Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adam, Frederick
ADAM, Sir FREDERICK (1781–1853), general, was fourth son of the Right Hon. William Adam, of Blair Adam, M.P., lord lieutenant of Kinross, and a most eminent orator and Scotch judge; was brother of Admiral Sir Charles Adam, K.C.B., M.P., and uncle of the Right Hon. W. P. Adam M.P. He was appointed an ensign in 1795, and lieutenant in 1796 while a mere boy, and while holding his commission was educated in the military academy at Woolwich. He became captain in the 9th regiment in 1799, and in the same year exchanged into the 2nd or Coldstream guards. He accompanied his regiment to Egypt, was promoted major in 1803, lieutenant-colonel in 1804, and in 1805, when only twenty-four, purchased the command of the 21st regiment. His regiment was ordered to Sicily, and he remained in the army of Sicily till 1813. He was present at the battle of Maida, and the siege of Scylla in 1806, and on 10 Sept. of the same year fought a smart engagement with General Cavaignac, at Mili, in temporary command of a brigade. In 1811 he was made aide-de-camp to the prince regent, and deputy-adjutant-general to the forces in Sicily, in 1812 promoted to be colonel, and in 1813 given the command of a brigade in the army which was sent from Sicily in April to operate in the east of Spain.
He was now destined on more than one occasion to pay the penalty for the military incapacity of his commanding generals, and it may be asserted truthfully that he was the only English general, except Donkin the quartermaster-general, who won fame, or even reputation, during the badly conducted operations on the east coast, which filled Wellington with despair. His first commander-in-chief, Sir John Murray, began by placing his brigade so far in advance of the main army that it could not possibly be supported. Suchet, who was an extremely able general, saw the fault, and attacked Adam's brigade of 1,800 men at Biar, on 12 April, with two divisions. Adam maintained the unequal battle for two hours, though badly wounded, and at last, when he had given Murray an opportunity to come to his assistance or take up a good defensive position, after a five hours' defence he fell back on Castalla. Murray had not taken up a good position, and, while his right was quite impregnable, had left his left exposed. Here Adam, and Whittingham with his Spaniards, were posted, and on 13 April the valour of the soldiers and the good conduct of their officers made up for the faulty dispositions of the general, and all Suchet's attacks were repulsed with a loss of 3,000 men. Some months later, when the divisions from Sicily had been again brought round to Catalonia, Lord William Bentinck treated Adam's brigade much as Sir John Murray had done. It formed the advanced brigade of the army which had taken Tarragona, and was stationed at the bridge of Ordall far from any support. Suchet determined to recapture Tarragona, and on 12 Sept. attacked Ordall with an overwhelming force, and again Adam was left unsupported. This time Suchet was successful, and took Ordall after a desperate resistance, in which the brigadier-general was twice severely wounded. Adam's dispositions are censured by Napier in this combat; but he hardly allows enough for his hourly expectation of Lord William Bentinck, though he acknowledges his personal gallantry in the action.
On his return to England owing to his wounds, he had a flattering reception, and in June 1814 was made major-general. When an army was ordered to assemble in Flanders on the news of the return of Napoleon from Elba, General Adam was appointed to command a brigade in Lord Hill's division, consisting of the 52nd, 71st, and 95th regiments. At the battle of Waterloo this brigade was stationed at the extreme right of the English position to keep open the communications with the corps at Hal, and to act if Napoleon attempted to turn the English right. When it was evident that the French attack was upon the English front, Adam's brigade was slowly advanced to be able to take in flank any attack in column made on the English right centre. Accordingly, when the Old Guard advanced in the final attack of the day, Adam's brigade, and notably the 52nd regiment under Colonel Colborne, suddenly fired upon its flank as it advanced, and charged it. It has been asserted that by this charge the 52nd regiment, that is Adam's brigade, for his regiments were all together, won the battle of Waterloo, and not the English guards. But the probable solution of conflicting evidence is that the column of the Old Guard got slightly disarranged, and that, at the same time that the guards under General Cooke drove back the head of the column, Adam's brigade broke the formation of the second half. Whether Adam or Colborne won the battle or not, it is certain that their flank attack prevented the Old Guard from reforming, and confirmed the victory. For his services on this day Major-general Adam was made a K.C.B., a knight of the order of Maria Theresa, and of St. Andrew of Russia.
The last thirty-eight years of his life were peaceful. From 1817 to 1822 he commanded the division at Malta, and in 1820 was nominated K.C.M.G. In 1824 he was made G.C.M.G., and was lord high commissioner of the Ionian Isles from 1824 to 1831. In 1830 he became lieutenant-general, in 1831 was sworn of the privy council, and from 1832 to 1837 was governor of Madras. In 1835 he was made colonel of the 57th regiment, which he exchanged for that of his old regiment, the 21st, in 1843. In 1840 he was nominated G.C.B., and was promoted full general in 1846. On 17 Aug. 1853 he fell dead suddenly in the Greenwich railway station after leaving his brother Sir Charles, who was governor of Greenwich Hospital. His military reputation rests on the campaigns of Castalla and Waterloo, and from them it may be conjectured that he would have distinguished himself in higher commands.[For General Adam's services see Philippart's Royal Military Calendar, 3rd edition, 1820, vol. iii. For the battle of Castalla and the combat of Ordall see Napier's Peninsular War, book xx. chap. 4, and book xxi. chap. 2. For Adam's brigade at Waterloo, besides Siborne, consult particularly Leeke's The 52nd at Waterloo.]