Sir Ralph Abercromby (1734-1801), British general, who was one of a group of able British officers whose fame has been overshadowed by the later achievements of the duke of Wellington.
Abercromby was born in Menstry, Scotland in October 1734. He entered the army in 1756, and from 1758 to the end of the Seven Years’ War (1763) he served in Germany under Prince Ferdinand of Branswick. These years of experience under a first-class commander taught Abercromby much. His Whig principles prevented his participation in the American Revolution, but he distinguished himself in the opening campaigns against France in 1793-1795 and gained an independent command in the West Indies in 1796, where he captured St. Lucia and Demerara. He returned to be commander in chief in Ireland in 1797, but preferred to resign rather than withdraw a general order condemning, with more truth than tact, the Irish army’s ill discipline. The only successes in Britain’s Dutch campaign of late 1799—the opposed landing at the Helder and the capture of the Dutch fleet—were due to Abercromby. In 1800 he went to the Mediterranean as commander in chief and on March 21, 1801, was mortally wounded while defeating the French outside Alexandria.
Integrity, fîrmness, consideration for his troops, thoroughness, and a clear intelligence were his great qualities. Of particular interest are his care for the health of his men in the West Indies and for training them in landing operations in the Mediterranean.