Thomas Sydney Beckwith

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Sir Thomas Beckwith
Born 1772
Died 15 January 1831
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Lieutenant-General
Commands held Bombay Army
Battles/wars War of 1812
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Sydney Beckwith, KCB (1772 – 15 January 1831) was an officer of the British army who served as quartermaster general of the British forces in Canada during the War of 1812, and a commander-in-chief of the Bombay Army during the British Raj.[1] He is most notable for his distinguished service during the Peninsular War and for his contributions to the development and command of the 95th Rifles.[2]

Early life[edit]

His father was Major General John Beckwith, who commanded the 20th Regiment of Foot. His brothers were Captain John Beckwith, Sir George Beckwith and Brigadier General Ferdinand Beckwith. He was also the uncle of Major-General John Charles Beckwith. He entered the Army himself in 1791, joining the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot, and served with them in India.[1]

Service with the 95th Rifles[edit]

In 1800, he was appointed to command a company in Colonel Coote Manningham's "Experimental Corps of Riflemen", which later was designated the 95th Regiment and subsequently the Rifle Brigade. He was promoted to Major within the Corps in 1802. The next year, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took command of the 1st Battalion. Beckwith was one of the favourite officers of Sir John Moore in the famous camp of Shorncliffe, and aided that general in the training of the troops which afterwards became the Light Division.[1]

He served on the expeditions to Hanover in 1806 and Copenhagen in 1807, before joining the expedition to the Peninsula under Major General Arthur Wellesley. He took part in the Battle of Vimeiro, and the expedition into Spain under Sir John Moore, in which the Rifles bore the brunt of the rearguard fighting.[1]

The next year, he returned to Portugal and was appointed to command the 1st Brigade of the Light Division. Beckwith took part in Craufurd's great march to the field of Talavera. In 1810, during the French invasion of Portugal, he was present at the Battle of the Coa and the Battle of Busaco. During the subsequent operations to drive the French from Portugal, he fought at the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Sabugal.[1]

Quartermaster General[edit]

In 1812, he was appointed Assistant Quartermaster General to the British forces in North America. As such, he commanded the troops which were sent to Chesapeake Bay in 1813. He had only one regiment of infantry and some undisciplined French former prisoners of war, the Independent Companies of Foreigners.[3] At the Battle of Craney Island, Beckwith's troops were repulsed by shore batteries while attempting to land.[4] He subsequently captured Hampton, Virginia but the men of the Independent Companies misbehaved, giving Beckwith's troops an evil reputation for atrocities.[3]

In 1814, he was promoted to Major General and appointed Quartermaster General to the troops in Canada under Sir George Prevost. Prevost's expedition into New York was defeated at the Battle of Plattsburgh. The Peninsular veterans in the force considered that Prevost and his staff (including Beckwith) were at least partly responsible for the defeat (in Beckwith's case, for failure to provide sufficient intelligence on the geography and enemy dispositions).[5]

Beckwith was made a Knight Bachelor in 1812 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1815. In 1827, he was made Colonel Commandant of his old corps, the Rifle Brigade.[1]

Later service in India[edit]

In 1829, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Bombay Army. In 1830, he was promoted Lieutenant General, but died of fever the following year at Mahableshwar.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stephens, H. M. (2004). Beckwith, Sir Thomas Sydney (1772–1831), rev. Roger T. Stearn, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Urban, M. (2003). Rifles: Six years with Wellington's legendary sharpshooters. Faber and Faber.
  3. ^ a b Elting, John R. Amateurs to Arms: a Military History of the War of 1812. Da Capo Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-306-80653-3. 
  4. ^ Forester, C. S. The Age of Fighting Sail, New English Library, ISBN 0-939218-06-2.
  5. ^ Hitsman, J. Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812. Robin Brass Studio. p. 255. ISBN 1-896941-13-3. 

External links[edit]

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Bradford
C-in-C, Bombay Army
1829–1832
Succeeded by
Sir Colin Halkett