Ross, Hew Dalrymple (DNB00)


ROSS, Sir HEW DALRYMPLE (1779–1868), field-marshal, third son of Major John Ross of Balkail in the county of Galloway, and of his wife Jane, daughter of George Buchan of Leatham in East Lothian, was born on 5 July 1779. Of his four brothers, the eldest, a clergyman, was lost at sea; the second died in London; George, a captain of the royal engineers, was killed at the assault on Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812; the youngest, a midshipman, died of yellow fever in the West Indies. Hew entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich as a cadet in 1793, and obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the royal artillery on 6 March 1795. Having been appointed to the royal horse artillery, he served with his battery in Ireland during the rebellion of 1798. He remained in that country until 1 Sept. 1803, when he was promoted to be captain-lieutenant. An application for Ross's appointment as aide-de-camp to his godfather and cousin, Sir Hew Whitefoord Dalrymple [q. v.], then commanding the forces in the Channel Islands, having been refused, he was on 12 Sept. appointed adjutant to the fifth battalion of royal artillery at Woolwich. On 19 July 1804 he was promoted to be second captain, and on 24 July 1806 to be captain, whereupon he was posted to the command of ‘A’ troop of the royal horse artillery—a troop which became famous in the Peninsular war as the ‘Chestnut’ troop. The troop embarked at Portsmouth in November 1808 to join Sir John Moore's army in Spain, but, being detained at Portsmouth by contrary winds, the result of the campaign became known before the transports sailed, and the troop was disembarked and marched to Chatham.

On 11 June 1809 Ross again embarked with his troop for the Peninsula, this time at Ramsgate. He landed at Lisbon on 3 July, and, after a forced march, joined Wellington's army two days after the battle of Talavera. Ross and his troop accompanied the army in the retreat. In December he was attached to the light division, under Brigadier-general Robert Craufurd [q. v.] He took part in the action in front of Almeida on 20 July 1810. He did good service at the battles of the Coa on 24 July 1810 and of Busaco on 27 Sept., and when the allied army retired behind the lines of Torres Vedras, Ross's battery was placed on the heights looking towards Santarem.

When Masséna retreated, Ross and the ‘Chestnut’ troop took a foremost part in the pursuit, and were engaged in the actions of Pombal and Redinha on 11 and 12 March 1811, when Ross was slightly wounded in the shoulder; in the actions of Casal Nova and Foz d'Aronce on 13, 14, and 15 March, when he was slightly wounded in the leg; in the action of Sabugal on 3 April, and in the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro on 5 May. The distinguished conduct of the battery was noticed by Wellington in his despatches of 16 March and 2 April 1811. On Marmont's advance in September, Ross took part in the affair at Aldea de Ponte on the 27th of that month. On 31 Dec. 1811 he was promoted a brevet major for service in the field.

Ross's services of 1812 commenced with the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (taken 19 Jan.), at which his last surviving brother, George, was killed. At Badajos Ross was wounded in the forehead in the assault of the night of 6 April. He took part in the movements of the army before the battle of Salamanca, in the capture of the forts at Salamanca on 27 June, in the action of Castrajon on 17 July, in the affair of Canizal on the Guarena on 19 July, in the battle of Salamanca on 22 July, and in the entry to Madrid on 12 Aug.

Ross remained at Madrid until November, when, the enemy again approaching, his troop moved towards Ciudad Rodrigo. He took part in the affair of the Huebra at San Munoz on 17 Nov. 1812. In February 1813 he was at Aldea de Bispo, and in May at Puebla de Azava. On 21 May he marched with the light divisions, to which his troop remained attached, towards Vittoria, took part in the affair of Hormaza, near Burgos, on 12 June, and on 18 June was with the division when it fell upon General Maucune's division near San Millan and Osma, took all its baggage and three hundred prisoners, and proceeded towards Vittoria, halting on the 20th near Pobes.

On 21 June 1813 Ross took part in the battle of Vittoria, and pursued the enemy until 24 June right up to Pampeluna. Wellington's despatch of 24 June referred to Ross's troop having taken a foremost part in the pursuit of the enemy and the capture of their sole remaining gun. Ross was promoted brevet lieutenant-colonel for his services at Vittoria, dated 21 June, the day of the battle, and participated in the good service allowance granted by the prince regent to the officers commanding divisions and batteries of artillery (Ross received a pension of five shillings a day).

Ross next took part in the endeavour to intercept General Clausel, whose rapid movement, however, baffled the attempt. He then followed the route of Hill's corps, but on reaching Trañeta turned to the left down the valley of Baztan, and remained near San Estevan from 10 to 25 July, when he marched his troop to Yanzi, and on the following day joined Sir Rowland Hill at Irueta. On the 27th Ross marched towards Lanz, and on 30 July took part in the battle of the Pyrenees. On 3 Aug. Ross went to Andonin, near Passages, to obtain new carriages, wheels, &c., and on 20 Aug. was able to report all his carriages repaired and the troop fit for service.

On the 30th the horse artillery marched to Irun, and on the following day Ross took part in the action of San Marcial, near Irun. He returned to Andonin, where he remained until 6 Oct., when he received orders to be at Oyarzun at 2 A.M. on the 7th. On that day he was engaged in the battle of the Bidassoa, moving to the attack near Irun at 7.30 A.M., and in less than two hours the river was crossed and the enemy beaten from all their positions. Ross's troop was moved into the pass of Vera, and on 10 Nov. was engaged in the battle of the Nivelle, and took part in the attack on the village of Sarre and on the strong redoubts which the enemy had constructed on the heights around it. Clausel was strongly posted on a ridge, having the village of Sarre in front, covered by two formidable redoubts—San Barbe and Grenada. The country in front was so difficult and impracticable for artillery that Clausel's astonishment was great when eighteen British guns opened upon these redoubts at daylight. Under the effect of the powerful artillery fire poured upon San Barbe, the infantry of the fourth division stormed and carried that redoubt. Ross then galloped his troop to a rising ground in rear of the Grenada redoubt, and by his fire upon it enabled the infantry to storm and carry it as well as the village of Sarre, and to advance to the attack of Clausel's main position. Part of this position was carried, but Clausel stood firm, covered by another redoubt and a powerful battery. These were splendidly silenced by Ross's troop, the only battery which, after passing Sarre, had been able to surmount the difficulties of the ground. The British infantry then carried the redoubt, drove Clausel from his position, and forced the French to retire. The rout was complete. Wellington, in his despatch of 13 Nov. 1813 from St. Pé, refers to this brilliant incident. It was also mentioned in a debate in the House of Commons on the ordnance estimates in 1845 by Sir Howard Douglas, as a strong reason for not reducing on the ground of economy so splendid a corps as the horse artillery.

On 8 Dec. Ross received orders to join Sir Rowland Hill at La Resson, and on the following morning he covered the brigades of Generals Pringle and Buchan in forcing the fords of the river Nive, opposite that place. On the 10th, the enemy having retired into their entrenched camp, Ross moved his troop to the village of St. Pierre, two miles from Bayonne, and was engaged on the 13th in the battle of St. Pierre, where his horse was killed under him. Lieutenant-general Sir William Stewart (afterwards Marquis of Londonderry) [q. v.], under whose orders Ross served, in a letter to Sir Rowland Hill of 14 Dec. 1813 expressed his high opinion of the services of Ross on this occasion, and recommended him for brevet promotion; while Sir Rowland Hill highly commended him to Wellington.

On 7 Jan. 1814 Ross sailed from Passages on two months' leave of absence, arriving at Falmouth on the 17th; owing to the roads being blocked with snow, he took nine days to get to London. The peace of 1814 led to the return home of the ‘Chestnut’ troop, which, after Ross's departure, had been engaged at the passage of the Adour and the battle of Orthez. Ross resumed the command at Warley, where on 10 May 1815 he received orders to again prepare it for service. On 27 May he marched for Ramsgate, embarked the troop on the 30th, landed at Ostend on 1 June, and arrived at Perk on the 13th. On the 16th he marched through Brussels to join the reserve. At daybreak on the 17th he marched with the reserve towards Gemappe, met the army falling back on Waterloo, and retired with it.

At half-past ten o'clock in the morning of 18 June Ross moved his troop to the rising ground on the right of the Chausée, placing two guns upon the Chausée. Between 11 and 12 A.M. the enemy advanced, directing their columns upon the heights on each side of the Chausée and upon a brow and village upon the right of Ross's position. Ross had two horses killed under him and one wounded. Three of his guns were disabled, and, when the enemy got possession of La Haye Sainte, it was no longer possible for the troop to hold its original position, and it took ground to its right. When the battle was won, with the three of his guns that still remained effective, Ross joined in the pursuit to the heights beyond La Belle Alliance. He halted with his troop for the night with the guards near La Belle Alliance, and marched the following day for Paris. He entered Paris with the allied army, and remained with the army of occupation until December 1815, when he returned to England. For his services in the Peninsula and at Waterloo he was made a knight-commander of the Bath and a knight of the Tower and Sword of Portugal; he received the second class of the order of St. Anne of Russia, medals for Busaco, Salamanca, Badajos, Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, and Waterloo, and the war medal with three clasps for Fuentes d'Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Pyrenees.

Ross continued to serve with the ‘Chestnut’ troop, first at Lewes in Sussex, and then at Dublin and Athlone, until he was promoted to a regimental lieutenant-colonelcy on 29 July 1825. In 1823 he declined Wellington's offer of the post of brigade-major of royal artillery in Ireland. On his promotion to regimental lieutenant-colonel he was posted to the horse artillery, and in the autumn of 1828 he was, as a horse-artilleryman, appointed to command the royal artillery in the northern district, under Sir John Byng (afterwards Lord Strafford) [q. v.], who commanded the district. Ross resided at his own house near Carlisle, and Byng gave him a delegated command of the troops in the four northern counties of the district. In March 1828 Ross was appointed a magistrate for the county of Cumberland. For nearly sixteen years Ross held the delegated command of the troops in the north. The manufacturing districts were in a disturbed condition during most of this time, and the disaffection that prevailed entailed much responsible work. Ross had been promoted brevet colonel on 22 July 1830, and regimental colonel on 10 Jan. 1837, and was continued in the horse artillery. He was made a major-general on 23 Nov. 1841, a colonel-commandant of the twelfth battalion of royal artillery on 1 Nov. 1848, a lieutenant-general on 11 Nov. 1851, and a colonel-commandant royal horse artillery on 11 Aug. 1852. In April 1840 he was appointed deputy adjutant-general of artillery at headquarters, in succession to Sir Alexander Dickson [q. v.], and remained in this post until 2 May 1854, when he was appointed lieutenant-general of the ordnance, the master-general of the ordnance, Lord Raglan, having left the horse-guards for the Crimea. During Ross's tenure of office as deputy adjutant-general the horse artillery and field battery establishments were gradually placed on a more efficient footing, and many improvements were made in the means of instruction both for officers and men. Ross lent his hearty support to the Royal Artillery Institution, and was instrumental in the appointment of an officer at Woolwich as instructor of young officers of the royal artillery on first joining the service, an appointment which later developed into the department of artillery studies. On his initiation, classes were established at Woolwich for the instruction of officers in the various departments of the royal arsenal, a gun-practice range was made on Woolwich marshes, and about 1852 a small station for artillery was formed at Shoeburyness for experimental practice, which has since developed into the school of gunnery.

To Ross fell the duty of preparing the force of artillery to be sent to the Crimea; and he had the satisfaction of seeing every battery and every portion of a battery shipped from England sent to its destination complete in itself and in a high state of efficiency. He was promoted general on 28 Nov. 1854, and carried on the duties of the appointment of surveyor-general of the ordnance until 22 May 1855, when arrangements were completed for amalgamating the ordnance and war offices, and the appointments of master-general and other offices of the board of ordnance were abolished. Ross was then placed on the staff of the commander-in-chief as adjutant-general of artillery, and continued at the Horse Guards in that appointment until his retirement on 1 April 1858.

Ross received the grand cross of the Bath on 19 July 1855. After quitting active employment he continued to reside in London. A public dinner was, on 9 March 1868, given to him and to Sir John Burgoyne, on the occasion of their promotion to the rank of field-marshal (1 Jan. 1868), by the officers of the royal artillery and royal engineers at Willis's Rooms, at which the Duke of Cambridge presided, as colonel of the two corps. On 3 Aug. 1868 Ross was appointed lieutenant-governor of Chelsea Hospital. He died on 10 Dec. 1868 at his residence, 34 Rutland Gate, London. The confidence reposed in his judgment by the masters-general of the ordnance and the commanders-in-chief under whom he served, and the friendly and cordial relations which he maintained with a large number of the best officers of the royal artillery, had a beneficial influence upon the public service. His early war services and his soldierlike character had given him a high standard of efficiency, which he ever strove to maintain in the royal regiment.

In 1816 Ross married Elizabeth Margaret, daughter of Richard Graham, esq., of Stonehouse, near Brampton, Cumberland.

His son John (b. 1829), who entered the rifle brigade in 1846, and saw much active service, is a general, G.C.B., colonel of the Leicestershire regiment, and D.L. for Cumberland.

There is a portrait of Ross, by Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A., in the smoking-room of the royal artillery mess at Woolwich; and a photograph of him, dated 1863, in the Royal Artillery Institution at Woolwich.

[Despatches; Napier's Hist. of the Peninsular War; Duncan's Hist. of the Royal Regiment of Artillery; Mercer's Journal of the Waterloo Campaign; Sabine's Letters of Colonel Sir A. Simon Fraser during the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns; Siborne's Hist. of the Waterloo Campaign; Foy's Hist. de la Guerre de la Péninsule; Dalrymple's Affairs of Spain and Commencement of the Peninsula War; Memoir published by the Royal Artillery Institution, 1871.]

R. H. V.