Robert Craufurd

Infobox Military Person
name=Major General Robert Craufurd

allegiance=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
rank=Major General
family=Crauford Baronets
nickname=Black Bob
lived=May 5, 1764 – January 23, 1812
placeofbirth=Newark, Ayrshire
placeofdeath=Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain
occupation= Soldier, MP

Major-General Robert Craufurd (May 5, 1764 – January 23, 1812), was a Scottish soldier and MP. He commanded the Light Division in the Napoleonic Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. He was mortally wounded storming the lesser breach in the Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo on January 19, 1812 and died four days later.

Early life

Craufurd was born at Newark Castle, Ayrshire, the third son of Sir Alexander Crauford, 1st Baronet (see Crauford Baronets) [Crauford p 2] and his wife, Jane Crokatt, and the younger brother of General Sir Charles Gregan Craufurd. He was educated at Harrow School (1779), and later at Göttingen University (1787).

He entered the army as an ensign in the 25th regiment in 1779, was promoted lieutenant in 1781, and captain into the 75th regiment in 1783. He served with this unit in India in Lord Cornwallis's campaigns against Tipu Sultan between 1790 and 1792, establishing a reputation as a good regimental officer. Craufurd was a strict disciplinarian and somewhat prone to violent mood swings which earned him the nickname "Black Bob". After a military career which took him from India to the Netherlands, he found himself commanding a brigade during the Peninsular War in 1808. By 1809 he was in charge of the Light Brigade, which was composed of the elite foot soldiers in the army at the time.

Later career

In the early 1790s, Craufurd returned to Europe and was employed on attachment, under his brother Charles, with the Austrian armies operating against the French, remaining there after Charles was severely wounded. He returned to England in December 1797 and was promoted lieutenant-colonel. In 1798 he was appointed deputy quartermaster-general in Ireland, and his services during the suppression of the uprising there, especially his contribution to the operations against General Humbert's French corps, were praised by General Lake. In 1799 he acted as Britain's military attaché to General Suvorov's headquarters during his campaign in Switzerland. He served on the staff in the expedition to The Helder in the Netherlands. On 6 February 1800 he married Mary Frances Holland (d. 1842), daughter of the architect Henry Holland of Hans Place, Chelsea, London. They had three sons and a daughter.

In 1802 he was elected MP for East Retford in Nottinghamshire through the influence of his brother Charles, who had married the dowager duchess of Newcastle (whose family owned the borough).

Craufurd was promoted colonel on 30 October 1805 and gave up his seat in 1806 in the hope of going on active service. In 1807 he was sent to South America under General Whitelock and he took command of a light brigade, consisting of a battalion of the 95th rifle regiment and the light companies of several other battalions. His brigade led the advance upon Buenos Aires and, in the attack on the city, achieved its objectives. However, on orders from Whitelocke, he halted and surrendered with the rest of the army. During this expedition he acquired a reputation as a leader of light troops and, in October 1807, sailed with Sir David Baird for the Iberian peninsula at the head of a light brigade. Baird's corps joined Sir John Moore's army at Mayorga on 20 December, and Craufurd's command was repeatedly engaged, especially at Castro Gonzalo on the 28th. On 31 December the light division was ordered to leave the main army for Vigo, where it embarked for England.

In 1809 Craufurd returned to the Peninsula, with the rank of brigadier-general, to take command of the Light Division (43rd, 52nd and 95th). While on his way to join the army of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the duke of Wellington), he heard rumours that during the battle of Talavera on 27–28 July, Wellesley had been killed. The march which followed is one almost unparalleled in military annals. The three battalions of the Light Division started in full marching order, and arrived at the front on the day after the Battle of Talavera, having covered 62 miles on foot 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 increased their reputation as one of the best corps of troops in Europe, and almost every engagement following added to their laurels.

Craufurd's operations on the Coa and Agueda in 1810 were daring to the point of rashness; the drawing on of the French forces into what became the Battle of Coa in particular was a rare lapse in judgement that almost saw his removal from command. Although Wellington censured him for his conduct, he at the same time increased his force from brigade-strength to division-strength by the addition of two picked regiments of Portuguese "Caçadores" [Crauford p 100ff] .

The winter of 1810-1811, Craufurd spent in England, and his division was poorly commanded in the interim by another officer, Sir William Erskine. When Craufurd reappeared on the field of the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro, it was to the cheers of his men. In the fighting the light division again played a distinguished part, covering the change of front which Wellington found it necessary to make when outflanked by the French.

Craufurd was promoted major-general on 4 June 1811 and, in the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo the following winter, led the light division in the attack on the smaller breach when the fortress was stormed on 19 January. At the very beginning of the assault he was mortally wounded in the abdomen and he was carried out of action by his staff officer, Lieutenant Shaw of the 43rd, and, after lingering four days, he died on 23 January 1812. He was buried in the breach itself. His death was marked by tributes in both houses of parliament, and, at public expense, a monument was erected to him and General Mackinnon, who was killed in the same siege, in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

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 [Crauford p 245ff] [Hibbert p 88f] . As his friend, the fellow soldier George Napier concluded:

Brilliant as some of the traits of his character were, and notwithstanding the good and generous feelings which often burst forth like a bright gleam of sunshine from behind a dark and heavy cloud, still there was a sullenness which seemed to brood in his innermost soul and generate passions which knew no bounds. (Napier, 225)

During the First World War, a "Lord Clive" class monitor was named for hims, HMS "General Crauford"



* Crauford, Alexander (Grandson of the general) "General Crauford and his Light Division" (reprint Naval and Military Press ISBN 1-845740-13-0)
* Hibbert, Christopher (editor) "The Recollections of Rifleman Harris" The Windrush Press 1996 ISBN 0 900075 64 3
* J. W. Cole, "Memoirs of British generals distinguished during the Peninsular War, 1", 1856
* D. Gates, "The British light infantry arm, c.1790–1815", 1987
* W. Cope, "The history of the rifle brigade", 1877
* G. Simmons, "A British rifle man", ed. W. W. C. Verner, 1899
* E. Costello, "The adventures of a soldier" 1841
* W. Surtees, "Twenty-five years in the rifle brigade", 1833
* For more information visit []


NAME=Craufurd, Robert
SHORT DESCRIPTION=British Army General
DATE OF BIRTH=May 5 1764
PLACE OF BIRTH=Newark, Ayrshire (Scotland)
DATE OF DEATH=January 23 1812
PLACE OF DEATH=Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain

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