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SIR CHARLES WILLIAM PASLEY (178o—1861)

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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 884 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR CHARLES WILLIAM PASLEY (178o—1861), British soldier and military engineer, was born at Eskdale Muir, Dumfriesshire, on the 8th of September 1780. In 1796 he entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; a year later he gained his commission in the Royal Artillery, and in 1i98 he was transferred to the Royal Engineers. He was present in the defence of Gaeta, the battle of Maida and the siege of Copenhagen. In 1807, being then a captain, he went to the Peninsula, where his knowledge of Spanish led to his employment on the staff of Sir David Baird and Sir John Moore. He took part in the retreat to Corunna and the Walcheren Expedition, and received a severe wound while gallantly leading a storming party at Flushing. During his tedious recovery he employed himself in learning German. He saw no further active service, the rest of his life being devoted to the foundation of a complete science of military engineering and to the thorough organization and training of the corps of Royal Engineers. He was so successful that, though only a captain, he was allowed to act for two years as commanding royal engineer at Plymouth and given a special grant. The events of the Peninsular War having emphasized the need of a fully trained engineer corps, Pasley's views were adopted by the war office, and he himself placed at the head of the new school of military engineering at Woolwich. This was in 1812, and Pasley was at the same time gazetted brevet major. He became brevet lieutenant-colonel in 1813 and substantive lieutenant-colonel in 1814. The first volume of his Military Instruction appeared in 1814, and contained a course of practical geometry which he had framed for his company at Plymouth. Two other volumes completing the work appeared by 1817, and dealt with the science and practice of fortification, the latter comprising rules for construction. He published a work on Practical Architecture, and prepared an important treatise on The Practical Operations of a Siege (1829-1832), which was translated into French (1847). He became brevet colonel in 183o and substantive colonel in 1831. From 1831—1834 the subject that engaged his leisure was that of standardization of coins, weights and measures, and he published a book on this in 1834. In 1838 he was presented with the freedom of the city of London for his services in removing sunken vessels from the bed of the Thames near Gravesend; and from 1839 to 1844 he was occupied with clearing away the wrecks of H.M.S. " Royal George " from Spithead and H.M.S. " Edgar " from St Helens. All this work was subsidiary to his great work of creating a comprehensive art of military engineering. In 1841 on promotion to the rank of major-general he was made inspector-general of railways. In 1846 on vacating this appointment he was made a K.C.B., and thenceforward up to 1855 was chiefly concernedwith the East India Company's military academy at Addiscombe. He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1851, made colonel commandant of the Royal Engineers in 1853, and general in 1860. He died in London on the 19th of April 1861. His eldest son, Major-General Charles Pasley (1824—1890), was a distinguished Royal Engineer officer. Amongst Pasley's works, besides those mentioned, were separate editions of his Practical Geometry Method (1822) and of his Course of Elementary Fortification (1822), both of which formed part of his Military Instruction; Rules far Escalading Fortifications not having Palisaded Covered Ways (1822 ; new eds. 1845 and 1854) ; descriptions of a semaphore invented by himself in 18o4 (1822 and 1823) ; A Simple Practical Treatise on Field Fortification 1823) ; and Exercise of the Newdecked Pontoons invented by Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley (1823).
End of Article: SIR CHARLES WILLIAM PASLEY (178o—1861)
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