Sir Thomas Graham, (1748–1843)

ca. 1789-1830 --- Portrait of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham by Sir Thomas Lawrence --- Image by © Christie's Images/Corbis

ca. 1789-1830 — Portrait of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham by Sir Thomas Lawrence

A British general, Thomas Graham played an active role in the French Revolutionary Wars. Graham was born on 19 October 1748, probably in Perthshire, Scotland. His father was Thomas Græme, laird of Balgowan, and his mother was Lady Christian Hope. Books and learning were important to Graham. One of his early tutors was James Macpherson, who in the 1760s was famous for his supposed discovery of the Poems of Ossian. Graham later attended Christ Church, Oxford. In 1774 he married. He traveled extensively before purchasing, in 1787, Lednoch, an estate in Metheven near Perth. Graham was known to contemporaries for his improving abilities, which included cultivating turnips and breeding livestock. He was also an avid deer hunter, thereby, he said, sharpening skills that proved useful to his military career.

Some argue that Graham turned to the military to help relieve the emptiness that accompanied the loss of his wife in 1791. Whatever the reason, he soon distinguished himself in action. In the summer of 1793 Graham was aide-de-camp to Lord Mulgrave, who was defending against the French at the siege of Toulon. Later, in Scotland, Graham raised a battalion known as the “Perthshire Volunteers.” Graham was appointed lieutenant colonel of this, the 90th Foot, in 1794, the same year in which he was elected to represent Perth in Parliament. In 1796 Graham was at Mantua to help Feldmarschall Dagobert Graf Würmser defend against the French, unsuccessfully despite Graham’s heroic efforts to carry intelligence to the Austrian general Joseph Alvinczy Freiherr von Berberek, at Bassano-a feat he accomplished by traveling over treacherous territory and in disguise. In 1797-1798 Graham was at Gibraltar, Minorca, and Messina. In late 1799 he was sent, as brigadier general, to Malta, which had been occupied by the French who were gathered at Valetta, which Graham blockaded. The French capitulated in September 1800, shortly after Graham’s command had been assumed by General Henry Pigot. Graham joined his regiment in Egypt and traveled through Turkey, spending time at Constantinople before passing through Vienna and Paris while returning home.

Graham was stationed in Ireland in 1804-1805 and spent three years in the West Indies before accompanying Sir John Moore to Sweden and then Spain, where Graham was present at the Battle of Corunna, in which Moore died. Promoted to major general in 1809, Graham was brigade commander at Walcheren, under Lord Chatham, and at the siege of Flushing. Promoted to lieutenant general in 1810, Graham took charge of the British and Portuguese forces at Cadiz, in southern Spain. On 5 March 1811 Graham won an important and celebrated victory over the French at Barrosa. In 1811 he was appointed second in command, under Viscount (later the Duke of) Wellington, whom Graham assisted at the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in early 1812, for which he was knighted three months later. Problems with his sight forced Graham’s return to Scotland in July 1812. By May 1813 he had rejoined the British army in Portugal in time to command a large British force during the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June. Wounded at Tolosa, in early July, Graham was sent to besiege San Sebastian, which surrendered on 9 September. He crossed the Bidassoa, passing into France, before health problems again caused his return to Britain, where he received many honors. In the spring of 1814 Graham was back in the field, briefly, in Holland, where he won a victory at Merxem but failed at Bergen-op-Zoom. Graham was deservedly praised and promoted at the conclusion of the war. He was officially recognized in Parliament, created Baron Lynedoch of Balgowan, promoted to full general (1821), and appointed governor of Dumbarton Castle (1829). Graham’s long retirement was divided between foreign travel, London politics, and improvements at Lynedoch. He died at age ninety-five on 18 December 1843.

References and further reading Aspinall-Oglander, Cecil Faber. 1956. Freshly Remembered: The Story of Thomas Graham, Lord Lynedoch. London: Hogarth. Brett-James, Antony. 1959. General Graham, Lord Lynedoch. London: Macmillan. Delavoye, Alexander M. 1880. Life of Thomas Graham, Lord Lynedoch. London: Richardson.


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