SIR HORATIO SHIRLEY,
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR
"He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. " And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of
the earth by clear shining, after rain."
Samuel xxiii. 3 and 4.
PICKERING AND CO.
Transcribed and edited by G.E. Cardew, 2006
SIR HORATIO SHIRLEY, K.C.B.
IR HORATIO SHIRLEY was born in Gloucester Place, London,
December 8, 1805, and privately baptized in the parish of St.
Marylebone. According to the loose practice of those days, he was received into the Church (or rather, into the great drawing room) at Lower Ettington, the ancient family seat in Warwickshire, on the first of October following (1806).
Horatio—so called from the admiration of his father, and of all true and loyal men, for the great Nelson, then just fallen at Trafalgar—was the seventh born
son of Evelyn Shirley, of Ettington, Esquire, the representative of the younger branch of the family of the Earls Ferrers, by Phillis Byam, only daughter of Charlton Wollaston, M.D., F.R.S.
When eight years old, he was sent to a school kept by a Mr. Davies, "a worthy Welshman”, at Streatham, near London—a school at that time much
frequented by Dorsetshire boys. In 1820, he was entered at Rugby, then under
the government of Dr. Wool, "a kind, old, pompous man,"and much liked by
his pupils. •
Losing his father in the year 1810, and the family seat and property
descending to his eldest brother, the late Evelyn John Shirley, Esquire, his home was for many happy years at Cliffe or Clift, in Dorsetshire, the dower house of his admirable mother, a pleasant old seat near Moreton in that county (the ancient inheritance of James Frampton, Esquire, half-brother of Mrs. Shirley). Cliffe belonged to Mr. Sturt, the family now represented by Lord Alington, and had been the residence of Mr. Evelyn Shirley at the time of his marriage, and during the life of his father the Honorable George Shirley, who
married Mary, sister of Humphrey Sturt, Esquire, the then owner of Cliffe.
During the long midsummer holidays, Mrs. Shirley would take those of her large family who were old enough, journeys long afterwards remembered with
through various parts of England, for the purpose of showing them all pleasure,
that was remarkable; they travelled in the large family coach, with four
post-horses—those were the days of good post-horses and excellent and
comfortable inns. At this time the future general "had no wish to go into the army" he is represented by his mother in 1821 as "a pleasant, droll, active boy, but would never make a scholar." Nevertheless, in October, 1823, he was entered at Trinity College, Oxford, to which College his next brother, afterwards the Reverend James Shirley, also belonged: here he was very idle, and his mother, wisely considering that he would never distinguish himself at the University, removed him in November, 1824, and determined, somewhat unwillingly —having
already two other sons in the service—to send him into the army. He was
accordingly gazetted as second lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade, 12th May 1825; and joined his regiment in Dublin on the 1st of July in the same year.
And now began the new, but not unpleasant life of a subaltern on first entering on a military career in Ireland, experienced by many a young officer. The irksome duties of drill were relieved by the more congenial pleasures of hunting, shooting, and fishing, which the hospitality of the resident gentry of Ireland are ever ready to extend to the military; sometimes also he would run down for a few days to Lough Fea, near Carrickmacross, in the county of Monaghan, a demesne and seat on the estate in that county inherited by the Shirleys from the Devereuxs, Earls of Essex, which his elder brother, the late Mr. Shirley, was at this time beginning to form with admirable taste in a country once denominated " the wastest and wildest part of all the north." In January 1826, the Rifle Brigade embarked for Malta. The depot with which Mr. Horatio Shirley remained was at Kinsale, and afterwards at Tralee; but in the following September, he rejoined his regiment at Malta.
In January, 1827, he became first lieutenant, and was appointed to the 1st Battalion and ordered to Gibraltar; in May he was again in Ireland, and quartered first at Droghcda, and afterwards in Dublin: the following year he was in England. In May 1829, he accompanied his regiment to Canada, and was quartered at Halifax; he remained in Canada till October 1831, when he came to England on leave. Again returning to Canada in March, 1832, he remained there till September, 1833, when he was promoted to an unattached company, and appointed to the 88th, or Connaught Rangers—the regiment with which, to the
close of his life, with a short interim of eleven years, he was so intimately and so happily connected.
He joined the depot of his new regiment at Sheerness, then under the command
of Major O’Hara, on the 15th of January 1834.
In the following year he was quartered at Dover, and afterwards at Kinsale, Cork, and various other places in Ireland.
The regiment was ordered to the Mediterranean in 1836, and Captain Horatio Shirley, as we must now call him, arrived at Malta on the 1st of January 1837. The 88th remained there for several years. During the summer of the year 1841, he, with several other officers, amused himself by taking a tour in Greece: the last day of this year he was gazetted major of the 88th, and on the 8th of March, 1848, appointed lieutenant colonel of the same regiment, and received orders for Barbadoes.
In the early part of 1848, the depot of the 88th was quartered at Tralee, under the colonel (then Major Shirley). Many attempts were made by the disaffected inhabitants of that part of the country to tamper with the loyalty of the men, but without avail; and on one occasion it is remembered that a Roman Catholic Nationalist believed to have been a priest, asked a soldier of the depot "if he would shoot his commanding officer if told to do so;" to which the man replied, " Indeed I would not—the major is too good a man to be shot; but if he told me to shoot you, I would put a hole through you as soon as look at you."
In 1850, the 88th were at Halifax; the following year they returned home, and were quartered at Canterbury and in the Isle of Wight; in March 1852, they were ordered to Bury, and afterwards to Preston, in Lancashire.
It was during this period that Colonel Horatio Shirley acquired, by his remarkable kindness of heart, combined with firmness and good temper, that great influence over the men of the 88th which distinguished his government of the regiment during the many years he was lieutenant colonel. The following remarks were made in the year 1853 by a distinguished writer in the "United Service Gazette," and will not be out of place here: —
"Perhaps the whole world does not furnish a more striking instance of the influence of military discipline upon the Irish character than is supplied in the gallant 88th, the Connaught Rangers. The regiment is composed entirely of Irishmen, recruited for the most part in the county Galway, from among a people who have long borne an unenviable reputation for lawless conduct: daring and desperate, their violence knows no bounds when the passions of hatred and jealousy are excited, and want, combined with the inflammatory harangues and mischievous visitations of a political
priesthood, sends them forth to confront the agent, or the unsuspecting landlord. Yet, brought within the wholesome and humanizing influence of military discipline, and placed under a commander in whom the suaviter in
modo et sortiter in re are most selicitously combined, these Galway men
become the most docile, as well as the most gallant troops—objects at
once of admiration and envy. It is a fact, of which the glorious 88th may be proud, as it is of the laurels so gloriously earned in the Peninsula, that crime is totally unknown in the regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Shirley is
adored; he holds up his finger, and the slightest disposition to deviate from the line of duty upon the part of the most illiterate soldier is at once repressed. We have thought the circumstance so remarkable, —mentioned,
as it was, in our hearing by a general officer on the staff of the higher character, —that, at the risk of offending the modesty of the lieutenant colonel and his admirable corps, we have ventured to give it currency."
The colonel himself writes, in a private letter, dated from the camp at Haslar, Gosport, 25th March, 1853: "We go on very quietly here, and got over St. Patrick's day without a defaulter; this is very different from old times, when the tattoo report of a detachment of the regiment in one of the Ionian Islands under O'Hara was as follows: — 'All drunk, but quiet;' and this was considered a
favourable report, as the boys were not always, or indeed often, quiet when
While the Connaught Rangers were quartered at Preston, orders were received on Sunday, the 2nd of April, 1854, to march to Liverpool, from thence to embark for the East on the following Tuesday, the 4th of April. On this occasion they were addressed by the colonel to the effect that he congratulated the regiment that not a man was absent, and he hoped they would add three or four jaw breaking
names to the engagements placed on their colours; feeling confident that the 'Rangers' of the present day, would prove equal to the 'Rangers' of the Peninsular war.
He added, "that he thanked the men for their excellent conduct, and was much pleased at this evidence of the strong esprit de corps which animated the
The Connaught Rangers arrived at Scutari on the 19th of April; from thence, on the 29th of May, they re-embarked for Varna, where they landed the next day. Here, and at other places in the neighbourhood, the regiment suffered greatly from cholera during the summer of 1854, having lost, between the 23rd of July and the 4th of August, no less than twenty-four men. The weather was oppressively hot, and the men, desiring to show the good feeling which universally animated them towards their colonel, would sometimes erect (during his temporary absence) an arbour of boughs at the entrance of his tent to keep off the sun, rendering it more pleasant to sit in during the extreme heat of the day.'
On the 30th of August, the regiment sailed for the Crimea, and landed at a place called Old Fort, near Lake Tongla, on the 14th of September 1854.
For a well written and truthful account of the Services of the Connaught Rangers during the far-famed Crimean campaign, I refer the reader to Colonel
1Nathaniel Stevens’s interesting work, desiring only to record here what is of a
less general nature, and more particularly personal to Colonel Shirley himself.
The battle of the Alma was fought on the 20th of September 1854. Nearly the
thfirst bullet from the enemy, as the 88 Regiment lay under the wall previous to
crossing the river, pierced Colonel Shirley's holster, and, after the action, was found lodged in his Prayer Book. This book is carefully preserved in a glass case, together with other memorials of the siege of Sebastopol, at the family seat at Ettington, in Warwickshire. Written on the first page of this book is the following prayer, composed by the colonel himself when he was promoted to the command of the regiment, and never intended to be seen by any one else. I think it gives the keynote to his character —that truthful, honest, and simple faith in Christ, without any display, which, combined with a firm determination to do his duty, and great tenderness of heart, won for him the love of the soldiers, and the respect: of all with whom he came in contact: —
" Lord of all power and might, who alone can give the will and power to act justly, and according to Thy gracious wishes, grant that I, to whom authority has been given by man over a large number of human beings, may be guided by Thee so to administer justice to all under my command that I infringe not Thy laws; and that I may do unto them as I would that Thou should do unto me. Give me grace, O Lord, to restrain my violent
1 Colonel Steven’s “The Crimean Campaign with the Connaught Rangers”,1854-56 p. 4
passions, and give me such judgment to discern the thing that is right that I may never have cause to repent an act of injustice to any of those over whom Thou hast given me the power. Accept, O Lord, this my humble petition, through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen'
Colonel Horatio Shirley's own account of the battle of the Alma shall be given in his own words, written to one of his brothers (Charles Shirley, Esq.,) from the Camp at Alma, September 22nd, 1854: —
" I sent a hurried scrawl yesterday to say that I was safe after, I am told, one of the most bloody actions, for the number actually engaged, which has occurred for many years: I will now give you a more detailed account of our proceedings. On the 19th we marched from our camp near the landing place, which latter was on the strip of land between Lake Hariot and the sea and the Bulganak river, about eight or ten miles. Here we found a large body of Cossacks, who retired after a few shots from the artillery and a little skirmish with our cavalry, when the latter lost; two or three men from artillery wounds. Our division went on in support, but were not engaged, and bivouacked where we stood. The next day we fell in at seven, the whole army having closed to the right. The French and Turks were still further on the right, close to the sea; the navy got under way, and protected the right of the whole. We, the light division, marched in columns of companies from the centre of the division, and the first division, under the Duke, supported us in the same order: our left was covered with the whole of the cavalry and horse artillery, the rest marched each with its own division. It was a most magnificent fight, the country being an open, undulating plain. We commenced our march in the front about eleven, and after frequent halts, arrived in front of the enemy after five or six miles march. About two [o'clock] they were in position on high undulating land, on the opposite side of the river Alma, their left, opposite the French, resting on a small fort, which commands the landing, and extends some three or four miles inland. The banks behind the river were very precipitous, so they had taken most of their force, which is said to have been 55,000 strong, with 100 guns, to the left and centre; and consequently the greater part of this army was opposed to the English, where the ground sloped more gradually, and commanded the opposite side more perfectly. On finding that we were just in range of their big guns and Minies, we, the
left brigade of the light division, having moved a little more to our left, deployed into line: just before this was done, I received a Minie bullet—I
believe nearly the first shot fired—in my holster, which lodged in my
Prayer Book. (See page 8) After deploying, we advanced, and lay down until the first brigade had done the same. Luckily for us the enemy fired generally over us; their riflemen, who were in houses on our side of the river, set fire to the houses, and retired: we then advanced to them, but the smoke so bothered us that we could not see and aim at them; so lay down under the wall. Bill Norcott, of the Rifles, then took his men through the gardens and vineyards a little to our left, and got across the river, upon finding which, we followed in support: still the enemy did not seem to be aware of our advance. The 88th were the first across the river, and we were lucky again in finding good shelter—a high bank—to form under. Really,
up to this time, I believe, only two or three men had been hit; and they, because they delayed to pluck the grapes when getting through the vineyard. We found the Rifles under this bank, taking long shots at two battalions on the hill, about 800 or 1,000 yards off: the plain between us and this hill was swept by guns from an entrenchment about the same distance to our right. Well, after forming, we advanced; but, unfortunately, Jeffreys took two or three companies more to the right, and so got more in front of the entrenchment, so that I had not my whole regiment with me. However, we advanced steadily to our front, getting well peppered from the entrenchment, but still with little loss. Buller, unfortunately, came up to us, and ordered us to halt and form square, as he thought we were threatened by cavalry. (You must know he is as blind as a bat, and as deaf as a post.) I foolishly obeyed, and so allowed that part of the first division which had crossed the river behind us, and formed line, to overtake us and pass to the front, so that the main body of the regiment hardly fired a shot. The three companies with Jeffreys— being more to the right, and in front
of the battery—got more into the thick of it, and lost some men, and were cheered as they passed our line after the action. Our good chief, Brown, was in the thickest of it all day, and had his horse wounded. Old Sullivan was knocked off his horse by a bit of a shell, but not hurt. We had only one officer contused, four men killed, and sixteen wounded, mostly slightly. Once more, goodbye, we march tomorrow for certain. — H. S.
" I am out of paper. The weather fortunately is wonderful, though very hot at this present moment. The enemy were commanded by their two belt Generals, Mendzekoff and Gortnakoff, or some such names. We had the pleasure of giving our good old commander-in-chief a hearty [cheer]. I don't know what this will cost you, but I thought you had rather hear from
2me than not, although I have no thin paper or stamps”.
Numerous letters remain, written by the subject of this memoir, during this eventful summer and autumn, and pending the progress of the Siege of Sebastopol in the following winter. A few extracts are here given, more particularly those which relate to the battle of Inkerman, November 5th, 1854, and to the unsuccessful attack of the Redan, on the 17th of June 1855. The following is written to his eldest brother: —
" I send off today—but heaven only knows when it will arrive, or whether it will ever arrive—a Russian rifle with accoutrements complete; also a
sword, used, I believe, by their artillery, to be kept in the Tower at Ettington. Part of these things were taken off a dead man, after the murderous action of Sunday last, the 5th instant. I send it in charge of two of our officers, who were wounded on that day: the carnage on that day far exceeds that of Alma, and all without any decided advantage to either party. In my regiment alone, the loss is forty killed, including five who died of their wounds in hospital, and eighty-one wounded, including two officers; and this out of 370, which was all, including officers, who were engaged: and I might deduct seventy from that number, for they came late off picket, and never joined the rest of the regiment until the action was over: they were, however, engaged in another part of the field, and lost two or three men; they are therefore included in the returns. I hear, and believe, that the loss of the Russians was immense, the numbers, estimated by those who are supposed to be able to make a tolerably accurate calculation, put their loss at from ten to twelve thousand, and some even say more than that; I cannot believe this to be correct. However, on this, the third day after the battle, the ground is still strewed thickly with dead Russians, not with standing working parties of several thousand men having been employed for two days in burying them, as well as our own men, and in collecting their wounded. We have taken more than two thousand
2 Written on a Horse Guards Memorandum
prisoners, but most of them are wounded, and our medical staff is far from being sufficient to attend to them as well as our own men. The Russians in this action behaved very brutally, killing every wounded man they could meet; this accounts in a great measure for the number of killed beyond the usual proportion. In the first return I sent in from twenty-five to thirty men returned as missing, and who were supposed to have been taken prisoners, every one of whom has since been found dead on the field, mostly from bayonet wounds, in inflicted, I firmly believe, when incapable of resistance. Lord Raglan has caused inquiry to be made as to this, with a view of communicating with the Russian general, in hopes of stopping much brutality, which is unpardonable considering the care— not to say
kindness, shown to, and acknowledged frequently by the Russians—we
have taken of their wounded men."
Colonel Horatio Shirley was appointed Companion of the Bath, 5th July 1855, and received the local rank of brigadier general on the 7th of August in the same year. The attack on "The Quarries" was on the 8th of June preceding. It was under the command of Colonel Shirley, and is well described in Colonel Steevens's valuable work already referred to. Lord Raglan, in his dispatch, on the subject of this attack, wrote as follows: —
" The mode in which Colonel Shirley conducted this very arduous service, and carried out his orders, entitles him to my highest commendation."
A few days from this period the Redan was ineffectually attempted to be stormed. The following letter was written by the colonel to his brother, the Rev. James Shirley, from the camp, on the 17th of June 1855: —
" Long before you receive this, you will have heard by telegraph, I trust, of the fall of this place, which is to be attacked, according to present plans, tomorrow. If it please God that we should be successful, and that a merciful Providence again preserves me, unworthy as I am, I hope to be able to finish this; but it is very probable that I may not be able to do so; for if we get into the place we mall have to retain it, and I may belong to that party, although I hope to be able to get back to camp before this goes on Tuesday morning, especially as I am for the trenches tonight. Sir George [Brown] tells me that we are to attack the Redan with three divisions of the army, and the French the Malakoff Tower, with 25,000 men. So that, if numbers will do it, it will be done. Of course the time of the attack, and the