Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Sir Dudley St Leger Hill

 1787 - 1851

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Peninsula War Hero dies in India

Sir Dudley St Leger Hill died from a stroke1 at Ambala on the 21st February 1851 while still in command of the Sirhind Division of the Bengal Army in the Punjab province. Ambala is also known as Umballa and is now in India’s northern Haryana State. The Overland Mail reported that “the gallant officer was walking in his garden when he suddenly fell ill, staggered against a tree, and, in very short time, was no more.” He was buried2 at Ambala on the 22nd February 1851 aged about 60 years.

Sir Dudley was a career soldier who was actively involved in the Peninsula War against the forces of Napoleon from 1808 until the end of the war in 1814. His career was documented in Phillipart’s The Royal Military Calendar of 1820 and the Dictionary of National Biography, and his obituary was published in the Gentleman’s Magazine of May 1851. This history has used these documents to provide the outline of his celebrated life.

A drunken murder

Sir Dudley’s great grandfather was Captain Richard Hill who was the first to settle in Co Carlow. A letter from the Duke of Marlborough, dated the 29th October 17043, states that Captain Richard Hill “was the son of the Dean of Kilkenny”; perhaps providing evidence that the Dean Thomas Hill’s son became the infamous murderer of William Mountfort, the actor. A contribution to Notes and Queries on July 4th 1896 by Charles Dalton of London, outlined Richard’s notoriety in his article “The Murder of Mountfort, the Actor”.

“Lord MacAulay tells us that Captain Richard Hill, the murderer of Wm. Mountfort, the actor, was "a profligate captain in the army"; and Mountfort's biographer in the Dict. of Nat. Biog. describes Hill as "a known ruffler and cutthroat." Both these sweeping assertions are, to say the least of them, somewhat hyperbolical. Hill was only sixteen years of age when he ran the unfortunate actor through with his sword, in Howard Street, Strand, on 9 Dec. 1692. Lord Mohun, who was Hill's accomplice and an accessory after the fact, was seventeen, and this point went in his favour when he was tried by his peers for murder. But no one has, heretofore, ever made any excuse for Hill, who lived to repent and to amend his ways, which cannot be said for Lord Mohun, who, five years subsequent to the above murder, was again arraigned for manslaughter. Curious to say, Mohun's victim on this latter occasion was Capt. William Hill, of the Coldstream Guards, who was stabbed in a drunken brawl, at a tavern near Charing Cross, in September, 1697.”

Dalton observes that Richard’s military responsibilities were “a little trying for a youth of his age, and the society of an unlicked cub like young Lord Mohun had a bad effect on Hill's character. He also had the misfortune to have money at his disposal; and it came out in evidence, at Lord Mohun's trial, that Hill's scheme for carrying off Anne Bracegirdle, the well-known actress, was to cost him £50. The fair actress was rescued as she was being forcibly hurried into the coach by the soldiers whom Hill had hired for the occasion. Frustrated in his villainy, young Hill dismissed his military hirelings. "Begone! I have done with you" cried this veteran centurion, in a tone which Jonathan Wild might have adopted when he dismissed his myrmidons. Unfortunately, Hill stayed behind with Lord Mohun, and their brains, over- heated by wine, to which in the case of the former was added mad jealousy against Mountfort, a supposed favoured rival in the fair actress's affections, devised the scheme of murder which Hill carried into effect the same night. Hill escaped after committing the crime and nothing further is recorded of him by the historian.”

A very young soldier

Charles Dalton summarises Richard’s reported introduction to military service. “At the age of twelve, Richard Hill was appointed a subaltern in Viscount Lisburne's newly raised regiment of foot. He served in the Irish campaign and owing to the mortality in his regiment from fever and losses in action; he obtained command of a company when he was only fifteen. We may conclude that Lord Lisburne's regiment was rather a fast corps, and a bad school, as regards morals, for a very young officer, for we find the inspecting officer at Dundalk Camp, in December, 1689, sending the following confidential report to William III relative to Lord Lisburne's regiment: ‘Le Colonel s'en mette fort peu et avec cela d'un humeur extravagant; qui aussi prend tous les jours plus de vin qu'il ne peust [sic] porter.’ On 21 March, 1692, Hill exchanged with Capt. Vincent Googene, of Col. Thos. Erle's Regiment of Foot (Military Entry Book Vol. II, H. 0. series). By this exchange Hill found himself in command of the grenadier company in a crack infantry regiment.”

Richard’s first commanding officer, Adam Loftus, was created Viscount Lisburne in January 1685 and Lisburne raised his Regiment of Foot in January 1687. The Regiment served throughout the war in Ireland from 1689 to 1691 between the Catholic James II and his son-in law the Protestant William of Orange. James had landed in Ireland with French soldiers in an attempt to divert William from the war against the French on the continent.

His Jacobite army besieged Londonderry from the 18th April until the siege was lifted on the 31st July 1689. The army then retreated and was soundly defeated by William at the Battle of the Boyne on the 1st July 1690.

William’s army unsuccessfully besieged Limerick in August of 1690 but William’s forces won the decisive battle of the war fought at Aughrim on 12th July 1691. It meant the effective end of the war in Ireland, although the city of Limerick held out until the autumn of 1691where Viscount Lisburne was killed in action on the 15th September 1691.

King William then commenced a long war against Louis XIV of France. In March 1692, Richard joined Thomas Erle’s Regiment, which had also fought throughout the Irish wars. The regiment went on King William’s expedition to Flanders in 1692 and on 3rd August was involved at the Battle of Steenkirk when William disastrously attacked the French encampment.

After Richard escaped from the scene of the murder of Mountfort, he disappears from the record for some time and seems to have eluded capture. It was reported4, however, that he escaped to the Isle of Wight, then Scotland and returned to military service in 1697.

Richard seeks a pardon

In about 1704, Richard sought a pardon from Queen Anne for the murder of William Mountfort. The petition and other supporting letters are reproduced in a number of documents, which also provide some insights into Richard’s activities.

Charles Dalton claimed that the Public Record Office contained the MS petition to Queen Anne, which runs as follows:

To the Queen's most Excellent Majestic. The humble petition of Captain Richard Hill. Showeth that your Petitioner at the age of sixteen, after four years service in Ireland and Flanders, under the command of Lieut-General Earle, was unhappily drawn into a quarrel with Mr. Montford wherein he had the misfortune to give him a mortal wound; for which unadvised act your Petitioner has humbled himself before God these eleven years past, and since his misfortune went volunteer with Col. Gibson to Newfoundland, who has given a character of your Petitioner's behaviour there, as Lieut.-General Earle has of his carriage and conduct in Ireland and Flanders, as appears by the certificates herewith annexed.

May it therefore please your most Sacred Majestic, in consideration of your Petitioner's past services, and in compassion to his youth, to extend your Royal mercy to your Petitioner for a crime to which he was betrayed by the heat and folly of youth, that he may thereby be enabled to serve your Majestic and his Country, and his earnest desire is, to the last drop of his blood." And your Petitioner shall ever pray, &c.

The reference to Colonel Gibson relates to the destruction of the settlements of Newfoundland by the French and their Indian allies in 1696 during the long war against the French. King William despatched an invasion force in 1697 to recapture the area from the French. Colonel John Gibson commanded the invasion force which included an Irish regiment. In 1698, the soldiers built Fort William at St John harbour before leaving a detachment of 100 men under Colonel Handaside to garrison the fort.

The “Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland: preserved at Welbeck Abbey” Vol. VIII, 1907 contain further evidence of Captain Hill’s efforts at redemption. Under Petitions and Memorials to the Queen the following was recorded:

Annexed is the case of Captain Richard Hill, setting forth that he was the son of the Dean of Kilkenny, and had colours given him at the age of thirteen in Lord Lisborne's regiment through the interest of his father-in-law, Captain Edward Carey, father of the present Lord Falkland. In a short time he was promoted to the command of a foot company in that regiment. At the end of the Irish war he left the company he then had in Brigadier Earle's regiment, and served two campaigns as a volunteer in Flanders, and returning to England had the misfortune at the age of sixteen to quarrel with Mr. Montford, and in a quarrel to wound him, of which wound he died. This happened in 1692, since which time Hill had endeavoured to merit a pardon by going as a volunteer to Newfoundland with Colonel Gibson.

General Thomas Earle (or Erle) provided a character reference for Richard for his petition to the Queen and observed that “Captain Richard Hill was under my command during the late Irish war, and a volunteer with me in Flanders, I must needs give him this character that he behaved himself on all occasions as a man of honour and really with more courage and conduct than from one of his years could have been expected, for he was but twelve years old when he came into the army, and but sixteen when his misfortune happened, which is eleven years since.”

After the war against France concluded in 1697, King William became embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession and this was continued by Queen Anne when William died in 1702. The Duke of Marlborough prosecuted the war for the English from 1701. After he won the decisive battle of Blenheim on the 13th August 1704, the English fought much of the rest of the war in the Low Countries.

Also contained in the Manuscripts is a letter from the Duke of Marlborough from his camp at Eppingen, dated the 3rd September, 1704, forwarding a memorial of his General Officers on behalf of Captain Hill, representing his good behaviour in the two late actions and recommending him as a fit object of her Majesty's mercy. The memorial shows that Captain Hill “served this campaign in Germany as a volunteer, and being wounded in the last glorious victory (Blenheim), had leave to return to throw himself at her Majesty's feet to pray for pardon – in compassion to his youth, in pity to his wife and five small children, and in regard to his services - for a crime committed at sixteen years of age and eleven years since.” It was signed by Lords Cutts and Orkney, R. Ingoldsby, H. Withers, Ch. Rosse, and Wm. Cadogan.

Charles Dalton believed Hill was pardoned. “In ‘Recommendations for Commissions in the New Levies in 1706’ (War Office MS.), the name of Capt. Richard Hill appears in a list of officers recommended by the Duke of Ormonde.”

Could Richard have been 16 when he murdered Mountfort?

The petition to Queen Anne to pardon him makes the case that he was only 16 when he murdered Mountfort.

Promoting such a young given age may have been useful to support his case for a pardon but this would have made him only 13 at the siege of Londonderry in 1689.

In a Notes and Queries article by E. E. Hill of Maycliff, St. Luke’s Road North, Torquay in the 15th August 1914 edition headed “Capt Richard Hill and the Siege of Derry”. “In a letter written by my great-grandfather John Hill dated Barnhill (Co. Carlow), 1 Nov. 1821 there occurs the following:

This medal, struck in commemoration of the joint crossing of King William the 3rd and his consort Queen Mary, was given me, being eldest son, by my father Edward Hill, Esq., long a resident in the County of Carlow. He got it from his father Richard Hill, who died in Carlow a half-pay Captain of horse by commission under the King the medal records, at whose coronation he had the honour of receiving it. In addition to his half pay, Captain Hill had a pension of three hundred a year from King William, a singular instance of Royal bounty, but I have heard my father say it was in consequence of some display of merit at the siege of Derry.” An act of bravery which received a medal and pension at such a young age seems somewhat implausible.

At least one reference says that he was 205, and Borgman in his “the Life and Death of William Mountfort” thought that he must have been at least twenty years of age. He also details an advertisement in the London Gazette which states that “the said Capt. Hill is of a fair complexion, then wore his own hair, and is about 18 years of age”. Borgman was “inclined to believe that Hill did not tell the truth about his age, feeling that the younger he appeared at the time of the killing, the more likely he would be to receive clemency”.

However, if he was 16 in 1692 then he could not be the son of Thomas Hill, the Dean of Kilkenny, as Thomas died in 1673.

Source: Rodney Kerr c.2010

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