Thomas Sydney Beckwith
|Sir Thomas Beckwith|
|Died||15 January 1831|
|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. 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.
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.
Service with the 95th Rifles
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.
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.
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.
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. At the Battle of Craney Island, Beckwith's troops were repulsed by shore batteries while attempting to land. He subsequently captured Hampton, Virginia but the men of the Independent Companies misbehaved, giving Beckwith's troops an evil reputation for atrocities.
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).
Later service in India
- Stephens, H. M. (2004). Beckwith, Sir Thomas Sydney (1772–1831), rev. Roger T. Stearn, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
- Urban, M. (2003). Rifles: Six years with Wellington's legendary sharpshooters. Faber and Faber.
- Elting, John R. Amateurs to Arms: a Military History of the War of 1812. Da Capo Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-306-80653-3.
- Forester, C. S. The Age of Fighting Sail, New English Library, ISBN 0-939218-06-2.
- Hitsman, J. Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812. Robin Brass Studio. p. 255. ISBN 1-896941-13-3.
- "Thomas Sydney Beckwith". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2005.
- 1911 Encyclopaedia
Sir Thomas Bradford
|C-in-C, Bombay Army
Sir Colin Halkett