George Anson (British Army major-general)

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George Anson
Born 13 October 1797
Died 27 May 1857 (aged 59)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Major-General
Commands held Madras Army
Indian Army
Battles/wars Indian Mutiny
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath

Major-General George Anson CB (13 October 1797 – 27 May 1857) was a British military officer and Whig politician.

Early life[edit]

Anson was the second son of Thomas Anson, 1st Viscount Anson, and his wife Anne Margaret, daughter of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester of Holkham Hall, Norfolk. Thomas Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield was his elder brother. He was educated at Eton College.

Military and political career[edit]

Anton entered the Army in 1814 as an Ensign in the 3rd (Scots Fusiliers) Guards and served at an early age in the Napoleonic Wars and fought at the Battle of Waterloo. He later sat as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Great Yarmouth from 1818 to 1835, for Stoke-upon-Trent from 1836 to 1837, and for Staffordshire South from 1837 to 1853 and served as Storekeeper of the Ordnance under Lord Melbourne from 1835 to 1841 and as Clerk of the Ordnance under Melbourne in 1841 and under Lord John Russell from 1846 to 1852.

Indian appointment[edit]

In 1853 Anson was promoted to the rank of Major-General. The following year he was appointed to the command of the Madras Army in 1854, and early in 1856 became Commander-in-Chief in India. He was Colonel of the 55th (Westmorland) Regiment of Foot from 12 December 1856. Since Anson's prior military career consisted of a few months' active service as a subaltern in the Guards (admittedly including Waterloo), a decade on home service in London while also sitting in Parliament as an MP, and 26 and a half years on half-pay, these appointments caused disgruntled comment in some quarters and were presented as an example of "Horse Guards Patronage" at its worst.[1] His decision to accept the Madras appointment caused surprise in English political and social circles, where he was noted mainly for his gentlemanly ways, his good looks and attractive wife, and his skill at cards.[2]

In India[edit]

During his short period as Commander-in-Chief in India Anson caused resentment by showing bias against the Indian Army and its sepoys. He appointed all of his aides-de-camp from the Queen's Army, from which he had come. He was quoted as stating that he could never see a sepoy sentry "without turning away in disgust at his unsoldierlike appearance". The Governor-General Lord Canning commented that Anson "was rather a disappointment - but that it would be very difficult to quarrel with anyone so imperturbably good tempered, and so thoroughly a gentleman".[3]

Anson's appointment as C-in-C coincided with the beginning of the period of tension and disaffection leading up to the outbreak of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. On 23 March 1857 Anson told a parade of Indian officers of the Bengal Army that rumors that the government would interfere with their religious beliefs and caste were completely false. He called on the officers to satisfy the sepoys under their command that this was the case. Anson himself reported a week later that the greased cartridge issue was simply a pretext for protest, adding that "the sepoys have been pampered - and have grown insolent beyond bearing". He did however order the suspension of the training sessions at musketry depots which were the immediate cause of distrust amongst the soldiers.[4]

On 12 May Anson and his staff were, at Simla when the news of the actual outbreak of the mutiny at Meerut and Delhi reached him. He immediately ordered that European troops take possession of the various arsenals in the Punjab but delayed his own departure for the centre of rebellion while logistical problems were resolve. Anson finally left Ambala for Delhi on 23 May at the head of three regiments of British troops and some sepoy units that he considered reliable. His intention was to join with the Meerut Brigade and press on to retake Delhi. However Anson died of cholera four days into the march, at the age of 59. He was buried in Kurnaul (now Karnal). The body was later exhumed and taken back to England to be buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

Private life[edit]

Anson married the Hon. Isabella Elizabeth Annabella, daughter of Cecil Weld-Forester, 1st Baron Forester, in 1830. They had three daughters. Isabella survived her husband by only a year and died in December 1858.

Anson was a prominent owner of racehorses: he won the Epsom Derby with Attila in 1842 and the Epsom Oaks two years later with The Princess.[5]

Other[edit]

It has been asserted mistakenly that 'Famous British Olympian Sir Matthew Pinsent is George's great great great grandson.[6]', but in fact that was a different George Anson - the uncle of the subject of this article [7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Letters signed 'A CIVILIAN', "Horse-Guards' Patronage." The Times 22 Dec. 1856, p. 10; 27 Dec. 1856, p. 7; 30 Dec. 1856, p. 7; 1 Jan. 1857, p. 1.
  2. ^ Preston, Paul. The Great Mutiny. India 1857. p. 72. ISBN 0-14-004752-2. 
  3. ^ Preston, Paul. The Great Mutiny. India 1857. p. 72. ISBN 0-14-004752-2. 
  4. ^ David, Saul. The Indian Mutiny. p. 63. ISBN 0-141-00554-8. 
  5. ^ Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1999). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane’s. ISBN 0-354-08536-0. 
  6. ^ Who do you think you are - BBC Television
  7. ^ Burke's Peerage, 107th edition, p. 2324

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Anson
Charles Edmund Rumbold
Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth
18181835
With: Charles Edmund Rumbold
Succeeded by
Thomas Baring
Winthrop Mackworth Praed
Preceded by
Richard Edensor Heathcote
John Davenport
Member of Parliament for Stoke-upon-Trent
1836 – 1837
With: John Davenport
Succeeded by
William Taylor Copeland
John Davenport
Preceded by
Sir John Wrottesley
Sir Francis Holyoake-Goodricke
Member of Parliament for Staffordshire South
1837–1853
With: Viscount Ingestre 1837–1849
Viscount Lewisham 1849–1853
Succeeded by
Viscount Lewisham
Edward Littleton
Military offices
Preceded by
Francis Robert Bonham
Storekeeper of the Ordnance
1835–1841
Succeeded by
James Hanway Plumridge
Preceded by
James Whitley Deans Dundas
Clerk of the Ordnance
1841
Succeeded by
Henry George Boldero
Preceded by
Lord Arthur Lennox
Clerk of the Ordnance
1846–1852
Succeeded by
Francis Plunkett Dunne
Preceded by
William Staveley
C-in-C, Madras Army
1854–1856
Succeeded by
Sir Patrick Grant
Preceded by
Sir William Gomm
Commander-in-Chief, India
1856
Succeeded by
Sir Patrick Grant