Ralph Abercromby

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Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby, KCB (sometimes spelled Abercrombie) (7 October 1734 – 28 March 1801) was a British lieutenant-general noted for his services during the Napoleonic Wars.



He was the eldest son of George Abercromby of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire. He was born at Menstrie, Clackmannanshire.[1] Educated at Rugby and the University of Edinburgh, in 1754 he was sent to Leipzig to study civil law, with a view to his proceeding to the Scottish bar.

Seven Years War

On returning from the continent he expressed a strong preference for the military profession, and a cornet's commission was accordingly obtained for him (March 1756) in the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He served with his regiment in the Seven Years' War, and the opportunity thus afforded him of studying the methods of Frederick the Great moulded his military character and formed his tactical ideas.

He rose through the intermediate grades to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the regiment (1773) and brevet colonel in 1780, and in 1781 he became colonel of the King's Irish infantry. When that regiment was disbanded in 1783 he retired upon half pay.

Up to this time, he had scarcely been engaged in active service, and this was due mainly to his disapproval of the policy of the government, and especially to his sympathies with the American colonists in their struggles for independence. His retirement is no doubt to be ascribed to similar feelings. On leaving the army he for a time took up political life as member of Parliament for Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire.[1] This, however, proved uncongenial, and, retiring in favour of his brother, he settled at Edinburgh and devoted himself to the education of his children.

War service

However, when France declared war against Great Britain in 1793, he hastened to resume his professional duties. Being esteemed one of the ablest and most intrepid officers in the whole British forces, he was appointed to the command of a brigade under the Duke of York, for service in the Netherlands. He commanded the advanced guard in the action at Le Cateau, and was wounded at Nijmegen. The duty fell to him of protecting the British army in its disastrous retreat out of Holland, in the winter of 1794–1795. In 1795, he received the honour of an Knighthood of the Bath, in acknowledgment of his services.

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