Lake, Gerard (DNB00)

LAKE, GERARD, first Viscount Lake of Delhi and Leswarree (1744–1808), general, elder son of Launcelot Charles Lake and his wife, Elizabeth, was born on 27 July 1744. He was a descendant of Sir Thomas Lake [q. v.], secretary of state, and was grandson of Warwick Lake, who married the heiress of Sir Thomas Gerard, bart., of Flamberds, Harrow-on-the-Hill (see Burke, Extinct Baronetage). His mother was daughter of Joseph Gumley of Isleworth, Middlesex. One of her sisters married William Pulteney, first earl of Bath, and another was mother of George Colman the elder [q. v.], the dramatist. Lake was appointed ensign in the 1st footguards (now grenadier guards) 9 May 1758. His subsequent steps, all in the same regiment, were lieutenant and captain 3 Jan. 1762, captain-lieutenant 11 Jan. 1776, captain and lieutenant-colonel 19 Feb. 1776, regimental (3rd) major 20 Oct. 1784, regimental lieutenant-colonel 1 Aug. 1792. He became major-general in 1790, lieutenant-general 1797, and general 1802.

Lake served with the 2nd battalion of his regiment in the campaigns in Germany in 1760–2, and some years later was aide-de-camp to General Sir Richard Pierson, K.B., an old 1st guardsman, in Ireland. As lieutenant-colonel he went out with drafts to America in the spring of 1781, made the campaign in North Carolina under Lord Cornwallis [see Cornwallis, Charles, first Marquis], and commanded the grenadiers of the guards and of the old 80th royal Edinburgh regiment in a sortie, under Colonel Robert Abercromby, from the British lines at York Town, which inflicted heavy loss on the French and American besiegers, on 11 Oct. that year. After the surrender of Cornwallis's force (17 Oct.), Lake remained prisoner on parole until the end of the war (Hamilton, ii. 252–8). On the first formation of a separate household for the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV [q. v.], Lake was appointed his gentleman-attendant, and afterwards first equerry and chief commissioner of the stables. Wraxall speaks of him as a ‘pleasing exception’ to the prince's list of undesirable companions (Memoirs, v. 383). Lake was a member of the suite up to his death, but had apparently little to do with the prince. His younger brother, Warwick Lake, a commissioner of stamps and gentleman of the bedchamber, who died in 1821 (Gent. Mag. xci. pt. i. p. 188), was the prince's adviser in racing, and was much mixed up with his unfortunate transactions with the Jockey Club (for details see Rice, Hist. British Turf, i. 64–85).

Lake represented Aylesbury in the House of Commons from 1790 to 1802. War was declared by the French on 1 Feb. 1793, and on 26 Feb. Lake embarked in command of a brigade composed of the first battalions of the three regiments of foot-guards, which reached Helvoetsluys on 1 March, and after some desultory operations joined the allied armies at Tournay on 23 April. These battalions, the first British troops actually engaged in the war, were present in the affairs at St.-Amand and Famars, and at the siege of Valenciennes. During the siege, on 18 Aug. 1793, the Prince of Orange was driven out of some forts which he had captured near Lille by a French force, with the loss of six pieces of cannon. The English guards were sent to the rescue. Unable to rally the Dutch, Lake promptly decided to attack the works single-handed. He carried them at the point of the bayonet, driving out the French, who confessed to twelve battalions present, and taking twelve guns, including the six left behind by the Dutch. The French were raw troops, whom the guardsmen hustled and cuffed ‘like a London mob’ (Hamilton, ii. 286), but Lake's brigade lost 38 killed and 143 wounded out of 1,122 of all ranks. The action, which is inscribed on the colours of the three regiments of guards, was spoken of at the time as the most brilliant affair of the year. When the Duke of York retired from Valenciennes towards Dunkirk, Lake's brigade did good service in covering the rear. In September he had a dangerous illness, and was sent home the month after, ‘to the regret of the whole army, in which he was universally respected and beloved’ (ib. ii. 289). He rejoined the Duke of York's army at Cateau in the following spring, but went home again at the end of April 1794, and was not employed on the continent afterwards. He had by this time sold his regimental lieutenant-colonelcy in the 1st guards, and had been appointed colonel 53rd foot, from which he was subsequently transferred to the colonelcy of the 73rd foot. He was also promoted from the lieutenant-governorship of Berwick-on-Tweed to the governorship of Limerick in the same year.

In December 1796 Lake was appointed to the command in Ulster, which he held under Henry Luttrell, lord Carhampton, and Sir Ralph Abercromby [q. v.] as commander-in-chief until April 1798. He became a lieutenant-general in January 1797. He was chiefly engaged during this time in disarming the population and counteracting the plans of the United Irishmen. A number of his autograph letters, addressed to Thomas Pelham, afterwards second earl of Chichester, then Irish secretary, are in Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 33102, 33105. His Ulster proclamation of 13 Jan. 1797, requiring all persons other than peace-officers and soldiers to deliver up their arms, was denounced in debates in the Irish and English Houses of Commons, the former led by Henry Grattan [q. v.] and the latter by Charles James Fox [q. v.] When Abercromby, after vainly remonstrating against the license of the troops, resigned in disgust, Lake, as next senior, succeeded as commander-in-chief from 25 April 1798, and he has been accused of making no effort to check military license. On 24 May the rebellion broke out. His most important service was the rout of the rebel forces entrenched on Vinegar Hill, overlooking the town of Enniscorthy, co. Wexford, on 21 June 1798. ‘The carnage was dreadful,’ wrote Lake to Lord Castlereagh; ‘the rascals made a tolerable good fight of it’ (Castlereagh Despatches, i. 224). He marched into Wexford the day after, putting to death all rebels found with arms. He expressed his deep regret at the necessity of making examples (ib. i. 225). Lecky says that his indiscriminating severity wrought much harm (History, viii. 163). Meanwhile Cornwallis had arrived in Dublin on 20 June 1798 as lord-lieutenant and commander-in-chief, and Lake reverted to the position of next in seniority, with the command in Leitrim. On the news of the landing of the French in Killala Bay in August, Cornwallis despatched Lake to Galway, to assume the command beyond the Shannon, while he moved forward from Dublin in support. At midnight on 29 Aug. 1798 Lake arrived at Castlebar, where General Hutchinson [see Hely-Hutchinson, John, second Earl of Donoughmore] had already taken up a position. On the morrow followed the disgraceful affair remembered as ‘Castlebar Races.’ Cornwallis appears to have laid the blame on Hutchinson for his risky disposition of his untrustworthy troops (Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 411). Lake reformed his troops at Tuam, and after four days' hard marching, in conjunction with Colonel Vereker and Cornwallis, came up with the French under Humbert, who had advanced into the country, receiving little support. Humbert's force laid down their arms to Lake at Ballinamuck, near Cloone, on 8 Sept. 1798. Lake was brought into the Irish parliament by the government as member for Armagh to vote for the union. He retained his military command until late in 1799, when he resigned it and the mastership of Kilmainham, and returned to London, in view of obtaining an Indian command, most probably through the interest of Lord Castlereagh. His relations with Cornwallis appear to have been cordial. Cornwallis, however, speaks of William Neville Gardiner [q. v.] as ‘much better than Lake as a soldier and a man of business’ (ib. iii. 77–81).

Lake was appointed commander-in-chief and second member of council in India on 13 Oct. 1800. He took over the command in succession to Sir Alured Clark [q. v.] at Calcutta on 31 July 1801, and after a tour of inspection resided near Cawnpore, and applied himself vigorously to the development of the company's military resources. Lake paid great attention to the formation and training of the Bengal native light cavalry, which did good service in his subsequent campaigns. He introduced the plan of attaching two light pieces of the newly organised horse artillery to each cavalry regiment, under the name of ‘gallopers,’ an arrangement which proved of great utility. He established a system of ‘flankers’ in each regiment of native infantry—picked shots, who, at a given signal, fell out from their respective companies and formed a company of skirmishers. No light troops had previously existed in the Bengal army, both flank companies of each native battalion then and for some years afterwards consisting of grenadiers (Williams, pp. 274–276). Lord Wellesley's first letter to Lake, dated in February 1802, insists on the paramount necessity of military retrenchment (Wellesley Despatches in India, ii. 619, 624). Next year, however, saw the development of the marquis's plans for breaking up the great Mahratta confederacy and rendering British influence paramount in Southern India, and on 28 June 1803 Lake was ordered to have a force ready to act to the southward should Dowlut Rao Scindia, maharajah of Gwalior, who had in his service numerous battalions officered by M. Perron and other Frenchmen, attempt to oppose the measures for the restoration of the peishwa at Poonah (ib. iii. 164–7). On 27 July (after the tidings of the fresh rupture with France) Wellesley directed Lake to commence operations at once against the powers of Gwalior and Berar (ib. iii. 189). In a later despatch Wellesley testified that the subsequent successes were due to Lake's ‘matchless energy, ability, and valour’ (ib. iii. 382). Lake, indeed, had a wonderful power of infusing spirit into his subordinates, and appears from the first to have thoroughly grasped two great principles of success in Indian warfare—boldness and swiftness in striking, and tenacity in following up every advantage gained. On 7 Aug. 1803 he marched from Cawnpore with 10,500 men; on 14 Aug. he entered Mahratta territory; on 29 Aug. he drove off a large body of Mahratta horse drawn up near Alyghur, himself charging at the head of the 27th (afterwards 24th) dragoons, with some new regiments of Bengal cavalry in support. Coel was occupied, and on 4 Sept. Alyghur, the chief depôt of Perron's battalions, was stormed in the most gallant style by the 76th foot. On 11 Sept. Lake reached Delhi, and the same day his toil-worn troops, in a pitched battle, defeated the bulk of Perron's battalions, whose losses were estimated at three thousand men and sixty-eight guns. On 14 Sept. Lake was received in Delhi by Shah Allum, once the opponent of Clive; but now deprived of his sight, he had long been a puppet in the hands of the Mahrattas. Shah Allum, ‘seated in rags under a tattered canopy, the sole remnant of his former state, and surrounded by every external token of misery,’ conferred on Lake the titles of saviour of the state, the invincible in war, &c. Lake's laconic report contrasts well with the bombast of the government despatches (ib. iii. 318; cf. Mill, Hist. of India, vi. note to p. 510). Lake's successes brought the entire country between the Ganges and Jumna (the Doab), which Scindia had so laboriously annexed, under British control. On 23 Sept. the combined forces of Scindia and the rajahs of Berar were defeated at Assaye, 220 miles from Bombay, by Arthur Wellesley. On 17 Oct. Lake took Agra after eight days' siege. On 1 Nov. at Leswarree, a village eighty miles south of Delhi, Lake routed and destroyed a body of Scindia's troops detached from the Deccan, with which was the remnant of Perron's battalions escaped from Delhi (ib. vi. 512–17). The conflict was, perhaps, more remarkable for daring than generalship, but its results were decisive. It demoralised Scindia's forces before the final rout of the maharajah's forces by Wellesley at Argaum on the 29th of the same month, which ended the war (Malleson, Decisive Battles of India, p. 293). During the battle Lake had two horses killed under him, and his son, Lieutenant-colonel George A. F. Lake, was wounded by a cannon-shot at his side as Lake was mounting to head the decisive charge of the 76th. A painting of the incident by Sir William Beechey, R.A., was among the king of Oude's treasures destroyed in the Alumbagh in 1857. Thus, in a little over two months (29 Aug.–1 Nov. 1803), with a force at no time exceeding eight thousand combatants, Lake destroyed thirty-one of Scindia's European-trained battalions, captured the strong fortress of Alyghur, entered the imperial city of Delhi as a conqueror, took Agra, captured 426 pieces of cannon, and defeated the enemy in four pitched battles, the last being one of the most decisive ever fought in India (ib. p. 294). Lake received the thanks of parliament, and on 1 Sept. 1804 was raised to the peerage as Baron Lake of Delhi and Leswarree and of Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, the latter being his seat, near Tring. Lake chose for his supporters a grenadier of the 76th foot and a Bengal sepoy. The inhabitants of Calcutta presented him with a sword of great value, and his officers gave him a magnificent service of plate. Peace with Scindia was finally signed at Berhanpore in February 1804.

The French power in India having thus been hopelessly destroyed, and the influence of Gwalior and Berar checked, Wellesley next sought to curb the powers of another suspected Mahratta chieftain, Jeswunt Rao Holkar, maharajah of Indore. Holkar subsequently attacked Delhi, which was gallantly defended by David Ochterlony and James Baron. Lake, who had followed Holkar from Muttra to Delhi, started thence in pursuit on 31 Oct. 1804, with the 8th light dragoons (now hussars), the 24th (late 27th), and 25th (late 29th) light dragoons, with their galloper-guns, some regiments of Bengal light cavalry, and a considerable body of irregular cavalry. Between 31 Oct. and 17 Nov. he covered 350 miles. Before daybreak on 17 Nov., his troops having marched, it is said, seventy miles during the preceding twenty-four hours, Lake surprised Holkar's camp near Furruckabad, and routed and dispersed his army with terrible slaughter. Hearing that the rajah of Bhurtpore, who had been our ally, was aiding Holkar, Lake marched against him. On Christmas day 1804 the fortress of Deig was captured by Major-general John Henry Fraser, 88th foot, and on 2 Jan. 1805 Lake broke ground against the famous fortress of Bhurtpore. He was unprovided with a battering train, or other means of prosecuting a siege. Four desperate but unsuccessful attempts were made to carry the place by storm, with an aggregate loss of 388 killed and 1,924 wounded, and the enterprise was then abandoned (cf. Mill, vol. vi. note pp. 605–10). But the rajah, wearied of the war and of Lake's stubborn pertinacity, soon after offered terms of peace, which were accepted. From Bhurtpore Lake moved in the direction of Gwalior, halting at Dholpore. Holkar had then retired from the neighbourhood of Bhurtpore. Wellesley's last despatch to Lake, dated 17 May 1805, expresses the hope that further military operations will be unnecessary, but insists on the need of preparation (Wellesley Despatches in India, iv. 535–41).

On 29 July 1805 Cornwallis, Wellesley's successor, arrived at Calcutta, invested with joint powers as governor-general and commander-in-chief. Lake, as second in seniority, then took the Bengal presidency command. Cornwallis came pledged to a more pacific policy, and with an expressed determination ‘to bring this wretched and unprofitable war to an end.’ His views were diametrically opposed to those held by Lake, and in a friendly letter to Lake he announced his supersession in the military command-in-chief (see Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 543 et seq., 555–6). Lake appears to have addressed a strong remonstrance to Cornwallis, which was never answered, as Cornwallis died at Ghazepore, when on his way up country, on 5 Oct. 1805. Lake, learning that Holkar had gone off towards the Punjâb to seek aid from the Sikhs, started with a force in pursuit as far as the Sutlej (Hyphasis). Disappointed of the expected aid from the Sikh chieftains, Holkar offered terms of peace, which were accepted by Lake at Umritsar in December 1805. Lake appears to have proposed to make the Sutlej the boundary of British India. No notice was taken of the suggestion at the time, although it was acted upon by Lord Minto some years later. Cornwallis's successor as governor-general (acting), Sir George Hilaro Barlow [q. v.], was not only as pacific in his policy as Cornwallis, but by his orders for the restoration of territory annexed by Lake sacrificed the hard-bought military advantages acquired. Lake commenced his return march to British territory on 9 Jan. 1806. On 19 Feb. 1806 he was formally reappointed commander-in-chief by the court of directors. He spent some time at Delhi, arranging affairs there, and, leaving Ochterlony in command, proceeded to Cawnpore, and thence at the end of the year to Calcutta. There he embarked for England on 9 Feb. 1807, receiving such a farewell from Europeans and natives alike as never had been accorded to any public servant before. After his return to England he was advanced to a viscountcy under his former titles (31 Oct. 1807). A violent cold, caught while attending the court-martial at Chelsea on Lieutenant-general Bulstrode Whitelocke, ended fatally. He died at his town residence in Lower Brook Street on 20 Feb. 1808, aged 64, and was buried at Aston Clinton.

Few men possessed a larger circle of personal friends than Lake, and no commander-in-chief was more generally popular with all ranks. His influence over his soldiers was unbounded; and his calmness in danger, and his self-reliance and power of inspiring confidence in others, have never been surpassed. ‘He had but one way of dealing with the native armies of India, that of moving straight forward, of attacking them wherever he could find them. He never was so great as on the battle-field. He could think more clearly amidst the rain of bullets than in the calm of his own tent. In this respect he resembled Clive. It was this quality which enabled him to dare almost the impossible. That which in others would have been rash was in Lake prudent daring’ (Malleson, Decisive Battles of India, p. 294). At the time of his death Lake was a full general, colonel of the 80th Staffordshire volunteer regiment of foot, governor of Dumbarton Castle, equerry to the prince of Wales, and receiver-general and a member of council for the duchy of Cornwall. He died a poor man. A pension of 2,000l. a year was settled on the two next successors to the title; but the vote for a public monument was not pressed by Lord Castlereagh (Parl. Debates, x. 871). A portrait of Lake is in the Oriental Club.

Lake married, in 1770, Elizabeth, only daughter of Edward Barker of St. Julians, Hertfordshire, sometime consul at Tripoli. She died 22 July 1788, and was buried at Aston Clinton. Besides five daughters, there were three sons by the marriage: 1. Francis Gerard, page of honour and afterwards equerry to the Prince of Wales, and sometime an officer in the 54th, 1st guards, and 60th royal Americans. He succeeded his father in the title, and rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. He died without male heirs in 1836. 2. George Augustus Frederick, page to the Prince of Wales, and afterwards in the 94th Scotch brigade and 29th regiments. He was a very popular and distinguished officer of his father's staff in India, and was killed as lieutenant-colonel commanding 29th foot, when driving the enemy from the heights of Roleia (Roliça), in Portugal, on 17 Aug. 1808. There is a monument to him in Westminster Abbey, erected by the officers and men of the 29th regiment. 3. Warwick, who rose to the rank of post-captain in the royal navy, but was dismissed the service by sentence of court-martial in 1810 for an act of gross cruelty when in command of H.M.S. Recruit, three years before, in abandoning on a desert island in the West Indies a seaman, one Richard Jeffery by name (see James, Naval Hist. iv. 273–5; also Parl. Debates under date). He succeeded his brother as third viscount. At his death, which took place in London on 24 June 1848, the title, in default of male heirs, became extinct.

[Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, ii. 75 (pedigree); Collins's Peerage, 1812 edit. vi. 432–53; Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1882 edit., under title; Hamilton's Hist. Grenadier Guards, 1872, vol. ii.; Dunfermline's Life of Sir Ralph Abercromby, 1858, chap. iv.; Lecky's Hist. of England, 1890, vol. viii.; Cornwallis Correspondence, vols. i–iii.; Castlereagh Despatches and Correspondence, vol. i.; Wellesley Despatches in India, 1836–7, vols. ii–iv.; Mill's Hist. of India, ed. Wilson, vol. vi.; Thorn's Narrative of Campaigns under Lord Lake, 1818; Memoirs of John Shipp, new edit., 1890, pp. 84–130; Williams's Hist. Bengal Native Infantry, 1817; Georgian Era, vol. ii.; M[alleson] Essays on Indian Historical Subjects, from Calcutta Review, 1862; Malleson's Decisive Battles of India, 1883, ‘Leswarree;’ European Mag. April 1808; Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS.; Wellesley Papers and Pelham Papers.]

H. M. C.