Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Flinter, George Dawson

FLINTER, GEORGE DAWSON (d. 1838), soldier of fortune, by birth an Irishman, entered the British army in 1811 as an ensign in the 7th West India regiment of foot, and was advanced to the rank of lieutenant on 22 July 1813. He was sent with his regiment to Curaçao in the West Indies in 1812, and in 1815 visited Caracas, then in the throes of an unusually bloody and exasperated civil war, in which many horrible atrocities were committed. Here he acted as interpreter to the British embassy. In the following year he was placed on the half-pay list, and seeing no prospect of promotion in the British service, he fixed his residence at Caracas, where he was treated with great distinction by the governor-general Gagigal, and obtained employment as interpreter between the Spaniards and the English and Americans. He afterwards travelled through most of the European colonies in the West Indies and on the continent of America, married a Spanish American lady, through whom he acquired a large property in land and slaves, obtained a commission in the Spanish army, and though remaining on the British half-pay list until 1832, had for some years before that date held the position of a staff officer in the Spanish service. On the outbreak of the Carlist war in 1833 he declared for Isabella, and in 1834–5 he served under Mina and Valdez in their unsuccessful operations against Zumalacarregui in the Basque provinces. In 1836, while engaged in organising the militia in Estremadura, he was surprised by some of the troops of Gomez and Cabrera, taken prisoner, and thrown into a loathsome dungeon, from which by the connivance of his gaoler he contrived to escape, and made his way to Madrid. He was then placed in command of Toledo, whence on 18 Feb. 1838 he made a sortie, inflicting a severe defeat on the Carlists under Jara and Peco, who were in great force in the neighbourhood. In this action he placed nearly eighteen hundred of the enemy hors de combat without the loss of a single man killed or wounded. On his return to Toledo on the 20th, he was saluted by the municipal authorities as the liberator of the province, and on the 22nd the Cortes recognised his services by a vote of thanks. On 16 March, though outnumbered by two to one, he drove Basileo Garcia out of Val de Penas, but was prevented by lack of reinforcements from improving his advantage. His conduct on this occasion was severely censured by the Spanish government, and he was removed from his command. Maddened by disappointment and disgust, he committed suicide at Madrid by cutting his throat on 9 Sept. 1838. Flinter was a knight of the royal order of Isabella the Catholic, and the author of the following works:

  1. ‘The History of the Revolution of Caracas, comprising an impartial Narrative of the Atrocities committed by the contending parties, illustrating the real state of the contest both in a commercial and political point of view. Together with a Description of the Llaneros, or People of the Plains of South America,’ London, 1819, 8vo.
  2. ‘An Account of the present State of the Island of Puerto Rico,’ London, 1834, 8vo.
  3. ‘Consideraciones sobre la España y sus Colonias,’ Madrid, 1834.

[Army Lists 1812, 1813, 1816, 1832; Gent. Mag. 1838, ii. 553; Ann. Reg. 1838, pp. 422–3; App. to Chron. p. 224; Borrow's Bible in Spain (Murray's Home and Colonial Library), cap. xxxiv.]

J. M. R.