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Craufurd, Robert

CRAUFURD, ROBERT (1764-1812), British major-general, was born at Newark, Ayrshire, on the 5th of May 1764, and entered the 25th Foot in 1779. As captain in the 75th regiment he first saw active service against Tippoo Sahib in 1790-92. The next year he was employed, under his brother Charles, with the Austrian armies operating against the French. Returning to England in 1797, he soon saw further service, as a lieutenant-colonel, on Lake's staff in the Irish rebellion. A year later he was British commissioner on Suvarov's staff when the Russians invaded Switzerland, and at the end of 1799 was in the Helder expedition. From 1801 to 1805 Lieutenant-Colonel Craufurd sat in parliament for East Retford, but in 1807 he resumed active service with Whitelock in the unfortunate Buenos Aires expedition. He was almost the only one of the senior officers who added to his reputation in this affair, and in 1808 he received a brigade command under Sir John Moore. His regiments were heavily engaged in the earlier part of the famous retreat, but were not present at Corunna, having been detached to Vigo, whence they returned to England. Later in 1809, once more in the Peninsula, Brigadier-General Craufurd was three marches or more in rear of Wellesley's army when a report came in that a great battle was in progress. The march which followed is one almost unparalleled in military annals. The three battalions of the "Light Brigade" (43rd, 52nd and 95th) started in full marching order, and arrived at the front on the day after the battle of Talavera, having covered 62 m. in twenty-six hours. Beginning their career with this famous march, these regiments and their chief, under whom served such men as Charles and William Napier, Shaw and Colborne, soon became celebrated as one of the best corps of troops in Europe, and every engagement added to their laurels. Craufurd's operations on the Coa and Agueda in 1810 were daring to the point of rashness, but he knew the quality of the men he led better than his critics did, and though Wellington censured him for his conduct, he at the same time increased his force to a division by the addition of two picked regiments of Portuguese Caçadores. The conduct of the renowned "Light Division" at Busaco is described by Napier in one of his most vivid passages. The winter of 1810-1811 Craufurd spent in England, and his division was commanded in the interim by another officer, who did not display much ability. He reappeared on the field of the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro amidst the cheers of his men, and nothing could show his genius for war better than his conduct on this day, in covering the strange readjustment of his line which Wellington was compelled to make in the face of the enemy. A little later he obtained major-general's rank; and on the 19th of January 1812, as he stood on the glacis of Ciudad Rodrigo, directing the stormers of the Light Division, he fell mortally wounded. His body was carried out of action by his staff officer, Lieutenant Shaw of the 43rd (see Shaw Kennedy), and, after lingering four days, he died. He was buried in the breach of the fortress where he had met his death, and a monument in St Paul's cathedral commemorates Craufurd and Mackinnon, the two generals killed at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo. The exploits of Craufurd and the Light Division are amongst the most cherished traditions of the British and Portuguese armies. One of the quickest and most brilliant, if not the very first, of Wellington's generals, he had a fiery temper, which rendered him a difficult man to deal with, but to the day of his death he possessed the confidence and affection of his men in an extraordinary degree.

His elder brother, Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Craufurd (1761-1821), entered the 1st Dragoon Guards in 1778. Made captain in the Queen's Bays in 1785, he became the equerry and intimate friend of the duke of York. He studied in Germany for some time, and, with his brother Robert's assistance, translated Tielcke's book on the Seven Years' War (The Remarkable Events of the War between Prussia, Austria and Russia from 1756 to 1763). As aide-de-camp he accompanied the duke of York to the French War in 1793, and was at once sent as commissioner to the Austrian headquarters, with which he was present at Neerwinden, Caesar's Camp, Famars, Landrecies, etc. Major in 1793, and lieutenant-colonel in 1794, he returned to the English army in the latter year, and on one occasion distinguished himself at the head of two squadrons, taking 3 guns and 1000 prisoners. When the British army left the continent Craufurd was again attached to the Austrian army, and was present at the actions on the Lahn, the combat of Neumarkt, and the battle of Amberg. At the last battle a severe wound rendered him incapable of further service, and cut short a promising career. He succeeded his brother Robert as member of parliament for East Retford (1806-1812). He died in 1821, having become a lieutenant-general and a G.C.B.

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

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