Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill

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The Viscount Hill
Roland Hill 1819.jpg
Lieutenant-General Rowland Lord Hill, 1819. Canvas by George Dawe
Born11 August 1772 (1772-08-11)
Prees, Shropshire
Died10 December 1842 (1842-12-11) (aged 70)
Hadnall, Shropshire
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Years of service1790–1842
Rank General
Commands held II Corps
Battles/wars Napoleonic Wars
Peninsular War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order
Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword (Portugal)
Knight Commander of the Military William Order (Netherlands)
Arms of Hill: Ermine, on a fesse sable a castle triple towered argent Arms Hill OfHillsCourt Nash Shropshire.png
Arms of Hill: Ermine, on a fesse sable a castle triple towered argent

General Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill, GCB , GCH (11 August 1772 – 10 December 1842) was a British Army officer who served in the Napoleonic Wars as a trusted brigade, division and corps commander under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1828.


Background and early career

Hill was born on 11 August 1772 at Hawkstone Hall near Prees, Shropshire. He was the second son and fourth child of Sir John Hill, 3rd Baronet, a landowner, and Mary, co-heir and daughter of John Chambré of Petton, Shropshire. [2] [3]

Educated at The King's School in Chester, [4] Hill was commissioned into the 38th Foot in 1790. [5] He was promoted to lieutenant on 27 January 1791. [6] On 16 March 1791, after a period of leave, he was appointed to the 53rd Regiment of Foot. [7] He was asked to raise an independent company and given the rank of captain on 30 March 1793. [8]

He served at the Siege of Toulon in Autumn 1793 as aide-de-camp to General O'Hara [3] from where he carried the dispatches to London. [9] He then transferred to one of Major General Cornelius Cuyler's independent companies on 16 November 1793. [10] In 1794 he assisted Thomas Graham in raising the 90th Foot for which he was promoted to major on 27 May 1794 [11] and to lieutenant-colonel on 26 July 1794. [12] He was promoted to colonel on 1 January 1800. [13]

In 1801 he commanded the 90th Foot when they landed at Aboukir Bay in Egypt as part of a force under Sir Ralph Abercromby: Hill was seriously wounded in the action when a musket ball hit his head. [9] In the ensuing weeks Hill helped drive the French forces out of Egypt. [9] Hill became a brigadier in 1803 and a major-general on 2 November 1805. [14]

The Peninsula

Hill commanded a brigade at the Battle of Roliça and also at the Battle of Vimeiro in 1808. [9] He participated in Sir John Moore's 1808–1809 campaign in Spain, commanding a brigade at the Battle of Corunna. [9] While serving under Wellington at the Second Battle of Porto, units of Hill's brigade launched an impromptu assault across the Douro River that ultimately routed Marshal Nicolas Soult's French corps from Oporto. [9]

Hill commanded the 2nd Infantry Division at the Battle of Talavera. The night before the battle, Marshal Claude Victor mounted a surprise attack, swept aside two battalions of the King's German Legion and seized a key elevation. As Hill later recounted, "I was sure it was the old Buffs, as usual, making some blunder." [15] Nevertheless, he led a reserve brigade forward in the dark. In the short clash that followed, Hill was briefly grabbed and nearly captured by a Frenchman, but his troops recovered the summit. This is the first occasion on which Hill supposedly swore. [16]

Still leading the 2nd Division during Marshal André Masséna's 1810 invasion of Portugal, Hill fought at the Battle of Bussaco. [9] In autumn 1811, Wellington placed Hill in independent command of 16,000 men watching Badajoz. On 28 October he led a successful raid on the French at the Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos. On 21 January 1812 he was appointed to the honorary position of Governor of Blackness Castle [17] and on 22 February 1812 he was appointed a KB. [18] He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword on 4 May 1812. [19]

In May 1812, after the capture of Badajoz, Hill led a second raid that destroyed a key bridge in the Battle of Almaraz. [9] While Wellington won the Battle of Salamanca, Hill protected Badajoz with an independent 18,000-man corps, including the British 2nd Division, John Hamilton's Portuguese division and William Erskine's 2nd Cavalry Division. He was promoted to lieutenant general on 30 December 1811. [20]

After the British capture of Madrid, Hill had responsibility for an army of 30,000 men. [9] Hill commanded the Right Column during the campaign and decisive British victory at the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June 1813. [9] [21] Still in corps command, he fought in the Battle of the Pyrenees. [22] At Vitoria and in Wellington's invasion of southern France, Hill's corps usually consisted of William Stewart's 2nd Division, the Portuguese Division (under John Hamilton, Francisco Silveira or Carlos Le Cor) [23] and Pablo Morillo's Spanish Division. For his leadership in these battles he was awarded a medal and two clasps on 7 October 1813. [24] He led the Right Corps at the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November 1813. [25]

On 13 December 1813, during the Battle of the Nive, Hill performed what may have been his finest work in his defence of St-Pierre d'Irube. With his 14,000 men and 10 guns isolated on the east bank of the Nive by a broken bridge, Hill held off the attacks of Marshal Nicolas Soult's 30,000 soldiers and 22 guns. He fought the battle with great skill and "was seen at every point of danger, and repeatedly led up rallied regiments in person to save what seemed like a lost battle ... He was even heard to swear." [16] Later, he fought at the Orthez and Toulouse. Wellington said, "The best of Hill is that I always know where to find him." [26] He was appointed Governor of Hull on 13 July 1814. [27]

Nicknamed "Daddy Hill", he looked after his troops and was adored by his men. [9] On one occasion, he provided a wounded officer who arrived at his headquarters with a lunch basket. Another time, a sergeant delivered a letter to Hill. Expecting nothing but a nod of thanks, the man was astonished when the general arranged for his supper and a place for him to stay for the night. The next day, Hill gave him food and a pound for the rest of his journey. [28]

He was also Tory [29] Member of Parliament (MP) for Shrewsbury from 1812 [30] to 1814, [31] when he was raised to his peerage as Baron Hill of Almaraz and of Hawkestone in the county of Salop. [32] [33] although military duties made him unable to attend the House of Commons prior to his elevation to the Lords. The peerage brought with it a £2,000 pension. [29]

Hill was also colonel of the 3rd Garrison Battalion from 14 January 1809, [34] colonel of the 94th Regiment of Foot from 23 September 1809, [35] colonel of the 72nd Regiment of Foot from 29 April 1815 [36] and colonel of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards from 19 November 1830. [37]

Waterloo and later career

Battle of Waterloo, Hill invites the last remnants of the French Imperial Guard to surrender Dernier carre de la Garde - gen Hill.png
Battle of Waterloo, Hill invites the last remnants of the French Imperial Guard to surrender
Hill ready for the annual Waterloo anniversary banquet at Apsley House in 1836 Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill by William Salter.jpg
Hill ready for the annual Waterloo anniversary banquet at Apsley House in 1836

At the Battle of Waterloo Hill commanded the II Corps. [9] He led the charge of Sir Frederick Adam's brigade against the Imperial Guard towards the end of the battle. For some time it was thought that he had fallen in the melee. He escaped unwounded, and after the battle wrote to his sister, "I verily believe there never was so tremendous a battle fought as that at Waterloo." [3] Thereafter he continued with the army in France until its withdrawal in 1818. [9]

He received several awards from allied nations after the battle. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 4 January 1815 [38] and on 21 August 1815 he was made Knight Commander of the Order of Maria Theresa of Austria [39] and Knight of St George of Russia. [40] On 27 August 1815 the Dutch King William I made him a Commander of the exclusive Military Order of William. At the Coronation of George IV in 1821, Lord Hill bore the Standard of England in the procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. [41] From 1828 to 1842, he succeeded the Duke of Wellington as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. [9] He was also appointed Governor of Plymouth on 18 June 1830 [42] and became Viscount Hill of Almaraz on 22 September 1842. [9]

A keen foxhunter, Hill was master of the North Shropshire Foxhounds until 1823. [43] The pack exists to this day and hunts the north of the County, including the grounds of his birthplace, Hawkstone Hall. [43] He later shared the Mastership with Sir Bellingham-Graham and Sir Edward Smythe, the hounds at this time being kennelled two miles south-east of Hawkstone Hall. [43] Hill also formed the Hawkstone Otter Hunt around 1800, which was maintained and hunted by successive Lords. [43]

He died at Hardwicke Grange, Hadnall, Shropshire on 10 December 1842. [9] He is buried in the churchyard at Hadnall. [9]

General Hill in later life Rowlandhill.jpg
General Hill in later life


Hill never married and on his death the baronetcy passed in remainder to Rowland Hill, 2nd Viscount Hill, the son of his deceased brother, John. [2] His brothers Thomas, Robert and Clement also followed military careers and were present at the Battle of Waterloo. [44]

See also


  1. Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.577
  2. 1 2 Burke, Bernard (1869). A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, Volume 1. London: Harrison. p. 584.
  3. 1 2 3 Dalton 1904, p. 13.
  4. "Inspirational Alumni Members". The King's School Chester. Archived from the original on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  5. "No. 13237". The London Gazette . 14 September 1790. p. 573.
  6. "No. 13278". The London Gazette . 29 January 1791. p. 64.
  7. "No. 13291". The London Gazette . 15 March 1791. p. 168.
  8. "No. 13514". The London Gazette . 26 March 1793. p. 252.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "Rowland Hill". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  10. "No. 13593". The London Gazette . 12 November 1793. p. 1017.
  11. "No. 13663". The London Gazette . 24 May 1794. p. 488.
  12. "No. 13687". The London Gazette . 22 July 1794. p. 760.
  13. "No. 15218". The London Gazette . 31 December 1799. p. 1.
  14. "No. 15856". The London Gazette . 29 October 1805. p. 1341.
  15. Glover, p 108
  16. 1 2 Oman, p 118
  17. "No. 16564". The London Gazette . 18 January 1812. p. 129.
  18. "No. 16576". The London Gazette . 18 February 1812. p. 335.
  19. "No. 16599". The London Gazette . 2 May 1812. p. 830.
  20. "No. 16556". The London Gazette . 28 December 1811. p. 2498.
  21. "No. 16887". The London Gazette . 19 April 1814. p. 835.
  22. "No. 16934". The London Gazette . 13 September 1814. p. 1850.
  23. Oman, p 370-1
  24. "No. 16785". The London Gazette . 5 October 1813. p. 1986.
  25. Burke, p. 231
  26. Glover, p 349
  27. "No. 16920". The London Gazette . 26 July 1814. p. 1507.
  28. Oman, p 115
  29. 1 2 Thorne, R.G. "Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill". History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  30. "No. 16660". The London Gazette . 20 October 1812. p. 2119.
  31. "No. 16907". The London Gazette . 11 June 1814. p. 1205.
  32. "Historical list of MPs: constituencies beginning with S, part 3". Leigh Rayment's House of Commons pages. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  33. "No. 16894". The London Gazette . 3 May 1814. p. 936.
  34. "No. 16217". The London Gazette . 10 January 1809. p. 45.
  35. "No. 16299". The London Gazette . 19 September 1809. p. 1514.
  36. "No. 17009". The London Gazette . 6 May 1815. p. 845.
  37. "No. 18747". The London Gazette . 19 November 1830. p. 2420.
  38. "No. 16972". The London Gazette . 4 January 1815. p. 18.
  39. "No. 17064". The London Gazette . 23 September 1815. p. 1941.The London Gazette announced the award a month later from the date it was conferred given in The Complete Peerage".
  40. The Complete Peerage, Volume VI. St Catherine Press, London. 1926. p. 520.
  41. "No. 17732". The London Gazette . 3 August 1821. p. 1604.
  42. "No. 18699". The London Gazette . 29 June 1830. p. 1345.
  43. 1 2 3 4 North Shropshire Hunt – Masters Roll Archived 23 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  44. "Death of Sir Robert Chambre Hill CB" . Shrewsbury Chronicle. 10 March 1850. Retrieved 15 October 2015 via British Newspaper Archive.

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Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Forbes
Colonel of the 3rd Garrison Battalion
Succeeded by
Baldwin Leighton
Preceded by
Francis Dundas
Colonel of the 94th Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir James Henry Craig
Governor of Blackness Castle
Succeeded by
The Earl of Lindsey
Preceded by
The Duke of Richmond
Governor of Kingston-upon-Hull
Succeeded by
The Earl Cathcart
Preceded by
James Stuart
Colonel of the 72nd Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Sir George Murray
Preceded by
Sir John Abercromby
Colonel of the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Lord FitzRoy Somerset
Preceded by
The Duke of Wellington
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by
The Duke of Wellington
Preceded by
The Duke of Cumberland
Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (The Blues)
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Anglesey
Preceded by
The Earl Harcourt
Governor of Plymouth
Office abolished
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Hill
Henry Grey Bennet
Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury
With: Henry Grey Bennet
Succeeded by
Richard Lyster
Henry Grey Bennet
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Hill
Succeeded by
Rowland Hill
Baron Hill
Baron Hill