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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
Robert Cornelis Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala
ROBERT CORNELIS NAPIER, NAPIER OF MAGDALA 1ST Baron (,810-1890), British field-marshal, son of Major Charles Frederick Napier, who was wounded at the storming of Meester Cornelis (Aug. 26, 1810) in Java and died some months later, was born at Colombo, Ceylon, on the 6th of December 1810. He entered the Bengal Engineers from Addiscombe College in 1826, and after the usual course of instruction at Chatham, arrived in India in November 1828. For some years. he was employed in the irrigation branch of the public works. department, and in 1838 he laid out the new hill station at Darjeeling. Promoted captain in January 1841, he was appointed to Sirhind, where he laid out cantonments on a new principle-known as the Napier system-for the troops returning from Afghanistan. In December 1845 he joined the army of the Sutlej, and commanded the Engineers at the battle of Mudki,, where he had a horse shot under him. At the battle of Ferozeshah on the 31st December he again had his horse shot under him, and,, joining the 31st Regiment on foot, was severely wounded in. storming the entrenched Sikh camp. He was present at thebattle of Sobraon on 10th February 1846, and in the advance to
Lahore; was mentioned in despatches for his services in the campaign, and received a brevet majority. He was chief engineerat the reduction of Kote-Kangra by Brigadier-General Wheeler in May 1846, and received the thanks of government. He was. then appointed consulting engineer to the Punjab resident and. council of regency, but was again called to the field to direct the. siege of Multan. He was wounded in the attack on the entrenched. position in September 1848, but was present at the action of Shujabad, the capture of the suburbs, the successful storm of Multan on 23rd January 1849, and the surrender of the fort of Chiniot. He then joined Lord Gough, took part, as commanding, engineer of the right wing, in the battle of Gujrat in February 1849, accompanied Sir W. R. Gilbert in his pursuit of the Sikhs, and Afghans, and was present at the passage of the Jhelum, the surrender of the Sikh army, and the surprise of Attock. For his. services he was mentioned in despatches and received a brevet. lieutenant-colonelcy. At the close of the war Napier was. appointed civil engineer to the board of administration of the annexed Punjab province, and carried out many important. public works during his tenure of office. In December 1852 he
commanded a column in the first Hazara expedition, and in the following year against the Boris; and for his services in these campaigns was mentioned in despatches, received the special thanks of. government and a brevet-colonelcy. He was appointed military secretary and adjutant-general to Sir James. Outram's force for the relief of Lucknow in the Indian Mutiny in 1857, was engaged in the actions which culminated in the first relief of Lucknow. He directed the defence of Lucknow until. the second relief, when he was severely wounded in crossing a. very exposed space with Outram and Havelock to meet Sir Colin Campbell. He was chief of the staff to Outram in the defence of the Alambagh position, and drew up the plan of operations for the attack of Lucknow, which was approved by Sir Colin Campbell and carried out by Napier, as brigadier-general commanding the Engineers, in March 1858. On the fall of Lucknow Napier was most favourably mentioned in despatches, and made C.B. He joined Sir Hugh Rose as second-in-command in his march on Gwalior, and commanded the 2nd brigade at the action of Morar on the 16th June. On the fall of Gwalior he was entrusted with the task of pursuing the enemy. With only 700 men he came up with Tantia Topi and 1 2,000 men on the plains of Jaora Alipur, and completely defeated him, capturing all his guns (25), ammunition and baggage. On Sir Hugh Rose's departure he took command of the Gwalior division, captured Paori in August, routed Ferozeshah, a prince of the house of Delhi, at Ranode in December, and, in January 1859, succeeded in securing the surrender of Man Singh and Tantia Topi, which ended the war. For his services Napier received the thanks of parliament and of the Indian government, and was made K.C.B.
In January 1860 Napier was appointed to the command of the 2nd division of the expedition to China under Sir Hope Grant, and took part in the action of Sinho, the storm of the Peiho forts, and the entry to Peking. For his services he received the thanks of parliament, and was promoted major-general for distinguished service in the field. For the next four years Napier was military member of the council of the governor-general of India and, on the sudden death of Lord Elgin, for a short time acted as governor-general, until the arrival of Sir W. T. Denison from Madras. In January 1865 he was given the command of the Bombay army, in March 1867 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and, later in that year, appointed to command the expedition to Abyssinia, selecting his own troops and making all the preparations for the campaign. He arrived at Annesley Bay in the Red Sea early in January 1868, reached Magdala, 420 m. from the coast, in April; stormed the stronghold, freed the captives, razed the place to the ground, returned to the coast, and on the 18th June the last man of the expedition had left Africa. He received for his services the thanks of parliament, a pension, a peerage, the G.C.B. and the G.C.S.I. The freedom of the cities of London and Edinburgh was conferred upon him, with presentation swords, and the universities bestowed upon him honorary degrees. In 1869 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He held the command-in-chief in India for six years from 1870, during which he did much to benefit the army and to encourage good shooting. He was promoted general in 1874, and appointed a colonel-commandant of the Royal Engineers. In 1876 he was the guest of the German crown prince at the military manoeuvres, and from that year until 1883 held the government and command of Gibraltar. In the critical state of affairs in 1877 he was nominated commander-in-chief of the force which it was proposed to send to Constantinople. In 1879 he was a member of the royal commission on army organization, and in November of that year he represented Queen Victoria at Madrid as ambassador extraordinary on the occasion of the second marriage of the king of Spain. On the 1st of January 1883 he was promoted to be fieldmarshal, and in December 1886 appointed Constable of the Tower of London. He died in London on the 14th of January 1890. His remains received a state funeral, and were buried in St Paul's Cathedral on the 21st of January. He was twice married, and left a large family by each wife, his eldest son, Robert William (b. 1845), succeeding to his barony. A statue of him on horseback by Boehm was erected at Calcutta when he left India, and a replica of it was afterwards set up to his memory in Waterloo Place, London.
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Robert Cornelis Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/r/robert-cornelis-napier-1st-baron-napier-of-magdala.html. 1910.