Tolmach, Thomas

, a brave English officer, was descended of a family said to be more ancient than the Norman conquest. He was the son of sir Lionel Tolmach of Helmingnam in the county of Suffolk, bart. by Elizabeth, daughter and heir of William Murray, earl of Dysart, afterwards married to John, duke of Lauderdale. His talents and education were improved by his travels, in which he spent several years, and after he entered into the army, distinguished himself so much by skill and bravery, as very soon to acquire promotion. But L| the reign of James If. whose measures he thought hostile to the true interests of the kingdom, he resigned his commission, and went again abroad. The same political principles inclining him to favour the revolution, he was, on the accession of William III. appointed colonel of the Coldstream regiment, which had been resigned by William, carl of Craven, on account of his great age and infirmities; and was soon advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general. In 1691, he exerted himself with uncommon bravery in the passage over the river Shannon, at the taking of Athlone in Ireland, and in the battle of Aghrim. In 1693, he attended king William to Flanders, and at the battle of Landen against the French, commanded by marshal Luxemburg, when his majesty himself was obliged to retire, the lieutenant-general brought off the English foot with great prudence, resolution, and success. | But, in June the year following, he fell in the unfortunate attempt for destroying the harbour of Brest in France. He had formed this desigrt, and taken care to be well instructed in every circumstance relating to it. Six thousand men seemed to be more than necessary for taking and keeping Cameret, a small neck of land, which lies in the mouth of and commands the river of Brest. The project and the preparations were kept so secret, that there was not the least suspicion till the hiring of transport-ships discovered it. A proposition for that purpose had indeed been made two years before to the earl of Nottingham; who, among other things, charged admiral Russel with having neglected that scheme, when it was laid before him by some persons who came from Brest. Whether the French apprehended the design from that motion, or whether it was now betrayed to them by some who were in the secret; it is certain, that they had such timely knowledge of it, as put them upon their guard. The preparations were not quite ready by the day that had been fixed; and when all was ready, they were stopt by a westerly wind for some time; so that they arrived a month later than was intended. They found the place well fortified with many batteries, which, were raised in different lines upon, the rocks, that lay over the place of descent; and great numbers were posted there to dispute their landing. When the English fleet came so near as to see all this, the council of officers declared against making the attempt; but the lieutenant-general was so possessed with the scheme, that he could not be diverted from it. He imagined, that the men they saw were only a rabble brought together to make a shew; though it proved, that there were regular bodies among them, and that their numbers were double to his own. He began with landing of six hundred men, and put himself at the head of them, who followed him with great courage; but they were so exposed to the enemies’ fire, and could do them so little harm, that the attempt was found absolutely impracticable. The greatest part of those, who landed, were killed or taken prisoners; and not above an hundred of them came back. The lieutenant-general himself was shot in the thigh, of which he died in a few days, extremely lamented. Thus failed a design, which, if it had been undertaken before the French were so well prepared to receive it, might have been attended with success, and followed with very important effects. In this manner | bishop Burnet represents the affair, who styles the lieutenant-general a brave and generous man, and a good officer, very fit to animate and encourage inferior officers and soldiers. Another of our historians speaks of this affair in somewhat a different strain, declaring, that the lieutenantgeneral “fell a sacrifice in this desperate attempt, being destined, as some affirmed, to that fall by the envy of some of his pretended friends.” His body was brought to England, and interred on the 30th of June, 1694, at Helmingham in Suffolk.

According to Dr. Brady, general Tolmach was “singularly remarkable for all the accomplishments of a gentleman; his conversation familiar and engaging, his wit lively and penetrating, his judgment solid and discerning; and all these adorned with a graceful person, a cheerful aspect, and an inviting air. And if we consider him as a soldier, he was vigorous and active; surprisingly brave in the most dangerous emergencies, and eagerly catching at all opportunities, in which he might signalize his courage without forfeiting his judgment. But with all this ardour of an invincible courage, he was not of an uneasy turbulent disposition, or apt to be engaged in idle quarrels; for as the sweetness of his nature, and the politeness of his education, hindered him from offering an affront to any man; so the modest sense which he had of his own merit, would not suffer him to suspect that any was intended him. In short, he may justly be characterized under the titles of a complete gentleman, a zealous lover of his country, and an excellent general.1


Birch’s Lives.—Funeral Sermon by Brady, 4to.—Burnet’s Own Times.