Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Riall, Phineas

RIALL, Sir PHINEAS (1775–1850), general, born on 15 Dec. 1775, was third son of Phineas Riall of Heywood, co. Tipperary, and of Catherine, daughter of Charles Caldwell of Dublin. He obtained a commission as ensign in the 92nd foot on 31 Jan. 1794, and became lieutenant on 28 Feb., and captain on 31 May. On 8 Dec. in the same year he obtained a majority in the 128th foot, but that regiment was reduced soon afterwards, and he remained unattached till April 1804, when he became major in the 15th foot. He had been made a brevet lieutenant-colonel on 1 Jan. 1800.

The 15th foot (first battalion) went to the West Indies in 1805, and in 1809–10 it took part in the expeditions under General Sir George Beckwith [q. v.] against Martinique and Guadeloupe. In both cases Riall commanded a brigade. He was praised in despatches, and received the medal with clasp. In the reduction of the Saintes Islands, which followed upon the capture of Martinique, he volunteered to storm Fort Morelli with his regiment, but the risk was thought too great. He was made brevet colonel on 25 July 1810, and on 27 Dec. of that year he obtained the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 69th foot.

On 4 June 1813 he was promoted major-general, and in September he was sent out to Canada, which was at that time hard pressed by the troops of the United States. He was employed in Upper Canada, and during the winter he destroyed Buffalo and other villages on the south side of the Niagara in reprisal for the burning of Newark. In July 1814 a force of four thousand Americans under General Brown crossed the Niagara and took Fort Erie. Riall had only fifteen hundred regulars and six hundred militia and Indians, but he advanced to meet Brown, and attacked him on the 5th at Street's Creek. He was repulsed with a loss of more than five hundred men, and fell back on the intrenched camp of Chippewa, near the Falls. Fearing that his communications would be cut off, he retired in the latter part of the month towards Niagara, but was met by General Drummond, who was bringing up reinforcements. These raised the British strength only to two thousand eight hundred men, but they consisted of veteran regiments from the Peninsula. Drummond at once attacked the Americans (25 July), and, after several hours' fighting, drove them back on Fort Erie. Riall was severely wounded (losing an arm), and was taken prisoner. Drummond wrote of him: ‘His bravery, zeal, and activity have always been conspicuous.’

He was appointed governor of Grenada on 18 Feb. 1816, and remained there for some years. He was promoted lieutenant-general on 27 May 1825, and general on 23 Nov. 1841. He was given the colonelcy of the 74th foot on 20 May 1835, and transferred to his old regiment, the 15th foot, on 24 April 1846. He was knighted in 1833, having been made K.C.H. two years before. He died at Paris on 10 Nov. 1850. In December 1819 he married Elizabeth Scarlett.

[Gent. Mag. 1851, i. 202; Royal Military Calendar, iii. 229; Annual Register, 1814, p. 199, &c.; Cannon's Records of the Fifteenth Regiment; James's Military Occurrences between Great Britain and America; Morgan's Celebrated Canadians.]

E. M. L.