Alten, Charles von (DNB00)

ALTEN, Sir CHARLES von, Count, G.C.B. (1764–1840), major-general in the British army, and lieutenant-general in the Hanoverian army, performed eminent services at the head of the famous light division of the British army in the Peninsular campaigns. He was youngest son of Aug. Eberhardt, Baron Alten, of an ancient protestant family in Hanover, and was born on 12 Oct. 1764. At the age of twelve he became a page of honour in the electoral household, and in 1781 received a commission in the Hanoverian foot guards. As a captain in the Hanoverian service he made the campaigns of 1793–4–5, in Flanders and Holland, under the Duke of York; and it was while detached in charge of an important line of posts on the Lys, betwixt Poperinghe and Wervicq, in 1794, that he first displayed those abilities as a light-infantry officer for which he was afterwards so celebrated. In 1803, when the Hanoverian army was wholly disbanded in accordance with the convention of Lauenburg, Alten was one of the first to quit his country and enrol himself in the force then collecting at Lymington, Hants, which some months later was embodied in the British army under the style of the King's German Legion. In command of the light battalions of the legion, Alten served in the expedition to Hanover under Lord Cathcart, in 1805; at Copenhagen in 1807; with Sir John Moore, in Sweden and Spain, in 1808; and in the Walcheren expedition of 1809. Subsequently he joined the army in the Peninsula, and commanded a British brigade at the battle of Albuera. In April, 1812, Lord Wellington, then preparing his final stroke, placed Alten at the head of the light division, composed of the British 43rd, 52nd, and 95th Rifles, with some Portuguese troops, and light cavalry and artillery attached, in command of which he fought at Vittoria, the battles on the Nivelle and Nive, Orthez and Toulouse. When the peninsular army was broken up, Alten was presented with a sword of honour by the British officers under his command, in token of the respect and esteem in which he was held. In 1815, he commanded the third division of the British army at Quatre-Bras and Waterloo, and was very severely wounded on the latter occasion. In acknowledgment of his services at Waterloo he was honoured with the title of count. The King's German Legion was disbanded in 1816, and Count Alten, who was then placed on half-pay, was appointed to command the contingent of the reorganised Hanoverian army, serving with the allied army of occupation in France. After his return to Hanover in 1818, he became minister of war and of foreign affairs and inspector-general of the Hanoverian army, posts which he held up to his decease. He rose to the rank of field-marshal in the Hanoverian service, retaining his major-general's rank on the British half-pay list. He died at Botzen, in the Tyrol, on 20 April, 1840, and his remains, which were interred at his seat near Hanover, were honoured with a public funeral.

[Hannover.-u.Braunschw.-Lunenburg. Staats-Kalender; Army Lists (British) from 1815 to 1846; Beamish's History King's German Legion (London, 1834–37); Napier's Hist. Peninsular War; Wellington Despatches, vols. iii.–v.; Gent. Mag. 1840.]

H. M. C.