Mitchell, John (1785-1859) (DNB00)

MITCHELL, JOHN (1785–1859), major-general, born 11 June 1785 in Stirlingshire was the son of John Mitchell of the diplomatic service, sometime consul-general for Norway, and afterwards engaged on missions to the court of Stockholm and Copenhagen. In 1797 Mitchell went to Berlin with his father, who was despatched on a mission to the court of the new king, Frederick William III. He was placed at the Ritter academy at Liineburg, where he acquired a knowledge of languages and a love of literature. In 1801 he was sent to a mathematical school in London taught by a Mr. Nicholson, and on 9 July 1803 was commissioned as ensign in the 57th regiment. On 5 Dec. 1804 he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the 1st royals, and went with the 1st battalion of his regiment to the West Indies. On 1 Oct. 1807 he was promoted captain in the 1st royals. In 1809 he joined the 3rd battalion of his regiment at Walcheren, and was present at the siege of Flushing. He served with the same battalion in the Peninsula from 1810 to 1812, and was present at the battles of Busaco and Fuentes d'Onoro in the action of Sabugal, and in those of the retreat of Massena. He accompanied the 4th battalion on the expedition under Major-general Gibbs to Stralsund in 1813, but served on the staff as a deputy assistant quartermaster-general. He also served in a similar capacity in the campaign of 1814 in Holland and Flanders, and with the head-quarters of the army of occupation in Paris. His knowledge of languages made him of use to Wellington in correspondence and negotiations with the allied powers. He was promoted major on 19 July 1821, and placed on the unattached half-pay list on 1 June 1826. His father died in Edinburgh on 17 Oct. the same year.

Mitchell did not return to military duty, but devoted himself to literature, passing a considerable portion of each year on the continent up to 1848, after which he spent the remainder of his life with his sisters in Edinburgh. In 1833-4 he contributed a series of articles to 'Fraser's Magazine,' under the name of 'Bombardino,' or 'Captain Orlando Sabretache.' In 1837 he published a life of Wallenstein, making himself thoroughly acquainted with the scenes of his life by visiting all the localities. Between 1841 and 1855 he contributed to the ' United Service Journal,' and in 1841-2 he wrote seven letters to the 'Times' newspaper dealing with defects in the British army. In 1845 he published 'The Fall of Napoleon,' and soon after received a diamond brooch from King Augustus of Hanover as a token of his majesty's appreciation of the light he had thrown on the history of the emperor. He also received a complimentary letter from Sir Robert Peel. In 1846 he contributed to 'Fraser's Magazine' a series of articles on Napoleon's early campaigns. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel unattached on 10 Jan. 1837, colonel 11 Nov. 1851, and major-general on 31 Aug. 1855. Mitchell was a man of handsome exterior and pleasing manners and address. He died in Edinburgh on 9 July 1859, and was buried in the family vault in the Canongate churchyard.

The following are his principal works:

  1. 'The Life of Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland,' 8vo, London. 1837; 2nd edit. 1853.
  2. 'Thoughts on Tactics and Military Organisation, together with an Enquiry into the Power and Position of Russia,' 8vo, London, 1838.
  3. 'The Art of Conversation, with Remarks on Fashion and Address, by Captain Orlando Sabretache,' 8vo, London, 1842.
  4. 'The Fall of Napoleon: an Historical Memoir,' 3 vols. 8vo, London, 1845.
  5. 'Biographies of Eminent Soldiers of the Last Four Centuries: edited, with a Memoir of the Author, by Leonhard Schmitz,' Edinburgh and London, 8vo, 1865.
[Cates's Biog. Dict.; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Military Records; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.]

R. H. V.