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Sir Ralph Abercromby, 1734-1801


Sir Ralph Abercromby, 1734-1801

Sir Ralph Abercromby was the most successful British general of the French Revolutionary Wars, admittedly not a period that saw the British army at its best. He was born into the Scottish gentry in 1734, and studied civil law at Leipzig before purchasing a commission in the army in 1756. He served in the 3rd Dragoon Guards during the Seven Years War, and began an admirer of Frederick the Great of Prussia. He did not serve during the American War of Independence, as he had some sympathy with the cause of the colonists. In 1783 he retired from the army, and ended Parliament as the MP for Clackmannanshire.

He returned to the army at the outbreak of war with revolutionary France in 1793 and was soon sent to the continent, as part of the Duke of York’s expedition to the Netherlands. There he commanded the attempt to recapture Boxtel on 16 September 1794, which nearly ended in a rout, but generally enhanced his reputation.

In the autumn of 1795 he was appointed to command a new expedition being sent to the West Indies. He was given 15,000 men and the support of a naval squadron, and orders to capture parts of the French and Spanish empires in the islands. He arrived in the West Indies in April 1796. He soon recaptured St. Lucia, and went on to take St. Vincent and Grenada in June 1796. Before his return to Britain in 1797 he also captured Demerara and Trinidad, although San Domingue and Guadeloupe remained in French hands.

On his return to Britain, Abercromby was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland, but resigned after a short frustrating period in charge, leaving before the outbreak of the 1798 Irish revolt. He took part in the unsuccessful 1799 expedition to the Netherlands, and again emerged with his reputation enhanced.

In May 1800 he was appointed to command the only active British army, 20,000 men who were to be sent to the Mediterranean. This expedition attempted to surprise the Spanish naval base at Cadiz, before ending the French occupation of Malta in September 1800. In the following month it was decided to use Abercromby’s army to expel the French from Egypt.

Abercromby’s force was to be one of three involved in the invasion of Egypt. It would land on the Egyptian coast, and advance on Alexandria. A second British army, from India, was to land on the Red Sea coast and march down to Nile to Cairo, and a large Ottoman army, commanded by the Grand Vizier, was to invade through Palestine.

Abercromby’s force moved first, landing on Aboukir Bay. The French were defeated close to the shore (second battle of Aboukir, 8 March 1801), and again at Mandora (13 March), before the British approached Alexandria. On 21 March Abercromby’s army defeated an attack by the French columns (battle of Alexandria or of Canopus), splitting the French garrison of Egypt in half. Abercromby himself was fatally wounded towards the end of the battle, dying on a British warship one week later. In a period that had seen British armies suffer a series of often embarrassing defeats, Abercromby had provided most of the few British victories on land.

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ABERCROMBY, Ralph (1734-1801), of Tullibody, Clackmannan.

b. 7 Oct. 1734,1 1st s. of George Abercromby of Tullibody by Mary, da. of Ralph Dundas of Manour, Perth bro. of Burnet and nephew of James Abercromby. educ. Alloa Rugby 1748-52 Edinburgh Univ. 1752-3 Holland and Leipzig 1754-5. m. 17 Nov. 1767, Mary Anne, da. and coh. of John Menzies of Ferntower, Crieff, Perth, 4s. 3da. cr. K.B. 22 July 1795 suc. fa. 1800.

Offices Held

Cornet 3 Drag. Gds. 1756 capt. 3 Horse 1762, maj. 1770, lt.-col. 1773 col. 103 Ft. 1781-3 maj.-gen. 1787 col. 69 Ft. 1790-2, 6 Ft. 1792-5, 7 Drag. Gds. 1795-6, 2 Drag. 1796-d. lt.-gen. 1797.

Lt.-gov. I.o.W. 1795-9 gov. Inverness 1798-d.

Biography

Intended for the bar, Abercromby2 studied civil law at Edinburgh and Leipzig but in 1756, overcoming his father’s objections, joined the army. Mentioned in 1760 as a candidate alternative to his uncle James Abercromby, he stood in 1774, with the support of Sir Lawrence Dundas, a connexion by marriage, against James Francis Erskine and the Mar interest. After a violent contest (during which the candidates fought a duel), Abercromby, contrary to Robinson’s expectations,3 was returned, and Erskine’s petition was dismissed by the House.

Although he owed his election to Dundas, Abercromby was unwilling to submit to his dictation in parliamentary affairs and eventually broke with him. According to his son, Abercromby, in his private opinions known only to his family and a few friends, sympathized with the Americans, admired Washington, and was only restrained from resigning his seat by a sense of obligation to his Clackmannan supporters, but ‘was able to avoid a conflict between his duty as a soldier and his principles as a citizen’ by remaining in Ireland, and not seeking military service in America until France entered the war. On the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he was listed ‘pro, abroad’, and his only recorded vote throughout the Parliament was on the motion against the prorogation, 24 Apr. 1780, when he divided with Administration. Clackmannan was not represented in the Parliament of 1780, and Abercromby did not stand elsewhere.

On the disbandment of his regiment in 1783, Abercromby retired to the Tullibody estates, unsuccessfully contested Clackmannan in 1784, and thereafter devoted himself to the agricultural and social improvement of the district. Differing in politics with the Orkney Dundasses, the Abercromby family were now close friends of Henry Dundas who supported their interest in the 1788 by-election but Ralph, who genuinely disliked parliamentary life, again declined the nomination in favour of his brother Burnet.

He died 28 Mar. 1801 in Aboukir Bay, from wounds received at the battle of Alexandria. On 28 May his widow was created Baroness Abercromby.


Abercromby, Sir Ralph

ABERCROMBY, SIR RALPH. (1734–1801). British army officer. Born in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, in October 1734, Ralph was the elder brother of Sir Robert Abercromby and of James Abercromby, who died of wounds received at Bunker Hill. He served in Germany in the Seven Years' War and was elected to Parliament in 1774. His insistence on voting according to his conscience and his opposition to the war in America seriously damaged his career prospects until 1793. An able commander with strong humanitarian principles, Abercromby was mortally wounded at Abu Qir Bay in Egypt in March 1801. His heroic death caught the public imagination, and his victory over the French army of occupation restored the reputation of the British army.

revised by John Oliphant

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Sir Ralph Abercromby

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Sir Ralph Abercromby, (born Oct. 7, 1734, Tullibody, Clackmannan, Scot.—died March 28, 1801, at sea in the Mediterranean), soldier whose command restored discipline and prestige to the British army after the disastrous campaigns in the Low Countries between 1793 and 1799. He prepared the way for the successful campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt.

Entering the army in 1756, Abercromby served in the Seven Years’ War. When war with Revolutionary France broke out in 1793, he commanded a brigade under the Duke of York in Flanders. He commanded the army’s rear column in its retreat from the Netherlands during the winter of 1794–95. Returning home, he was made a Knight of the Bath and appointed to the command of the British forces in the West Indies, where he seized the French sugar islands. He served under the Duke of York in the second expedition to the Netherlands in 1799. In 1800, after the failure of a descent on Cádiz, Spain, he was ordered to Egypt to expel or destroy the army left there by Bonaparte. Landing at Abū Qīr Bay on March 8, 1801, he advanced toward Alexandria. A French attack before daybreak on March 21 was beaten back with heavy loss, but Abercromby was mortally wounded. He died on board the flagship Foudroyant and was buried at Malta.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Sir Ralph Abercromby, 1734-1801 - History

  • Served in the Seven Years War
  • Commanded the retreat from Flanders in the winter of 1794–95
  • Commander in Chief in West Indies (1795-1797)
  • Killed in 1801 while trying to expel the French from Egypt

Contributed by: Rick Brainard

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Abercromby Clan

Abercromby/Abercrombie Crest: A hawk, rising, proper, belled, or.

Abercromby/Abercrombie Clan Motto: Petit Alta (He aims at high things).

Abercromby/Abercrombie Clan History: This surname originates from the Barony and Parish of Abercromby in Fife. William de Abercromby (spelled Haberchrumbie), and Johan de Abercromby of the County of Fife, rendered homage to Edward I of England in 1296.

The Abercrombies of that Ilk, the principal family of the name, became extinct in the mid - seventeenth century, and the Abercrombies of Birkenbog, their Banffshire lands granted to them by the Bishop of Aberdeen, took over as representatives of the Name. Certain family members served in the Garde Ecossais in France. Sir Alexander Abercrombie, 1st Baron of Birkenbog, was a made a Commissioner for Banffshire, and his son sat as a Member of the Scottish Parliament in 1694.

The Abercrombies were to begin with deeply committed to the Catholic Church, starting with Robert Abercromby, born in 1534, who became a Jesuit Priest and was fiercely opposed to the Reformation. David Abercromby, a kinsman, having studied abroad, returned to Scotland to oppose the Protestant faith, but was instead converted. Sir Alexander Abercromby of Birkenbog, created a Nova Scotia Baronet in 1637, was a staunch supporter of the Covenanters and opposed the attempts of Charles I to impose the Episcopal religion on Scotland.

Sir Ralph Abercromby (1734-1801) was born at Menstrie and, having served in the Seven Years War against Napoleon as an officer in the Dragoons, became Member of Parliament for Clackmannanshire from 1774 to 1780. In 1797, he commanded the British forces in Ireland. He also saw military action in the West Indies and, having been sent to the Mediterranean in 1801, was mortally wounded in Alexandria. His widow was awarded a peerage, and the title passed to their eldest son. His brother, Sir Robert, commanded the British Forces in India, and was awarded the Order of the Bath. He was later appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

Sir John Abercromby (1772-1817), Sir Ralph's second son, served on his father's staff and was captured and interned by Napoleon in 1803. After his release in 1809, he was appointed a divisional commander in India, and in 1810, led the capture of Mauritius. James Abercromby, 1st Baron Dunfermline, was Sir Ralph's third son. He entered parliament in 1803 and held the office of Speaker from 1835-1839. John Abercrombie (1780-1844) from Aberdeen, moved to Edinburgh and, in 1821, was recognised as the first consulting physician in Scotland.

Places of Interest: The small hamlet of Abercrombie, is situated a mile from St Monans in Fife. Airthrey Castle, Bridge of Allan, nr. Stirling, is a Robert Adam designed castle which was purchased by Sir Robert Abercrombie in 1798. The castle and estate was owned by Abercrombie family until 1889. Airthrey is now incorporated into the campus of the University of Stirling. Birkenbog House, nr Cullen, Banffshire. Built on lands held by the Abercombies since the 14th-century, Birkenbog is an 18th-century house which incorporates part of a much older castle. The house was abandoned by the family in the late 1700's. Craigrownie Castle, Cove, Argyll and Bute. Alexander 'Greek' Thomsom designed Victorian Baronial castle, bought by the Abercrombies in the mid 1800's. Fetternear House, Kemnay, Aberdeenshire. Owned by the Abercrombies of Birkenbog 1627-1690. Forglen House, Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Privately owned castellated mansion house with Gothic mausoleum, built by the Abercombies in the 1800's, incorporating a 16th-century castle. Inchdrewer Castle, Banff, Banffshire. Altered 16th century tower house which passed to the Abercrombie family of Birkenbog in the early 1800's. Menstrie Castle, Menstrie, Clackmannanshire. 16th-century tower house bought by the Abercrombies in 1719.

Dr John Abercrombie, the distinguished physician, lived at 19, York Place, Edinburgh. Nearby is Abercrombie Place, also situated in the New Town of Edinburgh. It was named after Sir Ralph Abercrombie who fell at Aboukir Bay in Alexandria in 1801.

Surname distribution within Scotland: Most instances of the Abercrombie surname occur in Ayrshire, Falkirk and Stirlingshire.


Ralph Abercromby PC KCB (1734 - 1801)

Ralph Abercromby was born on the 7th October, 1734 at Menstrie, (Scottish Gaelic: Meanstraidh) Clackmannanshire, Scotland.
He was the oldest son of George Abercromby of Tulllibody, (1705–1800), a lawyer by training and a descendant of the Abercromby family of Birkenbog, Aberdeenshire, and Mary Dundas (died 1767) the daughter of Ralph Dundas of Manor, Perthshire. [1] [2]

Marriage

Sir Ralph Abercromby married Mary Ann Menzies on the 17th November, 1767 at Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. [3]

Political Life
He twice served as MP for Clackmannanshire, Wales and while he was in the West Indies, he was appointed Governor of Trinidad.

Honours
Sir Ralph Abercromby was appointed a Knight of the Bath in 1797 and was a member of the Privy Council.


Military History
He achieved the rank of lieutenant-general. He served as Commander-in-Chief in Ireland.
After being trained for the law Sir Ralph Abercromby (1734–1801) was commissioned in the 3rd Dragoon Guards in 1756, and fought with distinction in the Seven Years War and the French wars at the close of the century.
He was knighted in 1795 and, as leader of the West Indies campaign which immediately followed, received fresh acclaim.
While Commander-in-Chief of British forces in the Mediterranean in June, 1801, he made a successful landing at Aboukir Bay, Alexandria, Egypt. [4]

The French counter-attack was repulsed but Sir Ralph Abercromby died of wounds he received in battle at Alexandria, El Eskenderiya, Egypt. He died on the 28th March, 1801 aboard HMS Foudroyant, which was moored in the harbour. He was 66 years of age. He was buried at Fort Saint Elmo, Valletta, Southern Harbour, Malta. [5]
Major General Ralph Abercromby PC KCB, is remembered in the Cenotaph, Saint Paul's Cathedral, London, City of London, England, United Kingdom. [6]


Seven Years War [ edit | edit source ]

On returning from the continent he expressed a strong preference for the military profession, and a cornet's commission was accordingly obtained for him (March 1756) in the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He served with his regiment in the Seven Years' War, and the opportunity thus afforded him of studying the methods of Frederick the Great moulded his military character and formed his tactical ideas.

He rose through the intermediate grades to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the regiment (1773) and brevet colonel in 1780, and in 1781 he became colonel of the King's Irish infantry. When that regiment was disbanded in 1783 he retired upon half pay.

Up to this time, he had scarcely been engaged in active service, and this was due mainly to his disapproval of the policy of the government, and especially to his sympathies with the American colonists in their struggles for independence. His retirement is no doubt to be ascribed to similar feelings. On leaving the army he for a time took up political life as Member of Parliament for Clackmannanshire. Ώ] This, however, proved uncongenial, and, retiring in favour of his brother, he settled at Edinburgh and devoted himself to the education of his children.


Seven Years War

On returning from the continent, Abercromby expressed a strong preference for the military profession, and a cornet's commission was accordingly obtained for him (March 1756) in the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He served with his regiment in the Seven Years' War, and thus, the opportunity afforded him of studying the methods of Frederick the Great, who moulded his military character and formed his tactical ideas.

He rose through the intermediate grades to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the regiment (1773) and brevet colonel in 1780, and in 1781, he became colonel of the King's Irish infantry. When that regiment was disbanded in 1783, he retired upon half pay.

He was a strong supporter of the American cause in the American Revolutionary War, and refused to leave retirement to fight against the Americans. [3] struggles for independence]]. His retirement is no doubt to be ascribed to similar feelings. On leaving the army, he took up political life as Member of Parliament for Clackmannanshire. [1] After some time, however, this role proved uncongenial, so he settled at Edinburgh and devoted himself to the education of his children.


Abercromby Clan

Abercromby/Abercrombie Crest: A hawk, rising, proper, belled, or.

Abercromby/Abercrombie Clan Motto: Petit Alta (He aims at high things).

Abercromby/Abercrombie Clan History: This surname originates from the Barony and Parish of Abercromby in Fife. William de Abercromby (spelled Haberchrumbie), and Johan de Abercromby of the County of Fife, rendered homage to Edward I of England in 1296.

The Abercrombies of that Ilk, the principal family of the name, became extinct in the mid - seventeenth century, and the Abercrombies of Birkenbog, their Banffshire lands granted to them by the Bishop of Aberdeen, took over as representatives of the Name. Certain family members served in the Garde Ecossais in France. Sir Alexander Abercrombie, 1st Baron of Birkenbog, was a made a Commissioner for Banffshire, and his son sat as a Member of the Scottish Parliament in 1694.

The Abercrombies were to begin with deeply committed to the Catholic Church, starting with Robert Abercromby, born in 1534, who became a Jesuit Priest and was fiercely opposed to the Reformation. David Abercromby, a kinsman, having studied abroad, returned to Scotland to oppose the Protestant faith, but was instead converted. Sir Alexander Abercromby of Birkenbog, created a Nova Scotia Baronet in 1637, was a staunch supporter of the Covenanters and opposed the attempts of Charles I to impose the Episcopal religion on Scotland.

Sir Ralph Abercromby (1734-1801) was born at Menstrie and, having served in the Seven Years War against Napoleon as an officer in the Dragoons, became Member of Parliament for Clackmannanshire from 1774 to 1780. In 1797, he commanded the British forces in Ireland. He also saw military action in the West Indies and, having been sent to the Mediterranean in 1801, was mortally wounded in Alexandria. His widow was awarded a peerage, and the title passed to their eldest son. His brother, Sir Robert, commanded the British Forces in India, and was awarded the Order of the Bath. He was later appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

Sir John Abercromby (1772-1817), Sir Ralph's second son, served on his father's staff and was captured and interned by Napoleon in 1803. After his release in 1809, he was appointed a divisional commander in India, and in 1810, led the capture of Mauritius. James Abercromby, 1st Baron Dunfermline, was Sir Ralph's third son. He entered parliament in 1803 and held the office of Speaker from 1835-1839. John Abercrombie (1780-1844) from Aberdeen, moved to Edinburgh and, in 1821, was recognised as the first consulting physician in Scotland.

Places of Interest: The small hamlet of Abercrombie, is situated a mile from St Monans in Fife. Airthrey Castle, Bridge of Allan, nr. Stirling, is a Robert Adam designed castle which was purchased by Sir Robert Abercrombie in 1798. The castle and estate was owned by Abercrombie family until 1889. Airthrey is now incorporated into the campus of the University of Stirling. Birkenbog House, nr Cullen, Banffshire. Built on lands held by the Abercombies since the 14th-century, Birkenbog is an 18th-century house which incorporates part of a much older castle. The house was abandoned by the family in the late 1700's. Craigrownie Castle, Cove, Argyll and Bute. Alexander 'Greek' Thomsom designed Victorian Baronial castle, bought by the Abercrombies in the mid 1800's. Fetternear House, Kemnay, Aberdeenshire. Owned by the Abercrombies of Birkenbog 1627-1690. Forglen House, Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Privately owned castellated mansion house with Gothic mausoleum, built by the Abercombies in the 1800's, incorporating a 16th-century castle. Inchdrewer Castle, Banff, Banffshire. Altered 16th century tower house which passed to the Abercrombie family of Birkenbog in the early 1800's. Menstrie Castle, Menstrie, Clackmannanshire. 16th-century tower house bought by the Abercrombies in 1719.

Dr John Abercrombie, the distinguished physician, lived at 19, York Place, Edinburgh. Nearby is Abercrombie Place, also situated in the New Town of Edinburgh. It was named after Sir Ralph Abercrombie who fell at Aboukir Bay in Alexandria in 1801.

Surname distribution within Scotland: Most instances of the Abercrombie surname occur in Ayrshire, Falkirk and Stirlingshire.


Watch the video: Abandoned Abercrombie mansion - Elda castle (November 2021).