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CHESNEY, F. R.—CHESS


first published work (1863) was an account of the Civil War in Virginia, which went through several editions. But the work which attained the greatest reputation was his Waterloo Lectures (1868), prepared from the notes of lectures orally delivered at the Staff College. Up to that time the English literature on the Waterloo campaign, although voluminous, was made up of personal reminiscences or of formal records, useful materials for history rather than history itself; and the French accounts had mainly taken the form of fiction. In Chesney’s lucid and vigorous account of the momentous struggle, while it illustrates both the strategy and tactics which culminated in the final catastrophe, the mistakes committed by Napoleon are laid bare, and for the first time an English writer is found to point out that the dispositions of Wellington were far from faultless. And in the Waterloo Lectures the Prussians are for the first time credited by an English pen with their proper share in the victory. The work attracted much attention abroad as well as at home, and French and German translations were published.

Chesney was for many years a constant contributor to the newspaper press and to periodic literature, devoting himself for the most part to the critical treatment of military operations, and professional subjects generally. Some of his essays on military biography, contributed mainly to the Edinburgh Review, were afterwards published separately (1874). In 1868 he was appointed a member of the royal commission on military education, under the presidency first of Earl De Grey and afterwards of Lord Dufferin, to whose recommendations were due the improved organization of the military colleges, and the development of military education in the principal military stations of the British army. In 1871, on the conclusion of the Franco-German War, he was sent on a special mission to France and Germany, and furnished to the government a series of valuable reports on the different siege operations which had been carried out during the war, especially the two sieges of Paris. These reports were published in a large volume, which was issued confidentially. Never seeking regimental or staff preferment, Colonel Chesney never obtained any, but he held at the time of his death a unique position in the army, altogether apart from and above his actual place in it. He was consulted by officers of all grades on professional matters, and few have done more to raise the intellectual standard of the British officer. Constantly engaged in literary pursuits, he was nevertheless laborious and exemplary in the discharge of his public duties, while managing also to devote a large part of his time to charitable and religious offices. He was abstemious to a fault; and, overwork of mind and body telling at last on a frail constitution, he died after a short illness on the 19th of March 1876. He had become lieutenant-colonel in 1873, and at the time of his death he was commanding Royal Engineer of the London district. He was buried at Sandhurst.


CHESNEY, FRANCIS RAWDON (1789–1872), British general and explorer, was the son of Captain Alexander Chesney, an Irishman of Scottish descent who, having emigrated to South Carolina in 1772, did brilliant service under Lord Rawdon (afterwards marquess of Hastings) in the War of Independence, and subsequently received an appointment as coast officer at Annalong, Co. Down, Ireland. There F. R. Chesney was born on the 16th of March 1789. Lord Rawdon gave the boy a cadetship at Woolwich, and he was gazetted to the Royal Artillery in 1805. But though he rose to be lieutenant-general and colonel-commandant of the 14th brigade Royal Artillery (1864), and general in 1868, Chesney’s memory lives not for his military record, but for his connexion with the Suez Canal, and with the exploration of the Euphrates valley, which started with his being sent out to Constantinople in the course of his military duties in 1829, and his making a tour of inspection in Egypt and Syria. His report in 1830 on the feasibility of making the Suez Canal was the original basis of Lesseps’ great undertaking (in 1869 Lesseps greeted him in Paris as the “father” of the canal); and in 1831 he introduced to the home government the idea of opening a new overland route to India, by a daring and adventurous journey (for the Arabs were hostile and he was ignorant of the language) along the Euphrates valley from Anah to the Persian Gulf. Returning home, Colonel Chesney (as he then was) busied himself to get support for the latter project, to which the East India Company’s board was favourable; and in 1835 he was sent out in command of a small expedition, for which parliament voted £20,000, in order to test the navigability of the Euphrates. After encountering immense difficulties, from the opposition of the Egyptian pasha, and from the need of transporting two steamers (one of which was lost) in sections from the Mediterranean over the hilly country to the river, they successfully arrived by water at Bushire in the summer of 1836, and proved Chesney’s view to be a practicable one. In the middle of 1837 he returned to England, and was given the Royal Geographical Society’s gold medal, having meanwhile been to India to consult the authorities there; but the preparation of his two volumes on the expedition (published in 1850) was interrupted by his being ordered out in 1843 to command the artillery at Hong Kong. In 1847 his period of service was completed, and he went home to Ireland, to a life of retirement; but both in 1856 and again in 1862 he went out to the East to take a part in further surveys and negotiations for the Euphrates valley railway scheme, which, however, the government would not take up, in spite of a favourable report from the House of Commons committee in 1871. In 1868 he published a further volume of narrative on his Euphrates expedition. He died on the 30th of January 1872.

His Life, edited by Stanley Lane Poole, appeared in 1885.


CHESNEY, SIR GEORGE TOMKYNS (1830–1895), English general, brother of Colonel C. C. Chesney, was born at Tiverton, Devonshire, on the 30th of April 1830. Educated at Blundell’s school, Tiverton, and at Addiscombe, he entered the Bengal Engineers as second lieutenant in 1848. He was employed for some years in the public works department and, on the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857, joined the Ambala column, was field engineer at the battle of Badli-ke-serai, brigade-major of engineers throughout the siege of Delhi, and was severely wounded in the assault (medal and clasp and a brevet majority). In 1860 he was appointed head of a new department in connexion with the public works accounts. His work on Indian Polity (1868), dealing with the administration of the several departments of the Indian government, attracted wide attention and remains a permanent text-book. The originator of the Royal Indian Civil Engineering College at Cooper’s Hill, Staines, he was also its first president (1871–1880). In 1871 he contributed to Blackwood’s Magazine, “The Battle of Dorking,” a vivid account of a supposed invasion of England by the Germans after their victory over France. This was republished in many editions and translations, and produced a profound impression. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel, 1869; colonel, 1877; major-general, 1886; lieutenant-general, 1887; colonel-commandant of Royal Engineers, 1890; and general, 1892. From 1881 to 1886 he was secretary to the military department of the government of India, and was made a C.S.I, and a C.I.E. From 1886 to 1892, as military member of the governor-general’s council, he carried out many much-needed military reforms. He was made a C.B. at the jubilee of 1887, and a K.C.B. on leaving India in 1892. In that year he was returned to parliament, in the Conservative interest, as member for Oxford, and was chairman of the committee of service members of the House of Commons until his death on the 31st of March 1895. He wrote some novels, The Dilemma, The Private Secretary, The Lesters, &c., and was a frequent contributor to periodical literature.


CHESS, once known as “checker,” a game played with certain “pieces” on a special “board” described below. It takes its name from the Persian word shah, a king, the name of one of the pieces or men used in the game. Chess is the most cosmopolitan of all games, invented in the East (see History, below), introduced into the West and now domiciled in every part of the world. As a mere pastime chess is easily learnt, and a very moderate amount of study enables a man to become a fair player, but the higher ranges of chess-skill are only attained by persistent labour. The real proficient or “master” not merely must know