Eliott, George Augustus

, the gallant defender of Gibraltar, was the son of sir Gilbert Eliott of Stobbs in Roxburghshire. The ancient and honourable family of Eliott of Stobbs, as well as the collateral branch of Eliott of Min to in the same county, and of Eliott of port Eliott, in Cornwall, are originally from Normandy. Their ancestor M. Aliott came over with William the conqueror, and held a distinguished rank in his army. There is a traditionary anecdote in the family relating to an honourable distinction in their coat, which, as it corresponds with history, bears the probability of truth. When William set foot on the English land, he slipped and fell on the earth. On springing up again, he exclaimed, that it was a happy omen; he had taken seisin of the country whereof he was to become lord. Upon this, Aliott drevr his sword, and swore by the honour of a soldier, that he would maintain, at the hazard of his blood, the right of his lord to the sovereignty of the land of which he had thus taken possession. On the event of conquest, king William added to the arms of Aliott, which were a baton Or, on a field Azure, an arm and sword as a crest, with the motto, “Per saxa, per ignes, fortiter & recte.

Sir Gilbert Eliott, of Stobbs, had nine sons, of whotn our general was the youngest; and two daughters. His eldest brother, sir John Eliott, left the title and estate to his son sir Francis Eliott, nephew to the general. The general was born about the year 1718, and received thefirst rudiments of his education under a private tutor retained at the family seat. At an early age he was sent to the university of Leydcn, where he made a rapid progress in classical learning, and spoke with elegance and fluency the German and French languages. Being designed for a | military life, he was sent from thence to the celebrated military school at La Fere in Picardy. This school was rendered the most famous in Europe by the great Vauban, under whom it was conducted. It was afterwards committed to the management and care of the comte d’Houroville. Here it was that the foundation was laid of that knowledge of tactics in all its branches, and particularly in the arts of engineering and fortification, which afterwards so greatly distinguished this officer. He completed his military course on the continent by a tour for the purpose of seeing in practice what he had been studying in thetsry, Prussia was the model for discipline, and he continued for some time as a volunteer in this service. Such were the steps taken by the young men of fashion in that day to accomplish themselves for the service of their country. Many of his contemporaries were then similarly engaged, nobly abandoning the enjoyments of ease and luxury at home, for the opportunity of seeing actual service.

Mr. Eliott returned in his seventeenth year to his native country of Scotland, and was in the same year, 1735, introduced by his father, sir Gilbert, to lieutenant-colonel Peers of the 23d regiment of foot, or royal Welsh fuzileers, then lying in Edinburgh. Sir Gilbert presented him as a youth anxious to bear arms for his king and country. He was accordingly entered as a volunteer in that regiment, and continued for a twelvemonth or more. At this time he gave a promise of his future military talents, and shewed that he was at least a soldier in heart. From the 23d he went into the engineer corps at Woolwich, and made great progress in that study, until his uncle, colonel Eliott, introduced him as adjutant of the 2d troop of horsegrenadiers. In this situation he conducted himself with the most exemplary attention, and laid the foundation of that discipline which has rendered those two troops the finest corps of heavy cavalry in Europe. With these troops he went upon service to Germany, in the war before last, and was with them in a variety of actions, particulars’ at the battle of Dettingen, where he was wounded. In this regiment he first bought the rank of captain and major, and afterwards purchased the lieutenant-colonelcy from colonel Brewerton, who succeeded to his uncle. On arriving at this rank he resigned his commission as an engineer, which he had enjoyed along with his other rank, | and in which service be had been actively employed very much to the advantage of his country. He bad received the instructions of the famous engineer Bellidor, and made himself completely master of the science of gunnery. Had he not so disinterestedly resigned his rank in the engineer department, he would now by regular progression have been at the head of that corps. Soon after this he was. appointed aid-de-camp to king George II. and was already distinguished for his military skill and discipline. In 1759 be quitted the second troop of horse grenadier guards, being selected to raise, form, and discipline the first regiment of light horse, called after him Eliott’s. As soon as they were raised and formed, he was appointed to the command of the cavalry, in the expedition on the coasts of France, with the rank of brigadier- general and after this he passed into Germany, where he was employed on the staff, and greatly distinguished himself in a variety of movements, while his regiment displayed a strictness of discipline, an activity, and enterprise, which gained them signal honour; and indeed they have been the pattern regiment, both in regard to discipline and appointment, to the many light dragoon troops that have been since raised in our service. From Germany he was recalled for the purpose of being employed as second in command in the memorable expedition against the Havannah. The circumstances of that conquest are well known. It seems as if our brave veteran had always in his eye the gallant Lewis de Velasco, who maintained his station to the last extremity, and, when his garrison were flying from his side, or falling at his feet, disdained to retire or call for quarter, but fell gloriously exercising his sword upon his conquerors. A circumstance which occurred immediately after the reduction shews, that in the very heat and outrages of war the general was not unmindful of the rights of humanity. He was particularly eminent among the conquerors of the Havannah, for his disinterested procedure, and for checking the horrors of indiscriminate plunder. To him, therefore, appeals were most frequently made. A Frenchman, who had suffered greatly by the depredations of the soldiery, made application to him, and begged, in bad English, that he would interfere to have his property restored. The petitioner’s wife, who was present, a woman of great spirit, was angry at the husband for the intercession, and said, “Comment pouvez vous demander de grace a uu | homme qui vient vous de‘pouilliefr N’en esperez pas.” The husband persisting in his application, his wife grew more loud in the censure, and said, “Vous n'étes pas François!” The general, who was busy writing at the time, turned to the woman, and said smiling, “Madame, ne vous échauffez pas; ce que votre mari demande lui sera accordé!”—“Oh, faut-il pour surcroit de malheur,” exclaimed the woman, “que le barbare parle le François!” The general was so very much pleased with the woman’s spirit, that he not only procured them their property again, but also took pains to accommodate them in every respect; and such was through life the manly characteristic of the general: if he would not suffer his troops to extend, for the sake of plunder, the ravages of war, he never impoverished them by unjust exactions. He would never consent that his quarter-master’s place should be sold, “not only,” says he, “because I think it the reward of an honest veteran soldier; but also because I could not so directly exercise my authority in his dismission should he behave ill.

On the peace, his gallant regiment was reviewed by his majesty in Hyde-park—when they presented to the king the standards which they had taken from the enemy. The king, gratified with their high character, asked general Eliott what mark of his favour he could bestow on his regiment equal to their merits. He answered, that his regiment would be proud if his majesty should think that by their services they were entitled to the distinction of royals. It was accordingly made a royal regiment, with this flattering title, The 15th, or king’s royal regiment of light dragoons. At the same time the king expressed a desire to confer a mark of his favour on the brave general; but he declared, that the honour and satisfaction of his majesty’s approbation of his services were his best reward.

During the peace he was not idle. His great talents in the various branches of the military art gave him ample employment; and in the year 1775 he was appointed to succeed general A’Court as commander in chief of the forces in Ireland. But he did not continue long on this station; finding that interferences were made by petty authority derogatory of his own, he resisted the practice with becoming spirit; and not choosing to disturb the government of the sister kingdom, on a matter personal to himself, he solicited to be recalled, and accordingly was | so, when he was appointed to the command of Gibraltar, in a fortunate hour for the safety of that important fortress. The system of his life, as well as his education, peculiarly qualified him for this trust. He was perhaps the most abstemious man of the age. His food was vegetables, and his drink water. He neither indulged himself in animal food nor wine. He never slept more than four hours at a time; so that he was up later and earlier than most other men. He had so inured himself to habits of hardness, that the things which are difficult and painful to other men, were to him his daily practice, and rendered pleasant by use. It could not be easy to starve such a man into a surrender, nor to surprise him. Mis wants were easily supplied, and his watchfulness was beyond precedent. The example of the commander in chief in a besieged garrison has a most persuasive efficacy in forming the manners of the soldiery. Like him his brave followers came to regulate their lives by the most strict rules of discipline before there arose a necessity for so doing; and severe exercise, with short diet, became habitual to them by their own choice. The military system of discipline which he introduced, and the preparations which he made for his defence, were contrived with so much judgment, and executed with so much address, that he was able, with a handful of men, to preserve his post against an attack, the constancy of which, even without the vigour, was sufficient to exhaust any common set of men. Collected within himself, he in no instance destroyed, by premature attacks, the labours which would cost the enemy time, patience, and expence to complete; he deliberately observed their approaches, and seized on the proper moment, with the keenest perspection, in which to make his attack with success. He never spent his ammunition in useless parade, or in unimportant attacks. He never relaxed from his discipline by the appearance of security, nor hazarded the lives of his garrison by wild experiments. By a cool and temperate demeanour, he maintained his station for three years of constant investment, in which all the powers of Spain were employed. All the eyes of Europe were on his garrison, and his conduct justly raised him to a most elevated place in the military annals of the present day.

On his return to England, the gratitude of the British senate was as forward as the public voice in giving him that distinguished mark his merit deserved, to which his majesty | was pleased to add that of knight of the bath and an elevation to the peerage, by the title of lord Heathfield, baron Gibraltar, on June 14, 1787, and permitting his lordship to take also the arms of the fortress he had so bravely defended, to perpetuate to futurity his noble conduct. He married Anne, daughter of sir Francis Drake, of Devonshire, who died in 1769, leaving his lordship a son, Francis Augustus Eliott, the present peer. He closed a life of military renown at the most critical season for his memory. He had acquired the brightest honours of a soldier, the love and reverence of his country; and he fell in an excursion beyond his strength, from an anxiety to close his life on the rock where he had acquired his fame. He died in the seventy-third year of his age, July 6, 1790, at his chateau at Aix-la-Chapelle, of a second stroke of the palsy, after having enjoyed for some weeks before a tolerable share of good health, and an unusual flow of spirits. Two days before his death, he dined with a friend with whom he was soon after to have travelled to Leghorn in his way to Gibraltar. His remains were brought to Dover from Ostend, in the Race-horse packet, whence they were conveyed to Heathfield in Sussex, and there deposited, in a vault built for that purpose, over which a handsome monument is erected. 1

1 Preceding edition of this Dict. Drinkwater’s Hist, of the Siege of Gibraltar, Sir E. Brydges’s edition of Collins’s Peerage.