Sir John Cradock

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 09
by Henry Morse Stephens

Sir John Cradock, Governor at the CapeCaradoc, Sir John Francis, Lord Howden (1762-1839), general, who exchanged the name Cradock for Caradoc in 1820,was the only son of John Cradock [q.v.], archbishop of Dublin, and was born at Dublin, when his father was bishop of Kilmore, on 12 Aug. 1762. His father's political interest was very great, and he rose quickly in the army, which he entered as a cornet in the 4th regiment of horse in 1777. In 1779 he exchanged an ensigncy in the 2nd or Coldstream guards; in 1781 he was promoted lieutenant and captain, and in 1785 to a majority in the 12th light dragoons. In 1786 he exchanged into the 13th regiment; in 1789 was promoted lieutenant-colonel, and in 1790 commanded the regiment, when it was ordered to the West Indies at the time of the Nootka Sound affair. In 1791 he returned to England on being appointed acting quartermaster-general in Ireland, but in 1793 accompanied Sir Charles Grey to the West Indies as aide-de-camp, and was appointed to command two picked battalions selected for dangerous services. At their head he served throughout the campaign in which Sir Charles Grey reduced the French West Indian islands, and was wounded at the capture of Martinique, and at its conclusion received the thanks of parliament and was promoted colonel of the 127th regiment. On 1 Oct. 1795 he was appointed assistant-quartermaster-general, and in 1797 quartermaster-general in Ireland, and on 1 Jan. 1798 was promoted major-general. In 1798 his local knowledge was invaluable to Lord Cornwallis in the suppression of the Irish rebellion; he was present at the battle of Vinegar Hill and the capture of Wexford; he accompanied Lord Comwallis in his rapid march against the French general, Humbert, and was wounded in the affair at Ballynahinch. He sat in the Irish House of Commons as M.P. for Clogher from 1785 to 1790, for Castlebar from 1790 to 1797, for Middleton, co. Cork, from 1798 to 1799, and for Thomastown, co. Kilkenny, from 1799 to 1800. In parliament he always voted as a strenuous supporter of the government, and on 17 Feb. 1800 he acted as second to the Right Hon. Isaac Corry, chancellor of the Irish exchequer, in his famous duel with Grattan in Phoenix Park. At the same time he strengthened his political connections by marrying, on 17 Nov. 1798, Lady Theodosia Meade, third daughter of John, first earl of Clanwilliam.

On the completion of the union he lost his seat in parliament, but was appointed to a command on the staff of Sir Ralph Abercromby in the Mediterranean. He joined the army at Minorca, and received the command of the 2nd brigade. He was engaged in the battles of 8, 13, and 21 March in Egypt, and after the death of Abercromby he accompanied General Hutchinson in the advance on Cairo as second in command. He was present at the surrender of Cairo, but then fell ill of fever, and was unable to co-operate in the reduction of Alexandria. At the conclusion of the Egyptian campaign he was appointed to the command-in-chief of a corps of seven thousand men, and ordered to reduce the island of Corsica. The peace of Amiens put an end to the expedition, but he was made a knight of the Bath, gazetted colonel of the 71st light infantry, and on 21 Dec. 1803 was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces at Madras, and a local lieutenant-general.

His command at Madras was signalised by the mutiny at Vellore. Shortly after his arrival he had determined to reduce the chaotic mass of regulations for the army under his command into something like a regular code. In 1805 the new code was issued under the sanction of the governor, Lord William Bentinck, and as it was particularly minute on questions of uniform it greatly offended the sepoys. The family of Tippoo Sahib took advantage of the discontent to set on foot a conspiracy among the Mahomedans in the native army, and on 10 July 1806 a mutiny broke out at Vellore. When the mutiny was suppressed there were mutual recriminations among the authorities at Fort George as to its cause; Cradock threw the responsibility upon his subalterns for advising the changes, and on the governor for sanctioning them; the governor declared it was all the commander-in-chief's fault, and in the end, in 1807, the court of directors recalled both Cradock and Lord William Bentinck.

The ministers at once appointed Cradock to the command of a division in Ireland, but his mind was `soured by ill-treatment' (Wellington's Supplementary Despatches, v. 261), and he speedily resigned his division and applied for active service. In December 1808 Cradock (lieutenant-general on 1 Jan. 1805) arrived at Lisbon to take command of the troops which Moore had left behind him in Portugal. Cradock's position was a difficult one. He had not more than ten thousand men under his command, including the sick and the stragglers, and could not put more than five thousand in the field. His position was soon complicated by Sir John Moore's retreat; the Portuguese regency wished him to advance to Oporto, and the people became furious and insulted and even murdered English soldiers in the streets of Lisbon. Cradock knew that it was impossible to protect Oporto against Soult's victorious army, and prepared instead to defend Lisbon, threatened both by Soult and Victor in the east. Instructions arrived for him to prepare to evacuate Portugal, but the English ministers suddenly resolved to defend Lisbon at all hazards, and Cradock was ordered to advance from Lisbon and take up a central position. He moved most unwillingly from Passa d'Arcos to Leiria, and there formed his small army in order of battle to await the advance of Soult from Oporto. Cradock had time to reorganise his army, and, after receiving reinforcements, had begun an advance against Soult, when the news arrived that the government had decided to promote him to the governorship of Gibraltar, and to supersede him in Portugal by Wellesley. Sir Arthur Wellesley did all he could to soften Cradock's disappointment, but to the end of his life he felt that he had been badly treated. In 1809 he was appointed colonel of the 43rd regiment, and in 1811 was promoted to the governorship of the Cape of Good Hope, which, however, he only retained till 1814. In 1812 he was promoted general, but he remained a disappointed man. The Duke of Wellington took his only son upon his personal staff, and through the duke's influence Cradock was created Lord Howden in the peerage of Ireland on 19 Oct. 1819. He was further favoured by the duke, and on 7 Sept. 1831 he was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Lord Howden of Howden and Grimston, co. York, on the coronation of William IV. He died at Grimston on 6 July 1839, in his seventy-ninth year.


sir john cradock - biography

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