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1ST DUKE OF ARTHUR WELLESLEY WELLINGT...

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 509 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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1ST DUKE OF ARTHUR WELLESLEY WELLINGTON (1769-1852), was the fourth son of Garrett (1735—1781) Wellesley or Wesley, 2nd baron and 1st earl of Mornington, now remembered only as a musician. He was descended from the family of Colley or Cowley, which had been settled in Ireland for two centuries. The duke's grandfather, Richard Colley, 1st Baron Mornington (d. 1758), assumed the name of Wesley on succeeding to the estates of Garrett Wesley, a distant relative of the famous divine. In Wellington's early letters the family name is spelt Wesley; the change to Wellesley seems to have been made about 1790. Arthur (born in Ireland in 17691) was sent to Eton, and subsequently to a military college at Angers. He entered the army as ensign in the 73rd Highlanders in 1787, passed rapidly through the lower ranks (in five different regiments), became major of the 33rd (now duke of Wellington's West Riding), and purchased the lieutenant-colonelcy of that regiment in 1793 with money advanced to him by his eldest brother. But in all these changes he did little regimental duty, for he was aide-de-camp to the lord-lieutenant. of Ireland for practically the whole of these years. Before reaching full age he was returned to the Irish parliament by the family borough of Trim. Little is known of his history during these years; but neither in boyhood nor in youth does he appear to have made any mark among his contemporaries. His first experience of active service was in the campaign of 1794—1795, when the British force under the duke of York was driven out of Holland by Pichegru. In 1796 he was sent with his regiment to India, being promoted colonel by brevet about the same time. It was thus as a commanding officer that he learnt 1 At 24 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin, or at Dungan Castle, Meath, on the 29th of April or on 1st May; but both place and date are uncertain. for the first time the details of regimental duty. He mastered them thoroughly, gained a minute acquaintance with every detail of the soldier's life, learned the precise amount of food required for every mouth, the exact weight that could be carried, the distances that could be traversed without exhaustion, the whole body of conditions in short which govern the military activity of man and beast. It was to the completeness of his practical knowledge that Wellington ascribed in great part his later success. It is probable, moreover, that he at this time made a serious study of the science and history of war. His formal training at Angers was altogether too slight to account for his great technical knowledge; no record, however, exists of the stages by which this was acquired except that as soon as he landed in India he began to devote fixed hours to study, giving up cards and the violin. This study was directed chiefly to the political situation of India, and when on his advice his eldest brother, Lord Mornington, afterwards Marquess Wellesley, accepted the governor-generalship of India, he became his trusted though unofficial adviser. In the war with Tippoo Saib the 33rd was attached to the Nizam's contingent, and Colonel Wellesley commanded this division in the army of General (Lord) Harris. Though his military services in this short campaign were not of a striking character, he was appointed by his brother to the supreme military and political command in Mysore, in spite of the claims of his senior, Sir David Baird. His great faculties now for the first time found opportunity for their exercise. In the settlement and administration of the conquered territory he rapidly acquired the habits and experience of a statesman, while his military operations against Doondiah, a robber chief, were conducted with extraordinary energy and success, Doondiah being killed and his army scattered. More important, however, than the military side of these operations was their political character. When pressed in Mysore, Doondiah moved into Mahratta territory, whither Wellesley followed him. Here, negotiating and bargaining with the Mahratta chiefs, Wellesley acquired a knowledge of their affairs and an influence over them such as-no other Englishman possessed. Simple and honourable himself, he was shrewd and penetrating in his judgment of Orientals; and, unlike his great predecessor Clive, he rigidly adhered to the rule of good faith in his own actions, however depraved and however exasperating the conduct of those with whom he had to deal. The result of Wellesley's singular personal ascendancy among the Mahrattas came into full view when the Mahratta War broke out. In the meantime, however, his Indian career seemed likely to be sacrificed to the calls of warfare in another quarter. Wellesley was ordered in December 'Soo to take command of a body of troops collected for foreign service at Trincomalee, in Ceylon. It was at first intended that these troops should act against Java or Mauritius; their destination was, however, altered to Egypt, with a view to co-operation with Sir Ralph Abercromby's expedition, and Baird was placed in command. Though deeply mortified at the loss of the command, Wellesley in his devotion to duty moved the troops on his own responsibility from Trincomalee to Bombay, from the conviction that, if they were to be of any use in Egypt, it was absolutely necessary that they should provision at Bombay without delay. But at Bombay Wellesley was attacked by fever, and prevented from going on. The troop-ship in which he was to have sailed went down with all on board. He returned in May 18or to Mysore, where he remained until the Mahratta War broke out. The power of the Peshwa, nominally supreme in the Mahratta territory, had been overthrown by his rivals Holkar and others, and he had himself fled. The Indian government undertook to restore his authority. Wellesley, now a major-general, was placed in command of a division of the army charged with this task. Starting from Seringapatam, he crossed the frontier on March 12, 1803, and moved through the southern Mahratta territory on Poona. The march was one unbroken success, thanks to Wellesley's forethought and sagacity in dealing with the physical conditions and his personal and diplomatic ascendancy among the chieftains of the district. No hand was raised against him, and a march of 600 m. was conducted without even a skirmish. Wellesley had intended to reach Poona on the 23rd of April. On the night of the 18th he heard that a rival of the Peshwa intended to burn the city. At once Wellesley pressed on with the cavalry and an infantry battalion in light order, and after a forced march of 32 hours entered Poona on the afternoon of the loth, in time to save the city. The Peshwa was now restored, and entered into various military obligations with Wellesley, which he very imperfectly fulfilled. In the meantime Sindhia and Holkar, with the raja of Berar, maintained a doubtful but threatening aspect farther north. It was uncertain whether or not a confederacy of the northern Mahrattas had been formed against the British government. In these critical circumstances Wellesley was charged with " the general direction and control of military and political affairs in the territories of the Nizam, the Peshwa and the Mahratta states and chiefs." Armed with these powers, he required Sindhia, as a proof of good faith, to withdraw to the north of the Nerbudda. Sindhia not doing so, war was declared on the 6th of August 1803. Wellesley marched northwards, captured Ahmadnagar on the 1rth, crossed the Godavery ten days later, and moved against the combined forces of Sindhia and the raja of Berar. Colonel Stevenson was meanwhile approaching with a second division from the east, and it was intended that the two should unite. On the 23rd of September Wellesley supposed himself to be still some miles from the enemy; he suddenly found that the entire forces of Sindhia and the raja of Berar were close in front of him at Assaye. Weighing the dangers of delay, of retreat, and of an attack with his single division of 4500 men, supported only by 5000 native levies of doubtful quality, Wellesley convinced himself that an immediate attack, though against greatly superior forces (30,000 horse, io,000 European-drilled infantry and roo well-served guns) in a strong position, was the wisest course. He threw himself upon the Mahratta host, and, carrying out a bold manoeuvre under an intense fire, ultimately gained a complete victory, though with the loss of 2500 men out of a total probably not much exceeding 7000. In comparison with the battle of Assaye, all fighting that had hitherto taken place in India was child's play. Wellesley himself had two horses killed under him. Uniting with Stevenson's division, the conqueror followed up the pursuit, and brought the war to a close by a second victory at Argaum on the 29th of November, and the storming of Gawilghur on the 15th of December. The treaties with Sindhia and the raja of Berar, which marked the downfall of the Mahratta power, were negotiated and signed by Wellesley (who was made K.B. in Sept. 1804) in the course of the following month. Not yet thirty-five years old, he had proved himself a master in the sphere of Indian statesmanship and diplomacy as on the field of battle. Had his career ended at this time, his Indian despatches alone would have proved him to have been one of the wisest and strongest heads that have ever served England in the East. His ambitions now led him back to Europe, and in the spring of 1805 he quitted India. On his return home he was immediately sent on the abortive expedition to Hanover. In 18o6 he was elected M.P. for Rye, in order to defend his brother, the governor-general, in the House, and in the following year he was Irish secretary for a few months. He was then employed in the expedition against Copenhagen, in which he defeated the Danes in the action of Kjoge (29th Oct.). In 18o8, however, began the war (see PENINSULAR WAR) in which his military renown was fully established. In April he was promoted lieutenant-general and placed in command of a division of the troops destined to operate against the French in Spain or Portugal. The conduct of events is narrated in a separate article, and need only be summarized here. Finding that the junta of Corunna wished for no foreign soldiery, he followed his alternative instructions to act against Junot at Lisbon. He landed at Mondego Bay in the first week of August, and moved southwards, driving in the enemy at Rolica on the 17th of August. On the 21st the battle of Vimeiro was fought and won. In the midst of this engagement, however, Sir Harry Burrard landed, and took over the command. Burrard was in turn superseded by Sir Hew Dalrymple, and the campaign ended with the convention of Cintra, which provided for the evacuation of Portugal by the French, but gave Junot's troops a free return to France. So great was the public displeasure in England at the escape of the enemy that a court of inquiry was held. After the battle of Corunna, Wellesley, who had in the meantime resumed his duties as Irish secretary, returned to the Peninsula as chief in command. He drove the French out of Oporto by a singularly bold and fortunate attack, and then prepared to march against Madrid by the valley of the Tagus. He had the support of a Spanish army under General Cuesta; but his movements were delayed by the neglect of the Spanish government, and Soult was able to collect a large force for the purpose of falling upon the English line of communication. Wellesley, unconscious of Soult's presence in force on his flank, advanced against Madrid, and defeated his immediate opponent, King Joseph, at Talavera de la Reina (q.v.) on the 27th-28th of July. The victory of Talavera, however, brought prestige but nothing else. Within the next few days Soult's approach on the line of communication was discovered, and Wellesley, disgusted with his Spanish allies, had no choice but to withdraw into Portugal and there stand upon the defensive. A peerage, with the title of Viscount Wellington and Baron Douro, was conferred upon him for Talavera. He was also made marshal-general of the Portuguese army and a Spanish captain-general. But his conduct after the battle was sharply criticized in England, and its negative results were used as a we: pon against the ministry. Even on the defensive, Wellington's task was exceedingly difficult. Austria having made peace, Napoleon was at liberty to throw heavy forces into the Peninsula. Welling-ton, foreseeing that Portugal would now be invaded by a very powerful army, began the fortification of the celebrated lines of Torres Vedras (see FORTIFICATION). The English army wintered about Almeida. As summer approached Wellington's anticipations were realized. Massena moved against Portugal with an army of 70,000 men. Wellington, unable to save Ciudad Rodrigo, retreated down the valley of the Mondego, devastating the country, and at length halted at Busaco and gave battle. The French attack was repelled, but other roads were open to the invader, and Wellington continued his retreat. Massena followed, but was checked completely in front of the lines. He sought in vain for an unprotected point. It was with the utmost difficulty that he could keep his army from starving. At length, when the country was exhausted, he fell back to Santarem, where, Welling-ton being still too weak to attack, he maintained himself during the winter. But in the spring of 1811 Wellington received reinforcements and moved forward. Massena retreated, devastating the country to check the pursuit, but on several occasions his rearguard was deeply engaged, and such were the sufferings of his army, both in the invasion and in the retreat, that the French, when they re-entered Spain, had lost 30,000 men. Public opinion in England, lately so hostile, now became confident, and Wellington, whose rewards for Talavera had been opposed in both Houses, began to gain extraordinary popularity. In the meantime Soult, who was besieging Cadiz, had moved to support Massena. But after capturing Badajoz, Soult learnt that Massena was in retreat, and also that his own forces at Cadiz had been beaten. He in consequence returned to the south. Wellington, freed from pressure on this side, and believing Massena to be thoroughly disabled, considered that the time had come for an advance into Spain. The fortresses of Almeida, Ciudad Rodrigo and ,Badajoz barred the roads. Almeida was besieged, and Wellington was preparing to attack Badajoz when Massena again took the field, and marched to the relief of Almeida. The battle of Fuentes d'Onoro followed, in which Wellington was only able to extricate the army from a dangerous predicament which " if Boney had been there " would have been a disaster. The garrison of Almeida too escaped, after blowing up part of the fortress. In the south, in spite of the hard-won victory of Albuera, the English attack on Badajoz had to be
End of Article: 1ST DUKE OF ARTHUR WELLESLEY WELLINGTON (1769-1852)
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