William Inglis

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For the architect, see William Beresford Inglis.
Sir William Inglis
GenSirWilliamInglis.jpg
Sir William Inglis
Born 1764
Died 29 November 1835 (aged 70–71)
Ramsgate, Kent, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1779 to 1835
Rank Lieutenant General
Battles/wars
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Other work Governor of Cork

Lieutenant General Sir William Inglis, KCB (1764 – 29 November 1835) was a British officer of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Inglis served at several of the heaviest engagements of the Peninsula War, was wounded numerous times and earned national fame through his order "Die hard 57th, die hard!" to his regiment as he lay seriously wounded behind their ranks at the height of the Battle of Albuera.

Thanks to Inglis' leadership, the regiment held and the battle was won and although his wounds nearly proved fatal, Inglis returned to action again two years later to see the war out as a Brigadier. Post-war, Inglis was knighted and served in several military governorships including a spell as Governor of Cork, in which position he died in 1835.

Early career[edit]

Almost nothing is known of Inglis's birth or childhood, save that he was born in 1764, the third son of Dr. William Inglis, head of the College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. Even his mother's name is unknown, as is the location of his birth and any details of his education. Indeed, the first undisputed records about him which are known are those indicating that he was commissioned into the 57th Regiment of Foot as an ensign in 1779, although he did not actually join the regiment for another two years, meeting them in New York at the height of the American Revolutionary War in 1781.[1] Following the British defeat, Inglis and his regiment travelled to Nova Scotia and Inglis spent the next ten years in Canada.

Whilst stationed in North America, Inglis became a lieutenant in 1782 and a captain in 1785. When his unit returned to Britain in 1791, the French Revolution had occurred and Inglis was engaged during the next two years maintaining order in the Midlands.[1] When war with France broke out in 1793, the 57th was dispatched to the army of the Duke of York during his unsuccessful campaign against the French in the Low Countries. The same year, Inglis and his men were also briefly detached to a failed expedition to Brittany, but by the time the campaign had faltered in the winter of 1794, Ingis was back in Belgium.[1]

Participating in the siege of Nijmegen and withdrawal to Bremen during the winter of 1794/95, Inglis performed well, and despite the failure of a second expedition to Brittany in 1795, he was promoted to major. In 1796, Inglis and his regiment were posted to the West Indies, arriving in early 1796 as they only vessel of the convoy to make it safely across the Atlantic on the ship Charon.[1] Due to the consequent paucity of soldiers, Inglis was prominently involved in the British invasion of St. Lucia and the capture of the Morne Fortuné fort. Inglis had operated as second-in-command to Sir John Moore, who admired his subordinate's abilities, and Inglis was also later engaged in the capture of the islands of Grenada and Trinidad.[1]

Whilst in the Caribbean, Inglis had been promoted to lieutenant colonel and in 1802 returned to Britain during the Peace of Amiens. He was employed until 1804 in raising a new second battalion of the 57th and in 1804 took over command of his new unit in the Channel Islands garrison. In the islands, Inglis found his men to be lacking discipline when off duty, referring to them as "fighting villains", but was repeatedly praised for the morale and ability of his men.[1] The regiment left the Channel Islands in 1809 after five years and was attached to Sir Arthur Wellesley's army in Portugal for service in the Peninsula War.

Peninsula War[edit]

In Portugal, Inglis's battalion was attached to the brigade of General Richard Stewart, an officer whose ill-health caused responsibility for the brigade to fall to Inglis (who had recently been promoted to colonel) days before the Battle of Busaco on 27 September 1810 as Wellesley sought to inflict a defeat on André Masséna before withdrawing behind the Lines of Torres Vedras. The action was a success and Inglis performed well, retaining command of the brigade into the following year when the British army pursued the retreating Masséna.[1] Inglis saw action during these operations in a skirmish at Pombal and action at Campo Mayor and Los Santos, when British forces withdrew from action in an attempt to surprise the French at the Battle of Albuera.

Battle of Albuera[edit]

Albuera proved to be Inglis's most famous action. The British Army was led by William Beresford and tactical mistakes resulted in the destruction of the British left by French cavalry early in the action. Forced to face the main French attack with less support than anticipated, the brigade, now led by Daniel Hoghton suffered severely.[1]

The ever present risk from cavalry meant that the brigade to remain in tight formations despite facing a superior number of French soldiers with muskets and the fire from light artillery brought up to enfilade the British line. Hoghton was killed in the action and Inglis struck by a 4 lb grapeshot. The missile penetrated his neck and entered his shoulder and lodged in his upper back, causing massive blood loss and severe pain. Refusing to leave the line during the battle, Inglis was laid behind the 57th by his men and as their numbers dwindled, he could be heard repeating "Die hard 57th, die hard!" as he encouraged his regiment.[1] Eventually the line held and the French driven off, the British left in possession of the field. Inglis's words later became the motto of the 57th Regiment of Foot and its successor unit the Middlesex Regiment which after further amalgamations is now the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

Return to the Peninsula[edit]

Inglis was carried from the field close to death at the action's conclusion, and it was two days before surgeons could operate on him to remove the grapeshot. Beresford especially commended Inglis after the action, saying that "Nothing could exceed the conduct and gallantry of Colonel Inglis at the head of his regiment."[1] Inglis' wounds were so severe that he was forced to return to Britain to recuperate and consequently missed the succeeding two years of the Peninsula War, spending much of 1812 running a court-martial board in Lisbon. In May 1813 he was again well enough for active command and was made a brigadier-general and then a major-general in command of a brigade of the 7th Division. With this unit, Inglis participated in the manoeuvres in the Pyrenees Mountains on the Franco-Spanish border and the ensuing Battle of the Pyrenees, where he stormed a defended rise on the French right at the head of his men and broke its defenders, allowing the British army to cover the valley and thus forcing a French withdrawal. During the action, Inglis had a horse shot from underneath him.[1]

In the campaigns of 1813, Inglis was heavily engaged with the French in supporting Portuguese operations near Vera. At the battle, Inglis lost another horse and suffered heavy casualties in action with a very superior French force. In November 1813, Inglis led his men across the Nivelle River and stormed and took the heights above it in the Battle of Nivelle, a successful action at which Inglis was slightly wounded in the foot. In February 1814 Inglis's brigade was again in action, at Airgavé and was engaged at the Battle of Orthez shortly afterwards where another horse was shot underneath him.[1]

Retirement[edit]

At the conclusion of the Peninsula War, Inglis returned to Britain and was voted thanks by both Houses of Parliament and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He was also presented with medals for his service at Albuera, the Pyrenees and Nivelle with three clasps. During a lengthy retirement, Inglis married Mary Anne Raymond in 1822 and the couple had two sons, William and Raymond, who both later became army officers.[1] In 1825, Inglis was promoted to lieutenant general and returned to service as Lieutenant-Governor of Kinsale in Ireland in 1827. Two years later Inglis was promoted to Governor of Cork and retained the post until his death. In 1830 he was also appointed colonel of the 57th Regiment, the unit he served with for 31 years. He died at Ramsgate in 1835 and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, survived by his wife and two sons.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Lluellyn & Sweetman 2004, Inglis, Sir William.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Brent Spencer
Governor of Cork
1829–1835
Office abolished?
Preceded by
Sir Hew Dalrymple
Colonel of the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot
1830–1835
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick Adam