers, and by her left an only son, James Robert Carmichael (1817–1883), who on 25 Feb. 1841, by royal license, dropped the name of Smyth and resumed the family name of Carmichael alone. The same year he married Louisa Charlotte, daughter of Sir Thomas Butler, bart. He was chairman of the first submarine telegraph company, and died 7 June 1883, at his residence, 12 Sussex Place, London; his son, James Morse Carmichael (b. 1844) is the present baronet.

There is a bust, by Chantrey, of Carmichael Smyth in the cathedral church of Georgetown, Demerara; and a replica, also by Chantrey, in the town-hall of Berbice, with inscription. They were placed there by public subscription. Smyth's portrait was painted by E. H. Latilla and engraved by Hodgetts (see Evans, Catalogue of Engraved Portraits, vol. ii.)

Smyth was the author of: 1. ‘Instructions and Standing Orders for the Royal Engineer Department serving with the Army on the Continent,’ 8vo, London, 1815. 2. ‘Plans of the Attacks upon Antwerp, Bergen-op-Zoom, Cambray, Péronne, Maubeuge, Landrecy, Marienbourg, Phillipville, and Rocroy, by the British and Prussian Armies in 1814–1815, with Explanatory Remarks, dedicated to the Duke of Wellington,’ fol. Cambrai, 1817. 3. ‘Questions and Answers relative to the Duties of the Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the Royal Sappers and Miners,’ 8vo, Cambrai, 1817. 4. ‘Chronological Epitome of the Wars in the Low Countries from the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659 to that of Paris in 1815, with Reflections, Military and Political,’ 8vo, London, 1825. 5. ‘Précis of the Wars in Canada from 1755 to the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, with Military and Political Reflections,’ 8vo, London, 1826 (printed for official use only); a second edition, edited by his son, with a memoir of the author, was published, 8vo, London, 1862. 6. ‘Reflections upon the Value of the British West Indian Colonies and of the British North American Provinces in 1825,’ 8vo, London, 1826. 7. ‘Memoir upon the Topographical System of Colonel van Gorkeran, with Remarks and Reflections upon various other Methods of representing Ground, addressed to Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Taylor, Surveyor-General of H. M. Ordnance,’ 8vo, London, 1828. 8. ‘Letter to a Member of the Bahamas Assembly upon the subject of Flogging Female Slaves,’ pamphlet, 8vo, Nassau, Bahamas, 1831.

[Despatches; Royal Engineers’ Records; Royal Artillery Records; War Office Records; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Gent. Mag. 1838, ii. 112; Ann. Reg. 1838; Porter's History of the Corps of Royal Engineers; Conolly's History of the Royal Sappers and Miners; Sperling's Letters of an Officer … from the British Army in Holland, Belgium, and France, to his Father; Memoir in preface to 1862 edition of Précis of the Wars in Canada; Demerary, Transition de l'Esclavage à la Liberté, par Félix Milliroux, 1843.]

R. H. V.