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Beckwith, Sir Thomas Sydney

BECKWITH, SIR THOMAS SYDNEY (1772-1831), British general, was the son of Major-General John Beckwith, who was colonel of the 20th regiment (Lancashire Fusiliers) in the charge at Minden. In 1791 he entered the 71st regiment (then commanded by Colonel David Baird), in which he served in India and elsewhere until 1800, when he obtained a company in Colonel Coote Manningham's experimental regiment of riflemen, shortly afterwards numbered as the 95th Rifles and now called the Rifle Brigade. In 1802 he was promoted major, and in the following year lieutenant-colonel. Beckwith was one of the favourite officers of Sir John Moore in the famous camp of Shorncliffe, and aided that general in the training of the troops which afterwards became the Light Division. In 1806 he served in the expedition to Hanover, and in 1807 in that which captured Copenhagen. In 1806 the Rifles were present at Vimeira, and in the campaign of Sir John Moore they bore the brunt of the rearguard fighting. Beckwith took part in the great march of Craufurd to the field of Talavera, in the advanced guard fights on the Coa in 1810 and in the campaign in Portugal. On the formation of the Light Division he was given a brigade command in it. After the brilliant action of Sabugal, Beckwith had to retire for a time from active service, but the Rifles and the brigade he had trained and commanded added to their fame on every subsequent battlefield. In 1812 he went to Canada as assistant quartermaster-general, and he took part in the war against the United States. In 1814 he became major-general, and in 1815 was created K.C.B. In 1827 he was made colonel commandant of the Rifle Brigade. He went to India as commander-in-chief at Bombay in 1829, and was promoted lieutenant-general in the following year. He died on the 15th of January 1831 at Mahableshwar.

His elder brother, Sir George Beckwith (1753-1823), distinguished himself as a regimental officer in the American War of Independence, and served subsequently in high administrative posts and in numerous successful military operations in the West Indies during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. He was made a K.B. for his capture of Martinique in 1809, and attained the full rank of general in 1814. Sir George Beckwith commanded the forces in Ireland, 1816-1820. He died in London on the 20th of March 1823.

Their nephew, Major-General John Charles Beckwith (1789-1862), joined the 50th regiment in 1803, exchanging in 1804 into the 95th Rifles, with which regiment he served in the Peninsular campaigns of 1808-10. He was subsequently employed on the staff of the Light Division, and he was repeatedly mentioned in despatches, becoming in 1814 a brevet-major, and after the battle of Waterloo (in which he lost a leg) lieutenant-colonel and C.B. In 1820 he left active service. Seven years later an accident drew his attention to the Waldenses, whose past history and present condition influenced him so strongly that he settled in the valleys of Piedmont. The rest of his life was spent in the self-imposed task of educating the Waldenses, for whom he established and maintained a large number of schools, and in reviving the earlier faith of the people. In 1848 King Charles Albert made him a knight of the order of St Maurice and St Lazarus. He was promoted colonel in the British army in 1837 and major-general in 1846. He died on the 19th of July 1862 at La Torre, Piedmont.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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