Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Burgoyne, John Fox

BURGOYNE, Sir JOHN FOX (1782–1871), engineer officer, was the eldest of the four illegitimate children of Lieutenant-general the Right Hon. John Burgoyne [q. v.], by Miss Susan Caulfield. He was born on 24 July 1782. On General Burgoyne's death in 1792, his nephew, Edward, twelfth earl of Derby, took charge of the children. In 1793 Burgoyne was sent to Eton, where he was the fag of Hallam, the historian, and on 19 Oct. 1796 he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. On 29 Aug. 1798 he was gazetted to the royal engineers.

In April 1800 he was ordered to join Sir Ralph Abercromby's army in the Mediterranean, but was left behind at Malta to assist in the reduction of Valetta. He was promoted first lieutenant in July 1800. From Malta he was ordered to Sicily, where General Fox made him his aide-de-camp, and he was promoted second captain in March 1805. He was sent as commanding engineer with General Mackenzie Fraser's force to Egypt in February 1807, and was present in that capacity at Rosetta. On his return to Sicily, Sir John Moore chose him to accompany his expedition to Portugal as commanding royal engineer. The expedition led to nothing; but Moore took him in his former capacity in the expedition to Sweden in the summer of 1808, and finally to Portugal. He was too junior to fill the post of commanding royal engineer; but Moore appointed him commanding engineer with the light or reserve division. This division had to cover the retreat of the general to Corunna. Burgoyne blew up the bridges of Benevente and Castro Gonzalo at the last possible minute, and thus twice delayed the pursuit for several hours. With the reserve division he marched to Vigo, and there embarked for England. He joined Wellesley in Portugal in February 1809, and was present at the passage of the Douro and the taking of Oporto, and was promoted captain in July 1809. During the advance into Spain he was left behind in Portugal to fortify the lines of Torres Vedras; but in 1810 he again joined the army as commanding royal engineer with the 3rd or Picton's division. In this capacity he was present at the battle of Busaco and in the retreat to the lines of Torres Vedras; but his greatest service this year was in blowing up Fort Concepcion on 20 July. In the year 1811 his only command was as director of the right attack in the first futile siege of Badajoz. In January 1812 he commanded in the trenches before Ciudad Rodrigo on alternate days, led the 3rd division on the day of the storm, and was for his services gazetted major by brevet. In March he performed the same duties at the siege of Badajoz, again leading the 3rd division to the storm. For this service Burgoyne was promoted lieutenant-colonel by brevet. He was present at the battle of Salamanca, and directed the reduction of the forts at Salamanca and of the Retiro at Madrid. In 1813 he was present at Vittoria, and succeeded to the post of commanding royal engineer at the siege of San Sebastian, which he conducted to a successful close. He superintended the passage of the Bidassoa, and was present at the battle of the Nivelle. Colonel Elphinstone, a senior officer to Burgoyne, accompanied the main army in the advance, while Burgoyne, to his great disgust, was left behind to superintend the siege of Bayonne by Sir John Hope. For his various services he was only gazetted a C. B. at the end of the war, while Colonel Elphinstone was made a baronet [see Elphinstone, Sir Howard]. He refused a civil knighthood, as a slight to his corps, but cheerfully accepted the order of the Tower and Sword conferred upon him by the Portuguese government. He was sent to America as commanding royal engineer, and was present in that capacity at the attack oil New Orleans and at the reduction of Fort Bowyer. On his return to England in 1815 he offered himself for service in the coming campaign, but had the mortification to be absent from Waterloo.

In the first few years of peace Burgoyne commanded the royal engineers in the army of occupation in France from 1815 to 1818, at Chatham from 1821 to 1826, with Sir William Clinton's force in Portugal in 1826, and at Portsmouth from 1828 to 1831. In 1831 he was offered by Mr. Stanley, then Irish secretary, the chairmanship of the board of public works in Ireland, and he filled this post for fifteen years. He was promoted major-general in due course on 28 June 1838, and was in the same year given the K. C. B., which he had won fairly in 1814. In 1845 he accepted the appointment of inspector-general of fortifications, which he held for twenty-three years. His opinion was eagerly sought on every sort of question, and he sat on innumerable commissions, from one on the penny post to one on the proposed site of Waterloo Bridge. He served as Irish relief commissioner in the famine of 1847, and as a juror in the military section in the Great Exhibition of 1851. He was gazetted lieutenant-general in 1850, and made a G. C. B. in 1852.

Burgoyne was sent to Turkey in 1853 to examine the ground before the coming war in the East: and when the English army I sailed under Lord Raglan's command, he accompanied it in a sort of nondescript capacity. He superintended the disembarkation of the army on the Crimean peninsula, chose the spot, and advised the flank march after the battle of the Alma to the south side of Sebastopol. Once in camp before Sebastopol, Burgoyne insisted on the necessity of reducing the Malakoff in order to take the city, and became more than ever the second man in the English army (Head, Sketch of the Life and Death of Sir J. Burgoyne, p. 34). His value was not appreciated in England. It was obvious that Sebastopol would not be quickly taken, and the British public made a scapegoat of the gallant old engineer officer who had advised the march to the southern side of the fortress. He was recalled in February 1855, and reached England in April to find himself virulently assailed by the press. He waited quietly for the tide to turn, and in the next year became very popular. He was made a baronet in 1856, created a grand officer of the Legion of Honour, and a knight of the first class of the order of the Medjidie, appointed a colonel-commandant of the royal engineers, and gazetted a full general, presented with the freedom of the city of London, and received the honorary degree of D. C. L. from the university of Oxford. In 1858 he represented the queen at the second interment of the great Napoleon in the Hotel des Invalides at Paris; in 1865 he was appointed constable of the Tower of London; and in 1868, when he resigned his post of inspector-general of fortifications, he was made a field-marshal, and granted a pension of 1,500l. a year by parliament. All his hopes were centred in his only son. Captain Hugh Burgoyne, R. N. [q. v.], who had been one of the first recipients of the Victoria cross; and when that son was lost in the Captain, in the Bay of Biscay, in September 1870, he felt that he had little left to live for. He himself died a year afterwards, at 5 Pembridge Square, on 7 Oct. 1871.

[The chief authority for Burgoyne's life is the Life and Correspondence of Field-marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Bart., by his son-in-law, Lieut.-col. the Hon. George Wrottesley, R. E., 2 vols. 1873; see also A Sketch of the Life and Death of Field-marshal Sir John Burgoyne, by Major the Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Head, bart., R. E., 1872. Many of his published articles are reprinted in the Military Opinions of Gen. Sir J. F. Burgoyne, collected and edited by Capt. the Hon. G. Wrottesley, R. E., A. D. C., 1859; see also a curious article on the Courtesies of War in Blackwood's Mag. Nov. 1860, and a pamphlet, Our Defensive Forces, 1870, in which he recommended the short service system. For his services in the field see; the Sieges of the Peninsula, by Major-gen. Sir J. T. Jones, bart., G. C. B., and Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea.]

H. M. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.43
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
348 ii 27 Burgoyne, Sir John F.: for 1850 read 1851
4 f.e. after engineers insert (November 1854)