Viscount Hugh Gough

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

« Gotofrid | Index | John Gough »

Gough, Hugh, Viscount, G.C.B., was born at Woodstown, County of Limerick, the seat of his father, 3rd November 1779, and was educated at home. When but thirteen he entered his father's regiment, the Limerick militia; from which he was soon transferred as Lieutenant to the 119th Regiment of the line. His military abilities soon asserted themselves, and he was appointed Adjutant at an unprecedentedly early age. He served in different regiments at the Cape and in the West Indies.

Having obtained his majority in the 87th, he was sent to Spain in 1809, and held commands at Talavera, Barossa, Vittoria, Nivelle, Cadiz, and Tarifa — receiving a medal and a heraldic augmentation to his armorial bearings. He had a horse shot under him at Talavera, and was severely wounded at Tarifa and Nivelle. His conduct was highly commended by the Duke of Wellington, and he was the first officer who ever received brevet rank for services performed in the field in command of a regiment. At Barossa his troops captured a French eagle, and at Vittoria they secured the baton of Marshal Jourdan. The years between 1815 and 1837 were spent chiefly at home, fulfilling the duties of a country gentleman on his Tipperary estates, or in command of troops in different parts of the country.

He was appointed a magistrate of Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary; and we are told that by his gentle and engaging manners he not only conciliated the good-will of the gentry with whom he had to act, but by a system of mingled firmness and mildness, succeeded, to a great extent, in winning the respect and confidence of the peasantry.

In 1830 he became Major-General, and seven years afterwards was sent to India and China to take command of a division of the army. He served in the Chinese war, and at its conclusion and the signature of a treaty at Nankin, in August 1842, he was for his services created a G.C.B., a baronetcy was conferred upon him, and he received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. In August 1843 he assumed the post of Commander-in-chief in India, and in December took command in the campaign against the Mahrattas, which terminated in the decisive victory of Maharagpore (29th December).

In 1845 and the following year he defeated the Sikhs at Moodkee, Ferozesha, and Sabraon, again receiving the thanks of Parliament, and in April 1846 was raised to the peerage as a baron. On the renewal of hostilities, he fought the battle of Chillianwallah, 13th January 1849, where he was virtually defeated by the Sikhs. Mr. Marshman, in his History of India, thus writes of his conduct on this occasion: "The spirit of defiance and antagonism at once overcame his better judgment [of deferring an attack] and, rejecting all advice, and trampling on every remonstrance, he gave orders to prepare for immediate action... Four guns of the Horse Artillery were captured... The colours of three regiments were lost in the battle, and the price paid by us for our doubtful victory, was the loss of 2,357 fighting men, and 89 officers killed and wounded... The character of the Sikhs for prowess was greatly elevated, the reputation of British cavalry was deplorably tarnished... The public did not cease to admire the private virtues, the quick perception, the indomitable energy, and the chivalrous valour of the Commander-in-chief, which rendered him the idol of the soldiery; but there was, nevertheless, a painful conviction that nature had not designed, or education or experience fitted him, for extensive and independent command."

When the news reached home, he was railed at for his "Tipperary tactics," an order for his recall was issued, and Sir Charles Napier was appointed to succeed him. However, before this change could take effect, he had re-established his reputation by the victory of Guzerat, 21st February 1849, which put an end to the war, and enabled him on leaving the army to boast that "that which Alexander attempted, the British army have accomplished." Again he was thanked by Parliament, was advanced to a viscountcy, and granted a pension of £4,000 a year. In 1854 he was appointed Colonel of the Royal Horse-Guards, and in 1862 was created a Field-Marshal.

The latter part of Viscount Gough's life was spent in retirement, at his residence, St. Helen's, Booterstown, near Dublin. He died 2nd March 1869, aged 89, and was buried at Stillorgan. Viscount Gough was of a singularly noble presence, and retained his brilliant intellect to the last. He is said to have commanded in more general actions than any officer of the age, except the Duke of Wellington.

Sources

116. Dublin University Magazine (36). Dublin, 1833-'77.

169. India, History of: John C. Marshman. 3 vols. London, 1867.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

« Gotofrid | Index | John Gough »