Open main menu

OUSELEY (Sir), RALPH (1772–1842), major-general in the Portuguese service, born in 1772, was second son of John Ouseley of Kiltecacley, co. Galway. Gideon Ouseley [q. v.] was his elder brother. He was appointed a lieutenant in the Leicester fencible infantry 25 Nov. 1794. The regiment was one of many regiments of home-service regulars (not militia) raised at the time under the name of 'fencibles.' He served with the corps in Ireland in 1798, and was in command of a detachment at the defeat of Lake's troops at Castlebar, and the subsequent surrender of the French at Ballinamuck. An account of his gallantry and humanity at the former action is given by an eye-witness in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' (1800, pt. ii. p. 811). Ouseley was appointed to the 38th foot in March 1801. He commanded the grenadier company of that regiment during Emmet's insurrection in Dublin in 1803 [see Emmet, Robert], and was often detached in charge of the powder mills near Rathcool. In 1804 he exchanged to the 70th to go to India, but was appointed to a company in the royal African corps in March 1805, removed to the 82nd in August, and was transferred to the staff of the army depot, Isle of Wight, in March 1807. In September 1809 he exchanged to the 63rd, and entered the Portuguese service, under Marshal Beresford [see Beresrord, William Carr], as major l8th infantry, with which he served the campaigns of 1810-12. He became lieutenant-colonel of the 18th Portuguese after the capture of Badajos, and commanded it in the Pyrenees in 1818, where he distinguished himself in action against a superior force near Pampeluna on 30 July 1813. He was then transferred to the 8th Portuguese, and commanded that regiment in a night attack on the height in front of Urda, when with five hundred men of his regiment he drove off three thousand French (Philippart, Roy. Mil. Calendar, vol. iv.) Napier merely states that the French were dislodged from the heights by two Portuguese brigades on this occasion (Hist. Peninsular War, rev. ed. v. 295). Ouseley was carried from the field with a bayonet thrust in the breast and a musket-ball through the abdomen, which was extracted from the back. He received the Peninsular gold medal for the Pyrenees.

Ouseley attained the rank of major, the highest he held in the British service, 25 Nov. 1813, and was placed on half-pay 25 Oct. 1814. Thereupon he went to Rio de Janeiro, where the king of Portugal renewed his Portuguese rank of lieutenant-colonel, and made him a knight of the order of the Tower and Sword. In 1817 he raised and organised at Rio the 1st regiment, destined for the reduction of Pernambuco. On that service he commanded it, and was made a knight of San Bento d'Avis. In October 1817 he was made a Portuguese colonel and placed on the staff, and in 1818 was sent from Rio to England with despatches, which he had the address to rescue when the vessel was taken by pirates.

Ouseley retired from the British service in 1825. He attained the rank of major-general in the army of Portugal. He died at Lisbon 3 May 1842, aged 70. An autopsy showed that the musket-ball which passed through his body at Urda caused a lesion of the intestines, which after nearly thirty years' interval contributed to his death. Ouseley was not a British knight, and his knightly rank was not recognised in British army lists.

[Philippart's Royal Mil. Calendar, 1820. vol. iv.; Gent. Mag. 1842, pt. ii. p. 206; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage.]

H. M. C.