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Major-general Gordon 1794

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Major-general Gordon 1794

Postby jf42 » June 15th, 2016, 10:39 am

Greetings all,

I have trying to obtain some details about a gouty old Major-general named Gordon, who appears in late December 1794, in command of the British Fifth Brigade (19th, 54th, 85th, & 89th Regts) cantoned on either side of the Lek/Lwr Rhine during the final gasp of the Netherlands campaign. His arrival in the Netherlands appears to be a response to the shortage of major generals in the British expeditionary force which had been made worse when various of those that were in theatre were wounded, dying of natural causes, or found they had pressing business at home.

He was nominally in charge of the main attacking column under David Dundas at Tuil on December 30th 1794 (19th, 80th & ?42nd Regts) and then seems to disappear from view in the New Year. His original brigade was already sorely depleted due to the reduction of two 'young' regiments (85th and 89th) by sickness. First, for the Tuil attack, it seems he was given two regiments from other brigades (80th & 42nd). After that, as the situation became more fluid, it seems his two fit regiments (19th & 54th) were deployed ad hoc by Dundas, the 54th being sent to hold the walls of the old Hanseatic town of Tiel until the French crossed the Waal in force; the 19th to cover the line of retreat across the Lek.

I am unable to determine even the good general's Christian name at the moment. I know Gordon was an increasingly common name amangst the officers of the Army in the 1790s. Does anybody by any chance have an Army List for 1794 or 1795 that might help me narrow the field?

The British Library collection is patchy and I cannot get to Kew, so any help would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,

JF
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Re: Major-general Gordon 1794

Postby PaulD » June 15th, 2016, 12:16 pm

The only Major General Gordon in the 1794/1795 Army Lists is Benjamin Gordon (20.Nov.1782), Lt Col 48th Foot - not sure if he's your man

Incidentally, you can download army lists from the National Archives website (and they are free!)
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Re: Major-general Gordon 1794

Postby jf42 » June 15th, 2016, 1:05 pm

Thanks Paul. I'll check him out.

I didn't know about online access to Army Lists at the National Archives. I think I have shared with you my feelings about their internet portals. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?
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Re: Major-general Gordon 1794

Postby PaulD » June 15th, 2016, 4:51 pm

I'll send an email - anyone else interested, please feel free to contact me - it's not as bad as you think!
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Re: Major-general Gordon 1794

Postby PaulD » June 16th, 2016, 5:47 am

Sorry, in my haste, I missed Andrew Gordon (26th Foot), promoted to Major General 3 October 1794 - number 124 on the 1795 Army List
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Re: Major-general Gordon 1794

Postby jf42 » June 16th, 2016, 6:42 pm

Ah, it appears they're downloadable at £3.45 a pop actually. But "Available to view free at The National Archives."

However I have found my man, I think. Yes, as you say, Paul. Andrew Gordon.

Andrew Gordon was a regimental officer of the 26th Regiment. I have traced him back to his promotion from Captain to Major in March 1777 during the American War of Independence. By September 1777, Major Gordon was acting commanding officer of the 26th. Reduced drastically in numbers after four years campaigning in Canada and the rebel colonies, the 26th was drafted in 1780.

I have yet to confirm whether our Gordon is the Lieut Col Andrew Gordon of the 101st serving in India 1783-1784. At any rate, in 1789, Lieut. Col. Andrew Gordon rejoined the 26th 'Cameronian' Regiment as CO. The 26th (Its old title having been restored in 1786) was stationed at Montreal, during its second stint in the Canadas (1787-1800). Andrew Gordon was promoted 'Colonel in the Army' in 1790 and by October 1793 had returned to England. In October of the following next year Colonel Gordon was promoted Major General. Two months later he joined the Duke of York's Army in the Netherlands, where it lay in winter quarters along the river Waal and Lower Rhine. As I mentioned previously, there had developed a crucial shortage of major-generals to command brigades.

On 24th December, returns showed Major-General Gordon listed as GOC Fifth Brigade, his regiments (19th, 54th, 85th & 89th) cantoned in villages on both banks of the Lek branch of the lower Rhine, west of Arnhem. The 19th, the 'Green Howards', and the 54th (West Norfolks) were sound battalions, but the 85th and 89th were 'young' regiments newly raised for the campaign, and described as 'weak', 'wretched' or worse, with unsuitable recruits, badly clothed, poorly equipped and by December 1794 severely reduced by sickness.

Gordon arrived in the Netherlands at a time of sudden crisis. On the 2nd of December, the Duke of York left for England to be relieved of his command; a scapegoat to political criticism of the allied failures of the previous six months. Command of the Anglo-German army passed to the Hanoverian Lieut. Gen. von Walmoden, rumoured to be an illegitimate son of George II, with British troops remainaing under command of Lieut. Gen. Harcourt, (commander of the 16th Light Dragoons during the AWI). The timing of this decision was based on the assumption that the season's campaigning was over. The French troops were as badly in need of a rest and refit as those in the Allied army. The government in Paris thought otherwise.

On the 11th December, troops under the exile Dutch radical chef de brigade Herman Willaem Daendels made an unsuccessful attempt to storm cross the Meuse and take the Isle of Bommel. The following week, a sudden, severe frost set in as a stream of Arctic air descended on northern Europe. Over the next ten days, the rivers and waterways, on which the defence of Holland relied, filled with pack ice and began to freeze over. With characteristic lethargy, the Allied high command awaited the enemy's next move. On the 27th, Daendel's brigade attacked again, dashing across the ice of the frozen Meuse to occupy Bommel and, pushing on across the partially-frozen Waal, established a bridgehead at the village of Tuil.

Major General David Dundas was ordered to mount a counter-attack in order to drive the French out of Tuil and back across the river. It was here, in the subsequent action at Tuil on 30th December, the one unequivocally successful attack by the British army since they began their retreat from Flanders six months before, that Major General Gordon would take the stage, somewhat enigmatically and very briefly, before returning to comparitve obscurity.

It was interesting note that in his successive promotions to Colonel, Major General and subsequently to Lieutenant General (in 1801), Andrew Gordon was gazetted with the same contemporaries each time, in a process that would later be described as 'Buggins turn.' Among these men were notable names from the American War such as William, Lord Cathcart, Banastre Tarleton, Oliver De Lancey, and John Graves Simcoe, reminding us that the Army of 1793-95 was not officered merely by powdered drunks and ninnies, as suggested by cartoons and uniform prints of the time, but by a fair leavening of men who had seen hard, effective soldiering in America, defeating the enemy in the open field and in petit guerre, even if the war had eventually ended in humiliating defeat.

Lord Cathcart, as Gordon's fellow brigade commander, figured prominently in the last stages of the stand on the Rhine and subsequent retreat to Germany. Later made Earl Cathcart, he and Hew Dalrymple would, for better or worse, become well known names in the fight against Napoleon a decade later.
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