Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Inglis, William

INGLIS, Sir WILLIAM (1764–1835), general, born in 1764, was the third son of William Inglis, M.D. His father was three times president of the College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, and descended from the Inglis family of Manner and Mannerhead, Roxburghshire. The son was appointed on 11 Oct. 1779 ensign in the 57th regiment, which he joined at New York in 1781; he continued to serve in America till 1791. In 1793 he accompanied the expedition to Flanders, and afterwards that to Normandy and Brittany. He returned to Flanders, was present in Nimeguen during the siege, and took part in the retreat through Holland and Westphalia in the winter of 1794–5. In 1796, having attained the rank of major, he commanded a detachment of the 57th at the siege and fall of Morne Fortuné, St. Lucia, and the capture of the island, and received the special thanks of Sir John Moore, to whom, until the arrival of the headquarters of the regiment, he was second in command. After assisting in the reduction of the insurgent force at Grenada, he in 1797 accompanied his regiment to Trinidad, whence he returned to England in the latter end of 1802. Having obtained the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel, he was in 1803 employed in forming a second battalion of the regiment. This done, he rejoined the first battalion, succeeded to its command in 1805, accompanied it in the November of that year to Gibraltar, and in 1809 embarked with it to join the army under Sir Arthur Wellesley in the Peninsula. The 57th was attached to the brigade commanded by Major-general Richard Stewart, which formed part of General Hill's division; but, in consequence of General Stewart's illness, the brigade command devolved on Inglis at Sarcedos, and he continued to hold the command during the movements previous to the battle of Busaco, at that battle (September 1810), and in the subsequent retreat to the lines before Lisbon. During the pursuit of Massena from Santarem Inglis again commanded the brigade, and took part in the affair at Pombal. After being present at Campo Mayor, Los Santos, and the first siege of Badajoz, Inglis commanded the 57th at the battle of Albuera (May 1811), where the brigade was under the command of General Houghton, till the death of that officer again placed Inglis in brigade command.

At Albuera the 57th occupied a position as important as it was deadly. ‘Die hard! 57th,’ said Inglis, ‘die hard!’ They obeyed, and the regiment is known as the ‘Die-hards’ to this day. Inglis, besides having a horse shot under him, received a four-ounce grapeshot in the neck, which, after he had carried it about with him for two days, was extracted from behind his shoulder. Twenty-three officers and 415 rank and file, out of 579, were among the killed and wounded; not a man was missing. ‘It was observed,’ wrote Marshal Beresford, ‘that our dead, particularly the 57th, were lying as they fought, in ranks, and every wound was in front.’ ‘Nothing,’ he added, ‘could exceed the conduct and gallantry of Colonel Inglis at the head of his regiment.’ When the 57th was engaged at Inkerman on 5 Nov. 1854, ‘Men, remember Albuera!’ were the words of encouragement used by the officer in command, Captain Edward Stanley, just before he fell, and it devolved on Inglis's elder son, Captain William Inglis, to lead the regiment out of action (Kinglake, Hist. of Crimean War).

Inglis was sent home after Albuera to recover from his wound, but he soon returned to the Peninsula, and when able to take the field was appointed brigadier-general to command the first brigade of the seventh division, consisting of the 51st and 68th regiments of light infantry, the first battalion of the 82nd, and the Chasseurs Britanniques. The division was commanded by Lieutenant-general the Earl of Dalhousie. In June 1813, Inglis, who had been made a major-general, marched with his brigade from St. Estevan, and on 8 July gained the top of the range of mountains immediately above Maya, overlooking the flat country of France, and occupying the passes of Maya and Echallar. On 25 July, the French having succeeded in turning the British right, that flank was thrown back, and retired in the direction of Pamplona, in the neighbourhood of which town a series of engagements took place. It was on 30 July, during the engagement known as the second battle of Sauroren, that Inglis was ordered to possess himself of the crest of a high mountain occupied by the enemy, commanding the high road which passed between that position and their main body. ‘General Inglis,’ writes Napier, ‘one of those veterans who purchase every step of promotion with their blood, advancing on the left with only five hundred men of the seventh division, broke at one shock the two French regiments covering Chauzel's right, and drove down into the valley of Lanz. He lost, indeed, one-third of his own men, but, instantly spreading the remainder in skirmishing order along the descent, opened a biting fire upon the left of Conroux's division, which was then moving up the valley from Sauroren, sorely amazed and disordered by this sudden fall of two regiments from the top of the mountain into the midst of the column.’ Wellington, in his despatch, gives the highest credit to the conduct and execution of this attack. The strength of the enemy, according to their own computation, exceeded two thousand men, while, from the occupation of a part of his brigade elsewhere, the force which Inglis could employ is placed by one estimate as low as 445 bayonets. The casualties in this small force amounted to 145. Inglis had a horse shot under him. The brigade was further engaged in the actions of the following days. On 31 Aug. 1813, the day on which San Sebastian was taken, Inglis's brigade took an active part in the combat of Vera, having been ordered to support the 9th Portuguese brigade in Sir Lowry Cole's division. The fight was a severe one. Inglis again had a horse shot under him. Lord Dalhousie, in referring Wellington for details of the operations to Inglis's report, remarked: ‘The 1st brigade had to sustain the attack of two divisions of the enemy on a strong and wooded hill; the loss there was unavoidable.’ On 10 Nov. the seventh division marched to the embouchure of the Puerto d'Echallar, and Inglis's 1st brigade, after carrying the fortified heights above the village of Suré, received orders from Marshal Beresford to cross the Nivelle by a wooden bridge on the left and attack the heights above. The heights were carried after a severe struggle. On 23 Feb. 1814 the brigade was again engaged with the enemy near the village of Airgavé. On the 27th it had a considerable share in the battle of Orthez. The general's horse was struck.

For these services Inglis, with other general officers, received the thanks of both houses of parliament. In 1825 he became a lieutenant-general. He was created a knight commander of the Bath, appointed lieutenant-governor of Kinsale, and subsequently governor of Cork (January 1829). Finally, on 16 April 1830, he was appointed colonel of the 57th. He died at Ramsgate on 29 Nov. 1835, and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

Inglis married in 1822 Margaret Mary Anne, eldest daughter of Lieutenant-general William Raymond of the Lee, Essex, and had two sons, the General William Inglis mentioned above (1823–1888), and Major Raymond Inglis (1826–1880).

[Napier's Peninsular War; Wellington Despatches; United Service Journal, February 1836; Philippart's Royal Mil. Cal.]

W. R. Ll.