George Gleig (priest)
George Robert Gleig (20 April 1796 – 9 July 1888) was a Scottish soldier, military writer, and priest.
Gleig was born in Stirling, Scotland. His parents were George Gleig (1753–1840, Bishop of Brechin from October 1808) and Janet, née Hamilton, youngest daughter of Robert Hamilton of Kilbrackmont. Gleig received his initial education at Stirling Grammar school.
On 21 June 1813, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington had his first victory in Spain over the French, at the battle of Vitoria. One month later a young student of divinity, George Robert Gleig, gave up a scholarship to Balliol College to join Wellington’s army as an Ensign in the 85th Light Infantry. His father, by then Bishop of Brechin, furnished him with £20, a substantial sum, though he notes that the rate at which he could buy readily exchangeable gold coins was poor — he had to pay 6s for every gold dollar, and £5 for a doubloon. On 7 October, Wellington crossed into France for the first time.
On 6 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated, though Wellington did not find out until 12 April. By then, on 10 April he had fought and won the decisive battle of the war at Toulouse. The young divinity student was then sent to the war against the United States, where he fought in five battles (Bladensburg, Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington and Fort Bayo) and was three times wounded; after peace broke out he resumed his scholarship at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1816.
Gleig married Sarah Cameron in 1819, while at Oxford. She was a daughter of Captain Cameron the younger of Kinlochleven. Having taken his B.A. and M.A., the young Gleig took holy orders in 1820. He became curate of Westwell, Kent, and was later appointed to two additional parishes, as curate of Ash and as Rector of Ivychurch.
He wrote a series of articles for Blackwood's Magazine on his Peninsular War experiences; they were collected into a book, published in 1825 as The Subaltern. In 1821 he authored an account of his experiences in the USA as The Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans under Generals Ross, Pakenham and Lambert. In 1829 he was invited to meet Wellington, and became a regular house-guest of the Duke. Gleig also wrote The Life of the Duke of Wellington; a revised edition was published by Longmans, Green & Co of London in 1890.
In 1832 George Robert Gleig, by then Chaplain to the Chelsea Hospital—the Chelsea pensioners—and a well-known author, mainly on military matters, publicly opposed the Reform Bill before Parliament.
Gleig had excellent relations with the Duke of Wellington, but that did not stop the Iron Duke from issuing a public reprimand in 1840 to Gleig for his plan to educate NCOs and private soldiers:
By Jove! If there is a mutiny in the army – and in all probability we shall have one – you’ll see that these new-fangled schoolmasters will be at the bottom of it.
Gleig was appointed Chaplain-General of the Forces in 1844, resigned 1875; from 1846 to 1857 he was Inspector-General of Military Schools. From 27 March 1848, he was a member of the Canterbury Association and joined the management committee, but resigned again on 25 November 1851.
Gleig was a frequent contributor to reviews and magazines, especially Blackwood's Magazine, in which his best-known novel, The Subaltern, appeared in instalments. He was also the author of Lives of Warren Hastings, Robert Clive, and Wellington, Military Commanders, Chelsea pensioners, and other works.
- Blain, Rev. Michael (2007). The Canterbury Association (1848-1852): A Study of Its Members’ Connections. Christchurch: Project Canterbury. p. 34. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- Chisholm 1911.