Lord FitzRoy Somerset

FitzRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan

Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, GCB, PC (30 September 178828 June 1855), known before 1852 as Lord FitzRoy Somerset, was a British soldier.

Early life

He was the eighth and youngest son of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen. His elder brother, General Lord Edward Somerset (1776–1842), distinguished himself as the leader of the Household Cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. Lord Fitzroy Somerset was educated at Westminster School, and entered the army in 1804. In 1807 he was attached to the Hon. Sir Arthur Paget's embassy to Turkey, and the same year he was selected to serve on the staff of Sir Arthur Wellesley in the expedition to Copenhagen. In the following year he accompanied the same general in a like capacity to Portugal, and during the whole of the Peninsular War was at his right hand, first as aide-de-camp and then as military secretary.

Military career

He was wounded, 5 stab wounds to the left shoulder, at the Battle of Buçaco, became brevet-major after Fuentes de Onoro, accompanied the stormers of the 52nd light infantry as a volunteer at Ciudad Rodrigo and specially distinguished himself at the storming of Badajoz, being the first to mount the breach, and afterwards securing one of the gates before the French could organize a fresh defence. On 6 August 1814 he married Lady Emily Harriet Wellesley-Pole, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Mornington, the Duke of Wellington's niece. During the short period of the Bourbon rule in 1814 and 1815 he was secretary to the British embassy at Paris. On the renewal of the war he again became aide-de-camp and military secretary to the Duke of Wellington.

At Waterloo he was wounded in the right arm and had to undergo amputation, but he quickly learned to write with his left hand, and on the conclusion of the war resumed his duties as secretary to the embassy at Paris. From 1818 to 1820, and again in 1826–29, he sat in the British House of Commons as member for Truro. In 1819 he was appointed secretary to the Duke of Wellington as master-general of the ordnance, and from 1827 till the death of the duke in 1852 was military secretary to him as commander-in-chief. He was then appointed Master-General of the Ordnance, a Privy Counsellor (16 October 1852) and was created Baron Raglan (20 October 1852).

Crimean War

In 1854 he was promoted to full General and appointed to the command of the British troops sent to the Crimea in co-operation with a strong French army under Marshal St Arnaud and afterwards, up to May 1855, under Marshal Canrobert. Here his diplomatic experience stood him in good stead in dealing with the generals and admirals, British, French and Turkish, who were associated with him; however, the trying winter campaign of the Crimean War showed that becoming a General was a step too far for Raglan.

Lord Raglan and his staff were at the time blamed by the press and the government for the hardships and sufferings of the British soldiers in the terrible Crimean winter before the Siege of Sevastopol, owing to shortages of food and clothing. Lord Raglan was to blame not only for representing matters in a too sanguine light, but also refusing to purchase supplies of wood from the Ottomans to be used for making floors for the tented buildings of the British camp and also to allow the troops to light fires, essential in the bitter damp winter. During this unhealthy winter, the British contingent had 23,000 men unfit for duty due to ill health and only 9,000 fit for duty.

It was afterwards suggested that the chief neglect rested with the home authorities, and indeed the appalling logistical support from England no doubt exacerbated an already poor situation, but the chief cause of the problems is without doubt the wholesale incompetence of the British command on the scene of battle.

His failure to give coherent or timely commands on the field of battle led to numerous mistakes, and his blind ignorance of the growing rivalry between the Earl of Lucan and the Earl of Cardigan would have tragic consequences in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. At Balaklava and Inkerman he displayed a complete lack of any tactical acumen, sending small British units against large Russian contingents; on several occasions this resulted in the complete destruction of the British units. Despite this lack of competence on his part, the battle resulted in an Allied victory, and he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.

During the trying winter of 1854–55, the suffering he was compelled to witness, the censures which he had to endure, and all the manifold anxieties of the siege seriously undermined his health, and although he found a friend and ardent supporter in his new French colleague, General Pélissier, disappointment at the failure of the assault of 18 June 1855 finally broke his spirit, and very shortly afterwards, on July 9, he died of dysentery. His body was brought home and interred at Badminton.

Heirs

Lord Raglan had two sons:

The seaside town of Raglan in New Zealand was named after the First Lord in 1855.

There is a blue plaque outside his house in Stanhope Gate, London W1.

See also

References

  • Hibbert, Christopher. (1961) The Destruction of Lord Raglan. First published by Longmans, 1961 - published by Pelican, 1963.

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