Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lindsay, John (1702-1749)

LINDSAY, JOHN, twentieth Earl of Crawford (1702–1749), military commander, born 4 Oct. 1702, was son of John, nineteenth earl, by Emilia, daughter of Lord Doune, and widow of Thomas Fraser of Strichen. His mother having died during his infancy, he was on the death of his father in 1713 placed under the care of his grandaunt, the Dowager-duchess of Argyll. He received his early education from a private tutor, and, after attending the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, was sent in 1721 to the military academy of Vaudeuil, Paris. In 1726 he was appointed to a company in one of the additional troops of the Scots Greys. He early acquired a reputation for resolution and daring, and, while not neglecting intellectual accomplishments, attained exceptional proficiency in athletic exercises, especially in shooting, fencing, riding, and dancing. On the disbandment of the additional troops of Scots Greys in 1730, he took up his residence with the Dowager-duchess of Argyll at Campbelltown, devoting his more serious attention to military studies, and his leisure to boating and hunting. On 3 Jan. 1732 he obtained command of a troop of the seventh or Queen's Own regiment of dragoons. The same year he was chosen a representative peer of Scotland, and in June 1733 appointed gentleman of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales. In February 1734 he obtained a captain-lieutenancy in the first regiment of foot guards, and in October a captaincy in the third regiment of foot guards; but, being desirous of acquiring practical acquaintance with the art of war, he got permission in 1735 to join the imperial army under Prince Eugène. He specially distinguished himself at the battle of Claussen on 17 Oct. following. Peace being shortly afterwards concluded he returned home.

In April 1738 he sailed from Gravesend to St. Petersburg, and having received from the Czarina Anne Iwanowa the command of a regiment of horse with the rank of general, he after a perilous journey of one thousand miles joined the army of Marshal Munich, then engaged in a war against the Turks. He soon acquired great proficiency in the mode of warfare practised by the Russians, and excited special admiration by his horsemanship and his prowess with the sword. After the retreat of Munich to Kiow, Crawford left him and joined the imperialists near Belgrade. When the army went into winter quarters, he accompanied Prince Eugène's regiment to Comorra, and thence proceeded to Vienna, still occupying his leisure chiefly in military studies. In April he rejoined the imperialists at Peterwaradin under Marshal Wallis. At the battle of Krotzka, 22 July 1739, he was so severely wounded by a musket ball in the left thigh, that for some time his life was despaired of, and his health was permanently injured. Although for some time in very weak health, he was so much benefited by the baths of Baden, that while there he succeeded in winning two of the principal prizes at the meeting of the burgher marksmen. He left Baden in August 1741, and shortly afterwards returned to England.

Meanwhile he had been made in July 1739 colonel of horse and adjutant-general, in October of the same year colonel of the 42nd highlanders, and in December 1740 colonel of the grenadier guards. After spending the summer of 1742 at the baths of Barèges in France, and the winter in a tour in Italy, he in May 1743 joined the army under the Earl of Stair, at Hochstet, when he was made colonel of the Scotch troop of horse guards, and appointed adjutant-general. At the battle of Dettingen on 16 June, he commanded the brigade of life guards, and led them into action with great gallantry, the band playing ‘Britons strike home.’ With the rank of brigadier-general he joined the allied army near Brussels in the following May, and at the battle of Fontenoy, 30 April 1745, he succeeded by the exercise of remarkable skill and coolness in so covering the retreat that it was effected in perfect order. On 30 May following he was made a major-general. On the outbreak of the rebellion in Scotland in 1745, he was appointed by the government to the command of six thousand Hessian troops, with whom he secured the towns of Perth and Stirling and the passes into the lowlands, while the Duke of Cumberland in command of the main body proceeded northwards. After the suppression of the rebellion he rejoined the army in the Netherlands. On the day of the battle of Roucoux, 5 Oct. 1746, he was surprised, while reconnoitring, by a party of the enemy but coolly assuming the character of a French general he exhorted them to keep a good look-out while he proceeded further to reconnoitre, and was permitted to pass them unmolested. At the battle which followed, the second line of cavalry, which was under his command, distinguished itself by a brilliant and successful charge against the French infantry. In December of the same year on the disbandment of the Scottish troop of horse guards, he was appointed to the command of the 25th foot. On the death of the Earl of Stair, 20 May 1747, he was appointed to the command of the Scots Greys, and on 20 Sept. following he was made lieutenant-general. On 3 March 1747 he had married Lady Jane Murray, eldest daughter of the Duke of Atholl, and after the conclusion of the year's campaign he went to Aix-la-Chapelle, where his wife was seized with fever and died on 10 Oct. 1747. Although his wound had broken out afresh so as seriously to affect his health, Crawford again joined the Duke of Cumberland in the campaign of 1748, and remained in active service till the conclusion of peace in that year. After commanding the last embarkation of British troops at Williamstadt, 16 Feb. 1749, he returned to London, where his wound again troubled him, and after some months of great suffering he died on 20 Sept. His body was brought to Scotland, and buried by the side of that of his wife in the family vault at Ceres, Fifeshire. As he left no issue the earldoms of Crawford and Lindsay devolved on his cousin George, fourth viscount Garnock, only surviving son of Patrick, the second viscount.

[Memoirs of the Life of the Right Hon. John Lindsay, Earl of Crawford and Lindsay, by Richard Holt, 1753, reprinted in 1769, under the title, Memoirs of the Life of the late Right Hon. John, Earl of Crawford, describing many of the highest Military Achievements of the late Wars; Lord Lindsay's Lives of the Lindsays; General Stewart's Sketches of the Highlanders of Scotland; Gent. Mag. 1749, p. 572.]

T. F. H.